Revelation That Romanian AK-47s Seized by Italian Authorities Are Legal Proves Need to Strengthen, Not Just Renew, Federal Assault Weapons Ban

For Release:  Thursday, April 29, 2004

Current Law Allows the Import and Sale of Supposedly Banned Assault Weapons

Washington, DC – Yesterday’s admission by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) that the agency had issued import permits for a shipment of approximately 7,500 AK-47s and other assault rifles from Romania clearly demonstrates the need to significantly strengthen the federal assault weapons ban as well as the separate set of rules that apply to imported firearms, the Violence Policy Center (VPC) stated today.

The shipment, initially seized by Italian authorities who suspected the weapons were being smuggled into the U.S., was in fact headed for Century International Arms, an assault weapon importer. Century International Arms sells a wide variety of firearms, including imported assault weapons, that can be viewed on the company’s website located at

VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand states, “This situation starkly demonstrates the gaping loopholes in the federal assault weapons ban, as well as the Bush Administration’s lax and irresponsible enforcement of the separate rules that apply to imported firearms.”

Because the current federal assault weapons ban�set to expire on September 13, 2004 is too weak, it cannot stop the import of such weapons. Under the separate law that applies to imported firearms, the Bush Administration has clear authority to exclude such guns from import, but ATF’s weak interpretation of the statute allows the import of AK-47s and other assault weapons.

Rand states, “There are two possible ways to fix this. One, the Bush Administration can halt such imports with the stroke of a pen using existing executive authority that applies to the import of firearms that are not suitable for sporting purposes.'” President George H.W. Bush exercised this authority in 1989 to temporarily halt assault rifle imports after Patrick Purdy, armed with an imported AK-47, killed five and wounded 30 in a California schoolyard.

“The other way to remedy the situation is for Congress to pass a strengthened federal assault weapons ban that clearly bans these imports. The current federal ban is too weak. It simply does not apply to these guns. If the current federal assault weapons ban is merely renewed, imported AK-47s and other foreign-made assault rifles will remain perfectly legal,” adds Rand.







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

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