On December 16, Rep. David Cicilline and 123 other Democrat members of the House of Representatives introduced H.R. 4269, the Assault Weapons Ban of 2015, a bill virtually identical to S. 150, introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) in the Senate in 2013.
For the moment, the ban has little chance of passing. Feinstein’s legislation was defeated in 2013, no similar legislation was even considered in the House at that time, and Feinstein’s two attempts to push the ban this year—most recently after the terrorist attack in San Bernardino—failed as well.
However, things could change in 2016. The leading contender for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton, is campaigning on the most anti-gun platform of any candidate in American presidential history. Meanwhile, though the leading candidates for the Republican Party’s nomination are far friendlier to the Second Amendment than Clinton, support has not yet galvanized behind the one who will ultimately be selected to carry the party’s banner going into Election Day.
It is important to note that H.R. 4269, like other federal “assault weapon” bills introduced over the last decade, would not “reinstate” the federal “assault weapon ban” of 1994-2004. Gun control supporters have been using the word “reinstate” to mislead the American people into thinking they are proposing to renew the ban that expired in 2004. However, nothing could be further from the truth.
The 1994 ban allowed manufacturers to produce AR-15s without flash suppressors and one or two other external attachments, and to make similar adjustments to other firearms. As a result, the number of AR-15s made and sold during the 10 years the ban was in effect was a quarter of a million greater than the number produced and sold during the preceding 10 years. Additionally, 50 million magazines capable of holding over 10 rounds were allowed to be imported while the ban was in effect. CBS 60 Minutes reported that the first year of the “ban” was “the best year for the sales of assault weapons ever.”
For these reasons, the Violence Policy Center, which in 1988 urged anti-gun activists to focus on “assault weapons” as a “new topic” to “strengthen the handgun restriction lobby,” described the 1994 ban as a “fictional ban,” “a ban in name only . . . [and a] “charade.”
The new ban proposed in H.R. 4269 is another story. It would prohibit the manufacture of most detachable-magazine semi-automatic rifles, numerous semi-automatic shotguns configured for defensive purposes, any semi-automatic rifle with a fixed magazine over 10 rounds (except for a tubular magazine .22), any semi-automatic pistol like the HK SP-89, any semi-automatic pistol with a fixed magazine over 10 rounds, revolving cylinder shotguns, various other named and described firearms, frames and receivers of banned guns, and ammunition magazines over 10 rounds, except those for tubular .22 rimfire rifles.
Two weeks ago, an ABC News/Washington Post poll found that the American people oppose an “assault weapon” ban by a 53%-45% margin. Presumably, if the American people knew the vast differences between the 1994 ban and the one currently being proposed, that margin would widen considerably.