Gun Laws & Legislation

Feinstein’s new gun-ban bill likely to be introduced January 22

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)–author of the federal “assault weapon” and “large” ammunition magazine ban of 1994-2004–has said for weeks that she will soon introduce an even more restrictive bill.  Leaders in the U.S. Senate have stated that January 22 will be the first day on which new Senate legislation can be proposed, so that is the most likely date for the new, sweeping legislation to be introduced.

On Dec. 17th, Feinstein said, ”I have been working with my staff for over a year on this legislation” and “It will be carefully focused.”  Indicating the depth of her research on the issue, she said on Dec. 21st that she had personally looked at pictures of guns in 1993, and again in 2012.

According to a Dec. 27th posting on Sen. Feinstein’s website and a draft of the bill obtained by NRA-ILA, the new ban would, among other things, adopt new definitions of “assault weapon” that would affect a much larger variety of firearms, require current owners of such firearms to register them with the federal government under the National Firearms Act, and require forfeiture of the firearms upon the deaths of their current owners.  Some of the changes in Feinstein’s new bill are as follows:

  • Reduces, from two to one, the number of permitted external features on various firearms.  The 1994 ban permitted various firearms to be manufactured only if they were assembled with no more than one feature listed in the law.  Feinstein’s new bill would prohibit the manufacture of the same firearms with even one of the features.
  • Adopts new lists of prohibited external features.  For example, whereas the 1994 ban applied to a rifle or shotgun the “pistol grip” of which “protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon,” the new bill would drastically expand the definition to include any “grip . . . or any other characteristic that can function as a grip.”  Also, the new bill adds “forward grip” to the list of prohibiting features for rifles, defining it as “a grip located forward of the trigger that functions as a pistol grip.”  Read literally and in conjunction with the reduction from two features to one, the new language would apply to every detachable-magazine semi-automatic rifle.  At a minimum, it would, for example, ban all models of the AR-15, even those developed for compliance with California’s highly restrictive ban.
  •  Carries hyperbole further than the 1994 ban. Feinstein’s 1994 ban listed “grenade launcher” as one of the prohibiting features for rifles.  Her 2013 bill goes even further into the ridiculous, by also listing “rocket launcher.” Such devices are restricted under the National Firearms Act and, obviously, are not standard components of the firearms Feinstein wants to ban.  Perhaps a subsequent Feinstein bill will add “nuclear bomb,” “particle beam weapon,” or something else equally far-fetched to the features list.
  • Expands the definition of “assault weapon” by including:–Three very popular rifles: The M1 Carbine (introduced in 1941 and for many years sold by the federal government to individuals involved in marksmanship competition), a model of the Ruger Mini-14, and most or all models of the SKS.–Any “semiautomatic, centerfire, or rimfire rifle that has a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds,” except for tubular-magazine .22s.–Any “semiautomatic, centerfire, or rimfire rifle that has an overall length of less than 30 inches,” any “semiautomatic handgun with a fixed magazine that has the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds,” and any semi-automatic handgun that has a threaded barrel.
  • Requires owners of existing “assault weapons” to register them with the federal government under the National Firearms Act (NFA).  The NFA imposes a $200 transfer tax per firearm, and requires an owner to submit photographs and fingerprints to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE), to inform the BATFE of the address where the firearm will be kept, and to obtain the BATFE’s permission to transport the firearm across state lines.
  • Prohibits the transfer of “assault weapons.”  Owners of other firearms, including those covered by the NFA, are permitted to sell them or pass them to heirs.  However, under Feinstein’s new bill, “assault weapons” would remain with their current owners until their deaths, at which point they would be forfeited to the government.
  • Prohibits the domestic manufacture and the importation of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.  The 1994 ban allowed the importation of such magazines that were manufactured before the ban took effect.  Whereas the 1994 ban protected gun owners from errant prosecution by making the government prove when a magazine was made, the new ban includes no such protection.  The new ban also requires firearm dealers to certify the date of manufacture of any >10-round magazine sold, a virtually impossible task, given that virtually no magazines are stamped with their date of manufacture.
  • Targets handguns in defiance of the Supreme Court. The Court ruled in District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment protects the right to have handguns for self-defense, in large part on the basis of the fact handguns are the type of firearm “overwhelmingly chosen by American society for that lawful purpose.”  Semi-automatic pistols, which are the most popular handguns today, are designed to use detachable magazines, and the magazines “overwhelmingly chosen” by Americans for self-defense are those that hold more than 10 rounds.  Additionally, Feinstein’s list of nearly 1,000 firearms exempted by name (see next paragraph) contains not a single handgun. Sen. Feinstein advocated banning handguns before being elected to the Senate, though she carried a handgun for her own personal protection.
  • Contains a larger piece of window dressing than the 1994 ban. Whereas the 1994 ban included a list of approximately 600 rifles and shotguns exempted from the ban by name, the new bill’s list is increased to nearly 1,000 rifles and shotguns.  But most of the guns on the list either wouldn’t be banned in the first place, or would already be exempted by other provisions. On the other hand, the list inevitably misses every model of rifle and shotgun that wasn’t being manufactured or imported in the years covered by the reference books Sen. Feinstein’s staff consulted. That means an unknown number of absolutely conventional semi-auto rifles and shotguns, many of them out of production for decades, would be banned under the draft bill.

The Department of Justice study:  On her website, Feinstein claims that a study for the DOJ found that the 1994 ban resulted in a 6.7 percent decrease in murders.  To the contrary, this is what the study said: “At best, the assault weapons ban can have only a limited effect on total gun murders, because the banned weapons and magazines were never involved in more than a modest fraction of all gun murders.  Our best estimate is that the ban contributed to a 6.7 percent decrease in total gun murders between 1994 and 1995. . . . However, with only one year of post-ban data, we cannot rule out the possibility that this decrease reflects chance year-to-year variation rather than a true effect of the ban.  Nor can we rule out effects of other features of the 1994 Crime Act or a host of state and local initiatives that took place simultaneously.”

“Assault weapon” numbers and murder trends:  From the imposition of Feinstein’s “assault weapon” ban (Sept. 13, 1994) through the present, the number of “assault weapons” has risen dramatically. For example, the most common firearm that Feinstein considers an “assault weapon” is the AR-15 rifle, the manufacturing numbers of which can be gleaned from the BATFE’s firearm manufacturer reports, available here.  From 1995 through 2011, the number of AR-15s–all models of which Feinstein’s new bill defines as “assault weapons”–rose by over 2.5 million. During the same period, the nation’s murder rate fell 48 percent, to a 48-year low. According to the FBI, 8.5 times as many people are murdered with knives, blunt objects and bare hands, as with rifles of any type.

Traces:  Feinstein makes several claims premised on firearm traces, hoping to convince people that her 1994 ban reduced the (already infrequent) use of “assault weapons” in crime.  However, traces do not indicate how often any type of gun is used in crime.  As the Congressional Research Service and the BATFE have explained, not all firearms that are traced have been used in crime, and not all firearms used in crime are traced.  Whether a trace occurs depends on whether a law enforcement agency requests that a trace be conducted. Given that existing “assault weapons” were exempted from the 1994 ban and new “assault weapons” continued to be made while the ban was in effect, any reduction in the percentage of traces accounted for by “assault weapons” during the ban, would be attributable to law enforcement agencies losing interest in tracing the firearms, or law enforcement agencies increasing their requests for traces on other types of firearms, as urged by the BATFE for more than a decade.

Call Your U.S. Senators and Representative:  As noted, Feinstein will most likely introduce her bill on January 22nd.  President Obama has said that gun control will be a “central issue” of his final term in office, and he has vowed to move quickly on it.  And yesterday, a story from The Blaze noted that Obama’s point man on gun control–Vice President Biden–has promised that Obama will pass a gun control bill by the end of the month.

Contact your members of Congress at 202-224-3121 to urge them to oppose Sen. Feinstein’s 2013 gun and magazine ban.  Our elected representatives in Congress must hear from you if we are going to defeat this gun ban proposal.  You can write your Representatives and Senators by using our “Write Your Representatives” tool here: http://www.nraila.org/get-involved-locally/grassroots/write-your-reps.aspx

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