Expired Assault Weapons Ban Would Have Covered Rifle Used In Colorado Shooting

An AR-15 rifle.

One of the principal weapons used by James Eagan Holmes in the horrific Dark Knight Rises shooting would have been subject to a series of sharp restrictions under the now-expired federal Assault Weapons ban. The AR-15 rife carried by Holmes, a civilian semi-automatic version of the military M-16, would have been defined as a “semiautomatic assault weapon” under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. If the law was still in force, semiautomatic assault weapons would have been outright banned:

  • Such weapons were “unlawful for a person to manufacture, transfer, or possess” under section (a)(v)(i).
  • Though there were several loopholes in the Violent Crime Control Act that allowed gun manufacturers to legally produce slightly modified AR-15s, a new version of the bill proposed in 2008 closed them.
  • The 1994 Act contained a sunset provision that caused it to automatically expire 10 years after passage, and it was not renewed in 2004, meaning that there are no federal restrictions on the ownership of AR-15s and similar weapons. Both Congressman Ed Perlmutter (who represents Aurora, the site of the shooting) and President Obama proposed a new assault weapons ban during their campaigns.
  • Today, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg called on the President and Governor Romney to address gun violence, saying “maybe it’s time that the two people who want to be President of the United States stand up and tell us what they are going to do about it, because this is obviously a problem across the country.”


    Holmes’ guns, including his AR-15, were all legally purchased since May from two national chains, Bass Pro Shops and Gander Mountain Guns.

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    Purportedly, the AR-15 used by Holmes had a high-capacity clip, which were banned as “large capacity ammunition feeding devices” in the 1994 legislation.

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