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Feinstein, McCarthy Unveil Strengthened Assault Weapons Ban

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Feinstein said she was introducing Senate legislation regarding assault weapons Thursday.

Democratic supporters of the legislation cast themselves as supporters of the Second Amendment and said they are not seeking to take guns away from law-abiding citizens, particularly hunters and sportsmen.

Feinstein’s bill specifically allows 2,258 “legitimate hunting and sporting rifles and shotguns” as well as “any gun manually operated by bolt, pump, lever or slide action,” according to background information provided by her office. Guns carried by government officials and law enforcement also would be exempt from the ban.

“None of us want to take away the hunting rifle that your Uncle Tommy gave you when you were 14 years old,” Schumer said.

Legal Questions

Renewing the assault weapons ban is not just a question of political will but also, potentially, of the proposal’s legal viability.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that individuals have a Second Amendment right to the possession of firearms for self-defense, and some scholars believe the court’s decision has complicated the legal terrain for Feinstein’s legislation.

The court held, for example, that any ban on certain kinds of firearms would need to show that those guns are “dangerous and unusual.” Many of the guns that would be banned under Feinstein’s bill — as well as the ammunition magazines that feed them — are in widespread circulation and common use.

Gun control advocates counter that the court’s ruling in the 2008 case, District of Columbia v. Heller, applied only to the possession of handguns for self-defense purposes and does not prohibit reasonable government regulations on more dangerous kinds of firearms.

Schumer said Thursday that the proposed assault weapons ban is “certainly within the framework of the Heller decision.”

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