Assault weapons legislation in the United States
An assault weapons ban is a form of gun control in the United States that restricts firearms based largely on cosmetic appearances. Seven U.S. states have assault weapons bans. The federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 (AWB 1994) expired in 2004 and is now defunct.
The 1994 federal ban and first state ban, in California, were prompted by the Cleveland Elementary School shooting in Stockton, California, in January 1989. Existing and proposed weapon bans come under scrutiny in the wake of mass shootings, most recently after the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
Federal Assault Weapons Ban
In January 1989, 34 children and a teacher were shot in Stockton, California, using a semi-automatic replica of an AK-47 assault rifle. Five children died.:10 President George H.W. Bush banned the import of semiautomatic rifles in March 1989, and made the ban permanent in July. The assault weapons ban tried to address public concern about mass shootings while limiting the impact on recreational firearms use.:1–2
In November 1993, the ban passed the United States Senate, although its author, Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, and other advocates said that it was a weakened version of the original proposal. In January 1994, Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center, said handguns and assault weapons should be banned. In May of that year, former presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan, wrote to the United States House of Representatives in support of banning "semi-automatic assault guns." They cited a 1993 CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll that found 77 percent of Americans supported a ban on the manufacture, sale, and possession of such weapons. Rep. Jack Brooks, D-TX, then chair of the House Judiciary Committee, tried to remove the ban from the crime bill but failed.
The Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act, commonly called the federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB and AWB 1994), was enacted in September 1994. The ban, including a ban on high-capacity magazines, became defunct (expired) in September 2004 per a 10-year sunset provision.
State assault weapon bans
Three U.S. states passed assault weapons bans before Congress passed the federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994: California in 1989, New Jersey in 1990, and Connecticut in 1993. Four others passed assault weapons bans before AWB 1994 expired in 2004: Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and New York.
The Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989, or AWCA, banned semi-automatic firearms that it classified as assault weapons: over 50 specific brands and models of rifles, pistols, and shotguns. It also banned magazines that it classified as large capacity magazines (those able to hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition). Guns and magazines legally owned at the time the law was passed were grandfathered in if registered with the California Department of Justice.
In June 1993, Connecticut became the third U.S. state, after California and New Jersey, to pass an assault weapons ban.
Hawaii was one of seven U.S. states to have an assault weapons ban in place prior to the September 2004 sunset of the now defunct federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994.
Maryland was one of seven U.S. states to have an assault weapons ban in place prior to the September 2004 sunset of the now defunct federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994.
Massachusetts was one of seven U.S. states to have an assault weapons ban in place prior to the September 2004 sunset of the now defunct federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994.
In May 1990, New Jersey became the second state in the U.S. to pass an assault weapons ban. AR-15 platform, semi-automatic rifles are illegal in New Jersey, and owning and publicly carrying other guns require separate licensing processes.
Although it is commonly referred to as an assault weapons ban, New Jersey's law actually uses the term "assault firearm" to define banned and regulated guns. Some New Jersey gun advocates have called its laws "draconian." Attorney Evan Nappen, author of several books on New Jersey gun laws, says the term is "misapplied and carries with it a pejorative meaning."
New York was one of seven U.S. states to have an assault weapons ban in place prior to the September 2004 sunset of the now defunct federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994.
Some local governments have laws that ban or restrict the possession of assault weapons.
District of Columbia
The law that set up Illinois' concealed carry system in 2013 also established state preemption for certain areas of gun law, including restrictions on assault weapons. Laws passed before July 20, 2013 are grandfathered in, and a number of local governments in the Chicago area have laws that either prohibit or regulate the possession of firearms that they define as assault weapons. These include the city of Chicago and Cook County.
In March 1989 the Northwest Indiana cities of Gary and East Chicago city councils passed ordinances prohibiting both sale and possession of assault weapons. Gary City Councilman Vernon G. Smith (D-4th) sponsored the ordinance making it a crime to possess or sell assault-type weapons. 
- Staff, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. (1 January 2014). Britannica Book of the Year 2014. Encyclopaedia Britannica. p. 335. ISBN 978-1-62513-171-3.
The 1994 Assault Weapons Ban placed limits on the sale of semiautomatic weapons from any source. Because the military-style features were in part cosmetic, manufacturers of the weapons could alter their appearance to comply
- Wilson, Harry L. (2007). Guns, Gun Control, and Elections: The Politics and Policy of Firearms. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 96. ISBN 978-0-7425-5348-4.
The ATF standard, however, foccused on appearance rather than function
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- Mohr, Charles (March 15, 1989). "U.S. Bans Imports of Assault Rifles in Shift by Bush". The New York Times.
- Rasky, Susan F. (July 8, 1989). "Import Ban on Assault Rifles Becomes Permanent". The New York Times.
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- Bunting, Glenn F. (November 9, 1993). "Feinstein Faces Fight for Diluted Gun Bill". Los Angeles Times.
- Sugarmann, Josh (January 1994). "Reverse FIRE: The Brady Bill won't break the sick hold guns have on America. It's time for tougher measures.". Mother Jones.
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- Attorney General (June 8, 2012). "California Firearms Laws 2007". ag.ca.gov. California Department of Justice. Retrieved April 21, 2014.
- Johnson, Kirk (June 9, 1993). "Weicker Signs Bill to Forbid Assault Rifles". New York Times. Retrieved April 20, 2014.
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- McCoppin, Robert (July 21, 2013). "Some Suburbs Pass Assault Weapon Restrictions, Others Dissuaded by Gun Owners", Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 18, 2014.
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- "Division 4. Blair Holt Assault Weapons Ban". municode.com. Municipal Code Corporation. 2013. Retrieved April 28, 2014.
- Staff (January 15, 1990). "Assault Weapon Sales Recoil Gary, East Chicago Outlawed Them; None Turned In to Police". Post-Tribune (IN) – via HighBeam Research (subscription required). Retrieved 19 May 2014.
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