Thursday, January 24, 2013

It's Time to Act.

Just over a week ago, President Obama revealed his comprehensive gun safety plan. Today, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) unveiled her own take on the cornerstone of the President's gun safety agenda. Feinstein shepherded the original Assault Weapons Ban through Congress in 1994, and she's ready to do it again in 2013. But this time, she insists this bill will be even more effective in curbing the dangerous level of access to both military grade weapons and high-capacity magazines.

So what's in it? Let's start here.

“No weapon is taken from anyone,” Sen. Feinstein said on Thursday. “The purpose is to dry up the supply of these weapons over time.”

The bill expands the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban that Feinstein approved but Congress declined to renew in 2004, after lawmakers argued that, as it was written, the ban had many loopholes.

The new legislation would ban the sale, manufacture, importation, and transfer of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines as well as ban high-capacity ammunition the holds more than 10 rounds.

It also requires anyone who already owns an assault rifle to use a secure storage and safety device and bans them from selling high-capacity clips. Weapons purchased before the law’s enactment would be grandfathered in, a measure drawn to avoid alienating gun owners.

“Getting this bill signed into law will be an uphill battle, and I recognize that, but it’s a battle worth having,” Feinstein said at a press conference Thursday afternoon.

So is this more effective than the past version? Wonkblog's Brad Plumer has more details. Basically, this version lists more military grade weapons, updates the definition of "assault weapons" (so that gun manufacturers can't sidestep this bill if enacted into law), and sets in place programs (like voluntary buybacks and strict ownership guidelines for current weapons in circulation) to gradually reduce the circulation of these military grade assault weapons. All in all, Feinstein's new bill looks much stronger and less prone to loophole poking than the 1994 bill.

What's likely the bigger challenge is getting this bill passed. Already, the gun lobby is engaging in hysterical fearmongering to build opposition to any kind of gun safety reform. And Nevada's own Harry Reid has been cagey on the subject. (He recently said he'll allow Senate floor votes on Obama's proposals, but he hasn't declared yet what he will personally support.)

We know gun safety reform has broad public support. Yes, even the Assault Weapons Ban has the support of 58% of Americans. This is why Senator Feinstein and progressive grassroots groups like Courage Campaign demand action. So now, it's time for Senator Reid to act.

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