By Dave Kopel
America's 1st Freedom, March 2013
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.
The "features" on semi-automatic shotguns that Feinstein wants banned are similar to the features for semi-auto rifles, with two important additions: First, shotguns wouldn't have to have detachable magazines to be banned. Because all shotguns have "grips," this means any semi-auto shotgun could fall under her ban. Second, Feinstein would outlaw any semi-auto shotgun that has a "fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 5 rounds." This would ban a wide variety of home-defense shotguns. It also means using a magazine extender to increase the capacity of one's Remington 1100 from five to seven rounds would make the individual an instant felon.As for magazines, the Feinstein-Obama bill would ban the manufacture or sale of magazines holding more than 10 rounds. This would directly impact some forms of hunting for which use of semi-auto magazines with more than 10 rounds is common--namely, predator control and feral hogs.
Most police officers also carry backup long guns in their patrol cars. Quite often, that long gun is an ar-15 rifle with a 20- or 30-round magazine. Again, these rank-and-file police officers have those guns because they believe they are the best choice for lawful protection of self and others. That's just the opposite of the hateful and willfully ignorant claims of the gun-banners who tell you that the only purpose of an ar-15 or a 30-round magazine is mass murder.
Besides banning the manufacture or import of magazines holding more than 10 rounds, the Feinstein-Obama ban would also make the sale of existing magazines impossible. In order to sell an existing 15-round magazine, a firearm dealer would have to certify to the Attorney General that the device was manufactured "on or before the date of enactment" of the ban. Because magazines are not date-stamped for manufacture and do not have serial numbers, that is impossible to do.
So the magazines you own on the day the Feinstein-Obama ban goes into effect would be the only magazines you will ever be allowed to own. And you could still be criminally prosecuted for the ones you do own.
Under the old (1994-2004) Feinstein ban, manufacture of new magazines was banned, but possession of pre-ban magazines was allowed. If the government wanted to prosecute someone for possessing a 15-round magazine, the government had the burden of proving that the magazine was manufactured after the ban went into effect. Notably, the new ban removes that burden of proof.
In other words, if you have a 13-round Kimber magazine you bought in 2006, the federal government could put you on trial, and it would be up to you to convince a jury exactly when that magazine was manufactured.What if you currently own a firearm covered by the Feinstein-Obama ban? It would be confiscated immediately, unless you follow the same procedure that is required for the purchase of a machine gun or a sound suppressor. You would have to register the gun with Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE), be fingerprinted and pay a tax of $200 per gun. You could never take it out of state without advance written permission from BATFE. If you change the place where the firearm is stored (e.g., you move to a new house), you would have to notify BATFE in advance.
You could not sell or give the firearm to anyone else. When you die, the government will confiscate it. Your heirs will receive no compensation.
All of the above presumes that you're lucky.You see, there's one other crucial step in purchasing a machine gun or a suppressor: You need official permission from your local police chief or sheriff, who must sign atf Form 4.
If your local chief or sheriff won't sign the Form 4 to allow you to register and pay the taxes on your current semi-autos, then you would have no way of possessing them legally. They would be contraband, and you would be guilty of a serious federal felony.
How long would your sentence be? Suppose that today you have no prior criminal record, and you illegally possess an unregistered machine gun. Under the Feinstein-Obama ban, the prohibited semi-autos would be in the same legal category. Under the u.s. Sentencing Guidelines, the possession of an unregistered machine gun carries a presumptive sentence of 27 to 51 months for a defendant with no criminal history, depending on how many guns are possessed; and a judge is not supposed to sentence a defendant to probation. Prison time is required.
A perfectly behaved federal prisoner may be released for "good behavior" after serving 85 percent of the sentence. Of course, as a convicted felon they will be forbidden to ever possess a firearm ... even by holding a friend's unloaded gun for a minute.
As for those lucky owners who get local police and batfe permission to keep their own firearms, after paying $200 per gun for the privilege, it wouldn't be wise to expect to really be able to keep them until one dies. On Feb. 5, 1995, Feinstein explained on "60 Minutes," "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 'em all in, I would have done it. I could not do that. The votes weren't here."
In other words, once the votes are there for immediate confiscation, expect that immediate confiscation will happen. The registration lists of all the people who paid the $200-per-gun tax will make confiscation much easier.
To lull legislators into thinking that the Feinstein-Obama bill does not ban very many guns, the bill also includes a list of over 1,000 guns that are not banned. The non-banned list consists of various rifles and shotguns, but not of any handguns. The list is inflated by listing every possible model and variant of non-banned guns that Feinstein could pick from a handful of reference books. For example, the bolt-action Ruger M77 Hawkeye appears 14 times in its various configurations on the Feinstein list.
The non-banned list includes a very small number of semi-auto rifles and shotguns, plus a massive list of lever action, bolt action, pump action or single shot long guns that her bill wouldn't ban in the first place. This is sort of like a bill that outlaws all forms of beef and chicken, and then contains a list of non-banned foods, such as "boysenberry, biscuits, buns, brownies, basil, bok choy, baker's chocolate, Brussels sprouts, blueberry muffins, banana bread, bean salad and baklava." The fact that Feinstein enumerates some of the things that she would not ban (at least not ban today) should not distract from that fact that she would ban an enormous number of firearms and accessories.
Is this Feinstein-Obama ban constitutional? Certainly not under the original meaning of the Second Amendment, nor under the Supreme Court's 2008 Heller and 2010 McDonald decisions. But by the time a case on the Feinstein ban gets to the Supreme Court, President Obama may have had the opportunity to appoint more justices who, like four of the nine current justices, view the Second Amendment as a nullity.
"Stand And Fight" has been the NRA's motto since last November. Not in the Walter Mitty sense of posing with a gun and talking tough on Facebook, but in the real, immediate and practical sense of collective political and social action to defend our rights.
Contacting elected officials, writing letters to the editor, volunteering with the nra and with local groups, recruiting new nra members, talking to friends and neighbors, educating other gun owners about the Feinstein-Obama ban and about other attacks on our rights--these are the ways that all NRA patriots must Stand And Fight.
We must Stand And Fight, not just against the Feinstein-Obama bill in Congress, but also against similar bills in the states and against the entire national anti-gun campaign being directed by Obama, Bloomberg and others.With Obama now firmly ensconced in the White House for a second term, it is the only chance we have to avert catastrophe.