Gun Ban Expiration Becomes Issue

A federal ban on 19 types of assault weapons expired today. Yahoo's piece covers the gist of the story, pointing out that a few of the weapons are still banned, due to a 1989 law prohibiting the import of certain weapons (AK-47, Uzi, etc). Gun supports claim this law was only "cosmetic", as guns very similar to those banned were available under different names and in slightly different configurations:

The differences between assault weapons and guns on the market before the ban expired are "cosmetic," Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, said Monday on CBS's "The Early Show."

"To lead anyone to believe we're talking about a class of guns that's more powerful, makes bigger holes, shoots more rapidly is not true," LaPierre said.

Gun-control advocate Sarah Brady disagreed. "There's nothing cosmetic at all about this law," she said on "The Early Show."

Gun shop owners said the expiration of the ban would have little effect on the types of guns and accessories that are typically sold and traded across their counters every day.

At the Boise Gun Co., gunsmith Justin Davis last week grabbed up a black plastic rifle resembling the U.S. military's standard issue M-16 from a row of more than a dozen similar weapons stacked against a wall.

The civilian version of the gun, a Colt AR-15 manufactured before 1994, could be sold last week just as easily as it can be sold this week. "It shoots exactly the same ammo at exactly the same rate of fire," said Davis.

However, the expiration could result in sharply lower prices for some weapons, said Sanford Abrams, owner of Valley Guns in Baltimore and vice president of the Maryland Licensed Firearms Dealers Association.

He said some pre-ban, military-style rifles with a combination of banned features such as flash suppressors, bayonet mounts and detachable magazines had been trading at gun shows for up to $1,600, but the price could drop to less than $900 since those characteristics will again be allowed on new weapons.

Oh, so these "cosmetic"ally different guns are now avaiable at about half the price they were previously sold for. No biggie I guess. Of course, that these gun makers were able to get around gun control laws only proves that Clinton's measure wasn't enough to stop this type of weapon from proliferating. For his part, Bush has said that he would have supported renewing the legislation but he didn't press congress to act on the measure before their session ended. Presidential opponent John Kerry had a few words to criticize Bush on the issue:

...[Kerry] said the president had chosen "his powerful and well-connected friends" in a secret deal with the gun lobby over the police officers and families he promised to protect.

"Ten years ago today, with the leadership of police officers all over the country, we passed a tough crime bill to protect America," the Massachusetts senator told supporters at the Thurgood Marshall Center.

"We made sure, in a tough fight, that criminals couldn't get their hands on military assault weapons, and we put 100,000 cops into our nation's communities where they could make an impact and stop crimes," he said.

Since Bush can't be expected to speak for himself, White House spokesperson Scott McClellan had this to say, on Shrub's behalf:

..."[this is] another false attack from Senator Kerry."

"The best way to deter violence committed with guns is to vigorously prosecute crimes that are committed with guns," McClellan said, adding that Bush had wanted to see the safeguard remain in place but the U.S. Congress wouldn't take it up.

Bush did not, however, press for its renewal.

So, Bush wanted these rules kept up, but didn't have the power to get it done? Of course, he easily passed the Homeland Security acts and many other of his pet projects. But, apparently, he didn't deem this one very important. I agree, though, prosecuting crimes is the best way to deter violence. I mean, it's the prosecution of crimes that kept the Va. area sniper shootings from occur...wait. That happened. Well, anyway, we've got an excellent police force out there, and they get all the money they need. I mean, we passed the COPS program almost 10 years ago, and violent crime has been on the decline ever since. Wait, no, perhaps I spoke too soon:

[Kerry] criticized Bush for proposing cuts to the Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, program that the senator helped pass 10 years ago. It provides grants to state and local agencies to hire police officers. Bush proposed cutting it from $482 million to $97 million next year.

"When his powerful and well-connected friends asked for a massive tax cut, he said 'sure' and he's paid for it by gutting the COPS program, slashing gang prevention and cutting enforcement programs that keep drugs like meth off the streets," Kerry said.

I guess that kills that idea. Well, that and the fact that violent crime has been on the rise ever since Bush took office in 2001. Hmph. I guess we're just stuck. Of course, Bush and his team are so into "pre-emtive" action against Terrorism, you'd think they might be interested in a similar approach to violence here on our home soil.
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