“Biden wants to prohibit production and sale of “assault weapons” and require that current owners either surrender their firearms to the government or follow the same tax and registration requirements that apply to machine guns. Yet he concedes that the 1994 federal “assault weapon” ban, which expired in 2004, had no impact on the lethality of legal firearms.
The problem, according to Biden, was that manufacturers could comply with the law by “making minor modifications to their products—modifications that leave them just as deadly.” But there is no way around that problem, since laws like these are based on “military-style” features, such as folding stocks, threaded barrels, and bayonet mounts, that have nothing to do with a weapon’s destructive power.
Even if the government could eliminate all guns with those features, would-be mass shooters would have plenty of equally lethal alternatives. Several of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history were carried out with weapons that would not be covered by Biden’s ban.
Biden also would ban “high-capacity magazines,” which politicians generally define as magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. Americans own millions of those; they are standard for many of the most popular handguns and rifles.
The rationale for the 10-round limit is that the need to switch magazines can create a “critical pause” during which a mass shooter might be overpowered or his victims might escape. But as a federal judge noted when he ruled against California’s ban on “large-capacity magazines” in 2019, that restriction also can create a “lethal pause” for a crime victim “trying to defend her home and family”—a far more common situation.”