Gun control has been on the minds of our society and politicians over the past year after high profile shootings such as in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo. Just recently the summary of a new Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) being proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) was released. It's more aggressive than the one that was passed in 1994, and it doubles down on the same failed policy that did little to address gun violence. Let's break it down.
The new bill would ban the sale, transfer, importation, or manufacturing of:
-120 specifically-named firearm;
-Certain other semiautomatic rifles, handguns, shotguns that can accept a detachable magazine and have one military characteristic;
-Semiautomatic rifles and handguns with a fixed magazine that can accept more than 10 rounds;
So it expands the list of banned firearms and reduces the requirement of two military characteristics down to one. Remember, these military characteristics have no bearing on the lethality of the firearm. In addition, the bill is banning all semiautomatic rifles, handguns, and shotguns that "can" accept a detachable magazine and those that have fixed magazines. What this does is basically ban all semiautomatics and firearms without detachable magazines (harder to reload) that accept more than ten rounds.
It's also worth pointing out the language here that it bans the "sale, ban, importation, and manufacturing." So what that means is that once you own one, its yours. You can't sell or transfer it to anyone else. So what happens if you pass away? Does the government then confiscate it?
The new bill would strengthen 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;
-Banning firearms with “thumbhole stocks” and “bullet buttons” to address attempts to “work around” prior bans;
Again, they are banning another range of weapons with certain cosmetic characteristics. We should also note the irony in that bullet buttons were designed to make firearms harder to reload than a traditional semiautomatic. Bullet buttons are normal in California (Feinstein's home state), and they do actually accomplish what the senator wants (harder to reload guns), but not happy with that Feinstein has decided that these need to be banned too.
-Bans large-capacity ammunition feeding devices capable of accepting more than 10 rounds.
Nothing new here. The criminals response? Carry more magazines, as we've seen in Virginia Tech where the shooter brought nineteen loaded magazines for his two handguns and Columbine where they brought 13 extra magazines. (Note: there is also a separate bill which focuses primarily on limiting magazine size)
-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
-Exempting antique, manually-operated, and permanently disabled weapons
Sounds good right? Except that if you think about it, it boils down to a list of firearms that you can buy. I wonder if the good old musket is going to be on that list! We'll have to see what our government think we should be allowed to own.
-Requires that grandfathered weapons be registered under the National Firearms 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
-Dedicated funding for ATF to implement registration
And here at the bottom we have the most egregious part. Grandfathered firearms must be registered under this bill. Keep in mind that there is an estimated 9 to 10 million AR-15's in circulation. And these are just one model of firearm that needs to be registered as this bill seeks to cover most semiautomatics ever made. One could argue that this amounts to a registry of firearm owners in the U.S. But think about what else is being proposed; a background check of all owners who are having their firearms registered including keeping photographs and fingerprints (much like we do for criminals).
Our beleaguered and understaffed BATF already has trouble enforcing existing laws with 4,000 employees, so how are they going to handle this task of creating a national registration database along with conducting millions if not tens of millions of background checks and processing of paperwork, considering that the BATF only processes around 90,000 applications yearly at the moment? Maybe just as important, who is going to pay for that?
What's even more diabolic in Feinstein's presentation of this new AWB is her use of sources that she misrepresents to back up her proposed legislation. For the most part, the studies linked on her site point out that assault weapons only make up a small fraction of gun crime, and that her original AWB was minimally effective. For example, Feinstein links to this study where she then says:
"Jeffrey Roth and Christopher Koper find that the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban was responsible for a 6.7 percent decrease in total gun murders, holding all other factors equal."
However, going to the original source:
"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, beyond what would have been expected in view of ongoing crime, demographic, and economic trends. 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."
Let's take a look at another source. Feinstein claims:
"A recent study by the Violence Policy Center finds that between 2005 and 2007, one in four law enforcement officers slain in the line of duty was killed with an assault weapon."
However that's not what the study states. The data which she is referencing studies 64 incidents that already involve "assault weapons" of which also involved law enforcement. The study actually says that out of the 64 incidents that involve assault weapons, four ended in at least one law enforcement fatality, not that one in four officers are killed by assault weapons.
One begins to wonder if Feinstein is even reading these studies as she is grossly misstating the data from her own sources and they conclude that the AWB did not work. What is worse is that her sources offer alternative methods of curbing gun violence that do work. Gun buybacks in urban areas, targeting hot spots for drug and gang violence, cracking down on straw purchasers, and requiring background checks for all purchases and transfers of firearms are just some of the solutions that were brought forth, but unfortunately not recognized by Feinstein. If we are worried about public safety and gun violence, shouldn't we actually consider the advice proffered by law enforcement practitioners in these studies?
We all know gun control politicians are aiming to ban guns to further their political agenda. This legislation does nothing to prevent the next Sandy Hook or Virginia Tech mass shooting as even Michael Bloomberg points out. I've already detailed in a previous article how the previous ban was not effective, and that this discussion is taking away from addressing the underlying cause of violence in our society. This legislation is just further proof that we need to question the motives of our politicians as this has nothing to do with public safety but everything to do with banning guns.