Anti-Gun Campaign Accused of Spreading 'Hype'

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:30 PM EDT

( - Gun control activists have launched a coast-to-coast tour intended to generate support for an "assault weapons" ban that is scheduled to expire in September -- unless Congress passes an extension of the ban.

The Million Mom March's "Big Pink Rig" (a pink recreational vehicle) rolled into Richmond, Va., on Tuesday, motivating people on both sides of the gun issue to speak up.

While gun control activists want to extend the ban on certain semi-automatic weapons, Second Amendment supporters want to clear up what they call "blatant hype and deliberate misinformation" about those guns.

Steve Canale, president of the Virginia Shooting Sports Association, the state affiliate of the National Rifle Association, accused gun control activists of engaging in a "desperate and deceptive" political campaign. His group wants Congress to let the "Clinton gun ban" expire as scheduled on Sept. 13.

Uzis, AK-47s, and 'high-powered' rifles

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence (which is now affiliated with the Million Mom March) says on its website that "Uzi and AK-47 assault weapons" -- are "coming this summer to your neighborhood courtesy of George W. Bush unless you do something about it."

That's not true, said Canale.

AK-47s and Uzis were prohibited in 1989 under federal firearm importation law, five years before the enactment of the Clinton gun ban. "The expiration of the Clinton gun ban will not in any way affect this previous law," Canale said in a press release.

He said the Million Moms' pink RV tour is more about politics than it is about sound policy, and he said, "the gun ban lobby, including the Brady Campaign, is lying."

"What works is locking up violent criminals, not taking away the rights of law abiding citizens," Canale said. He offered the following list of "facts" about semi-automatic firearms -- "that the gun ban lobby does not tell the public":

-- Firearms branded as "assault weapons" have been used in no more than 1.2 percent of violent crime, according to police reports and surveys. Even a congressional study found that semi-automatics "were never used in more than a modest fraction of all gun murders."

-- Millions of Americans use semi-automatic guns for hunting, target shooting and protection. The Virginia Shooting Sports Association offered the following examples: Popular deer-hunting rifles include Remington Models 7400 and 7600 and the Browning BAR; Remington's Model 1100 and Beretta's Model 391 shotguns are widely used for hunting and sport shooting; the Colt AR-15 and Springfield M1A are the nation's most popular rifles for marksmanship competitions. Ruger Ranch Rifles and 10/22s are popular hunting and plinking rifles.

-- The Brady Campaign claims the federal "assault weapons" ban has reduced crime, but the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said it can "in no way vouch for the validity" of that claim.

-- FBI reports indicate that semi-automatic guns are rarely used to kill police officers.

-- Semi-automatic guns are not machine guns. Machine guns have been regulated by the National Firearms Act since 1934. By comparison, semi-automatics, like other guns, fire only one shot at a time.

-- Semi-automatics are not "more powerful" than other guns. Semi-auto rifles and shotguns use the same ammunition as other guns. Semi-auto pistols use ammunition comparable to, but shaped differently than, revolver ammunition. The AK-47, which anti-gun groups call "high powered," is less powerful than the modestly-powered .30-30 Winchester, the most popular deer rifle in American history, the Virginia Shooting Sports Association said.

'Public should be frightened'

According to the Brady Campaign, "sporting rifles and assault weapons are two distinct classes of firearms."

The group's website says semi-automatic hunting rifles are designed to be fired from the shoulder and depend upon the accuracy of a precisely aimed projectile, while semi-automatic assault weapons are designed to "maximize lethal effects through a rapid rate of fire."

Assault weapons are designed to be spray-fired from the hip, the website says, and because of their design, a shooter can maintain control of the weapon even while firing many rounds in rapid succession.

Furthermore, the Brady Campaign says assault weapons are equipped with combat hardware, such as silencers, folding stocks and bayonets, which are not found on sporting guns. Assault weapons are also designed for rapid-fire and many come equipped with large ammunition magazines allowing 50 more bullets to be fired without reloading.

"So there is a good reason why these features on high-powered weapons should frighten the public," the Brady website says.

Police chief welcomes Moms

The "Big Pink Rig" is scheduled to stop in Raleigh, N.C., on Thursday, to rally in front of the city's police department. Raleigh Police Chief Jane Perlov will join the gun control volunteers, the Brady Campaign announced.

"The police chief and volunteers will speak to the public about a looming development that could bring an even heavier toll of gun violence to Raleigh and other American communities," the Brady press release said.

That looming development is the expiration of the semiautomatic gun ban -- unless President Bush "lives up to his campaign promise" by pressuring Congress to renew the law, the Brady Campaign said.

"Raleigh already suffers from too much gun violence," said the Rev. Rachel Smith, a volunteer with the North Carolina chapter of the Million Mom March. "We don't need Uzis and AK-47s back on our streets."

The Million Mom March's "Halt the Assault" tour is scheduled to stop in 20 states and dozens of cities over the next four months.

The gun issue has so far failed to gain traction in this election year. Neither President Bush nor Sen. John F. Kerry has made guns -- or the assault weapons ban -- a campaign issue.

And as reported earlier, a Million Mom Mother's Day "March on Washington" held on May 9 drew only 2,000 people -- less than half of the number expected to attend.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson was one of several political figures to attend the anti-gun event. His address touched on anti-war themes and the need to dump President Bush, in addition to restricting gun use.

See Earlier Stories:
Attendance Down for Anti-Gun Million Mom March (10 May 2004)
Ad for Anti-Gun Rally Links Students With 'Assault Weapons' (3 May 2004)

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