By Jimmie Ferguson
Killeen Daily Herald
Politicians may have been wringing their hands Monday over the expiration of the 10-year federal ban on assault weapons, but the news was generally well-received by local residents.
The 1994 ban, signed by President Bill Clinton, outlawed 19 types of military-style assault weapons. A clause directed that the ban would expire in 10 years unless Congress specifically reauthorized it, and it did not.
Some of the 19 foreign-made weapons like the AK-47 and Uzi are still banned under a 1989 law prohibiting imports of specific automatic weapons.
Harker Heights Police Chief Michael "Mike" Gentry, who is also a gunner collector, said he really didn't have an opinion either way on the ban.
"Professionally, we rarely encountered any of these reportedly banned assault weapons," said Gentry, who could think of one incident of coming across an assault weapon. "And it was not being used in the commission of a crime."
Gentry said that there were so many loopholes in the law that there were some variant of most of the banned weapons that could still be purchased under the law.
"I don't figure that the lifting of the ban will have any effect on the Harker Heights Police Department," Gentry said.
But Killeen Police Chief Dennis Baldwin doesn't think the expiration of the ban was a good thing.
"We don't need assault weapons on the streets of Killeen, but at the same time, I don't think that's the end result," said Baldwin, noting he had not looked at the true impact of the ban before and after it was implemented.
John Chapman, a former Killeen police officer and now the president of the Board of Directors for the Law Enforcement Alliance of America, said the ban was totally ineffective.
Chapman said right after the Luby's massacre on Oct. 16, 1991, he got involved with the LEAA.
"I campaigned hard against this bill in 1994, making several trips to the Capitol and talked to legislators," Chapman said. "This law affected nobody other than law-abiding citizens. The media constantly construes the AK-47 assault rifles and Uzis as part of this legislation, when in fact that bill was addressed back in 1936. It didn't have any impact on any real crime. It was something that made politicians feel good about themselves."
Lyle Cheadle, the owner of Guns Galore in Killeen, welcomed the decisions to let the ban expire and appeared angry that it ever went into effect.
"The bad guys are going to have the guns anyway, and they are the ones doing the crime," Cheadle said. "The good people out here who own firearms which is about 90 percent of the population are not going out there to kill anybody. They are going out there to shoot these weapons and have fun with them.
"Yet, we are going to be punished for the 4 to 5 percent of trash that we have out there on the streets running around shooting people," said Cheadle, noting the expiration of the ban will also cause the prices of guns to go down.
"As of midnight last night (Sunday), everyone of these manufacturers can put an assault-type gun on the market which will affect the prices of those in the racks," Cheadle said.
Cheadle said there were five characteristics of a weapon that were suppressed by the assault weapon ban.
"One is them was a weapon should not have a flash suppresser. Have you ever heard of anybody getting killed with a flash suppresser?" asked the gun dealer.
Cheadle continued to ask that question as he named the other banned characteristics: a bayonet mount, a folding stock, a pistol grip and a grenade launcher.
"Law enforcement statistics and everything else say that that ban had no effect on crime in the United States period," Cheadle said.
Contact Jimmie Ferguson at firstname.lastname@example.org