Bennett Halts Imports of Assault Guns : Order Will Keep Out More Than 110,000 Semiautomatic Arms

From Times Wire Services

Drug czar William J. Bennett today announced the immediate suspension of imports of AK-47s and other semiautomatic weapons into the United States.

The order, effective immediately, will bar the importation of more than 110,000 weapons for which applications for import are pending, he said.

Bennett said he made the decision after conferring with Treasury Secretary Nicholas F. Brady and Stephen E. Higgins, the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, who supported the decision.

White House sources described President Bush as “supporting the decision” but they said he was not directly involved in reaching it.

Requests Have Shot Up

In the last three years, ATF has approved the import of 88,000 such weapons, and in 1989 so far, the ATF has received requests to import many more than the total imported during the previous three years, Bennett said in a statement.


Affected by the decision are imports of AK-47s, Uzi carbines, FN-FAL and FN-FNC-type weapons as well as Steyr Aug semiautomatic weapons.

Bush, who had previously expressed a reluctance to curb such weapons, told a news conference last week that he had asked Bennett to see what could be done about stemming the use of AK-47s and other assault rifles by drug traffickers.

‘Not as Easy as It Seems’

“I’d like to find some accommodation. . . . It isn’t as easy as it seems to those who are understandably crying out, ‘Do something, do something,’ ” Bush said.

Bush, a lifetime member of the National Rifle Assn., had voiced concerns about the weapons but said he also wanted to “do what’s right by the legitimate sportsman.”

White House spokeswoman Alixe Glen said the import ban was decided upon after it was learned that applications for imported semiautomatics had tripled this year over the total for the last three years.

The Administration action came a day after the California State Assembly voted to ban 40 types of semiautomatic assault weapons. That legislation must be reconciled with an earlier vote by the state Senate to ban all semiautomatic weapons fitting a certain description.