Barack Obama is coming to Minneapolis tomorrow to talk guns, his first such foray since he called for increased gun control after the Sandy Hook massacre. Timed, presumably, to coincide with his appearance, Democrats in Minnesota’s legislature have introduced several draconian gun control measures. I wrote here about one of these statutes, which would ban, and provide for confiscation of, all average-sized magazines.
Liberals often ridicule gun owners’ fears that what the left really wants is to confiscate firearms, but in Minnesota the Democrats make no pretense: they are pushing confiscation legislation, unapologetically. H.F. 241 relates to “assault weapons.” It defines “assault weapons” in more or less the usual way; I haven’t compared it line by line to Dianne Feinstein’s federal legislation, but the definition is similar if not identical. “Assault weapons” include all semiautomatic rifles that have a pistol grip or a hole in the stock through which you can put your thumb; any “protruding grip that can be held by the nontrigger hand;” a folding or telescopic stock; or a barrel shroud. So, what is it about a hole in the stock, a “protruding grip,” a folding stock and so on that explains why such weapons should be singled out for banning by the state? Nothing. These features have nothing to do with lethality and bear no rational relation to any legitimate governmental purpose.
“Assault weapons” also include handguns if they have analogous cosmetic features, like a “protruding grip that can be held by the nontrigger hand” or a barrel shroud “allowing the bearer to hold the firearm with the nontrigger hand without being burned.” How these features justify banning essentially random handguns is inexplicable.
Under the Democrats’ legislation, no one can buy or possess an “assault weapon” in Minnesota. If you already own one as of February 1, you can keep it. But you have to register it, and give the state permission to inspect your home–which is the only place you can keep the “assault weapon”–to make sure you are storing it properly, and undergo annual background checks. You can’t sell the firearm or give it away, and when you die, your heirs are required to either destroy it or “surrender the weapon to a law enforcement agency for destruction.” So the statute represents a ban, followed by confiscation.
Why the legislation singles out “assault weapons,” as defined, is a mystery. As we have noted many times, hardly any murders are committed with rifles, let alone the ones liberals define as “assault weapons.” Bare hands are a more popular murder weapon, not to mention knives and blunt objects. The Democrats can’t possibly believe that legislation that relies on cosmetic definitions untethered to any functional reality will do any good. So what’s the point?
Candidly, I am having a hard time understanding the Democrats’ strategy. At the national level, they must know that they can’t pass anything significant through the House, and probably not even through the Senate–Harry Reid likely won’t even allow gun control legislation to come up for a vote. (The only exception is some tweaking, probably minor, of the rules relating to background checks.) I think the national Democrats are mainly trying to fire up their base for the 2014 elections by pursuing the lost cause of gun control.
But how to explain initiatives like those in Minnesota? I don’t think the Democrats can pass gun and magazine confiscation measures, even though they control both houses of the legislature, because Democrats who represent districts outside the Twin Cities won’t vote for them. So why would the Democrats’ leadership even bring such statutes up for a vote? Doing so exposes their members to taking an unpopular stand, with no hope of passage. And yet the Democrats are doubling down: not only are Minnesota’s Democrats introducing firearms confiscation legislation, but Barack Obama is coming to town to put a spotlight on their proposals.
I don’t get it, but I think I like it, politically speaking.
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