By Larry Keane
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is at it again. She has again introduced legislation to ban the most popular selling centerfire rifle in America. She wants to bring California-style gun control to the rest of America. Here’s her problem… with 21 million background checks for the sale of a gun last year, America doesn’t want it.
Sen. Feinstein introduced S. 736, the Assault Weapons Ban of 2021. It was joined by a companion version in the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 1808, introduced by U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.). Not a single Republican senator or representative has signed onto either bill.
The bills would be far-reaching, expanding the failed 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, also written by Sen. Feinstein and then-Sen. Joe Biden when he was a sitting Democratic senator from Delaware. He’s now in the Oval Office, with a pocketful of IOU’s to gun control groups, including his promise to not just re-enact the ban on modern sporting rifles, including the AR-15-style rifle, but also his plan he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that he would confiscate them if he could.
Then vs Now
The 1994 ban included 19 specific models of AR-15 rifles. This latest version hoisted that to 205 specific models. It increased the cosmetic features by which antigun politicians seek to classify what is an “assault weapon,” when they actually have no bearing on the operating system of the firearm. The latest version would ban any rifle capable of accepting a detachable magazine and at least “one military feature,” which include innocuous accessories like threaded barrels that can accept suppressors (that protect against hearing loss and are legal in 42 states), “barrel shrouds” that keep hands from being burned, grips and adjustable shoulder stocks.
They are literally making it up as they go, just because they want to ban all guns. Josh Sugarmann, with the gun control group Violence Policy Center, struck on the term “assault weapon” in 1998 after seizing on the American public’s inability to differentiate civilian AR-15s and the military’s M-16s because of their similar appearance.
“The weapon’s 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 change of public support for restriction of these weapons,” Sugarmann wrote.
The latest version of the bill is equally nonsensical. The list of firearms specifically named in the ban includes shotguns and rimfire rifles. One – the Remington 1100 20-Gauge Deer Gun – literally lists the firearm as a “deer gun” and not a so-called “assault weapon.”
That’s not all. A bigger list of physical characteristics is also on the chopping block. It includes pistol braces, detachable magazines, shotguns capable of accepting detachable magazines holding more than five rounds and a “military feature” would be banned. Magazines with a carrying capacity greater than 10 rounds are listed. So too are anything with a thumbhole stock or “bullet button” that was added to rifles in California. Bump stocks, already banned by President Donald Trump, would be made illegal-er, if that’s a word.
America’s Buying Guns, Not Control
The difficulty for gun control groups is that MSR-ownership skyrocketed since 1994. NSSF estimates there are over 20 million of these rifles in circulation today and they are the most-popular selling centerfire rifle in America. They’re popular for home defense, recreational target shooting and hunting. The rifles Sen. Feinstein and Rep. Cicilline want to ban were used to stop home invasions and the murderer in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
The popularity of the firearm rests primarily in its modularity. It can be easily customized to fit a wide variety of body types. It is ergonomically-designed, making it easier for novice owners to master marksmanship skills. This is why they have adjustable stocks. It’s low-recoil and offered in nearly the full spectrum of calibers and has earned the moniker of “America’s rifle.”
Sen. Feinstein and her gun control supporters benevolently offer a way for present owners of any of these “would be” banned items to keep the ones presently owned. There are just a few rules. The grandfathered firearms would be required to be stored in a locked safe, or with a locking device installed. If the owner wanted to transfer the firearm to anyone else, including family members, it would require an FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) verification. Any of the firearms that were kept by owners would be required to display DOJ-approved production dates that would be engraved on the receivers. Any legacy magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds would require serialization but could not be transferred.
The previous Assault Weapons Ban was studied by the CDC and researchers there concluded the ban on rifles and standard magazines has no impact on the reduction of crime. The FBI’s own data show that more murders are committed with knives, fists and clubs than by rifles of all types – not just the MSR, or AR-15-style rifle.
This is a naked gun grab. At a time when firearm purchases are at record levels and public appetite for gun control is at record lows, Democrats – led by Sen. Feinstein and Rep Cicilline – choose to ignore their voters, disarm citizens and destroy Second Amendment rights. Sen. Feinstein forgets what happened the last time Democrats rammed this through with a razor-thin 52-48 vote. America voted them out and demanded back their freedom.
Larry Keane is Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association.