BOSTON (AP) - U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, who opposed a federal assault weapons ban during his failed re-election campaign, now says he supports the ban in light of the shooting deaths of 26 people at a Connecticut elementary school last week, which he called beyond comprehension.
Brown announced his shift in position Wednesday afternoon. Hours earlier, Sen.-elect Elizabeth Warren, who defeated Brown, said she'll sign onto a bill reinstating a national assault weapons ban when she takes office in early January.
Warren said she grew up in a family that used guns for hunting and learned how to shoot in grade school, but she said the nation needs to do more to protect the thousands of children who die in shootings each year.
"There can be a place for responsible gun ownership in our society," the Democrat said in an email to supporters. "But no one needs military-grade assault weapons to hunt, and no one needs Rambo-style high capacity magazines to protect their family from intruders."
Brown, who lost to Warren last month, had opposed reinstatement of the federal weapons ban that had been in place from 1994 to 2004.
During the campaign, Brown said that while he supported Massachusetts' assault weapons bans, he believed states were the appropriate venue for weapons bans. He also opposed a proposal that would let gun owners carry concealed weapons across state lines.
On Wednesday, however, Brown said he was changing his stance on the federal ban.
"As a state legislator in Massachusetts I supported an assault weapons ban thinking other states would follow suit. But unfortunately, they have not and innocent people are being killed," Brown said in response to an inquiry from The Associated Press on Wednesday morning. "As a result, I support a federal assault weapons ban."
In her statement, Warren said Congress also needs to close what she described as a loophole in federal law that does not subject those purchasing guns at gun shows, online or person-to-person from submitting to a federal background check.
The newly elected Democrat said lawmakers must also look for other measures to curb the gun related violence and must also improve services for the mentally ill. But she said taking no action is not an option.
"If eight children were dying every day from a mysterious virus, our country would mobilize to put a stop to it," Warren said. "Gun violence is an epidemic that is taking our children's lives in our schools, on our streets, and in our neighborhoods."
Sen. John Kerry also supports reinstatement of the assault weapons ban. In 2004, Kerry stepped away from his campaign for president to return to Washington to vote for extension of the ban.
"I'm a hunter, and I'm a veteran, and commonsense alone taught me a long time ago the difference between weapons designed to kill a deer and weapons designed to kill people," Kerry, a Democrat, said in a statement. "This shouldn't be a hard one."
Also Wednesday, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, co-chairs of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, sent a letter along with 750 other mayors to President Obama urging that any new federal gun law require criminal background checks on all gun sales, remove military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines off the streets, and make gun trafficking a federal crime.
Menino said so far this year, the Boston Police Department has removed more than 500 illegal firearms from Boston's streets. Sixty percent of all crime guns recovered by Boston police came from outside the state.
Supporters of tougher gun laws said the fact that guns can travel across state lines shows the need for federal legislation instead of a patchwork of state laws.