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Sunday, February 5th, 2023

Democrats in renewed Senate push for Assault Weapons Ban following California shootings

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This week, U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CN), and Chris Murphy (D-CN) introduced two bills to increase protections against guns nationwide following another series of mass shootings in California.

Respectively, the bills proposed were the Assault Weapons Ban and the Age 21 Act. Each was joined by a host of Democratic supporters, though with no Republican backing, they are unlikely to pass Congress. In the case of the Assault Weapons Ban, the bill would bar the sale, transfer, manufacture, and importation of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and ammo-feeding devices. The Age 21 Act would raise the minimum purchase age for assault weapons from 18 to 21, bringing them in line with handgun requirements.

“We were tragically reminded this weekend of the deadly nature of assault weapons when a shooter used one to kill 11 people and injure nine more at a Lunar New Year celebration in California,” Feinstein said. “The constant stream of mass shootings have one common thread: they almost all involve assault weapons. It’s because these weapons were designed to kill as many people as quickly as possible. They have no business in our communities or schools. It’s time we stand up to the gun lobby and remove these weapons of war from our streets, or at the very least keep them out of the hands of young people.”

If passed, the Assault Weapons Ban would not seek to take away existing weapons or magazines from owners but would ban transactions involving 205 specifically designated weapons and any magazines/feeding devices that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Background checks would become the norm for any future sales, trades, or gifting of assault weapons covered by the bill. Further, bump-fire stocks and other devices used to give semi-automatic weapons full automatic capabilities would be banned outright.

Exemptions would be provided for more than 2,200 guns for hunting, household defense, or recreational use, and a grandfather clause would be provided to all lawfully owned firearms possessed at the date of enactment.

“As used by the Lunar New Year’s shooter only days ago in Monterey Park, assault weapons have only one practical purpose – to kill or injure human beings,” Blumenthal said. “These military-style combat weapons – built for the battlefield and designed to maximize death and destruction – have brought bloodshed and carnage to our streets and continue to be the weapon of choice in countless mass shootings. Guns don’t respect state boundaries, which is why we need a national solution to restricting the ownership and use of assault weapons. Now is the time to honor gun violence victims and survivors with this common sense action.”

California was hit over the weekend by back-to-back mass shootings in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay. In the first, a 72-year-old man gunned down patrons at a Lunar New Year event, killing 11 people and wounding nine more before killing himself. Two days later, another gunman opened fire on groups of farm workers at two separate locations, killing seven before turning himself in.

In support of these legislative pushes, U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) will introduce a companion version of the Assault Weapons Ban in the House.