WASHINGTON - July 12 - With only two months left, the Children's Defense Fund (CDF) today urged the Bush Administration and Congress not to let the 10-year-old federal Assault Weapons Ban expire on September 13, 2004. In spite of broad and bipartisan support for its extension, a leadership vacuum has brought our country to the brink of allowing assault weapons again to be sold and used throughout America.
President Bush claims to support the ban and has said, "It makes no sense for assault weapons to be around our society." But according to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), the President still has not even asked the House to take up the ban. With the leadership of Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and John Warner (R-VA), the U.S. Senate approved a renewal of the ban in March of this year as an amendment to a bill that was later killed by the National Rifle Association (NRA). With thirteen legislative days left before it dies, the Assault Weapons Ban is politically stalled in the White House and on Capitol Hill.
"America has got to wake up to the fact that our gun policies are being dictated by a small but well-funded and increasingly extremist right-wing group that does not represent the values and priorities of the vast majority of people in this country," said Marian Wright Edelman, president and founder of the Children's Defense Fund (CDF). "What plausible reason can there be for allowing assault weapons to return to our communities where our children live? Where is President Bush's leadership on this issue? If this ban expires, assault weapons will again flood the streets of America. The American people cannot allow such a backward and barbaric move."
The Assault Weapons Ban was passed in 1994 in response to several high-profile assault weapons shootings, including a 1989 schoolyard massacre in Stockton, California, that left five schoolchildren dead and dozens more injured. Since the ban was passed, overall gun deaths have decreased by nearly 25 percent, and child and teen deaths from firearms have dropped 50 percent. Sixty-three percent of gun owners favor the ban, and an overwhelming majority of registered voters also support it.
"We lose eight children a day to the epidemic of gun violence," said Edelman. "Nearly 93,000 children have died from firearms since 1979. The rate of gun deaths in America is higher than in any other industrialized nation, and there is a reason for that. We must stop promoting the gun industry and start protecting our children."