Personal Freedoms

published : 2023-08-26

NRA Counters Kamala Harris' Statement on 'Assault' Ban Citing Historical Accords

As President Biden's 'assault weapons’ ban echoes from the past, NRA raises historical flags.

A portrait of Vice President Kamala Harris in the midst of a discussion on gun control, her determination and resolve evident in her expression. (Taken with Canon EOS R5)

Drawing from legislative history spanning over two decades, the National Rifle Association (NRA) launched a fierce counterargument to Vice President Kamala Harris' claim that President Biden can reinstate an assault weapons ban. Harris, supporting Biden's stance on gun control, had claimed via social media that Biden has previously triumphed over the NRA and could do it again to curb the proliferation of assault weapons.

Injecting a dose of history into the heated debate, the NRA pointed out Biden's actions surrounding a similar ban in the 1994. NRA spokesperson, Billy McLaughlin, emphasized that knowledge of past events is crucial before embarking on social media crusades over such polarizing issues.

Harris, referencing Biden's 1994 vote in favor of an 'assault weapons' ban, was corrected by the NRA. McLaughlin reminded Harris that the NRA had played a key role in ensuring the ban expired in 2004, and since then ownership of AR-15, considered an 'assault weapon' had ballooned, from 850,000 to an estimated 25 million today.

Rewinding the clock to 1994, Biden, then serving as a Delaware senator, voted in favor of banning semi-automatic firearms as part of a comprehensive crime bill. This piece of legislation, inclusive of a sunset provision allowing for its expiry, had been passed by a Democrat-majority House and signed into law by former President Bill Clinton.

A historical image of Senator Joe Biden from 1994 when he first voted in favor of banning semi-automatic firearms as part of the crime bill. His earnestness reflects his continued dedication to the issue at hand. (Taken with Nikon D850)

The law had restricted the manufacture, transfer or possession of 'semiautomatic assault weapons' and 'large capacity ammunition feeding devices' for ten years. However, the ban faced its sunset in 2004, during the reign of President George W. Bush, with a Republican majority in both chambers of Congress.

After the passage of the ban, Democrats, including then Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., experienced a harsh political backlash, leading to Republicans gaining control of both chambers of Congress. Feinstein had admitted to having underestimated 'the power of the NRA'.

Yet, studies conducted by the Department of Justice echoed the NRA's sentiment about the inefficiency of the ban, citing its inability to reduce the average number of victims per gun murder incident or multi-shot victims. This sentiment was further supported by another study completed in 2004 which described the ban's impact on gun violence as small, perhaps even unmeasurable.

Maintaining their stance, Democrats continue to tout the bill that they believe helped to reduce mass shootings. In 2021, Biden reiterated his promise to bring back the ban, stating he had successfully done so before and believed in its efficacy to reduce mass killings.

A photo of a law-abiding citizen safeguarding his home with his legally owned AR-15, emphasizing the dual nature of firearms as tools for protection and potential weapons of violence. (Taken with Sony A7 III)

Amidst this, the NRA defends the AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle usually bundled as an 'assault weapon', describing it as a popular choice and 'America’s top self-defense rifle'. To amplify this, McLaughlin narrated an instance from 2019, involving an 8-month pregnant Florida mother using her AR-15 to defend her family against armed intruders.

Responding to the NRA's statements, the Biden campaign team underscored that the gun lobby consistently prioritized profits over human lives, while rejecting their support for weapons of war in communities as dangerous and unpopular.

Reinforcing their defense, the NRA lambasted the Biden administration for persecuting responsible gun-owners, all while communities faced increasing threats from criminals. According to the NRA, the administration's pro-criminal policies drove more people to buy firearms out of a need for safety.

McLaughlin concluded by accusing the current administration of playing politics with human lives, disregarding the tangible implications of their actions on the citizens they swore to protect and serve.