Democratic lawmakers have renewed their decades-long push to ban assault weapons, a move they argue would certainly limit criminals and mass shooters’ access to guns—but a ban would certainly not curtail the millions of attack weapons that are already in American civilians’ hands.

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Curtis Irwin holds a .50 caliber rifle in ~ a gun shop in ft Worth, Texas on Nov. 6, 2008.

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Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and also Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) presented a bill earlier this month that would certainly ban civilians native buying or selling hundreds of gun models it specifies as semiautomatic attack weapons, and it would halt future manufacturing.

This exception uses to a many guns: The national Shooting Sports structure (an sector trade team that describes these guns as “modern sporting rifles”) estimated that around 20 million of castle were produced or imported right into the U.S. From 1990 come 2018—that number has weapons own by police departments and civilians.

The full isn’t getting any type of smaller: about 22.8 million firearms were sold nationwide in 2020, a record-breaking figure, though countless of those sales were handguns fairly than rifles, according to data from the consultancy little Arms Analytics and also Forecasting.

Big Number

393.3 million. That’s how numerous guns to be in U.S. Civilians’ hand in 2018, about 120 firearms for every 100 people, follow to a research by the Swiss-based tiny Arms Survey. NSSF places the number even higher, in ~ 434 million in 2020. There’s very small hard data on the variety of guns in circulation since the federal government doesn’t monitor those figures, yet the United says is generally believed to have actually a far greater gun ownership rate than any type of other country.


For part advocates, the sheer variety of firearms currently in circulation underscores why stricter gun manage measures room needed. Christian Heyne, vice president of policy for gun manage group Brady, support a half on new assault weapons, yet he likewise suggested tighter regulations because that existing guns. He states the government could require assault weapon owner to register their guns and earn licenses, comparable to the current rules because that owning a maker gun.

Crucial Quote

“We require to gain a host of new and manufactured weapons,” Heyne told “The long-term setup needs come be: control these weapons the way we do various other weapons of increased lethality.”

Chief Critic

Gun rights teams argue a half on attack weapons is unworkable since so countless Americans currently own these firearms for legit reasons. AR-15-style rifles are several of the most popular guns in the unified States, NSSF spokesperson mark Oliva said, and an attack weapons half “does nothing to get these 20 million weapons off the street.”

Surprising Fact

President Joe Biden has said reducing the number of assault weapons in circulation by purchase them back from their owners, a procedure the Australian government attempted in the 1990s. Oliva, because that his part, trust a buyback routine would fail because criminals would certainly refuse come participate: “All it would perform is disarm law-abiding citizens,” the said.

Key Background

The united States very first banned some species of semiautomatic assault weapons in 1994, yet the regulation expired after ~ 10 years, permitting those weapons to go back to dealers’ shelves. Because then, firearms like the AR-15 have become extremely popular among enthusiasts who favor their adaptability and limited recoil. However, these firearms are additionally regularly supplied in some of the country’s most notorious mass shootings, and critics controversy they’re designed to be more lethal, a fee gun rights teams dispute. Together a result, Democrats have consistently moved for a renewed nationwide ban, and seven states have actually banned assault weapons on your own.

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Further Reading

How Many assault Weapons carry out Americans Own? (The Trace)

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Joe Walsh

I to be a breaking news reporter at I previously covered regional news for the Boston Guardian, and I i graduated from Tufts college in 2019. Girlfriend can contact me at

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I to be a break news reporter in ~ I previously covered local news because that the Boston Guardian, and I graduated from Tufts college in 2019. Girlfriend can contact me at jwalsh