Holder’s Comment to Mayors About ‘Military-Style Weapons’ Sparks Debate

January 21, 2013 - 7:08 AM

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Attorney General Eric Holder addresses the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington on Friday, Jan. 18, 2013. (CNSNews/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – Speaking to the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington last week, Attorney General Eric Holder promoted President Barack Obama’s sweeping gun control plan, including his call for a ban on “assault weapons” to keep cities safer.

“The administration has called upon Congress to renew legislation banning high-capacity magazines, including those used in recent high-profile, mass shootings; to protect our police by getting rid of armor-piercing bullets; to pass a new assault weapons ban, updated and stronger than the one enacted in 1994, to keep military-style weapon of our streets,” Holder told members of the mayors’ Criminal and Social Justice Committee on Friday.

Obama has released a 15-page gun control plan, including 23 executive orders and proposed legislation to ban semi-automatic rifles that he and other gun-control advocates refer to as “assault” and “military-style” weapons.

“The operative word is ‘style,’” Phil Watson, director of special projects at the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, told CNSNews.com when asked to comment on Holder’s remarks. “They are trying to shift people’s opinions with these words but it doesn’t stand up to the definition of these weapons at all.

“These are not military weapons,” Watson said, noting that semi-automatic weapons fire only one bullet at a time, unlike the fully-automatic weapons used by the military that release multiple bullets with one pull of the trigger.

“These are not weapons owned by any military in the world,” Erich Pratt, communications director for Gun Owners of America, told CNSNews.com.

Pratt said although guns can be made to look like those used by soldiers, the actually mechanics of the weapons are not the same. He compared it to making a go-cart resemble a Corvette.

“You can make it look like a Corvette but it’s still going to run like a go-cart,” Pratt said.

Both Watson and Pratt said the kind of rapid-fire guns used by the military have been outlawed since passage in 1986 of the Firearm Owners Protection Act, which included an amendment to ban machine guns.

Pratt said the semi-automatic guns being targeted by the Obama administration represent many millions of the 270,000,000 guns that are owned legally by Americans.

“That’s why (Obama’s proposal) is so far-reaching,” Pratt said. “These guns are very, very commonly owned.”

Holder called Obama’s gun plan “concrete and really common sense” and defended the president’s authority in proposing it.

“Let me be very clear,” Holder said. “Let me be very clear: Not one of these executive orders, contrary to what a few have said, impinges upon anyone’s Second Amendment rights or is inconsistent with the historical use of executive power.”

Holder said last’s week announcement by President Obama was “just the beginning.”

Gun control was the focus of this year’s mayors’ conference, which included the distribution of a letter the mayors sent to Obama on Dec. 17, just days after the deaths of 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School by a man using a semi-automatic weapon.

The letter – signed by 200 mayors -- calls for a ban on “assault weapons” and high capacity magazines, increased background checks and increased penalties for illegally purchasing firearms, or “straw purchases.”