Not all the news out of Washington is bad. It was recently reported that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has approved many redesigned versions of many foreign-made semiautomatic rifles now banned in the United States. The stories indicated that the bureau had helped overseas manufacturers of the Uzi, AK-47, Galil, HK-91 and others to modify the guns so they could be sold in the United States. Why would the bureau help foreign gun exporters?

Charles "Three Fingers" Shred, president of the Friends of Disabled Assault Weapons, said, "The administration had to give in. There weren't enough people in the United States being shot since the ban on foreign semiautomatics went into effect."

"I thought when it came to mowing down people the U.S. was breaking all records," I replied.

"The anti-gun people want you to think that, but the fact is when the government stopped the foreign semis from coming in, it broke the hearts of a lot of the gun consumers, who just weren't getting the same bang for their buck," Shred told me.

"You would think that gun lovers would want to buy American," I said. "Why the preference for the ones made abroad?"

"It's a question of quality control. American workers don't care any more. To them a semiautomatic rifle could be an Oreo cookie. All they want is their paycheck. The people who make the AK-47 or the Uzi take pride in their work because they know that someday the weapon they have created will be used on the streets of Los Angeles."

"Does President Bush know what the Bureau of Alcohol and Tobacco is doing?" I asked.

"Yes, but he promised the NRA that he wouldn't lose any sleep over it," he replied.

"Tell me once again," I went on. "Why is this country so desperately in need of semiautomatic weapons?"

"It's a question of self-esteem. If you take a machine gun away from a man you leave him nothing to do with his hands. Sure, people get blown away when there are loaded guns around. But they also could get hurt hitting their ankle with a croquet mallet. Does that mean we should put a ban on the importation of all croquet games from England?"

"Statistics show that more people get hurt by guns than croquet mallets," I explained.

Shred nodded. "That's because the semiautomatic accidents make the front page of the newspapers, but the croquet accidents never do."

Shred continued, "On paper it sounds as if the new rules for the foreign semis will cut down on homicides. But nothing will change. Anybody with a screwdriver can put a semiautomatic gun back together the way it was before. The sales will still go up because there are only 3 million semiautomatics in people's homes, and in order to have a safe and sane country you need 15 million."

"Why would the government allow foreign semiautomatics to be imported into the United States when the domestic gun business is having such a tough time of it?" I wanted to know.

"We have to import the foreign guns, otherwise they won't buy our American tear gas grenades."