Bryan-College Station authorities not worried about lifting of assualt weapons ban

Staff and wire reports

The expiration Monday of a 10-year federal ban on assault weapons means firearms like TEC-9s now can be legally bought — a development that has critics upset and gun owners pleased.

The 1994 ban, signed by President Clinton, outlawed 19 types of military-style assault weapons. A clause directed that the ban expire unless Congress specifically reauthorized it, which it did not.

Some of the 19 — foreign-made weapons like the AK-47 and Uzi — still are banned under a 1989 law prohibiting imports of specific automatic weapons.

Bryan-College Station law enforcement officials said Monday that they rarely deal with criminals in possession of automatic weapons and don’t expect the expiration of the ban to affect residents.

Authorities occasionally find automatic weapons on people arrested for drug possession, Bryan Police Chief Michael Strope said. Other crooks carry weapons such as handguns and rifles that are easy to steal from homes, he said.

He said the ban did little to curb use of the weapons by criminals, who don’t obey laws to begin with.

“It sent a message to the American public, but I’m not sure it reached the criminal element,” Strope said.

The end of the ban does open new avenues for accessing more deadly weapons. With that in mind, Strope said he will re-evaluate the types of weapons his officers carry and update their training accordingly.

“I want my officers to at least be as armed as the people they’ll come in contact with,” he said.

College Station police Lt. Dan Jones also said his department rarely sees fully automatic weapons, but its officers do come across criminals with semi-automatics.

An element of the ban that prohibited ammunition clips holding more than 10 rounds will have little impact on most law enforcement encounters with gunplay, he said.

“In most of the violent acts that law enforcement encounter with suspects, there are relatively few shots fired anyway,” Jones said. “I don’t see losing the ban making any very big kind of impact here.”

Studies by pro- and antigun groups as well as the Justice Department show conflicting results on whether the ban helped reduce crime. Loopholes allowed manufacturers to keep many weapons on the market simply by changing their names or altering some of their features or accessories.

The differences between assault weapons and guns on the market before the ban expired are “cosmetic,” Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, said Monday on CBS’s “The Early Show.”

“To lead anyone to believe we’re talking about a class of guns that’s more powerful, makes bigger holes, shoots more rapidly is not true,” LaPierre said.

Gun-control advocate Sarah Brady disagreed.

“There’s nothing cosmetic at all about this law,” she said on “The Early Show.”

Gun shop owners said the expiration of the ban would have little effect on the types of guns and accessories that are typically sold and traded across their counters every day.

• Eagle staff writer Sommer Hamilton contributed to this report.

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