(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – Congress allowed a 10-year ban on deadly firearms to expire on Monday, Sept. 13, when they did not ask President Bush to renew the program.
The expiration of the 1994 assault weapon ban allows the purchase of 19 types of previously outlawed military-style weapons, including Uzis and AK-47s. The ban, which was singed into effect by former President Clinton, was intended to reduce the amount of violent crime in the United States.
A clause within the ban specified that it would expire unless Congress renewed it.
“I think the will of the American people is consistent with letting it expire, so it will expire,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, of Tennessee, told reporters before the ban expired.
According to White House officials, the president made his position clear on the issue that he would have reauthorized the ban if Congress brought it to him.
“His position has been very well-known,” White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan told reports during his press gaggle aboard Air Force One on September 13. “We’ve restated that position. It remains unchanged. But he does not set the legislative timetable. Members of Congress set the legislative timetable. And Congress has stated –congressional leaders have stated that it’s not going to come up for a vote.”
McClellan added that under President Bush, violent crime has been at a 30-year low rate and that the administration is committed to enforcing laws and prosecuting people who commit such crimes.
“We’ve seen an increase of 68 percent in prosecutions of crimes committed with guns under this administration. We initiated the project Safe Neighborhoods, a $1 billion project to hire new state and federal prosecutors to combat violence committed with guns and prosecute offenses. And we also have a variety of grants to states so that states could improve their criminal history records for background checks.”
Despite the White House’s efforts, many still have expressed concerns about the ban’s expiration. Police chiefs in major metropolitan cities held a news conference and predicted that the ban’s expiration will lead to an increase in violent gun crimes.
“Our streets, our homes, our citizens and our police officers will face great danger unless the federal ban on assault weapons is renewed,” said Washington Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey.
In the Washington area, college students have mixed feelings about whether or not the ban should have been reauthorized.
“It doesn’t matter that it wasn’t reauthorized because anybody who is going to do something that destructive will find another way to do it if they can’t use a military weapon,” said Sean Greene, a sophomore at George Mason University in Virginia. “Look what happened with September 11 and that was during the years of the ban was in place.”
Other students questioned why President Bush had urged Congress to bring the matter before him to sign.
“If Bush said that he would have signed to keep the ban in effect, then why wasn’t he more persistent in promoting his views and asking Congress to put it on his desk?” said freshman Stephany Lohman, a junior at the University of Maryland. “I think it’s just ridiculous.”
Lohman, like many other students living in the Washington area, also expressed her concerns about a recurrence of the beltway sniper.
In October 2002, two snipers working together killed ten people around the Washington metropolitan area. The men accused of the crimes are still going through trials.
“It’s a safety concern for me now to know that someone may be out there and now has access to dangerous weapons and maybe wants to imitate the DC snipers,” Lohman said.
Not all students agreed, however.
“I’m not too concerned about not renewing the assault weapons ban,” said senior Michael Taylor, of the George Washington University. “The snipers acted with one of the military weapons. We just have to be more cautious and let law enforcement officials prosecute people who abuse gun use.”
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