New Gun Control Legislation Begins with Assault Weapons Ban and High-Capacity Magazine Ban Proposals

Moments after being sworn in Thursday as members of the newly minted 113th Congress, Reps. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) staged a press conference to formally introduce their proposed High Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act, setting the stage for what could be a stormy winter of legislative initiatives by gun-control proponents.

The hi-cap mag ban legislation, originally introduced by McCarthy in 2011, had 138 co-sponsors in the 112th Congress but stagnated in the Republican-controlled House.

The proposed bill would ban the sale or transfer of ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds. This was the federal mandate between 1994 and 2004 under the assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004.

Of course, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) -- among the authors of the expired 1994-2004 AWB -- was also expected by week's end to introduce her new version of the expired AWB, which the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action claims would "adopt new definitions of 'assault weapon' that would affect a much larger variety of firearms," require owners of "assault weapons" to register them with the federal government, and require forfeiture of the firearms upon the deaths of their current owners.

According to a Dec. 27th posting on Sen. Feinstein's website and a draft of the bill obtained by NRA-ILA, the proposed ban would:

• Expand the definition of "assault weapon" to include any semiautomatic, centerfire, or rimfire rifle that has a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds, except for tubular-magazine .22s; any semiautomatic, centerfire, or rimfire rifle that has an overall length of less than 30 inches; any semiautomatic handgun with a fixed magazine that has the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds; and any semi-automatic handgun that has a threaded barrel. Under these definitions, popular rifles such as the M1 Carbine, a model of the Ruger Mini-14, and most or all models of the SKS would be banned.

• Require owners of firearms defined as "assault weapons" to register them with the federal government under the National Firearms Act (NFA). The NFA imposes a $200 tax per firearm, and requires an owner to submit photographs and fingerprints to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE), to inform the BATFE of the address where the firearm will be kept, and to obtain the BATFE's permission to transport the firearm across state lines.

• Reduce, from two to one, the number of permitted external features on various firearms.

• Adopt new lists of prohibited external features.

• Prohibit the transfer of "assault weapons."

• Prohibit the domestic manufacture and the importation of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

While gun control legislation was expected in the wake of the Dec. 14 Newtown school shootings, a number of polls indicate Americans aren't as enthusiastic about imposing more gun bans.

A USA Today/Gallup poll conducted Dec. 19-22 found 58 percent of Americans favor strengthening firearms sales laws, up from 43 percent in October 2011. But those who support a new AWB have changed little -- 44 percent favor banning "assault weapons." That's up just 2 percent since 2011.

Gallup indicates that 62 percent of Americans do favor banning the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines and 92 percent, up from 83 percent in 1999, favor laws that require people attempting to purchase guns at gun shows, including gun dealers, to undergo background checks.