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Florida GOP congressman says he would support an assault weapons ban

Florida GOP congressman and Army veteran Brian Mast is calling for a ban on assault weapons purchases. In an op-ed published Friday in the New York Times, Mast wrote that he supports "[d]efining what constitutes an assault or tactical firearm and not allowing them for future purchase — just as we already prohibit the purchase of fully automatic firearms."

"The exact definition of assault weapon will need to be determined," Mast continued. "But we should all be able to agree that the civilian version of the very deadly weapon that the Army issued to me should certainly qualify."

Mast went on to say that he would not support a ban that demanded the confiscation of "existing legally owned firearms."

The former bomb technician, who lost both his legs and a finger to a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, recalled the M4 carbine he used to carry, a weapon that he said "was very similar to the AR-15-style semiautomatic" that was used to carry out the mass shooting at Douglas High School, where Mast once lived. 

He wrote about his M4, saying it's "the best for killing our enemies," but "the best killing tool the Army could put in my hands" won't make Americans safer in their communities, schools and public places.

"I cannot support the primary weapon I sued to defend our people being used to kill children I swore to defend," Mast wrote.

The Republican congressman and NRA member argued that tactical rifles make Americans less safe, pointing out that the 9-millimeter he carries for self-defense doesn't have the firepower for a fair fight with an AR-15.

"[T]he defense my concealed 9-millimeter affords me is largely gone if the attacker is firing from beyond 40 yards, as he could easily do with the AR-15," Mast says. 

Declaring that the Second Amendment is "unimpeachable," Mast nonetheless says that it "does not guarantee that every civilian can bear any and all arms."

In the op-ed, he also expresses his support for improvements in the background check system, bans on devices that "circumvent the ban on automatic firearms," raising the ages at which people can buy different types of guns, ensuring the mentally ill can't buy firearms, disallowing people on terror lists from being able to buy guns, holding FBI and other agencies accountable for their failure to identify threats to schools, enabling schools to enhance security screening and other measures.