Coalition letter requesting support for S. 1431, the Assault Weapons Ban and Law Enforcement Protection Act of 2003 from the U.S. Senate

September 4, 2003

Dear Senator:

We, the undersigned groups, strongly support the "Assault Weapons Ban and Law Enforcement Protection Act of 2003" (S. 1431), legislation introduced by Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Jon Corzine (D-NJ). This legislation will not only make the assault weapon and high-capacity magazine ban permanent, but will also significantly strengthen current law. The current ban is set to expire on September 13, 2004 unless Congress and the President act and pass new legislation. Both President Bush and Attorney General Ashcroft have expressed support for the assault weapons ban, and Attorney General Ashcroft has declared the ban Constitutional.

Unfortunately, Congress' intent has not been fully realized under the current ban. The original law, passed in 1994, bans certain models of semiautomatic assault weapons, as well as high-capacity ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. Immediately after the law was enacted, the gun industry moved quickly to make slight, cosmetic design changes in their "post-ban" guns to evade the law. These "post-ban" guns incorporate features that are the essence of an assault weapon, design characteristics that make it easy for a shooter to simply point?as opposed to carefully aim?the weapon to quickly spray a wide area with a lethal hail of bullets. These design characteristics make assault weapons especially attractive to criminals and distinguish them from true hunting or sporting firearms. Today, "post-ban" versions of AK-47s and AR-15s, guns banned by name by the 1994 law, are flooding the civilian market. A post-ban AR-15 clone manufactured by Bushmaster was used by the Washington, DC-area snipers to kill 10 and injure three in October 2002.

After several high-profile shootings in the early 1990s, Congress moved to approve the law recognizing the severe threat that assault weapons pose to public safety and the law enforcement officers who serve to protect us. Nearly 10 years later, that threat still exists. An analysis of FBI data by the Violence Policy Center in its study, "Officer Down"-Assault Weapons and the War on Law Enforcement, found that at least one in five law enforcement officers slain in the line of duty between January 1, 1998, and December 31, 2001, were killed with assault weapons. As recently as February 20, 2003, in Alexandria, Louisiana, Officers Charles Ezernack, age 26, and Jeremy "Jay" Carruth, age 29, were killed in an ambush by a criminal wielding an AK-47-type assault rifle.

The on-going need to ensure the safety of law enforcement and the protection of the public health, combined with the gun industry's actions to evade the current ban, give Congress a clear path to legislation. The Lautenberg bill to reauthorize the 1994 ban deals with military-style weapons available to the public by clarifying the definition of the term "assault weapon." The term "assault weapon" would be defined as any semiautomatic rifle, shotgun, or pistol that can accept a detachable magazine and includes one listed additional feature such as a pistol grip, fore-end grip, or collapsible stock. This improvement recognizes the features that represent the essence of an assault weapon and avoids having to defend current superfluous characteristics such as flash suppressors and bayonet mounts. In addition, this comprehensive bill would ban conversion parts kits; regulate "grandfathered" assault weapons and enhance the tracing of such weapons; ban all high-capacity magazines, including imports; and prohibit juvenile possession.

A majority of Americans clearly support reauthorizing the assault weapons ban. A Lake/Snell/Perry poll conducted July 15-18, 2002, found that 65% of Americans favor renewing the assault weapons ban, with 57% strongly favoring this action.

S. 1431 would reauthorize and strengthen the current law to effectively prevent the gun industry from circumventing Congressional intent by continuing to manufacture and market these deadly weapons. Such an effort is not unprecedented. California significantly improved its state assault weapons ban in 1999 in response to the gun industry's efforts to evade a law passed in 1989. The opportunity to reauthorize federal laws allows Congress to address problems with implementation and take steps to improve the law to ensure it is working as intended. The 108th Congress now has the opportunity to ensure that the federal assault weapons ban is extended to more effectively keep military-style assault weapons off our streets.

The undersigned coalition of child advocacy, civil rights, consumer, domestic violence, gun violence prevention, public health, and faith-based organizations from around the country ask you to protect public safety and support S. 1431.

Thank you for your consideration.


National Organizations

Academy of Medical/Surgical Nurses (AMSN)
Alliance for Justice
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
American Association of Suicidology
American Probation and Parole Association
American Public Health Association
American Jewish Committee
American Jewish Congress
Americans for Democratic Action
Anti-Defamation League
Association of Clinicians for the Underserved
Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence United with the Million Mom March
Central Conference of American Rabbis
Child Welfare League of America
Children’s Defense Fund
Church of the Brethren, Washington Office
Church Women United
Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
The Consumer Alliance
Consumer Federation of America
The Episcopal Church, USA
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Family Violence Prevention Fund
Freedom States Alliance
Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America
Handgun-Free America
HELP Network
The Interfaith Alliance
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Justice Policy Institute
Legal Community Against Violence - Firearms Law Center
Loretto Community
Mennonite Central Committee US, Washington Office
Mid-Atlantic Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence
National Alliance To End Sexual Violence
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNP)
National Association of School Psychologists
National Black Police Association
National Center for Women in Policing
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA
National Council of Jewish Women
National Domestic Violence Hotline
National League of Cities
National Network to End Domestic Violence
National Organization for Women (NOW)
National Women's Health Network
Physicians for a Violence-free Society
Physicians for Social Responsibility
Presbyterian Church (USA), Washington Office
Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE)
States United to Prevent Gun Violence
Trauma Foundation
Union of American Hebrew Congregations
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
The United States Conference of Mayors
Violence Policy Center
Voices for America’s Children (formerly National Association of Child Advocates)
Washington Ethical Action Office/American Ethical Union
Women of Reform Judaism

State Organizations

Arizona Consumers Council
Arizonans for Gun Safety
Democratic Process Center, Tucson, AZ
Hadassah Valley of the Sun
Physicians for Social Responsibility - Arizona

Alameda Million Mom March Chapter
American Academy of Pediatrics, California Chapter
Bar Association of San Francisco
California Church IMPACT
California Nurses Association
California Physician Network
Children Now
Consumer Attorneys of California
Consumer Federation of California
Contra Costa Million Mom March Chapter
Kids in Common
Lutheran Office of Public Policy
Marin County Million Mom March Chapter
Napa & Solano Million Mom March Chapter
Orange County Million Mom March Chapter
People Who Care Youth Center
Sacramento Valley Million Mom March Chapter
San Bernadino Million Mom March Chapter
San Diego County Million Mom March Chapter
San Fernando Million Mom March Chapter
Santa Clarita Million Mom March Chapter
Silicon Valley/Santa Clara Million Mom March Chapter
Sonoma Million Mom March Chapter
South Bay-Long Beach Million Mom March Chapter
Violence Prevention Coalition of Greater Los Angeles
West Los Angeles Million Mom March Chapter
Women Against Gun Violence
Youth ALIVE!

Colorado Ceasefire Capitol Fund
Denver Million Mom March Chapter
Larimer Million Mom March Chapter
Physicians for Social Responsibility - Colorado Chapter

CT Collaborative for Education Against Gun Violence
Central Connecticut Million Mom March Chapter
Fairfield Million Mom March Chapter

New Castle County Million Mom March Chapter
Sussex County Million Mom March Chapter

District of Columbia
District of Columbia Million Mom March Chapter
Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington
Women Empowered Against Violence (WEAVE)

Central Florida Million Mom March Chapter
Florida Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Inc.
Florida Consumer Action Network
Northeast Florida Million Mom March Chapter
Tampa Bay Million Mom March Chapter
Voices for Florida’s Children

Georgians for Gun Safety
Metro Atlanta Million Mom March Chapter
Physicians for Social Responsibility – Georgia Chapter

Activist Forum
85% Coalition
Champaign County Health Care Consumers
Chicago Consumer Coalition
Chicago Project for Violence Prevention
El Centro por los Trabajadores
Help for Survivors/Million Mom March Chicago
Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence
Illinois Disciples Foundation
Interfaith Initiative Against Gun Violence
National Council of Jewish Women/Chicago North Shore Chapter
North Suburban Chicagoland Million Mom March Chapter
Office for Peace & Justice of the Archdiocese of Chicago
Physicians for Social Responsibility - Chicago Chapter
Progressive Resource/Action Cooperative
Southwest Chicagoland Million Mom March Chapter
Students Improving the Lives of Animals
Uhlich Children's Home and the Hands Without Guns/Chicago Program
Voices Against Violence
Voices for Illinois Children
Women’s Direct Action Collective

Hoosiers Concerned About Gun Violence

American Academy of Pediatrics – Iowa Chapter
Community Action Preventing (CAP) Gun Violence
Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Iowans for the Prevention of Gun Violence
Physicians for Social Responsibly – Iowa Chapter

Physicians for Social Responsibility - Kansas
Safe State Kansas

Lexington & Central Million Mom March Chapter

Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence
Physicians for Social Responsibility – Maine
Southern Maine Million Mom March Chapter

Baltimore Jewish Council
CeaseFire MD
The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland
Maryland Association of Resources for Families & Youth
Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition, Inc.
Maryland State Nurses Association
Montgomery County Million Mom March Chapter
Physicians for Social Responsibility – Maryland
Presbytery of Baltimore
United Methodist Church of Annapolis, Maryland

Cape Cod Million Mom March Chapter
Massachusetts Consumers’ Coalition
Middlesex/Norfolk/Suffolk Million Mom March Chapter
Stop Handgun Violence
Western Massachusetts Million Mom March Chapter

American Academy of Pediatricians - Michigan Chapter
Detroit Million Mom March Chapter
East Metro Detroit Million Mom March Chapter
Lansing Million Mom March Chapter
Michigan Citizens for Handgun Control
Michigan Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence On-Target Coalition
Michigan's Children
Novi Million Mom March Chapter
Priority Children
Save Our Sons and Daughters
Southwest Michigan Million Mom March Chapter
Washtenaw County Million Mom March Chapter
West Metro Detroit Million Mom March Chapter

Citizens for a Safer Minnesota
Minnesota Institute of Public Health
Northland Minnesota and Wisconsin Million Mom March Chapter
Twin Cities Million Mom March Chapter

Citizens for Missouri's Children
Missourians Against Handgun Violence
Southern Missouri Million Mom March Chapter
St. Louis Million Mom March Chapter

New Hampshire
Children's Alliance of New Hampshire
New Hampshire Ceasefire
New Hampshire Million Mom March Chapter

New Jersey
Bergen/Passaic Million Mom March Chapter
Ceasefire NJ
Essex County Million Mom March Chapter
Mercer County Million Mom March Chapter
Shore Million Mom March Chapter

New Mexico
New Mexico Million Mom March Chapter
New Mexico Voices for Children

New York
Brooklyn Million Mom March Chapter
Broome County Million Mom March Chapter
Capital Region Million Mom March Chapter
Concerned Citizens of Bensonhurst, Inc.
Doctors Against Murder
Empire State Consumer Association
Financial Professionals for Social Responsibility
Friends of Island Academy
The Interfaith Alliance- Nassau County
Manhattan Million Mom March Chapter
Mental Health Association in New York State, Inc.
Mothers Against Guns
Nassau Million Mom March Chapter
New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG)
New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence
New Yorkers Against Gun Violence
North West Buffalo Community Center Crime Victims Assistance and Advocacy Organization
Otsego Million Mom March Chapter
Physicians for Social Responsibility - New York City
Professional’s Network for Social Responsibility
Queens Million Mom March Chapter
Sanctuary for Families
Statewide Youth Advocacy, Inc.
Suffolk Million Mom March Chapter
Westchester Children's Association
Westchester Coalition Against Gun Violence

North Carolina
Forsyth Mothers and Others Million Mom March Chapter
North Carolinians Against Gun Violence Education Fund
North Carolina Consumers Council, Inc
Physicians for Social Responsibility - Western North Carolina
Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham
Wake County Million Mom March Chapter
West Triangle Million Mom March Chapter

Central Ohio Million Mom March Chapter
Episcopal Diocese of Ohio
Franciscan Justice and Peace Office
Greater Cincinnati Million Mom March Chapter
Greater Cleveland Million Mom March Chapter
National Council of Jewish Women – Ohio
Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence
Ohio Council of Churches
Physicians for Social Responsibility – Ohio
Toledo Metropolitan Ministries
Toledo Diocese Catholic Charities Social Action Office

The Oklahomans For Gun Safety/Million Mom March Chapter

Ceasefire Oregon
Multnomah Million Mom March Chapter
Oregon Consumer League
Trauma Nurses Talk Tough

Allegheny County Million Mom March Chapter
CeaseFire PA
Centre County Million Mom March Chapter
Chester County Million Mom March Chapter
Montgomery County and Delaware County Million Mom March Chapter
Pennsylvania State Nurses Association
Pennsylvanians Against Handgun Violence
Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth
Rosenberg Institute for Peace & Justice

Rhode Island
Rhode Island Medical Society
Rhode Island Million Mom March Chapter

South Carolina
Columbia Consumer Education Council

Central Texas Million Mom March Chapter
Dallas Million Mom March Chapter
Texans for Gun Safety
Texas Council on Family Violence
South Texas Million Mom March Chapter

The Black Children’s Institute of Tennessee

Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah
Salt Lake City Million Mom March Chapter

Hampton Roads Million Mom March Chapter
Northern Virginia Million Mom March Chapter
Richmond Million Mom March Chapter
Virginia Citizens Consumer Council
Virginians Against Handgun Violence
Voices for Virginia’s Children

Clark County Million Mom March Chapter
Seattle Presbytery
Washington Ceasefire
Washington State Public Health Association

Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort (WAVE)
Wisconsin Council on Children and Families
Wisconsin Nurses Association