In their efforts to win over undecided voters, both incumbent President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry’s campaigns have claimed they intend to “make America safer.”
Neither campaign is able to explain how this is possible, when a ten-year ban on “private use” of assault rifles expired Monday. In their partisan efforts to force the other side to take a stance and possibly alienate voters, the safety of the average American is put at risk.
The Assault Weapons Ban, which made 19 military assault weapons unavailable to the general public, was passed under President Bill Clinton in 1994 after a series of violent crimes in which such weapons were used. The ban, however, included a “sunset provision” — to be permanent, Congress had to confirm it 10 years after it was initially passed.
President Bush, in an example of decisive indecisiveness, said he would not veto an AWB extension but could not actively support it.
Republicans also refused to schedule a vote, which let the ban expire.
Democrats, facing a Republican majority in both houses, did not have the power to schedule a vote. But Kerry could have raised the topic in his campaign, forcing Bush to reconsider.
Just how one adapts assault rifles for “private use” remains unclear. While duck hunting with an AK-47 seems somewhat counterproductive, it has been argued that hunting should be allowed with such weapons.
But in the end, the lift of the ban means one thing: No matter who you are, be it a responsible gun collector or a terrorist, it is now easier to be armed with assault weapons. This can hardly be in the interest of either ticket, let alone the American public.