Both sides of the debate on so-called “assault weapons” have been in high gear lately. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) had already declared her intention to introduce a new assault weapon ban before the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School thrust guns into the national spotlight. However, most debate was really centered around the 1994 Assault Weapon Ban because all we had was Feinstein’s statements. There wasn’t an actual bill to speak of.
Well, now thanks to Sen. Feinstein’s website, we know what the bill will look like.
- Bans the sale, transfer, importation, or manufacturing of:
- 120 specifically-named firearms
- Certain other semiautomatic rifles, handguns, shotguns that can accept a detachable magazine and have one military characteristic
- Semiautomatic rifles and handguns with a fixed magazine that can accept more than 10 rounds
- Strengthens the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban and various state bans by:
- Moving from a 2-characteristic test to a 1-characteristic test
- Eliminating the easy-to-remove bayonet mounts and flash suppressors from the characteristics test
- Banning firearms with “thumbhole stocks” and “bullet buttons” to address attempts to “work around” prior bans
- Bans large-capacity ammunition feeding devices capable of accepting more than 10 rounds.
- Protects legitimate hunters and the rights of existing gun owners by:
- Grandfathering weapons legally possessed on the date of enactment
- Exempting over 900 specifically-named weapons used for hunting or sporting purposes and
- Exempting antique, manually-operated, and permanently disabled weapons
- Requires that grandfathered weapons be registered under the National Firearms Act, to include:
- Background check of owner and any transferee;
- Type and serial number of the firearm;
- Positive identification, including photograph and fingerprint;
- Certification from local law enforcement of identity and that possession would not violate State or local law; and
- Dedicated funding for ATF to implement registration
First, it looks like there is a smidgeon of good news for gun owners, and that is the grandfathering clause. There was a lot of talk that Feinstein wanted to require folks to turn in their weapons that were suddenly made illegal (should this bill actually pass in its current form). By having a grandfather clause, it means that folks won’t have to turn them in.
However, it’s not really good news because Feinstein wants to basically make them Class III weapons. This means owners of these guns would be required to pay a $200 fee and get permission from a chief law enforcement officer to keep their legally purchased weapons. So, that grandfathering clause may lull some gun owners into a false sense of security.
In addition, this is a much more limiting ban due to the “evil features” limit going from two to just one. In addition, by eliminating thumbhole stocks, it makes many of the work arounds illegal. This is explicit in the above text. This means that most military pattern rifles will be impossible to work around the law since one evil feature is the limit. This will most likely mean a pistol grip or a detachable magazine, not both. This would make future ownership of the AR-15 or AK-47 off limits for law abiding citizens.
Further, there is an outright ban on so-called “high capacity” magazines. Basically, if it will feed more than 10 rounds into the weapon, it’s outlawed. There is no grandfather clause on this one, despite there being one in the previous assault weapon ban.
Feinstein also names specific firearms as “banned” in her bill, despite the clear work arounds companies employed during AWB 94’s day, which consisted of changing the name of the gun and not much else. Unfortunately, coupled with the “evil features” limit, the effect will be the same.
So, what does this mean for you? Well, for one, your military pattern rifle is about to go up in value should this bill pass. After all, price a Class III weapon some time and see what they go for. Those of you with several are about to be very wealthy on paper if Feinstein gets her way.
From a practicality standpoint, I don’t think it really means much. Feinstein touts a lot of data on her page that she claims proves the last assault weapon ban worked. Unfortunately for her, opponents can also show just how idiotic that position really is. While support for more gun control is higher now than it has been in a while, it’s not high enough at the moment to swing Congress over to their line of thinking.
Republicans are under fire from their base in the midst of the fiscal cliff discussions, especially their willingness to raise taxes on some Americans, and are unlikely to back a bill like this and anger their conservative base even more. It’s not that I trust Republicans with the Second Amendment, it’s that I trust them to be terrified of angering their base to much.
Of course, I may also be overly optimistic. Only time will tell what direction Congress will ultimately take, and even what form the bill will become before it’s ever voted on. However, if this bill were to pass in its current form, it would constitute the most egregious attack on our Second Amendment rights we have ever seen in our lifetimes. At that point, the question becomes whether the Supreme Court would uphold the ban.