Ten years ago, Congress passed the assault weapons ban, one of the most important public safety measures this country has seen. Although it was not perfect, it represented the best we could do to stem the growth and spread of these weapons throughout our cities and states. But that legislation is going to expire Monday, despite the fact that we have 52 votes for its reauthorization (if it were allowed to come to the Senate floor) and the fact that nearly three-fourths of the American public supports the ban, as do two-thirds of gun owners and every major law enforcement organization in the country.
The National Rifle Assn. will say: The bill is cosmetic. It hasn't done anything. It has been ineffective.
Then why has the NRA made this legislation and its demise its No. 1 priority? The fact is the NRA is wrong. The percentage of banned assault weapons used in crimes is down by nearly two-thirds since 1994.
Presidents Clinton, Carter, Ford and Reagan, and even George W. Bush, have all expressed support for renewing the ban. But three days from today, none of this support will matter. The assault weapons ban will be history, one more victim of the powerful, selfish NRA and its brutal lobbying tactics. Because the president has steadfastly refused to put his money where his mouth is and help us renew the ban, it is going to expire without so much as even a vote in the House.
We have cried out in vain. There has been no response from the White House. Instead, the president quietly awaits Sept. 13 and hopes that after he lets the ban expire, he can again receive the endorsement of the NRA, because the NRA is not going to make its endorsement until the ban expires. This is truly a dark day.
The assault weapons legislation has worked. No legal owner has been denied a weapon. No weapon has been confiscated. Yet the supply of these weapons on the streets has declined. But come next week, companies will once again begin to churn out large-capacity ammunition devices and powerful, easily concealed military weapons, all for civilian use.
One advertisement now running in gun magazines is from a company called ArmaLite. In the ad, ArmaLite is offering a coupon for a free flash suppressor for anyone who buys one of their guns. A flash suppressor is used to prevent the flash of the gun when it is fired. So if you are using it, no one can see where you are, particularly at night, by the flash of the weapon.
The advertisement says: "And by the way ... ArmaLite's rifles are made to be easily retrofitted with your flash suppressor and your other pre-ban features so you don't have to wait if you're choosing an ArmaLite."
That is what we are up against: flash suppressors for votes. It makes me sick to my stomach.
The ad states: "It is not legal to install this on a post-ban rifle until the assault weapons ban sunsets."
A recent study by the Consumer Federation of America found that companies are also gearing up to manufacture large-capacity ammunition clips.
One manufacturer told a caller from the Consumer Federation that there is a pent-up demand for 50-round magazines and larger.
Who needs a 50-round magazine? Hunting laws in every state restrict the number of bullets in a magazine to fewer than 10.
It is clear that time has run out. It is clear the president of the United States will not help, and this is truly a sad day for this nation.