Anti-Gun Forces Hang Tough Latest Wrestle in Congress over Assault Weapons Shows Persistence of Gun Issue

By John Dillin, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, May 5, 1994 | Go to article overview

Anti-Gun Forces Hang Tough Latest Wrestle in Congress over Assault Weapons Shows Persistence of Gun Issue


John Dillin, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


WHEN President Clinton demanded a ban on assault weapons this week, he cited the case of Wisconsin police Capt. James Lutz, gunned down by an M1-A1 rifle after a bank robbery.

"When the House of Representatives votes {on a ban Thursday}, they shouldn't forget the tragedy {of Captain Lutz}," Mr. Clinton told a White House audience.

There is just one problem: The M1-A1, a semi-automatic rifle, is not prohibited by the proposed law supported by the president.

Contradictions like that prompted actor Charlton Heston, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association, to accuse proponents this week of "deception" and "deliberate misstatement of reality."

Mr. Heston told a Capitol Hill press conference that none of the leading advocates of a ban - "not the White House, not the president, not Sen. {Dianne} Feinstein, are speaking the truth."

Rep. Charles Schumer (D) of New York, the foremost House champion of the ban, counters that the NRA and its supporters are waging a campaign based on "scaring people" about "what might come down the road" - such as a ban on all privately owned guns. Close vote

With emotions high, today's scheduled House vote is expected to be close. Earlier, the Senate, by a margin of 56-to-43, accepted the so-called Feinstein amendment to prohibit the sale of 19 "assault weapons."

The argument between the two sides will hardly be settled by the House decision, however. The effort to ban weapons in the hands of American citizens is gaining momentum, and seems unlikely to end here.

Clinton, Schumer, Feinstein & Co. say that America has turned into an urban battlefield where teenagers roam the streets with military-type weapons and murder innocent citizens.

Schumer admits that the weapons he would ban are responsible for less than 1 percent of the nation's killings. But Police Chief David Steingraber of Menomonee Falls, Wis., a friend of the late Captain Lutz, argues:

"I'm not impressed by statistics which say {assault} weapons like this aren't {widely} used in crime. If they are not, they will be."

On the other side, Heston & Co. say the freedom to own a weapon for purposes of self-defense, hunting, or recreation is enshrined in the US Constitution's Second Amendment. It is a basic civil right that the White House seems ready to put aside, they say.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R) of California, who opposes the ban, cites a study by Gary Kleck ("Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America") to support his decision. The study concludes that on average, approximately 2,000 persons per day in America use guns for defensive purposes, mostly in their homes or businesses.

Representative Hunter says that when Clinton focuses on weapons instead of criminals, he overlooks the real cause of crime.

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