Chris W. Cox, Executive Director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, sent the following to members of Congress in response to a "Dear Colleague" letter from Representatives John Conyers and Carolyn McCarthy seeking cosponsorship of their "Assault Weapons Ban and Law Enforcement Protection Act of 2003."
Dear Member of Congress:
You may have received a "Dear Colleague" letter dated March 10 from Representatives John Conyers and Carolyn McCarthy seeking your cosponsorship of the so-called "Assault Weapons Ban and Law Enforcement Protection Act of 2003."
Unfortunately the letter repeated many of the tired falsehoods—as well as made some new claims—that were used to deliberately mislead Members of Congress and the public when the current misguided law was enacted by a narrow margin in 1994 as part of an omnibus crime bill (P.L. 103-322). Please consider these facts:
- The U.S. House of Representatives voted to repeal this law less than two years after its passage (H.R. 125 on March 22, 1996), a clear indication that while Congress supported the Omnibus Crime Bill of 1994 there was not support for this ill-conceived gun ban. The House vote to repeal the Clinton gun ban was 239-173, including 56 Democrats.
- The ban has done nothing for public safety. An Urban Institute study mandated by the original law stated, "At best, the assault weapons ban can only have a limited effect on total gun murders, because the banned weapons and magazines were never involved in more than a modest fraction of all gun murders." Neither that study nor two follow-up studies by the same authors found the law to have any effect on attacks against police officers.
- The only "evidence" for criminal misuse … was a lie. Advocates of the ban irresponsibly propagated figures from Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) trace data, ignoring the Congressional Research Service’s warning that:
Firearms selected for tracing do not constitute a random sample and cannot be considered representative of the larger universe of all firearms used by criminals, or of any subset of that universe. As a result, data from the tracing system may not be appropriate for drawing inferences such as which makes or models of firearms are used for illicit purposes.
Literally dozens of studies by criminologists, journalists and federal, state and local law enforcement agencies have found that these guns are involved in only about one percent of crimes – both before and after the ban was adopted.
- There is nothing "unique" or dangerous about the characteristics of the guns that were banned. The law prohibits the manufacture of semiautomatic firearms with two or more features such as pistol grips, barrel shrouds and bayonet lugs; yet no advocate of the ban has ever proven the relevance of those characteristics to criminal activity. That hasn’t stopped anti-gun proponents who want to expand these provisions even further.
- True assault weapons were banned in 1934, not in 1994. True assault weapons – machine guns or firearms capable of fully automatic fire – were effectively banned through the passage of the National Firearms Act in 1934. The firearms banned in the Clinton Crime Bill were semi-automatic guns that look, but do not function, like actual assault weapons. These firearms only fire one round per trigger pull, are incapable of continuous fire, and thus should not be considered assault weapons.
- As usual, gun-ban activists are going back on their word. The "grandfather clause," allowing possession of existing firearms, was included to ease fears that new restrictions would be imposed on those who already owned these guns. As Senator Diane Feinstein stated on the Senate floor, “everything that is legally in possession is essentially grandfathered . . . All guns, lawfully possessed before the date of enactment, are exempt from this legislation.” (November 9, 1993) Now they want to abandon that promise by banning even more legitimate firearms.
- Gun-ban Members have a much broader agenda. This ban was first promoted by an anti-gun activist who was frustrated by his movement’s inability to ban handguns. It was expanded by Senator Feinstein, who told “60 Minutes” that if she’d had enough votes she would have sought to “ban them all [guns].” And it was supported by the Washington Post, which admitted, “No one should have any illusions about what was accomplished [by the ban]. Assault weapons play a part in only a small percentage of crime. The provision is mainly symbolic; its virtue will be, if it turns out to be as hoped, a stepping stone to broader gun control.”
The call by Reps. Conyers’ and McCarthy for further restrictions on the transfer of legally owned guns between law-abiding citizens, and for controls on sales of gun parts, confirms their broader agenda. We urge you to ignore their call for more restrictive legislation. Instead we ask for your support of common sense, rational proposals to reduce crime while protecting the constitutional rights of law-abiding American citizens. At this time in our nation’s history, we need serious solutions to real problems, not empty rhetoric that makes Americans less safe and does nothing to reduce crime. As always, if you have any questions or need additional information about this issue, please call NRA Federal Affairs.
Chris W. Cox
NRA Institute for Legislative Action
"Mr. and Mrs. America, turn them all in."