Fact Check: Did Joe Biden ban assault weapons? (2024)

President Joe Biden repeated his support for tough new firearm legislation this week, demanding a renewed ban on assault weapons across the nation.

During a speech at a gun safety summit on Tuesday, only hours after his son Hunter's conviction on federal gun charges, the president condemned political opponent Donald Trump's record on firearm control while championing his own achievements.

Receiving applause from the crowd, the president repeated his call to "ban assault weapons" as he claimed to have done while Delaware senator in 1994.

Fact Check: Did Joe Biden ban assault weapons? (1)

The Claim

During a speech to the Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund's annual Gun Sense University conference in Washington D.C. on June 11, 2024, Biden said he banned assault weapons when he was a U.S. senator for Delaware.

"Folks you're changing the nation you really are, you're changing the nation. It builds upon the dozen of executive actions my administration has taken to
reduce gun violence, more than any of my predecessors, and I suspect more than all of them combined," Biden said.

"Everything from cracking down on ghost guns, gun trafficking, so much more folks. We're not stopping there it's time once again to do what I did when I was a senator, ban assault weapons."

The Facts

While it is true that Biden did help bring about legislation that led to the banning of some assault weapons in 1994, the scope of this action bears further scrutiny.

As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Biden helped enact the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 that prohibited "the manufacture, transfer, or possession of a semiautomatic assault weapon."

This banned the sale of a number of specific weapons, modifications, and large-capacity ammunition devices "that can be readily restored or converted to accept more than 10 rounds of ammunition."

However, as noted by a 1999 National Institute of Justice paper, it still exempted prohibited weapons bought before it was passed, and that only minor adjustments to a firearm, such as shortening its barrel by just a few millimeters, were "sufficient to transform a banned weapon into a legal substitute."

Furthermore, the ban expired in 2004, with Congress failing to reauthorize it. Only 18 specific models of firearms were banned. A 2004 report to the National Insitute of Justice provided examples of numerous loopholes available to circumvent some of the prohibitions.

The report noted that cosmetic changes such as removing a bayonet weapon were "sufficient to transform a banned weapon into a legal substitute."

The ban did not apply to semiautomatics with more than one military style featured under its provisions either. The report noted that Intratec, whose TEC-9 machine pistol was among the specified prohibited models, was able to manufacture an "after-ban" model that removed features such as a threaded barrel or barrel shroud, but was otherwise identical to the TEC-9 and was able to accept grandfathered 32-round magazines.

"The gun ban provision targets a relatively small number of weapons based
on outward features or accessories that have little to do with the weapons' operation," it said.

"Removing some or all of these features is sufficient to make the weapons legal. In other respects (e.g., type of firing mechanism, ammunition fired, and the ability to accept a detachable magazine), AWs [automatic weapons] not differ from other legal semiautomatic weapons."

The most recent and significant gun control legislation was the 2022 Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. It created new penalties for "straw purchasing," strengthened laws intended to keep firearms from domestic abusers and gun traffickers, and created new funding for states to administer "red flag" laws, allowing courts to order guns to be kept away from people deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.

However, unlike the 1994 bill, it also dropped any push to ban military style rifles to shore up support among Republicans.

The Ruling

Fact Check: Did Joe Biden ban assault weapons? (2)

Needs Context.

Joe Biden did help shepherd legislation banning "assault weapons" in 1994, which prohibited the sale of a number of specific models of firearms and devices that could hold "more than 10 rounds of ammunition."

However, it contained a number of loopholes. It allowed existing guns to be grandfathered, with manufacturers still able to make near-identical versions of specific models that were prohibited. The law expired in 2004, with Congress failing to reauthorize it.

FACT CHECK BY Newsweek's Fact Check team

Uncommon Knowledge

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

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Fact Check: Did Joe Biden ban assault weapons? (2024)

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