WASHINGTON - With the federal ban on assault weapons set to expire next Monday, gun manufacturers are marketing military-style firearms and are ready to sell them as soon as Sept. 14, a consumer group said Tuesday.
“The gun industry is champing at the bit for the ban to expire,” said Susan Peschin, firearms project director at the Consumer Federation of America, a nonprofit association of 300 consumer groups, which released the study.
The consumer group interviewed gun industry experts and marketing representatives and surveyed manufacturers’ catalogs and Web sites.
For example, ArmaLite Inc., a gun manufacturer in Geneseo, Ill., is advertising a “Post-PostBan Rifle Program,” offering consumers attachments to convert their firearms to their pre-ban configurations, with shipping available Sept. 14. The company is offering a non-refundable prepayment option to those who wish to get a jump-start.
“The program offers customers a way to avoid the risk of delay, yet also have the benefits of a change in law,” the company says on its Web site.
Congress fails to save ban
The 1994 law, signed by President Bill Clinton, banned 19 types of assault weapons but included a “sunset” clause that said it would automatically expire in 10 years if Congress did not renew it.
President Bush has said he supports the ban, but a number of attempts to extend it in Congress have failed.
The Consumer Federation of America predicted that manufacturers would introduce new models of popular weapons that were banned under the 1994 law, such as AK-47s, TEC-9s and Uzis.
Manufacturers will also be able to circumvent a ban on the import of “non-sporting” assault weapons by combining foreign-made components with U.S.-made parts, the study said.
It said it also expected that more U.S. gun companies would stockpile imported firearms in “custom bonded warehouses” in the United States to be disassembled and reconfigured into legal weapons.
In April, Florida-based Century International Arms Inc., an importer-exporter, was linked to a cache of 7,500 AK-47s and other assault weapons that was seized in Italy en route to the United States.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said the weapons were cleared for the United States because they were bound for a custom-bonded warehouse to be reconfigured.
Gun-control advocates are calling for an extension of the ban and also want to expand background checks on gun buyers to include sales by private collectors at gun shows and flea markets. Opponents say both measures are unneeded.
“What we ought to be concerned about is firearms in the hands of criminals, not in the hands of law-abiding citizens,” said Andrew Arulanandam, director of public affairs for the National Rifle Association.