BAN GUNNED DOWN?
MARCH 22, 1996
The House voted to repeal the two-year-old ban on assault weapons on Friday, despite of the President's assurances that he would veto any such move. The vote came after an often-angry debate on the floor. Kwame Holman brings us the report.
KWAME HOLMAN: The vote today was to repeal the ban on 19 different types of assault style weapons.
REP. JOHN HOSTETTLER, (R) Indiana: What a majority in this House did in 1994 and what this government did in 1994 is did what the Constitution said it cannot do. It infringed on the right of the people to keep and bear arms.
KWAME HOLMAN: The debate resurrected many of the same arguments heard two years ago when the ban was made law by a Congress then controlled by Democrats.
REP. BILL McCOLLUM, (R) Florida: (pointing to illustration) This is a good gun. This is a bad gun. This gun is banned. This gun right down here is exactly the same weapon as that one up there. This particular assault weapon ban is ridiculous. We shouldn't have passed it in the first place. Repealing it today is common sense. I urge a vote to repeal it.
REP. PETER DEUTSCH, (D) Florida: This is what we're talking about today. These are not weapons that people use for hunting, and, in fact, if you use one of these weapons for hunting, you couldn't eat the animal because the animal wouldn't exist anymore. What--who uses these weapons? Drug dealers, terrorists, the scum of our society, that is who my Republican colleagues are protecting today.
KWAME HOLMAN: But Republicans now control the Congress and their leadership brought the repeal of the assault weapons ban to a vote, fulfilling a promise made to the National Rifle Association a year ago.
REP. EDWARD MARKEY, (D) Massachusetts: Promises made and promises kept, the NRA has come to town to redeem a promise, and the Republican freshmen who made this deadly deal are about to keep it.
KWAME HOLMAN: But not all Democrats opposed repealing the gun ban.
REP. HAROLD VOLKMER, (D) Missouri: Please call it what it is. It's a semiautomatic. To fire, you have to pull the trigger each time. That's what you have to do. It's no different than the hunting rifles that people use all the time in this country to hunt with.
KWAME HOLMAN: And not all Republicans supported the repeal.
REP. HENRY HYDE, (R) Illinois: Hunters have a right to hunting rifles, hunting guns. A person has a right to a pump shotgun to protect his home, and I'm told that's a weapon that'll do it. Target shooters have a right to weapons, but an Uzie, an AK-47, has no legitimate purpose in the civilian population.
KWAME HOLMAN: Rhode Island Democrat Patrick Kennedy, son of Senator Edward Kennedy, referred to his two slain uncles while staging his opposition to the repeal effort. It led to the most emotional exchange of the debate.
REP. PATRICK KENNEDY, (D) Rhode Island: Families across this country know all too well what the damage of weapons can do, and you want to arm our people even more. You want to add more magazines to the assault weapons so they can spray and kill even more people. Shame on you. What in the world are you thinking when you're opening up the debate on this issue?
REP. GERALD SOLOMON, (R) New York: I have great respect for he and his family, but I'm going to tell you something. When he stands up and, and questions the integrity of those of us that have this bill on the floor, the gentleman ought to be a little more careful, and let me tell you why. My wife lives alone five days a week in a rural area in upstate, New York. She has a right to defend herself when I'm not there, Son, and don't you ever forget it. Don't you ever forget it!
SPOKESMAN: (pounding gavel) The gentleman from New York has the floor. Gentleman, is out of order--
KWAME HOLMAN: The House passed the repeal of the assault weapons ban with a bipartisan vote.
SPOKESMAN: The yeas are 239. The nays are 173.
KWAME HOLMAN: Fifty-six Democrats voted in favor of the repeal. Forty-two Republicans voted against. Georgia Republican Bob Barr cosponsored the effort to repeal the weapons ban.
REP. BOB BARR, (R) Georgia: It's important to pass this legislation today so that the American people know that at least in the Congress of the United States, that at least in the House, a majority of men and women representing them have some backbone and have a very clear idea of what crime control really is all about. And I think that fact alone should give the American people a great deal more confidence in our government than we had before this vote today.
KWAME HOLMAN: But the ban still would have to make it through the Senate, so shortly after the vote today, New York's Charles Schumer, the leading Democratic opponent in the House, walked to the Senate side of the Capitol with several law enforcement officials and former Reagan press secretary James Brady.
REP. CHARLES SCHUMER, (D) New York: Fortunately, because of the wisdom of our founding fathers, the NRA has a lot more hurdles to go through to repeal the assault weapons ban. They have to get it through the Senate, they have to get it through the President, and they will not. This assault weapons ban will stand.
KWAME HOLMAN: Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole has yet to say when or even if he'll schedule a vote on repealing the assault weapons ban. And President Clinton has vowed to veto a repeal even if it does pass.