WASHINGTON -- Congressional Democrats on Thursday began what they conceded is an uphill struggle to pass a bill to ban assault-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines in response to the recent shooting deaths in Newtown, Conn.
The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), bans the sale, manufacture, transfer and importation of more than 150 assault-style weapons and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
"I've watched the slaughter of so many people, and I've met with so many victims over the years, and in Congress nobody wanted to touch the issue," McCarthy, a veteran gun-control advocate, said at a news conference about the legislation.
"The last several years, the massacres were going on more and more. And going through it, I kept saying, 'What's wrong with all of us? How many people have to be killed before we do something?' " said McCarthy, whose husband was one of six killed and her son one of 19 wounded by a gunman on the Long Island Rail Road in 1993.
Congress passed an assault weapon ban in 1994 but it expired in 2004. Repeated efforts to renew the ban have failed in the face of opposition by Republicans and several Democrats, and lobbying efforts by the National Rifle Association.
"The American people know gun bans do not work and we are confident Congress will reject Sen. Feinstein's wrongheaded approach," said the NRA, which released a poll Thursday that found 88 percent of its members oppose banning "semiautomatic firearms."
The NRA and other groups called the 1994 ban ineffective, but the ban's backers blamed loopholes added before passage.
"We saw in the '90s that even the weakened assault weapons ban . . . helped save lives. The new and improved bill will save many, many more," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who as a House member helped pass that ban.
McCarthy said others, including law enforcement officers, are talking to Republicans.
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) will offer legislation aimed at curbing gun trafficking next week. Kirk will be the first Republican to offer a bill that's part of a package to address gun violence, a Gillibrand aide said.
WHAT WOULD BE BANNED
A bill introduced yesterday by House and Senate Democrats would ban:
All semiautomatic rifles and pistols that can accept a detachable ammunition magazine and have at least one military feature, such as a folding, telescoping or detachable stock.
Semiautomatic rifles and handguns that have a fixed magazine with a capacity for more than 10 rounds.
All ammunition feeding devices, including magazines, strips and drums capable of accepting more than 20 rounds.
MAC type pistols, Franchi LAW-12 shotguns, Izhmash Saiga 12 type shotguns and all belt fed semiautomatic firearms.
The bill would exempt weapons possessed lawfully at the date of the law's enactment; firearms operated manually by a bolt, pump, lever or slide action, antique weapons and assault weapons used by military, and current and retired law enforcement members.