Posted on Mon, Sep. 13, 2004
End of ban may have little effect
By Peter Slevin
The Washington Post
MONROE, Mich. - Behind the desk at Magnum Force, where rifles line the walls and pistols pack the showcases, Terry Marlow can use his distributors' Web sites to see listings for guns that have been banned for a decade.
The prices are there in neat columns. All that's missing is the inventory, and something tells him that the blanks will be filled in very soon.
"I'm certain they've got thousands upon thousands upon thousands of them waiting to hit the market," Marlow said.
The 1994 federal assault-weapons ban expires at midnight tonight and with it the prohibition against selling certain powerful semiautomatic firearms. Police chiefs, gun-control organizations and a plurality of Democratic politicians have lobbied for its renewal to no avail. The Republican-controlled Congress is content to see the law expire.
Yet what strikes gun dealers like Marlow is that the rifles for sale this week will differ in no significant way from the ones available for the past 10 years. Amid the furious political maneuvering of recent days, a fact little noticed by the public but well-known to dealers is that the ban prevented few assault weapons from reaching the streets.
"It's a big nothing," said Gary Taepke, owner of Wolverine Shooting Sports, a gun range and firearms store in Brownstown, south of Detroit. "The ban didn't change anything. It is strictly cosmetic."
A surprising number of gun-control advocates find themselves largely agreeing with that assessment, although they argue that the answer is to strengthen, not end, the ban. They say the ban's failings are the product of undesirable political compromises, not proof that their cause is wrong.
"We agree that the 1994 law is ineffective," said Kristen Rand, legislative director of the Washington-based Violence Policy Center, which estimates that U.S. companies produced more than 1 million assault-type weapons in the last decade. "Good public policy would be to institute an effective assault-weapons ban."
The center's research shows that at least 41 of 211 police officers killed between 1998 and 2001 were killed with assault weapons.
Shikha Hamilton, Detroit president of the Million Mom March, pointed to a modest decline since 1994 in the use of assault weapons to commit crimes.
"If the argument is that the ban is not perfect, I agree, but is it not better to stop part of the problem instead of opening the floodgates? The fact remains that the floodgates are set to open," Hamilton said.
IN THE KNOW
A 10-year-old federal law that bans the manufacture of semiautomatic assault weapons for civilian use will expire at midnight tonight. The law bans specific weapons as well as others that have certain similarities to military firearms. The banned weapons:
• INTRATEC TEC-9, TEC DC-9, TEC 22
• Uzi, Galil assault rifle
• Street Sweeper, Striker 12 and other revolving cylinder shotguns
• Beretta AR-70
• Colt AR-15
• FN FAL, FN LAR
• FN FNC
• Steyr AUG
• SWD M-10, M-11, M-11/9, M-12
SOURCES: U.S. Code, www.world.guns.ru, U.S. Senate, Jane's Guns Recognition Guide
Duh !!! www.dfw.com/mld/dfw/news/nation/9651030.htm
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