Press release of the 1989 Assault Weapon Ban

Import Ban on Assault Rifles Becomes Permanent July 8th 1989

The Bush Administration declared a permanent ban today on almost all foreign-made semiautomatic assault rifles. Imports of the weapons have been suspended since spring.

The permanent ban affects all but 7 of the 50 models included in the spring suspension. It does not affect the far larger number of virtually identical weapons manufactured domestically, nor does it affect foreign-made semiautomatic weapons already in the United States.

Americans own about three million semiautomatic weapons, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, an agency in the Treasury Department that enforces national gun laws. About 25 percent of those weapons are foreign models, including semiautomatic versions of military assault rifles like the Israeli Uzi or the AK-47 Soviet infantry rifle.

Administration officials said that without the ban 700,000 to one million foreign-made assault weapons would have been imported into the United States this year, but they acknowledged that the slack would easily be taken up by domestic manufacturers. A Significant Step

”We’re not saying it will solve the basic problem,” said Stephen E. Higgins, director of the firearms bureau, who announced the ban.

Today’s decision is a significant step in the evolution of the Administration’s gun control policies. It puts President Bush clearly at odds with the National Rifle Association and will almost certainly increase pressures on him to approve restrictions or an outright ban on domestic versions of semiautomatic assault weapons.

”The President was informed of the findings and decisions, and fully supports them,” Alixe Glen, a White House spokeswoman, said of the ban announced today.

Senator Howard M. Metzenbaum of Ohio and Representative Pete Stark of California, both Democrats and leading Congressional advocates of stricter gun control, criticized the President for not going far enough and pledged to press for tighter restrictions on domestically produced assault weapons. Bills Pending in Congress

Several such bills are pending in Congress, and Mr. Stark said that with his action today Mr. Bush had given ”tacit approval” to the idea of restricting all assault-style weapons. ”If one of these bills goes through, the President certainly will have no logical reason to justify a veto,” Mr. Stark added.

Senator Metzenbaum said he would ask the Senate Judiciary Committee to approve legislation barring domestically manufactured assault weapons when it meets next Thursday.