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How the Obama Gun Control Proposals Compare to 1994

by Kyle Wintersteen   |  February 12th, 2013 63


Just three short months ago, most articles about gun control focused on how little traction it had. Practically every public opinion poll showed guns and gun owners were held in higher esteem than they had been in decades. Gun sales were through the roof. Pro-gun legislation—castle doctrine, concealed-carry reciprocity, you name it—was on the march in most states. The Supreme Court told Washington, D.C., and Chicago that the Constitution did indeed apply to their cities.

And then, after nearly two decades of pro-gun momentum, it was ripped from our grasp in a span of 24 hours. The Newtown tragedy—one of the most heart-wrenching events ever to occur on U.S. soil—changed everything. Understandably, people wanted someone or something to blame. Unfortunately, rather than identifying the actual social and mental health issues causing so many people to harm others, President Barack Obama and many in the Democratic party have taken the lazy route: They’re blaming guns. Obama even called for increased gun control in his inaugural address.

Just when you thought we’d won, it feels a lot like 1994 again—the year Major League Baseball went on strike, O.J. Simpson fled police in a white Bronco and Bill Clinton signed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB).

Once again, gun rights are in a state of emergency. The president has proposed four key gun-control measures: a new federal “assault weapons” ban, background checks for private firearm sales (i.e., at gun shows), a ban on so-called “large capacity” magazines, and increased penalties for straw purchases and firearms trafficking.


Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., showing poor trigger discipline.

Feinstein’s “Assault Weapons” Bill
Of Obama’s proposals, it is the “assault weapons” bill that has drawn the most media attention and concern from gun owners. Rightfully so, perhaps; the bill would immediately impact civilian firearms sales.

It’s clear that Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., sponsor of the current “assault weapons” bill, has long anticipated this policy window and considered tweaks to the 1994 ban’s language. The current bill would close what she considered loopholes in the expired ban and would affect an even greater variety of firearms.

The major “loophole” with the expired ban, as Feinstein sees it, is that gun manufacturers merely adjusted their firearm designs to comply with the bill. No telescoping stocks or detachable magazines you say? That’s okay, we’ll just use a standard stock and internal mag. The pro-gun community found poetic justice in the maneuver; the law banned firearm features that were essentially cosmetic in nature, so compliance only required cosmetic adjustments.

As long as firearms didn’t meet two of the characteristics defined by Feinstein as “military style,” they were legal. That’s not the case for Feinstein’s new bill. Any rifle, pistol or shotgun with a detachable magazine that meets even a single “military-style” characteristic would be banned. Characteristics considered military-style are similar to those found in the previous ban, with the addition of thumbhole stocks, bump-fire stocks and bullet buttons. Characteristics that were found in the 1994 law but not the new bill include bayonet mounts and flash suppressors, which can easily be removed, making the gun legal—not exactly Feinstein’s goal.

Like the old law, Feinstein’s bill would ban magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds. It would also ban certain firearms by name; the 1994 law banned 19 specific guns, but the new bill would ban a whopping 157.

Perhaps most notable of all, however, there would be no sunset to the new law. The 1994 ban expired in 2004, but it would literally take an act of Congress to repeal the new bill. And given the country’s budget standoff, we know how quickly our elected officials are to act on even the most pressing of matters.

Feinstein’s Bill in Trouble
OK, everyone take a deep breath. Feinstein’s bill—while very much real and a serious threat to gun rights—has hit strong resistance in the last two weeks, even from her own party. Democrats from gun-friendly states, especially, are afraid to touch it.

What’s more likely to see a vote? A bill that would mandate background checks for private sales (gun shows) and strengthen gun trafficking laws. Democrats, it appears, believe these are far more centrist proposals than an “assault weapons” or magazine capacity ban. No bill has yet been introduced, but insiders believe that will occur any day now.

According to Politico, party leadership—including Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.—would prefer to see Feinstein’s “assault weapons” bill offered on the Senate floor as an amendment to the pending gun-control legislation. This would allow red-state Democrats to vote against the “assault weapons” amendment while still voting for the larger overall bill—and, in theory, being reelected.

Given that renewing the “assault weapons” bill has arguably been Feinstein’s biggest goal since its expiration, she isn’t giving up quietly, but rather considering introducing it as an amendment at a Judiciary Committee markup later this month. If she does that, senators could not vote “no” on the AWB and “yes” on the overall gun control legislation—the entire package would be a yes or no vote.

Will Feinstein go that route?

“Probably,” she told Politico. “This is a ways away.”

That would potentially tank the entire gun-control legislation, even if it includes proposals endorsed by Obama that would’ve otherwise passed.

Proposals More Likely to Pass
Ironically, the proposals by President Obama most likely to be included in the Democrats’ upcoming gun-control bill are those that were never part of existing law: federal background checks for private sales and increased penalties for firearms trafficking.

It’s no secret that some politicians consider gun shows to be a loophole in existing law, given that private sellers can sell to private buyers without a background check. A big question surrounding the “universal” background checks proposal is whether the bill will include all private sales, or just those at gun shows. Regardless, it would probably come down to a close vote.

Increasing penalties for firearms trafficking, depending on the language, is probably the most likely proposal to gain bipartisan support. Democrats and even some pro-gun Republicans recommend increasing the penalty for knowingly selling a firearm to a prohibited person or purchasing a firearm on their behalf (straw purchasing) from a mandatory 10 years in jail to 20 years.

SHOT-Show-ARsThe Larger Commonality
Another characteristic the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban shares in common with the latest gun control proposals? A negligible impact on violent crime.

According to the vast majority of research, including by the University of Pennsylvania and a Congressionally mandated study by the U.S. Department of Justice, the AWB neither increased nor decreased violent crime. The government’s study argued it would be difficult to determine the effect of the AWB one way or another, because the guns it affected were used in only a small fraction of crimes prior to the ban. In January, even Joe Biden—who is spearheading President Obama’s gun-control task force—admitted “assault rifles” are not responsible for most gun deaths, but he wants to ban them anyway.

It’s also a stretch to say background checks for private sales at gun shows would prevent crime. A 1991 study by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms found that only 6 percent of career criminals bought their guns from flea markets and gun shows.

It does, however, appear that criminals buy guns through straw purchasers. A recent Bureau of Justice Statistics survey of state prison inmates convicted of firearm crimes found that 79 percent acquired their firearms from “street/illegal sources.” This includes theft and straw purchases. So, why not increase the penalty for straw purchasing/selling to a mandatory 20 years? Well, an existing federal law fought for by the National Rifle Association already provides a mandatory sentence of 10 years. Would adding an additional 10 years actually prevent illegal sales?

Another question we could ask is this: Will the 2014 mid-term elections also feel like 1994? Because ’94 isn’t just the year President Clinton signed the Assault Weapons Ban. It’s also the year that more than 60 of those who voted for it found themselves out of work.

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    We got a bunch of control freak idiots trying to run this country and taking us down fast.

    • Nusparkey

      A bunch of "paranoid" control freaks. They judge others by themselves and figure we're as crooked as they are. So sad!

      • larry

        Well the thing is, Obama knows nothing about the last three gun control bills. None of them worked so let's come out with a forth shall we?

  • Dale Bailey

    The more despotic the government ,the more draconian the laws The current regeime seeks total control over it's subjects pre-birth to post mortem. People with guns tend to be citizens, not slaves.

  • adam

    And tell me how these new laws are going to change things? When was the last time a murder obeyed laws?

    • adam


  • Anumen

    Regulating appearance of guns is silly. Bayonet mounts? So what. Regulating illegal trafficking and magazine capacity makes more sense.

    • jjflash083

      "Gun control" is not about guns…it is about control. It is time to stop wasting tax dollars talking about things that are PROVEN not to decrease crime. NO MORE gun control. NO magazine capacity limits. NO gun rgistration disguised as background checks. Deer are more dangerous than guns.

      • David Cassidy

        As if control is a bad thing, things are out of control.

  • Johlars

    Thousands are killed every year because of texting while driving. Yet no one has suggested we take everyones phone away, nor their cars. Would restricting the sale of beer in cases and 12 packs to only 6 packs save lives? If a thret was made against Obama's life, would taking the guns away from every law abiding citizen help, or would he beef up security? I am afraid our President speaks well but has a problem with his judgement skills. Go back to school at the bottom of the class Mr. President. You clearly cannot take the stress of the job, and take that laughing fool Vice President with you. I'm sorry if I sound disrespectful of the office of the Pres., but the truth is the truth and needs no white wash, and that is my duty as an American. God bless America, land of the free.

    • Jim dewolf

      We are not free any more,this is the beginning of bad things coming to us gun owners

  • Johlars

    Obama is the one with no respect for the office of the President!

  • MMcQuown

    I have said this before, and I will kee[p saying it until somebody listens: there are a LOT of gun owners who are NOT REGISTERED VOTERS. I don't care how many petitions you sign, how many letters you send to politicos, how many comments you make online. If you don't vote, it doesn't count. You send Sen Schmuck a letter supporting the 2nd Amdendment. Joe, the Senator's assistant (and cousin by marriage) looks a at the voter list. Your name isn't on it. Your letter goes into the round file and Joe Biden scores another point.

    • Gary

      I've tried that, sending a letter to Senator Sweinstein and all got back was a polite letter telling me that she disagreed with me an would vote what SHE thought was in my best interests, and of course I have not ever voted for the Comminst Senator

    • Kat

      Soo… in this last presidential election, exactly how would it have mattered whether one voted for Obama or Romney? Romney had a very unimpressive record on gun control issues. We lost the country when it stood by and watched Ron Paul get his nomination stolen by the GOP. At that point the election was a fraud.

    • jjflash083

      And registering is not enough. Get your lazy a$$es out and vote!!!!!!!

  • LarryArnold

    [Would adding an additional 10 years actually prevent illegal sales?]

    1. If you lie on the 4473 to purchase a firearm, then sell it to a felon, that's two offenses. You can allready get 20 years. And that's 2 years PER GUN.

    2. The length of the sentence is irrelevant as long as the Justice Department considers it a waste of time to prosecute the cases.



    • Jim dewolf

      You got that right brother

    • Floyd

      They have we are in debt to China. Do you have spell check
      You need it

      • Johlars

        Spelling is not the issue. Try to stay focussed.

      • Johlars

        "Do you have a spell check", requires a question mark. "You need one", a period. How is that for a waste of time and space?

    • Mike

      There is an old saying. I love my Country But I fear my Government. I served 17 years in the Air Force, and received a fractured spine for that. I do love my Country and I almost died for that, but President Obama and the rest of his loyal groupies scare the Hell out of me.

  • Herbert

    Barack Obama and Dianne Feintstin's gun ban policies are more appropriately compared to Weimar Germany and the Nazi gun ban laws–they are the model for the plan.
    "An innovation of the 1938 law was to ban .22 caliber rimfire cartridges with hollow point bullets, … ."
    Halbrook, P. (2000) "Nazi Firearms Law and the Disarming of the German Jews" 17 Arizona Journal of International and Comparative Law, No. 3, 483-535 at p. 513. Retrieved 2/13/13 from:

    • Mike

      I agree with that statement. Once you take away the firearms from the people, you take away their ability to defend themselves. From both the good guys, IE our Government or the bad guys, the crooks and thieves, and just about all the things that scare the real people of our Country. Don't go down that same road that Germeny did and allow our Government to take away out ability to protect ourselves.

  • vetnam vet

    Their are only assault weapons in the military. Unless you want to shell out 30,000 dollars for a dewat class 3 lic then you can own a assault weapons.

  • shootbrownelk

    Obama needs to take a hard look at how well Chicago's gun laws are working. Chicago has the worst murder rate in the nation…and their firearm laws are the strictest in the United States..A person can see just how well their laws are working. Criminals don't obey laws..honest citizens do. Even Joe Biden said that more laws won't change a thing.
    For once in his life he's correct!

  • FA/SWS

    What I just can't understand is the mentality of these people who continue to see purely cosmetic features as terrible threats: thumbhole stocks? really? I guess my Winchester 70 in .30-06 is an assault weapon then!

    Where's the facepalm button? I need a double

  • JamesAutrey

    Every Dictator in history has first gone after the guns of law-abiding citizens, this is because they know that an armed population is able and willing to resist and throw them out of office and return control o the people rather than the leaders themselves.

    Our forefathers knew this, that is thereason that they included the second ammendment in the first place. They knew that as long as we were armed we would be free, if we let the gun grabbers in Washington take our guns then what other rights will they come after? The freedom of speech? The freedom of religon? What's next on their agenda?

    This is the question that no-one has even considered or questioned, it is also a question that I believe should be asked. Especially by the delusional idiots that think that gun control even works to begin with. Obama and the rest of the politicians know for a fact thatgun control does not work but they still want to come after our guns. WHY?

    • Captain America

      They want our guns because they want control. They want everyone cowering in their homes, afraid of the bad guys. Only then are the people controllable. As the gentleman said above, they will take our rights one piece at a time.

  • Tracy Thorleifson

    Number of Americans murdered with *rifles* (of any sort) in 2010: 358
    Number of Americans murdered with knives (and other cutting instruments) in 2010: 1,704
    Number of Americans murdered with blunt objects (hammers, baseball bats, etc.) in 2010: 540
    Number of Americans murdered by hand (punching, kicking, choking, etc.) in 2010: 745

    'Nuf said?


    • Eric Thompson

      Looks like we need to outlaw “knives” first. LOL

  • james

    Existing laws are sufficient, BATF&E fails to follow up on those that fail the instant check because of their
    criminal records (I'm not talking about those who have a common name or data error in the system).

    On the other side, existing laws and common sense did not prevent a 26yr old woman from getting behind
    the wheel of her Benz while DUI DWI.

    Matey said the Youngs' vehicle was stopped on the shoulder of Interstate 10 in LaPlace, just west of New Orleans, when it was hit by a car driven by 26-year-old Nechole T. Thomas of Houston.

    Her 2002 Mercedes slammed their 2012 Nissan Altima from behind at high speed, Matey said. Both cars caught fire and the Youngs' bodies were not found until the blaze was out.

    Matey said it took until Wednesday afternoon for the coroner to identify the Youngs.

    Thomas escaped with minor injuries and was jailed on charges of reckless driving, drunken driving and two counts of vehicular homicide — a death involving a drunken driver. Her bond is set at $300,000.

    Thomas was arrested and charged with two counts of vehicular homicide, DWI and reckless operation. Authorities say preliminary toxicology results indicate Thomas tested over the legal blood-alcohol limit of .08%. Drug testing is still pending.

    The government can not legislate what is in the mind of the indivudual.

  • james

    We don't need gun control, we need criminal controls.

  • concerned

    What guns are on this list to be ban? The civilians aren't equally armed compare to the military and the major purpose of the 2nd amendment was and is for the civilian population to be armed so it can overthrow the government if it becomes too oppressive. The current government seems to have a goal of tearing apart the fabric that this country was founded upon by dividing the population as much as possible and in as many ways as possible.

  • Jim F

    Does this mean that Eric Holder will be going to jail for the mandatory 20 years in sted of 10??

  • Jim F

    Does this mean that Eric Holder will do the mandatory 20 years instead if 10??

    • Stormy

      Sounds great to me!!

  • Dale Davidson

    whats the first step in controlling the population ? YOU DISARM THE POPULATION ! Just ask Hitler or Stalin

  • Marksman

    Clinton shut down "kitchen table" FFL dealers by raising fees twice from tens of dollars to hundreds. Banned importation of Chinese military surplus guns and ammo. Banned import of steel-core military surplus ammo as "armor piercing", hobbled the CMP by charging participants for ammo earned in sanction competition. Plus the Omnibus Crime Bill of 1994. Proposed ban on "assault pistols" (Tech 9 style guns).

  • mrdenhenderson

    I have a good idea about gun control.Anybody that voted for Oboma should not be able to own a gun……It's funny because everyone I talk to tell me THEY didn't vote for him. Who the hell did……

    • Common Man

      Bloodsuckers and the leaches of society that don’t contribute a dime voted Berry and all of his give-a-ways into office. Anyone that did not expect his attempted gun grab after the election is either lying or exceptionally simple minded. We are now experiencing a Marxist Stalinist takeover on steroids. Look at Obama Care, what more proof does anyone need?

  • John

    No, this is all fear factor.

  • John

    Come on what what the house vote in the 1994 AW ban, how many of those who voted yea got another term in office?

  • Ian

    I've said this before, it's all about "Smoke and Mirrors". I'm pretty sure the politicians know that by passing new laws, that it won't stop or change a Damn thing. However, by going through the motions and being a thorn in our a**, they plan to make our way of life (second amendment) stricter. There is no amount of Fairy Dust you can sprinkle or no magic wand you can wave they will prevent the next "Sandy Hook". It doesn't matter whether the law abiding citizens have guns or do not have guns, there will be another mass shooting. It does not matter if the government passes a hundred new laws, there will be another mass shooting. We need to accept this fact. You can not stop evil people from doing evil things. If and when they have a mission, they will execute it out to the best of their ability.

    • edgineer1

      I am 70. These shootings started after we released the people from our mental institutions and stopped treating the mentally ill. Go back to the system we had and the shootings will stop.

    • jjflash083

      Did you see the story from Guam last week? A guy with a car and a knife got 13 people. I guess we need to ban cars and knives. BHO is not trying to stop crime.

  • Ianq

    I fight for the second amendment because I have accepted the fact that these evil people walk among us. I will protect myself and my family from them with my guns. We are no longer safe in our schools, churches, beauty salons, movie theaters, school buses and anywhere else. But for some reason, the Democratic Party feels that if it passes new gun restrictions, that the gun violence will just all go away. And the most sad part of this, is that the American people actually get a warm and cozy feeling of safety when this crap actually passes and is put into law.

  • edgineer1

    Any fool can see that Marxists have taken control of the Democratic Party. What in hell do people think Marxists are going to do to the second amendment?

  • edgineer1

    Has everyone forgot that the Mother of the shooter was trying to have him committed and could not? And people fancy themselves as intelligent.

  • val

    what is so hard to understand? a liittle girl was shot almost on obamas front yard in his city n state with his laws and controls in place and he wants this for the rest of the USA thank GOD for TEXAS

  • Johnny Nightrider

    2 bad Christopher Dorner the renegade former police officer didn't include Senator Feinstein in his manifesto.Than go to her office or near her office with his scoped Barrett .50 caliber sniper rifle.And find his target and get the rush of seeing the pink mist.I guess you can't have everything and why Senator Feinstein hasn't been elected out of office is amazing. I wish no bad on anyone but if she resigned and did really well in another line of work other than politics. That would be great.

  • old vet

    This has been going on for so long now. The libs. have the mind-set that they cannot possibly be wrong. If their policy doesn't work (and they never do) it's only because they didn't do it enough. It's like I said with the two men moving a couch in a door sideways, just keep ramming, It'll go. Really, how long can these fools be allowed to try to trash our Constitution? We can never allow the kind of crap that happened to the Brits and Aussies occur here.

  • clayncarol

    I think they all have it wrong. (They = folks who want new and stricter gun control laws). When was the last time you saw a prime time tv show with out guns and killing? How many songs speak of guns and murder? How many video games are based on guns and killing? Seems to me the media is more responsible than the guns themselves. When children are de-sensitized to murder it is easier to commit. Seems pretty simple to me. Let's ban senseless violence in the media and our next generation will be more sensitive to the horrific crime that is murder. . . not killing the cops in grand theft auto (or use your own example). Simple? yeah – way to simple for the power mongers in DC to get. It might just affect their paychecks.

  • Max

    I am outright offended by the smut which is plastered all along this comment board, and I am outright embarrassed to be amoung your ranks as a gun owner. The outright disrespect for our President is unacceptable. Just because we gun owners are not civil to those who would harm us or our families does not mean that we are somehow incapable of articulating our ideas in a civil manner! I am a heavy critic of President Obama, and I refuse to stoop to the level that so many of the people on this page seem to love so much.

    In fact, I would go so far as to say that the difficulty our society has with civil discourse is probably the prime reason for many of our problems. I can not remember the last time I was able to discuss my opinions with someone without the entire conversation dissolving into them screaming at me that I was a fascist, or an anarchist (really? I have been called both?) or some other horrible terrible thing that I have reason to believe that I am not. Sure, guns are a big issue, but the bigger issue by far is (and always will be) people.

    You who hide behind insults and jeer, you are no better than the scum on the other side who would disarm us and our children, making them sheep for the tyrants of the future. Why? Because the mental disarmament of our society which you are perpetuating is just as bad, if not worse, than the physical disarmament that those misinformed souls on the other side are pursuing. The rifle is of no use if the mind that aims it knows not where to aim.

    • Max Barker

      Max I agree with most of your points, and believe it or not I actually have no complaint with background checks for gun shows or private sales. I do however believe that families should be able to pass their firearms on to the next generation. As far as an “assault weapon” ban goes I don’t see how it would help anything. I have had military type weapons in the pass, but now only keep hunting, target,rifles and shotguns and a couple of pistols for self defense and targets. I was in the Marines and 10 round or 30 round magazine I can reload before someone more than a few steps away can get to me, so I don’t really understand how limiting magazine size will help anything. I believe that there are far more complex issues in this country that result in violence. The people on both sides of this issue need to learn to have rational intelligent discussions instead of slinging mud at each other and spouting emotional nonsense. Though I agree with the fact that some peoples comments are in appropriate, I can not agree with you that Obama deserves our respect just for being the President. Respect is earned by actions not by elections. I wish I could say otherwise, but as of yet Obama has not done anything to deserve my respect.

    • imzardoz

      he is most certainly not my president! he is not a natural born American citizen, and is not by law allowed to be PRESIDENT of THE UNITED STATES

      • Will

        Really? Why is he not a citizen? If he’s not allowed by law, why is he still president (and he got re-elected)?

        • chocopot

          By law, only a natural-born citizen can serve as President. Why is he not a natural-born citzen? His father, by his own admission, was a British citizen. At the time he was born, his mother was underage (17). Thus, he is not a natural-born citizen and is ineligible to serve in the position he occupies. Why is he there, you ask? Because there are forces in this country that want him there and are engaged in the most massive coverup and fraud this nation has ever seen. How did he get elected and re-elected? Massive election fraud, well documented but ignored by the powers that be. Is that enough
          for you?

    • Bruce O’dell

      Max, youre either a let me get it right for you…you have a partner or your a ginger munkee! Say what you want but when a pos is trying to f you over they get whats coming to them.

    • Stormy

      He’s an illegal unlawful President who hates the American people, the Constitution & our Bill of Rights! Max, please stop drinking the Obummer KoolAid! He’s a cancer that’s eating away at our great country!

  • Casey Smith

    I think people are the problem not the guns. I am a gun collector! I collect ww2,vietnam, & cold war type arms but i’m not gonna hurt anybody unless i have no other option!!! Does that make my guns dangerous to others? NO b/c i know that my weapons are safe in the locked gun cabonet at my home (exept the 1 I carry on me & when i take 1 hunting) but i NEVER leave my fire arms unlocked when im not cleaning or shooting 1 of them & in ssoooo very tired of these idiots blaming guns for crimes people commit!!! Thanx for readin my comment & sorry for the miss spelled words!

  • Yehuda Alan

    Diana loves posing with those “assault” rifles. I think she has a secret fetish for them. Love to play a Chicago gangster, look at her pin stripe suit holding that rifle. She was born 100 years too late, would have made a good Chicago gangster. Yeah, ban the rifles for everyone except us, seeee, that’s the way to do it, yeah.

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