The White House backs an extension of the 9-year-old federal ban on certain assault-style weapons, despite strong opposition by a strong ally of President Bush–the National Rifle Association. The extension legislation will be introduced today by Senate Democrats.
The New York Times writes that “the White House appears to have made a bold political calculation: that the risk of alienating a core constituency is outweighed by appearing independent of the gun lobby, sticking to a campaign promise and supporting a measure that has broad popular appeal. The president has claimed the middle road – supporting an extension of the current ban but not endorsing the stronger measures that gun-control supporters say would outlaw many ‘copycat’ assault weapons.”
One question in the debate will be the measure’s impact. The Times says that a report due to be released soon by the Violence Policy Center, a Washington group that supports an expansion of the ban, examined the killings of 211 law enforcement officers from 1998 to 2001 and found that one in five were done with assault weapons, often copycat models that did not fall under the 1994 ban.