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Public Statements

Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. DeWINE. Mr. President, first, I thank my colleague, Senator Feinstein, for her great work in this area. I rise today in support of her amendment to reauthorize the 1994 assault weapons ban which is set to expire later this year. I thank her for her great leadership in this area.

Since it took effect in 1994, the assault weapons ban has been an effective tool in curbing crime in this country. The assault weapons ban has made it more difficult for vicious criminals to get access to firearms that are designed really only to maximize the number of shots that can be fired and people killed in a short period of time. It is the only reason they exist, the only reason they are made. The ban has allowed us to keep these dangerous weapons out of the hands of dangerous criminals and has helped make our streets safer.

Banning these weapons is smart law enforcement and it is good public policy. Continuing the ban is simply the right thing to do.

I am not alone in this assessment. The assault weapons ban reauthorization has the support of the White House and also has the support of every major law enforcement organization in this country-every single one. Furthermore, it has the support of the National League of Cities, the United States Conference of Mayors, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. This is for good reason.

Prior to the 1994 ban, the Cox newspaper service conducted a survey using data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. That study found that assault weapons were 20 times more likely to be used in a crime than a conventional firearm. This, therefore, is a question of public safety.

It is to me disconcerting that we still hear complaints about extending the duration of the ban. One stated concern is the ban may somehow accidentally infringe on the rights of law-abiding gun owners. For example, some people worry the ban may affect hunting or recreational rifles. The ban has been in effect for almost 10 years now and that has not been a problem so far.

What is the compelling reason to repeal this law, because that is, in effect, what we would be doing if we do not extend it? What has been the problem? How many of us have heard from our hunters? How many of us have heard from people who want to use a firearm in a proper way to protect themselves or for recreation purposes, that this particular law is somehow infringing upon their rights? I do not think we have.

This law will not be a problem in the future either because this legislation specifically provides protection of 670 different types of hunting and recreational rifles that are presently being manufactured. This list is by no means meant to be exhaustive. A gun does not have to be on the list to be protected.

Furthermore, the ban does not just protect the right to purchase and use rifles. It also protects a wide range of guns because it only affects those weapons with no legitimate use.

We know why American citizens buy guns. The most common answer to the question of why we buy a gun is protection, hunting, target shooting, and other legitimate reasons. These are very legitimate uses for legally acquired firearms. The firearms included in the assault weapons ban do not effectively serve any of these purposes.

No legitimate gun owner need have a weapon such as the TEC-9 that has been talked about before. I will not take my colleagues' time to talk about this weapon, but it is not a legitimate weapon for anyone but a criminal who wants to see how quickly he can kill a large number of people.

Probably the most important reason to have this ban, if we really want to analyze it, is that it limits the number of rounds in a clip to 10. What significance does this have in regard to law enforcement? Maybe if I can go back to my days as a county prosecuting attorney and draw upon my conversations I had not just then but throughout the years with my friends in law enforcement, some of my police officer friends who I have known and continue to know and call my good friends, what is it people fear and police officers fear? One thing is someone comes in and they have a big clip, and they can just shoot, shoot, shoot, and shoot and nothing will stop them-15, 20, 30 rounds.

What does this law do? It limits it to 10. That is an arbitrary figure. It could have been something different. We understand that. At least it limits it to 10. That makes some sense. Yes, someone could put the other clip in and continue on, but there is a period of time where they have to stop and do that. What law enforcement people tell us is that period of time, when you have a mass murderer who is intent on killing as many people as he or she can, is valuable, that period of time is significant from a law enforcement point of view and it maybe will save lives. In some cases, it will save lives.

Law enforcement will be able to react in that period of time and lives will be saved and shots will not be able to be taken, and that criminal, that person who maybe is insane, will be stopped, disabled, or killed by law enforcement, by a bystander, by someone.

That, from a law enforcement point of view, is the most effective part of this bill. In my opinion, at least, and in the opinion of many people in law enforcement with whom I have talked, that is the heart of this law we have today, and I think it is the heart of the Feinstein amendment. She is attempting to do something that is not revolutionary. All she is trying to do with this very modest amendment is to keep current law. Let me emphasize that. A vote for the Feinstein amendment is a vote for the status quo. It is a vote to keep current law. I urge my colleagues to follow that law.

The assault weapons ban prevents the manufacture of new high-capacity military style magazines for sale to the general public. Indeed, the guns we banned were designed to work in conjunction with these high-capacity magazines. Many of them are able to hold 30 or 40 rounds in each magazine. That is 30 bullets that can be fired rapidly without ever reloading.

This is far more ammunition than a hunter, sportsman, or individual concerned with self-protection needs in one magazine. This deadly combination of large clips and rapidly firing guns is not characteristic of recreational guns or guns used for personal protection. We all know that. Neither is a threaded barrel designed to accommodate a silencer, a feature that is much more useful to assassins and snipers than it is to a sportsman; or a bayonet mount that allows a knife to be attached to the front of a rifle; or a grenade launcher. Again, it was provided in this bill. Does a grenade launcher sound recreational?

Under this provision, the Feinstein amendment, and under current law, we do not outlaw a gun unless it has two of these features. It has to have two of them. I think it is a pretty modest law, and a pretty modest amendment.

The assault weapons ban does not outlaw a gun if it has one of these features. It only outlaws a gun with two or more of these features.

These are dangerous weapons that do not belong on our streets. I urge my colleagues to talk, as I have, to law enforcement officers in their States. Talk to the mayors of their cities, talk to people who are on the front lines and who might potentially have to deal with these types of weapons if we do not reenact this law. They will say these weapons are a threat to law enforcement and to the general public. These weapons are not for hunting. They are not for self-defense. It is time to once again reauthorize this law.

I yield the floor.

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