FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 10, 2004
Schumer, Feinstein Win Wal-Mart Assurance That It Will Not Sell Assault Weapons When Ban Expires Monday
After Senators -- authors of the original Assault Weapon’s Ban -- pressed nation's largest gun retailers to live up to corporate responsibility yesterday, Wal-Mart told them today it will not be carrying assault weapons
Senators now step up pressure on other 4 largest retailers: Kmart, Sports Authority, Gart, Big 5 Sporting Goods; Ten-year-old ban set to expire September 13
US Senators Charles E. Schumer and Dianne Feinstein today announced that they have secured assurances from Wal-Mart, the nation's largest retail seller of guns, that it will not sell assault weapons in their stores, on their websites, or through their "special-order" catalogues if and when the Assault Weapons Ban expires without extension on Monday. The senators said they will now continue their movement to stop assault weapons from being sold in major retail stores by pressuring the next four largest gun sellers in the nation.
"Wal-Mart has now set the standard for corporate responsibility and the measure by which all other gun retailers will be judged," Schumer said. "You hear a lot of talk about corporate responsibility these days. Well, Wal-Mart has stepped up to the plate and now the heat is on Kmart, Sports Authority, Gart, and Big 5 Sporting Goods to do the right thing for the communities they serve by keeping military-style, cop-killing assault weapons off our streets.”
“We know that assault weapons are all designed for military use, to kill large numbers of people in close combat. They are the weapons of choice for grievance killers, gang bangers, and those who go up against police. They don’t belong on our city streets," Feinstein said. "I applaud Walmart for this announcement and I appeal to these other companies to help us in this battle.”
Schumer and Feinstein wrote the original Assault Weapons Ban that went into effect in 1994 as Members of the House of Representatives. President Bush has said that he supports the ban and supports its reauthorization, but up to this point he has done nothing to ensure that it is renewed. Unless Congress acts, the ban will expire this Monday, September 13, 2004. Senators Feinstein and Schumer have joined with Senator John W. Warner (R-VA) to introduce bipartisan legislation to extend the current ban on the manufacture and importation of 19 types of assault weapons (and many other by characteristic) by an additional 10 years.
While New York State and California will continue to prohibit the sales of Assault Weapons through existing state laws even if the Federal ban expires, many guns come from out of state and deaths are frequently caused by out-of-state guns. In addition, while New York and California will have bans in their states, most other states will not (only Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey also have such bans). Gun sellers in the remaining 43 states including mainstream stores like K-Mart, the Sports Authority, and the West Coast chain stores Gart and Big 5 Sporting Goods will be free to sell as many assault weapons as they would like.
To protect Americans from the dangers of these weapons coming from other states and ending up in the wrong hands, Schumer and Feinstein yesterday urged the CEOs of the companies with the five top gun sales in the country, Walmart, K-Mart, the Sports Authority, Gart and Big 5 Sporting Goods - not to sell assault weapons in their stores if the ban expires.
Today, Wal-Mart assured the senators that it will not sell assault weapons. "Customers have depended on Wal-Mart for over 40 years to supply sporting goods of all kinds, including firearms. Wal-Mart is absolutely committed to provide firearms in the most responsible manner possible, and we take several steps to ensure that is the case," said Erik Winborn, Wal-Mart's Vice President for National Government Relations. "Wal-Mart only sells firearms and ammunition appropriate for sporting or hunting purposes, and that will continue to be our focus. We will not be carrying assault weapons."
Now that Wal-Mart has responded, Schumer and Feinstein said that there was increased pressure for the other big four retailers to do the same. The senators said that these five companies set the tone for the rest of the gun stores in the United States. Most of them don't sell handguns – only hunting rifles – in their stores in the Continental United States. Walmart – the nation's biggest gun seller, according to the Associated Press – even goes beyond the Federal 3-day waiting period and doesn't sell any guns until the background check clears.
In their letter, the senators wrote, "We are asking you today not only as US Senators but as Americans concerned for the safety of our communities to act as a good corporate citizen and to adopt a policy prohibiting the sale of assault weapons in your stores, on your websites and in your catalogues despite the lifted ban."
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist today said that he would let the ban expire even though the Senate has already gone on record in support of renewing the ban. In a bipartisan vote in March, Senators approved a straight 10-year renewal of the current ban as an amendment to a bill being pushed by the National Rifle Association giving gun manufacturers and dealers protection from civil lawsuits. But the NRA scuttled its own bill at the last minute in order to prevent the extension from becoming law.
The senators warned that the proliferation of assault weapon sales could put the weapons into the hands of terrorists both in the United States and abroad. Last month, on August 6, federal authorities announced that they were investigating a New Jersey man operating a website that, among other things, advised would-be terrorists to acquire assault weapons.
The man being investigated, Mazen Mokhtar ran the www.minna.com website, an exact replica of www.azzam.com (a site that was shut down after 9/11 and had links to an AlQaeda operative arrested in Pakistan last month). According to the Washington Post, the website included the following passage on its “How Can I Train Myself for Jihad” page: "In other countries, e.g. some states of USA, South Africa, it is perfectly legal for members of the public to own certain types of firearms. If you live in such a country, obtain an assault rifle legally, preferably an AK-47 or variations, learn how to use it properly and go and practice in the areas allowed for such training."
In addition, there have been several recent cases in which terrorists have acquired assault weapons in the US either for use here or to ship them to terrorist groups abroad.
1. In June 2001, Keith Gaud, who was arrested for the purchase of 60 AK-47 assault rifles and 10 machine guns in Florida, indicated plans to ship the guns to an Islamic extremist group in Trinidad. 2. In Detroit, on September 10, 2001, Ali Boumelhem was convicted of conspiracy to ship a variety of guns and ammunition including assault weapons components purchased at Michigan gun shows to a Lebanese terrorist organization. 3. On September 20, 2001, as part of the post-9/11 sweep of terrorist suspects, three members of Muslims of America in Virginia were arrested for illegally buying guns including an SKS assault rifle, a 9mm pistol, and AK-47 ammunition. 4. In Oregon, Authorities arrested Ali Khaled Steitiye, a convicted felon who claimed to have trained in Lebanese guerilla camps, trying to purchase an assault weapon from a licensed dealer at a gun show in October 2001.
The assault weapons ban has proven to be effective since it was enacted. In fact, the proportion of banned assault weapons traced to crimes has dropped by 65.8% since 1995, according to data from the Department of Justice. In 1995, the first year that the ban went into effect, assault weapons represented 3.57 percent of all crime guns recovered from crimes. By 2002, assault weapons represented only 1.22 percent of the number of guns used in crimes.
Almost three-fourths of the American people and a majority of gun owners support renewing the ban. Ten state polls confirm that there is widespread support for renewing the ban. The polls found that 72 percent of midwesterners support for renewing the ban and that 67 percent of people from the southwest supporting renewing the ban. Every major law enforcement organization in the country supports renewing the ban, as do countless civic organizations. The senators cited evidence that the ban works by noting that the rate of crimes committed with banned assault weapons has dropped by two-thirds since the ban took effect almost ten years ago.