by Dave Kopel
The most extreme national gun ban in American history is now one of President Obama’s top priorities in Congress. California Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s gun-ban bill would outlaw hundreds of firearm models, including many first manufactured in the 1940s or earlier. Her bill would also prohibit standard capacity magazines for most semi-auto handguns and many rifles. Similar bills are being introduced in state legislatures all over the nation.
Since mid-December, President Obama has repeatedly announced that he will use the full weight of his presidential powers to push gun control. He called it a “central issue” for his second term. The last time a president went all-out for a gun ban was 1994, when Bill Clinton ushered Feinstein’s “assault weapon” ban through the House of Representatives, where it passed by a single vote. The 1994 ban expired in 2004, but the new Feinstein-Obama ban would be permanent.
This isn’t just a federal matter, however. In the first week of January this year, gun prohibitionists attempted to use a lame-duck session of the Illinois legislature to ram through a semi-auto ban even more extensive than the Feinstein bill. The prohibitionists were thwarted, narrowly, only because a huge number of pro-rights activists contacted their legislators.
You can be absolutely certain that the Illinois tactics—attempts to rush a bill into law before citizens have time to find what is going on; ban as many guns as possible by falsely labeling them “assault weapons” and cynically exploit any notorious crime in the news so that people act on anti-gun emotion rather than logically thinking about how to really protect public safety—are going to be repeated in many other states.
People who care about Second Amendment rights, or who simply care about the truth, should never accept any sort of ban on so-called “assault weapons.” The very term “assault weapon” is a lie.
So-called “assault weapons” fire just one round when the triggers are pressed—the same as with every other typical firearm. They are not machine guns.
Nor are the rounds they fire more powerful than other firearms’. Most so-called “assault weapons” are rifles which are generally intermediate in power. For example, a small rifle cartridge like the .17 Remington might carry 801 foot-pounds of kinetic energy. A big-game cartridge, like the .444 Marlin, might generate 3,040 foot-pounds.
Most AR-15 rifles are configured in .223 caliber, which typically produces around 1,395 foot-pounds of energy.
For the last quarter-century, the “assault weapon” panic has been fomented by gun prohibitionists who know that because some “assault weapons” have a military appearance, people can be tricked into believing they are machine guns.
In 1988, gun prohibitionist Josh Sugarmann wrote a strategy memo in which he predicted that these firearms’ “menacing looks, coupled with the public’s confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons—anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun—can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions” on so-called “assault weapons.”
Since then, the gun-prohibition lobbies have attempted to ban as many guns as possible by using the deliberately vague and emotional label “assault weapon.”
In 1993, they convinced the Connecticut legislature to enact such as ban. Notably, none of the guns used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School murders were considered “assault weapons” under Connecticut law.
Yet President Obama, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Sen. Feinstein immediately insisted that the Sandy Hook murders proved the need for a national “assault weapons” ban.
The truth is, such a ban has already been tried and was a complete failure. In 1994, President Clinton used every resource available to push the Feinstein ban through. In order to pass the bill, Feinstein had to accept a sunset clause requiring the ban to expire in 2004, after 10 years. She also accepted the requirement that the U.S. Department of Justice commission a study of the ban’s effectiveness.
Clinton’s attorney general, Janet Reno (one of the most anti-gun attorneys general in U.S. history), picked the Urban Institute—a well-respected, left-leaning think tank in Washington, D.C.—to conduct the study. The Urban Institute’s final report was delivered in 2004 and published by the National Institutes of Justice, the research arm of the Department of Justice. The report (available at http://www.sas.upenn.edu/jerrylee/research/aw_final2004.pdf) found the ban had zero beneficial impact. No reduction in homicides. No reduction in the number of shots fired during crimes. No reduction in deaths of police officers.
The ban did have some impact on the models of handguns that criminals used (with the banned models being used less), but the change of models had zero benefit in terms of reduced crime or injury.
Notably, the Feinstein-Clinton ban also outlawed the sale of new magazines holding more than 10 rounds. This, too, was found to have no discernible benefit of any sort.
Though a proven failure, an updated version of Feinstein’s ban is back at both the federal and state levels. Defeating any particular ban now will not stop the prohibitionists from pushing similar bans next year, or whenever they can seize the opportunity to quickly exploit an atrocious crime to promote their agenda.
The “assault weapon” hoax has been around for a quarter-century, and it is not going to go away soon.
So it’s worth taking a look at the drafts and outlines of the Feinstein-Obama bill that have been circulated, because it is going to be the template of gun prohibitionists for years to come.
Nominally, Feinstein’s bill would allow current owners of newly banned firearms to keep them if they go through the same procedure required to purchase a machine gun, likely requiring the same $200 per gun registration tax. Yet upon the death of the registered owner, the federal government will confiscate the gun.
Additionally, some of the fine print in the Feinstein bill will result in mass confiscations from existing gun owners. So what currently legal firearms will Obama and Feinstein turn into criminal contraband?
The bill starts off by outlawing more than 120 firearms by name. This contrasts with the 1994 ban, which outlawed only 19 firearms by name. Among the guns singled out on Feinstein’s expanded ban is the M1 carbine. Introduced in 1941, for decades thereafter the federal government sold the M1 carbine to Americans at bargain prices, to encourage participation in civilian marksmanship competitions.
Also outlawed by name in the new Feinstein-Obama ban are some models of the Ruger Mini-14, and any SKS that can take a detachable magazine. Everything in the “AR series” is banned, whether or not the model says “AR-15.”
But the ban-by-name portion of the Feinstein bill is just a small start. Next comes a ban on all semi-automatic firearms that have at least one superficial “feature.” The previous Feinstein ban had outlawed more than 200 models of firearms based on features. The new Feinstein ban is far broader.
Note that some of the “features” that Feinstein would ban have no relevance for real guns and seem to be included solely for the purpose of alarming the public. For example, the Feinstein bill would outlaw rifles that have attachments for a “rocket launcher.” Since no companies make guns for the civilian market that have such a feature, the ban would affect nothing. But putting the words “rocket launcher” into the bill gives the readily gulled “mainstream” media the opportunity to ask indignantly, “How can the NRA oppose a ban on guns made to shoot rockets?”
The rest of the banned “features,” however, would affect a huge number of guns. The ban includes any semi-automatic rifle that can accept a detachable magazine and has any one of the following features: pistol grip or forward grip; folding, telescoping or detachable stock; barrel shroud or threaded barrel.
So those rifles featuring a telescoping stock are banned even though they make the gun adjustable to the shooter’s size and physique.
Regarding the grip prohibition, it’s obvious that gun-banners learn much of what they know about guns by watching movies made by other gun-banners, such as the “Rambo” series by Sylvester Stallone. So they think that the purpose of a “pistol grip” is to enable somebody to “spray fire” a gun. And, of course, the prohibitionists pretend that semi-automatic rifles are exactly the same as the machine guns in the movies.
But Feinstein’s draft bill would define the term “pistol grip” in a ridiculously broad way, to include “a grip, a thumbhole stock, or any other characteristic that can function as a grip.” But every gun that can be held in your hand has some kind of “characteristic that can function as a grip,” which means the definition would ban any semi-auto rifle with a detachable magazine.
Also banned would be all semi-automatic rifles and handguns that have fixed (non-detachable) magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. (Except for .22 rifles with tubular magazines.)
The features banned on semi-auto pistols also cover anything with a threaded barrel, a second pistol grip, a barrel shroud or the “capacity to accept a detachable magazine at some location outside of the pistol grip.”
The ban on semi-automatic rifles and handguns with threaded barrels is intended to thwart the attachment of muzzle brakes or sound suppressors. Muzzle brakes reduce recoil and make it easier to fire the gun more accurately, which apparently is bad in Feinstein’s view.
Suppressors are legal in the United States; buying one requires the same very severe process as buying a machine gun. They are sometimes, inaccurately, called “silencers.” They typically reduce a gunshot’s noise by about 15-20 decibels, which still leaves the gun four times louder than a chain saw.
But people who only know about firearms by watching movies imagine that guns with “silencers” are nearly silent, and are only used by professional assassins. In real life, sound suppressors are used by lots of people who want to protect their hearing or to reduce the noise heard by neighbors of a shooting range. Many firearm instructors choose suppressors to help novice shooters avoid flinching due to the noise of the muzzle blasts.
More business for audiologists—and more hearing loss for shooters—are byproducts of the Feinstein ban.
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