LIONHART Posted February 27, 2004 Author Report Share Posted February 27, 2004 Also from SFGate.com Assault weapons ban faces expiration Proponents accuse Bush of resorting to political trickery Edward Epstein, Chronicle Washington Bureau Thursday, February 26, 2004 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Washington -- Proponents of Sen. Dianne Feinstein's decade-old federal assault weapons ban accused President Bush on Wednesday of using political sleight of hand to break his promise to support their bid to reauthorize the legislation for another 10 years. As the Senate started debating a bill that would grant gun manufacturers and dealers unprecedented protection against almost all civil lawsuits, the White House issued a statement of policy saying the president didn't want any amendments to the bill, which is a key priority for the National Rifle Association and its allies. Since proponents of the assault weapons ban say their best and perhaps only chance of getting the law renewed is as part of the bill on blocking lawsuits, they cried foul. "The president is breaking the promise he made during the 2000 campaign to support the assault weapons ban,'' charged one of Feinstein's co-sponsors, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. "This is a flip-flop if there ever was one.'' California's other Democratic senator, Barbara Boxer, said, "I see it as a broken promise that was made to her (Feinstein) and those who have supported her.'' Feinstein was somewhat less confrontational, although she said "this president ... has not to date lifted a hand to help us.'' She said she realized that Bush, normally a staunch ally of the rifle association, faces a tough re-election campaign this year and doesn't want to alienate his supporters by signing a gun control law abhorred by many of them. "No doubt this is a campaign issue,'' Feinstein said at a Capitol news conference. "The people of America have to send a resounding and clarion call'' that they want the assault weapons bill renewed. If the bill reaches the Senate floor, the vote is expected to be close. White House spokesman Ken Lisaius denied that Bush was being deceptive. "The president's position stays the same'' on signing assault weapons legislation, he said, but "the fact is the president says any amendment (to the liability limit bill) that would delay enactment of this bill beyond this year is unacceptable.'' The assault weapons bill, which narrowly passed Congress in 1994, banned the manufacture, sale and distribution of 19 specific types of semiautomatic guns that Feinstein says exist only for the purpose of killing large numbers of people with rapid fire. While Feinstein and Schumer say the ban has been effective in reducing gun violence, opponents say that tougher prison sentences and crackdowns to prevent repeat offenders from getting and using guns have made the difference. The argument shows the intricacies of gun legislation in Congress, especially in an election year. The bill giving the gun industry liability protection has 55 Senate sponsors, and looks likely to pass in the next few days. The House passed similar legislation last year, 285-140. In addition to the assault weapons ban, gun control advocates want to attach an amendment in the Senate to close the so-called gun show loophole that allows people to buy guns at such shows without undergoing a background check. Boxer wants an amendment to bar gun manufacturers and dealers from selling handguns without safety locking devices. In the House, Majority Leader Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, has vowed that the assault weapons extension will never even come up for a floor vote, so many of the ban's advocates figure the best way to force a vote is to attach it to the liability legislation -- a law the gun lobby badly wants. "There is no other way for the assault weapons ban to advance before it expires'' on Sept. 13, Schumer said. Feinstein wasn't as pessimistic. "It will be my intention to put this bill on everything we can,'' she said, meaning she will try to get it passed as an amendment to another bill or on its own. With a close election likely, the White House doesn't want Feinstein's bill to reach the president's desk, said gun lobby veteran Richard Feldman. "It would be a mistake of the first order for this assault weapons bill to get to the president, after passing through a Republican Congress, for him to sign it or veto it,'' said Feldman, who represents some of the gunmakers. The gun liability legislation, which would throw out pending lawsuits against gunmakers or dealers such as those filed by San Francisco and other localities, is needed to save the industry, said Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho. "These suits were all intended to drive the gun industry out of business, '' he charged. But Feinstein took to the Senate floor to attack the liability bill, which is opposed by most big-city mayors and police chiefs. "This legislation gives the gun industry sweeping and unprecedented protection from lawsuits that are available to every other victim of any other industry in America,'' she said. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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