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GUNS What's effect of expired weapons ban?



Published: Thu, June 23, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



There is no hard evidence of any effect on safety since the ban was lifted.

SACRAMENTO BEE

It's been 10 months since the federal assault weapons ban expired, and for an idea of what's happened since then, pick up a copy of a gun magazine.

There you will find advertisements for semiautomatic rifles and pistols looking like something out of a war zone, with ammunition clips holding 30 or 40 bullets -- many features that 11 months ago, U.S. manufacturers could not make and gun stores could not sell.

"Since the assault weapons ban was allowed to expire, it has been open season for criminals who want the most dangerous types of military-style assault weapons," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who in March introduced legislation to revive the old ban.

Feinstein said that the expiration of the ban she fought hard to get in 1994 "will have deadly consequences on the streets of America."

But has it really made much of a difference? Are the streets less safe?

No evidence

There is no hard evidence one way or another.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has no statistics that would show whether there's been an uptick in sales of assault-style weapons, and the Department of Justice has no statistics that would show whether there's been an increase in their use in crimes.

Gun manufacturers say their shops are busy, but only because the 10-year ban created pent-up demand for weapons with features that weren't available.

"It's changed our market a bit," said Mark Westrom, president of Armalite, an Illinois company that produces the military-style weapons.

But Westrom said the company is not selling anywhere near the volume that many gun-control advocates had forecast.

"It's a non-story," he said.

Sandy Abrams, a board member of the National Rifle Association who owns Valley Gun of Baltimore, said he has seen a drop in sales of the guns at his urban store.

"It's not like there was this groundswell of demand," he said.

Besides, Abrams said, manufacturers never stopped making what are commonly called assault weapons. They just retooled to make guns that got around the ban.

No agreement

Even among advocates of gun-control legislation, there is no agreement on whether the expiration of the ban is a disaster in the making as Feinstein claims or the quiet passing of a law that had no teeth anyway.




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