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Target America: Can the Flood of Foreign Assault Weapons Be Stopped?

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 1998
73 pages
This study focuses on the debate over the importation of foreign-made semiautomatic assault rifles modified by manufacturers for sporting purposes and over the decision of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) to use gun-by-gun analyses instead of import criteria that define assault weapons as a distinct class of firearm.
News media in 1997 began reporting that ATF would again allow imports of the Uzi assault rifle, although imports of such weapons had supposedly been banned since 1989. The President moved to counteract ATF’s lax import criteria by issuing a memorandum requiring a review of the criteria related to sporting purposes and suspending all outstanding import permits. The ATF director surveyed shooting magazine editors and sports groups in December 1997. The National Rifle Association and some firearm manufacturers responded to this inquiry with a coordinated campaign to deluge ATF with comments urging that the weapons in question be approved for import. The Violence Policy Center protested the closed process by which ATF was conducting the sporting purposes test review. ATF invited the Center to submit further information on the issue; the Center responded in January 1998 and made specific recommendations for a rule. However, the ATF actions on foreign-made assault weapons has better served the interests of foreign manufacturers and firearm importers than the public. The analysis concludes that ATF should abandon its gun-by-gun approach and develop a comprehensive rule that considers assault weapons a specific class of firearm. Photographs from advertisements and catalogs, information on criminal traces, and appended background information