No one needs “assault weapons” and large capacity “assault magazines!” This is becoming a familiar trope these days, usually uttered with righteous indignation and as self-evident proof of a higher, moral truth that forestalls any and all debate. Ironic that those that utter it usually simultaneously call for an honest and serious debate. It is often accompanied by statements like:
(1) “No one needs an assault weapon and a large capacity magazine to hunt!”
(2) “No one needs an assault weapon and an large capacity magazine for self protection!”
(3) “The Constitution doesn’t give anyone a right to assault weapons and assault magazines!”
Kevin Williamson at RNO, in a relatively brief article worth reading, notes:
There is no legitimate exception to the Second Amendment for military-style weapons, because military-style weapons are precisely what the Second Amendment guarantees our right to keep and bear. The purpose of the Second Amendment is to secure our ability to oppose enemies foreign and domestic, a guarantee against disorder and tyranny.
Quite so. However, Mr. Williamson does not take the next logical step, which is to address those who argue:
if the founders only could have foreseen (insert whatever you hate here) ‘assault weapons’ and ‘assault magazines,’ etc., they surely never would have written the Second Amendment!
While this introduction is not the primary theme of this article, please, gentle readers, allow me this slight trot down a dark sub-themed alley. I’ll be back on topic soon enough.
The founders were among the most learned, well read, sophisticated and intelligent of their age, or of any age for that matter. But above all, they possessed knowledge far too many of our contemporary political titans lack: a clear understanding of human nature, cause and effect, and the law of unintended consequences. They knew times would change and the Constitution might have to change as well, and so they wrote an amendment process. However, wise as they were, they made that process difficult so the Constitution would not be amended for “light and transient causes” (as the Declaration of Independence noted). But above all, they knew the frailty and failings of human beings and understood that a people unable to affect their own destiny, unable to overthrown a tyrannical government to establish a just government justly deriving its powers solely from the consent of the governed were not free men, but slaves. History has eloquently and bloodily bourn them out.
They were content to allow free men to possess and use the most powerful and effective military arms of their time. Even cannon were commonly privately owned. Make no mistake: they knew the march of technology would produce even more effective and powerful weapons. They had seen exactly that in their own lifetimes and would see it again. Yet, they wrote the Second Amendment not to support hunters or recreational shooters, but first and foremost, to enable free men to remain free against the depredations of a formerly democratic government turned despotic. Of course, they understood the right to keep and bear arms to also encompass the inalienable right to self-defense, which was then not a matter of controversy. If one does not possess that right, a right governments may not grant or rescind, what other right truly matters? Even if one need never employ their arms in revolt, their need to preserve their life and the lives of those they love, using the most effective arms commonly available, surely is at the very soul of the Second Amendment, and of liberty itself.
It is the stuff of fiction to imagine George Washington’s delight if a crate of AR-15’s, “large-capacity” magazines and plentiful ammunition had materialized at Valley Forge. The delight of a rural woman defending her home and children against a group of criminals with the same weapon would be no less great, no less affirmed by the Constitution, and no less in line with the thinking and intentions of the Founders whose first concern was never-changing principle, not hardware.
On to the point.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), proud possessor of one of the very few concealed carry permits denied her fellow Californians, has threatened to reintroduce a new “assault weapon” bill as soon as the Senate reconvenes in 2013. She has promised to make this new bill everything the old bill was not. Remember, Progressive policies cannot possibly fail. Being conceived and written by superior beings, if they appear to have failed it can only be because insufficient time was allotted to their inevitable success, they were insufficiently Progressive, or they were not enforced with sufficient ferocity. Sen. Feinstein, according to her website, is on track to “fix” those past failings which produced not a single benefit in crime reduction or enhanced public safety over the decade of its life.
In fact, during the legislative battle over the original Clinton Gun Ban, Senator Feinstein made a gaffe—unintentionally told the truth—in a 60 Minutes interview:
If I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States for an outright ban, picking up every one of them—Mr. and Mrs. America, turn them all in—I would have done it.
Surely such a reasonable and statesman—oops! Stateswoman—oops! Statesperson-like legislator would never demand anything unreasonable regarding a fundamental constitutional right? It would be worthwhile to take this link for just a bit more background.
Following is what she tentatively plans for us, the commoners whose lives are not of sufficient value to deserve protection with the weapons most commonly in use and most effective for that task. The devil—as they say—is in the details, so I’ll intersperse my commentary—in bold italics—on our descent into Progressive Hades:
Summary of 2013 legislation…
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 or more military characteristics; and
Semiautomatic rifles and handguns with a fixed magazine that can accept more than 10 rounds.
What can be expected is a list of the rifles Feinstein and fellow gun-banners consider particularly evil. It’s not known if Feinstein will simply ban every model made by manufacturer X in this list, but with the various other caveats, she won’t have to.
Much depends on definitions. What the well-informed gun owner might consider “military characteristics” will surely not resemble Feinstein’s definition. The broadest interpretation of the “certain other semiautomatic rifles…” section could easily constitute a ban on scores of semiautomatic, magazine fed rifles, handguns or shotguns, not specifically on Feinstein’s enumerated list, depending on the definition of “one or more military characteristics.”
Traditionally, such “characteristics” have been flash suppressors, bayonet lugs, barrel shrouds, folding or collapsible stocks, possibly even accessory rails. But with new horizons to conquer, a squared trigger guard, an ambidextrous magazine release or any other innocuous feature scary to anti-gunners could easily qualify.
It’s hard to know whether Feinstein is merely utterly clueless about firearm nomenclature, or has some nefarious scheme in mind with the ban on rifles and handguns “with a fixed magazine” capable of accepting more than 10 rounds. For all intents and purposes, there is no such thing, unless one wants to consider the classic “broomhandle” Mauser C96 of 1896 (yes, semiautomatic firearm technology is even older than that).
As the photo illustrates, it had no removable magazine and was top-fed by means of stripper clips, but was soon replaced by more advanced, magazine fed designs such as the Luger and various Walther pistols. While some are still in firing condition, it is not in circulation as other than a collector’s item.
As I recall, a few AR-15 pattern manufacturers built a small number of specialty rifles without the ability to accept removable magazines for the ridiculously restrictive California market. The only other contemporary weapons that might be affected are rifles fed from tubular, under the barrel magazines, such as lever action, pump action or some semiautomatic rifles. However, only relatively few .22LR rifles have magazines of more than 10 round capacity, though most can exceed 10 rounds if fed .22 short ammunition. Who knows what Feinstein intends here, but it won’t likely be good for gun owners.
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; and
Banning firearms with “thumbhole stocks” and “bullet buttons” to address attempts to “work around” prior bans.
Gun banners always considered this one of the primary failings of the Clinton gun ban. The “2-characteristic test” prohibited rifles having more than two of a specified list of “evil” characteristics. So an AR-15 with a standard pistol grip and a detachable magazine was a non-evil gun, but the same AR-15 with pistol grip, a detachable magazine and a flash suppressor or a bayonet lug was evil and banned. This resulted in manufacturers producing—for ten years–rifles different from standard ARs only in missing flash suppressors and bayonet lugs. Idiotic.
A “1-characteristic” test likely would essentially ban all AR-15 and other similarly patterned rifles. Add the nonsense about “thumbhole stocks” (under the original ban a way to incorporate a pistol grip of sorts into the stock itself and so gain one more characteristic), and “bullet buttons”—God only knows what those might be—and Feinstein obviously seeks to ban virtually every firearm ever made. Only a limited number of high- dollar wood and blued steel hunting-type firearms might be legal.
UPDATE: Faithful correspondant Tammy explains what a “bullet button” is in the comments. As one might expect, it’s an obscure California issue.
Bayonet lugs are not, in fact, generally “easy to remove,” though flash suppressors are. It’s not clear what Feinstein is trying to accomplish here, other than a linguistic sleight of hand. She may be trying to fool people into thinking she has given up something to be reasonable, but she is not. Flash suppressors and bayonet lugs are artifacts of manufacturing. Companies that manufacture AR-15 pattern rifles for the military use the same machinery to produce their civilian-legal rifles, and so include flash suppressors and bayonet lugs, which are of no use to criminals (in the military context, a flash suppressor merely makes it harder for an enemy to find and aim at the flash signature of a rifle). In fact, I’m unaware of a bayonet lug or flash suppressor ever figuring in a crime.
Bans large-capacity ammunition feeding devices capable of accepting more than 10 rounds.
Most standard semiautomatic pistols and rifles have, as standard, magazines with greater than 10 round capacity, the exceptions being smaller models designed particularly for concealed carry. As any currently commercially available magazine fed firearm (some few obscure military weapons excepted) can accept a magazine of any capacity, this is an obvious opening to ban every semiautomatic firearm. As I noted above, it’s hard to tell if the “fixed magazine” silliness is merely a lack of firearms acumen, or a sort of veiled attempt to ban everything without clearly saying so.
As I—and others—have written, such bans accomplish nothing at all, for magazine changes can easily be made in mere seconds. Ten+ round bans are obviously feet in the door, for if 10 rounds is good, wouldn’t allowing only six be better for public safety? And if six is better wouldn’t…you get the idea.
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
As I noted, the Second Amendment has nothing to do with “legitimate hunters” (what’s an illegitimate hunter under this law?), and any law Feinstein writes surely will not protect gun owners. She’s going to exempt 900 weapons used for hunting or sporting purposes? And that’s her business how, exactly? The Constitution gives Congress that power where, exactly? How hard would it be to enumerate 900 sporting weapons? Not hard at all. Take the ubiquitous, bolt-action Remington 700, for example. One need only list every model variation offered for sale by Remington of that single action type to run up a huge list, but it’s still essentially one rifle. What’s that you say? Congress would never be so duplicitous? Have I ever told you I’m a Nigerian prince, and if you give me your bank account number, I’ll deposit millions in it…?
Exempting antique, manually-operated, and permanently disabled weapons.
Requires that grandfathered weapons be registered under the National Firearm 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
OK, what’s “antique?” Every firearm is “manually operated” in one way or another, and what are “permanently disabled weapons?” Does that mean guns with the firing pin removed, the receiver cut in half and left that way? Who knows?
This is where Feinstein also tries to push Progressive orthodoxy. The old ban might seem to the unenlightened not to have worked, but that’s only because we let gun owners grandfather their previously owned guns and magazines without registering them!
NFA firearms are true automatic weapons, as well as short barreled rifles and shotguns, suppressors and integrally suppressed weapons. She’s demanding that the owners of any grandfathered weapon essentially go through the same process as those hoping to own a fully automatic weapon or a suppressed weapon. The only difference seems to be that no $200 non-transferrable tax is required, though I’m sure some substantial fees will be added by the BATF.
Americans have always, and successfully, resisted gun registration, but this is registration on steroids. It’s a substantial step beyond and above any registration scheme I’ve yet seen.
Astute readers will also note that Feinstein apparently isn’t proposing to close the “gun show loophole” in this law. She doesn’t need to. The registration process will do it for her. It doesn’t matter where or when you bought your gun, you have to register it. The Federal government gets what it wants one way or the other. Sneaky.
Dedicated funding for ATF to implement registration.
And here, gentle readers, is the real prize. Just as with Obamacare, the real destruction and loss of liberty is in bureaucratic rule making and administration of the law. The law will surely give the BATF sweeping powers to write rules, procedures and administrative penalties above and beyond the multiple federal felonies it establishes. As is common with Federal gun laws, the ATF director, the AG, or his designate, etc. will be given sweeping power to determine definitions and to decide which guns are allowed the people and which are not based on any criteria, no criteria, or the flip of a coin.
Registering any NFA weapon is a very time-consuming affair, commonly taking not weeks, but months. In addition, there are stringent storage requirements, and NFA weapons can’t be transported over state lines without prior written BATF permission. If all of this is required under Feinstein’s proposal—and that does appear to be the case, otherwise why mention NFA?—gun ownership will suddenly become an expensive, bureaucratic nightmare, and from the date such a law goes into question, Progressives will have their anti-gun wish list, some of it by under the radar means.
Remember too, gentle readers, the BATF and the entire Obama Administration is still under the cloud of Fast and Furious. Mr. Obama’s nominee for the new BATF director is a notorious and abusive anti-gunner. The implementation of this law—tens, even hundreds of millions of firearms (and don’t for a second doubt you’ll be registering any 11+ round magazine)–would be a boon for expanding the federal government, only under one of the least competent, most lawless and inefficient bureaucracies in the entire Federal Government.
Need I elaborate on the obvious? This law, by itself, would brutally depress the American firearm industry and all associated industries at a time when we least need it, not that the economy is a concern to Mr. Obama or congressional Progressives.
One can fervently hope that such draconian and blatantly unconstitutional legislation cannot possibly pass the Senate, though I’m sure some Republicans—once again earning the epithet “The Stupid Party”–are foolish enough to go wobbly in favor of such “reasonable” legislation. And one can hope the same for the House which is, if reality holds, even less likely to pass it, but under the leadership of John Boehner, who knows.
It should also be remembered that criminals—because they are criminals—do not obey such laws. The criminals of my intimate acquaintance during the decade-long run of the original Clinton gun ban thought it enormously funny, and so it was.
But did you know that the courts have ruled that felon/criminals cannot be prosecuted for failing to register their guns? Sadly, I’m not joking. You see, the Fifth Amendment prohibits forced self-incrimination—one cannot be forced to incriminate themself—and forcing a felon to register a gun he is not allowed by law to have amounts to compulsory self-incrimination. Therefore only the law abiding are actually bound by gun registration laws. Felons can’t be prosecuted for this particular felony! You don’t suppose Senator Feinstein and her liberty-stealing compatriots know about this, do you? Certainly not! Have I told you I’m a Nigerian prince…?
… some clarification is required before we can understand the full scope of Feinstein’s proposal. It is hard to say, at this point, whether it is merely grandstanding by Feinstein that will soon be forgotten, or whether it represents the first shot in an all-out war against gun owners (i.e., red America) by the Democratic Party.
Grandstanding? Of course. An all out war by the Democratic Party? Absolutely, but a war of a kind. On November 04, 1979, the Iranian Hostage Crisis began. Iran actually declared war on America and has been fighting that war and killing Americans by any means possible since. It took until 09-11-2001 for America to wake up and realize there was an intractable enemy of liberty waiting, watching and fighting whenever and wherever it could to destroy freedom. Within our own nation, there is an intractable enemy of freedom, waiting, watching and fighting whenever and wherever it can to destroy liberty. This is not the first shot in an all-out war, but just another battle in a war that may never end. As Thomas Jefferson said:
Eternal vigilance is the price we pay for liberty.
May we be eternally vigilant.