- The Washington Times - Friday, May 9, 2003

President Bush’s support for renewing a ban on so-called “assault weapons” has rankled the National Rifle Association, but the chance of such a bill reaching the president’s desk is “zero,” said a top House Republican aide.Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, and seven other Senate gun-control advocates introduced a bill yesterday to reauthorize the ban on several types of semiautomatic rifles. The law, signed by President Clinton in 1994, is scheduled to expire Sept. 13, 2004.”The fact of the matter is that there is no legitimate use for these weapons,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, one of the bill’s chief co-sponsors. “That was as true in 1994 as it is today. With terrorists on American soil looking for ways to attack us at home, giving them carte blanche to pick up a TEC-9 with a high-capacity clip is just plain stupid.”The law bans 19 models of semiautomatic weapons, as well as production of ammunition clips holding more than 10 rounds. NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said the ban is “cosmetic nonsense” because it applies to weapons that merely “look scary” but operate no differently than many legal firearms.”It’s like banning red cars on a parking lot and not banning black or white ones when they all have the same engine under the hood,” he said.An even-stronger version of the bill, which would add to the list of banned weapons, was introduced yesterday in the House by Democratic Reps. Carolyn McCarthy of New York and John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, but it is unlikely to ever come up for a floor vote.”The House in the past has taken a dim view of the assault-weapons ban,” said Stuart Roy, spokesman for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican. “I would say that the majority leader is pretty skeptical of reauthorizing it, as is the House as a whole.”House Republicans made voting to repeal the assault-weapons ban one of the first orders of business upon ascending to the majority in 1995. While the repeal passed the House 239-173, the Senate never took up the matter and the issue died.Now it’s likely that the law itself will be allowed to expire.”It has zero chance,” Mr. Roy said, adding that the Senate might try to fold the ban’s reauthorization into a bill that the House supports, but that such a strategy is bound to fail.”It’s technically possible to do that, but just about on the verge of being impossible,” Mr. Roy said.Bob Barr, former Georgia Republican congressman and current chairman of the American Conservative Union Foundation’s 21st Century Privacy and Freedom Center, said despite such assurances, he is still concerned the ban could be renewed. A White House endorsement always increases a bill’s chances to become law.”I worry about all of this,” Mr. Barr said. “The White House sending any signal that it supports the [bill] sends a signal to members of Congress. It gives cover to Republicans who might be predisposed to be on the fence to vote for the ban.”White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said yesterday the president “continues to believe” that the gun ban was “reasonable” and should remain law.But Mr. LaPierre of the NRA said reports of the issue causing a rift between the president and one of his most loyal political allies have been overblown.”I’m sure that the anti-firearms senators and congressmen and their allies in the national media would love to make this about President Bush and the NRA,” Mr. LaPierre said. “But the truth is, it’s going to be resolved in the Congress.”We’re going to try to make sure that they never get this phony bill passed into law again,” he said.

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