Back in the 1990s, when overalls were cool and flannel shirts were a fashion statement, AR-15s were banned.
You may or may not remember those years from personal experience but even if you do odds are good you don’t know the precise details of what went down.
This is all highly relevant today because the Democratic party presidential nominee, Joe Biden, is on the record saying he will not only bring back the ban but take it even further.
What does that mean? Let’s take a look at the Clinton-era ban and Biden’s promises to find out what the future may hold for gun owners.
[Editor’s Note] While this article is touching on a touchy subject, keep the comments civil. Americans are Americans, even when you disagree with them and even when they want to abolish your constitutional right.
Table of Contents
Delving into history is a fantastic way to learn what’s been done to guns and gun owners before and it gives you the opportunity to try to make sure the bad parts don’t hit repeat.
Knowing your history gives you a clearer, more realistic idea of what’s happening.
Two past bills play heavily into what presidential hopeful Joe Biden is now promising: The Brady Act and the 1994 Assault Weapon Ban.
The Brady Act
In effect, the Brady Act imposed a required federal background check and 5 day waiting period on firearm purchases when purchased through an FFL. The 5 day wait was dropped once the NICS was in place in 1998, but the background check remains.
The Brady Act was signed into law due in part to the not-inconsiderable influence of former president Ronald Reagan.
Reagan did this in part by writing impassioned letters to major news outlets and did it not only to get the Brady Act passed but again, later, to get the 1994 Assault Weapon Ban passed.
The 1994 ban passed by only two votes and both those Congressmen claimed it was Reagan’s backing the ban that changed their minds.
One was Congressman Scott Klug, a Republican from Wisconsin who received a personal letter from Reagan asking him to change his vote and back the ban.
Klug did just that, changing his vote and helping the ban pass.
Former President Bill Clinton signed the ban into law on September 13, 1994.
The 1994 Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act
Better known as the 1994 Assault Weapons ban, this bill was sponsored by Representative Charles Schumer and written as an act “to make unlawful the transfer or possession of assault weapons.”
So, what did the ban consider an assault weapon? Many gun owners think this was a flat AR ban but there was actually a great deal more to it than simply doing away with ARs.
The text of the bill outlined precisely what they felt should be banned as assault weapons, it’s a lengthy read that I highly suggest you take the time to check out straight from the Congress.gov archives.
In addition to a flat ban on firearms that were named or were copies or clones of the named rifles, there were also defined characteristics that were banned.
Here’s an excerpt from the 1994 ban listing what they used to define assault weapons:
(b) Definition of Semiautomatic Assault Weapon.–Section 921(a) of
such title is amended by adding at the end the following:
“(B) a semiautomatic rifle that has an ability to accept a
detachable magazine and has at least 2 of–
“(i) a folding or telescoping stock;
“(ii) a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously
beneath the action of the weapon;
“(iii) a bayonet mount;
“(iv) a flash suppressor or threaded barrel
designed to accommodate a flash suppressor; and
“(v) a grenade launcher;
“(C) a semiautomatic pistol that has an ability to accept
a detachable magazine and has at least 2 of–
“(i) an ammunition magazine that attaches to the
pistol outside of the pistol grip;
“(ii) a threaded barrel capable of accepting a
barrel extender, flash suppressor, forward handgrip, or
“(iii) a shroud that is attached to, or partially
or completely encircles, the barrel and that permits
the shooter to hold the firearm with the nontrigger
hand without being burned;
“(iv) a manufactured weight of 50 ounces or more
when the pistol is unloaded; and
“(v) a semiautomatic version of an automatic
“(D) a semiautomatic shotgun that has at least 2 of–
“(i) a folding or telescoping stock;
“(ii) a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously
beneath the action of the weapon;
“(iii) a fixed magazine capacity in excess of 5
“(iv) an ability to accept a detachable
This is what many, if not most, people fail to realize: not only ARs were banned in 1994. The ban affected all platforms from rifles to shotguns to handguns.
Anyone who believes another ban would not be a big deal because they don’t like ARs anyway will be surprised to find out their favorite semi-automatic shotgun will be on the ban list as well.
Then there’s the fact that in addition to the semi-autos banned in 1994 magazines holding over 10 rounds were also banned.
It did grandfather in previously-owned firearms so at least there was not a nationwide door-to-door seizing of newly illegal guns or forced registration.
The one upside to the ban was that it did have a sunset clause of ten years, meaning it expired ten years after it was signed into law.
Since the ban lifted in 2004 semi-autos of all kinds have regained popularity and also advanced technologically in good ways.
They’re better made, more reliable, and deliver greater accuracy.
But Did it Work?
Former President Bill Clinton believes his ban worked.
In 2019 he even took to Twitter reiterating its success:
How many more people have to die before we reinstate the assault weapons ban & the limit on high-capacity magazines & pass universal background checks? After they passed in 1994, there was a big drop in mass shooting deaths. When the ban expired, they rose again. We must act now.— Bill Clinton (@BillClinton) August 5, 2019
There is no unbiased data available supporting Clinton’s claims his ban created “a big drop in mass shooting deaths.”
On the contrary, Dr. Christopher Koper wrote in the 2013 book Reducing Gun Violence in America that “the ban had mixed effects in reducing crimes with the banned weaponry because of various exemptions and loopholes in the legislation. The ban did not appear to affect gun crime during the time it was in effect but some evidence suggests it may have modestly reduced gunshot victimization had it remained in place for a longer period.”
On January 1, 2020 Investors Business Daily published an article detailing what the author saw as the failure of the 1994 ban.
Under the heading “Editorials” the following reasons were included showing the ban had failed to reduce gun violence:
“It turns out that various independent studies came to the same conclusion: the ban had no measurable impact on the number of shootings or the number of shooting deaths while it was in effect.
A 2005 report from the National Research Council, for example, noted that “A recent evaluation of the short-term effects of the 1994 federal assault weapons ban did not reveal any clear impacts on gun violence outcomes.”
A 2004 study sponsored by the National Institute of Justice found that while the ban appeared to have reduced the number of crimes committed with “assault weapons,” any benefits were “likely to have been outweighed by steady or rising use of non-banned semiautomatics.“
As a result, the Justice study found “there has been no discernible reduction in the lethality and injuriousness of gun violence, based on indicators like the percentage of gun crimes resulting in death or the share of gunfire incidents resulting in injury.”
Even the Washington Post, a source many would consider being very liberal in slant, deemed Clinton’s statement as “two Pinocchios” and pointed out a number of fallacies.
They also said that “We frequently remind readers that correlation does not equal causation. Clinton cited a “big drop in mass shooting deaths” during the ban, but that’s going too far. Given the way the results shift depending on what mass shootings are cataloged and studied, Clinton should not be so definitive.”
You might have noticed a trend in the statements admitting Clinton’s 1994 Assault Weapons ban failed to deliver as promised on gun violence.
There is an overwhelming belief that the ban just wasn’t extensive enough.
It didn’t include enough guns, it expired too soon, and it shouldn’t have grandfathered in firearms owned prior to the ban.
This is where Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris come in.
The Biden-Harris Promise
We can go straight to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign website for a list of his gun ban plans should he win the upcoming presidential election.
This is yet another big chunk of text to read but I encourage you to take the time to read not only this entire thing but all the preceding text explaining the prior ban.
Why did we cover both the Brady Act and the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban earlier?
Because Biden was involved in both. Biden’s campaign website outlines it plainly:
“Joe Biden has taken on the National Rifle Association (NRA) on the national stage and won – twice. In 1993, he shepherded through Congress the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which established the background check system that has since kept more than 3 million firearms out of dangerous hands.“
“In 1994, Biden – along with Senator Dianne Feinstein – secured the passage of 10-year bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. As president, Joe Biden will defeat the NRA again. (from JoeBiden.com/gunsafety, accessed September 14, 2020)“
JoeBiden.com goes on to outline Biden’s plans for bans (these statements are missing the entirety of the summaries; to read the entire plan, please visit Joe Biden’s website:
Hold Gun Manufacturers Accountable.
The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act in short provides protections for the firearm industry from being sued for damages resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse of a firearm.
One example of this would be when LuckyGunner was sued for selling ammunition to Dimitrios Pagourtzis two weeks before his shooting rampage in a Santa Fe High School in May 2018.
While the case is more complex than just that and the reasoning for the cases dismissal in favor of LuckyGunner has more to do with Colorado law than federal law, it is in essences what the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act was trying to prevent — the companies behind the firearm industry being blamed and sued for the actions of criminals.
Biden wants to strip these protections. This is no different than trying to blame Ford or Toyota for drunk drivers.
Get Weapons Of War Off Our Streets.
The bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that Biden, along with Senator Feinstein, secured in 1994 reduced the lethality of mass shootings. But, in order to secure the passage of the bans, they had to agree to a 10-year sunset provision and when the time came, the Bush Administration failed to extend them. As president, Biden will:“
As we discussed, the 1994 ban was ineffective at best. “High-capacity” magazines are also a myth — these are standard capacity magazines that Biden wishes to abolish for arbitrary reasons.
Also, “Weapons of war” is just… dumb. Full-auto firearms are already heavily regulated, what they are actually talking about are modern sporting firearms such as the AR-15.
Ban The Manufacture And Sale Of Assault Weapons And High-Capacity Magazines
Federal law prevents hunters from hunting migratory game birds with more than three shells in their shotgun. That means our federal law does more to protect ducks than children. …Biden will also use his executive authority to ban the importation of assault weapons.
Federal law requires background checks, limits the use of SBRs, suppressors, SBSs, full-auto, who can own a firearm, who can even touch a firearm, and more. Saying that federal law does more to protect birds is flatly lying.
“Executive authority” translates to ordering the ATF to do whatever the ATF wants to do, much like how Trump ordered the ATF to ban bumpstocks.
Regulate Possession Of Existing Assault Weapons Under The National Firearms Act
Currently, the National Firearms Act requires individuals possessing machine-guns, silencers, and short-barreled rifles to undergo a background check and register those weapons with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Due to these requirements, such weapons are rarely used in crimes. As president, Biden will pursue legislation to regulate possession of existing assault weapons under the National Firearms Act.
Again, a lie. First they want to expand and totally redefine what an “assault weapon” is, and then regulate it using the NFA. The NFA already has strict criteria for what is and what is not an NFA item.
They want to literally take your guns at this point. Or force you to pay the federal government $200 per firearm while also falling under a host of new restrictions.
Buy Back The Assault Weapons And High-Capacity Magazines Already In Our Communities
Biden will also institute a program to buy back weapons of war currently on our streets. This will give individuals who now possess assault weapons or high-capacity magazines two options: sell the weapons to the government, or register them under the National Firearms Act.
“Give us $200 or forfeit your firearms.”
Wait a second here…
Reduce Stockpiling Of Weapons
In order to reduce the stockpiling of firearms, Biden supports legislation restricting the number of firearms an individual may purchase per month to one.
The British wanted to take our stockpiles of guns and powder at Concord, thankfully Paul Revere and others helped stop that.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I only have two hands. So even if I own 30, 40, 500 firearms — I can still at most use… two of them (poorly) at once, or one effectively.
Require Background Checks For All Gun Sales
…This will close the so-called “gun show and online sales loophole” that the Obama-Biden Administration narrowed, but which cannot be fully closed by executive action alone.
This isn’t a loophole. Federal law only requires a background check for firearms sold through an importer, manufacture, or licensed dealer.
Biden wants federal background checks to be required for all sales, such as sales that are not currently listed under federal law. Private sales, in other words.
Close Other Loopholes In The Federal Background Check System
In addition to closing the “boyfriend loophole” highlighted below, Biden will:
This might be considered a loophole and in all honesty, might be a measure that many of us would agree with.
Current federal law requires that individuals who have been convicted of, or are under a restraining order for domestic violence are prohibited from purchasing or owning a firearm.
However, the prohibition only applies if the victim was the perpetrator’s spouse, cohabitant, or had a child with the victim.
This leaves a whole host of possible romantic entanglements that are not covered under these fairly narrow restrictions.
Reinstate The Obama-Biden Policy To Keep Guns Out Of The Hands Of Certain People Unable To Manage Their Affairs For Mental Reasons
The Obama-Biden policy was to require the Social Security Administration to update the NICS with information of Americans who were receiving SSA benefits that were adjudicated by the SSA as unable to manage their affairs for “mental reasons”.
While preventing people with legitimately dangerous mental health issues from owning a firearm is something most 2A supporters might support, the problem lies deeper in this.
First off, this would massively discourage people from seeking the help they need and the benefits they deserve.
It also left “mental reasons” as a very broad and undefined meaning. Are these Americans crazy? Suicidal? Or just unable to handle finances, but still able to understand right from wrong, safety, self defense, and other critical topics for firearm ownership.
These undefined terms lead to mass confiscation and preventing people from getting the help they require.
Close The “Hate Crime Loophole”
Biden will enact legislation prohibiting an individual “who has been convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime, or received an enhanced sentence for a misdemeanor because of hate or bias in its commission” from purchasing or possessing a firearm.
Again, this is not a loophole. Misdemeanors are, generally, not crimes that carry the loss of constitutional rights.
I’m against hate and racists, but the stripping of a fundamental right should not be taken lightly nor should it be forced for minor non-violent offenses, such as a dumb kid spray painting something offensive.
Under Biden’s promise to close this “loophole”, that is a very real possibility.
Close The “Charleston Loophole.”
The Charleston loophole allows people to complete a firearms purchase if their background check is not completed within three business days. …Biden will also direct the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to put on his desk within his first 100 days as president a report detailing the cases in which background checks are not completed within 10 business days and steps the federal government can take to reduce or eliminate this occurrence.
The federal government dropping the ball isn’t the problem of the American people, it’s the problem of the federal government to fix their system.
That said, telling the FBI to get their act together isn’t something I can really nay say.
Close The “Fugitive From Justice” Loophole Created By The Trump Administration
Because of actions by the Trump Administration, records of almost 500,000 fugitives from justice who are prohibited from purchasing firearms were deleted from the background check system. The Biden Administration will restore these records, and enact legislation to make clear that people facing arrest warrants are prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms.
This is a very scary sounding term, and again NOT A LOOPHOLE, for what boils down to federal government in-fighting.
Federal law prohibits a “fugitive from justice” from buying a firearm. However, who exactly is a “fugitive” depends on who you ask.
The FBI says that a fugitive from justice was anyone with an outstanding warrant, regardless of whether they had crossed state lines to avoid prosecution.
The ATF maintained that it should apply only if those people had fled a state to avoid prosecution there.
The DOJ sided with the ATF and made the change. Due to the change, 500,000 some odd names were dropped from the NICS.
Who is right? Who is wrong? I’m sure you’ll tell me in the comments.
End The Online Sale Of Firearms And Ammunitions
Biden will enact legislation to prohibit all online sales of firearms, ammunition, kits, and gun parts.
“Gun parts” so, barrels? Triggers? Pistol grips? TacSacs? I mean… come on.
This is a gross overreach and simply stupid. While you might pay for a firearm online, ALL FIREARMS sold by a vender online must still go through an FFL and includes a federal required background check.
The differences is that you paid online and ordered your gun instead of being stuck with whatever was on the shelf at the gun store downtown.
Prohibiting us from buying ammo online will prevent exactly nothing. Look at California’s ammo law if you don’t believe me.
Create An Effective Program To Ensure Individuals Who Become Prohibited From Possessing Firearms Relinquish Their Weapons
Federal law defines categories of individuals who are prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms, and the federal background check system is an effective tool for ensuring prohibited persons cannot purchase firearms. …As president, Biden will direct the FBI and ATF to outline a model relinquishment process, enact any necessary legislation to ensure relinquishment when individuals newly fall under one of the federal prohibitions…
This is potentially very scary. While we’re obviously against prohibited persons from owning firearms, the idea of the FBI or ATF kicking in doors to collect them should worry us all.
I’m not saying that is what he is planning, but it’s not out of the question.
Incentivize State “Extreme Risk” Laws.
Extreme risk laws, also called “red flag” laws, enable family members or law enforcement officials to temporarily remove an individual’s access to firearms when that individual is in crisis and poses a danger to themselves or others. Biden will incentivize the adoption of these laws by giving states funds to implement them…
Red flag laws are a spit in the eye of due process and civil rights. These are so bad, the ACLU is against them. When a gun law is such an overreach that the ACLU learns to count to 2 — you know it’s bad.
We have a detailed article on What Are Red Flag Laws.
Give states incentives to set up gun licensing programs
Biden will enact legislation to give states and local governments grants to require individuals to obtain a license prior to purchasing a gun.
We have a license. The 2nd Amendment.
Adequately Fund The Background Check System
President Obama and Vice President Biden expanded incentives for states to submit records of prohibited persons into the background checks system. As president, Biden will continue to prioritize that funding and ensure that the FBI is adequately funded to accurately and efficiently handle the NICS system.
It Doesn’t End There
At the first Democratic debate, Biden voiced his feelings on the topic as well (you can find text of debates all over the place):
“Folks, look, and I would buy back [assault] weapons. We already started talking about that. We tried to get it done. I think it can be done. And it should be demanded that we do it. And that’s a good expenditure of money.”
Things got interesting when CNN questioned Biden on his statement during the debate:
CNN: So, to gun owners out there who say, well, a Biden administration means they’re going to come for my guns?
BIDEN: Bingo. You’re right if you have an assault weapon. The fact of the matter is, they should be illegal, period. Look, the Second Amendment doesn’t say you can’t restrict the kinds of weapons people can own. You can’t buy a bazooka. You can’t have a flame thrower.
[Editor’s Note] You can, in fact, own a flame thrower. Further more, they are unregulated.
BIDEN: What I would do is — I would try to — I would institute a national buyback program and I would move it in the direction to making sure that that in fact is what we try to do, get them off the street.
CNN: But that’s not confiscating…
BIDEN: No, that’s not walking into their homes, knocking on their doors, going through their gun cabinet, et cetera.
CNN: So people would be allowed to keep the weapons they already have?
BIDEN: Right now, there’s no legal way that I’m aware that you could deny them the right to have purchased (ph) — legally purchase them. But we can in fact make a major effort to make them off the street and out of the possession of people.
The CNN transcript can be viewed here.
This could go on into eternity quoting Biden and Harris’ plans to not only bring back the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban but to make it more extreme.
Bottom line: yes, they are coming for your guns. It does not matter which side of the political spectrum you fall on.
If you’re a gun owner or support gun owners’ rights to own firearms, you should be concerned. If you’re one of the millions of new gun owners who have joined our ranks in 2020 you should be concerned.
If you’re elderly and want to pass your gun or guns down to your children and grandchildren, you should be concerned.
Gun rights are not truly a partisan issue.
Biden and Harris are running on the Democratic ticket, but that doesn’t mean all Republicans are pro-gun. Remember, Reagan was a Republican. And he is responsible for the 1994 ban, the Brady bill, and the Mulford Act.
Vote on issues instead of blindly following a party.
Pay close attention to what’s about to happen to our Second Amendment rights.
And finally, start paying closer attention to the state of mental health care – or the lack thereof – both in the nation and in the gun industry.
Mental health is an important, relevant issue and should no longer be swept under the proverbial rug. Now get out and vote. Every single vote counts.
If you’re not sure how, take a look at HowTo.Vote and get the information you need to make sure your vote is counted.