The House of Representatives will let the federal ban on certain assault-style weapons expire next year, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) said yesterday. “The votes in the House are not there” to continue the ban,” the Washington Post quoted him as saying. A DeLay spokesman said there would not even be a vote on the measure.
If Congress does not act, the AK-47 and 18 other types of semiautomatic weapons that were outlawed by President Clinton and a Democratic-controlled Congress in 1994 would be legal again in mid-September 2004, handing a major victory to the National Rifle Association and other gun rights groups. NRA opposition to Democrats who favored its passage played a part in the GOP’s taking over control of the House in 1994.
President Bush, whose support of the assault weapons ban dates to his 2000 campaign, has drawn rebukes from NRA members and some GOP lawmakers. Bush apparently has no plans to lobby aggressively for the ban. That would allow him to oppose the NRA without completely turning against the powerful gun lobby by fighting to maintain a ban on semiautomatic weapons. Gun Owners of America, a gun rights group, told its members recently that the White House is “trying to please both sides” and is “playing a very dangerous game.”