Democrats Seek the Holy Grail of Gun Control

Dianne Feinstein has announced that she will introduce sweeping gun control legislation in the Senate. Under her bill, countless standard handguns apparently would now be banned, and for the first time a federal register that may include many millions of gun owners, fingerprinted and photographed, would be created. This is how Feinstein describes her proposal on her web site:

Following is a summary of the 2013 legislation:

Bans the sale, transfer, importation, or manufacturing of:

* 120 specifically-named firearms

* 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

* Strengthens 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

* Bans large-capacity ammunition feeding devices capable of accepting more than 10 rounds.

* 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

*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

There is a great deal to be said about this, and much that is still not known, such as the identification of the 120 firearms that are to be specifically banned, or the 900 that are to be exempted. But here are a few preliminary comments:

1) I don’t think Feinstein’s legislation can pass the Senate, let alone the House. It will be poison to red-state Democratic Senators. Perhaps a scaled-down version can get through the Senate, however. In that case, it will never get through the House. If the Democrats wanted to do something to boost the standing of John Boehner and his colleagues in the House with conservatives, they couldn’t come up with anything much better than Feinstein’s proposal.

2) Liberals have wanted for decades to create a nationwide database of guns and gun owners. There is at present no federal system for registration of ordinary firearms. While Feinstein’s plan doesn’t get them all the way there, it would create a registration system that may cover many millions of guns and gun owners, depending on how the ambiguity noted below is resolved. The Democrats could work from there to establish a universal registration system in the years to come.

3) Based on Feinstein’s description, it is hard to tell how her proposal would affect standard semiautomatic handguns. Handguns with a “fixed magazine” holding more than ten bullets would be banned. That is dumb, but there are very few handguns with fixed magazines. (I don’t believe I have ever seen one.) Standard semiautomatics have detachable magazines. However, Feinstein’s ban also applies to “large-capacity ammunition feeding devices capable of accepting more than 10 rounds.” That sounds like it would cover detachable magazines. The large majority of standard, full-sized semiautomatic pistols have magazines that hold more than ten rounds. Does that mean that all such weapons would be included among those that are grandfathered under the bill? If so, countless millions of guns and gun owners would need to be registered.

4) I own one such full-sized pistol, an Armalite AR-24 with a 16-round magazine. Under Feinstein’s bill, would I would be required to register it, undergo a background check, and be photographed and finger-printed so that I can be enrolled on the federal register of gun owners? I can’t tell from Feinstein’s description. If so, I would have lots of company; most handgun owners, I am pretty certain, have at least one pistol equipped with a magazine that holds more than ten rounds.

5) The ban on handguns with magazines that hold more than ten bullets (assuming that is what is intended) is idiotic. If you want to shoot a lot of rounds in a short time, all you have to do is pre-load multiple magazines. People do this all the time.

6) Semiautomatic handguns with magazines that hold ten or fewer bullets are generally compact weapons, and often carry pieces. Small gun = small magazine = fewer bullets. Bigger handguns with bigger magazines are not as suitable for concealment and are not often carried. So the guns that would fall outside of Feinstein’s legislation are the ones that are easy to conceal. A user can fire more than ten shots with such firearms simply by changing magazines, which takes a second or two.

For the reasons noted, some clarification is required before we can understand the full scope of Feinstein’s proposal. It is hard to say, at this point, whether it is merely grandstanding by Feinstein that will soon be forgotten, or whether it represents the first shot in an all-out war against gun owners (i.e., red America) by the Democratic Party.

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