Assault Weapons Ban: Which Guns Would Be Illegal?
In the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut there has been an increased number of calls for stricter gun control laws, in particular an assault weapons ban similar to the one in place from 1994-2004. An assault weapons ban would impact millions of registered gun owners who would find themselves in possession of an illegal firearm that they purchased legally before the ban. One of the most difficult challenges of an assault weapons ban is establishing rules that clearly define what, exactly, constitutes an assault weapon.
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In the 1994 assault weapons ban the bill named specific manufacturers and models, like the Colt AR-15 and Beretta Ar70, but also listed weapon specifications. For example, the bill banned "any semiautomatic rifle that has an ability to accept a detachable magazine" that also had features such as a folding stock or pistol grip. It also banned semiautomatic pistols with detachable magazines, but only those that had least two of the features that made them more lethal such as threaded barrels capable of accepting barrel extenders or silencers or a manufactured weight of 50 ounces or more.
Some critics of the 1994 assault weapons ban said it was too full of loopholes. Because it required guns to have at least two of a list of specific features it made it easier for manufacturers to alter designs in order to remain compliant with the law. And one of the biggest loopholes critics pointed out was that the 1994 assault weapon ban didn't outlaw assault rifles or high-capacity magazines that were manufactured before the bill was passed. Those weapons were still legal and, more importantly, still legal to buy and sell. Critics argued that this provision undercut the bill's intended purpose of getting these guns off the street. Compounding the problem were increased production of assault weapons by manufacturers trying to pump out as many rifles as possible before the ban went into effect.
There are no details on what the new assault weapons ban would target, but if the 1994 assault weapons ban is a guideline there will only be about 18 types of firearm outlawed for manufacture.
Another question for gun owners is what will happen to their guns if a ban goes into effect? The 1994 ban allowed assault weapons to remain in owners' hands, as well as high capacity ammunition magazines. A new assault weapons ban would either need to do the same, or implement a massive nationwide buyback similar to what Australia did when it implemented a ban in 1996.
The Australian Law could also serve as a model for a new assault weapons ban since it was shown to have effectively reduced the number of gun related murders, and murders overall, unlike the 1994 assault weapon ban which, due to loopholes, was seen as having little impact on gun murders.
An assault weapons ban would be no small thing. Any ban will likely outlaw the AR-15, which is the best-selling rifle in America.
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