Assault Weapon

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The rifle believed used in the recent slayings of three Birmingham police officers would be illegal under a bill now before Congress, a move supported by some of Alabama's top law officers.

Montgomery Police Chief John Wilson said the SKS is a military weapon. The semiautomatic rifle uses ammunition that can penetrate the protective vests worn by most police officers.

But while Wilson and Mobile police Chief Sam Cochran said the SKS and similar semiautomatic rifles should not be available to the general public, Alabama's U.S. senators and others in the congressional delegation historically have opposed gun-control measures.

Authorities in Birmingham have said the SKS was used in the June 17 killings of officer’s Robert "Bob" Bennett, Harley Chisholm the Third and Carlos Owen.

The three officers were wearing protective vests when they were shot while trying to arrest a man on a misdemeanor assault warrant. Two men are charged with capital murder in the officers' deaths.

The SKS and the Bushmaster rifle were used in the January deaths of two Athens officers in north Alabama, both are readily available at gun stores throughout Alabama because they are not among the assault weapons banned by Congress in 1994.

It's unclear whether the bill will pass. The Senate in March narrowly approved a 10-year extension of the ban without the broader weapon definition, and Alabama Senators Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby both voted against that bill.