AR-15 & Assault Weapons: Did You Know?

February 19, 2018

Public calls to action for our Congress to ban ‘semiautomatic assault weapons’ (a.k.a. ’semiautomatic military style weapons’) are nothing new.

Way back in 1989, a known criminal bearing a Chinese-made AK-47 rifle shot and killed five schoolchildren and wounded 32 others on the grounds of an elementary school in Stockton, CA.  Following this incident, President George H. W. Bush signed an executive order (the Semi-Automatic Assault Rifle Ban) banning importation of assault weapons.

Several other massacres occurred in following years.  In October 1991, an unemployed drifter who had been discharged for cause from the U.S. Merchant Marine drove his pickup truck through the window at a cafeteria in Killeen, TX.  He jumped out with 2 semi-automatic pistols with high capacity magazines, opened fire, shot and killed 23 people, and wounded 27 others.  After several years of political posturing, the Texas State Rifle Association convinced legislators to follow the ‘good guy with a gun’ model, and in 1995, then Texas Governor George W. Bush signed a concealed carry law, opening Texas up to thousands of armed citizens walking the streets.

An incident on July 1, 1993 in San Francisco is often cited as the tipping point for introduction of legislation by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) intended to respond to public concerns about mass shootings by restricting firearms that met the criteria for what it defined as a “semiautomatic assault weapon”, as well as magazines that met the criteria for what it defined as a “large capacity ammunition feeding device”.

In the San Francisco massacre, the shooter – wielding modified semiautomatic pistols equipped with high-capacity magazines — killed eight people and wounded six.

In November 1993, Feinstein’s proposed legislation passed the U.S. Senate. By the time it worked its way through the legislative process and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton, the NRA and other gun industry advocates managed to get the law watered down, and to include a sunset provision on the proposed ban on ‘assault weapons’ to expire after 10 years.

Titled the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act (a.k.a. Federal Assault Weapons Ban (1994)), it did ban semiautomatics that looked like assault weapons and large capacity ammunition feeding devices. The legislation passed in September 1994 with a sunset provision for the assault weapon ban section. The law expired on September 13, 2004.

That Act prohibited the manufacture, transfer, or possession of “semiautomatic assault weapons” as defined by the Act.  Weapons banned were identified either by specific make or model (including copies or duplicates thereof, in any caliber), or by specific characteristics that slightly varied according to whether the weapon was a pistol, rifle, or shotgun.  The Act also prohibited the transfer and possession of “large capacity ammunition feeding devices”  — defined as “any magazine, belt, drum, feed strip, or similar device manufactured after the date [of the act] that has the capacity of, or that can be readily restored or converted to accept, more than 10 rounds of ammunition”.

My theory is that if the 1994 law was not allowed to expire, most – if not all – of the recent mass shootings in the U.S. would never have occurred.  Best I can tell, each and every perpetrator involved in one of these massacres has had a seriously aberrant personality, mental illness or other anti-social or delusional characteristics.

Just imagine if there were no ‘Rambo-style’ weapons available for these folks to acquire – legally or on the black market.  Perhaps they would have taken out their frustrations and aggression through a different channel?

Let’s double down and demand that Congress update, strengthen and reauthorize the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban, this time with no sunset provision.

Dianne Feinstein:  We are counting on you!

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