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Debate Fact Check: Romney and Obama talk assault weapons

President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney participate in the second presidential debate at Hofstra University, Oct. 16, 2012, in Hempstead, N.Y.
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, participate in the second presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012.
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

(CBS) NEW YORK - Last night, gun policy made its first appearance in a 2012 Presidential debate.

Audience member Nina Gonzalez asked President Obama what he had done to, or plans to do, to keep AK-47's and other assault weapons out of the hands of criminals. 

Obama responded by saying that "weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters don't belong on our streets. And so what I'm trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the violence generally. Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced."

According to Daniel Vice, senior attorney for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Obama has previously said that he supports the renewal of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994 and expired in 2004.

However, after his first year in office, the Brady Campaign gave the Obama administration an "F" on a report card detailing efforts regarding gun control - including reinstating the assault weapons ban.

After Obama spoke, Romney had his turn, telling the audience, "We, of course, don't want to have automatic weapons, and that's already illegal in this country to have automatic weapons."

But according to Vice, Romney's assertion isn't correct.

"It is false that they are illegal," says Vice. "Many people have them."

Vice explains that in 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill into law that banned the manufacture of automatic weapons for sale to civilians. However, the law did not apply to automatic weapons already on the market. Buying and selling those guns "grandfathered" in by the law, is still legal. And, says Vice, "there are thousands and thousands of them."