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A Vote Smart Guide to the Assault Weapons Ban

31 January 2013

Oren Samet-Marram is a Research and VoteEasy Associate here at Project Vote Smart.  A graduate of Princeton University, he joined the organization in 2012. 

Recently, something called an “assault weapons ban” has been making major news. While you've likely heard of it, you might still have a few questions about the issue and its history. The new “assault weapons ban” is a proposal from some national politicians aimed at curbing gun violence. It can be hard to understand the issue itself with all of the political posturing, so if you want to know more, check out  We're sorting through the partisan rhetoric and getting you the facts. Our resources, include public statements, legislation summaries, endorsements, and provide a great overview. Here's a quick summary of the issue, including links to relevant info on our site:

Shortly after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) pledged to introduce legislation similar to the '94 Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which expired in 2004. See what she had to say on December 30th. Feinstein was the sponsor of the original amendment instituting a ten-year ban on such firearms back in 1994. Read a summary of that legislation here.

President Obama endorsed the idea early last week by including it in his recommendations for addressing gun violence. To see the full recommendations, including his specific endorsement of a new “assault weapons ban,” check out his remarks from January 16th. The endorsement comes despite the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence giving President Obama an "F" on the section of their 2009 "Gun Violence Prevention Score Card" relating to support for a new “assault weapons ban.”

This week, Senator Feinstein officially introduced a bill to ban over 150 different types of weapons. Check it out here, and keep your eye out for our Key Votes summary coming soon!

Now, not every Senator is supportive of the proposal. Senator Daniel Coats (R-IN) had this to say on the day President Obama unveiled his proposals. Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) expressed similar sentiments – check it out.

Interest groups have a stake as well. See how the National Rifle Association and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence scored current members of the Senate who might have an opportunity to vote on Senator Feinstein's legislation: NRA Ratings, Brady Campaign Ratings.

Wondering where your Senators stand on gun-related issues like this one? Search our Issue Positions records here and find out! We have both official candidate responses to our Political Courage Test as well as positions researched by Vote Smart staff.

And remember, there's tons more info just like this at Check it out! 


Related tags: blog, key-votes


Bob Hendrick says...

Posted on February 3, 2013 @ 8:24 p.m.

If the politicians and/or gun control advocates really wanted to curb this violence, all they need do to keep assault weapons and high capacity magazines out of the hands of nutbags or any other potential person with mass shootings on the mind--make it illegal for gun manufacturers to sell them to anyone but the military or law enforcement; and give current owners of these weapons and their high capacity magazines, a reasonable window to turn them in or face prosecution.

Miles says...

Posted on February 10, 2013 @ 1:10 p.m.

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karen egert says...

Posted on February 10, 2013 @ 1:43 p.m.

We are a moderate district here in NJ and are calling out our Congressman , Leonard Lance, as he voted in favor of HR 822 -- conceal and carry reciprocity. My understanding of the bill is that someone from Texas who has a permit to carry a gun from their state can override NJ laws and carry it here , even though we have strict laws against getting permits to carry guns. Can you tell me if this accurate? Our Congressman is very sly . People were shocked here.

Anthony says...

Posted on February 10, 2013 @ 3:34 p.m.

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Posted on February 12, 2013 @ 10:48 p.m.

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Aristophanes says...

Posted on February 12, 2013 @ 11:51 p.m.

In spite of evidence that NRA money buys and threats scare up fewer electorate votes than they did in 1994, the odds are against passage of Feinstein's bill at least in the House. Perhaps both sides can agree on legislation to improve enforcement of current regulatory constraints.

Dawn says...

Posted on February 13, 2013 @ 2:10 a.m.

I have an excellent story and video posted on our new interactive, online magazine that features a woman who is very adept with high-powered rifles. Read her intriguing story, which includes her point-of-view on the issue, and view her video at

Bruce Gardner says...

Posted on February 13, 2013 @ 4:31 a.m.

It's good to have so much information available by links from one site, so a person can read as much as he/she likes, without rehashing what has already been read.

My opinions - the most important recommendation that has been made is universal registration. If every motor vehicle in the country can be registered, so can every firearm. It is true that people who are convinced that registration is the first step in confiscation will object, but nothing will convince them otherwise, and their ignorant paranoia should not stand in the way of sensible planning for the future.

No ban is going to work, whether magazines, particular kinds or calibers of guns, or any other form of prohibition. We should have learned that from failed attempts to ban alcohol, and are perhaps learning it from our failed War on Drugs. I'm not a fan of "bumper sticker" philosophy, but I do recommend one example - the one that says "If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns". Anyone who has ever been bullied knows that it doesn't take two to make a fight, and if you are unable to protect yourself, you are at the mercy of someone who means to do you harm.

Ammunition is a better target for restriction than "assault weapons (that term is a misnomer!)" or multi-round magazines. The extent of the carnage to children in Connecticut was due to the extremely damaging form of bullets used, rather than the number fired in a short time.

Finally, the second amendment - it says the right to keep and bear arms shall not be abridged, which was an acknowledgement of a right which already existed (a right can't be abridged unless it already exists). The well-regulated militia mentioned in the amendment referred to a volunteer force using personally-owned muskets and flintlocks, and was indeed intended to guard against government tyranny - the memory of George III was still strong. They didn't know about the sophisticated weapons available today, but neither did they know about the automobile, the cellphone, or the atomic bomb. We have to apply the wisdom of the past to the reality of today.

Lois Garcia says...

Posted on February 14, 2013 @ 2:57 a.m.

Driving a car is not a right protected by the Constitution. Registering firearms is the first step in confiscation, as borne out by the history of Adolf Hitler, Fidel Castro, and other dictators. The wisdom of the past is alive and well in all those who seek to restrict governmental powers over the citizenry. The wisdom of the past is alive and well in all those who support the right and responsibilities of individuals in a free country.

The NRA buys-and-threats comment is deliberately emotional. What do the labor unions do? What do teacher's associations do? What do businesses do? They all contribute money to the people they like. This is how our big government machine works today. It is all about money, so self-righteousness from anyone in any party is laughable.

I am from Newark, NJ. Perhaps people from Texas with concealed carry permits want to retain their Constitutional right to protect themselves and not get killed by the violent criminals and crazy people let out on the streets by a lenient judicial system.

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