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"Officer Down"

Assault Weapons and the War on Law Enforcement


In 1994, Congress passed, and President Clinton signed, a ban on the production of certain semiautomatic assault weapons as well as high-capacity ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. The law banned specific assault weapons by name and also classified as assault weapons semiautomatic firearms that could accept a detachable ammunition magazine and had two additional assault weapon design characteristics. The law is scheduled to end on September 13, 2004.

This study reveals the gun industry's efforts to evade the 1994 ban and documents the significant threat assault weapons still pose to law enforcement. These facts make clear the need to not only renew, but also strengthen, the ban before it expires next year. Legislation will soon be introduced in the U.S. Congress to accomplish this goal. Without action this Congress, the 1994 law will expire in 2004.

Both President Bush and Attorney General Ashcroft have expressed support for the assault weapons ban. President Bush's support for the ban has been longstanding. In October 2000, Bush campaign spokesperson Ray Sullivan told Salon magazine that he would expect then-candidate Bush to reauthorize the ban.1 That position was reiterated by Attorney General John Ashcroft during his confirmation hearings on January 17, 2001, when he stated, "It is my understanding that the president-elect of the United States has indicated his clear support for extending the assault weapon ban, and I would be pleased to move forward that position, and to support that as a policy of this president, and as a policy of the Justice Department."2 Most recently, in April of this year, White House spokesperson Scott McClellan told Knight Ridder news service, "The President supports the current law, and he supports reauthorization of the current law."3

This study contains three sections. Section One: Assault Weapons, the Gun Industry, and Law Enforcement reveals how the firearms industry has evaded the current ban, and how assault weapons continue to pose a stark threat to America's law enforcement personnel. Section Two: Law Enforcement Officers Killed in the Line of Duty by Assault Weapons, 1998 Through 2001 is a chart listing the known incidents of police officers killed by assault weapons, including year, state, manufacturer, model of assault weapon, and caliber. Section Three: Selected Incidents of Law Enforcement Officers Killed in the Line of Duty by Assault Weapons, 1998 Through 2001 offers expanded narratives for 15 of the law enforcement shootings that occurred during this period. Each narrative also includes a representative illustration of the model of assault weapon used in the shooting (each weapon shown is representative of the brand or model of assault weapon and may not be identical to the specific weapon used in the shooting detailed in the narrative).

1) Jake Tapper, "Gore Shoots Blanks on Guns," Salon, October 24, 2000.

2) "Day 2, Morning Session of a Hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee," Federal News Service, January 17, 2001.

3) Shannon McCaffrey, "In Surprise Move, Bush Backs Renewing Ban on Assault Weapons," Knight Ridder/Tribune News Services, April 12, 2003.

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  All contents � 2003 Violence Policy Center


The Violence Policy Center is a national non-profit educational foundation that conducts research on violence in America and works to develop violence-reduction policies and proposals. The Center examines the role of firearms in America, conducts research on firearms violence, and explores new ways to decrease firearm-related death and injury.