8 N.Y.U. J. Legis. & Pub. Pol'y 471 (2004-2005)
Much Ado about Not Very Much: The Expiration of the Asault Weapons Ban as an Act of Legislative Responsibility

handle is hein.journals/nyulpp8 and id is 477 raw text is: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOT VERY MUCH:
Clark A. Wohlferd*
Few issues evoke such passionate public and political support as
assault weapons bans.' Polls show public approval for banning such
weapons at sixty-eight percent.2 Both 2004 presidential candidates fa-
vored renewing the existing Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB).3
The Senate voted in March 2004 to renew the ban.4 Yet Congress
allowed the AWB to expire in September 2004.5 The conventional
account calls the ban's expiration a failure of election-year politics.6
This article, however, offers a different perspective: the expiration of
the AWB was due not to mere congressional ineptitude, but rather to
responsible legislative inaction. The AWB was a flawed law that
* Candidate for J.D., 2006, New York University School of Law; B.A., Ma-
calester College, 2003.
1. Throughout this article the term assault weapons is confined to the definition
used in the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(30) (2000) (repealed
2. Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Effort to Renew Weapons Ban Falters on Hill: Democrats
Fault Bush for Lack of Action, N.Y. TIMES, Sept. 9, 2004, at AI (noting study re-
leased that week by Annenberg Public Policy Center of University of Pennsylvania).
3. See Transcript of Debate Between Bush and Kerry, With Domestic Policy the
Topic, N.Y. TIMES, Oct. 14, 2004, at A22. But see Jodi Wilgoren, In Magazine Inter-
view, Kerry Says He Owns Assault Rifle, N.Y. TIMES, Sept. 26, 2004, at A33 (quoting
Senator John Kerry stating he kept Chinese assault rifle as reminder of his military
4. A renewal of the AWB passed 52-47 as an amendment to a bill shielding gun
manufacturers from lawsuits (along with amendment to close gun-show loophole).
However, the bill itself was defeated 90-8 after the NRA and White House withdrew
support when the amendments were attached; Republicans called the amendments
poison pills. See Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Senate Leaders Scuttle Gun Bill Over
Changes, N.Y. TIMES, Mar. 3, 2004, at Al.
5. The ban expired on September 13, 2004. See 18 U.S.C. §§ 921-922 (2000).
6. Stolberg, supra note 2 (noting that although President Bush supported its re-
newal, he refused to push Congress to reauthorize AWB, perhaps because he needed
NRA endorsement for 2004 reelection, which NRA withheld until sunset of AWB).
Imaged with the Permission of N.Y.U. Journal of Legislation and Public Policy

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