(CNSNews.com) - Gun control groups not only want Congress to pass an extension of the 1994 "assault weapons" ban -- they also want the ban to be "strengthened."
They said they are heartened by this week's gun control votes in the U.S. Senate.
The Washington-based Violence Policy Center accuses the gun industry of "willfully circumventing federal law" by modifying a new generation of weapons and renaming them 'post-ban' or 'after-ban' assault weapons.
Such weapons are perfectly legal under the so-called "assault weapons" ban. But the Violence Policy Center accuses the gun industry of evading the intent of Congress by "making minor cosmetic changes and producing 'clones' and 'knock-off' versions to continue to sell for profit at the expense of public safety."
The group singled out six Illinois gunmakers that manufacture "post-ban assault weapons." It said a new study shows that Illinois has more "post-ban" assault weapon manufacturers than any other state.
Even if the U.S. Senate had passed an extension of the semi-automatic weapons ban, "the extension would do nothing to curtail Illinois unique distinction of being number one in manufacturing these deadly assault weapons," said Thom Mannard, executive director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence says renewing the assault weapons ban will be its highest priority for the coming months.
In a press release, the group praised John Kerry for speaking "loud and clear on what America should be doing to reduce gun violence." On Tuesday, Kerry voted in favor of an amendment that would have extended the Clinton-era ban on "military-style assault weapons."
That amendment contributed to the defeat of a larger bill that would have protected gun makers from politically-motivated lawsuits intended to drive them out of business.
Brady Campaign President Michael Barnes praised "police leaders, crime victims and elected leaders of both parties" for "standing up and rejecting the extremist agenda of the National Rifle Association's leadership."
The fact that the Senate passed an amendment extending the assault weapons ban shows that "common-sense gun safety laws are back on the national agenda," Barnes said.
"As of today, these military-style weapons of destruction are only outlawed in this country for 195 more days," he warned. "Our priority in those 195 days is to work with police, Congress and the American public to make sure this ban remains in effect. To let it expire would be an outrage."
In the weeks ahead, gun violence advocates will be preparing for a second Million Mom March on May 9 in Washington, D.C. They're calling it "the Mother's Day March to Halt the Assault." Activists will call on Congress to reauthorize and strengthen the assault weapons ban, the Brady Campaign said.
The Clinton-era "assault weapons" ban is a total fraud and should be allowed to lapse, Second Amendment groups say.
"Even before the Clinton ban was enacted, federal surveys showed that violent criminals carried a 'military-type gun' only in about one percent of the crimes nationwide," Erich Pratt, Gun Owners of America's director of communications, said in a recent press release.
Gun owners object to the ban because it arbitrarily outlaws a certain group of guns based on how they look -- characteristics that give them a "military-style" appearance.
Equally offensive to some gun owners is the fact that the government is deciding which guns have "legitimate" uses -- the argument that "you don't need an assault weapon to go hunting."
One Second Amendment group recently rejected that "guns-for-hunting" argument.
"The Second Amendment is not, and never has been, about shooting ducks, deer, clay targets or tin cans," said Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA), in a recent press release.
"It's about personal defense, homeland security, and resisting tyranny."
Another argument holds that by rallying Americans against "assault" weapons first -- gun control groups will find it that much easier to achieve their ultimate goal of eventually outlawing all guns.