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HATCH BLASTS PLAN TO BAN IMPORTED GUNS

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, came out shooting Monday against President Bush's new anti-crime package that would ban imported assault weapons.

"Banning imports won't keep guns out of the hands of criminals," he said. "While I praise the president for his overall anti-crime stand, I cannot in all good conscience vote for a bill that contains the very portions designed to tie the hands of sportsmen and other law-abiding citizens."Hatch added, "Too restrictive are the provisions which ban the import of semiautomatic weapons, extend the ban to domestic manufacturers who would assemble those firearms and ban gun magazines which hold more than 15 rounds."

He said those provisions - plus one calling for waiting periods before a gun may be purchased - do nothing but restrict law-abiding citizens because criminals obtain their guns illegally.

Bush and his supporters claim that they must do all within their power to make obtaining such weapons more difficult to reduce violent crime.

Hatch was the only member of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee who voted last month against a bill that would also ban assault weapons.

While Hatch attacked Bush's stand on assault weapons Monday, Hatch praised the rest of Bush's $1.2 billion anti-crime package - and vowed to try to add many of its provisions to pending assault-weapon legislation when it is considered by the Senate Judiciary later this year.

"The Bush package contains several points which will help the law-abiding citizen. These include increased penalties for using a semiautomatic weapon in a violent crime or associated with drug felonies. The package restricts plea bargaining . . . (and) reinstates the federal death penalty."

Hatch concluded, "I am very encouraged by the fact that the president has chosen to take a rather tough stand on the violent crime that is threatening our country, but in so doing he is placing some unneeded restrictions."