Rendell: Congress Must Renew Assault Weapons Ban

PHILADELPHIA – Five days after an assault rifle took the life of a Philadelphia police officer, Governor Edward G. Rendell today called upon Congress to stand up for law enforcement and renew the expired ban on such weapons.

“The firearm used to murder Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski was designed for one thing only – the death of a fellow human being,” Governor Rendell said of the Chinese-made SKI assault rifle fired at the officer as he responded to a bank robbery Saturday morning. “There was no chance that his body armor could have protected him from the power of this weapon.”

Recognizing the danger assault weapons posed to law enforcement and the general public, Congress, in 1994, banned the manufacture, transfer or possession of semiautomatic firearms and large capacity ammunition magazines, as well as the import of automatic assault weapons not already banned under law.

According to a 1999 National Institute of Justice study, the ban worked:

• The ban had “clear short-term effects on the gun market,” leading to semiautomatic assault weapons becoming “less accessible to criminals.”

• Crime gun traces of assault weapons dropped 20 percent in the year following enactment of the ban. This 20 percent drop was double the overall decline in garden-variety gun murders that year.

• Murders of police by offenders with assault weapons declined from 16 percent of gun murders of police in 1994 and early 1995 to zero percent in the latter half of 1995 to 1996.

• During this time period, Boston had a 24 percent decrease in assault weapons recovered in crime, and St. Louis had a 29 percent drop.

• Maryland, which has a similar state statute, had 55 percent fewer assault pistols used to commit crimes than would have been used had it not passed its ban.

Despite the overwhelming support of law enforcement, the ban expired in 2004. Legislation to reinstate it is pending in the U. S. House of Representatives.

Governor Rendell said each day that passes without a ban puts police officers at greater risk from what the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms called “mass produced mayhem.”

“This issue is quite simple,” Governor Rendell said. “Either support law enforcement or you don’t. And if you don’t, you’ll have to tell the widow of the next victim or the young child of the next victim why you didn’t vote to protect them,”

The Rendell administration is committed to creating a first-rate public education system, protecting our most vulnerable citizens and continuing economic investment to support our communities and businesses. To find out more about Governor Rendell’s initiatives and to sign up for his weekly newsletter, visit www.governor.state.pa.us.


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