University of Dayton Law Review
Symposium, Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994
vol. 20, no. 2, 1995: 571.
Posted for Educational use only. The printed edition remains canonical. For citational use please visit the local law library or obtain a back issue.
I. The Assault Weapons Ban
The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 contains a highly controversial ban on assault weapons. This provision bans nineteen specific makes of assault weapons as well as copycat model. 18 U.S.C. § § 921-922. The assault weapons ban became one of the most controversial sections of the anti-crime legislation with powerful lobbies attempting to sway the opinion of Congress.
To persuade her fellow senators to enact gun-control legislation, California Senator Dianne Feinstein included a list of exempted guns in the bill to provide a guarantee against a ban of guns primarily used for hunting. The exemption list successfully swayed the Senate to pass the legislation and enabled the bill to survive a motion to table by a more one vote. Thus, the assault weapons ban became a major portion of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.
The assault weapons legislation changed, the existing federal gun laws by incorporating into the crime bill an assault weapons ban, a gun dealer licensing provision and a prohibition of the selling and possessing of handguns by children. The assault weapons ban of sections 921 and 922 prohibits the manufacture, transfer and possession of the following specific guns:
Also, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) is empowered to prohibit new models that have the following characteristics:
Ammunition clips or magazines of more than ten rounds are also banned, but existing guns in private hands are exempted under a grandfather clause. Furthermore, copycat models of the banned guns are included in the assault weapons ban.
Section 922 also changed the licensing requirements of gun dealers. Applicants for dealership licenses must be photographed and fingerprinted, and the ATF will have sixty days to investigate the applicant's background. Also, dealers must report gun thefts to the ATF within forty-eight hours, and dealers must immediately respond to all weapon trace requests. Finally, section 922 prohibits children from owning or possessing a handgun. Section 922 also prohibits anyone from transferring a handgun to a juvenile.
The following articles discuss the merits of the assault weapons ban. While Mr. Lennett and Mr. Muchnick favor the ban as a positive, common sense measure toward eliminating the scourge of assault weapon violence, Mr. Tartaro disagrees. Mr. Tartaro believes the weapons ban will not remove a single weapon from the hands of any criminal. Furthermore, form an economic perspective, he believes that the weapons ban will put a number of American craftsmen out of work and that it will put manufacturers and importers out of business. Bearing in mind the sensitivities that this issue generates, our debate begins by focusing on whether the assault weapons ban constitutes reasonable and measured gun control.