Last night's sunset of a federal ban on some 19 military-style assault weapons is yet another sad commentary on the political powerlock that the National Rifle Association has over members of Congress. The NRA has contributed $14 million to the campaign coffers of politicians over the past 15 years, according to opensecrets.org.
Now, unfortunately, gun stores in most states will be restocked with semiautomatic weapons such as the AK-47 and Uzi assault rifle, weapons that were banned nationwide since 1994. The ban was allowed to lapse over the objections of police chiefs and 68 percent of the public.
Disagreements over tactics within the gun control movement itself didn't help. Nor did Democrats, who have been worried about NRA clout since the group helped remove 53 Democrats in 1994, giving control of the House of Representatives to Republicans. Some analysts suggest Al Gore's support of gun control was the reason he lost both West Virginia and his native state, Tennessee, in 2000.
The ban itself may not have kept a lot of rifles and semiautomatic weapons from reaching the nation's streets (gun manufacturers only had to make minor changes to weapons in order to comply with the ban). But it did work as a strong example that the Second Amendment doesn't protect these guns.
Unless Congress acts, it's now up to more states to pass their own assault weapons bans. Seven states have already done so. Still, a new and stronger national ban is needed, one that acknowledges that the 1 million assault weapons produced in the past 10 years (as estimated by the Violence Policy Center) have no place in American society outside law enforcement or the military.