Bush Eases Assault Rifle Stance, Indicates He Would Consider Curbs

From a Times Staff Writer

Easing away from his opposition to new gun control legislation, President Bush said Tuesday that he would encourage a “sensible answer” to the problem of assault rifles such as the AK-47 used in the recent Stockton, Calif., schoolyard shootings.

“I do think that there has to be some assurance that these automated attack weapons are not used in the manner they’re being used,” Bush told reporters in a White House press conference. But he added: “It isn’t as easy as it seems to those who are understandably crying out: ‘Do something, do something!’ ”

Last month, in answering reporters’ questions, Bush rejected the idea of a federal ban on semiautomatic rifles, which fire each time the trigger is pulled without having to be cocked manually. Bush supported the National Rifle Assn.'s position that banning the rifles would abridge the rights of hunters and sportsmen.

Later, however, he said that he would “like to find a way” to be supportive of police agencies that are pressing for restrictions.


Bush said that he has asked William J. Bennett, director-designate of the Office of Drug Control Policy, to come up with a way to satisfy his concerns.

He said: “I’ve said, ‘Bill, work the problem. Find out. And I’m not so rigid that I can’t--if you come to me with a sensible answer that takes care of the concerns I’ve felt over the years--I’ll take a hard look at it and I’ll work with you to that end.’ ”