Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) speaks at press conference on January 24, 2013. House and Senate Democrats where joined by law enforcement officials to introduce the 'Assault Weapons Ban of 2013' legislation to ban assault style weapons and high capacity magazines.
(CBS NEWS) -- Democratic lawmakers were joined by mayors, law enforcement officials
and gun violence victims Thursday to introduce the first significant
piece of gun control legislation to be put to Congress since the
massacre in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 children and six adults dead at
an elementary school: The "Assault Weapons Ban of 2013," which would
ban many so-called assault weapons as well as high-capacity ammunition
"Today we are introducing legislation that
will help end the mass shootings that have devastated countless families
and terrorized communities," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who
said she is "incensed that our weak gun laws allow these mass killings
to be carried out again, and again, and again in this country."
the last several years, the massacres were going on more and more,"
continued Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, whose husband was killed and son was
injured in 1993 when a man opened fire on a commuter train. "And going
through it, I kept saying, 'what's wrong with all of us? How many people
have to be killed before we do something?'"
lawmakers present were the two senators from Connecticut as well as
members of the House representing Newtown and Aurora, Colo., where a
mass shooting took place in a movie theater last July. Victims of gun
violence came to the microphone one by one to discuss loved ones killed
by gunfire and their experiences in mass shootings.
D-N.Y., said she has "watched the slaughter of so many people and I've
met with so many victims over the years, and in Congress nobody wanted
to touch the issue."
bill would reinstate the 1994 assault weapons ban that lapsed in 2004,
though with some tweaks: The 1994 ban, for example, defined an assault
weapon as a gun that had two or more features or cosmetic accessories
such as a pistol grip. The 2013 ban will limit those features to one,
which Feinstein said would make it harder for assault weapons
manufacturers to get around the law. The new bill would also not expire,
as the 1994 bill did after 10 years.
legislation would prohibit 158 specifically named military-style
firearms along with certain semiautomatic weapons; it would also outlaw
ammunition magazines that accept more than 10 rounds. Americans would be
able to keep affected weapons if the weapons were already in their
possession when the bill was enacted, and exemptions would be made for
specific hunting and sporting weapons, as well as antique or disabled
weapons. (The new bill would require a background check for
grandfathered weapons if they are sold or transferred.)
however, these details are not likely not to matter all that much.
That's because there is little chance that the legislation will get
Start with the Senate: Democrats
control 55 out of 100 votes, and barring a
more-significant-than-expected change to the filibuster rule, supporters
of the gun control measure would need all of those votes -- plus five
Republican votes -- to pass the bill. Those votes don't appear to be
there. There is only one Republican in the Senate - Mark Kirk of
Illinois - who supports an assault weapons ban. One Democrat, Sen. Joe
Manchin of West Virginia, told the New York Times of an assault weapons
ban this week, "I'm not there,"
and at least four other Democrats have declined to take a position.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has vacillated on even
holding a vote on an assault weapons ban, presumably out of concern that
the vote could damage vulnerable Democrats ahead of the 2014 election.
odds are even worse in the GOP-led House, where only one Republican,
Peter King of New York, has said he supports an assault weapons ban.
That's fewer than the number of House Republicans who have raised the
prospect of impeaching President Obama over his gun control efforts.
(They are Steve Stockman and Louie Gohmert of Texas and Trey Radel of
Florida.) House Speaker John Boehner, who could choose to simply not
bring the bill up for a vote, said Tuesday that
an assault weapons ban would give people "a false sense of security."
In both chambers, the National Rifle Association has flexed its lobbying
muscle in an effort to keep wavering pro-gun lawmakers from breaking
Mr. Obama called on Congress to pass the
assault weapons and high-capacity magazine ban on Jan. 16, as well as a
requirement for universal background checks for gun sales and other
measures. Citing the horrific Newtown massacre one month earlier, the
president said that "if there's even one thing we can do to reduce this
violence, if there's even one life that can be saved, then we've got an
obligation to try."
The White House opted not to send its
own bill to Capitol Hill after Mr. Obama's announcement; it says it
supports Feinstein's effort and has worked with her office in crafting
the new version. Yet its hopes are likely pinned to what comes next:
There are likely to be at least four pieces of major legislation
introduced on gun control, according to a Democratic source, including a
bill out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which starts hearings on
gun control next week. Reid seemed most optimistic about that measure,
telling reporters, "It may not be everything everyone wants, but I hope
it has stuff that is really important."
If a gun control
measure is going to get through Congress, it would likely combine the
most popular proposals of gun control advocates - including universal
background checks, which is backed by more than nine out of 10 Americans
according to CBS News/New York Times polling - with moves to improve
mental health screenings, which has been the focus of some Republicans.
(Those who are following the debate closely would consider a ban on
high-capacity magazines, backed by 63 percent of Americans, perhaps the
biggest possible victory for gun control advocates.) With more than half
of Americans saying they support an assault weapons ban, however,
backers of the bill introduced today aren't giving up.
thought for sure, after Virginia Tech, we would get something done,"
said McCarthy. "Aurora. But something happened in Newtown. The people of
America said, 'How could this happen? How could this happen to our
She added that Americans should not listen to
arguments that nothing can be done to save lives, stating that roughly
1,000 people have been killed guns since Newtown.
"I'm telling you it can be done," she said. "I'm telling you with all my heart it can be done."