Taking a campaign for stronger gun-control measures to the national stage, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell squared off with a top National Rifle Association official on CBS’s “Face the Nation” yesterday over the federal ban on assault weapons, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Rendell said there was no “rational reason” to allow the sale of assault weapons. “They are used for only one reason  to kill and maim people,” he said. Rendell, who has fought for years for tougher gun control, revived his efforts after the slayings this month of three Pittsburgh police officers who were killed by a man using an AK-47 assault rifle. At least one of the officers would still be alive, Rendell contended, if the shooter had not had a semiautomatic weapon.
Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the NRA, called the assault-weapons ban “a totally phony issue” and called for stronger enforcement of existing laws. The debate over reinstating the federal assault-weapons ban that expired in 2004 comes as gun owners stock up on weapons and ammunition, fearing bans under President Obama, and a growing number of urban mayors and police chiefs line up behind gun-control advocates. A gauge of the strength of the opposition to gun control outside urban areas will likely be evident tomorrow when hundreds of Pennsylvania gun owners are expected to gather for the annual right-to-bear-arms rally.