Sen. Dianne Feinstein Introduces New Assault Weapon Ban

Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-California, introduced major federal gun control legislation on Thursday, seeking to ban the sale, manufacture, transfer and importation of the military-style weapons used in recent mass killings. The bill would let current owners of assault weapons keep their guns, but require they be registered with authorities.

The proposal is similar to gun control measures that have been passed by Congress before—notably the 1994 assault weapon law that was signed by President Bill Clinton but expired after 10 years—and an earlier assault weapon ban passed by the Congress in a 1989 crime bill that was veteod by then-President George Herbert Walker Bush.

"Our weak gun laws allow these mass killings to be carried out again and again and again," Feinstein said, standing with Democrats from both chambers who support gun control and Philadelphia Police Chief Charles Ramsey.

The National Rifle Association was quick to criticize the proposal, calling it "disappointing but not surprising" and saying Feinstein was "focused on curtailing the Constitution instead of prosecuting criminals or fixing our broken mental health system.”

The Calidfornia senator had been working on the proposal for several weeks and has predicted a hard poltical fight.

“I have every sense that it is an uphill road; it was in the past,” Feinstein recently told PBS Newshour, explaining the legislation she was drafting. “It’s really just one class of gun: the assault weapon. The assault weapon was developed for military purposes: to kill in close combat. And it doesn’t belong in the streets of our cities. And it doesn’t belong where it can be picked up easily by a grievance killer.”

The 1994 law was seen over time as being ineffective because it was not specific enough in defining which guns were being banned. Fully automatic weapons, or machine guns, have been banned since the 1930s. These can fire hundreds of bullets without stopping. Semi-automatic weapons fire one bullet at a time, though with great speed, and can be fed by magazines holding up to several dozen bullets or more.

“What we are trying to do is ban the sale, the manufacture, the transfer, the importation of assault weapons, and it gets quite technical,” she said, and “grandfather [or allow] the weapons that people already have, [but] subject those weapons either to licensing or to a trigger lock, and spell out those grandfathered weapons, which will be over 900 in the bill. So nobody can say, ‘Oh we took their hunting weapon away.’”   

The assault weapons proposal would ban 120 weapons by actual name and then weapons by physical characteristics, Feinstein said. The bill comes after December’s massacre at a public grade school in Newtown, Connecticut, killing more than two dozen students and teachers. Feinstein said that shooting demanded new gun controls.

“I don’t see how Americans can want a situation where a 20-year-old gets a gun from his mother, kills his mother, goes into a school, shoots his way through the glass, goes in, and puts three to 11 bullets in six-year-olds, 20 of them,” she said. “Now if you just do an average of five bullets, six bullets [per dead child], that’s 100 bullets. So it is the big clip, drum or strip that is also banned from sale, manufacture, importation, transfer.”

The bill would also ban magazines holding more than 10 bullets. “It is the clip that allows you to have the firepower,” she said.

In her press conference Thursday, Feinstein explained that her gun bill would not allow federal authorities to come to their homes and take their assault weapons. “No weapon is taken from anyone,” she insisted “The purpose of this bill is to dry up the supply of these weapons overtime, therefore there is no sunset on this bill.”

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card


Thanks for your support!

Did you enjoy AlterNet this year? Join us! We're offering AlterNet ad-free for 15% off - just $2 per week. From now until March 15th.