For Release: Tuesday, July 20, 2004
Latest Proof of Gun Industry’s Evasion of Federal Assault Weapons Ban. Scheduled to Expire on September 13, 2004 and Need for Law to be Strengthened
More Than One Million Assault Weapons Marketed Since Ban’s Passage in 1994
Washington, DC – More than 40 gunmakers in 22 states are currently marketing “post-ban” assault weapons including UZIs, AK-47s, AR-15s, MAC-10s, Galils, MP5s, Tommy Guns, Stens, and others according to United States of Assault Weapons: Gunmakers Evading the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, a new study released today by the Violence Policy Center (VPC), a Washington, DC-based national research and educational organization. The study also estimates that more than one million “post-ban” assault weapons have been manufactured in the United States since the ban’s passage in 1994 and warns that today “there are more assault weapon manufacturers and assault weapons available for sale than ever before.” The study proves that if the 1994 ban is simply renewed, and not strengthened, every single one of the assault weapons made by these companies and featured in the study will remain on the market, legal for sale to the American public under federal law.
The study was released nationally at press conferences today in Los Angeles and Oakland, CA, with policymakers, law enforcement officials, California gun violence prevention advocates, and emergency room physicians. In 1999, California tightened its assault weapons ban to stop the sale of the type of “post-ban” weapons featured in the study. Federal legislation, modeled on California law, is currently pending in the U.S. House and Senate.
Josh Sugarmann, VPC executive director and study co-author states, “This study is only the latest proof of how gunmakers have cynically eviscerated the 1994 federal assault weapons ban. For the assault weapons ban to work, it must be strengthened. For those who fear that if the ban expires there will be a flood of AK-47s and UZIs on our streets, the sad truth is that we’re already drowning.”
Andres Soto, policy director for the San Francisco-based Trauma Foundation, states, “California’s law is a proven model for the nation. Today, assault weapon ads warn `not for sale in California.'”
Billie Weiss, MPH, founder and former executive director of the Los Angeles-based Violence Prevention Coalition of Greater Los Angeles, states, “Public health and safety demand that the federal assault weapons ban be as effective as California’s.”
The study also details how the gun industry has successfully evaded the current federal ban by making insignificant, mostly cosmetic, changes in the design of banned assault weapons and then marketing them as “post-ban” guns. The changes can be as slight as simply removing a flash suppressor from the end of the barrel of an assault rifle and replacing it with a muzzle brake (two components that look almost identical, but perform different functions) or adding a fixed stock. In October 2002, the Washington, DC-area snipers used a Bushmaster “post-ban” AR-15-style assault rifle in a killing spree that left 10 dead and three wounded. As Gun World magazine boasted in a 2001 article about the Vepr II assault rifle, a “sporterized” version of the AK-47:
“In spite of assault rifle bans, bans on high capacity magazines, the rantings of the anti-gun media and the rifle’s innate political incorrectness, the Kalashnikov [AK-47], in various forms and guises, has flourished. Today there are probably more models, accessories and parts to choose from than ever before.”
At the same time, new assault weapons have come onto the market, such as the Hi-Point Carbine used in the 1999 Columbine massacre, the Beretta Storm Carbine (marketed with the slogan, “There’s a Storm on the horizon”), the Bushmaster Carbon 15 assault pistol, and the Heckler & Koch USC Carbine.
In addition to the threat assault weapons pose to the general public, they continue to pose a unique threat to law enforcement personnel. The May 2003 Violence Policy Center study “Officer Down” Assault Weapons and the War on Law Enforcement revealed that, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation data, one in five law enforcement officers (41 of 211) slain in the line of duty from January 1998 through December 2001 were slain with an assault weapon, many of which were “post-ban” models that will remain untouched by a renewal of current law.
Federal legislation to address the industry’s subversion of the 1994 ban the “Assault Weapons Ban and Law Enforcement Protection Act of 2003” has been introduced in the 108th Congress by Representatives Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) and John Conyers (D-MI) in the House of Representatives and Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) in the Senate.
For more information please visit www.vpc.org. The Violence Policy Center also has b-roll available demonstrating pre- and post-ban AK-47s, as well as the model of Bushmaster assault rifle used in the Washington, DC-area sniper shootings, being fired.