At a prayer vigil for the victims of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, President Obama offered both his condolences and a promise to take action:
We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change…We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society, but that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this.
Despite impressive rhetoric, the president’s words do not possess any substantial meaning. Besides, his role as an executive limits his ability to avoid “inaction,” at least as far as actual laws are concerned. On the same day, however, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) pledged to “introduce in the Senate, and the same bill will be introduced in the House—a bill to ban assault weapons.”
The proposal “will ban the sale, the transfer, the importation and the possession, not retroactively, but prospectively,” Feinstein said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “The purpose of this bill is to get…weapons of war off the streets.” The bill would most likely resemble the one Bill Clinton signed into law in 1994—a ban that expired a decade later.
Myriad problems arose surrounding the interpretation and enforcement of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, many of which would surely re-emerge under a new ban. For starters, no legal or practical definition for what constitutes an “assault weapon” actually exists.