Assault Weapons Violence
- October 1984. San Jose, California police officer Joe Tamarett is shot and wounded with an UZI carbine.
- January 1988. Virginia resident Michael Anthony Eberhardt is arrested in Washington, D.C., for allegedly purchasing 72 guns in Virginia during an 18-month period and then smuggling them into D.C. for sale to drug dealers. According to The Washington Post, “Many of the weapons were the semi-automatic TEC-9s favored by local drug dealers.”
- April 1986. Two FBI agents are killed with a Ruger Mini-14 in a shootout in Miami, Florida.
- April 1984. Dennis Cresta, dressed in camouflage fatigues and carrying a Ruger Mini-14 and Colt AR-15, opens fire in Oakland, California, after being questioned by a policeman. No one is hit.
- July 1987. An elderly woman and her three sons kill three police officers who come to their motel room in Inkster, Michigan, to serve a warrant for a $286.40 bad check. One of the weapons used to slay the officers is a Heckler & Koch assault rifle.
- September 1988. Samuel Eloud holds 11 people hostage in a Richmond, Virginia shopping center with a semi-automatic AK-47 and handgun in order to bring “peace to Lebanon.”
- June 1984. Denver, Colorado radio show personality Alan Berg is gunned with a silenced MAC-10 by right-wing extremists.
- July 1984. James Huberty goes “hunting for humans” with an UZI, a handgun, and a shotgun in a San Ysidro, California McDonald’s. 21 die; 19 are injured.
- December 1985. Portland, Connecticut eighth-grader Floyd Warmsley kills school janitor David Bengston with his father’s TEC-9, then holds a classroom of children hostage.
- July 1988. Manassas, Virginia police officer John Conner is gunned down with a Colt AR-15 by a man whose wife had recently left him.
- April 1987. William B. Cruse opens fire with a Ruger Mini-14 outside a Palm Bay, Florida shopping center, killing six and injuring 10.
- March 1988. An arsenal that includes a Chinese-made semi-automatic AK-47, a hand grenade, 14 other semi-automatic guns, 32-round ammunition magazines, and a handgun outfitted with a laser sight is seized from five men in New York City’s Port Authority bus terminal.
- February 1988. At a press conference decrying the increase in assault weaponry, Prince Georges County (Maryland) Police Chief Michael J. Flaherty states, “The real issue is the safety of our officers.” Holding up a TEC-9, he adds, “It’s not used for hunting, and it’s not used for sporting events. In my opinion, they should not be sold in the United States.”
These events are not isolated incidents. Although no comprehensive nationwide statistics are available on the misuse of assault weapons specifically, police organizations, police departments, government agencies, and handgun restriction organizations agree that the sale and misuse of assault weapons has escalated dramatically during the 1980s. (Most law enforcement reporting systems are set up only to separate handguns from long guns. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), the government agency charged with enforcing federal firearms laws, will soon begin breaking out assault weapons from standard long guns.)
“There has been an increase in [assault] weapons by all walks of life—gang members, drug dealers, your next door neighbor, even police officers,” states Detective Bohannon of the Los Angeles Police Department Gun Detail. In Los Angeles, assault weapons have turned up increasingly in gang violence and drive-by shootings. Says Bohannon, “These are not sporting weapons. They’re designed for one purpose and one purpose only, and that’s to kill people.” (Bohannon stresses that his opinions are personal and do not reflect the view of the Los Angeles Police Department.) According to Bohannon, essentially the same models of weapons are being seen on the streets by police: “Your least expensive weapons are your MACs and TECs. In the middle you’ve got your AK-47s and your UZI. At the top level are going to be your AR-15s….[and others].”
During fiscal year 1987, almost a third of the firearms seized by agents of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)—the leading federal agency charged with enforcing America’s federal drug laws—from drug traffickers were semi-automatic and fully automatic. (These figures include non-assault semi-automatic pistols. Figures on solely assault rifles and pistols are not available.) Sixteen percent were fully automatic. On a daily basis, DEA agents seized automatic weapons that included M-16s, AK-47s, MAC-10s, MAC-11s, and UZIs.
From January 1 to February 10, 1988, of the 388 guns seized by the District of Columbia police, the vast majority were either semi-automatic or fully automatic. Only seven such weapons were seized during the first six months of 1987, six in 1986, one in 1985, and two in 1984.
In neighboring Prince George’s County, Maryland, from July 1987 through February 1988, police seized 140 semi-automatic or automatic weapons, including a TEC-9 and several UZI submachine guns, some equipped with silencers.
In 1986, ATF seized 2,854 illegal machine guns. These weapons were either converted illegally or illegally possessed. In 1985, the number of illegal weapons seized was 2,042. In 1984, 539.
The most popular assault weapons are the AK-47, AR-15A2, MAC-10, MAC-11, Ruger Mini-14, TEC-9 and UZI. (For a description and brief history of each weapon, as well as select advertising information, please see Appendix II.) Recognizing the strong market for high-capacity, concealable assault weapons that are painted black and look threatening, America’s firearms industry continues to introduce new models. Two of the latest are:
- The Calico M100P pistol, manufactured by American Industries in Bakersfield, California. With its futuristic lines and black finish, this .22 caliber weapon is the Darth Vader of handguns. Composed of a lightweight alloy frame, it has a “helical feed” 100-round capacity plastic magazine. A 50-round magazine is also available. The weapon also comes in a carbine (a short-barreled, lightweight rifle) version with a folding stock. Under the headline “Durable, Accurate, Light, Versatile,” an ad for the gun shows an intimidating M100P pistol with an optional “Klear-Vue” magazine (a see-through magazine that gives the shooter “complete visibility of rounds remaining in the magazine”) and laser sight.The pistol version of the weapon is 17 inches long with the 100-round magazine, and weighs 3.75 pounds. The carbine version, with its stock retracted and the 100-round magazine, is 29.8 inches long. In November 1988, Calico will introduce a 9mm version of the weapon.
- The Street Sweeper is a 12-gauge riot shotgun with a revolving cylinder that rotates with each trigger pull. Able to fire 12 rounds in less than three seconds, the weapon is manufactured by SWD, Inc. (manufacturers of the MAC-11). An ad for the weapon reads “It’s a Jungle Out There! There Is A Disease And We’ve Got the Cure.” It invites the reader to “Make you [sic] streets safe and clean with the help of ‘The Street Sweeper’!” With its folding stock retracted, the weapon has an overall length of 25 5/8 inches. The SWD weapon is modeled on a shotgun used by South African security personnel, the Striker 12. Efforts had been made to import the Striker, but the weapon was the first long gun ever to fail the sporting-use test that ATF applies to imported long guns. (Domestically produced firearms do not have to meet any sporting use standard.)
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