The Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB), officially the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act, is a subsection of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, a United States federal law, which included a prohibition on the manufacture for civilian use of certain semi-automatic firearms that were defined as assault weapons as well as certain ammunition magazines that were defined as "large capacity."
The 10-year ban was passed by the US Congress on September 13, 1994, following a close 52–48 vote in the US Senate, and was signed into law by US President Bill Clinton on the same day. The ban applied only to weapons manufactured after the date of the ban's enactment. It expired on September 13, 2004, in accordance with its sunset provision.
Several constitutional challenges were filed against provisions of the ban, but all were rejected by the courts. There were multiple attempts to renew the ban, but none succeeded.
Studies have shown the ban had little effect in criminal activity. Other studies, using sources such as Mother Jones, a report prepared for Mayors Against Illegal Guns and a New York Police Department report, have shown small decreases in the rate of mass shootings followed by increases beginning after the ban was lifted.
Efforts to create restrictions on assault weapons at the federal government level intensified in 1989 after 34 children and a teacher were shot and five children killed in Stockton, Calif. with a semi-automatic AK-47 rifle. The Luby's shooting in October 1991, which left 23 people dead and 27 wounded, was another factor. The July 1993 101 California Street shooting also contributed to passage of the ban. The shooter killed eight people and wounded six. Two of the three firearms he used were TEC-9 semi-automatic handguns with Hell-Fire triggers. The ban tried to address public concerns about mass shootings by restricting firearms that met the criteria for what it defined as a "semiautomatic assault weapon", as well as magazines that met the criteria for what it defined as a "large capacity ammunition feeding device".:1–2
In November 1993, the proposed legislation passed the U.S. Senate. The bill's author, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and other advocates said that it was a weakened version of the original proposal. In May 1994, former presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan, wrote to the U.S. 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 unsuccessfully to remove the assault weapons ban section from the crime bill. The National Rifle Association (NRA) opposed the ban. In November 1993, NRA spokesman Bill McIntyre said that assault weapons "are used in only 1 percent of all crimes". The low usage statistic was supported in a 1999 Department of Justice brief. The legislation passed in September 1994 with the assault weapon ban section expiring in 2004 due to its sunset provision.