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Assault Weapons Ban: Dianne Feinstein Bill Sets Aim At Gun Rights

New legislation proposed by California Senator Dianne Feinstein (D) in response to the Sandy Hook shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, will provide a much more comprehensive approach to assault weapons control than the original Federal Assault Weapons ban of 1994, reports the New York Times. But what are the specifics of the senator’s proposed regulations?

The Feinstein bill will:

- Ban the sale, transfer, importation or manufacturing of 120 specifically named firearms, as well as other guns which can accept detachable magazines and have one or more “military” characteristics.

- Ban the sale, transfer, importation or manufacturing of semiautomatic weapons with fixed magazines of more than 10 rounds.

- Strengthens the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban by moving from a 2-characteristic test to a 1-characteristic test. Detachable bayonet mounts and flash suppressors are no longer considered military characteristics.

- Bans firearms with “thumbhole stocks” and “bullet buttons.” Thumbhole stocks are ergonomic modifications which make weapons easier to aim, while bullet buttons increase the speed of ejecting a spent magazine.

- Bans ammunition feeding mechanisms which can store more than 10 rounds.

- Protects the rights of existing gun owners by grandfathering in weapons legally possessed on the date of enactment, as well as exempting 900 specifically named weapons and antique, manually-operated, or permanently disabled weapons.

- Requires registration of grandfathered weapons under the National Firearms Act, which necessitates a background check, registration of type and serial number, positive identification, certification that registered guns are legal under state or local law.

- Dedicates funding to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to enforce the above laws.

2012 has been an especially deadly year in mass shootings, with over 140 casualties. As a result, support for increasing the strictness of firearms regulation has skyrocketed, increasing from 43% in October 2011 to 58% today. However, Americans are divided on what new regulations are needed. Only 44% support an assault weapons ban.

What do Americans agree on? Widespread support for the illegalization of 10-round-plus magazines (62%) and requiring background checks at gun shows (92%). These provisions are no-brainers and should be included in any comprehensive reform.

I suspect, along with fellow PolicyMic pundit Mark Kogan, that the other provisions in Feinstein’s bill will be unpopular with gun owners specifically and Americans in general. Such a bill is also very unlikely to pass the Republican-dominated House: While Republicans have moderated their stance on gun rights since the shootings, resistance to regulations will surely increase as the NRA goes to war against Feinstein. Firearms registration is nearly as unpopular as the proposed ban, with many conservatives viewing it as a pretext for confiscation.

And many Americans are rushing to stock up in anticipation of federal action, with both the NRA and gun owners doubling down on ownership and gun rights:

 

With the U.S. possibly set to go off the fiscal cliff on January 1, Congress will likely be busy debating other issues. Firearms will likely be pushed to the side in the event of a crisis.

Other provisions which could provide viable substitutions for some of the measures in the ban could include holding firearms owners liable for unreported theft or losses of weapons or creating a national registry of the mentally ill.

The new regulations “will be carefully focused on the most dangerous guns that have killed so many people over the years while protecting the rights of gun owners,” Feinstein said on December 17. 

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