Bill Clinton Calls for Reinstitution of 1994 Assault Weapons Ban

Getty Images

"We have talked, tweeted and delayed long enough," the 42nd president writes in an editorial for Time magazine.

In the wake of three mass shootings within the span of a week, Bill Clinton is calling for the reinstitution of the ban on assault weapons and limit on high-capacity magazines that he signed into law in 1994.

"The tragedies do keep happening, while the one thing that we know can reduce the number and the death tolls of mass shootings has not been done: reinstituting the ban on assault weapons and the limit on high-capacity magazines that was in effect from 1994 to 2004," the 42nd president wrote in an editorial for Time magazine published Thursday. "I worked hard to pass and was proud to sign the ban on these weapons of war into law, and the results were clear: mass shooting fatalities declined while they were in effect and have risen sharply since they were allowed to lapse," he added.

According to three studies conducted on the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act, or Federal Assault Weapons Ban, between 1999 and 2003, the law successfully reduced gun crimes committed with assault weapons but did not temper the use of other high-capacity magazine guns, which may have increased after the law's passage. The ban's results were "mixed," the final study asserted.

Nevertheless, on Thursday Clinton argued that the ban proved to provide a successful middle ground for anti- and pro-gun individuals. "As the 1994 assault-weapons ban shows, deaths from mass shootings fell while the number of hunting licenses actually increased. No one has to give up their culture to save the lives of innocent people, so many of them very young," he wrote.

Clinton also pushed back at criticisms that the law was in part responsible for Democratic losses in the 1994 midterm elections, noting that the 2018 midterms and its successes for the party proved the world is in a different place than it was. "Today members of Congress will be supported if they reinstate the assault-weapons and large-ammunition magazine bans, and if the Senate passes the universal-background-check law already passed by the House of Representatives," he writes.

To prevent mass shootings, Clinton also advocated, in addition to an assault weapons ban, for "red-flag laws," which empower courts to issue protections orders allowing authorities to confiscate weapons from people deemed to be a threat to those around them. He added, "We all have to stand against, not inflame, the racial, religious and gender-based bigotries that often drive the delusions of mass killers."

The former leader concluded, "We have talked, tweeted and delayed long enough. This is about who we are as a country, what America will look like years from now, and whether our children and grandchildren will be safer and freer to grow up."

Clinton's editorial came just days after a weekend that saw 31 deaths and about 50 injuries in shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, the latter of which is being investigated as a domestic terrorism incident. Also under investigations as a domestic terrorism event is the July 28 shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California, which left three dead and 13 injured.

The 1994 assault weapons ban was passed after a 52 to 48 vote in favor in the Senate and a 216 to 214 vote in the House of Representatives. Former presidents Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter all supported the ban, and Clinton signed it into law on Sept. 13 of that year. Since the law expired, efforts to reinstate the ban have thus far all failed.