Assault Weapons Ban; Which Guns Does Feinstein Want To Outlaw?

By iScienceTimes Staff on January 24, 2013 2:59 PM EST

Assault Weapons Ban
Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced new gun control legislation on Wednesday, which guns are being outlawed? (Photo: Reuters)

An assault weapons ban has been introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that seeks to ban several types of assault weapons as well as high capacity ammunition clips. It is the first assault weapons ban introduced to Congress in almost 20 years. The bill, named "The Assault Weapons Ban of 2013," expands upon the previous legislation which expired in 2004. Under the new assault weapons ban, more than 150 gun models would become illegal to manufacture, sell or transfer.

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"We have tried to learn from the [1994] bill. We have tried to recognize legal hunting rights. We have tried to recognize legal defense rights. We have tried to recognize the right of a citizen to legally possess a weapon. No weapon is taken from anyone. The purpose is to dry up the supply of these weapons over time. Therefore, there is no sunset on this bill," Feinstein said at a press conference where she was joined by other lawmakers, including Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-NY, whose husband was killed in the 1993 Long Island Railroad shooting.

"The American people are on our side this time, and we do outnumber some of the people who are fighting against us this time," McCarthy said, citing public opinion polls that show support for such legislation. "What we keep hearing [from voters] is [go for] the assault weapons ban, so we'll go for it."

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.

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.

Feinstein's assault weapons ban addresses similar designs. The 150 gun models targeted in the new assault weapons ban were selected because they can be used with detachable or fixed ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds and have specific military-style features, including pistol grips, grenade launchers or rocket launchers.

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. Another issue that compounded the problem was the increased production of assault weapons by manufacturers trying to pump out as many rifles as possible before the ban went into effect.

Under Feinstein's proposed assault weapons ban, high capacity ammunition clips manufactured before the ban would be illegal to sell or transfer but would not be illegal to own. Although Feinstein did not attach a figure to the number of rounds a magazine would have to hold to fall under the assault weapons ban, another bill introduced by Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J., would ban high-capacity magazines holding more than 10 rounds.

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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