Could the Federal Assault Weapons Ban have stopped Orlando attack?

The Federal Assault Weapons Ban some politicians are looking at reinstating set limitations on certain rifle features. It expired in 2004 and was not renewed.

The ten-year ban was signed into law in 1994 by then President Bill Clinton.

It set restrictions on firearms that met criteria the ban defined as semiautomatic assault weapons and magazines considered large capacity.
Four specific features made the difference between a legal rifle and an illegal rifle.

“Bayonet lug, flash suppressor, pistol grip and a telescoping stock. Those four features would define, under the law that had expired, what was considered a semi-automatic assault weapon,” said Guns Warehouse manager Steve Ou. 

Beyond those four features there are not a lot of differences between a legal and illegal rifle.

“The difference is going to be the physical features, but it still shoots the same caliber bullet, it still has the same capacity, still shoots the same rate of fire, which is one round for every time you press the trigger,” Ou said. 

So how do the qualifying features change the way a person uses a rifle?

“I guess if you were a shorter statured person and you wanted an adjustable length of your stock, possibly it could make it more comfortable for you. I don't believe a pistol grip makes it any easier or more deadly to shoot than a more standard stock without a pistol grip,” said Ou. 

From 1994-2004, although it was illegal to purchase a semi-automatic rifle with those specific features, the government did not remove weapons already in people's homes.

“The way it was previously, those who already owned them would be able to keep them in that configuration. Those that purchased them after the cutoff date would not be able to buy this configuration,” Ou said. 

Magazines also had some restrictions under the ban.

“During that ban they were not allowed to sell high capacity magazines, so high capacity magazines were limited to 10 rounds,” said Ou. 

Since the Federal Assault Weapons Ban expired in 2004, rifles with the restricted features are back on the shelves in gun stores across the country.

“That law expired and then you were able to just walk into any gun store that sells them, you go through the paperwork, you go through the background check, if you pass a background check you're allowed to walk out the door with the item that day,” Ou said. 

The weapon used during a mass shooting in Orlando last week was a Sig Sauer MCX. That would have been illegal for the shooter to purchase from 1994 to 2004.