Another Democratic Senator Comes Out Against Assault Weapons Ban

The prospects of an assault weapons ban actually making it through Congress appear to be growing dimmer by the day. During yesterday’s hearings on gun control, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy made it clear that he was not at all inclined to support such a ban, which means it may have a rough time in committee. Even if it got out of committee, though, several Red State Democrats have made their opposition clear, the latest being Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor:

As a coalition of gun control advocates pushes for a new federal Assault Weapons Ban, U.S. Senators Mark Pryor and John Boozman of Arkansas say they cannot support California Senator Dianne Feinstein’s bill. Pryor says the objective should be to lessen gun violence not violate people’s constitutional rights.

“I think everyone agrees that the goal here is to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, the mentally ill, and young people while at the same time protecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens,” Pryor said. “The question is, how do we do this and how do we lessen the gun violence? I will continue to look at proposals here and also listen to Arkansans and law enforcement.”

Pryor says the bill is cumbersome, confusing, and includes about 100 pages that list specific weapons. He says there are no details on why certain guns are banned and others are accepted. Senator Boozman says people have the right to arm themselves.

“What I would like for us to do is have a real dialogue as to the cause of the violence,” Boozman said. ” I really feel like the gun is more the tool and it’s not the cause of the action. I don’t think disarming law-abiding people is the answer, or that it would really make that much of a difference.”

Both Boozman and Pryor say there should be more of a focus on putting additional cops on the streets and improving mental health services.

It’s not at all surprising to see Pryor hedging his bets here. He’s running for re-election in 2014 in a state that Mitt Romney won easily, and which has only gone Republican twice since 1980, and those were times when a popular former Arkansas Governor was at the top of the Democratic ticket. Additionally, Pryor has always had a strong record i support of the 2nd Amendment so it’s not really surprising that he would take this position. Although it’s worth noting that Pryor did vote in favor of renewing the 1994 ban when it came up in 2004. Although he wasn’t running for re-election that year.

Pryor isn’t the first Red State Democrat to take this position, and he won’t be the last. What this suggests is that an assault weapons ban may not even make it through the Senate, never mind the House of Representatives.


FILED UNDER: Congress, Guns and Gun Control, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. michael reynolds says:

    Cowardice is never surprising.

  2. JKB says:

    He might be an electoral coward or he might just not want to undermine the rights of law abiding Americans. The bill in question might not survive Constitutional scrutiny anyway. It seeks to ban firearms and accessories in an arbitrary fashion that are in common usage. Not to mention, the Department of Homeland Security itself has just declared the AR-15 variants to be for self defense in a solicitation for bids only they want the select fire version.

    I read an interesting post to day that Alan Gura who prevailed in the Heller case is of the opinion that the NY gun ban law, particularly the 7 round magazine limit is unconstitutional

    Gura answered:

    “Well the 7-round limit to me is clearly unconstitutional, for the reasons mentioned, Americans have expectation to find in common use handguns that have more than 7-rounds, and so a 7-round limit is plainly unconstitutional.”

    Few are more versed in the intricacies of the recent SCOTUS decisions regarding the 2nd Amendment than Alan Gura.

  3. Neil Hudelson says:

    I’ve always wondered why there is such a push for a ban, especially considering that, by nature, a ban is easily watered down. Look at what happened to the last ban. “An assault rifle has 2 of 3 of the following components–mix and match how you will.” which meant that you could have a high capacity, rapid fire rifle with a grenade launcher attachment since that wasn’t an assault weapon if it didn’t have a pistol grip and a folding stock.

    What happens when a ban is passed? The very people who watered it down to make it ineffective, laughs at its ineffectiveness and uses that to show that gun control doesn’t work.

    Wouldn’t it be better if there was a push for mandating:

    Built in trigger locks
    Research into and eventual mandation of biometric controls
    Limiting high capacity clips (I realize that is already being pushed for)
    Stronger bans against conversion kits
    More liability for the gun owners when their gun is used by their kid to shoot up a school

    Of course none of these measures will ‘cure’ the problem of gun violence, but it will limit how well a random person who snaps and goes crazy can use an assault rifle, and the effectiveness of any assault rifle he does get his hands on.

  4. @michael reynolds: Yeah the mere fact that this was even proposed indicates that congress could use some spine. 🙂

  5. Scott F. says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Cowardice is never surprising.

    …when partnered with the desire to keep the campaign coffers full, this is especially so.

  6. JKB says:

    @Neil Hudelson: Stronger bans against conversion kits

    So your solution would be to make something illegal, more illegal?

    I read an interesting thought problem the other day. Suppose the Feinstein gun ban goes into effect. Suppose many gun owners decide to not comply. So then owning a semi-automatic AR-15 variant rifle is a crime the same as having a fully automatic version so now all the formerly law-abiding citizens have no incentive not to seek out a conversion to select fire. It would spawn a small black market industry for machinists and such. And as you are already a criminal, no reason not to just carry, etc. any way you want, any where you want since you are going to jail anyway.

    Think about all the salubrious effects of Prohibition. Keep in mind, a law only works if enough of the populace decide is is worth complying with.

  7. Neil Hudelson says:


    A few thoughts (and thank you for your reply).

    1. As I understand it, conversion kits are not illegal if you do not possess the weapon. So person A can own the gun, person B can own the conversion kit. When put together, it is considered an intent to build, which is illegal. A stronger ban can absolutely be created, as this is a massive loophole.

    If I am incorrect on this, please provide a source–as I was unable to find a definitive answer but it strikes me you may have more information than I do.

    2. Ah yes, the “Criminals won’t comply” argument…except I was never arguing they were. To me there are two issues regarding gun violence: violence perpetrated by ‘criminals’ (implied that these are career criminals, rather than a criminal to-be), and violence perpetrated by the Adam Lanza’s of the world–who of course was not a criminal until he perpetrated mass violence.

    The controls I outlined would tamp down the latter without infringing on anyone’s right to own a gun. Surely no one could argue that a mother of 3 who owns a pistol with biometric controls–which would prevent a kid from using it but not the mom–is denied her right to own a pistol? And considering I do not hear much outrage regarding the current conversion kit ban (loopholes and all) that the idea of strengthening an already existing measure would, again, not prevent a citizen from owning a gun. It WOULD mean that a person who snaps and decides to go on a shooting rampage may have a harder time finding a conversion kit to make his or her task easier.

    Yes, ‘criminals’ could still talk to a machinist and have a custom conversion kit. And guess what? I’m ok with going after those machinists as well.

  8. john personna says:

    In related local news:

    Elkus is described by his family as frugal, politically opinionated and a gun enthusiast who enjoyed hunting and fishing.

    But they also say that he was a gentle man, who they didn’t think was capable of violence.

    That is, until yesterday, when they say he called them and admitted that he had shot and killed Dr. Gilbert.

    The refrain from the gun lobby has been that it is “criminals” and not “law abiding citizens” that you worry about … but cases like these just keep popping up, don’t they?

  9. stonetools says:

    I’ve always felt trhe assault werapons ban was the Judas goat of the current package. It gives red state Democrats cover for voting for the rest of the President’s package. They can say, “Yes, I am a Second Amendment defender , see , I voted against the assault weapons ban. However, I am for sensible, common sense regulation, which is why I voted in favor of the rest.”
    Meanwhile, on the Hill, the gun nuts are showing their true colors. Wayne LaPieere raged against background checks as “tyranny” and some Koch flunky called Gayle Trotter argued, in all seriousness, that an AR 15 with a 30 round magazine is the perfect home defense weapon because its so “scarey looking.”
    The more the gun cultists make their batsh!t crazy arguments in public, the more the public realizes that they’re in their own world and have nothing to contribute to rational gun policy debate.

  10. JKB says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    Except no one has actually converted then gone on a shooting spree.

    Biometrics sounds like a good idea until you consider, A. firearms are for use when you are in imminent threat of death or serious injury, and B. biometrics have a delay while they process, and will have some non-zero probability of false negative, i.e., failure to verify an authorized user. No one in their right mind is going to use inherently unreliable technology when their life is on the line. Any attempt to impose such inherently unreliable technology on the citizen will be unconstitutional as it will not be in common usage by government employees (note Feinstein is seeking to exempt government employees from her gun ban in both official and private capacities) and will by its unreliability deny the citizen their natural right to self defense. In short, with biometrics, the “blue screen of death” would really mean death.

  11. Neil Hudelson says:

    @john personna:

    It’s the greatest! We only have to worry about criminals. And as soon as a law-abiding citizens goes on a shooting spree, why s/he is a criminal, and we probably should have worried about them all along.

    But still, we can’t penalize law-abiding citizens!

    (That’s why I usually put “criminal” in quotation marks. It’s just a weasel word that gives gun nuts cover for quite literally everything.)

    Adam Lanza was a law abiding citizen until he murdered a few dozen small children.

  12. matt bernius says:

    @Neil Hudelson:
    As I’ve said before, rather than focusing on a Assault Weapons “ban,” it would be far more productive to push for the introduction of a federal firearms license/permit on all semi-automatic long guns that feature exchangeable magazines.

    Again, this would still allow many “sporting rifles” to be purchased without a license (keeping the second Amendment in place). Further, it doesn’t ban any existing weapons. And finally, given the fact that everyone seems to agree that “firearms training” is a good thing, such a license would enshrine the necessity of training (with a true pass/fail test).

    The net result is that anyone who wants an assault weapon could still acquire one — provided they do all the necessary work. This, btw, is the same thing that people who want to own a pistol have to do in most states.

    And unlike any of the “bans”, had this legislation been in place, it actually might have prevented/or lessened at least two of the recent mass shootings (Nancy Lanza didn’t have a pistol license, one has to wonder if she would have gone through the work to get this sort of license, and the Shooter in Webster NY used a straw buyer who didn’t have a license either).

  13. matt bernius says:


    Gura writes:
    “Well the 7-round limit to me is clearly unconstitutional, for the reasons mentioned, Americans have expectation to find in common use handguns that have more than 7-rounds, and so a 7-round limit is plainly unconstitutional.”

    At the same time, local governments have long regulated the number of rounds that can be used — and therefore the capabilities of guns that can be used — in certain types of hunting.

    So I don’t necessarily see how restricting the number of rounds is inherently unconstitutional on the face of it. Especially given that in Heller Scalia noted that (a) there could be regulations, and (b) the nature of those regulations in part has to do with compliance to community norms.

  14. JKB says:

    @matt bernius: This, btw, is the same thing that people who want to own a pistol have to do in most states.

    That is not true. Most states do not require government license or permit to own a pistol. There is a permit/training requirement in many states to carry a handgun or to carry a handgun concealed depending on the state laws.

    I’m all for safety training. We should teach children starting as young as possible how to safely handle a firearm, not shoot mind you, but to give them the knowledge about real firearms so they do not confuse them with what they learn in video games, movies and television.

    The most common guns in current usage are semi automatic firearms with detachable magazines. They are the common firearms used by law enforcement for self defense. Your argument trying to impose licensing on the common firearms would have constitutional issues. In any case, such permits and training would have to be provided by the government as imposing such requirements with fees unless very modest would result in putting a price on the exercise of an enumerated right.

  15. wr says:

    @JKB: “And as you are already a criminal, no reason not to just carry, etc. any way you want, any where you want since you are going to jail anyway. ”

    You know, that’s exactly right. Just yesterday I mistimed the yellow light and ended up running the red. Then, since I was already a criminal, I popped into a 7-11, shot the clerk in the face, stole the money out of the register. Then I went on a looting, burning and raping rampage.

    You sure are a keen judge of the way humans work, JKB.

  16. JKB says:

    @matt bernius:

    There are few magazines in common usage that hold less than 10 rounds, exceptions being small firearms with magazines that fit fully into the grip. In addition, for larger firearms, larger capacity magazines are the norm, e.g., 18, 20 rounds. The 10 round limited magazines are in existence to facilitate sales of firearms in states that have magazine capacity limit laws. Laws that have not yet been tested in court under the Heller and other recent decisions.

    Cartridge limits imposed by hunting regulations only apply when hunting. And are justified as state regulation of hunting. Generally, only for hunting on public lands. No comparable limit is justifiable when the firearm is for self defense and would have serious trouble until such limits were also imposed on government actors carrying firearms for self defense.

  17. john personna says:


    So, idiot downvoter, was there anything inaccurate there? Or just realities you don’t like?

  18. @john personna: So how would universal background checks have stopped that guy?

  19. @matt bernius:

    Connecticut already has some of the strictest laws in the book:

  20. al-Ameda says:

    We’re just not serious about limiting the supply of weaponry that is available to the public.

    My preference is to go all in on expanded background checks and longer waiting periods. Although I suspect that the gun culture in this country doesn’t want that either.

  21. bill says:

    the 2nd amendment is pretty clear, it’s still being trashed by some states and they could easily lose if someone challenged them. just look to brazil & mexico for how effective gun control can be- or chicago.

  22. bill says:

    @al-Ameda: actually they encourage it, crazy people shouldn’t be wandering the streets let alone be armed. our culture seems to favor the crazies “rights” over the general populations “safety”. it’s a tough business though, who gets to say who’s crazy and what do we do with them after that?! at the very least, they shouldn’t be able to buy guns.

  23. R Weiger says:

    Anyone rejecting the assault weapons ban needs to take their weapons to the fight in Syria or Mali, or Afghanistan and fight over there. Those weapons have no place in a civil society and they, in no way, advance the greater good. They are strictly assassination weapons, weapons of war. They were not designed to be a means of personal protection. If some people fear that government is going to invade their home and incarcerate the general population, they speak only to their own personal stupidity. I would tell them to move to Syria, Mali, Egypt, or Afghanistan and see what personal danger really means. Western civilization is just that… civilized. We are not plagued by anarchy or riots. We are all under the same rule of law and that is what keeps order in society. The 2nd amendment states, ” A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” It says that the right to keep and bear arms exists only within and as a part of a well regulated militia. It does not say that we have the right to keep them in our homes nor does it give the right to carry and conceal nor to carry arms openly. The second amendment does not infer a right to every person to arm themselves to the teeth as an individual; only as part of a well regulated militia. Why the courts and legislatures have kowtowed to the NRA and the “gun lobby” is beyond logical understanding. The NRA is a bully outfit promoting the destruction of a civilized society and a move to replace it with universally armed anarchy. The ‘nra’ has only 4 million members. Their ideas should not carry such weight in a civilized society. Can you imagine John McCain being as hard on the NRA as he was on Hagel and Clinton? Maybe courage to make decisions to keep the peace are more important than deference to the gun mongers. Bow down to peace and safety, not to the ‘nra’ bully boys.

  24. al-Ameda says:


    the 2nd amendment is pretty clear,

    Yes, “a well- reulated militia…” seems clear to me. Even Scalia says that the Second Amendment does not preclude regulation.

  25. john personna says:


    The 2nd amendment and the 1934 act are both clear. The amendment did not prevent the act. The act is almost a century of settled law.

  26. john personna says:


    That case says broad gun ownership has submerged risks.

    The Australian system might have prevented it, but we are a long way from that kind of law.

  27. al-Ameda says:


    it’s a tough business though, who gets to say who’s crazy and what do we do with them after that?! at the very least, they shouldn’t be able to buy guns.

    So Bill, do you favor expanded background checks, if it can identify those with mental health problems?

  28. bill says:

    @al-Ameda: sure, who doesn’t- aside from people who know they won’t pass? and the rights of society come before their rights to hide amongst us, that’s why it’s so tough to enforce- too many bleeding hearts who have no other ways to deal with them.
    btw- did you see that nbc is up to their old “video/audio editing” tricks again, trying to make gun rights supporters look like they’re heckling a guy who’s kid was killed by that wacky dude in conn? shameless, what else can you say about that lost network needing to sensationalize news for viewers?

  29. matt says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    Stronger bans against conversion kits

    What are you talking about?

  30. matt says:

    @Neil Hudelson: No conversion kits are illegal if you have the weapon or not. The kit itself is classified as a machine gun according to the ATF assuming it’s not a pre-ban kit. The ATF has information from manufacturers and other things that can be used to date the kits.

  31. matt says:

    @R Weiger: You realize that you just described every gun in existence right? According to your definition there isn’t a gun in existence that should be legal.

    You’re running on pure emotion and that almost never produces good ideas.

    You must of lived quite a privileged life to post such a thing

  32. matt says:

    @matt: I made this post with the belief that you are referring to trigger packages that allow for selective or at least full auto fire.

    There have been a few internal modifications that people have developed to produce full auto capability in semi-autos but those have been banned.

    AT this point the only way to get a full auto experience out of a semi-auto is to use bump firing (exceedingly inaccurate you’d be lucky to hit a man sized torso 5 feet in front of you). There are some bump fire stocks that exist but when you use them your accuracy is destroyed as they essentially work by you jerking the rifle forward after the recoil. As you would imagine jerking the rifle around is going to bone your accuracy (a true assault rifle is very steady in comparison).

    Bump firing is actually potentially risky as sem-auto trigger packages aren’t designed for that high of a rate of fire so explosions occur sometimes.

    All that being said rifles are the least used firearm in murders. Guns that are usually defined as “assault weapons” account for less then 1% of all murder weapons.

    Last spike in school shootings occurred during the last AWB.

  33. john personna says:

    Gun advocates really are running on empty.

    Their starting point was that guns don’t kill people, criminals do. And so background checks should be right up their alley. Except of course, that’s a change, and so … background checks wouldn’t stop every crime!

    When you reduce yourself to naming exceptions, or asking that any law be a universal solution for violence the human condition, you can’t really sink much further.

    You are not being sensible, and your insensibilities are all too apparent.

  34. john personna says:


    Last spike in school shootings occurred during the last AWB.

    A perfect example of empty non-argument.

  35. matt says:

    @john personna: Oh excuse me for pointing out an inconvenient fact.

  36. SittingMooseShaman says:

    …these are my Constitutional Civil Rights.
    It is what the manufacturers offer in a free-market.
    The MO in 98% of the recent homicides suggest there is way, way more to this than what meets the eye…especially the latest. With the presence of known actors in tv ‘news interviews’ and spectacle within the Sandy Hook incident. As ‘rolling’ video has caught these actors [hired by whom & why?] talking it up then, “getting into character” for the t.v. news cut…
    Rot politics! No level of shame is too low for this kind of politico-behavior. To what degree does this dark, covert political-party chicanery wind through all of these questionable incidents…entwined therewith, how deeply within this government?
    Such to undermine this nations’ Constitutional governing process and procedures?
    …oh, yes. Almost forgot about the one little girl upon Prez Obamas’ knee…she was lost to us at Sandy Hook…two days earlier…of the Prez’s’ photo-shoot w/her on…his knee…
    S’what is goin’ on here?
    Brings to mind “Platos’ Cave” -only with shadows cast by a group of very sick, bloody and morbidly determined, modern-day politico-puppeteers…