Canton Repository

Area lawmakers in D.C. generally oppose gun ban

July 23, 2004

By PAUL M. KRAWZAK
Copley Washington correspondent

WASHINGTON — Area lawmakers are generally opposed to extending the federal ban on assault weapons, which expires Sept. 13.

Opposition to the law is bipartisan, with Democrats like Reps. Ted Strickland and Tim Ryan as opposed as Republican Rep. Bob Ney.

“The bottom line is it’s gun control. It doesn’t work,” said Ney of St. Clairsville. With gun control, he added, “only the criminals are armed.”

Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, said he would need to study the existing ban to determine whether he supports it and favors extension. Regula voted against a crime bill of which the ban was a component in 1994.

The ban, which President Clinton signed into law in 1994, prohibits the manufacture of 19 different semiautomatic firearms that have features of military and assault weapons. It also prohibits the use of large-capacity ammunition clips and the production of unspecified semiautomatic weapons that share two or more characteristics of assault weapons.

Unlike machine guns, semiautomatic guns do not fire continuously when the trigger is squeezed. They do, however, fire more rapidly than regular hunting or target shooting firearms.

Although opponents argue the ban has been ineffective and threatens constitutional rights, advocates say it has reduced the availability of especially dangerous firearms to criminals and kids.

Time is running out for those who want to extend the ban. Congress planned to adjourn for August, and would be returning to Washington just days before the law expires.

Observers, including supporters of the ban, give the extension little chance of even coming to a vote.

“It’s just not on people’s radar screens right now,” said Elizabeth Wenk, spokeswoman for Rep. Michael Castle, R-Del., sponsor of a bill to extend the ban for 10 years.

House Majority Tom Delay, R-Texas, has insisted there are not enough votes to pass the extension in the House. He has all but ruled out a vote on the measure.

An earlier attempt to extend the ban failed in the Senate. Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Cedarville, has co-sponsored legislation to extend the ban, but there is no indication it will be brought to a vote. Sen. George Voinovich, R-Cleveland, said through a spokeswoman that he agrees with President Bush on the ban.

Bush has said he favors extending the ban, but he has not pushed Republican congressional leaders to bring the extension to a vote.

Ney estimates three-fourths of his constituents oppose the ban. He said the ban sets the precedent for additional restrictions on gun ownership.

“I am for the Second Amendment, always have been,” he said.

Strickland of Lisbon opposed the ban in the 1990s. He blames its passage for the Democrats’ loss of control of the House in 1994. Many Democrats supported the ban at that time.

“My concern is with my constituents and how deeply so many of them feel about this,” he said. “Those who feel most deeply about this are those who are opposed.”

Ryan of Niles has received hundreds of letters from opponents of the ban in his district but just a couple from supporters, he said.

“The heart of the problem isn’t the gun,” Ryan said. “The problem is the poverty and the desperation that comes out of a lot of these folks that leads them to commit these crimes or use these weapons or lash out.”

Rep. Sherrod Brown, D-Lorain, would probably vote to extend the ban if it came to a vote, his spokeswoman Joanna Kuebler said.

“He supports common sense reforms that balance the rights of gun owners with the need to increase public safety and protect children,” she said.