Sunday, September 12, 2004

Bringing On the Guns

Bringing On the Guns

Sunday, September 12, 2004; Page B06

PRESIDENT BUSH doesn't care, and neither do the Republican House and Senate leaders. They're content to open up the streets to the pointless and exceptionally deadly gunfire of assault-style weapons. Their cold political calculation: Let the assault weapons ban expire Monday night, and let the police in particular and everybody in general fend for their lives. After all, that's the way people like it -- or so claims Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) who, unlike other doctors who have treated shooting victims, thinks this is what the people want. "I think the will of the American people is consistent with letting it expire, so it will expire," Mr. Frist told reporters last week.

That's dead wrong. As Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) responded, "The 'will of the American people' has been carefully evaluated by poll after poll that show two-thirds to three-fourths of the people support the ban." The most recent national poll, conducted by the University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election Survey, found that 68 percent of Americans wanted to extend the ban, including 57 percent of those with a gun in their household. A Frist aide said the majority leader was referring to a lack of pressure from within the Senate. Ms. Feinstein noted that she had written Mr. Frist asking him to schedule a vote on the issue.

In the House, Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) calls the assault weapon ban "a feel-good piece of legislation" that does nothing to keep weapons out of the hands of criminals. He's partly right; it's a feel-better ban for police on the front lines and citizens who would be far better protected if the ban were extended to cover the knockoff models that the gun industry has been peddling to circumvent the law.

What's the point of flooding the country with weapons that are modeled for killing people, not the hunters' prey? Why bring back bayonets, flash suppressors and multi-round magazines designed for quick and heavy gunfire that can help mow down a crowd in the streets or kids in a school? Why ignore the pleadings of D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, who stood together with more than 70 other police executives Wednesday in support of extending the ban? At least 2,000 sheriffs, police chiefs, law enforcement groups and prosecutors from around the country have asked Mr. Bush to help keep these weapons off the market. Joseph M. Polisar, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, noted that the White House ignored the chiefs' request for a meeting and said Republican leaders in Congress rejected their request for an immediate vote.

Whose "will" do these leaders respect? Most Americans have a will to live without these especially lethal and absolutely unnecessary weapons in their midst. Again, why won't the president act?