WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) today joined Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) in introducing the Assault Weapons Ban of 2017, a bill to renew a 1990s-era ban on the sale, transfer, manufacture and importation of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.  When he was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1994, Reed helped pass the first Assault Weapons Ban, which expired in 2004.

Reed noted that in the 1990s the assault weapons ban received bipartisan support, including strong backing from former Presidents Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter, who wrote: “While we recognize that assault weapon legislation will not stop all assault weapon crime, statistics prove that we can dry up the supply of these guns, making them less accessible to criminals. We urge you to listen to the American public and to the law enforcement community and support a ban on the further manufacture of these weapons.”

“We need to break the gun lobby’s grip on Washington to help save lives and reduce gun violence nationwide.  Today’s Republicans should summon the courage that Ronald Reagan, Dick Lugar, John Chafee, and others demonstrated when they stood up and supported commonsense measures like the assault weapons ban.  Battlefield weapons shouldn’t be for sale on every street corner in America,” said Senator Reed, a former Army Ranger.  “I’m for responsible gun ownership, but there is no defense for the way gun manufacturers have irresponsibly flooded the market with military-style assault rifles that are being used to slaughter innocent men, women, and children in communities across the country.  States and local communities have done what they can, now the federal government must do its part to stem the tide of mass-shootings.  We need to bring back the assault weapons ban.  Banning weapons of war won’t infringe on responsible gun owners’ rights.  Reducing easy access to military-style guns will make our communities safer, and reduce the number of people -- including police officers -- who are shot and killed every year.”

According to the Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit that tracks shootings via media reports and law enforcement records, there have already been 308 mass-shootings (defined as an incident in which “four or more shot and/or killed in a single event, at the same general time and location not including the shooter”) in 2017, including two in the last six weeks in Las Vegas, Nevada and Sutherland Springs, Texas that were carried out with assault weapons, killing 86 people and injuring 461 people in those two incidents alone.

Reed also noted that the legislation would allow gun owners who already own assault weapons to keep them, but it would strengthen background checks for people looking to buy the millions of assault-style weapons that are already in circulation.

Specifically, the Assault Weapons Ban will:

  • Ban the sale, manufacture, transfer and importation of 205 military-style assault weapons by name.  The list is included in the bill.  Owners can keep existing weapons. 
  •  Ban any assault weapon that accepts a detachable ammunition magazine and has one or more military characteristics, including a pistol grip, a forward grip, a barrel shroud, a threaded barrel or a folding or telescoping stock.  Owners can keep existing weapons.
  •  Ban magazines and other ammunition feeding devices that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, which allow shooters to quickly fire many rounds without needing to reload. Owners can keep existing magazines.

Exemptions to bill

  • The bill exempts by name more than 2,200 guns for hunting, household defense or recreational purposes. This list will be updated to include additional weapons.
  • The bill includes a grandfather clause that exempts all weapons lawfully possessed at the date of enactment.

Other provisions:

  • Requires a background check on any future sale, trade or gifting of an assault weapon covered by the bill.
  • Requires that grandfathered assault weapons are stored using a secure gun storage or safety device like a trigger lock.
  • Prohibits the transfer of high-capacity ammunition magazines.
  •  Bans bump-fire stocks and other devices that allow semi-automatic weapons to fire at fully automatic rates.

Earlier this year, Reed and Feinstein teamed up to introduce the Automatic Gun Fire Prevention Act (S. 1916), a bill to ban so-called “bump stocks” by closing a loophole that allows semi-automatic weapons to be easily modified to fire at the rate of automatic weapons, which have been largely outlawed for decades.

The purchase of new, fully automatic weapons – guns that fire continuously with one trigger pull and reload automatically – has been significantly restricted in the United States since the 1930s.  But under current law, bump stocks, slide fire devices, and other similar accessories are able to be legally attached to semi-automatic weapons, allowing them to reach fully-automatic rates of fire.  This permits potentially bad actors to use readily available, legal materials to circumvent the law and assemble machine guns at home.

The Automatic Gun Fire Prevention Act would ban the sale, transfer, importation, manufacture or possession of bump stocks, trigger cranks and similar accessories that accelerate a semi-automatic rifle’s rate of fire.

The bill also makes clear that its intent is to target only those accessories that increase a semi-automatic rifle’s rate of fire.  Legitimate accessories used by hunters would be exempt.  The bill also contains exceptions for lawful possession of these devices by law enforcement and the government.