“Political Victory” Will Not Adequately Protect Police, Public
For Release: Tuesday, March 2, 2004
Washington, DC – Senate action renewing the current federal assault weapons ban will do little to protect America’s police and public from assault weapons, the Violence Policy Center (VPC) warned today. The measure was passed as an amendment to a Senate bill granting America’s firearms industry limited immunity from lawsuits.
“This bill merely continues the badly flawed 1994 ban, which is a ban in name only,” states Kristen Rand, VPC legislative director. “The 1994 law in theory banned AK-47s, MAC-10s, UZIs, AR-15s and other assault weapons. Yet the gun industry easily found ways around the law and most of these weapons are now sold in post-ban models virtually identical to the guns Congress sought to ban in 1994. At the same time, the gun industry has aggressively marketed new assault-weapon types such as the Hi-Point Carbine used in the 1999 Columbine massacre that are frequently used in crime. Reenacting this eviscerated ban without improving it will do little to protect the lives of law enforcement officers and other innocent Americans. Now is the time for Americans to demand that Congress and the Bush Administration roll up their sleeves and enact a truly effective assault weapons ban.” [For more information, see the VPC backgrounder Why Merely Renewing the Current Assault Weapons “Ban” Will Not Stop the Sale of Assault Weapons.
The May 2003 VPC report, “Officer Down” Assault Weapons and the War on Law Enforcement, revealed that one in five law enforcement officers slain in the line of duty from January 1998 through December 2001 was slain with an assault weapon, many of which were “post-ban” or other models that will remain untouched by the Senate action taken today. The study also revealed that of the nine assault weapon brand/types listed by manufacturer in the law, six of the brand/types have been re-marketed in new, post-ban, “sporterized” configurations. Gunmakers openly boast of their ability to circumvent the assault weapons ban. Examples include:
“In spite of assault rifle bans, bans on high capacity magazines, the rantings of the anti-gun media and the rifle’s innate political incorrectness, the Kalashnikov [AK-47], in various forms and guises, has flourished. Today there are probably more models, accessories and parts to choose from than ever before.” [Gun World, August 2001]
“Strange as it seems, despite the hit U.S. citizens took with the passage of the onerous crime bill of 1994 [which contained the federal assault weapons ban], ARs are far from dead. Stunned momentarily, they sprang back with a vengeance and seem better than ever. Purveyors abound producing post-ban ARs for civilians and pre-ban models for government and law enforcement agencies, and new companies are joining the fray.” [Gun World, May 2003]
A post-ban AR, the Bushmaster XM15 M4 A3 assault rifle, was used by the Washington, DC-area snipers to kill 10 and injure three in October 2002. The Bushmaster is the poster child for the industry’s success at evading the ban. The snipers’ Bushmaster is even marketed as a “Post-Ban Carbine.”
The industry’s ability to evade the ban can be easily documented not only by articles contained in gun magazines, but by a review of advertisements in such gun dealer publications as Shotgun News and Gun List. Numerous manufacturer web sites also display currently available post-ban assault weapons. [See chart below]
|Type of Post-Ban Assault Weapon||Manufacturer’s Website|
By simply renewing existing law, Congress also adopts and endorses the weak interpretation of the law promulgated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). As a result, any hoped-for legal efforts to “fix” the ban in the courts after the fact – by arguing that “post-ban” models of restricted weapons violate the “copies and duplicates”provision of the law – are unlikely to succeed.
Legislation (the “Assault Weapons Ban and Law Enforcement Protection Act of 2003,” S. 1431 and H.R. 2038) based on California law that would effectively renew and strengthen the assault weapons ban, so that it actually works to ban all assault weapons, remains pending in the U.S. Senate and House.
Adds Rand, “Over the past decade, the gun industry has eviscerated the assault weapons ban to the point where evasion of the law has become an open, cynical joke among gunmakers. Today’s action will, unfortunately, only continue this charade.”