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Gun debate 101: How would this assault-weapons ban be different?

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Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) of California was the author of the 1994 ban and has vowed to reintroduce an assault-weapons bill in the new Congress. A version of the bill she introduced in 2005 banned rifles known as AK-47s, AR-15s, and Uzis, among others. In addition, that legislation prohibited the ownership, transfer, or manufacture of any rifle that is capable of accepting a detachable magazine and has two or more of these five characteristics: a folding or telescoping stock, a pistol grip, a bayonet mount, a muzzle flash suppressor or threaded barrel capable of accepting such a suppressor, or a grenade launcher.

Does Obama want a ban that's tougher than the old one? 

Yes. A White House fact sheet on the president’s gun proposals says the 1994 ban was a good start, but that manufacturers were able to circumvent it by making cosmetic modifications to their products.

“Congress must reinstate and strengthen the prohibition on assault weapons,” says the fact sheet.

Senator Feinstein has yet to release specific legislative language, but according to a summary of her proposed 2013 gun law posted on her website, she will move from a two-characteristic test to a one-characteristic test concerning what’s an assault weapon (see above). In addition, she would ban features known as “thumbhole stocks” and “bullet buttons.”

Thumbhole stocks are typical rifle stocks in which the manufacturer has drilled a hole so the user can hold it like a pistol for a better grip. Some hunters, particularly those who have served in the military, find this more comfortable and stable. But it could also facilitate one-handed use and spray-shooting from the hip – both of which can be used to target people, according to the Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence.

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