THE DEBATE over gun control has turned from should Americans own guns to which guns should Americans own. If the primary purpose for gun ownership isn't to arm a "well-regulated militia," but to provide weapons for sport and individual protection, then it is right to consider what instruments of death are needed for those purposes. Private citizens don't need the assault guns preferred by soldiers in war who must fire indiscriminately at multiple targets.
Yet the demand for high-powered and rapid-firing guns has become so great that just the threat of a ban on some imports mushroomed the number of applications to bring them into this country to more than a million; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has approved 600,000 requests. Fearing a flood of dTC new guns, President Clinton has suspended all such imports for 90 days.
It was the right decision. The Treasury Department now will decide if some guns dealers want to import should be permanently banned. The import of semi-automatic assault rifles hasn't been allowed since 1989. But foreign manufacturers modified many guns so they no longer fit the government's definition of an "assault" weapon. Most of these guns are more weapon than any sportsman would ever need.
All the high-powered weaponry available has contributed to America's street carnage. It has led to laws such as Maryland's statute curbing large-volume purchases of handguns. Advocates claim that by reducing the availability of handguns boughts for resale, the law helped lower Maryland's violent crime rate in the past year.
Extending the federal import ban to additional foreign-made guns will likely result in lawsuits by the pro-gun lobby. In their emotional defense of Second Amendment rights, many choose to ignore the impact an overabundance of guns has had on this nation. The temporary import ban provides some time for reflection.
Pub Date: 11/20/97