The "Assault Weapons Ban of 2013," a summary of which Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) unveiled yesterday, features several glaring contradictions. It bans "157 dangerous military-style assault weapons" by name. It also bans rifles that accept detachable magazines and have one or more of these features: "pistol grip; forward grip; folding, telescoping, or detachable stock; grenade launcher or rocket launcher; barrel shroud; or threaded barrel." There are similar rules for pistols and shotguns, based on somewhat different lists of features. If these definitions capture the essence of what makes a gun an "assault weapon," why bother listing 157 specific models? If those models fit Feinstein's definitions, they would be covered even if they weren't on the list. And if they don't qualify as "assault weapons" by the criteria she herself has selected, why does she want to ban them? These puzzling details underline the fraud Feinstein is trying to perpetrate: the idea that the guns she wants to ban are especially dangerous or especially suitable for mass murder.
Feinstein brags that her bill "protects the rights of law-abiding citizens who use guns for hunting, household defense or legitimate recreational purposes." One way it supposedly does that is by excluding "2,258 legitimate hunting and sporting rifles and shotguns by specific make and model." If those guns are not on the list of specifically named "assault weapons" and do not meet the criteria Feinstein has laid out for that arbitrary category, why should they be mentioned at all? Feinstein seems to think anything not specifically allowed is prohibited, but that is not how laws are supposed to work in a free society.
Another way Feinstein "protects the rights of law-abiding citizens" is by graciously allowing current owners of newly defined "assault weapons" to keep them. She emphasizes that her bill includes "a grandfather clause that specifically exempts all assault weapons lawfully possessed at the date of enactment from the ban." But Feinstein and her allies have been assuring us for two decades that "assault weapons" have no legitimate uses. It is hard to reconcile that claim, which is central to the argument for banning these guns, with Feinstein's concession that they are used for "hunting, household defense or legitimate recreational purposes." Her bill would require buyers of grandfathered "assault weapons" to undergo background checks, but there is no way to enforce that rule unless all those guns are registered, and in any event it is not a very effective way of stopping mass shooters, who typically do not have disqualifying criminal or psychiatric records.
Similarly, Feinstein says her billl "bans the sale, transfer, manufacturing and importation of...all ammunition feeding devices (magazines, strips, and drums) capable of accepting more than 10 rounds." Yet it exempts "large-capacity ammunition feeding devices lawfully possessed on the date of enactment of the bill." The bill notionally prohibits the sale or transfer of those magazines (many millions of which are in circulation), but that edict, like the background check requirement for "assault weapon" purchases, is unenforceable.
"We must balance the desire of a few to own military-style assaults [sic] weapons with the growing threat to lives across America," Feinstein declares. "If 20 dead children in Newtown wasn't [sic] a wakeup call that these weapons of war don't belong on our streets, I don't know what is." I count four fallacies in those two sentences:
1. Mass shootings are on the rise. (They're not.)
2. Feinstein's bill would eliminate "assault weapons." (She herself emphasizes that it wouldn't.)
3. If mass murderers did not have "assault weapons," they would not be able to find equally effective substitutes.
4. The guns Feinstein wants to ban are "weapons of war," i.e., machine guns.
By the way, the text of Feinstein's bill still is not available, even though she supposedly introduced it yesterday. The press release announcing the bill says "bill text will be made public after the bill is introduced."