On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held its first hearing on Sen. Dianne Feinstein controversial ban on assault weapons.
Feinstein, who also authored the 1994 AWB, opened the hearing by discussing the details in her latest version.
“Let me now describe the key features of our new legislation, the ‘Assault Weapons Ban of 2013,’” said the California Democrat. “The bill bans the sale, transfer, importation, and manufacturing of 157 specifically named semiautomatic assault weapons.”
“It also bans any other assault weapon, which is defined as a semiautomatic weapon that can accept a detachable magazine and has one military characteristic, such as a pistol grip, barrel shroud, or folding stock,” she continued.
As noted in a previous Guns.com article, under the ’94 ban a firearm had to have two scary-looking cosmetic features before it qualified as an ‘assault’ weapon, in the 2.0 version, it only needs one. This significantly broadens the definition of what a so-called ‘assault’ weapon is, making the scope of this bill much larger than its predecessor.
“These features were developed for military weapons to make them more effective and efficient at killing people in close-combat situations,” said Feinstein.
Feinstein then referenced several of the mass shootings over recent years the involved either an ‘assault’ weapon or a ‘high’ capacity magazine (her bill also includes a ban on magazines that hold more than 10 rounds).
“The one common thread running through these mass shootings in recent years— from Aurora, Colorado, to Tucson, Arizona, to Blacksburg, Virginia — is that the gunman used a military-style, semiautomatic assault weapon or large-capacity ammunition magazine to commit the unspeakable horror,” Feinstein said.
To hammer this point home, Feinstein invited family members of those who were slain in several of those aforementioned tragedies to offer testimony in support of the AWB, including the father of a boy who was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
“It is hard for me to be here today to talk about my deceased son but I have to,” Neil Heslin said fighting back tears as he spoke about his son Jesse. “I am his voice. I am not here for the sympathy or a pat on the back. There’s many people that stayed in the town of Newtown. I am here to speak up for my son.”
There’s no doubt that Heslin’s speech was emotionally impactful. Every lawmaker seemed to agree that the country needs to do more to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally defective, but not everyone believed that a new AWB was the right way to go about accomplishing that goal.
Former Rep. Sandy Adams argued that now was not the time for “feel-good legislation so you can say you did something.”
“Taking guns from law-abiding citizens while leaving them defenseless against violent criminals, who by their very definition do not abide by the law, is not the answer and it is definitely not the right thing to do,” said the Florida Republican in her prepared remarks.
Sen. Chuck Grassley echoed Adams’ thoughts. Grassley, a ranking member on the committee, said, “There are vast numbers of gun control laws in our country. Criminals do not obey them but law-abiding citizens do.”
“That tilts the scales in favor of criminals who use guns,” Grassley added. “If gun control laws were effective in reducing crime, they would have produced lower crime by now.”
Indeed. These simple, but fact-based conclusions are hard to argue. Throughout the hearing, there were other cogent points brought up by pro-gun lawmakers, such as the fact that less than 4 percent of all gun-related homicides nationwide are committed with a rifle of any make or model.
Given all the evidence that undermines the legitimacy and effectiveness of Feinstein’s AWB, she acknowledged that getting this bill through Congress is going to be difficult.
“It’s an uphill climb,” she told CNN. Though, she believes that “with a little bit of help from the people of America” victory is possible.