What killed the push for the Assault Weapons Ban?

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the architect of the last bill to ban so-called "assault weapons.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the architect of the last bill to ban so-called “assault weapons.

Following the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, one of the chief legislative goals of the Obama administration, gun-control advocates and many lawmakers in Congress was to re-enact a federal ban on so-called “assault weapons” or as they arbitrarily defined them, any semi-automatic rifle with a detachable magazine that had one or more cosmetic features, i.e. barrel shroud, flash suppressor, bayonet mount, pistol grip, telescoping stock, among others.

But in April 2013, when California Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) came up for a vote the Senate failed to pass it, voting 60-40 against the measure.

Feinstein, a rabid anti-gunner, was greatly dismayed by the defeat of her bill. And it’s clear that the wound still stings because last month, on the 20 year anniversary of the signing of the Clinton-era AWB, which expired in 2004 and was never renewed, Feinstein once again expressed her displeasure with the Senate’s failure to support a ban on these widely popular and commonly owned firearms.

“I deeply regret that Congress allowed the ban to expire in 2004. Since then, killings with assault weapons have steadily increased, with more than 500 people killed…I continue to believe we should reinstate the ban on assault weapons. I am encouraged that a number of states have taken action in recent years to keep assault weapons out of their communities,” Feinstein said in a statement.

From her perspective, the “ban worked,” and was responsible for a “6.7 percent decrease in total gun murders, holding all other factors equal.”

Given this evidence, why then have gun-control organizations, other lawmakers and the president pulled back on the push for banning “scary-looking” semi-automatic rifles?

One word: Facts.

See, to put it as diplomatically as one can, Feinstein is talking out her butt when she cites those statistics. Several government studies have shown that the Clinton-Era AWB had no material effect on gun-related crime. But don’t take the word of a pro-gunner, but rather the word of a journalist from Pro-Publica, an independent, non-profit newsroom. In a wonderful article called “Fact-Checking Feinstein on the Assault Weapons Ban,” Pro-Publica journalist Lois Beckett wrote:

“A definitive study of the 1994 law – which prohibited the manufacture and sale of semiautomatic guns with ‘military-style features’ such pistol grips or bayonet mounts as well as magazines holding more than ten rounds of ammunition – found no evidence that it had reduced overall gun crime or made shootings less lethal. ‘We cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence,’ the Department of Justice-funded study concluded in 2004. ‘Should it be renewed, the ban’s effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement.'”

As for the 6.7 percent figure Feinstein quoted, one of the authors of the 1997 study, Dr. Christopher Koper, a criminologist from George Mason University, said that it was derived from a false assumption and that upon cross referencing with a more recent study done in 2004, it became apparent that it wasn’t accurate.

“The weight of evidence that was gathered and analyzed across the two reports suggested that initial drop in the gun murder rate must have been due to other factors besides the assault weapons ban,” Koper told Pro-Publica.

Yeah, so why is she still quoting an erroneous statistic from 1997 that was disproved in 2004?

She could be an agenda-driven ideologue who sees only what she wants to see.

“Obviously there’s no single solution, which is why I support a wide range of policy proposals to bring sense to our firearms laws,” said Feinstein in a statement. “I continue to believe that drying up the supply of military-style assault weapons is an important piece of the puzzle—and the data back this up.”

So, it appears that gun-control activists were left with two options, either they could follow Feinstein’s lead and support a policy measure that doesn’t make logical sense given it’s gross inefficacy or they could pivot away from the AWB and pursue more politically feasible alternatives.

Not surprisingly, many chose the later opting to de-emphasize the AWB while stressing the putative importance of universal background checks, laws regulating the storage of firearms and tougher penalties for straw purchasers and gun traffickers.

“We’ve very much changed our strategy to focus on public safety measures that will save the most lives,” Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, told ProPublica.

Likewise, the Center for American Progress shifted away from advocating openly for an AWB.

“The answer is not that assault weapons aren’t dangerous and people having access to them is a good thing,” said Arkadi Gerney in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “There are other things that we can do to lessen the risks of assault weapons short of banning them. … When you’re making policy, it’s always a mix of what’s going to have a biggest positive impact and what is practical and politically possible,” explained Gerney.

Yet just because gun-control organizations are not aggressively campaigning for a federal AWB does not mean they don’t want one enacted. In fact, many have supported AWBs at the state level, and currently seven states (CA, CT, HI, MA, MD, NJ, NY) and the District of Columbia ban so-called “assault weapons.”

So, at the end of the day the battle over the AWB is far from over. While it may have taken a back seat to other gun-control policies right now, it’s never going to go away for good despite how senseless and constitutionally dubious the ban is. For whatever reason, some people just don’t think you or I should be able to defend ourselves, our families and our property with a semiautomatic rifle that has a detachable magazine and a pistol grip or telescoping stock or barrel shroud, etc.

{ 41 comments… add one }
  • greg January 3, 2015, 10:33 pm

    “…i.e. barrel shroud, flash suppressor…”
    i.e.: “id est”, meaning “that is”, “specifically”, “in other words”.
    Misused in place of e.g. (ergo gratia), meaning “for example”.
    Mr. Blannelberry, your commentary may be insightful and pertinent, but I don’t know. I didn’t read past the first paragraph when your journalistic credibility was so amateurishly strained.

    • loupgarous July 4, 2016, 1:44 pm

      As a former journalist and degreed technical writer, I don’t think Mr, Blannelberry’s misuse of id est for ergo gratia rises to invalidating the points he made. The error was regrettable, but worse errors are made in national journalism every day, most of them going to actual misuse of facts or presenting opinion as fact.

      Given that GunsAmerica doesn’t pretend to do otherwise than advocate for the enumerated Constitutional right to keep and bear arms, and report on how best to exercise that right, it’s pretty well defended from the charge that it presents that advocacy as being unbiased commentary. It’s as biased as I personally am and most of its other readers are in favor of retaining that civil right for most Americans (felons who haven’t discharged their sentences, obviously are exceptions, and those whose psychiatric issues genuinely make them unsafe gun owners). We read GunsAmerica specifically to indulge in reporting which contains that bias, we’re aware it exists, and we consent to it.

      So “greg,” your comment loses almost all of its validity by predicating the value you place on what S.L. Blannelberry has to say on his inadvertent misuse of one Latinate abbreviation for another. I’d say “try The National Review if you want perfect use of Latinisms,” but since William F. Buckley, Jr. died, even they slip now and then,

  • anthony mazziotti January 3, 2015, 8:51 pm

    I THINK SHE SHOULD GO BACK TO MAKING HORROW MOVIES, BECAUSE SHE SCARES THE HELL OUT OF PEOPLE.

  • Winston January 3, 2015, 7:45 pm

    Her ban from 2012 never saw any light, but we’re still stuck with Reagan’s 1985 ban; Bush I’s 1989 ban; and Obama’s 2014 ban. Let’s hear some GOP gripes…

    • loupgarous July 4, 2016, 2:09 pm

      That wasn’t “Reagan’s 1985 ban,” it was the “Firearm Owners’ Protection Act” passed in 1986, which, while it included an entirely illogical ban on sale of “machine guns” made after 1986 to civilians, otherwise fixed a lot more than it broke in Federal gun law. It prevents American gun owners from being arrested for merely driving through a state whose gun laws prohibit weapons they have unloaded and under lock and key. It clarifies the specific people who may not possess firearms instead of leaving that up to Federal regulators.

      It also allowed shipping of ammunition through the Postal Service and some interstate sales of rifles and shotguns, removed the requirement of record-keeping for non-armor piercing ammunition, and restricts the BATFE from requiring an inspection of a Federal Firearms License holder’s business premises more than once a year except to follow up on proven record-keeping violations.

      So yes. it sucks that the Volkmer-McClure Act had to throw the ban on purchase of “new (machine) guns” to the liberals, but in general, that law reduced the BATFE’s legal ability to abuse their power against law-abiding gun owners and dealers.

  • mtman2 January 3, 2015, 6:58 pm

    TED CRUZ threw lots of water on the anti-American queen; embarrassed her into absolute humiliation by going over all the facts in front of the entire senate, w/pictures graphs and expert testimony.
    If you haven’t seen it go to youtube and watch it, very gratifying ~!

  • David January 3, 2015, 5:56 pm

    Personally I think it’s about when the rich manage to steal the rest of the money in the treasury like they did in the 1930s, the rich were being kidnapped in large numbers for ransome, that is the only thing reason they want to take the guns now is they are working on stealing the wealth of all the regular people that is what they fear, we actually standing up for our selves

    • Winston January 3, 2015, 8:01 pm

      Where in the country are Americans taking on the entrenched establishment? Besides minorities demonstrating against the police in Fegurson, NYPD, Oakland, and LA? There is no political opposition in DC to the Deep State federal corruption.

  • a.d. momday January 3, 2015, 3:01 pm

    Feinstein is just another left coast liberal; nothing unusual in the land of fruits and nuts carrying placards. She won’t chair any kind of committee by the end of january. The senate republicians will take her soapbox.

  • BigR January 3, 2015, 2:50 pm

    I can’t stand looking at that ugly face of hers. Pelosi is a close second! They’re both dumb as a rock!

  • RDNK January 3, 2015, 6:01 am

    Piss on that jew skank cunt !

  • Norman October 6, 2014, 9:46 pm

    Feinstein needs to butt out of the gun issue; she has no idea what constitutes a real “assault rifle.” It’s just another attempt by a bleeding heart liberal to decimate the 2nd Amendment; her basic purpose is to disarm all Californians, at which point only the illegals and gangbangers would be armed. She needs to find some common sense somewhere.

  • Charlemagne October 6, 2014, 4:26 pm

    What the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban and the subsequent attempts to renew it did was to supercharge the demand for these weapons. If there were no threat that guns like AR15s and AK47s might be banned a lot of us would be saying “Yeah someday I would like to get an AR or an AK”. But we would not be in any great rush to actually do it. In fact many in this situation might never actually get around to buying a so called “Assault Weapon”. However when it looks as if such guns might be banned people go into overdrive buying that rifle today instead of someday and in many cases buying multiples.

  • Rory Gibbons October 6, 2014, 2:54 pm

    Dianne Feinstein is full of unmitigated crap.

  • Jim October 6, 2014, 2:29 pm

    Di Fi carries a fire arm, why can’t I?

  • D Hicks October 6, 2014, 9:03 am

    No more gun control, gun control is hitting your target.The government works for the people, they live on our tax money, aren’t they working for us? The fact is American’s want to own guns it’s our right to own a firearm.I own firearms because I like them. Beside the number one murder weapon is a CLUB!

    • DC October 6, 2014, 9:36 am

      Hear hear. I agree totally they don’t look at those statistics because they’re true plus more criminals use handguns than so called “scary weapons” and all they’re doing is making it to wer only the criminals have guns criminals don’t care about background checks or magazine capacity they’re gonna do watever they hafta do to get watever they want the only people getting hurt by these new laws are us law abiding citizens

    • Russ October 6, 2014, 4:15 pm

      Dam, I always thought gun control was two to the body and one to the head?

  • Jay October 6, 2014, 8:23 am

    All the lifetime politicians Have to Go!! That is the problem with the USA government! We need people in office that don’t follow the money to the hill but those everyday citizens who have lived in the public and are in touch with everyday living! Politicians live in a bubble world not ours! You want to stop gun violence or any violence in general it easy! Punish the %^%mn criminal in such a manner that no one will commit the crime! Simple fix, swift harsh punishment for all to see, problem solved so that even a dimwit politician can see it! When you know the punishment is coming and won’t be hampered by all the feel goods out there you will reduce crime to a unheard of rate!!

    • Russ October 6, 2014, 3:37 pm

      That’s why there should not be a vote.
      USA should hire for 0 pay, completely vetted patriotic citizens who are the most competent, with the best resumes per duty, for a fixed amount of time.
      But if you have to have a vote, at least recount it to weed out the cheaters.
      They haven’t figured out how to cheat recounts….yet.

  • bill October 6, 2014, 7:40 am

    The death of good boarder patrol agent Brian Terry exposed the Fast N Furious gun running operation. It was designed to manufacture evidence needed for propaganda. Agent Terry did not die in vain. His untimely death denied the anti gun establishment valuable propaganda. While it seems that in the northeast of this great country a terrible tradgedy at a school shooting exploited by the anti constitution party has resulted in the second amendment being stifled down and denied freedom to those unfortunate to live in that area.

  • harold October 6, 2014, 6:48 am

    Feinstein, Peloise and Harry Reid …. they think they OWN the government … well guess what …. The People” put you in office – The People can take you out!!!!

    The People are sick and tired of this mindless rhetoric –

    The People held a Tea Party before … The People could hold another Tea Party again.

    It is time to clean the HILL …..

    • Bob October 6, 2014, 12:03 pm

      Unfortunately, Feinstein and Pelosie are both from San Francisco. The chances of the loons there voting either of them out are slim and none. The only way they’ll ever leave is feet first.

      • Russ October 6, 2014, 3:27 pm

        I’m from CA and guess what?
        WE DON’T F—ING WANT THEM!
        They cheat the vote, that’s how they’re elected.
        Democrats set up in LA & SF. and get all the ileagals and the entitled generation to vote them in with the promise of free “Kool-Aid” .
        So they keep letting them across our boarder and keep the kids stupid with smart phones.
        The news wont tell you about the rest of us natives, or how our guns save millions of lives.
        BTW, Californians have more guns than all the other states combined, and are ready with stockpiles of ammo.
        We got that way from seeing all the crap you guys are not a witness to.
        I could go on and on about it, but why waste my time?
        Fact is the socialist/communist want the coast. (makes it easier to invade) Your states are next.

        • Jeff October 9, 2014, 3:12 pm

          The statements you make are a bit suspect to say the least Russ. We won’t or I won’t even talk about your statement of Californians owning more guns then the rest of the country combined, those “facts” are too easy to dispute.
          But the real facts are Feinstein was voted in and in 2012 set the record for the most popular votes in any U.S. Senate election in history 7.75 million votes. So the numbers don’t add up for a “cheat the vote scenario” She simply didn’t need the Latino votes, take all of the Latino votes out of the election and she still wins. And look who the Rep. Party put up against her! Who did you say? Do you even know with out looking it up? If so you are in the vast minority, Elizabeth Emken is a virtual unknown.
          Also very unfortunately Sen. Feinstein is an enormously powerful Senator. She chairs the Select Committee on Intelligence, serves on the Judiciary Committee, the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security & Citizenship, the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs, the Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology & Homeland Security, the Appropriations Committee, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy & Water Development, the Rules & Administration Committee and finally the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control.

          Also Unfortunate many of her constitutes find her to be a moderate when it comes to guns (believe it!) because she used to CCW and she makes certain people are aware of it along with all of her other “pro-gun” beliefs.

          I personally find her to be the #1 continued threat to bring up more Bills against semi-automatic guns of any and all kinds. But the facts are simple, if you guys want her out of office you’ll have to vote her out, and being the vast majority of you do not vote, and this is just as true in Sen. Feinstein district as it is anywhere else. Because although she may have won by a new record for the Popular Vote, had Non-Voting Pro-Gun Citizens of Sen. Feinstein’s district all voted against her, she would not have stood a prayer. Is it really that simple? YES it is.

          • Russ January 3, 2015, 6:10 pm

            Hey Jeff, where do you live?
            I live in the most populated state in the union = California
            It was a vague statement, backed by common sense that I said we Californians own the most firearms.
            Why wouldn’t we? Having over 11 million more people than Texas (2nd runner up) I ‘ld dispute that fact with you.
            http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_population
            You also assume illegal aliens are part of a countable “Latino” vote, and that no one cheats. That’s very naive.
            http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/05/14/15-states-with-the-highest-share-of-immigrants-in-their-population/
            A lot of the other things your mentioning are falling into what you called my “suspect statements” like democrats promising free stuff to the entitled ones. (I will give you that)
            Anyway, your missing my whole point.
            The vote gets cheated.
            People we don’t want get elected
            Go fact check that.
            If you can’t believe that, it’s your type I speak of when I say “Why waste my time”
            Again, where do you live? I’m thinking, not in California.

        • Peppergun January 3, 2015, 6:21 am

          you have to throw Obama in this click too . How do you think he got back in second time around!

    • Peter Ducharme III January 3, 2015, 9:17 am

      I own a couple of assult rilfes, and i’am not criminal. I love to shoot in my spare time and don’t want someome like these

      people telling me that I can’t.

    • Jim Sparks January 10, 2015, 12:11 am

      I personally believe you’re fantasizing if you’re going depend on the individuals (can’t call’em citizens anymore, they’re outnumbered) who inhabit the giant cereal bowl (contents of a cereal bowl: fruits, nuts & flakes – not entirely, but the majority) which is the state of CA. To do anything constructive about the idiots they continue to reelect. A couple of fine examples, Feinstein & Gov. Moonbeam

    • bill November 14, 2015, 5:40 pm

      Harold some informed people estimate that there are around 7 million gun owners in Kalifornexico. difi is a state wide office holder. if the 7 million gun owners and hunters voted for one candidate running against her she would be out in the next election. this holds true for any of her colleagues that share her views.

  • alex gregis October 6, 2014, 6:44 am

    when is she going to drop dead already,she’s a pain in everybody’s arse!!!

    • TC October 6, 2014, 10:58 am

      Sen. Dianne Feinstein is the devils daughter. Look at her. She does not even look human. She is an evil demon and nothing more.

      • Jim October 6, 2014, 9:23 pm

        Yes, I’m looking it, truly a wretched old witch. Throw some water on it and it would probably melt.
        Ghastly…………..even a drunken sailor would have trouble with this witch.

      • Jim October 6, 2014, 9:27 pm

        Yes, I am looking. Truly a wretched old witch. Ghastly………….even a drunken sailor would have trouble
        cozying up to this old …………………..you name it.

      • ej harb October 8, 2014, 12:48 am

        I honestly think she stays alive by eating a pie with fetus parts baked into it and chanting hail satan 666 times a year.

        sorry about that satan worshippers,my opinion none the less

      • Rebal Without a Cause January 3, 2015, 11:49 am

        You are so right!

      • Grand Duke Henri of Luxeomburgers January 3, 2015, 6:12 pm

        When she came to political prominence in San Francisco, Feinstein was actually a very attractive woman. She came to prominence in during the ‘Dan White’ period. After ex-firefighter Dan White snuck into City Hall and killed Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Mosconi, she was an unremarkable President of the Board of Supervisors, which made her next inline to be mayor. She was subsequently elected to two additional terms. Because of the Moscone/Milk murders, she rode into office with a lot of public support. Which lasted a lot longer than she deserved or should have lasted.

        At that point, she kind of lost effectiveness. It was clear she wasn’t prepared for or able to deal with the responsibilities of being mayor. In my opinion (I lived and worked in SF in that so very long ago time.) she was in over her head as mayor. I do recall that the City started to go down hill, as she did nothing; but that could just be a figment of my imagination. Shortly after the beginning of her second term, I moved overseas.

        Now, as a US Senator, Feinstein is ineffective and is reliant on stunts like the AWB in maintain her presence the public eye.

        Moscone & Milk were good leaders and they were men who had enough moral courage to take important, if unpopular, stands and get things done. Feinstein was just a suit who kept a chair warm; a penny ante political operator, if anything. I was almost speechless when I found out she had been elected as a US Senator from CA. Since then, it has been all downhill for the quality of representation for CA residents in the Senate, and it’s getting worse. The only thing that scares me more than having Feinstein in office is the extreme liberal they will replace her with when she’s gone. (Governor Moonbeam, maybe?)

      • Steve January 9, 2015, 7:41 pm

        Feinestine is a traitor. And should be prosecuted along with anyone that would repeal or attach a Bill of Rights amendment. A firing squad would be fitting! Give it up Diane, you a-hole!

      • DAN November 13, 2015, 9:25 am

        Dianne Feinstein is the Anti Christ!

  • Steve October 6, 2014, 3:02 am

    I live in Hawaii & there is not a AWB here.

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