17 Am. J. Crim. L. 143 (1989-1990)
Assault Rifle Legislation: Unwise and Unconstitutional

handle is hein.journals/ajcl17 and id is 151 raw text is: Assault Rifle Legislation: Unwise
and Unconstitutional
In the wake of tragic shooting incidents involving semiautomatic
rifles, the media has discovered an assault weapon problem in the
United States. Time magazine subtitled its February 6, 1989 cover
story America's streets become free-fire zones as police, criminals,
and terrified citizens wield more and ever deadlier guns.' The story
included pictures of the coffins of the victims of the Stockton mas-
sacre, as well as a timeline chart entitled, Calendar of senseless
shootings. As a dramatic climax, the article reproduced a photograph
of a police officer holding up the assault rifle used by Patrick Purdy
to fire into the yard of a Stockton, California school.2         The Time
reporters, caught in the emotion of the Stockton shootings, promptly
set out their agenda of what should be done about the assault
weapon problem. Their first proposal was, of course, that [tihe
Federal Government should ban outright the import or sale of
paramilitary weapons to civilians.3
I Reporters covering the Stockton shootings placed the blame for
this tragic event on the semiautomatic weapons misused during the
course of the shootings. Patrick Purdy killed himself, and it remains
far easier to damn the inanimate objects that he left behind than to
cope with the general social problems surrounding such incidents or
the more specific criminality of a disturbed individual. However, un-
derstandable media and public sympathies have generated an unwise
legislative response to the alleged assault weapon problem. On the
federal, state, and local levels, legislators have hastily drafted and
passed bills concerning assault weapons, particularly when such ef-
forts have been cast as being anti-drug.4
1. Church, The Other Arms Race, TME, Feb. 6, 1989, at 20.
2. Id. at 20,22-23.
3. Id. at 26.
4. See, e.g., The Antidrug, Assault Weapons Limitation Act of 1989, S. REP. No. 160, 101st.
Cong., 1st. Sess. 6-8 (1989) [hereinafter SENATE REPORT] (introduced by Senator DeConcini to reduce
semiautomatic firearms abuse by drug traffickers and violent criminals); Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons
Control Act of 1989, CAL. PENAL CODE §§ 12275-12290 (West 1990) [hereinafter Roberti-Roos]; MD.
ANN. CODE art. 27 §§ 442,48 1E (1989) (placing greaterrestrictions on 17 varieties ofassault weapons,
and providing punishments for failure to comply or attempts to evade); CoLo. REv. STAT. §§ 16-11-103,
-11-303, -13-309 (1989) (finding that action was necessary for the immediate preservation of the public
peace, health, and safety, and providing mandatory sentencing for use of an assault weapon during
the commission of violent crimes, such as drive by shootings); 1989 Fla. Sess. Law Serv. 89-306 (West

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