WASHINGTON — A proposed ban on assault weapons that is being considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee in response to the massacre of 20 Connecticut elementary school students in December does not address the problem of gun violence, U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., said Wednesday.
Pryor said he does not support legislation proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that would ban roughly 150 types of assault-style weapons.
"It tends to focus on effect more than the cause," Pryor said during a conference call with reporters.
Feinstein’s bill is based largely on a similar ban that then-President Bill Clinton signed into law in September 1994 and remained in effect for a decade.
This time, Feinstein is proposing a ban on the sale, transfer, importation or manufacture of assault-style weapons with specific features. The bill lists about 150 rifles, shotguns and handgun models currently available that would fall under the ban. It also specifically exempts nearly 2,300 weapons.
As for assault-style weapons that are already in private hands, Feinstein’s bill would require future sales to be subject to background checks and would require owners to secure the guns from those who would not pass a background check.
Pryor said that he does not expect the ban would be effective in reducing gun violence based on the results of the previous ban.
"Advocates love to talk about how effective the previous ban was but honestly I don’t see where the statistics bear that out," Pryor said.
He also questioned the rationale of banning one model of a weapon while a similar variation is exempted.
"Why is one particular gun so much more dangerous than another. It’s hard to understand the rationale," Pryor said.
He said he worried that individuals who already possess assault style-weapons would face a new storage requirement that could be a major expense. Gun safes can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
The Senate Judiciary Committee held its first hearing Wednesday on ways to reduce gun violence – receiving testimony both in favor and in opposition to the assault weapons ban.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, argued against the ban, saying it "does not make sense" to ban a weapon based on its appearance.
James Johnson, chief of Baltimore County (Md.) Police Department, said the ban would be effective in reducing gun violence.
Pryor, who is up for re-election in 2014, was recently named vice chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus. Arkansas has more than 550,000 hunters and anglers, he said.
Pryor said that thousands of constituents have contacted his office voicing overwhelming opposition to an assault weapons ban.
Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., and Reps. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, and Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, have all said that they oppose new gun control laws.