My newspaper, surprisingly enough reminded me ....
Year anniversary of gun ban law expiring
BY JONATHAN ATHENS, Sun Staff Writer
Sep 13, 2005, 8:03 pm
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One year after a controversial federal firearms ban ended, Yuma-area law enforcement officials said little has changed in terms of gun-related crimes here.
Mark Webster, Chairman of Yuma Friends of the NRA (National RIfle Association), discusses the features of a Wasar10 AK-47 semi-automatic rifle. It and similar rifles were once banned, but the ban expired a year ago. Authorities say there has been no detectable increase in violence or crime involving the rifles since the ban expired. Photo by Terry Ketron/The Sun
One popular Yuma gun dealer said he's seen only a marginal increase in the sales of the formerly banned firearms, commonly called "assault weapons."
The Federal Assault Weapons Act, signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton in 1994, expired one year ago Sept. 13. The law banned 19 types of military-style firearms with features such as bayonet lugs, collapsible stocks, pistol grips and magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Manufacturers of those types of firearms dropped those design features as a result of the ban.
Some gun owners who spoke to The Sun said the ban was largely meaningless and its expiration hasn't prompted them to go out and buy such firearms.
Gun control advocates such as the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence said they think a new such law should be passed, but a spokesman for that group said he doesn't think that's likely to happen given the political climate in Washington D.C. these days.
"The ban had no effect at all. We didn't have a problem to begin with," said Yuma County Chief Deputy Maj. Leon Wilmot, adding the ban was mainly "cosmetic."
The only reported crime in the county involving such firearms in the past 12 months involved four illegal immigrant men from Mexico. Authorities allege the four illegal immigrants used counterfeit identification to illegally purchase those weapons with the intention of smuggling them into Mexico, where private ownership of firearms is highly restricted.
"Criminals have a knack for acquiring what they need, legal or illegal," Yuma Police spokesman Clint Norred said.
Norred said expiration of the ban has had minimal impact here.
"I don't think its a huge problem for Yuma," Norred said, adding police have seized some weapons similar to those that were banned over the past year.
Peter Hamm, spokesman for the Brady Center, said he agrees that assault-style firearms are not a problem in rural communities but they are a problem in some major urban communities.
"In places like Yuma County, we would agree there's not a problem. The problem is in places like Philadelphia and Detroit," Hamm said.
Hamm said there have been 41 incidents nationwide since the ban expired involving assault-style weapons. Those incidents, Hamm said, left 38 people dead and another 34 wounded.
"Police are going to be outgunned. We absolutely think the law should be renewed," Hamm said.
Given Republican dominance of Congress and the White House, "we don't kid ourselves into thinking the law is going to be renewed anytime soon," Hamm said.
Richard Sprague, owner of Sprague's Sports, said sales of such firearms at his store in the past year since the ban has ended have amounted to only "a blip" — a 10 to 15 percent increase.
Prices of those types of firearms have not changed, Sprague said. The most popular models still cost between $900 and $1,000, and sales nationwide of those models are strong, he said.
But sales of higher capacity magazines are up, Sprague said, and the price of those magazines has plummeted — from $75 each before the ban to $21 to $30 each.
Sprague said he is "refreshingly surprised" Congress and President Bush did not renew the assault gun ban last year. He thinks the nation is "better off" without the ban.
"What did it prove? It didn't prove anything," Dyer said. He owns assault-style weapons, but said the ban's expiration hasn't prompted him to buy more or to buy higher capacity magazines.
Yuma resident Robert Lee, 25, said he was aware of the assault gun ban but wasn't aware one year has passed since its expiration.
Lee, a hunter, said he isn't likely to buy firearms that were once banned.
"I don't have the need for one. I get my enjoyment from shooting the guns I have. Some people like having semi-automatic rifles and it's fun for them to shoot them," Lee said.
Rick Johnson, owner of Yuma Firearms, said the ban "should never have been in place to begin with."
"It was a waste of time, money, bureaucracy ... a waste of everything," Johnson said, adding he has seen only a slight increase in the sales of magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
Johnson said he has seen no increase in the sales of the formerly banned firearms.
Jonathan Athens can be reached at
email@example.com or 539-6857.