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Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has offered a bill to ban bump fire stocks after police found 12 rifles equipped with these devices in the Las Vegas festival shooter’s hotel room.
In a significant policy shift, Republicans and the National Rifle Association have said they believe that the government should intervene and regulate this kind of equipment, which allows semi-automatic weapons to fire over and over again without forcing the shooter to do all the work of squeezing the trigger repeatedly.
On Fox News Sunday, NRA-Institute for Legislative Action executive director Chris Cox drew a sharp line between his group’s stance and what he sees as the underlying Democratic agenda.
"I take Dianne Feinstein at her word when she says that if she had 51 votes in the Senate for 'Mr. and Ms. America, turn in all of your guns,' they would do it," Cox told host Chris Wallace Oct. 8.
Cox is off target, because he said Feinstein said she wanted to take away all guns. In reality, back in 1995, Feinstein said she wanted to take away all assault rifles.
That’s a huge difference. While firm numbers are lacking, assault weapons represent a fraction of the country’s estimated total of 310 million guns.
We reached out to the National Rifle Association and did not hear back, but Cox was repeating a charge that has been leveled against Feinstein before. In the past, it tracked back to an interview she did in 1995.
Feinstein was a driving force behind the 1994 federal assault weapons ban. It prohibited the manufacture of 19 specific kinds of military-style, semi-automatic firearms, often called assault weapons.
Those restrictions did not apply to any semi-automatic weapons made before the ban’s effective date Sept. 13, 1994. (Congress allowed the ban to expire in 2004.)
In a Feb. 5, 1995 segment on CBS News’ 60 Minutes, correspondent Lesley Stahl explored the surge in sales that preceded the ban. Stahl cited government estimates that as many 1.5 million weapons were in circulation due to the exception carved out in the law.
Stahl said Feinstein told him in an interview that she didn’t want that, but had done the best that should could.
"If I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States for an outright ban, picking up every one of them, ‘Mr. and Mrs. America, turn ‘em all in,’ I would have done it," Feinstein told Stahl. "I could not do that. The votes weren’t here."
Feinstein repeated that message in a speech on the Senate floor a few months later: "If I had my way, I would ban the possession of assault weapons anywhere in the United States of America, but there were not going to be the votes for that. This is a moderate law."
Her words have always applied to assault weapons, not all firearms. In a 2012 op-ed, she wrote "Let me be clear: If an individual wants to purchase a weapon for hunting or self-defense, I support that right."
And in proposing to ban bump stocks, Feinstein said her bill "does not take anyone's gun." She also said she remains committed to some form of a ban on semiautomatic assault weapons.
Both the total number of firearms and assault-style weapons in the country remain unclear.
According to a Congressional Research Service report, in 2009, the country had about 310 million firearms: "114 million handguns, 110 million rifles, and 86 million shotguns."
In 2013, pro-Second Amendment rights attorney David Hardy said in Senate testimony that nearly 9 million people went target shooting with an AR-15-style weapon. (AR-15 refers to one of the more common styles of the banned weapons.) Hardy used figures from the National Shooting Sports Foundation that showed in 2012 that only about a quarter of shooters owned an AR-style weapon.
Based on that, 9 million would be a high-end estimate of the number of assault weapons owned in 2012. Set against a total number of firearms in excess of 300 million, assault weapons are not a large share of all guns.
Cox said that Feinstein had once said "if she had 51 votes in the Senate for 'Mr. and Ms. America , turn in all of your guns,' they would do it."
This is an inaccurate characterization of what Feinstein said in a 1995 interview on assault-type weapons. It is clear in context about loopholes in the 1994 assault weapon ban that Feinstein would have liked the ban to apply to all assault weapons but did not have the votes.
That is a far cry from banning all firearms, and Feinstein has said she supports the right of people to own a weapon for hunting or self-defense.
We rate this claim False.
Fox, Fox News Sunday, Oct. 8., 2017
Congressional Research Service, Gun control legislation, Nov. 14, 2012
U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Gun violence issues - Hardy testimony, Feb. 27, 2013
National Shooting Sports Foundation, Supplemental report, April 2012
Statista, 2016 firearm imports, accessed Oct. 8, 2017
Statista, 2015 firearm manufacturing, accessed Oct. 8, 2017
Small Arms Survey, Estimating Civilian Owned Firearms, September 2011
Pew Research Center, A minority of Americans own guns, but just how many is unclear, June 4, 2013
Daily Caller, Gun ownership by the numbers, Nov. 4, 2014
USA Today, Military-style AR-15 rifles: 'The market is saturated', Dec. 3, 2014
San Francisco Chronicle, op-ed "Feinstein presses for assault weapons ban," July 29, 2012.
CBS News, Excerpt - 60 Minutes, February 1995
CBS News, Transcript - 60 Minutes, February 1995
Congressional Record, Senate floor speech by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Dec. 11, 1995
CBS News, Face the Nation, Oct. 8., 2017
PolitiFact California, Ted Cruz misfires on Feinstein gun claim, Jan. 15, 2016
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