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As Republicans readied a proposal to repeal the ban on assault-style weapons, lawmakers heard testimony Wednesday from police officers on both sides of the gun-control issue.

Major police organizations have expressed strong support for the ban, which was part of last year's $30 billion anti-crime law and has been a key target of Republicans. But at a hearing of the House Judiciary subcommittee on crime, six police officers from various jurisdictions spoke against the assault-style weapons ban and other gun-control laws.The six officers are members of a group that has received funding from the National Rifle Association.

Freshman Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., chairman of the House Firearms Legislation Task Force, introduced a measure Thursday to lift the ban, which prohibits the manufacture, sale and possession of 19 specific types of assault-style firearms and scores of copycats. The House plans to vote in May on the bill.

Democrats have pledged to fight that move, and President Clinton has vowed to veto any such repeal.

One of the six police officers opposing the ban, Lt. Dennis Tueller of the Salt Lake Police Department, said, "Guns are not the problem when it comes to America's runaway crime epidemic. It's time to put the blame for crime where it belongs: on the criminal."

The six officers are members of the Law Enforcement Alliance of America, which describes itself as the nation's largest coalition of police officers, crime victims and citizens concerned about crime.

The group has received funding from the National Rifle Association, LEAA Executive Director Jim Fotis said.

"The fact is we've gotten grants and we've gotten seed money from them," he said. "It isn't relevant to the issue. We are a separate, independent corporation."

The alliance "is an NRA front group. They do not represent police officers," said Josh Isay, a spokesman for Rep. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.




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