U.S. Permanently Outlaws Imported Assault Weapons : ATF Bans All but 7 Gun Types
The Bush Administration today slapped a permanent import ban on 43 types of assault-style firearms whose shipment into the country has been suspended since spring.
Stephen E. Higgins, director of the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said the government had studied 50 styles of semiautomatic weapons imported into the country and had decided to ban all but seven of them permanently.
The ATF has been studying the use of the suspended weapons to determine if they fit the requirement that they be used for sporting purposes.
The Gun Control Act of 1968 bans the importation of weapons that are not used for legitimate sporting purposes.
“The study was undertaken because of the dramatic increase in the number of these weapons being imported and police reports of their use in violent crime,” Higgins said.
As a result of the study, 43 of the weapons were classified officially as semiautomatic assault rifles and as such were barred from further importation.
Higgins said in April that the weapons under study were “basically paramilitary in appearance” and had large-capacity magazines.
Of the seven models exempted from the import ban, six are .22-caliber rimfire rifles and the other a gun called the Valmet Hunter, which had been considered an AK-47 type of weapon during the suspension.
Flood of Guns Expected
The ATF said recently that importers were preparing to flood the country with nearly a million weapons if the suspension were lifted. The suspension covered new import permits as well as those weapons for which permits already had been granted and which were en route to this country.
The bureau, which has the power to control imports, does not regulate domestic manufacture of weapons, so similar weapons made in the United States would not be affected by the action. Several bills pending in Congress would control or eliminate many of the U.S.-made assault weapons.
The ATF has estimated that domestic models account for 75% of the 3 million semiautomatic rifles now owned by Americans. Colt Industries suspended sales of its AR-15 in March.
President Bush, a lifetime member of the National Rifle Assn., which opposes limits on weapons, came into office opposing any bans on the assault weapons. A public outcry over the availability of the weapons was triggered in January when a man opened fire with an AK-47 and other weapons on a schoolyard in Stockton, Calif., killing five children. The man, Patrick Purdy, later killed himself.
Sarah Brady, chairwoman of Handgun Control Inc., praised the ATF’s action, saying it “confirms what was long known: that these imported assault weapons do not serve a legitimate sporting purpose.”
John M. Snyder, spokesman for the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, denounced the action. “I think that it shows the undependability of government, because originally, the ATF had certified that these rifles could be imported because they are suitable for sporting purposes,” Snyder said.