Today on Capitol Hill, the Senate judiciary committee began hearings on the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013. Supporters of the bill, including family members of victims killed in the Newtown, Conn., shooting, testified alongside legislative opponents. As the debate continues in Congress and in the media, here are some important details to keep in mind.
1. Under the ban, 157 kinds of assault rifles would be outlawed. Proposed by Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the ban if enacted would prevent the sale, transfer manufacturing and import of more than 150 different automatic and semi-automatic weapons currently available in the U.S. This includes the AR-15 rifle which was used in the Aurora, Colo., shooting that killed 12 people in July 2012.
2. Current assault weapon owners won’t lose their guns. Anyone who owns one of the guns outlawed by the bill and legally obtained it prior to the ban, won’t be required to surrender it. So read that again, second amendment advocates: literally, no one is taking your giant guns away.
3. We’ve had successful legislation against these weapons before. The 1994 Federal Assault Weapons, though unfortunately rife with loopholes and imperfections, did stem the availability of guns with magazines that could carry more than 10 bullets. As the data from Princeton researcher Sam Wang shows, mass shootings did decrease for all but one year (1999) out of the decade-long ban.
4. Unfortunately, that ban expired. Although President George W. Bush campaigned on a promise to extend the lifetime of the 10-year ban on assault rifles, he never did, and in 2004 the ban was allowed to expire.
5. Support for limiting assault weapons is at an all-time high. According to a poll by ABC News/The Washington Post, 65 percent of Americans are in favor of cracking down on high-capacity magazines.
6. The ban is strongly supported by the law enforcement community. At the Senate hearings, Chief Edward Flynn of the Milwaukee Police Department spoke about his experience with this class of weapon:
I’ve been a police officer for over 40 years. Among the most difficult challenges I continue to face is the firearms violence exacerbated by high-capacity magazines and assault weapons. These weapons are designed for combat.
Flynn went on to say that in under three years, seven of his officers have been shot with assault rifles or semiautomatic pistols.
7. Being for guns and against assault weapons are not mutually exclusive concepts. A recent poll by Johns Hopkins University revealed that a strong majority — 70 percent — of NRA members are in favor of limits on military-style semi-automatic weapons. As Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., says, “Progun people should not be afraid to have this conversation.”
Despite support for the bill by the general public, the Assault Weapons Ban faces an uphill battle in Congress and seems unlikely to pass the Senate.
Tune in today for host Michael Shure’s discussion on gun control in America. With him will be Ryan Reilly of The Huffington Post. Also inside “The War Room” will be Julian Bond, former head of the NAACP, political analyst Christine Pelosi, New York Daily News reporter James Warren and political journalist Joe Williams.