Gun-rights groups undeterred by attacks

By Jon Dougherty

Responding to calls by some lawmakers and anti-gun groups for more gun control in the wake of a series of sniper attacks in the Washington, D.C., area, gun-rights organizations say public safety would be further endangered if more restrictive gun laws were implemented.

“Banning more guns or registering them, via so-called ‘ballistic fingerprinting,’ won’t help make people safer,” said Eric Pratt, communications director for Gun Owners of America, which is based in Springfield, Va.

“Gun bans for sure are ludicrous,” Pratt said. “Whoever the [D.C.-area] shooter is, he’s already broken more than a dozen federal and state laws, many of them gun-control laws. Adding another one to the list won’t make a difference.”

“The shootings are going on in an area that is notorious for having ‘victim-disarmament laws,'” said Aaron Zelman, executive director of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership. “This whole situation shows the failure of gun-control schemes, with their false promise of, ‘Government will protect you, and you will be safer.'”

Pratt agreed, saying Washington, D.C., was a virtual “gun-free zone.”

“They’ve tried complete gun bans, and subsequently have seen murder rates skyrocket,” said Pratt.

“It’s the same thing as 9-11,” said Zelman. “No one is allowed to have a gun on a ‘gun-free’ airplane, either.”

The sniper killings have already prompted some lawmakers and gun-control groups to press for tighter gun laws.

On Thursday, a group of House Democrats asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the marketing of military-type sniper rifles to civilians, noting those kinds of weapons could be involved in the sniper attacks.

“Their accuracy and range capabilities make these weapons among the most dangerous available today,” the lawmakers – led by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., said in a letter to the FTC. “They can hit targets accurately one mile away and can inflict damage to targets up to four miles away.”

Conyers and three other Democrats said sniper weapons are different than standard hunting rifles because they are designed to strike a target at a distance.

And earlier this week, Sarah Brady, head of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, sent a letter to constituents, appealing for tighter laws and more money to carry on the fight.

“As police try to track down and stop this killer, we do know this: Sensible gun laws can help law enforcement solve crimes as well as prevent gun violence,” Brady wrote. “Furthermore, according to police, the shooter could be using one of four possible firearms to carry out this shooting spree. Three of the four are assault rifles.

“It’s important to remember that the federal assault-weapons ban expires in September 2004,” she continued. “We do not want to put more military-style weapons capable of such devastation – and worse – back on our streets.”

Pratt decried the Brady Campaign’s approach.

“Obviously, we disagree with Sarah on a lot of issues,” said Pratt, “but frankly, we found it shocking she was sending out messages asking for more money so she can fight this thing.

“It really seems like they’re trying to capitalize on this,” Pratt said.

In her letter, Brady also said creating a database of the unique markings guns leave on bullets or shell casings would be helpful in investigating shootings. She also said police “have already seen the usefulness of ballistic tests in definitively linking six of the [10] shootings to the same firearm.”

Pratt countered that ballistic fingerprinting would not work because it was too easy to alter a gun’s ballistic signature, making an identification database nearly worthless to law enforcement.

Zelman also denounced fingerprinting firearms.

“A criminal can simply take a small file or other device and change the breech or nick the firing pin” to alter the gun’s signature.

Firearms experts agreed.

Pratt said a ballistic fingerprint database would amount to de facto gun registration and would eventually lead to confiscation, a reality he said had already taken place in New York City – another urban center that bans many types of guns.

“After a 1991 ban on certain semi-automatic firearms, [NYC officials] used prior registration lists to send police around to confiscate the newly banned weapons,” Pratt said.

California has also toyed with confiscation, but so far has yet to adopt such a plan, he said.

“Criminals of this type don’t generally leave a paper trail,” Pratt said.

“The calls for more gun control are simply a way for people who are clueless to look like they have some idea of how to solve a problem,” Zelman added.

WorldNetDaily reported yesterday that authorities now believe there may be multiple snipers using more than one vehicle involved in the killings.

That report comes on the heels of the latest shooting incident in Spotsylvania County, Va., where a man was shot and killed around 9:30 a.m. yesterday while fueling his car at an Exxon station.

Maj. Howard Smith of the Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s Department told reporters witnesses said they saw a white van with a ladder rack on top drive away from the scene moments after the shooting.

Authorities said witnesses saw two people in the van and were able to give police descriptions of them, though cops have not released those descriptions.

The identity of the dead man has not been released.

Previous stories:

Shootings tied to Michaels crafts stores?

Police weigh multiple killers, vehicles

FBI Terrorism Task Force on case

FBI: Maryland shootings fit no category

2 ‘Hispanics’ sought in D.C.-area sniper hunt

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