Assault rifle ban discussed at SF symposium

March 23, 2009 6:52:12 PM PDT
Talk of bringing back a national ban on assault weapons is resurfacing following the recent Oakland shootings. At a law enforcement symposium Monday in San Francisco, officers say they are defenseless against the kind of fire power involved with assault rifles.

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At the law enforcement symposium, the issue of banning assault weapons could not be avoided. Susan Manheimer, police chief for the city of San Mateo, says no equipment can really protect officers from the high powered weapons.

"It is something we feel very strongly about is a ban on assault weapons and you need only look at what happened in Oakland to understand the power and the danger of those type of weapons," Manheimer said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein has said she plans to introduce legislation to bring back the weapons ban. President Clinton signed it into law in 1994, but it expired in 2004. Monday, she stayed clear of talking about the specifics of such a ban.

"It's a terrible, terrible thing to have happened; so I would anticipate that everybody would rally around and get to the bottom of this," Feinstein said.

But opponents argue any push to reinstate the assault rifle ban would be politically motivated.

"Politics works by making an ordinary person look like a criminal, politics works by making an organization like the NRA appear to be the Ku Klux Klan, which it is not," gun rights advocate Peter Buxtun said.

Stephen Sposato has pushed for gun control laws after his wife was killed in the 101 California Street shootings in 1993.

"Really, the question is, how did he get his weapon and what are the types of legislations that we can put in place that are no brainer to protect police officers," Sposato said.

The fight over this kind of gun control is expected to be long and divisive, which is why some in Washington believe now is not the time to introduce legislation to bring back the weapons ban, not when lawmakers are so focused on the current economic crisis.

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