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Expiration of Assault Weapons Ban

Location: Washington, DC

EXPIRATION OF ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN -- (House of Representatives - September 08, 2004)

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. Blumenauer) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. BLUMENAUER. Mr. Speaker, next week, the assault weapon ban expires. This ban, enacted 10 years ago, on some models has been supported by past Presidents Ford, Reagan, Bush I, and President Clinton. It has been supported by police chiefs and officers across America, and the majority of the public. Even candidate Governor George Bush 4 years ago said he supported extending the assault weapons ban.

Today, we stand poised in 120 hours to see the assault weapons ban expire because of a lack of leadership on the part of President Bush and of the Republican leadership in Congress. It appears that there is no intention to stand up to the National Rifle Association and bring forward an opportunity for the men and women in this Chamber to be heard on this critical issue.

I suppose this should not come as a surprise when we saw the administration, President Bush, Attorney General Ashcroft cave in to the NRA when it came to eliminating within 24 hours the previous gun registration records that would have been available to this administration, to law enforcement authorities, to help in the fight against terrorism. Having the NRA trump this potentially important tool in the fight against terrorism in this country is unfathomable to most of the people I represent. But sadly, it makes sense in the upside-down way that we deal with politics and the politics of gun violence in this Chamber and in the American political system.

America has the worst record of gun violence of any developed country. There are a wide array of simple, commonsense provisions that would help deal with gun violence that would not in any way deny any legitimate hunter an opportunity to use their weapons to go out and hunt, to target shoot, legitimate collectors. There are, however, people who resist any effort at record-keeping, at enforcement, at dealing with the most simple, direct, commonsense, and nonintrusive proposals.

Does anybody think in America that we are going to be safer if the assault weapon ban expires and there are more opportunities to have assault weapons in the United States? There are people ready now to market, if the ban expires, to market new gun lines. There are people that have kits to convert weapons to make them, previously illegal, that would be lawful if the ban expires, to have these kits so they can make the conversion.

I would find it disappointing on several levels if this tragedy occurs. First, we are not going to be safer. I hear repeatedly from the people I represent that sports people do not need assault weapons to hunt game in this country. There are lots of opportunities for target shooting, for sportsman activities. Assault weapons are designed to shoot with great firepower very quickly and to generate maximum carnage on people. We will not be safer.

It will be a blow to the credibility of the political process if candidate Bush can make a promise that President Bush is not going to deliver on.

Finally, it continues the chipping away at our ability to function here with real live legitimate problems. Gun violence is a legitimate problem. There are legitimate policy options, and we are taking them off the table.

I would hope that President Bush remembers what candidate Bush said 4 years ago and takes a small step to provide real leadership that he had promised in coming out in support of extending the assault weapon ban and calling upon the Republican leadership in Congress to follow through, allowing a vote to prevent that expiration. We have 120 hours left. I hope that the American people will avail themselves to dealing with these candidates who are out around the country to have that conversation with President Bush to follow through on his commitment.

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