Assault weapons possess features specifically designed by the world's militaries to make it easier for the shooter to fire a sustained, high volume of rounds into a wide area. As a result of America's weak gun laws, these weapons entered our civilian marketplace decades ago, and criminals quickly learned how to exploit their military features.
In 1994, President Bill Clinton and Congress enacted a federal assault weapons ban. This law named 19 specific models of guns, and also banned "copies or duplicates" of those models. In addition, the law outlawed guns that had two or more specified assault weapon features. Guns that were legally possessed before the effective date of the law remained legal. Finally, the law outlawed the manufacture of detachable, high-capacity ammunition magazines which could hold more than 10 rounds.
Unfortunately, the law was temporary, designed to sunset in ten years. President George W. Bush stated during the 2004 presidential campaign that he supported renewing the ban, but in September of that year it expired without any action by either the president or Congress.
For years, polls have consistently shown that a majority of Americans want the ban extended. Law enforcement groups agree. Yet, assault weapons remain legal in our country, and are easy to buy, often with no questions asked.