Help me craft a Letter to the Editor...


September 13, 2004, 10:14 AM
Editorial appeared today in our school paper:

Government should renew weapons ban
By Clayton McCook
Published: Monday, September 13, 2004

At the time of this writing, it appears the U.S. House of Representatives, led by Majority Leader Tom DeLay, has allowed the 10 year-old ban on assault rifles to "sunset." At midnight, Sept. 13 the ban expired. This failure by the House to act to renew the ban will allow a dangerous assortment of 19 semi-automatic assault rifles, including Kalashnikovs, UZIs, Beretta Ar70s, and TEC-9s, to once again find their way to our streets legally.

The law, known as the Federal Assault Weapons Act, was a part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act President Bill Clinton signed in 1994. In addition to the ban on assault rifles, the legislation made it against the law to "manufacture, transfer, or possess" a semi-automatic gun that has more than one of many military features, including folding stocks, bayonet mounts or grenade launchers. According to the Brady Campaign, an organization founded by the former press secretary to Ronald Reagan, who was wounded in the 1981 assassination attempt on the President, "The guns covered by the Assault Weapons Act are semi-automatic versions of fully automatic guns designed for military use." The United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) has stated, "Assault weapons were designed for rapid fire, close quarter shooting at human beings. You will not find these guns in a duck blind or at the Olympics."

What makes the lapse on the ban so dangerous is the affect it will have on the number of assault rifles and military accessories available for purchase. According to a recent article in The Washington Post, gun manufacturers were already gearing up for the ban's expiration. One company offered customers the opportunity to purchase the banned weapons and have them shipped once the ban was lifted and many companies plan to re-introduce models they've been unable to sell in the U.S. for the past 10 years. Gun control, just like drug or alcohol or any other type of prohibition, has little chance of success if there is sufficient supply to meet demand. What made the act so important was that it targeted the manufacture of these weapons in addition to their transfer or possession. We can pass all the laws against firearms we want, but as long as companies are allowed to make them and people want to buy them, guns will continue to be ubiquitous in America whether they are illegal to possess or not.

Sadly, President George W. Bush has displayed a distinct lack of leadership on this issue. While campaigning for the presidency in 2000, he spoke out against assault weapons and claimed to support the ban. However, in this election year he seems to be too concerned about losing the votes and support of conservative gun owners and the National Rifle Association (NRA) to step up and urge Congress to re-enact the ban. It appears he would like to have it both ways, giving lip service to his support of the ban while at the same time refusing to use his power to see to it renewed.

It is not just Democrats and hardcore gun control advocates who support the ban. A vast array of law enforcement organizations, including the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Sheriffs' Organization and the International Brotherhood of Police Officers believe that the weapons targeted by the ban pose a particular risk to them and should continue to be against the law. A number of Republicans representatives support the act and when the Senate voted in March to extend the ban 10 Republicans were among those voting for it. Editorials calling for the extension of the ban have appeared nationwide in newspapers such as The Detroit News, The Miami Herald, The Dallas Morning News and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The American people also overwhelmingly support the ban, indicated by a 2003 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that showed that 78 percent of American adults believed the ban should be renewed.

I've spent most of my life in Texas, so I know a thing or two about guns. I grew up in a farm and ranch setting and my family has always had firearms around for practical as well as sporting purposes. While in high school in New Mexico, I participated in yearly elk and deer hunting trips with friends and family as we enjoyed the mountains and stocked our freezers for the upcoming winter. I recognize guns and hunting are an important part of many people's lives and in no way do I believe we should take away the 661 sporting rifles and shotguns the act specifically exempted. But with regard to the need for assault rifles, simple common sense tells us they are made for the purpose of killing other people and should continue to be outlawed. Of all the hunters I've known, I've yet to see or hear of any wild game being taken down with one of these weapons.

This is not a question of whether one supports gun control or not. It is not a matter of whether the second Amendment is as relevant today as it was when the founding fathers wrote it. It is not an attempt to take away the guns of responsible, law-abiding firearms enthusiasts. Rather, the ban is a clear example of a society placing reasonable restrictions on weapons designed to destroy other human beings. I for one am appalled that many of our elected leaders have shown such a lack of courage and respect for ordinary citizens by bowing to the pressure of a minority people and you should be too.


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September 13, 2004, 11:25 AM
1. Keep it short.

2. Focus on the fact that a fraction of a percent of violent crimes were commited with AW's before the ban.

3. Keep it short.

4. Mention that "sporting purposes" has meanings other than "hunting."

5. Keep it short.

6. Throw in a reference to the Korean shopkeepers during the LA Riots that protected their stores/families with AW's.

7. Keep it short!

John Ross
September 13, 2004, 12:32 PM
Use the following if you want. Note that the mag-cap issue is the important one to gun guys, but NOT the general public. Leave it out--it's boring. Don't get too technical--they stop reading. Instead, use easy-to-understand examples and show the uninformed non-shooter how ridiculous the ban was.


Re: Your editorial on the AWB.

The ban was a big lie from Day One. It had nothing to do with real assault weapons, which are hand-held fully automatic military arms--machine guns. Machine guns have been illlegal to own except under very special circumstances since 1934. This ban redefined the term "assault weapons" to mean APPEARANCE. It was a ban on guns that only *looked* like military machine guns but are not. The banned guns didn't do anything special—they just looked “scary.”

Whether anyone might want to own a gun that *looks* like a military arm should not be the government's business. What's next--a ban on the sale of olive drab paint to people who want to drive around in a military-looking Jeep instead of a bright red one?

The Clinton "assault weapons" ban was one more slice-at-a-time example of incremental infringements on our rights. That Congress let this sham expire is clearly the right thing to do.


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