By Sarah Carlson, Copy Editor
I Am The Enemy
The day before the ban on semiautomatic assault weapons expired a Miami-Dade police officer was shot several times when a driver she pulled over opened fire with an AK-47. Luckily, she survived and is recovering.
A Violence Policy Center study found that of the 211 police officers killed in the line of duty from 1998 through 2001, 41 were killed with an assault weapon.
Only the military needs assault weapons similar to AK-47s, Uzi’s or M-16s, now available to the public. One does not need a bayonet, a flash suppressor or a multi-round magazine -accessories that can help someone easily mow down a crowd of civilians or policemen-for target practice.
The assault weapons ban should have been renewed or new legislation should have been written and passed in its place.
The law, signed by President Clinton in 1994, banned 19 specific semiautomatic weapons and ammunition clips of 10 rounds or more.
A study released this year by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence found a 66 percent drop in use of assault weapons in crimes after the ban was first enacted in 1994, and also concluded that had the law not been passed, about 66,000 more assault weapons would have been traced to crimes since 1994.
A recent national poll conducted by University of Pennsylvania’s National Annenberg Election Survey found that 68 percent of Americans wanted to extend the ban, including 57 percent of those with a gun in their household.
To let this ban expire was dangerous and foolish on the parts of Congress and the president. President Bush campaigned in 2000 on the issue of the ban and continued to support its renewal.
“The president supports the current law, and he supports reauthorization of the current law,” said White House press secretary Scott McClellan in April 2003.
However, Bush put no pressure on Congress to renew the ban.
Too many problems exist in the gun franchise. Greg Riggins, gun manager of The Pawn Shop at 357 Walnut, said the regulations on the “who” and “how” of gun buying don’t even make sense. He said when someone wants to buy two cowboy pistols, he has to fill out an extra report for the second gun and go through more paper work. But only a background check is needed if someone comes into the shop and wants to buy an AR-15 and magazines with thousands of bullets.
“Why should I have to double report the cowboy pistol and not the AR?” Riggins said.
Riggins said the ban of assault weapons didn’t change much, and configurations made on the weapons that were “cosmetic” changes left the actual purpose and danger of the weapon unchanged. Post-law guns could take pre-law magazines, Riggins said, and many pre-law weapons were protected by the grandfather provision and remained in use. A grandfather clause exempts one already engaging in an activity from new rules or legislation forbidding or regulating that activity.
Loopholes have allowed gun manufacturers to continue to produce many of the weapons specified in the ban by simply changing minor features and accessories of the gun, or even its name. If the law was really as ineffective as its critics claim, then it should have been improved to prevent these loopholes.
In February 2000, when Bush was running for president, the National Rifle Association had a few words to say about their relationship with him if he was elected.
“If we win, we’ll have a president where we work out of their office,” said Kayne Robinson, first vice president for the NRA.
A posting on the NRA’s Web site on Sept. 13 said, “Today’s demise of the Clinton gun ban should serve as a stark reminder that the 2004 elections will determine the next chapter that is written on the Second Amendment.”
President Bush, in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in New York Sept. 2, said, “One thing I have learned about the presidency is that whatever shortcomings you have, people are going to notice them, and whatever strengths you have, you’re going to need them.”
He fell short. The president chose to protect his political associations with the NRA in an election year instead of protecting the American people from these lethal and unnecessary weapons.