The problem, as Joe Biden explained before he was elected president, was that gun manufacturers could comply with the 1994 [‘assault weapons’ ban] by “making minor modifications to their products” that left them “just as deadly.” Removing the prohibited features did not affect the essential properties of semi-automatic rifles, which still fired the same ammunition at the same rate with the same muzzle velocity.
Biden nevertheless is proud of backing the 1994 ban, which he contradictorily (and implausibly) claims reduced mass-shooting deaths. He thinks fiddling with the language can correct the essential weakness of that law, which by his own account left many equally deadly firearms on the market. But that weakness is inherent in the puzzling distinctions drawn by this sort of law.
If anything, H.R. 1808 underlines the arbitrariness of those distinctions. It includes a 94-page list of firearms that are explicitly exempted from the ban. The Iver Johnson M1 carbine, for example, is allowed, provided it does not have a folding stock, a feature that has no impact on the gun’s lethality. The Ruger Mini-14 Ranch rifle is likewise exempted, as long as it has a fixed stock and does not have a pistol grip. Yet the Ruger Mini-14 Tactical rifle (Model 5888), which is otherwise functionally identical, is prohibited.
For obvious reasons, Democrats did not want to talk about details like those, instead relying on misdirection and misstatements of fact to make the case for the bill. But after decades of legislation based on such dubious distinctions, Americans may be wising up. In a Quinnipiac University poll conducted in early June, just 50 percent of respondents favored “a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons,” while 45 percent were opposed and 5 percent offered no opinion. As Fox News noted, that was “the lowest level of support since February 2013,” when Quinnipiac first posed the question. The results are especially notable because the survey was completed just two weeks after the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas.