- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 8, 2004

The assault-weapons ban, passed 10 years ago to prohibit the sale of some firearms, will end next week, and Congress will not move to extend it.

“It will expire Monday, and that’s that,” House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, told reporters yesterday.

Some police chiefs were in Washington yesterday to lobby for extending the ban, but did not sway congressional leaders, who said there is no room on the schedule. In addition to Mr. DeLay, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, said the Senate would not consider a renewal.

“I think the will of the American people is consistent with letting it expire, so it will expire,” Mr. Frist said.

The ban, which applies to a list of specific firearms and “copies” or “duplicates” of them, could be restored later. But for now its lapse is a serious blow to gun-control advocates and a victory for gun-rights groups like the National Rifle Association, which made stopping the renewal a top priority.

President Bush has said he supports the ban, but has not put any legislative muscle into pushing for its renewal.

His Democratic opponent in November, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, supports renewal as well, and gun control — and the assault-weapons ban in particular — polls well among voters. But gun-rights supporters are a loyal and sizable voting bloc that both parties are courting in this year’s presidential election.

Mr. DeLay said the ban was “a sham that never worked” to reduce crime, and has served only to make sales more difficult for manufacturers. Some manufacturers have made minor adjustments that allow them to sell firearms similar to those on the banned list.

But the ban’s supporters predicted that the firearms now will become more readily available.

Democrats, in particular, urged Mr. Bush to push for the bill, though with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

“In his 2000 campaign, President Bush specifically pledged to renew the ban. But now, as the ban is about to expire, the silence from the White House is deafening,” said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat.

But Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat in a tight re-election race in a state with many gun-rights supporters, responded to reporters: “I would just say I agree with President Bush: We ought to re-extend it.”

Mr. DeLay, though, said the president doesn’t factor into what Congress will or won’t do on this issue.

“If the president asked me, it’d still be ‘No,’” Mr. DeLay said.

The Senate voted in March, 52-47, to extend the ban as an amendment to another bill. But that underlying legislation failed to pass.

In the House, Republican leaders have said all along that there simply aren’t the votes to pass the measure. Because of that, Mr. DeLay said, he will not bring up the bill.

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