The Assault Weapons Ban of 2015 was introduced to the U.S. House on Wednesday with the immediate backing of almost a third of sitting lawmakers in the chamber.
Introduced by Rhode Island Democrat David N. Cicilline, the measure aims to prohibit the sale, transfer, production, and importation of new semi-automatic rifles, handguns, and shotguns capable of holding more than a 10-round magazine or with a single “military-style” feature.
Cicilline contends the Second Amendment is not unlimited and argues the firearms covered by the legislation are the weapons of choice for mass murder.
“Since 2011, the frequency of mass shootings has increased by a factor of three. And according to one study, more than half of all mass shooters used an assault weapon, a gun with a military-style feature, or a high-capacity magazine. The sole purpose of these types of weapons is to kill as many people as quickly as possible,” said Cicilline in a statement.
“It is unconscionable that we continue to allow military-style weapons to be bought and sold while mass shootings are growing more common. This bill is an important first step that will restore some sanity to the way we treat guns in the United States,” he continued.
Cicilline’s proposal, entered as H.R.4269 on Dec. 16, had 123 co-sponsors on its first day. These lawmakers – all Democrats – include 45 from California and New York, both states with their own restrictive local bans on guns classified there as assault weapons.
Under its guidelines, the new measure is more prohibitive than the original 1994 Federal Assault Weapon Ban that expired a decade ago. It would add 157 firearms identified by name to that list’s 660 restricted guns.
Moving past singling out specific firearms, it would also ban semi-auto handguns and rifles with a detachable magazine and only one “military-style feature” such as a pistol grip, telescoping or folding stock, or bayonet mount. The previous ban allowed a single feature but kicked in at the point of two or more. Likewise, detachable magazines capable of holding 10 or more rounds would be prohibited.
Further, the bill in its current form would prohibit semi-auto rifles and handguns with a fixed magazine capable of holding more than 10 rounds as well as semi-auto shotguns of any kind if they had a banned cosmetic feature.
Finally, the legislation includes a provision to close what is termed by gun control advocates as the “Charleston Loophole,” the practice of the current “default to proceed” guidelines that allows federal firearms license holders to transfer a firearm if a required background check does not process within a three day window such as in the case of the gunman who killed 12 clergy and parishioners at the Emanuel AME Church in July.
Cicilline’s bill would see that window extended to 14 days.
The move comes on the heels of several high-profile mass shootings such as in San Bernardino, California and Colorado Springs that have captured headlines nationwide. However, crime statistics provided by the FBI show that homicides involving rifles of all kinds are both low and on the decline. In 2014, rifles accounted for 248 murders, down from 367 in 2010.
“Banning modern sporting rifles which is by far the most popular rifle being sold in America for over a decade and which is owned by over eight million law abiding Americans for lawful purposes like target shooting, home protection and increasingly hunting, will not reduce crime and it certainly won’t stop terrorism,” Lawrence Keane, senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation told Guns.com Thursday.
The measure has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary, but with a 246-188 Republican majority in the body as a whole and election year politics at play, passage is unlikely.