As Senate Democrats unveiled an “assault weapons ban” encompassing a variety of rifles, shotguns, and pistols, the newest lawyer in the U.S. Senate pointed out that “real assault weapons” have been illegal since 1934.
“Washington politicians shouldn’t be taking advantage of recent tragedy to try to push an aggressive gun control agenda,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in a statement today. “Real assault weapons—machine guns—are already functionally illegal, and they have been since 1934. This proposal would have done nothing to prevent the terrible murders in Newtown, but it would limit the constitutional liberties of law-abiding citizens.”
Through the National Firearms Act of 1934, Congress imposed “a tax on the making and transfer of machine guns and certain other weapons, as well as a special occupational tax on persons and entities engaged in the business of importing, manufacturing and dealing in those weapons,” according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The tax was $200 (in 1934, the U.S. dollar was valuable enough that 200 bucks was a lot of money). Congress passed a ban on machine gun ownership in 1986.
Cruz was responding to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who proposed a new assault weapons ban today. “Getting this bill signed into law will be an uphill battle, and I recognize that—but it’s a battle worth having,” Feinstein said in a statement today. “We must balance the desire of a few to own military-style assaults weapons with the growing threat to lives across America. If 20 dead children in Newtown wasn’t a wakeup call that these weapons of war don’t belong on our streets, I don’t know what is.”
Feinstein’s bill is co-sponsored by several top Democrats, including Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who went back and forth with Cruz about gun control on Sunday’s Meet the Press.
“The bottom line is that during the 10 years that the Assault Weapons Ban was in effect, the use of those weapons in crimes went down a significant percentage,” Schumer said.
Cruz countered by noting that the use of those weapons for crimes has continued to drop without a gun ban. “The Assault Weapons Ban was one of the least successful bills that has ever been put in place,” he told NBC’s David Gregory. “And in fact, when the ban expired, there were roughly 700 murders using all rifles. Today, there are roughly 300. There’s less than half. This is not designed to actually solve the problem of violent crime. This is designed to assuage liberal partisans who want to push their agenda forward.”