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Democrats Unveil Bill To Ban Assault-Style Weapons

As they said they would following the Dec. 14 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Democrats today unveiled legislation that would ban assault-style weapons.

The lead lawmaker, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, has summed up the legislation's key points this way:

"Bans the sale, transfer, importation, or manufacturing of:
-- 120 specifically-named firearms;
-- Certain other semiautomatic rifles, handguns, shotguns that can accept a detachable magazine and have one or more military characteristics; and
-- Semiautomatic rifles and handguns with a fixed magazine that can accept more than 10 rounds.

"Strengthens the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban and various state bans by:
-- Moving from a 2-characteristic test to a 1-characteristic test;
-- Eliminating the easy-to-remove bayonet mounts and flash suppressors from the characteristics test; and
-- Banning firearms with "thumbhole stocks" and "bullet buttons" to address attempts to "work around" prior bans.

"Bans large-capacity ammunition feeding devices capable of accepting more than 10 rounds.

"Protects legitimate hunters and the rights of existing gun owners by:
-- Grandfathering weapons legally possessed on the date of enactment;
-- Exempting over 900 specifically-named weapons used for hunting or sporting purposes; and
-- Exempting antique, manually-operated, and permanently disabled weapons."

The Associated Press notes that "the measure faces long odds." Last week, NPR's Brian Naylor spoke with former Delaware Sen. Ted Kaufman, who was then-Sen. Joe Biden's chief of staff and a key player in the negotiations that led to the 1994 ban on assault-style weapons (which expired in 2004). Passage of such a bill now, Kaufman said, is "going to be much more difficult than 1994." Back then, 46 House Republicans supported the ban — "a total that's unimaginable now," Brian reported. Republicans control the House. President Obama's fellow Democrats control the Senate.

Feinstein told The Washington Post last week "I know it's an uphill battle, but that doesn't mean that on principle or conscience we shouldn't do it."

The White House has said it supports reinstating the ban. The National Rifle Association makes the case that the Second Amendment makes such legislation unconstitutional and that "the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

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