CRS — Federal Assault Weapons Ban: Legal Issues

February 25, 2013

Federal Assault Weapons Ban: Legal Issues (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

In the 113th Congress, there has been renewed congressional interest in gun control legislation. On January 16, 2013, President Obama announced his support for legislation on gun control, including a ban on certain semiautomatic assault firearms and large capacity ammunition feeding devices. Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced S. 150, the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013, which would prohibit, subject to certain exceptions, the sale, transfer, possession, manufacturing, and importation of specifically named firearms and other firearms that have certain features, as well as the transfer and possession of large capacity ammunition feeding devices. Representative Carolyn McCarthy introduced a companion measure, H.R. 437, in the House of Representatives. S. 150 is similar to the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 (P.L. 103-322) that was in effect through September 13, 2004.

The Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 was challenged in the courts for violating, among other things, the Equal Protection Clause and the Commerce Clause. This report reviews the disposition of these challenges. It also discusses Second Amendment jurisprudence in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller and how lower courts have evaluated state and local assault weapons bans post-Heller.

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