Lived through those years, the only good thing was that when I sold my AR clone, instead of the $450 it was worth when I bought it, it was worth $900.
We fought the bill, and lost, by a single vote. Jay Inslee (currently running for governor of Washington) claimed to be the deciding vote, but he has lied about lots of other things, too.
Because of the climate of the times, the best we could do was get the sunset provision. The Clinton administration was resolute, and made examples of anyone who got in their way. Media was beating the drum HARD that the biggest danger to life, liberty and the American dream was GUNS,and "assault weapons" (note that by their own definition, this term ONLY refers to SEMI AUTOMATICs not full auto firearms) were the worst and most dangerous of the lot.
The internet wasn't what it is today, and neither is America. The press still had the respect of the average citizen, who blindly believed nearly all they put out. That isn't true anymore.
The big change in attitude came with the terrorist attacks on 9/11. The biggest mass murder in the modern era, and not a single gun was used. Average people began to wake up, and realize that what the press and the politicians had been saying about guns in the US just wasn't true.
And the wealthy people had been frightened in a way that had never happened before. They finally began to realize that there were things in this world more dangerous to their pampered lifestyles than Joe sixpack owning a semi auto rifle. Of course, the true believers kept up their mantra, but the support they had been used to began to dwindle, and kept on fading. Today, it's nearly non-existant.
The AWB, passed the summer before an election, ticked off a LOT of people. And we voted, before we, as a nation, had time to forget. The press said it was Newt's "contract with America", and that did have some effect, but it was the general anger over the AWB that changed the makeup of Congress, changing the majority, for the first time in 40 years!
Sadly, the Republicans failed to get the AWB repealed (they did try, I have to give them that), and they let things slip through their hands soon enough, but they did try.
Politicians on both sides have finally come to realize that gun control is a lose/lose policital issue. They lose our support when they bring it up, and they lose anti's support when they fail to get it passed.
yes, some of them will try to get a new AWB passed, and are just waiting for some blood to be spilled by a nutjob to justify it. There are also one's out there trying to repeal the 2nd Amendment. They introduce a bill to do it every session (or so it seems). Not getting any traction these days, but that doesn't stop them from trying.
There are a great many things in the world more important for our government to be doing than screwing with our gun rights, and most of the politicians today realize that. Especially those relatively new in politics. The old timers still cling to their fantasies (our current VP has been a gun control advocate his entire career), but their dreams are not very popular with the nation today, thankfully.
Look for the gun banners to stage a comeback, when things get better. I'm sure they will try....but until things do get better, I don't think they have much chance of getting their way. And when they do get better (and I believe they will, eventually) we must not forget those who got so wrapped up in their own fantasies that they let things get to where we are now. Those people should be properly rewarded, for the fine job they did.
All else being equal (and it almost never is) bigger bullets tend to work better.