Biden doubles down on ‘assault weapons’ ban and says he’ll see through process like ‘1994’

President Biden wants Congress to enact a federal ban on “assault weapons and high-capacity magazines,” just like the one he helped pass in 1994.

Biden said on Twitter Wednesday night that he was “determined” to enforce such a ban and urged Congress to “get the job done.”

“I am determined to once again ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines,” the President wrote. “I led that fight in 1994.

He added, “Let’s finish the job and ban assault weapons.”


President Biden delivers a speech at the Boys and Girls Club of the West San Gabriel Valley on March 14, 2023 in Monterey Park, California. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Biden’s tweet referenced the 1994 law that issued a 10-year ban on the manufacture, transfer or possession of “assault semi-automatic weapons” (SAWs) and large capacity ammunition feeding devices (LCAFD). It formally expired on September 13, 2004.

Biden has renewed his call for a ban on “assault weapons” — an often vague term he and other Democrats have used primarily in reference to the AR-15 — following multiple mass shootings this year.

His latest call to action followed a visit to the area of ​​a mass shooting at a dance studio in Monterey Park, California, where 11 people were killed in January. Investigators said the shooter, who later died by suicide, was carrying a modified 9-millimeter MAC-10 — generally illegal under state law, which Los Angeles Times reported – and they also found a Norinco 7.62×25 semi-automatic pistol near his body.

“Do something. Do something big,” Biden urged Congress Tuesday while visiting the Los Angeles suburban community. “I am determined to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.”

The President also signed an executive order aimed at tightening background checks on gun purchases.

“Let’s be clear, none of this relieves Congress of the responsibility to pass universal background checks to remove gunmakers’ immunity from liability,” Biden said at the time.

Biden’s push for a gun ban remains controversial.

Colt M4 Carbine and AR-15 rifles are on display during the National Rifle Association (NRA) Annual Meeting on May 28, 2022 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston.

Colt M4 Carbine and AR-15 rifles are on display during the National Rifle Association (NRA) Annual Meeting on May 28, 2022 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. (PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images, file)

One issue with the 1994 Act and current efforts is that the 1994 Act included certain makes and models of the weapons it sought to ban, including the Colt AR-15, among others, and other specifications for what are considered “semi-automatic assault weapons.” “ was qualified .”

According to the law, a rifle was considered a semi-automatic assault weapon (SAW) if it could accept a detachable magazine and had at least two of the following additional features: “(1) a folding/telescopic stock; (2) a protruding pistol grip; (3) a bayonet mount; (4) a muzzle flash suppressor or threaded barrel capable of receiving such a device; or (5) a grenade launcher.

Similar definitions in the 1994 ban were extended to include pistols and shotguns. And the law has been upheld by federal courts.

Biden has not used that specific language, at least not publicly.

Biden’s focus on rifles and the AR-15 also came as the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), under the Justice Department, reported that most mass shootings did not involve such weapons.

“Most people involved in mass shootings used handguns (77.2%) and 25.1% used assault rifles in the commission of their crimes.” NIJ reports in February 2022.


Also, according to the NIJ, most of the guns used in the shootings were legally purchased.

“Of known cases of mass shootings (32.5% of cases could not be confirmed), 77% of those involved in mass shootings bought at least some of their weapons legally, while 13% of those who committed mass shootings made illegal purchases have. ‘ reported NIJ. “In cases involving K-12 school shootings, over 80% of those involved in shootings have stolen guns from family members.”

In Biden’s tweet Wednesday, he also accused the Republican lawmakers of phasing out the 1994 law, saying mass shootings had “trebled” as a result.

According to data from the Congressional Research Service (CRS), a bipartisan group that provides lawmakers with extensively researched reports so they can enact federal policy, the use of “mass shooting” can vary widely depending on the definition used.

After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut on December 14, 2012, Congress defined “mass murder” as “three or more homicides in a single incident.” Gun Violence Archive, an independent data collection and research group that records gun violence, defines a “mass shooting” as a shooting incident in which “at least four victims are shot dead, either injured or killed.”


Other agencies that collect data on mass killings include all weapon attacks, not just firearms, and may include setting fire to an area, knife, or vehicle. These definitions generally include gang-related criminal incidents.

Between 1997 and 2020, CRS identified 729 quadruple or larger homicide incidents, or an average of 30 per year.

“Each year, between two-thirds and three-fourths of all criminal homicides in the United States are committed with firearms. About half of these homicides are committed with handguns,” according to a CRS report updated on August 4, 2022.

The impact of the 1994 Act on violent crime as a whole was also discussed at length.

President Biden speaks while attending the 10th annual national vigil for all victims of gun violence at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Washington, DC, USA, on Wednesday, December 7, 2022.

President Biden speaks while attending the 10th annual national vigil for all victims of gun violence at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Washington, DC, USA, on Wednesday, December 7, 2022. (Chris Kleponis/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Images, file)

The 1994 ban also gave the Justice Department 18 months to study its impact on violent crime and compile information based on trace data collected by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives National Tracing Center (ATF NTC). The trail data included “chasing the retail chain of select firearms (by make and model) seized by law enforcement agencies, which are often, but not always, criminal weapons.”

Supporters of the law said this data could be used accurately to determine which guns were used in mass shootings and other crimes, while critics said the measure was unreliable for providing an accurate figure on gun statistics.

A report on the ban on semi-automatic assault weapons stated: “Researchers estimated that between 1994 and 1995 the ban may have resulted in a 6.7% reduction in the total number of firearm homicides or a decrease in assault weapon/large feeding device-related crime contributed 27%. “

While the ATF has strengthened its methods of collecting evidence data, CRS reported in 1992 that “Most firearms that have been tracked were not used in the commission of violent crimes, and most firearms that have been used in the commission of violent crimes are not traced “.

Finally, CRS researcher William J. Krouse, also a specialist in homeland security and crime policy, concluded that the general ambiguity surrounding the definition of an “assault weapon” and the methodology of collecting data on which crimes involve weapons across the country , leads to no result results.

“Until more definitive data are available, Congress stands before exercising its collective value judgment on the lethality and relative dangers these firearms pose to society versus the limitations on freedom to bear arms as enshrined in the Constitution,” he wrote.


In the wake of mass shootings across the country, Republicans in Congress have repeatedly called for more attention to mental health and for more available care services. They have also called for tougher criminal justice initiatives that would keep criminals and repeat offenders behind bars.

According to the NIJ, most mass shooters are individuals who “have a criminal record (64.5%) and a history of violence (62.8%), including domestic violence (27.9%).”

The report added: “Persons who have committed mass public shootings in the United States over the past half-century have often been plagued by personal trauma prior to their shootings, are almost always in a state of crisis at the time, and in most cases have been involved in leaks.” their plans before they open fire.”

President Biden has also called on Congress to pass “red flag” legislation so citizens can report family members or others in their community who they suspect may be carrying out mass murder.


“By doing so, more parents, teachers and counselors will know how to report to the court that someone is showing violent tendencies or is having suicidal thoughts that make them a danger to themselves and others,” Biden said Tuesday.

Biden hopes Congress will put up an uphill battle on any action as Republicans and Democrats each control one chamber.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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