Dianne Feinstein's Assault Weapons Ban Unlikely to Pass


Senator Dianne Feinstein's (D-Calif.) new assault weapons ban (AWB) legislation is slated to be presented in the Senate on January 22, and is likely to face harsh criticism and opposition. This version of the AWB is the same type of legislation that was passed in 1994, albeit much more aggressive, as it covers more types of firearms and casts a wider net in order to qualify most semiautomatic firearms as "assault weapons." The legislation also seeks to create a national registry of all newly categorized assault weapons to be created and maintained by the BATFE, which also faces harsh opposition.

Recent Gallup polls show that a majority of Americans (51%) still oppose an AWB, while 44% are for it. However, 92% of Americans support requiring background checks for buyers at gun shows.

The current AWB being proposed also must face a harsher congressional environment than the previous ban. Republicans, who are typically against gun control legislation, have control of the House this time around, and Democrats only have a slight majority in the senate. There are also signs of weakening support in Congress as "red state" Democrats are coming out to voice opposition to the AWB, such as Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.).

Other Democratic leaders have not voiced strong support for an the new AWB either. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has coined the term "gun violence prevention" in lieu of the term "gun control" for instance. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who is endorsed by the NRA and has a history of being against gun control measures, has stopped short of supporting an the AWB when asked directly.

Other Democratic legislators are more hopeful that other legislation will pass through Congress, such as universal background checks, restrictions on ammunition sales, and a high capacity magazine ban.

In addition, signs of waning support for such bans is being seen in some state legislatures across the country. In Illinois, state lawmakers failed to bring a similar legislation to a vote due to public pressure.

On Wednesday, Vice President Biden, who is heading a task force gun violence task force, stated that an executive order could be used by the president to address gun violence. This move could be interpreted as a lack of confidence in Congress to pass meaningful gun legislation.

While most Americans are in favor of stronger enforcement of current laws and common-sense measures such as requiring background checks for all gun purchases, Feinstein's AWB still faces strong public opposition, as well as a lack of support and confidence from other legislators.