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Weapons ban expected to fail

By Ed Brock

The possible expiration of a federal ban on assault rifles won't bother Ed's Pawnshop owner Ed Turner at all.

"This was a stupid law to begin with," said Turner, who is also a former police officer. "I think a majority of folks don't want their bill of rights infringed on."

Despite a last-ditch effort by supporters, Republican leaders are saying that no vote will be held Monday to renew the law that was signed into effect in 1994 under President Bill Clinton.

"I think the will of the American people is consistent with letting it expire, so it will expire," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., told reporters.

The ban outlawed 19 types of military-style assault weapons. A clause directed that the ban expire unless Congress specifically re-authorized it.

According to the Brady Campaign Web site, the bill bans, by name, the manufacture of 19 different weapons. They are the Norinco, Mitchell, and Poly Technologies Avtomat Kalashnikovs (all models), the Action Arms Israeli Military Industries UZI and Galil, Beretta Ar70 (SC-70), the Colt AR-15, the Fabrique National FN/FAL, FN/LAR, and FNC, the SWD M-10 M-11 M-11/9 and M-12, the Steyr AUG, the INTRATEC TEC-9, TEC-DC9, AND TEC-22 and revolving cylinder shotguns such as (or similar to) the Street Sweeper and Striker 12.

Some Democrats and several police leaders said President Bush should try to persuade Congress to renew the ban. Bush has said he would sign such a bill if Congress passed it.

"If the president asked me, it'd still be no ... because we don't have the votes to pass an assault weapons ban and it will expire Monday and that's that," House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, told reporters later.

DeLay said the ban was "a feel-good piece of legislation" that does nothing to keep weapons out of the hands of criminals.

Turner said the law was also pointless because a lot of the changes it required in the weapons were merely cosmetic. In fact, Turner said, a lot of people wasted money buying "pre-ban" guns that were not functionally different from cheaper new guns.

Also, the part of the law that limited guns to magazines carrying 10 rounds or less was useless because criminals can just carry extra magazines. But the reason why, in all his years as a police officer, he never saw an assault rifle being used in a crime is the size of the weapon.

"Criminals don't use 3-foot rifles. They can't conceal them," Turner said.

Still, at several news conferences chiefs of police from the District of Columbia, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Seattle predicted an increase in violent gun crimes if the bans does expire.

"Our streets, our homes, our citizens and our police officers will face great danger unless the federal ban on assault weapons is renewed," said Charles H. Ramsey, the police chief in the nation's capital.

The law does have some effect, Clayton County Police Capt. Jeff Turner said.

"People who want to get their hands on the guns through the black market are able to do so anyway," Capt. Turner said. "But I feel like it has done some good and it gives us another avenue for prosecuting people who possess the weapons with the wrong intention."

The Clayton County Police Department has about less than 10 assault rifles in their evidence room, Sgt. Leslie Stone said. Some of them were confiscated from suspected drug dealers, in their cars or apartments, but as far as Stone knows they weren't taken after being directly used in a crime.

Stone said she has far more handguns in evidence, and when it comes to long guns shotguns are more popular with the criminal element.

"They're easier to get a hold of and they're a lot cheaper," Stone said.

Ed Turner said he doesn't expect a big surge in sales of the weapon if the ban is lifted, but he did see a surge at his Stockbridge store in 1994 when the ban was about to be passed.

"People would come in and say ?I've never had a gun, I never cared for guns, but I'm not going to let somebody else tell me I can't have a gun,'" Turner said.

Turner also pointed out that, even without the ban, background checks would still be required for buyers who don't have a special license.

In March, the Senate voted to add the ban to a bill that would have immunized gun manufacturers from liability suits stemming from violent gun crimes. But the Senate voted 90-8 against the final bill after the National Rifle Association urge its defeats.

NRA President Wayne LaPierre said in an interview with The Associated Press that his group is so confident that Congress won't renew the ban that it is not spending any more money on ads this year opposing it.

He said supporters of the ban could not muster the support needed to bring it to a vote in the House because several Democrats attribute losing their majority in the House in 1994 over votes then in favor of the ban.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.