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Will Ban on Assult [sic] Rifles Be Renewed

Aired May 19, 2003 - 19:44   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: The White House recently restated President Bush's support for renewing a ban on certain semiautomatic weapons. That ban has been in place since 1994 but is set to expire next year unless Congress renews it. Recent signals shown the Republican leadership might not bring the renewal up for consideration and will let that ban expire having rekindled that debate. On this program on Thursday of last week, we aired a live demonstration. CNN set up with law enforcement officials of a banned semiautomatic rifle and its legal counterpart. We reviewed the demonstration and one on one other program.
We decided a more detailed report would better explain this complex issue and tonight we have that report in Miami tonight. Here is John Zarrella.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is a semiautomatic firearm. It instantly self loads and fires one bullet for each trigger pull. The 1994 crime control act says, "It is unlawful for a person to manufacture, transfer, or posses a semiautomatic assault weapon." The law defines a semiautomatic assault weapon by name and description, listing 19 specific firearms by name that are illegal. The law also bans certain rifles, pistols and shotguns by description, as well as large capacity ammunition magazines that hold more than ten rounds. The law is very specific. For a semiautomatic rifle to be banned, it must be able to use a detachable magazine and have at least two of the following features. A flash suppressor, a bayonet mount, a pistol grip, a folding or telescoping stock, or a grenade launcher.

Gary Noe, a retired police officer and assistant chief in Oakland Park, Florida...

GARY NOE, RET. ASST. POLICE CHIEF: Let's examine the banned weapon.

ZARRELLA: Explained the difference between a banned AR-15 and its legal clone.

NOE: Flash suppressor, bayonet lug, high capacity magazine over ten rounds, pistol grip, and a telescoping rear stock.

ZARRELLA (on camera): And the legal weapon doesn't have those features, correct? NOE: Doesn't have any of those features. Does not have a flash suppressor, does not have a bayonet lug, has a legal ten round magazine, it does have the pistol grip, but it has no other features so it makes it a legal firearm, and it has a solid rear stock.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): Pro-ban advocates say each of these features would make the weapons more deadly. But anti-ban supporters say those features are only cosmetic. And don't contribute to an increase in crime. With only one of the listed features, the gun is legal. And without those features, experts say the guns are identical.

NOE: It is exactly the same gun.

ZARRELLA (on camera): The same firepower.

NOE: Same firepower, same bullet have to squeeze the trigger once to make a bullet go down the barrel.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): In fact, if you fire the same caliber and type bullets from the two guns, you get the same impact. Here is a .223 caliber bullet fired from a banned AR-15 rifle. Now, the legal version of that rifle. The smaller hole made by the second gun has nothing to do with the gun or ammunition. The shooter just hit the second target more times than in the same place. Both sides cite a Justice Department study about the impact of the law as proof of their argument. Those who oppose the ban say the study shows the ban has had no impact on the reduction of crime. And that the answer is to enforce the laws already on the books.

WAYNE LAPIERRE, EXEC. VICE PRESIDENT NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: What stops crime is every time a violent felon touches a gun, a violent drug dealer, a violent criminal, use the existing federal law, prosecute him 100 percent, confront the criminal directly and take him off the street and put him in jail.

ZARRELLA: Supporters of the ban instead say the study shows a decline in the am of crime committed with these weapons.

REP. CAROLYN MCCARTHY (D), NEW YORK: I'm sure the American people do not want to go back to the day on allowing AK-47s back on the streets or even the newer models, the Bush Master, that were used in the D.C. sniping killings last year.

ZARRELLA: Gun control advocates are working with some members of Congress on not only extending the assault weapon ban in 2004, but introducing new legislation to vastly expand the number of weapons banned. Gun advocates and their supporters in Congress argue this and any future bans are an unconstitutional violation of the second amendment right to bear arms.

John Zarrella, CNN, Miami.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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