President Biden wants Congress to enact a federal ban on “assault weapons and high-capacity magazines,” much like the one he helped pass in 1994.
Biden said on Twitter Wednesday night that he was “determined” to see through such a ban and called on Congress to “finish the job.”
“I am determined to ban assault weapons and large magazines again,” the president wrote. “I led that fight in 1994. There have been mass shootings over the decade it’s been around.”
He added: “Let’s finish the job and ban assault weapons.”
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President Biden delivers remarks at the Boys and Girls Club of 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 “semi-automatic assault weapons” (SAWs) and “large-capacity ammunition feeders” (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 mostly used in reference to the AR-15 — following several mass shootings this year.
His most recent call to action followed a visit to the scene of a mass shooting at a dance studio in Monterey Park, California, that left 11 people dead in January. Investigators said the shooter, who later died by suicide, was carrying a modified 9-millimeter MAC-10 — generally illegal under state law, the 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 on Tuesday while visiting the Los Angeles suburbs. “I am determined to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.”
The president also signed an executive order to tighten background checks for gun buying.
“Let’s be clear, none of this relieves Congress of the responsibility to act to pass universal background checks, to lift gun manufacturers’ immunity from liability,” Biden said at the time.
Biden’s push for the gun ban has remained controversial.
Colt M4 Carbine and AR-15 style rifles are on display at the National Rifle Association (NRA) annual meeting at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston on May 28, 2022. (PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images, File)
A point of contention with the 1994 Act and current efforts is that the 1994 Act included specific makes and models of the guns it sought to ban, including the Colt AR-15, among others, and different specifications for what constitutes a “semi-automatic assault weapon” qualified. .”
By law, a rifle was considered a semi-automatic assault weapon (SAW) if it could accept a detachable magazine and additionally contained at least two of the following features: “(1) a folding/telescoping stock; (2) a protruding pistol grip; ( 3) a bayonet mount; (4) a muzzle flash suppressor or threaded barrel capable of accepting such a device; or (5) a grenade launcher.
Similar definitions in the 1994 ban were extended to pistols and shotguns. And the law was upheld by federal courts.
Biden has not used this particular language, at least not publicly.
Biden’s focus on guns and the AR-15 also came as the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), which operates under the Department of Justice, reported that most mass shootings did not involve such weapons.
“Most individuals involved in mass shootings used small arms (77.2%) and 25.1% used assault rifles in the commission of their crimes,” NIJ reported in February 2022.
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Also, according to NIJ, most of the guns used in the shootings were purchased legally.
“Of the known cases of mass shootings (32.5% of cases could not be confirmed), 77% of those involved in mass shootings purchased at least some of their weapons legally, while illegal purchases were made by 13% of those who committed mass shootings,” NIJ reported. “In cases of K-12 school shootings, more than 80% of individuals involved in shootings stole guns from family members.”
In Biden’s tweet on Wednesday, he also blamed Republican lawmakers for allowing the 1994 law to lapse, saying “mass shootings tripled” as a result.
According to data from the Congressional Research Service (CRS), a nonpartisan group that provides extensively researched reports to lawmakers so they can set federal policy, the usage of “mass shootings” can vary widely depending on the definition used.
Following the December 14, 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut, Congress defined “mass homicides” 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 “a minimum of four victims are shot, injured or killed.”
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Other agencies that collect data on mass murder incidents include all weapon attacks, not just firearms, and may include setting an area, knife or vehicle on fire. These definitions generally include gang-related crime incidents.
Between 1997 and 2020, CRS identified 729 quadruple or more homicides or an average of 30 per year.
“In any given year, between two-thirds and three-quarters of all criminal homicides in the United States are committed with firearms. About half of those homicides are committed with handguns,” according to a CRS report updated Aug. 4. , 2022.
The impact of the 1994 law on violent crime as a whole has also been much debated.
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 investigate its impact on violent crimes and gather information based on trace data collected from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives National Tracing Center (ATF NTC ). Trace data includes “tracing the supply chain for select firearms (by make and model) recovered by law enforcement that are often, but not always, crime weapons.”
Proponents of the law said this data could be accurately used to determine which guns were used in mass shootings and other crimes, while critics said the measure was unreliable to provide an accurate figure on gun statistics.
A report on the ban on semi-automatic assault weapons found: “Researchers estimate that the ban may have contributed to a 6.7% decrease in overall gun homicides, or a 27% decrease in assault weapon-related and high-capacity-related crimes, between 1994 and 1995.”
While the ATF has stepped up its methods of collecting trace data, CRS reported in 1992 that “most firearms that are traced have not been used to commit violent crimes, and most firearms used to commit violent crimes are undetected. “
CRS researcher William J. Krouse, also a homeland security and crime policy specialist, eventually concluded the general ambiguity in defining an “assault weapon” and in the data collection methodology of why guns are used leading to crimes across the country lead to ambiguity. Results.
“Until more definitive data is available, Congress faces the exercise of its collective value judgment on the lethality and relative dangers these firearms pose to society versus the reduction of the freedom to bear arms set forth in the Constitution,” it wrote. he.
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In the wake of mass shootings across the country, congressional Republicans have repeatedly called for greater attention to mental health and more access to health 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 “had a previous criminal record (64.5%) and a history of violence (62.8%), including domestic violence (27.9%).”
The report added: “Individuals who have committed public mass shootings in the U.S. over the past half-century usually suffered from personal trauma prior to their shootings, were almost always in a crisis situation at the time, and in most cases were involved in to leak.” their plans before they open fire.”
President Biden has also called on Congress to pass “red flag” laws to allow citizens to report family members or others in their communities who they suspect may be committing mass murder.
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“So that more parents, teachers and counselors know how to signal in court that someone is exhibiting violent tendencies, or experiencing suicidal thoughts that make them a danger to themselves and others,” Biden said Tuesday.
Any action Biden hopes Congress will take faces an uphill battle as Republicans and Democrats each control one chamber.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.