The ten-year ban was passed by the U.S. Congress on September 13, 1994, following a close 52–48 vote in the Senate, and signed into law by then President Bill Clinton the same day. The ban only applied to weapons manufactured after the date of the ban's enactment, and 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 reviewing courts. There were multiple attempts to renew the ban, but none succeeded.
Studies have shown the ban had little effect in criminal activity, although this may have been due to the ban's various loopholes. Other studies have shown small decreases in the rate of mass shootings followed by increases that began when 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 Hellfire 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.