1999: CBS Admitted Assault Weapons Ban Didn’t Stop Columbine

While liberal journalists are exploiting the Parkland shooting tragedy to get more gun control legislation, including another “assault weapons” ban, what they’re not telling their viewers is they know it won’t work. Or at least that’s what CBS News’s Lesley Stahl recognized way back in 1999, when she admitted that the 1994 assault weapons ban did nothing to stop Columbine.

On the August 1, 1999 edition of 60 Minutes, Stahl introduced the segment: 

“When Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot their way into Columbine High School in Colorado a few months ago, one of the guns in their arsenal was a powerful pistol called a TEC-9. That’s one of the guns supposedly outlawed by the assault-weapons ban, passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton back in 1994. So how were they able to get ahold of a banned gun? Well, as we found when we first aired this story in 1995, this ban wasn’t really a ban at all. One gun dealer in Kentucky, Bill Perkins, went so far as to call the law a joke.”

In the story, that was originally aired in 1995, Stahl interviewed gun dealer Bill Perkins who underscored what gun owners already know. There will be a rush on any guns in a proposed ban list: 

Mr. BILL PERKINS (Gun Dealer): As far as the ban and – and doing what it was intended to do, it’s silly. It’s not doing it. It’s not going to do it.
 
STAHL: Perkins says that the minute it looked as if the ban would pass, people who never thought about an assault weapon rushed out, determined not to let the government tell them what they couldn’t have, and bought one or two.

Of course, the overall thrust of the segment was one of disappointment that the ban didn’t go far enough. In fact, Stahl let the true goal (total confiscation) of the gun grabbers slip, when she interviewed Senator Dianne Feinstein. 

STAHL: California Senator Dianne Feinstein worked for more than a year to get the assault-weapons bill passed, in the face of ferocious opposition from the National Rifle Association. She says she got the best she could.

SENATOR DIANNE FEINSTEIN: If I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States for an outright ban, picking up every one of them, ‘Mr. and Mrs. America, turn them all in,’ I would have done it. I could not do that. The votes weren’t here.

 

To see the relevant portions of the segment as aired on the August 1, 1999 edition of 60 Minutes, click “expand.” 

LESLEY STAHL: When Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot their way into Columbine High School in Colorado a few months ago, one of the guns in their arsenal was a powerful pistol called a TEC-9. That’s one of the guns supposedly outlawed by the assault-weapons ban, passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton back in 1994. So how were they able to get ahold of a banned gun? Well, as we found when we first aired this story in 1995, this ban wasn’t really a ban at all. One gun dealer in Kentucky, Bill Perkins, went so far as to call the law a joke.

Mr. BILL PERKINS (Gun Dealer): As far as the ban and – and doing what it was intended to do, it – it’s silly. It’s not doing it. It’s not going to do it.

STAHL: Perkins says that the minute it looked as if the ban would pass, people who never thought about an assault weapon rushed out, determined not to let the government tell them what they couldn’t have, and bought one or two.

Mr. PERKINS: Clinton and the – that administration has been good to the gun business. 

STAHL: Clinton’s been good to the gun business?

Mr. PERKINS: He’s been – he’s been one of the best salespeople around. No doubt.

STAHL: Bill Clinton?

Mr. PERKINS: Sure.

STAHL: When he signed the assault-weapons ban, you’re saying that, that act itself spurred this sort of...

Mr. PERKINS: That – that act did more to put more firearms out there on the streets, as far as in the hands of citizens. He accomplished what gun dealers have tried to accomplish for years, and that is, to get these sales up. This is what we...

STAHL: It was like an advertisement? Is that what you’re saying?

Mr. PERKINS: That’s all it was.

STAHL: But why would...

Mr. PERKINS: It was the best advertising campaign you could imagine.

STAHL: Advertising so good that it made 1994 the best year for gun sales in a generation and the best year for the sales of assault weapons ever. And yet, even with that unprecedented demand, there is still an enormous supply of these so-called banned guns available, and it’s all legal. At this Miami gun show, there are literally hundreds and hundreds of the AR-15 like this, the TEC-9, and all the others on the banned list. And this is just one show in one city. Now why are all these guns still legal to sell? Because they were made before the law took effect last September. The ban lists 19 guns that can’t be made or imported anymore, but those already in circulation? They’re fine. So when President Clinton signed the bill and said:

PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: We will finally ban these assault weapons from our street that have no purpose other than to kill!

STAHL: It was a good applause line, but these banned weapons are still everywhere: on the streets, in gun shops, advertised in every gun publication, and at gun shows all over the country.

Mr. PERKINS: I presume that most of the distributors and manufacturers saw this thing coming. It’s sort of like playing the stock market. You’re – you’re taking a bet: Will they – will they be banned or will they not be banned? And if you hedge your bets by, you know, stockpiling these things, getting them in the warehouse, getting them manufactured, getting them stamped before the enactment of the bill and it – they are, in fact, banned, then you’re going to come out on top. And...

STAHL: And some did that?

Mr. PERKINS: Sure, they did.

STAHL: California Senator Dianne Feinstein worked for more than a year to get the assault-weapons bill passed, in the face of ferocious opposition from the National Rifle Association. She says she got the best she could.

SENATOR DIANNE FEINSTEIN: If I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States for an outright ban, picking up every one of them, ‘Mr. and Mrs. America, turn them all in,’ I would have done it. I could not do that. The votes weren’t here.

STAHL: But are you worried that it got watered down so much that it’s lost its real effectiveness?

FEINSTEIN: Yeah. Let me – let me tell you, there is a very potent part of this legislation, and it is the ban on the manufacture and sale of clips of more than 10 bullets.

STAHL: But just as with the guns, it’s not so potent after all because all magazines or clips manufactured before last September are perfectly legal to own, buy and sell, no matter how many bullets they hold – 10, 20, 30, 50. And there are mountains of them out there.
...
STAHL: Senator Feinstein thought she had figured out a way to stop another problem. She wrote something called a physical-features test into the law designed to keep gun makers from turning their banned guns into legal ones by making just a few minor changes. The law bans any new gun that has two or more of these military-style features: a pistol grip, a folding stock, a bayonet mount, a flash suppressor or a grenade launcher.

Sen. FEINSTEIN: It also, in its physical-features test, is aimed at copycats, and one of the things that we found--if you just ban 19 specific weapons, suddenly the name changes and instead of an AK-47, you have a Mitchell-this or a Norinco-that, and to a great extent, we get at this.

STAHL: But once again, the ban has backfired. Five months after it took effect, the copycats are already out. This is the TEC-22, banned by the assault-weapons bill. This is the new Sport-22, from the same manufacturer. The only difference: The new gun has no threads on the barrel. The ban specifically outlaws the AK-47, but it doesn’t do anything about the MAK-90.

Isn’t this exactly the same gun as the AK-47?

UNIDENTIFIED DEALER: It’s very similar.

STAHL: What’s different? Can you show me?

DEALER It – it’s got a thumbhole stock, which was necessary for importation, and it does not have a bayonet.

STAHL: No bayonet, which would have gone here.

DEALER: Which would have gone here.

STAHL: And a – just a difference grip, really.

DEALER: Exactly.

Mr. PERKINS: One of the most ludicrous things, I think, that I’m aware of is banning the bayonets on a--on the end of a rifle. That’s a knife blade. And why ban that in the first place? You mean, if somebody walks in with--you know, with some--one of these alias assault-type weapons and it has a blade, you’re going to look to see if it has a knife before you get scared? I mean, it doesn’t make any sense.

STAHL: People in the gun business say Congress asked for what’s happening by writing a cosmetics law, focusing on how guns look rather than how they shoot. Colt, based in Connecticut, is one of America’s oldest gun makers. Ron Whitaker is president.

Mr. RON WHITAKER (President, Colt): We had a crime bill that was supposed to focus on crime and hopefully criminals. We end up with a--an as--assault-weapon ban that has nothing to do with defining an assault weapon. It has a lot to do with what something looks like.

STAHL: No question, Colt’s sporter rifle looks menacing. It failed the features test because it has both a pistol grip and a flash suppressor on the end of the barrel. They can’t legally make it anymore. So now, they make the Match Target. Can you tell the difference? No flash suppressor on the end. And now it will be legally sold with a new name and this tiny little feature at the end removed.

FEINSTEIN: Well, that’s true.

STAHL: Well, what – what is your reaction when I tell you this? Are you – I mean, you wrote this legislation in such good faith, and both you and – and all the other people, the police chiefs...

FEINSTEIN: Well, my reaction is that there is a very craven set of people out there who are going to essentially traffic in these arms, if they can, one way or another.

STAHL: The charge is that you are just taking advantage of a loophole in the law and basically subverting the spirit of what Congress intended, which was to get this gun off the street. Now what’s your answer to that?

WHITAKER: Well, it’s just flat-out not true. They passed a cosmetic law, and now they’re sitting back saying, ‘Oh, woe is me; people are changing the cosmetics.’ I don’t understand that logic.
...
STAHL: But would you admit that because of the composition of the new Congress that it’s unlikely you’re going to get any more gun-control laws passed in this Congress?

FEINSTEIN: Oh, I think that’s true in this Congress.

STAHL: So no going forward.

FEINSTEIN: I think that’s true.

CO-HOST STEVE KROFT: If that was true in 1995, it may still be true in 1999. Though the Senate passed new gun control measures in the wake of the Littleton massacre, the House, so far, has refused to go along. As for assault weapons, President Clinton did strengthen the law a bit last year, by banning future imports of 56 types of weapons that are manufactured overseas. But at gun stores and at gun shows all over the country, there are still thousands of guns like the TEC-9 all for sale and all perfectly legal.
 


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