The coming debate also will build upon the prior debate Feinstein led on the 1994 law.
As part of a larger 1994 anti-crime bill, lawmakers crafted a 10-year ban on 19 types of semiautomatic assault weapons. The legislation specified, by name, the banned firearms.
Then, as now, lawmakers cited recent spasms of gun violence as evidence that legislation was needed. One of the designated weapons, a TEC-DC9, had been used to kill eight people in a San Francisco law firm in the summer of 1993. Feinstein also cited, during this earlier debate, how an assault weapon was used in 1989 to kill five students in Stockton, Calif.
Then, as now, the debate grew heated.
“The senator from California needs to become a little more familiar with firearms and their deadly characteristics,” then-Sen. Larry Craig, an Idaho Republican, intoned during Senate debate in November 1993.
“I am quite familiar with firearms,” Feinstein responded, citing the 1978 murder of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone. “I became mayor as a product of assassination…they found my assassinated colleague and you could put a finger through the bullet hole.”
The 1994 assault weapon ban expired in September 2004.
With Republicans now controlling the House, gun legislation has stalled in recent years. If anything, lawmakers have been trying to ease controls rather than tighten them.
One bill, authored by Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., and passed in the House by a 272-154 margin, would extend the ability to carry concealed weapons across state lines for those with permits. The Senate has not acted. Because of the inauspicious political environment in the House, Feinstein has not recently tried to renew the assault weapon ban; with the Newtown murders, that has now changed.