Roscoe, Helen and the MAC-10

May 04, 1994

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has put out a list of firearms in connection with the pending legislation in the House of Representatives which would ban certain so-called military style assault weapons. (A similar bill has already passed the Senate.)

There is the Browning BAR Mark II Safari Semi-Auto Rifle. Sounds like something you would use to hunt elephants or rhinos. Not what your basic duck or goose hunter needs. There's also the Ruger Mini-14 Autoloading Rifle. And the Navy Arms Military Henry Rifle. The Winchester Model 70 Super Express Magnum. Remington SP-10 Magnum Auto Shotgun. On and on the list goes. Thirteen pages of firearms "covered" by the bill.

And these are the guns that are specifically exempted from the ban. To repeat: exempted. There are some 670 specific guns like those listed above that would still be legal after the legislation becomes law. Only 19 guns and their copycats are banned by the legislation. All are "large capacity, semi-automatic firearms designed and configured for rapid fire, combat use," as the BATF puts it. Most "are patterned after machine guns used by military forces." These include such notorious gang guns as the Street Sweeper, three Intratec TEC models, the UZI.

Judging by newspaper headlines, one might suspect that most of these weapons are used only by drug dealers to kill one another and an occasional innocent bystander. But law enforcement officers point out that police, too, can be victims, or can be so outgunned as to be ineffective against criminals with such arsenals.

Now and then this kind of bloodshed spills over into safe suburbs. For example, the MAC-10 is one weapon banned by this legislation. That's the machine pistol used in a bank robbery in Randallstown in October 1992. The robber sprayed four bank employees with his rapid fire weapon, killing two and wounding two.

Both the wounded and one of the dead were from Carroll County, in Rep. Roscoe Bartlett's congressional district. Mr. Bartlett said Monday that he will oppose the assault weapons ban. He apparently subscribes to the view that MAC-10s don't kill people, people do. That's true, but if that bank robber had had a less deadly weapon, some or all of his victims might have escaped harm. By the way, the 1994 crime bill applies the death penalty to many more crimes and criminals and otherwise gets tough with bad people. Still the Bartletts of Congress hold out for freedom of weaponry.

Some customers of that Randallstown bank live in Rep. Helen Delich Bentley's district. She said Monday she hasn't decided how to vote. Maybe she will have by the time you read this. The vote may come tomorrow. But how could it take nearly two years after such a close-to-home tragedy to make up your mind about this issue?

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