Jacksonville’s sheriff said he won’t miss the national ban on assault weapons that expired last week. In the national debate that followed the ban’s sunset, John Rutherford said he agreed with those who thought the law was poorly crafted and ineffective.
The ban was enacted in 1994 as part of then president Bill Clinton’s crime control act. The idea was to keep rapid-fire weapons out of criminals’ hands, but Rutherford said it had failed in that purpose. The list of weapons banned was patchy and inconsistent, he said.
“Take a look at our ‘Operation Chopper Stopper,” said Rutherford, referring to the operation that concluded in July, seizing assault rifles and handguns along with illegal drugs. “Those guns we took in July were all legal under the ban that just expired.”
The ban had made “no appreciable difference” in making Jacksonville’s streets safer for JSO officers, he said. One officer’s body armor was grazed in the July operation as Rutherford’s SWAT team stormed one of the drug houses.
“It really wasn’t protecting law enforcement or the public, from my perspective,” he said.
Assault weapons were still shopped frequently at local gun shows, even during the eight-year ban he said.
Noting the swell of support for the ban from gun-control advocates, Rutherford said the public had always misunderstood the law. The law left some of the most dangerous weapons legal, he said, still available for purchase at sporting goods stores or gun shows.
The ban focused too much on superficial characteristics of the guns, he said. The law banned rifles with detachable magazines that also featured two of the followng: a folding or telescoping stock, a pistol grip, a bayonet mount, a flash suppressor or a grenade launcher.
“The ban was never what the public thought it was,” said Rutherford. “They left the guns legal and banned the bayonet. They were going after the flash suppressor on a Bushmaster. Flash suppressors and magazine restrictions, that’s just dressing. They were still selling the guns, they just didn’t have as much capacity.