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COLUMBUS, Ohio - The National Rifle Association said Monday it is pulling its 2007 national convention out of Columbus because of the city’s ban on assault weapons.

The City Council passed a ban July 12 outlawing the sale or possession of semiautomatic rifles with pistol grips and detachable magazines.

The gun owners organization had planned to hold its annual three-day event, expected to draw as many as 60,000 people, at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

“The party is canceled because last week your City Council unanimously voted to revoke the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens in Columbus by banning perfectly legal firearms,” NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said.

Councilman Michael Mentel said the NRA knew when it scheduled the convention that the city was considering a weapons ban and used the Columbus law to seek publicity.

“I do think it is a ruse,” he said. “They knew exactly what was going on in Columbus.”

Mayor stands pat
Mayor Michael Coleman said that the NRA and other groups won’t dictate city policy and that the ban will make the city safer, which will attract convention business overall.

Federal lawsuits have overturned two previous attempts by Columbus to ban assault weapons. The latest law attempts to avoid that by spelling out a distinction between legal sporting weapons and military-style assault weapons.

The NRA also considered Portland, Ore., and Reno, Nev., for the 2007 event.

The convention was expected to generate $15 million to $20 million for city businesses, but other groups have shown interest in meeting in the city the week the NRA was to have its meeting, said Paul Astleford, president of the city’s convention and visitors bureau.
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