There was a time in the United States -- for 10 years -- when the kind of military-style assault weapons used in Parkland, Florida, and other mass shootings were banned in the U.S.
But the law written by California Sen. Dianne Feinstein lapsed nearly 15 years ago.
Now, with momentum from last weekend’s national March for Our Lives protests, the senator, who is running for her fifth term in the Senate, is trying to win support for new restrictions.
Feinstein is no stranger to gun violence. In the 1970s as a San Francisco supervisor, she learned how to shoot and began carrying a concealed firearm after two attempts on her life.
In November 1978, it was Feinstein who discovered the bodies of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk after they were gunned down in their offices by Supervisor Dan White. And it was Feinstein who announced the news to the public at San Francisco City Hall.
Feinstein’s prior federal gun ban legislation passed during the Clinton administration in 1994. But it was not revived past its 2004 expiration.
An attempt to resurrect the ban after the December 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School failed. Critics complained the ban failed to curb gun violence significantly.
“It worked,” Feinstein insisted.
She says mass shootings of six people or more actually dropped by more than 30 percent during the 10-year period the law was in effect and spiked again after it was rescinded.
“And the gun companies started to pump out these weapons, and the killings went on,” Feinstein said.
“Since Sandy Hook there have been 200 school shootings with over 400 people killed," she said during a brief press conference in Los Angeles, where she led a roundtable discussion on gun violence that was closed to the media. "There’s a school shooting virtually every month in this country. After (Parkland) Florida, a few days later there was one in Maryland. And the Congress of the United States does nothing.”
New federal legislation championed by Feinstein and co-authored by Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia would, among other things, ban the sale and manufacturing of over 200 different types of military-style assault weapons, including those that accept detachable magazines equipped with 10 or more rounds. Anyone who currently owns such weapons could still keep them.
Far from being an outright repeal of potentially deadly firearms or of gun rights, the proposal would exempt over 2,000 other types of guns, including those used for self-defense, hunting, target shooting and other recreation.
When pressed during an appearance at UCLA Medical Center Tuesday, Feinstein acknowledged that the proposed assault weapon legislation did not have enough Republican support to make it through Congress.
“No, there is not at the present time,” she said.
“We have, I believe, 29 co-sponsors. And I don’t think that one is Republican. The Republican Party should recognize what’s happening across America,” she said.
Feinstein said that she’d press on with the proposed ban and other legislation in the future. She dismissed a suggestion from retired U.S. Supreme Court John Paul Stevens that perhaps it was time for the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to be repealed in favor of gun laws that more appropriately reflect modern times.
“I don’t think it’s possible,” Feinstein said of the repeal idea.
Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, who joined Feinstein at UCLA, created a Gun Violence Prevention Unit aimed at working to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and children.
Feuer also co-founded and now co-chairs Prosecutors Against Gun Violence. The coalition of some 40 prosecutors across the country aims to bring what it calls “prosecutorial and policy solutions and gun sense to the epidemic of gun violence.”
His office has prosecuted gun owners who failed to secure weapons that later fell into the hands of children.
“So I’m a big supporter of taking these laws and making sure that they are realized," Feuer said. "There may be an additional law that would be helpful to also enact here in Los Angeles. But the key for us now is to use the laws that we have now, and be vigilant about being sure that they are enforced.”