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Blood on the NRA's Hands

September 13, 2004

Perhaps you remember Evan Foster. The 7-year-old was murdered in an Inglewood park in December 1997, just after he picked up his soccer trophy. Three of the 75 rounds fired from a gang member's assault rifle drilled into his head. The federal assault weapons ban was already in effect, and if you asked the National Rifle Assn. and its acolytes in Congress about Evan's murder, they would eagerly tell you that this law, which lawmakers have shamefully let expire today, would not have saved the child.

They would be right -- and utterly deceitful.

Evan, his mother and his 10-month-old brother, Alec, had gotten back into their parked car when Rhonda Foster saw she was sandwiched between a vehicle full of gang members, their rifles pointed, and another car in which the shooters mistakenly thought they saw a rival. Evan was hit as his mother frantically tried to back out of the way. He died instantly. Fragments from some of the dozen rounds that strafed their car hit Alec, leaving the vision in his left eye limited.

NRA leaders, who have been gunning for the assault weapons ban since it took effect in 1994, would quickly point out that the MAC-90 that killed Evan wasn't among the handful of models covered by the federal law. That's true. The ban's author, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), never believed that law alone would end assault gun crime. That's why she pushed Congress over the years to limit the sale of high-volume bullet magazines, for tougher oversight of gun dealers and to expand the ban to guns with certain generic features, like flash suppressors. Guess which group blocked her every effort?

Even if the MAC-90 had been included in the federal ban, the NRA would argue, the law obviously failed to stop illegal traffic in assault guns. True again. Yet by that logic, legislators should drop laws against driving drunk because some people are so irresponsible they will drink and drive regardless.

A large majority of Americans -- and most gun owners -- have steadfastly supported the assault gun ban. So why did Congress let it die, allowing dealers to once more peddle these weapons of mass destruction?

Look to President Bush, who once said he supported the ban. His deliberate silence as the law's time ran out justified congressional leaders in arguing that if the president wasn't behind the prohibition, there was no point in voting to renew it. So today the expired ban is a trophy Bush can lay at the NRA's feet as the group readies its presidential endorsement.

Rhonda and Ruett Foster still have Evan's soccer trophy. Rhonda talks freely about her son, about a poem he wrote, the sports he liked. But last week, telling the story of his horrific murder yet again, there was anger in her voice.

"For our president to follow the NRA instead of the majority of America," she said quietly, "shows that he doesn't care about the lives of our children. Letting this ban expire means more of these weapons will be available. It's outrageous."

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