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The 1994 Assault Weapons Ban
10/9/2004 5:50:24 AM    [ Flag as Inappropriate ]

Did it have any substance, or was it just fluff?

There seem to be numerous interpretations of what the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban did or did not mandate. On behalf of local, state, and federal law enforcement officers who advocated and lobbied for its passage, I offer the following questions and answers.

Readers can decide for themselves whether this ban had any merit, or whether it was mere ‘cosmetic pandering’ to the masses, as many now contend.

Q: What is the status of the federal assault weapons ban?

A: The federal law banning the sale of certain semi-automatic assault weapons, known as the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, was passed as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. President Clinton signed it into law on September 13, 1994.

This assault weapons ban expired ("sunset") in September 2004, since it had a 10-year life span, and Congress and President George W. Bush did not renew it.

Q: What were the provisions of the ban?

A: On September 13, 1994, domestic gun manufacturers were required to stop production of semi-automatic assault weapons and ammunition clips holding more than 10 rounds, except for military or police usage.

Imports of assault weapons not already banned by administrative actions under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush were also halted. Assault weapons and ammunition clips holding more than 10 rounds produced prior to September 13, 1994, were "grandfathered" in under the law and could still be possessed and sold.

This bill banned, by specific name, the manufacture of 19 different assault weapons, including A-K 47s, Uzis, and AR-15s.

This bill also banned "copies" or "duplicates" of any of these 19 assault weapons. The failure to include a ban of these "copies" or "duplicates" would have opened the door for widespread evasion of the law. Even so, some gun manufacturers tried to evade the law by making minor changes to their assault weapons in order to skirt these restrictions.

The 1994 law also prohibited manufacturers from producing firearms with more than one of the following assault weapon features:

Rifles

Folding/telescoping stock
Protruding pistol grip
Bayonet mount
Threaded muzzle or flash suppressor
Grenade launcher

Pistols

Magazine outside grip
Threaded muzzle
Barrel shroud
Unloaded weight of 50 ounces or more
Semi-automatic version of a fully automatic weapon

Shotguns

Folding/telescoping stock
Protruding pistol grip
Detachable magazine capacity
Fixed magazine capacity greater than 5 rounds

Q: Did the law ban all semi-automatic guns? Did it affect hunting rifles and shotguns?

A: No. The definition of an assault weapon was tightly drawn. Only semi-automatic guns with multiple assault weapon features were banned. Traditional guns designed for use in hunting and recreational activities were not affected. To alleviate concerns that hunting weapons somehow might have been affected, the law provided specific protection to 670 types of hunting rifles and shotguns that were still being manufactured. The list was not exhaustive, and a gun did not have to be on the list to be protected. Again, the only weapons that were prohibited were those with multiple assault weapon features.

Q: What did the gun lobby think about the federal assault weapons ban?

A: In 1996, the gun lobby pushed the U.S. House of Representatives to vote to repeal the ban, but the Senate refused to follow suit. In 2002, the gun lobby listed opposition to renewal of this ban as one of its criteria on its 2002 election candidate questionnaire. The gun lobby continued to try to gut the ban and prevent its reauthorization.

Q: What have the courts said about the federal assault weapons ban?

A: This law had been challenged in court by the gun lobby, which fought against passage of the assault weapons ban in 1994, and continued to oppose it until it expired last September. However, federal courts had rejected these legal challenges.

In October 2000, the United States Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge brought by an assault weapons manufacturer after the case had been dismissed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The Circuit Court had rejected their argument that the statute exceeded the power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce and constituted an unconstitutional bill of attainder.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) brought its own lawsuit against the statute in Michigan federal court, but it was dismissed by the court for lack of standing to sue. Another assault weapons manufacturer continued the suit, which was dismissed by a federal judge in March of 2000. The appeal, argued by an NRA attorney, was heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in April of 2002.

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, representing itself, as well as several public health and law enforcement organizations, filed amicus curiae briefs in both cases in support of the statute.

Q: What is the difference between semi-automatic hunting rifles and semi-automatic assault weapons?

A: Sporting rifles and assault weapons are two distinct classes of firearms. While semi-automatic hunting rifles are designed to be fired from the shoulder and depend upon the accuracy of a precisely aimed projectile, semi-automatic assault weapons are designed to maximize lethal effects through a rapid rate of fire. Assault weapons are designed to be spray-fired from the hip, and because of their design, a shooter can maintain control of the weapon even while firing many rounds in rapid succession.

Opponents of the ban argued that such weapons only ‘look scary.’ However, because they were designed for military purposes, assault weapons are equipped with combat hardware, such as silencers, folding stocks and bayonets, and these features are not found on sporting guns.

Assault weapons are also designed for rapid-fire, and many come equipped with large ammunition magazines allowing 50 or more bullets to be fired without reloading. Many law enforcement officers felt that there was a good reason why these features on high-powered weapons should be banned.

Assault weapons are commonly equipped with some or all of the following combat features:

A large-capacity ammunition magazine, enabling the shooter to continuously fire dozens of rounds without reloading. Standard hunting rifles are usually equipped with no more than 3 or 4-shot magazines.

A folding stock on a rifle or shotgun which sacrifices accuracy for concealability, and also provides mobility in close combat.

A pistol grip on a rifle or a shotgun, which facilitates firing from the hip, easily allows the shooter to spray-fire the weapon. A pistol grip also helps the shooter to stabilize the firearm during rapid fire, and makes it easier to one-handedly discharge the weapon.

A barrel shroud, which is designed to cool the barrel so the firearm can shoot many rounds in rapid succession without overheating. It also allows the shooter to grasp the barrel area to stabilize the weapon, without incurring serious burns, during rapid fire.

A threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor, which serves no useful sporting purpose. The flash suppressor allows the shooter to remain concealed when shooting at night, an advantage in combat but unnecessary for hunting or sporting purposes. In addition, the flash suppressor is useful for providing stability during rapid fire, helping the shooter maintain control of the firearm.

A threaded barrel designed to accommodate a silencer, which is useful to assassins but clearly has no purpose for sportsmen. Silencers are illegal so there is no legitimate purpose for making it possible to put a silencer on a weapon, yet the gun manufacturers believed it was their right to do so.

A barrel mount designed to accommodate a bayonet, which obviously serves no legitimate sporting purpose.

Q: What is the difference between an automatic and a semi-automatic weapon?

A: An automatic weapon (machine gun) will continue to fire as long as the trigger is depressed (or until the ammunition magazine is emptied). A semi-automatic weapon will fire one round and instantly load the next round with each pull of the trigger. Semi-automatic firearms fire as rapidly as you can twitch your finger. This means that a semi-automatic fires a little more slowly than an automatic, but not much more slowly.

When San Jose, California police test-fired an UZI, a 30-round magazine was emptied in slightly less than two seconds on full automatic, while the same magazine was emptied in just five seconds on semi-automatic.

Ownership of machine guns has been tightly controlled since passage of the National Firearms Act of 1934, and their manufacture for the civilian market was halted in 1986.

However, semi-automatic versions of those same guns were still being produced by gun manufacturers until the federal assault weapons ban was enacted in 1994.

Q: Why does the gun lobby say that there is no such thing as a semi-automatic assault weapon?

A: The gun lobby claims that semi-automatic assault weapons don't exist because the term "assault weapon" only means fully automatic weapons (machine guns - see above).

Most law enforcement groups disagree with the gun lobby position on this, as did Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Congress, at the time of the ban.

Q: Did this law require the confiscation of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines that were lawfully possessed prior to the date of enactment?

A: No. The law banned the manufacture and importation of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines as of September 13, 1994. Existing weapons and magazines were "grandfathered," meaning that such items lawfully possessed prior to the bill's effective date could be retained, sold, or transferred to anyone who is legally entitled to own a firearm.

In the months leading up to passage of the ban, gun manufacturers, eager to exploit the impending "endangered" status of these firearms, boosted their production of assault weapons by more than 120%, and raised prices by an average of 50%. Once the ban took effect, prices fell back to 1992 levels.

Q: Do grandfathered weapons have to be registered with law enforcement?

A: No. There is no requirement that grandfathered weapons be registered; nor are there any record-keeping requirements.

Q: What action had been taken on assault weapons prior to 1994?

A: Prior to passage of the federal assault weapons ban, the importation of certain types of assault weapons from overseas had been banned during the Reagan and George H.W. Bush Administrations.

Such bans were ordered by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) under the 1968 Gun Control Act, which granted the ATF the power to prevent the importation of guns which are not "particularly suitable for, or readily adaptable to, sporting purposes."

Under the Reagan Administration, the ATF blocked the importation of certain models of shotguns that were not suitable for sporting purposes. In 1989, during the George H.W. Bush Administration, the ATF expanded this list to permanently ban the importation of 43 types of semi-automatic assault rifles that were also determined not to have a sporting purpose.

Later, in 1998, President Clinton banned the importation of 58 additional foreign-made "copycat" assault weapons in order to close a loophole in the prior import ban.

The 1994 ban added 19 more weapons to the list, and banned the military type features explained above.

Q: Did law enforcement support this 1994 ban on assault weapons?

A: Every major national law enforcement organization in the country supported the federal assault weapons ban and worked for its passage.

Among the many law enforcement organizations that supported the ban are the Law Enforcement Steering Committee, the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Sheriffs' Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Major City Chiefs Association, the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, the National Association of Police Organizations, the Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association, the National Black Police Association, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, the Police Executive Research Forum, and the Police Foundation.

Q: Why did police support the ban so strongly?

A: While there are no exact numbers of assault weapon incidents, police officers across America in the 1980s reported that semi-automatic assault weapons had become the "weapon of choice" for drug traffickers, gangs, and paramilitary extremist groups.

And law enforcement officers are at particular risk from these weapons because of their high firepower and ability to penetrate body armor. In addition, limiting civilian access to such weapons lessened the need for law enforcement officers to carry assault weapons themselves in order to match the firepower capability that criminals with assault weapons have.

Law enforcement officers did not want to have to carry M-16s as their standard service weapon. In 1997, after a North Hollywood, CA shootout in which police were outgunned by two men with assault weapons, Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police stated:

“An AK-47 fires a military round. In a conventional home with dry-wall partitions, I wouldn't be surprised if it went through six of them...Police are armed with weapons that are effective with criminals in line of sight. They don't want and don't need weapons that would harm innocent bystanders.”

Ray Kelly, the Treasury Department's undersecretary for enforcement at the time, noted that police departments have specially trained officers who use high-powered weapons:

"It takes a lot of training to be proficient at it," he said. "I don't think you can issue high-powered weapons to every patrol officer."

Prior to the ban's passage, assault rifles were used to kill and injure dozens of innocent people in some particularly heinous crimes, including:

The Stockton Schoolyard Massacre - On January 17, 1989, Patrick Purdy killed 5 small children, and wounded 29 others and 1 teacher at the Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton, California, using a semi-automatic assault rifle imported from China. That weapon had been legally purchased from a gun dealer in Oregon and was equipped with a 75-round "drum" magazine. Purdy shot 106 rounds in less than 2 minutes.

The San Francisco Pettit & Martin Shootings - On July 1, 1993, Gian Luigi Ferri killed 8 people and wounded 6 others at the San Francisco law offices of Pettit & Martin and other offices at 101 California Street. Ferri used two assault pistols with 50-round magazines. These weapons had been legally purchased from a pawnshop and a gun show in Nevada.

The CIA Headquarters Shootings - On January 25, 1993, Mir Aimal Kasi killed 2 CIA employees and wounded 3 others outside the entrance to CIA headquarters in Langley, VA. Kasi used a Chinese-made semi-automatic assault rifle equipped with a 30-round magazine, legally purchased from a Northern Virginia gun store.

The Branch-Davidian Standoff in Waco, Texas - On February 28, 1993, while attempting to serve federal search and arrest warrants at the Branch-Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, four ATF special agents were killed, and 16 others were wounded, by an arsenal of assault weapons. According to a federal affidavit, the Branch-Davidians had accumulated at least 168 assault weapons, 20 100-round drum magazines, and 260 large-capacity banana clips. The weapons were bought legally from gun dealers and at gun shows.

Q: Did the ban on assault weapons affect the use of these assault weapons by the military or by the police?

A: No. Assault weapons were legally produced for use by law enforcement agencies and the military. High-capacity magazines produced for police or military had to contain an identifying serial number.

Q: Did the ban reduce the use of assault weapons in crime?

A: Yes. As more and more assault weapons were confiscated from crime scenes, fewer and fewer criminals and juveniles had access to these deadly killing machines. And, in fact, there is mounting evidence that the ban had worked quite effectively.

Gun traces are one of the best measures of gun usage in crime. In 1999, the National Institute of Justice reported that trace requests for assault weapons in the 1993-95 period declined 20% in the first calendar year after the assault weapons ban took effect, dropping from 4,077 in 1994 to 3,268 in 1995. Over the same time period, gun murders declined only 10% and trace requests for all types of guns declined 11 percent, clearly showing a greater decrease in the number of assault weapons traced in crime.

This same study also reported that the number of assault weapons traced in St. Louis and Boston declined 29% and 24% respectively, as a share of all guns recovered in crime, during late 1995 and into 1996.

In addition, a study by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence (formerly the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence) found that, in Maryland, whose ban on assault pistols took effect in June 1994, the number of assault pistols recovered by Baltimore police in the first six months of 1995 fell by 45 percent from the first six months of 1994.

Q: Why should the federal assault weapons ban have been renewed?

A: Even with the success of the ban, assault weapons still pose a threat to the safety of all Americans, and particularly to our law enforcement officers. Tens of thousands of "grandfathered" assault weapons are still in circulation, and thousands more will now go into circulation since the 1994 ban has not been renewed.

Gun manufacturers have already begun producing, distributing, and selling the 19 once banned weapons again, and many of them are offering free 50 and 75-round ammunition clips to spur sales.




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• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 43 - Wednesday, November 22, 2006
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 42 - Thursday, November 02, 2006
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 41 - Sunday, August 13, 2006
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 40 - Saturday, August 05, 2006
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 39 - Wednesday, July 12, 2006
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 38 - Saturday, June 24, 2006
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 37 - Thursday, June 15, 2006
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 36 - Sunday, June 11, 2006
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 35 - Monday, May 29, 2006
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 34 - Saturday, May 27, 2006
• The Pet Chronicles, Chapter 7 - Friday, May 26, 2006
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 33 - Thursday, April 27, 2006
• The Pet Chronicles, Chapter 6 - Monday, April 17, 2006
• The Pet Chronicles, Chapter 5 - Friday, April 14, 2006
• The Pet Chronicles, Chapter 4 - Thursday, April 13, 2006
• The Pet Chronicles, Chapter 3 - Wednesday, April 12, 2006
• The Pet Chronicles, Chapter 2 - Monday, April 10, 2006
• The Pet Chronicles, Chapter 1 - Sunday, April 09, 2006
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 32 - Saturday, March 11, 2006
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 31 - Saturday, March 04, 2006
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 30 - Sunday, February 19, 2006
• New Orleans Pet News - Thursday, February 09, 2006
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 29 - Wednesday, January 04, 2006
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 28 - Friday, December 23, 2005
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 27 - Sunday, December 18, 2005
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 26 - Saturday, December 03, 2005
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 25 - Friday, November 11, 2005
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 24 - Thursday, October 27, 2005
• Needless Arctic Drilling - Saturday, October 22, 2005
• Pet Rescue Organizations - Sunday, September 25, 2005
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 23 - Friday, August 26, 2005
• It's HOT To Help Our Troops - Saturday, August 06, 2005
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 22 - Saturday, July 16, 2005
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 21 - Thursday, July 14, 2005
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 20 - Wednesday, June 15, 2005
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 19 - Friday, May 27, 2005
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 18 - Sunday, May 22, 2005
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 17 - Tuesday, May 10, 2005
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 16 - Monday, April 11, 2005
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 15 - Wednesday, March 23, 2005
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 14 - Tuesday, March 22, 2005
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 13 - Thursday, March 10, 2005
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 12 - Monday, February 07, 2005
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 11 - Saturday, December 18, 2004
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 10 - Saturday, December 11, 2004
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 9 - Friday, December 10, 2004
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 8 - Thursday, December 09, 2004
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 7 - Wednesday, December 08, 2004
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 6 - Sunday, December 05, 2004
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 5 - Friday, December 03, 2004
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 4 - Thursday, December 02, 2004
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 3 - Wednesday, December 01, 2004
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 2 - Tuesday, November 30, 2004
• What Our Soldiers Think - Sunday, November 28, 2004
• Veteran Chronicles, Chapter 1 - Friday, November 26, 2004
• My Book Wins an Award - Tuesday, October 12, 2004
• The Right to Bear Arms - Sunday, October 10, 2004
•  The 1994 Assault Weapons Ban - Saturday, October 09, 2004  


Diary of a Crush by Lena Kovadlo

A must-have book for those that ever had a crush, fallen in love, or had their heart broken.....  
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