Gun Used by Washington, DC-Area Sniper Illustrates Need to Strengthen and Renew Federal Assault Weapons Ban

For Release:  Monday, October 28, 2002

Incidents Also Show Need for Strict Regulation of Gun Dealers

WASHINGTON, DC – The Bushmaster XM15 M4 A3 assault rifle used by the Washington, DC-area sniper provides a clear illustration of how and why the federal assault weapons ban needs to be strengthened and renewed, the Violence Policy Center (VPC) stated today. The VPC is a national nonprofit organization working to stop gun death and injury in America. The ban, implemented in 1994, is scheduled to expire in 2004.

The Bushmaster XM15 M4 A3 rifle used to kill 10 people and seriously wound three is marketed by Maine-based Bushmaster as a “Post-Ban Carbine.” Bushmaster is one of many assault weapon manufacturers who have successfully evaded the 1994 federal assault weapons ban.

VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand states, “Bushmaster’s entire product line is purposefully designed to circumvent the federal ban. Bushmaster made minor cosmetic changes to their pre-ban assault rifles in order to make them comply with the letter of the 1994 ban, but their guns are still assault weapons.” Bushmaster’s guns are clones of the Colt AR-15, the civilian version of the military M-16 machine gun.

The federal assault weapons ban prohibits the manufacture of semiautomatic firearms that can accept a detachable ammunition magazine and incorporate at least two of five other assault weapon characteristics: a folding or telescoping stock; a pistol grip; a bayonet lug; a flash suppressor; or a grenade launcher. The Bushmaster used by the sniper uses a detachable ammunition magazine and has a pistol grip.

Adds Rand, “The Bushmaster is a classic assault rifle. Yet, it is not classified as such under federal law. Bushmaster’s success at evading the ban clearly demonstrates the need to strengthen and renew the ban.” More information on Bushmaster and its products is available from the VPC.

It also appears that the Bushmaster rifle was acquired from a gun dealer who failed to keep proper records. This highlights the importance of strict regulation of holders of Federal Firearms Licenses (FFLs). The Violence Policy Center has conducted several studies examining the role that corrupt gun dealers play in supplying firearms to the criminal market. Although, as the VPC has documented, the number of gun dealers in the U.S. has dropped from approximately 245,000 in 1992 to 64,000 today, there is still an urgent need to implement stricter oversight of FFLs.




About the Violence Policy Center
The Violence Policy Center is a national educational organization working to stop gun death and injury. Follow the VPC on TwitterFacebook, and YouTube.

Media Contact:
Georgia Seltzer
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