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Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 Expires

The Assault Weapons Ban, passed in 1994 by Congress and signed
into law by former president Bill Clinton, expired on Monday, Sept

Many feel that the federal ban was feeble in comparison with
California’s restrictive gun laws, which are the strongest in the
country, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chief sponsor
of the ban.

The ban listed illegal characteristics and stated that a weapon
with two or more of those elements would be considered an illegal
assault weapon. As a result, many stores and catalogs made “After
Ban” weapons with only one of the banned characteristics and issued
them under different names.

Feinstein became the federal ban’s chief sponsor and had the
support of every major law enforcement agency in the nation as well
as former presidents Bill Clinton, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and
Ronald Reagan.

Feinstein has spoken about the ban’s inadequacies and said she
will persevere in creating an improved gun ban.

“There is no question that the American people overwhelmingly
support restoration of the ban. And there is no question that
traces of banned assault weapons to crimes have decreased by
two-thirds.” Feinstein said.

Barbara Lee, a U. S. congresswoman who graduated from Mills in
1973, is pushing for a new assault weapons ban, according to her
spokeswoman Julia Nixon.

“I really believe Congress should step back, use restraint and
make sure our response does not allow the cycle of violence to
sprawl out of control,” Lee said in a statement on her Web

President Bush supported a reauthorization of the assault
weapons ban in 2000 although John Kerry claimed that Bush made a
subtle deal with the National Rifle Association to allow the law to

“George W. Bush’s powerful friends asked him to look the other
way, and he said, ‘Sure,'” Kerry said, according to the San
Francisco Chronicle.

The day after the ban expired, the following statement was
posted on the NRA’s Web site, “The ban’s enactment in 1994 was a
political chest thumping and deceit at its worst…Law-abiding
citizens…will once again be free to purchase semi-automatic
firearms, regardless of their cosmetic features, for target
shooting, shooting competitions, hunting, collecting, and most
importantly self-defense.”

Gildo A. Tournour, who retired from his position as the Oakland
Police Department’s Sergeant of Police last week, said he sees
fault in the federal weapons ban.

“The federal ban was ineffective, less effective than
California’s gun laws,” said Tournour. “This law was made based on
people’s emotion and there were already so many assault guns in the
country before they put this law into effect.”

In regard to Oakland he said, “As a result of the federal ban’s
expiration, I believe that there could be a rise in distribution of
these weapons in Oakland.”

Meredith Riding, a junior, said, “I felt it was important that
it was there but irrelevant to a degree, because people will find
ways to get a gun or other weapons to kill people with. I don’t
feel directly threatened although hearing the gun fire a week ago
in our community, reminded me that we need stricter sanctions in
place. There needs to be an improved ban because clearly people
already had these guns are where getting them regardless.”

Ava Mendoza, a junior, doesn’t feel that the ban made a great

“[I feel it was] a band aid on a broken arm,” Mendoza said.
“Assault weapons don’t kill people anymore then a regular handgun,
why wouldn’t this apply to all firearms.”

Clara Andres, a sophomore, said, “Assault weapons don’t affect
me directly. I don’t know anyone who carries a gun. The federal ban
seems like a logical idea because our community would be safer
without them.”

“Despite how ineffective the ban was in the first place, as long
as there continues to be laws against assault weapons it reaffirms
the importance of creating a new ban,” Andres said.

While those who were aware of the ban held strong reactions to
its expiration, many students weren’t aware that there was a ban in
the first place.

Long before the ban was introduced, there were three California
mass shootings involving assault weapons. The first, in San Diego
County in 1984, left five dead, the second, in Stockton in 1989,
left five dead, and the third, in San Francisco in 1993, left 21