The “big guns” in Congress want the real big guns off the shelves, according to the new Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 introduced by the Democratic Senate late last month.
Passed in its present form, the bill would prevent the sale, transfer, importation or manufacturing of more than 150 popular military-style assault weapons bought and sold nationwide.
Listed weapons purchased legally before the legislation is enacted would be immune, along with more than 2,200 weapons designated for hunting and sport.
Specific categories listed include semiautomatic rifles or pistols usable in conjunction with fixed or detachable ammunition magazines with a more than 10-round capacity. These weapons are prohibited from having designated military-style features like grenade launchers, rocket launchers, pistol grips, etc.
Grandfathered weapons owned before enactment of the bill would still be subject to new background checks for sale or transfer, high-capacity magazines would still be prohibited as part of the exchange, and owners would be required to adhere to new safety storing standards.
Prohibiting the sale of high-powered rifles is not the primary aim of the ban, according to Vice President Joe Biden, a long tenured advocate of increased gun regulation on Capitol Hill. President Barack Obama has placed Biden in charge of the new regulation effort.
“I’m much less concerned, quite frankly, about what you call an assault weapon ban than I am about magazines and the number of rounds that can be held in a magazine,” Biden said after the first draft of the bill was introduced in the Senate.
High-capacity magazines, like the ones referred to by Biden, were used in the Newtown, Conn., Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that left 20 children and 6 faculty and staff members dead in December.
Following the attack, public outcry for increased gun control has never been higher, even across party lines, prompting Obama to declare the issue one of his top priorities in 2013. Recently the president has embarked on a national speaking tour in support of the cause and to mount up pressure on Congress to act on the bill.
Though originating in the Senate, six of the 55 Democratic majority senators do not support the measure, preventing the party from having the 51 votes they would need to pass.
Even if Democrats come together, they still would not have the 60 votes needed to cloture a guaranteed Republican filibuster, preventing the bill from being put to a vote.
Next, the ban would have to make it through the House, where the Republican majority and moderate Democrats would put up a fight. Both groups count on NRA funding and Second Amendment favoring constituents for re-election.
Even still, the president is not giving in.
“Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote. The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence. They deserve a simple vote,” Obama said in his State of the Union Address two weeks ago.
Despite the controversy an assault weapons ban is nothing new. The Clinton administration passed a similar 10-year ban that expired in 2004. The new ban, if enacted, would be permanent. Some gun experts have said the bill displays a lack of expertise about the nature of weapons listed.
Lawmakers may have to first disarm themselves of the popular prevalence of partisan politics before they can come to any agreement on gun rights and regulations.