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Posted: 9/9/2004 8:02:16 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 9/9/2004 8:02:32 PM EDT by warlord]
The streets are going to be flooded with Uzis and AK47 rifles. From our "friends" at the L.A. Times.


Looming Presence: Semiautomatic Weapons for Sale
By Richard Simon
Times Staff Writer

8:02 PM PDT, September 9, 2004

WASHINGTON -- With a 10-year ban on assault weapons due to expire Monday,
Congress is about to allow a remarkable reversal: Once demonized semiautomatic
weapons will again be sold to the public.

Around the United States, manufacturers now prohibited from selling the weapons
are competing to reap the most out of their return. Beretta is offering two free
large-volume magazines with the purchase of certain guns. ArmaLite is inviting
gun buyers to start placing orders for rifles whose manufacture has been banned
for 10 years.

Politicians who had only a few years ago responded to public pressure for
controls on such weapons are now keeping a cautious distance. President Bush
says he supports extending the assault weapons ban, but he has not aggressively
worked for legislation to extend it. John F. Kerry, his Democratic presidential
opponent, voted earlier this year to extend the ban, but the Massachusetts
senator often talks about how he enjoys hunting and supports the Second
Amendment right to bear arms.

California will still have what are considered the nation's toughest state laws
against assault weapons, and several other states' bans also will remain in
effect. But Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton, who was in Washington this
week lobbying for the ban's extension, predicted that the law's expiration would
be felt "even in a state like California," because criminals would go out of
state to buy assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines and bring
them into California.

The 1994 ban, signed by President Clinton, outlawed the manufacture and
importation of 19 types of military-style semiautomatic assault weapons and
others with similar features and the manufacture of The law imposed a ban on
certain semiautomatic weapons, those that fire one bullet with each squeeze of
the trigger but which sponsors of the ban said also allowed for rapid firing.
Some pistols as well as rifles were covered by the ban.

The federal ban was a major achievement of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who
pushed for it after a series of shootings, including a 1993 rampage in a San
Francisco office building that left eight people dead and six wounded. The
attacker was armed with a .45-caliber Colt semiautomatic pistol and two 9-millimeter
TEC-9 Luger semiautomatics. The sale of newly manufactured versions of these
weapons was banned by the 1994 law, although those made before Sept. 13, 1994,
could still be bought and sold.

Rep. Jack Brooks, D-Texas, who at the time was chairman of the House Judiciary
Committee and waged an unsuccessful campaign to kill the weapons ban, said then:
"The people who hate guns are in the majority right now."

They apparently are not any more. The ban fell to a relentless assault by the
National Rifle Association and to fears among Democrats that gun-control
advocacy was draining support from rural voters. Although polls indicate that
Americans support the assault-weapons ban, many Democrats believe that Al Gore's
championing of gun control cost him the presidency in the tight 2000 race
against George W. Bush.

Feinstein, a Democrat, this week blamed "the powerful, selfish NRA and its
brutal lobbying tactics" for making the assault weapons ban "one more victim."
But she vowed: "I do not intend to give up. Next year ... we will come back and
back and back."

The gun makers are already coming back.

ArmaLite's invitation to gun buyers for orders for long-banned rifles promises "delivery
immediately upon expiration of the current law."

Mark A. Westrom, president of Illinois-based ArmaLite, said, "There is a slight
increase in interest, but not as much as even I expected," he said.

At Taurus, a Florida gun maker, executives are making plans to begin
manufacturing ammunition magazines that hold up to 17 rounds.

Keeva Segal, Taurus' marketing manager, said he expected some "pent-up demand"
for previously banned items. "But I don't think it will be people lined up at
the door," he said.

The 1994 law allowed an estimated 1.5 million assault weapons owned before the
ban took effect to remain in private hands and permitted the sale of millions of
large-capacity ammunition magazines made before the ban took effect. The
importation of Uzis and AK-47s will remain illegal under an executive order
issued by President George H.W. Bush in 1989.

An effort to extend the assault weapons ban won the approval of a majority of
senators earlier this year. The assault weapons ban was attached to an NRA-backed
measure to shield gun makers and sellers from gun violence lawsuits. The NRA
scuttled its bill once renewal of the assault weapons ban was attached. Some
experts say the loopholes in the ban were so great that small modifications in
banned weapons made them legal.

"Nothing of substance will change in the gun industry after the sunset," said
Kristen Rand, legislative director for the Violence Policy Center, a nonprofit
organization that advocates gun control. "The difference between the post-ban
versions of assault weapons such as the AR-15 and their banned counterparts is
entirely trivia." She added that many assault weapons that didn't exist in 1994
that have been developed since fall outside the ban's restrictions.

Nonetheless, many gun owners are so eager for the measure to die that one group
has a Web site counting down the minutes until the law is wiped from the books.
Some gun enthusiasts report that manufacturers are ready to start shipping kits
for converting legal guns to pre-ban configurations as early as Tuesday.

Robert Ricker, a former National Rifle Assn. official who now consults with gun
control groups, foresees a "buying frenzy" for the previously banned military-style
weapons and high-capacity magazines.

"Gun owners are thinking, `If John Kerry gets elected, chances are that a
stiffer ban, or a reauthorization, will eventually happen, so I had better get
my assault weapon now.' ... I think the industry's mantra is going to be, `Buy
your wife a high-capacity magazine for Christmas while you can.' "

A University of Pennsylvania study conducted earlier this year concluded that
gun manufacturers might introduce assault weapons models and large-capacity
magazines, "perhaps in substantial numbers."

"Pre-ban assault weapons may lose value and novelty, prompting some of their
owners to sell them in undocumented second-hand markets where they can more
easily reach high-risk users, such as criminals, terrorists and other potential
mass murderers," the study warned.

The Consumer Federation of America, which conducted a survey of gun industry
plans, predicted that once the law expires, assault weapons manufacturers, "fueled
by gun buyer nostalgia,"' will "blitz the market" with new models of guns banned
under the 1994 law.

Robert J. Spitzer, a political scientist at State University of New York at
Cortland and author of "The Politics of Gun Control," said the lapsing of the
ban would lead to greater firepower on the streets as banned weapons returned to
circulation. He said large-capacity magazines would become more available.

"These have no hunting or sporting purpose, but are very appealing to criminals
because they mean less reloading," Spitzer said. "Some of the most horrific mass
shootings in recent years were halted only when the perpetrators stopped to

Lawrence G. Keane, senior vice president and general counsel for the National
Shooting Sports Foundation, the industry's trade group, said target shooters
would use magazines that could hold more than 10 rounds.

"Reports of police officers needing to fire numerous rounds before being able to
stop an assailant prompted the demand for higher-capacity semi-automatic pistols
in the 1980s," said Jeff Reh, general counsel for Beretta U.S.A. Corp. "Business
owners or homeowners who use a pistol for self-defense have the same need."

The NRA contends that a decade of restricting semiautomatic weapons has done
nothing to reduce crime -- and that removing the restrictions would do nothing
to increase it.

"These guns were rarely used in crime before the ban. They were rarely used in
crime during the ban. And, it's safe to say they will rarely be used in crime
after the ban," said Chris W. Cox, the NRA's chief lobbyist.

One gun industry executive scoffed at suggestions that once the ban expires,
previously banned weapons and ammunition would suddenly be in great demand.

"Our sense is that when we wake up on the morning of the 14th, there is not
going to be any monumental change," said Keane. "The sun-setting of the law is a
media event, not a major sales event."

If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at latimes.com/archives.

Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times
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