Gun control advocates were surprised President Barack Obama didn’t add a 24th executive action to his list of gun control initiatives: A ban on the import of certain assault weapons that was passed under both the President George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations.”It’s a complete mystery,” Tom Diaz, a former senior policy analyst at the Violence Policy centre, told Business Insider. “It directly relates to the root of the problem.”
The executive action — first taken in 1989 in the wake of a school shooting in Stockton, Calif. — banned the import of 43 kinds of semi-automatic weapons, including the Chinese AK-47 model used in the Stockton attack. The ban came from a provision in the 1968 Gun Control Act that allowed the ATF to determine whether imported guns were used for sporting purposes.
In 1998, Clinton expanded the measure to ban the import of more than 50 types of assault weapons. In 2001, he moved even further, banning “assault pistols” under the action. Those regulations were relaxed under President George W. Bush.
Though it was speculated that Obama might reinstitute these bans, the measure was not included in his gun control package he unveiled this week.
The White House didn’t respond to requests for comment. But pro-gun control advocates like Diaz were rather dumbfounded at a potential 24th stroke of the pen. He told Business Insider he thought it especially likely Obama would renew the ban since it would have included the Belgian-made FN-Five Seven used in the 2009 Fort Hood shooting.
The NRA, Diaz said, “went bananas” when Bush and Clinton took action on the import ban. But, as he pointed out, the NRA didn’t agree with much of anything Obama proposed on Wednesday.
Diaz acknowledged, as did Bush administration officials, that it wasn’t a perfect solution. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported in 1989 that it would affect about 700,000 imported firearms — only about 25 per cent of the nearly 3 million assault weapons in the country at the time. But Diaz said it fits the theme of Obama’s pledge to “do anything to save even one child’s life.”
“Of all the things that have not been done not only in this package but in the last couple of years in general, this one baffles me the most,” Diaz said.
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