SIKESTON - Local firearm merchants don't expect Monday's expiration of a 10-year federal ban on assault weapons to change much - mostly because the ban itself didn't change much while in effect.
Title XI of the Federal Violent Crime Control Act of 1994 banned the manufacture and import of guns defined by Congress as "assault weapons."
This included 19 types of military-style assault weapons and various accessories.
Gun enthusiasts claim firearms were categorized by cosmetic and ergonomic features that present a military-like appearance and feel but have no practical effect on lethality, while naming specific guns such as "AK-47s" and "Uzis" led many to believe the ban applied to fully-automatic machine guns.
"Those have been regulated since the 1930s," said Alan Reiman of Re-Armms Inc. in Sikeston. "This has got nothing to do with automatic weapons."
The versions available to consumers before, during and after the ban only fire one shot per trigger pull, "just like your common, everyday deer rifle," Reiman said. "They always have, always will - they just looked like a military weapon."
He said one source of the confusion is television media which "usually show a guy shooting a fully automatic AK-47 while talking about the assault gun ban sunset."
Most people, Reiman said, wouldn't even notice the "cosmetic" accessories that were banned. For example, flash suppressors are "items they can put back on a semi-automatic rifle they had to take off 10 years ago," he said.
Reiman estimated that 90 percent of all of the high-capacity ammunition magazines (those holding more than 10 rounds) that were illegal to produce under the legislation remained available anyway during the entire decade-long ban as a "grandfather" clause made those produced beforehand legal to have and sell. "It seemed like an infinite supply of those," he said.
Joe Gooch of Southern Rod and Gun in Sikeston said the ban's expiration may eventually have an effect on his pistol customer business.
"Instead of getting the 10-round clips, people are going to want the 13-15 round clips for their pistols," Gooch said, "so I'll be ordering some in to meet that demand."
Most of his products weren't targeted by the legislation in the first place, however. "I typically don't carry that type of stuff," Gooch said. "Most of my stuff is hunting guns."
The International Association of Chiefs of Police, the International Brotherhood of Police Officers and the Fraternal Order of Police are in favor of renewing the ban and President Bush has said he would sign a renewal if Congress passed it.
Capt. Mark Crocker of the Sikeston Department of Public Safety said the department here typically doesn't see assault-type weapons.
"I don't think it will have an overall impact," Crocker said. "I don't think it will affect our crime rate either way."
Studies on the ban's effect on crime conducted by those on both sides of the issue as well as the Justice Department have produced conflicting results.
"A big nothing is what it all is," Reiman said. "The anti-gun people found out that 10 years of banning a particular cosmetic item on a gun did not reduce crime - just like the pro-gun people told them."
To really have an effect, Reiman said, authorities need to focus on prosecuting those who use guns illegally.
Some information for this article was provided by The Associated Press.