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Next Week: Congress to Discuss Federal ‘Assault Weapons’ Ban

By: Teresa Mull

Congress is set to debate another ban on so-called “assault weapons” next week.

The Hill reported earlier this month:

Democrats also plan to hold a hearing Sept. 25 on an assault weapons ban. But the bill's sponsor, Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), acknowledged the legislation doesn't yet have the votes to pass.

Cicilline’s bill to ban assault weapons currently has 211 cosponsors, which is seven short of the 218 votes needed to pass on the House floor.

Most of the Democratic holdouts on the bill hail from competitive swing districts where gun restrictions may be less popular.

“So we're not at 218 yet, but we're making progress,” Cicilline said.

The New York Times also reported last week:

As Democrats make an aggressive push for new gun control legislation, they have made a calculated decision to stop short of pursuing their most ambitious goal: an assault weapons ban.

The overwhelming majority of House Democrats — 211, seven shy of the 218 needed for passage — are co-sponsoring legislation to ban military-style semiautomatic weapons, similar to the ban in effect from 1994 to 2004. But some centrist Democrats remain skittish about any proposal that keeps firearms from law-abiding citizens — a frequent charge against Democrats by Republicans and gun rights groups — making any such ban politically risky for moderates in Trump-friendly districts. In the Senate, it draws less support.

The split reveals just how complicated gun politics remain inside the Democratic Party, even as mass shootings are terrorizing the nation and the Twitter hashtag #DoSomething has captured the mounting public demands for Congress to act.

On the presidential campaign trail, Democrats like former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. are rallying behind an assault weapons ban, and Beto O’Rourke, the former congressman from Texas, has gone so far as to call for a mandatory government program to buy back the weapons of war. But on Capitol Hill, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, have barely breathed a word about reviving the ban.

Even Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, who sponsored the 1994 assault weapons ban and is one of its most ardent defenders, did not raise the issue when she spoke about gun safety alongside Mr. Schumer on Tuesday afternoon. “We don’t have the votes to pass it,” she later explained.

In an op-ed The Hill published yesterday, Rep. Rosa Delauro, who represents the 3rd District of Connecticut and chairs the Labor, Health, Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, declared:

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed H.R. 8, for universal background checks. It is a widely supported proposal. However, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the Republican Senate refuses to even debate it.

But, we cannot stand pat. In fact, I believe we must advance another proposal: reinstating the federal assault weapons ban with a ban on high-capacity magazines.

It was only 25 years ago that the Congress adopted an assault weapons ban, for which I proudly voted. The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 made it "unlawful for a person to manufacture, transfer, or possess" a semiautomatic assault weapon.

Last week, presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke declared that as president, he would confiscate what he calls “weapons of war.”

O’Rourke said:

“… Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47. We’re not going to allow it to be used against a fellow American anymore.”

According to The Hill:

Still, public polling shows majority support for an assault weapons ban, in addition to more widespread approval of proposals like the bills advanced by the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released Tuesday found that 57 percent of respondents support banning the sale of assault weapons.

Slightly more -- 61 percent -- back the idea of banning high-capacity magazines, while 72 percent support allowing police or family members to request a judge temporarily take away guns from a person considered a danger to themselves or others.

A total of 83 percent support requiring background checks at gun shows and other private sales. House Democrats passed a bill earlier this year to establish universal background checks -- including at gun shows and private sales -- but that bill has since languished in the Senate.

'Military Style' Weapons Are Already Outlawed
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced the Assault Weapons Ban of 2019 earlier this year "to ban the sale, transfer, manufacture, and importation of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines," Feinstein's office reported in a press release.

Feinstein, during the unveiling of her prized bill, displayed the usual amount of liberal ignorance on guns that illustrates why they have no business regulating them.

"Americans across the nation are asking Congress to reinstate the federal ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines," Feinstein said. "If we’re going to put a stop to mass shootings and protect our children, we need to get these weapons of war off our streets."

Sen. Chris Murphy echoed her:

“Military-style assault rifles are the weapons of choice for mass murderers," Murphy said. "There’s just no reason why these guns, which were designed to kill as many people as quickly as possible, are sold to the public."

As knowledgeable Second Amendment supporters know, "military style" weapons are already outlawed. Guns "designed to kill as many people as possible," i.e. automatic weapons, or machine guns, are not sold to the general public.

Feinstein and her cronies want to re-define terms in order to outlaw guns they think look scary, regardless of their internal functions.

'It Won't Do What They Propose'
Gun University notes some of the extremely flawed logic behind this ban:

These so-called “assault weapons” are the most popular firearm in America. Let’s assume for a second that their existence is why we have mass shootings (it’s not). If that is [the Democrats'] belief, then why would they only ban new ones and grandfather current ones? The most common rifle in America is, by far, the AR-15. This bill does nothing to address the vast majority of rifles in America.

Now don’t get me wrong… we’re VERY HAPPY that they aren’t going after current rifles. We’re just pointing out the absurdity of this ban and how it won’t do what they propose.

No Significant Impact on Mass Public Shootings, Crime
John Lott's Crime Research Prevention Center reminded us in May 2018 that:

A large amount of research has been done on the federal assault weapons ban that was in effect from 1994 to 2004. It has consistently found no statistically significant impact on mass public shootings or any other type of crime.

This holds true even for research funded by the Clinton administration. Criminology professors Chris Koper and Jeff Roth concluded in a 1997 report for the National Institute of Justice, “The evidence is not strong enough for us to conclude that there was any meaningful effect (i.e., that the effect was different from zero).”

Teresa Mull is editor of Gunpowder Magazine. Contact her at teresa@gunpowdermagazine.com.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Gunpowder Magazine.