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NRA vs. Brady Campaign: A Debate on the Expiration of the Assault Weapons Ban

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Assault weapons are back on shelves in gun stores across the country after the 10-year ban signed by President Clinton expired this week. We host a debate between the National Rifle Association and the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence. [includes rush transcript]

Assault weapons are back on shelves in gun stores across the country after the 10-year ban signed by President Clinton expired this week.

Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry blasted President Bush on Monday for allowing the ban to expire and of helping put dangerous weapons in the hands of terrorists by refusing to fight for an extension of the ban on semiautomatic weapons.

Bush had said he supported the law, but he did not pressure the GOP-led Congress to extend the 10-year ban on 19 firearm models that was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994. Kerry said he will fight to reinstate the ban if he is elected president, though some congressional Democrats and most Republicans oppose it.

Today we host a debate on the assault weapons ban.

  • Andrew Arulanandam, director of Public Affairs for the National Rifle Association.
  • Brian Siebel, senior attorney with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. He is the author of a report released in March by the Brady Campaign entitled "On Target: The Impact of the 1994 Federal Assault Weapon Act."

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: AK47s, UZIs, Tech-9’s back on the shelves in gun stores across the country after the decade-long ban on assault weapons, signed by President Clinton, expired. The democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry, blasted President Bush on Monday for allowing the ban to expire, and helping to put dangerous weapons in the hands of terrorists, he said, by refusing to fight for an extension of the ban on semiautomatic weapons. We are joined now by Andrew Arulanandam, who is Director of Public Affairs for the National Rifle Association and Brian Siebel, senior attorney with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. I want to begin with the spokesperson for the National Rifle Association. Is this a day of victory for the NRA?

ANDREW ARULANANDAM: Amy, before I begin, I’d like to make a correction. You mentioned that UZIs and AK47s are back on gun stores. That is not true, in fact, because all of the fully automatic versions of UZIs and AK47s are regulated under 1934 law and the semiautomatic versions of UZIs and AK47s are regulated under the 1989 importation ban. So, neither one of those firearms are back out on the shelves. And to address your question, whether this is a happy day for the National Rifle Association, I would say that, you know, for ten years, you know, we were fighting to make sure that this ineffective law would expire as Congress intended for it to do so. And whenever bad laws expire, I guess everyone wins.

AMY GOODMAN: Brian Siebel, senior attorney with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, your response.

BRIAN SIEBEL: Well, a couple of things. First of all, you know, the NRA spokesperson knows that even though AK47s and UZIs are prevented from importation, one would expect very quickly there to be domestic manufacture of these weapons which now would be legal. In fact, UZI has a — Israeli Military Industries which makes UZIs — has a factory in this country and it’s already began looking at making them domestically. The other thing that’s going to be back on the shelves right away are high capacity magazines carrying, 20, 30 and 50 rounds. And these are what made the assault weapon ban very effective and them being back on the streets certainly poses a threat to American citizens, and to law enforcement, which is why law enforcement is united in calling for the president to get this ban renewed. Of course, the president would rather have the NRA out spending millions of dollars between now and the election blasting John Kerry, than to have lifted a finger to protect the American people.

ANDREW ARULANANDAM: Brian, if — if I could address Brian — I would imagine it’s important for us to be precise and correct in what we’re informing the general public with. The Brady Campaign essentially has misled millions of Americans by putting false advertising out there saying that UZIs and AK47s will be back out on the streets. That is just plain wrong. We owe the citizens of the state —- residents and citizens in America, the truth. And the Brady Campaign has in fact misled the American people. With regard to your comment about police officers -—

BRIAN SIEBEL: We haven’t misled —

ANDREW ARULANANDAM: Let me just state that rank and file police officers know that this ban has been ineffective.

BRIAN SIEBEL: That’s why the FOP, for example, all of the rank and file police officers support it.

ANDREW ARULANANDAM: A criminal organization committing a crime is not going to purchase a firearm through legal means and leave a paper trail for law enforcement. There are laws and studies that show that criminals obtain their firearms through illegal means.

AMY GOODMAN: Brian Siebel, your response.

BRIAN SIEBEL: Certainly, rank and file police organizations as well as chief organizations have endorsed renewing the ban, which is why they call to Washington last week, to call on the president, call on Congress, to get this ban renewed. The president refused even to meet with major law enforcement officials to talk about this issue. So, and certainly, what we’re talking about here are semiautomatic weapons that with high fire power clips can fire, you know, 30 rounds in a matter of a few seconds. You know, the people who are on the receiving end of the —

ANDREW ARULANANDAM: Come on, Brian, you know that’s not true.

BRIAN SIEBEL: Bullets —

ANDREW ARULANANDAM: Clearly, that’s not true.

BRIAN SIEBEL: Excuse me, if I might just —

AMY GOODMAN: Let Brian Siebel finish and you can have your say.

BRIAN SIEBEL: The San Diego police did a study —- they found that -—

ANDREW ARULANANDAM: This is highly regulated since 1934. What are you saying is simply not true.

BRIAN SIEBEL: A 30-round clip can be emptied in five seconds.

ANDREW ARULANANDAM: You can go out and do rudimentary research and prove that you are wrong.

BRIAN SIEBEL: If I might speak without being interrupted.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to raise another issue at this moment, because we don’t have much time, something that’s not getting as much attention. It was on the front page of The Washington Post yesterday, headline: "House GOP Proposes Repeal of DC Gun Bans. A majority of the US House of Representatives is supporting legislation that would repeal virtually all of the district’s gun restrictions, targeting one of the nation’s most stringent handgun bans while the presidential candidates battle over gun limits. Congress member Mark Souder of Indiana said House Republican leaders have promised him a vote before November 2 election on his proposed DC Personal Protection Act, which would end a ban on handguns in the nation’s capital, remove a prohibition against semiautomatic weapons, lift registration requirements for ammunition and other firearms and cancel criminal penalties for possessing unregistered firearms and carrying a hand gun in one’s home or workplace." Your response to that, let’s start with the NRA spokesperson, Andrew Arulanandam.

ANDREW ARULANANDAM: Thank you Amy. Well, if gun control worked, Washington DC, would be the safest place in America. However, Washington DC has been identified as the murder capital of the United States. It’s been that way for many years running, accord together Federal Bureau of Investigations. The other interesting thing here is that we find that the elected officials in Washington DC, who seem to oppose lifting of this ban, are the very same people who enjoy taxpayer-funded protection services. And look, let’s keep in mind this is not a right to carry measure. All we’re asking for is that law abiding citizens residing in the district of Virginia have a right to keep a firearm in their homes to protect themselves and their loved ones, if needed.

AMY GOODMAN: Brian Siebel.

BRIAN SIEBEL: Certainly states have passed assault weapon bans, like California, New Jersey and other states. The unfortunate thing is that guns cross state lines too easily in this country, and so —- that’s -—

ANDREW ARULANANDAM: That’s a measure that —

BRIAN SIEBEL: Well, I am. In fact, if the laws in DC are repealed, not only will the federal assault weapon ban expire, but the District’s right to do what it can to ban assault weapons within the city limits would also then be struck down, if this House measure were to pass. But it’s really a cynical measure because they know that the Senate is not going it take this up before the election. It’s really just to try to — you know, an Indiana congressman is trying to impose his own will on the self-rule of the people of the District of Columbia. And that really is an unfortunate event. But the real problem here is the expiration of the federal assault weapons ban and high capacity magazine ban, which would really turn any semiautomatic pistol equipped with one of these high capacity magazines into a high fire power weapon. That’s why law enforcement doesn’t want to see this expire. Because they only carry 16-round magazines in their police weapons.

ANDREW ARULANANDAM: There you go again —

BRIAN SIEBEL: Well, they don’t want to be outgunned.

AMY GOODMAN: Right before President Bush was — became president, during the campaign in 2000, there was that videotape from the National Rifle Association from Kane Robinson, chief of the National Rifle Association who said, if we win, we’ll have a president where we work out of their office. Do you feel like that has proven to be the case, Andrew Arulanandam?

ANDREW ARULANANDAM: Let me address that question. For eight years during the Clinton administration, the gun control movement worked out of the White House. The gun control agenda was run — basically run out of the west wing of the White House. Where was the outreach during those years?

AMY GOODMAN: So you do you feel that now the tables have turned, and the NRA is there?

ANDREW ARULANANDAM: I missed your question.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you feel that the tables have turned now and the NRA is there?

ANDREW ARULANANDAM: I think that politicians on both sides of the aisle have finally recognized that a vast majority of voters believe in the second amendment, and believe in what the National Rifle Association stands for.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to have to leave it there. That’s the end of our show. I want to thank you, Andrew Arulanandam, Director of Public Affairs for the National Rifle Association, Brian Siebel, senior attorney with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

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