Gun importers are prepared to bring close to 1 million more semiautomatic assault-style rifles into the United States should the Bush administration decide not to make its import ban permanent.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms now has applications pending for 965,000 of the weapons, ATF spokesman Dick Pedersen said."It appears there have been a lot more applications that came in after the ban," he said.

The temporary suspension imposed March 14 covered some 400,000 weapons, including about 300,000 for which import permits already had been approved. An expansion of that suspension last week covered another 240,000 weapons.

The ATF is required by law to permit imports only of weapons suitable or adaptable to "sporting purposes."

"We noticed the increase in these showing up in crimes, an increase in demand, and we reacted to it," Pedersen said.