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Activists Mount Last-Ditch Bid to Extend Gun Ban
Tue Sep 7, 7:07 PM ET
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By Joanne Kenen
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Gun control activists, health care advocates and law enforcement groups geared up on Tuesday for a last-ditch effort to prevent a 1994 ban on assault weapons from expiring next week, but even its most ardent backers acknowledge the drive is all but futile.
But the influential National Rifle Association gun lobby, meanwhile, said it would "not take anything for granted" as it works to send the ban into oblivion.
Ban advocates called on President Bush (news - web sites) to intervene and get Congress to act. But Bush, who in his 2000 campaign promised to sign legislation, has been publicly silent for months as the clock ticked.
The ban on such weapons as Uzis and AK-47s will expire at midnight next Monday unless Congress votes to renew it. While warning that high-powered guns and large-capacity ammunition clips could flood America's streets, even the most ardent backers of the ban in Congress admitted that it is almost certain to lapse.
"The likelihood (of extension) is remote," said California Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein (news, bio, voting record). House Republican aides concurred, and predicted that ban advocates would not have an opening to try to get legislation through this week.
"I'm trying to put pressure on the president," said New York Democrat Carolyn McCarthy, elected to Congress after her husband was slain in 1993 by a gunman on a Long Island, New York, train. "This whole thing is in Bush's court."
Several public opinion polls, including one released this week by the National Annenberg Election Survey, have found deep public support for the ban, even among many gun-owners and conservatives. But the NRA has fought it fiercely.
"The NRA is an extremely powerful group, there's no two ways about it," said McCarthy, adding ruefully that politicians "don't want to tick them off" two months before elections.
EARLIER EFFORT SUNK
The Senate did vote to extend the ban earlier this year, but as part of a larger bill on gun-maker legal protections that was later sunk at the NRA's behest. Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives strongly oppose the ban and have not allowed a vote on it. McCarthy had hoped to force a vote this week, but said she would not be allowed to bring it to the floor under House rules.
With the clock ticking, groups favoring a ban on the high-powered weapons have tried to draw public attention to it. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has a full-page ad running in the New York Times and Washington Post asking, "Why does President Bush want to put cop-killing guns back on the street?"
More than a dozen leading health groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Physicians for Social Responsibility and the American College of Emergency Physicians (news - web sites) jointly called for the ban's extension on Tuesday, describing gun violence as a public health crisis.
"It is a health-care crisis and it is an incredibly costly health-care crisis," said Amy Sisley, an emergency room doctor at the University of Maryland Medical Center, speaking on behalf of Physicians for Social Responsibility.
She said 90 percent of spinal cord injuries in the United States are caused by gunshot wounds and noted that $1.8 billion a year is spent on spinal cord injuries.
Major law enforcement groups, including police chiefs from big U.S. cities, plan to rally for the ban's extension at a Washington memorial for fallen police officers on Wednesday.
The NRA in a statement posted on its Web site dismissed the campaign for the ban as a "PR show to blame inanimate objects for the acts of criminals."
But warning its well-organized and highly motivated members against complacency, the NRA said, "We have come too far in the past 10 years not to pull out all the stops in the next week and a half to ensure that this ban expires as Congress intended, and becomes nothing more than a sad footnote in America's history." (Additional reporting by Maggie Fox)
Pass the Kleenex, please.
Of all the lies in that piece, THIS ONE has to be the MOST blatant !!!