It's actually fairly balanced. Some of the LEO's are great. Some of them make some really stupid erroneous and illogical comments.
Debate rages as gun ban expires
But assault weapons never really went away
By JOHN DIEDRICH
Posted: Sept. 12, 2004
The semiautomatic assault rifles banned 10 years ago have never left the shelves of The Shooters Shop in West Allis or many other gun stores nationwide.
Through loopholes in a law that is set to expire at midnight today, military-style rifles made before 1994 have remained for sale - along with similar guns made after '94 that fire identically but have minor differences.
Ammunition magazines "banned" by the law have remained readily available, though for a higher price than before the legislation.
With the ban's end apparently in sight, both sides of the gun issue are heatedly debating the impact of the decade-old legislation.
Supporters concede that the ban wasn't airtight, but argue that it made it tougher for criminals to get the weapons and cite data that they say shows the ban cut crimes involving the targeted guns.
Assault Weapons Law
Skirting The Ban
Gun rights groups belittle the ban as little more than a feel-good measure that raised the prices of some guns by making them collector's items. Citing their own data, they said the ban didn't accomplish anything.
Republican leaders in Congress have vowed to let the ban die. President Bush expressed support for an extension but hasn't lobbied Congress.
Stan Stojkovic, dean of the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, who supports stricter gun control, said the bill was a flawed compromise with few tangible results.
"Most of this was politically symbolic," he said. "There are so many loopholes and ways around it, you really didn't have much of a ban."
The assault weapons ban was passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton in 1994 over the strong objections of the National Rifle Association. It was meant to outlaw the manufacture of 19 semiautomatic, military-style rifles and certain shotguns. It tried to do that by banning rifles with two or more of these features: a folding stock, flash suppressor, bayonet mount, grenade launcher or pistol grip.
The law exempted semiautomatic hunting rifles, and it didn't ban the sale of military-style rifles made before 1994.
The ban did not cover fully automatic weapons, such as machine guns, which have been illegal to sell or possess without special federal registration and permitting since 1934.
Semiautomatic guns fire as quickly as the shooter can pull and release the trigger. Fully automatic rifles fire bullets as long as the trigger is pulled.
The law also banned ammunition magazines that held more than 10 rounds; again, larger magazines made before 1994 remained legal. In response to the impending ban, gun makers increased production of the higher-capacity magazines, which remain available today for about $65 apiece, more than double the price of 10 years ago, said Jim Wicht, head of marketing for The Shooters Shop.
The ban jacked up the price of "banned" rifles, from about $800 to as much as $2,500, he said.
But gun companies didn't stop making the rifles; they simply made minor adjustments such as removing the bayonet mount and flash suppressor and using a 10-round magazine. Even though Colt's AR-15, introduced shortly after the ban, fired exactly the way the previous model did, the rifle was legal.
Wicht said gun makers have said they will begin shipping formerly banned rifles and larger ammunition magazines beginning Tuesday. He expects slightly more business.
Several gun companies contacted for this article did not return calls.
"Everything that was banned is still available. It's just a little more expensive," said Kevin Nugent, owner of The Shooters Shop. "You walk into my shop and you will see those weapons on my wall today and you will see the same ones on Tuesday. What changed? Nothing."
Both sides cite stats
Though there is no comprehensive database of crimes committed with assault weapons, both sides in the debate point to statistics.
The pro-gun side touts a Justice Department study that found only a small decline in the number of crimes after 1994. "It has neither affected the bad guys or the good guys," said James Fendry, director of the Wisconsin Pro Gun Movement. "It has done absolutely nothing to anybody."
Ban supporters said that is simply wrong.
They said there are fewer assault rifles in circulation today and cite a study by two former U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents showing that crime with semiautomatic weapons dropped 66% since 1994.
They said companies such as Colt should be prosecuted for producing copycat rifles, which was supposed to be illegal under the ban.
"Certainly we should do more. At the very least we should be saving this ban," said Eric Howard, spokesman for the Washington-based Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
What comes next?
Debate has turned to what might happen beginning Tuesday.
The guns aren't used by criminals nearly as often as handguns, but the firepower of just one assault weapon makes many law enforcement agencies nervous. In March, authorities charge, Armando Castaneda shot five people on Milwaukee's south side with an AK-47 semiautomatic rifle, killing three of them.
"These are known guns that are carried by gang members and drug dealers," said Sgt. Ken Henning, Milwaukee Police Department spokesman.
Henning acknowledged that the rifles remained available the past 10 years but said some people probably didn't buy them because of the ban. When it is lifted,the weapons could grow more prevalent, increasing the danger, he said.
"(Officers) have to move that alertness up a higher notch if the ban is lifted," Henning said.
Appleton Police Chief Rick Myers said the law was flawed but anything that makes high-powered rifles more readily available or cheaper is a concern. Myers also worries about illegal kits that can be used to make the rifles fully automatic.
"I can't see anything good about this," he said of the ban's expiration.
But not every police official backs the ban.
Greenfield Police Chief Francis Springob called it "window dressing" for a non-existent problem.
"It was fluff," Springob said. "There are all sorts of weapons that are of identical function or are more powerful that were not affected by the assault weapons ban."
Springob said criminals with guns are a major problem, but trying to ban a certain kind of weapon is wrongheaded.
"I don't think those of us in law enforcement have anything to fear from good law-abiding citizens," he said.
Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke said he hadn't seen enough data to know if the ban accomplished anything, but added that it is naive to think that any ban will put an end to crime.
"Criminals don't say, 'My God, they have banned assault weapons. I'm out of business.' No, they just move to a different gun," he said.
Clarke faulted members of Congress for simply letting the ban die instead of debating it. "It is a hot button, and no one wants to touch it. But then don't run for office," Clarke said.
A state ban?
Several states have banned assault weapons. Wisconsin is not among them, but at least one state gun control group plans to seek a ban next year.
The Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort thinks it's a shame the federal ban didn't work and hopes a state ban would be tighter, director Jeri Bonavia said.
Gov. Jim Doyle said it "seems absolutely crazy" that the federal ban will expire given polls showing widespread support for it. Still, he doesn't expect a ban here.
"It becomes very difficult to do something that broad at the state level just because of how these weapons are marketed and distributed," Doyle said.
U.S. Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) opposed the ban in 1994 and said he is happy to see it expire.
"It is the finger on the trigger that ends up causing the crime, and if we lock up people who repeatedly commit crimes with guns, then the finger on the trigger is not out on the street."
U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) voted for the ban in 1994, but earlier this year voted against extending it as the Senate approved renewal but defeated a larger bill that included the ban.
"I have come to believe that it is a largely arbitrary and symbolic measure," Feingold said during the Senate debate. He wasn't available to comment for this article.
Ten years after the ban's enactment, UWM's Stojkovic agreed with Feingold's assessment.
"The consequence of this legislation has been mud," he said.
From the Sept. 13, 2004, editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Thanks for posting that
A big +1
ETA: if anyone actually reads this, you have too much time on your hands.
Well, the Sherriff was right on target with his comments...
MPD & the UW guy were predictable...
AND THE MJS ACTUALLY WROTE AN ACCURAT ARTICLE ABOUT THE AWB!
(someone check radar, I think some pigs just took off from State Fair Park)...
What exactly did you mean by that? Did you catch where it says that there is an organization here in WI that is going to propose a state level AWB next year? This was the first I have heard about it. I would say that would make it an important read. Maybe you should read a newspaper in your locality..............
I see them trying and failing miserably... Even Duh-oyle sees it...
UNLESS the Dems gain control of the legislature...
It is critical...
CCW (we only need 1 more vote)
AWB (if it flips)
It all depends on November!
That was one of the more well-written articles I've seen on the AWB sunset. Quite tempered and truthful.
ch 58 news had a piece on the expiration of the AWB - included the necessary machine gun clip during the intro. Mentioned one dem from milwaukee will try to get person to person xfers outlawed. Also shineski (I think that's her name) is going to try to pass a WI AWB by introducing a bill in January.
Have fun trying, you morons - we own the legislature! Since you mushy headed idiots blocked the concealed carry bill, there's no way in hell any anti-gun legislation is going to get through.
I don't remember exactly when it was published, but ....
The Journal Sentinal sought out and Dick Baker and requested that he write a pro-PPA (ccw for non-WI folks) article after they ran an anti-PPA article.
He told me about it while I was picking up fliers at his house and spending my time begging folks to dial a toll free number. (People are SOOOO disappointing)
It's not the MJS' first attempt at responsible journalism regarding 2A.