NRA Helps Block State Assault Weapon Laws


Some state lawmakers want to outlaw certain assault-style weapons before a decade-old federal ban expires in September, reports The National Rifle Association so far is prevailing in its attemps to derail any state attempt to ban the weapons. In Maryland, supporters of an assault weapons ban have admitted their proposal is all but dead. In Illinois, Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich threatened to veto a popular pro-gun bill if it does not include an assault weapons ban. Other states that may consider the issue include Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

California adopted the nation's strictest assault weapons ban after an elementary school shooting in 1989, outlawing more than 200 types of firearms. State bans have since been adopted by Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York, although Massachusetts' ban would expire with the federal law if it is not renewed.

Despite President George W. Bush's support for extending the 1994 federal assault weapons ban, Republican leaders in Congress have vowed to let the measure sunset this fall. An attempt to renew the ban failed in the U.S. Senate this month. with the ban set to expire just two months before Election Day, Bush and likely Democratic nominee John Kerry, who also supports the federal ban, could be pressured to take stronger positions on gun control.

Critics say the ban is ineffective because at least eight of the named guns – including AK-47s and Uzis – still would be illegal under other laws if the ban expires. Also, gun manufacturers have been producing replicas of nearly every other banned weapon by making slight cosmetic changes or simply changing the model name.

The ban’s effectiveness is debated. A Congress-mandated study to be released this July and will report that police requests to trace assault weapons have decreased 66 percent since 1994, double the decline for other firearm traces. The large decline belies the fact that assault weapons are rarely used in crimes, said criminologist Christopher Koper of the University of Pennsylvania who co-authored the study for the U.S. Department of Justice. “Determining how many murders or shootings might be prevented by banning assault weapons might be too difficult to determine because these weapons really aren't used in many crimes,” he said. The study also will undermine the effectiveness of the ban on high-capacity magazines, a central element of the gun law intended to prevent multiple murders. Koper says there is no evidence that access or use of such magazines has declined.


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