Former Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford of Omaha said Thursday he would vote to reinstate a federal ban on assault weapons if he is returned to his former House seat by 2nd District voters this year.
"I will vote for the ban if I go back," Ashford said in a text message.
"Trying to work with gun lobby on background checks and mental health issues is not enough," he wrote. "Gun lobby has stalled the debate even on minor reform.
"It's time to push the ban," he said.
Congress imposed a ban on the manufacture of assault weapons for civilian use in 1994, but it expired 10 years later.
"The 2nd Amendment is strengthened when we keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't legally have them," Ashford suggested during a telephone interview earlier in the week in advance of a scheduled "conversation" with news media and local school student media representatives at Joslyn Castle in Omaha on Thursday.
Ashford said he believes the latest assault weapon attack that killed 17 people at a Florida high school last week is a turning point in the uphill battle against gun violence and provides an opening to reinstate reasonable gun control measures.
"Not until last weekend had I felt that the tide has turned," he said.
Ashford, who is a 2018 candidate to recapture the metropolitan Omaha seat now held by Republican Rep. Don Bacon, said that "16-year-old kids are teaching us all a lesson of some significance now."
It was young people who led the way in forcing the policy change that ended U.S. military engagement in the Vietnam War, Ashford said, "and it feels like the same thing now."
"The kids in Florida are impressive," he said, "and we have the same kids here."
Ashford noted that he had been engaged in gun safety issues when he was a member of the Legislature.
But when he went to the Congress in 2015, he said, "there was no chance" of achieving gun safety reform.
Now, Ashford said, there is.