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Last Updated: Friday, 17 September, 2004, 12:07 GMT 13:07 UK
US weapons ban: Lapse or renew?
AK47 Kalashnikov
A ban on military-style assault weapons in the United States lapsed on Monday, 10 years after it was passed.

It now means that ordinary citizens can keep powerful assault weapons at home.

President Clinton passed the law in 1994 after a series of shootings in schools and fast food restaurants.

Lifting the ban has been one of the powerful, pro-Republican gun lobby's main aims.

President George W Bush has not pressured Congress so far to extend the prohibition, despite saying he supports the ban.

Should it have been allowed to lapse? Should it be renewed? Do you support the ban? Will this change your vote?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

This topic was suggested by Mike Adam, Virginia, USA:
What are your views on the Assault Weapons Ban expiring in the United States?

Let the law lapse. The only people that were hurt by this were the gun collectors and honest people anyway. If you are going to kill someone, then you will find a way to get your hands on a gun, ban or no ban.
Ron W, Dayton, OH, USA

The flaw in the argument is that these weapons are different from the ones that are still legal - they are not. The ones that are legal and the ones that were not, both only fire one shot each time the trigger is pulled. The only difference on the banned weapons is that they look like assault weapons - in essence, they banned ugly guns. These guns are like Hummers, people buy them because they want them, not because they need them. Hooray! The ban is dead!
Miles Weaver, Columbia, SC, USA

Most people don't even understand what types of weapons are affected by the ban. They are semi-automatic. Fully-automatic machine guns are still illegal. The banned weapons may look intimidating, but are no more deadly than any other gun. Bans cannot stop criminals and terrorists from acquiring the weapons they want.
Rich, USA

If you feel you need the protection afforded by an assault weapon, join the military
Morgan Gordon, Los Angeles

Guns are so appealing to many Americans because a 110lb woman with a gun has the same force or power as a 250lb man with a gun - your physical prowess or proximity to police becomes a less important factor in self-defence if armed with a gun. Nevertheless, I fail to see why any private American would need to realize weapons parity with their military in order to protect his or her life. Reinstate the assault weapons ban. If you feel you need the protection afforded by an assault weapon, join the military.
Morgan Gordon, Los Angeles, United States

Why do civilians need assault weapons? I'm very thankful, day after day, when I can put my GP handgun in the safe after my shift. I wouldn't like to have it at home at all. It would make me and my family a target for crime.
Patrick, Belgium

My mum can't use her knitting needles on a plane, but any number of guys can roam the American streets with AK-47s. And that's fighting the war on terror. Go figure?
Amanda-Jane Nelson, Portland, Oregon

The original weapons ban was a silly piece of legislation to begin with. All it did was outlaw minor features that did not affect the overall performance of the weapons in question. Claims that the law takes these dangerous weapons off the street and out of the hands of criminals were outrageously false. The firepower of available weapons wasn't changed one bit.
Robert, MD, USA

I believe in the American right to bear arms, but not assault weapons. This right should not apply to extremely dangerous weapons. The law banning these weapons should be renewed, but they must fix all the loopholes in the law first. It was easy to modify each banned weapon to get around the law, thus the ban had little effect.
George, USA

People, not guns commit acts of violence
Jason, Detroit, USA

No. People, not guns commit acts of violence. 16 men with box-cutters pulled off the largest attack on American soil in modern times. Also, these weapons are currently readily available on the black market even with the current ban. The citizens right to bear arms should prevail in this case.
Jason, Detroit, USA

You are mistaken; the law was passed after two men in Los Angeles armed with automatic riffles robbed a bank live on TV. The bill was passes with bipartisan support for obvious reasons. The NRA supports both political parties equally; this is clearly not a Republican lapse. And, yes it should be renewed. But renewing the ban would only prevent new people from acquiring new weapons; the people who have owned them prior to the ban are allowed to keep them. You have to read all of the details about these such things before just asking for uninformed opinions about Americans love for guns - it's just misunderstood.
Ryan, Miami, US

It is curious to hear the news media and Kerry complain that the end of the ban on assault weapons is Bush's fault. They all know that the Legislature, not the Executive, makes laws in the USA. Maybe Kerry should have taken a few days away from talking about his Vietnam record to actually do his job in the Senate and try to get the ban renewed. Instead, all he does is complain.
Andy, MI, USA

In 2001 about 3,000 Americans were killed by the terrorists that attacked the WTC. More than 17,000 were killed in acts of homicide in the US that same year. The real threat of terror comes from their own people. If they're smart they will renew the ban on assault weapons. Unfortunately, judging by the latest polls, smart doesn't look like the most appropriate adjective for our friends in the US.
Tom Hunsberger, Canadian in Mexico

On 9/11 the terrorists took advantage of our law which specified the size knife we were allowed to carry on a plane, that law has since been changed because of the lesson we learned. Now we have allowed terrorist sleeper cells to legally purchase assault rifles which can easily be modified to be fully automatic.
Peter Vevang, Minneapolis, USA

This ban has only prevented the sale of assault weapons with equipment like bayonets and grenade launchers from being sold. Columbine happened with "banned" weapons, but they aren't illegal if they were made before the ban. To get around this weapon companies stockpiled mass quantities of assault weapons to traipse around a weak legal document. Sales, in fact, went up shortly after the ban because people who opposed it felt it was their duty to buy assault rifles, which absolutely nobody in an urban environment has any business owning.
Philip, Ottawa, Canada

Ordinary citizens already can keep powerful assault weapons at home as it stands so the uproar over the effect of lifting the ban is largely a lot of hot air. A new ban that closes the loopholes is warranted.
Andrew, Dallas

People who own these guns say they are for hunting purposes. If I was a deer or a police officer, I would be quite scared, for the targets do not stand a chance. Assault weapons should not be categorized as your typical home-grade weapon.
David Mills, Woodbury, New Jersey, USA

The right to bear arms was granted when arms consisted of very old weapons. Thinks like Uzis and assault rifles should be restricted to the military only. We don't need them for any other purpose but to cause harm to others. I say renew.
Jeff Stevens, Seattle, US

Personally, I believe that it needs to be refined instead of merely renewing the old law. While the idea was right, there were loopholes you could drive an AK-47 through...
Blair Davis, Chicago, IL

I'm a gun owner and a Republican, but I just don't see a justification for civilian ownership of assault weapons. The ban - which was anyway so limited as to be only symbolic - should be renewed and expanded.
Sam, Delaware, USA

There is no room for these weapons in our society. They should ban these weapons for good. It's time we shed our need for any type of assault weapon if we are to promote a less violent culture.
James, Atlanta, USA


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