Schumer Moves to Renew Federal Ban on Assault Weapons

Date: May 8, 2003
Issues: Guns


With ban to expire in 2004, White House is set to work with Schumer, Feinstein, Chaffee, and Boxer on re-authorization effort

US Senators Dianne Feinstein, Chuck Schumer, Lincoln Chafee, Barbara Boxer, and Dick Durbin today introduced legislation that would reauthorize the federal assault weapons ban and close a loophole in the law that has allowed millions of large-capacity ammunition clips to be imported into this country. The 1994 assault weapons ban was authored by then-Representative Schumer in the Hosue and by Feinstein in the Senate. The ban will expire in September 2004, and manufacturers would once again be able to make the assault weapons that have been banned for almost 10 years.

President Bush has indicated support for the assault weapons ban, and just a few weeks ago, his spokesman Scott McClellan reiterated his support for reauthorizing the ban when he said: "The President supports the current law, and he supports reauthorization of the current law." The President has also indicated his support for banning the importation of high capacity ammunition clips. Schumer issued the following statement:

"Ten years ago, the US Congress took the courageous and historic step of banning the sale of assault weapons in the United States. Ten years later, the ban is set to expire. We stand here today announcing our intent to keep this smart, sensible, and fair law in place. I know the first question you will ask us is: In a Washington where the NRA has virtual control of Congress, does this bill have a snowball's chance in Hades of going anywhere? It's going to be a hard fought effort but we think it does. And we're counting on some help from an ally who lives on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The President made a promise to support the re-authorization of the assault weapon ban and recently renewed support for doing so. We hope the President will not just say he supports the ban but will work to get it passed. This will be a good measure of the compassion in his compassionate conservatism. The bottom line is that if the President wants this bill to become law, it will.

The NRA and other opponents of this legislation have little ammunition in their arsenal against this bill. The ban has been in effect for nearly a decade, and not one hunter has lost his right to hunt, not one homeowner has lost his power to defend his home. We have proven that the Second Amendment can thrive while we take limited and reasonable measures to protect Americans from gun violence.

But the NRA has never been known to adhere to reality, and has shown time and time again to be more than willing to twist the facts to make its case - even if it means sticking its thumb in the eyes of law enforcement.

The NRA's opposition to this common sense law is an affront to the sacrifices made by police officers throughout the country who have fallen in the line of duty, working to enforce the ban and keep these deadly weapons off our streets. It's an affront to the families of Detectives Rodney Andrews and James Nemorin who were murdered just this past March, investigating a gun-running ring that was importing assault weapons into New York City.

The NRA audaciously complains that the law doesn't go far enough and that it is ineffective. Well, if Mr. LaPierre wants a broader ban, all he's got to do is pick up the phone and call. We're ready to work with anyone we can to better protect Americans from gun violence by keeping all of these guns out of the hands of criminals.

The fact of the matter is that there is no legitimate use for these weapons. That was as true in 1994 as it is today. But in a post-9/11 world, the assault weapons ban carries even greater urgency.

With terrorists on American soil looking for ways to attack us at home, giving them carte blanche to pick up a Tec-9 with a high capacity clip is just plain stupid. It makes no sense. Sometimes the most basic and sensible laws are the most effective measures against terrorism that we have. I'd have to say this legislation fits that category.

So we are going to look for every opportunity to turn this bill into law. If Sen. Frist refuses to bring it up, we'll look for every opportunity to attach it to legislation. President Bush says he supports the bill and I take him at his word. When he told me that New York would get $20 billion to help recover from the disastrous effects of 9/11, he came through. So I fully expect he will put the power of the White House behind this legislation and we will be standing in the Rose Garden watching President Bush sign this bill before the ban expires next September."

The legislation would reauthorize the 1994 assault weapons ban by striking the sunset date from the original law. This would: Maintain the ban on the manufacture and importation of 19 types of common military style assault weapons - for all time; maintain the ban on an additional group of assault weapons that have been banned by characteristic for 8 years; continue to protect some 670 hunting and other recreational rifles for use by law-abiding citizens; and preserve the right of law enforcement officials to use and obtain newly manufactured semi-automatic assault weapons -- helping to prevent instances when law enforcement agents are outgunned by perpetrators.

The goal of the original bill was to drive down the supply of these weapons and make them more difficult to obtain. In the years following the enactment of the ban, crimes using assault weapons were reduced dramatically. According to the most recent statistics made by the ATF, in 1993, assault weapons accounted for 8.2 percent of all guns used in crimes; By the end of 1995, that proportion had fallen to 4.3 percent; and by November 1996, the last date for which statistics are available, the proportion had fallen to 3.2 percent.

In addition, the legislation introduced today would close a loophole in the 1994 law, which prohibits the domestic manufacture of high-capacity ammunition magazines, but allows foreign companies to continue sending them to this country by the millions. A measure that would have closed this loophole passed the House and Senate in 1999 by wide margins, but was bottled up in the 1999 Juvenile Justice conference report due to an unrelated provision. Since 1994, the ATF has approved the importation of almost 50 million high capacity ammunition magazines from some 50 countries.