Lawmakers introduce beefed-up assault weapons ban
WASHINGTON (AFP) – US Senator Dianne Feinstein on Thursday introduced a toughened version of her assault weapons ban that expired in 2004, but she and other Democrats acknowledged an “uphill” battle to get it passed.
The new legislation, coming just six weeks after the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut that left 20 children and six adults dead, aims to ban military-style semi-automatic weapons as well as magazines and other feeding devices that accept more than 10 rounds.
It would ban 157 specific firearms outright, including the AR-15 Bushmaster used in the Newtown shooting, while protecting guns used by hunters and sportsmen by excluding 2,258 models of “legitimate” hunting and sporting rifles.
“We have had enough,” Feinstein said at an event where she was accompanied by several senators and representatives – all Democrats – as well as a collection of law enforcement officials.
“These weapons do not belong on the streets of our towns, our cities, in our schools, in our malls, in our workplaces, in our movie theaters.
The US gun lobby, led by the powerful National Rifle Association, has repeatedly said it is staunchly opposed to any legislation that would restrict gun rights.
Lawmakers eager to impose stronger gun control face a fight among Republicans in Congress who say they see any tightening of gun laws as an infringement of the right to bear arms as enshrined in the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution.
Feinstein insisted her bill would not erode “the right of a citizen to legally possess a weapon” or take weapons away from law-abiding gun owners.
“The purpose is to dry up the supply of these weapons over time,” she said.
The bill would also importantly reduce the number of military features on an acceptable civilian rifle – such as a pistol grip, folding or detachable stock, or barrel shroud - from two to one.
“It is an updated, smarter and more robust version of the assault weapons ban” of 1994,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, who worked on the original ban as a congressman.
It would be a Herculean challenge to pass such contentious legislation through the bitterly divided Senate as well as the Republican-held House of Representatives.