Gun Control

Does Feinstein's 'Assault Weapon' Ban Cover All Semiautomatic Rifles?


Gun writer Alan Korwin, who blogs here, argues (in an email missive that does not seem to be online yet) that the "assault weapon" ban introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) last week effectively bans all semiautomatic rifles, not just the scary-looking, military-style ones. How so? Under her bill, a rifle that accepts a detachable magazine qualifies as an "assault weapon" if it has one or more of six features, including "a pistol grip." The bill defines a "pistol grip" as "a grip, a thumbhole stock, or any other characteristic that can function as a grip" (emphasis added). Therefore, Korwin says, "any semi-automatic firearm that exists, with anything on it you can grip, is banned."

Sound far-fetched? In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, Independence Institute scholar (and Reason contributor) David Kopel noted:

The Feinstein bills outlaw any long gun that has a grip, or anything which can function as a grip. Of course, all guns have grips—or they couldn't be held in the hand to fire at all. While this means that some bills would presumptively ban nearly all semi-autos, the likely intent is to ban pistol-style grips.

If Feinstein's bill were enacted, of course, the courts might very well favor the statute's literal meaning over its "likely intent." In any case, Kopel seems to think this highly elastic definition of "pistol grip" was accidental, while Korwin calls it "very clever," because it means the bill covers a lot more guns than you might think at first glance. As I noted a few weeks ago, the National Rifle Association raised the same concern about the "pistol grip" definition based on an earlier version of Feinstein's bill, so this is a problem she could have fixed, assuming she viewed it as a problem. 

If you accept Korwin's theory that ignorance, stupidity, or carelessness do not account for this aspect of Feinstein's bill, Appendix A, which lists more than 2,000 guns that are not covered by the ban, begins to make more sense. The list includes, for example, the fixed-stock Iver Johnson M-1 Carbine, which I happen to own (along with several of the "large capacity ammunition feeding devices" targeted by another provision of the bill). By Feinstein's reckoning, the exact same gun with an adjustable stock would be an "assault weapon," and therefore intolerably dangerous, although it is hard to see why. In any event, since my gun does not appear on Feinstein's list of 157 "assault weapons" banned by name and does not have anything that would ordinarily be described as a pistol grip or any of the other forbidden features*, there is no apparent reason to mention it at all, except to impress us with Feinstein's generosity. But if any "characteristic that can function as a grip" makes a gun an "assault weapon," my rifle (or new versions of it, since currently owned guns are grandfathered) would be banned had it not been included on the list of exempted firearms.

Kopel's testimony, by the way, is an excellent summary of the case against "assault weapon" bans and limits on magazine capacity that every member of Congress and every state legislator should be forced to read before voting on either.

*Correction: Actually, since Feinstein's forbidden features include a barrel shroud, my gun would have been deemed an "assault weapon" regardless of the "pistol grip" definition, had it not been listed in Appendix A. Why a barrel shroud is acceptable on this particular rifle but not on others is anyone's guess.

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  1. This is actually good news. Feinstein’s stupidity will make it so this bill will never pass.

    1. Just like the PATRIOT Act! And the AUMF! and Medicare Part D! and ObamaCare!

      1. You HAD to come up with examples, didn’t you.

        Some stupidity != other stupidity.

        Ok, I got nothin’ else.

        1. “Some stupidity != other stupidity.”

          No, but some stupidity ` other stupidity, and that’s close enough.

    2. That was my thought as well. I picture southern state senators sitting around thinking, “nice going you stupid twat… I have an out”.

      I’m not sure it matters at this point if they change it……they’re going to lose the we are protecting “the rights of hunters and sportsmen”!

      1. Which “southern state senators” would be predisposed to vote for any gun ban?

        The so-called “universal background check” is what we need to watch out for.

        1. I imagine had they managed to move this along a bit faster maybe one or two. The beauty of America short attention span is that were already “moving on”!

        2. “Which “southern state senators” would be predisposed to vote for any gun ban?”

          The bitch Mary Fucking Landrieu.

          *Spits vigorously*

          1. Landrieu is running again in 2014, though.

        3. Also, High Cap Mag Ban

    3. Feinstein is the evil one, Boxer is the stupid one. Feinstein knows exactly what she’s doing. It’s the statist playbook: pass a vaguely worded law then use the courts or executive action to stretch it as far as you can.

      For example, the Hughes Amendment. That was slipped into the Firearm Owners Protection Act on a voice vote, and Charlie Rangel gaveled it into the bill ignoring the calls for a recorded vote. It banned any machine gun transfers after a certain date

      except under the authority of an agency of the United States Government

      Well MG transfers were already regulated by the National Firearms Act. So the Hughes Amendment is stupid redundancy. Except the way ATF chose to interpret it is that no new machine guns could be manufactured for civilian purchase, only for government employees. That’s why machine guns cost so much. The supply is fixed.

      1. Feinstein is stupid as well. She is literally one of the dumbest people I’ve ever heard speak.

        1. You must have missed Boxer.

        2. Her chief aide is smart then.

          I know we’re always supposed to be all “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” but there are people writing these bills and it’s not a coincidence that they never every accidentally limit the government’s power.

          1. Well her bill had no chance to pass anyways so she may as well pander as much as possible.

          2. I think you’d be stunned at how stupid most of the people who go into politics or work for politicians are. They may be crafty or really good at weaseling their way to the top, but most of them are terrible at anything else. Have you ever worked in any politicized environment? I had to work with the NYC DOT head office because my contracting firm had won a bid to produce new work-tracking software for them.

            The sheer amount of incompetence was mind-boggling, and that’s not even counting the political games that were always going on as the head of the department tried to weasel her way up the NYC government food chain. She was an idiot–but she was crafty. The one somewhat competent person they put at my disposal was constantly harried, frustrated, and covering other people’s work. Even after many, many sessions of talking about workflow in detail they failed to impart critical steps in their process. Then the real kicker came when, nearing the end of the project, the head of the department said “why can’t we do GIS locations inside buildings? We have to have that.” We were aghast and responded “that’s not possible (using the GIS software you agreed on), and you were informed of this–in writing and verbally–at the beginning of the project.” She was either torpedoing it deliberately for her own career purposes, or she literally had never even paid attention to anything about the project.

            1. (continued because of character limits)

              So the project was shelved and never used, but of course we had to be paid. Taxpayer dollars at work. It really is this stupid, and most of these climbers are stupid too. It was the first time I had been in a politicized government work environment and it was shocking.

              1. In IL, all we have to do is look at Dick Durbin.

                He would, in the words of Brezhnev, pull down his pants and sit on a block of ice for the Party – but I am quite sure he needs help tying his shoes and occasional reminders to breathe.

      2. And anyone who tries to undo the Hughes amendment is going to get pushback from current owners of machine guns, since the value would drop 10x.

        1. Eh, I don’t think so. I think the people who buy and shoot MGs are hardcore 2A supporters. I doubt you’ll see any significant group opposing it. If Hughes is repealed, they’ll be able to buy any of the machine guns that were first manufactured after 1986. That’s a hell of an upside.

        2. This topic comes up with fair regularity on subguns, and you are wrong.

          Most would take a huge hit to the value of their collection to be able to buy weapons that are post-’86.

          Also, many of the weapons that command the highest prices won’t increase in availability anyway (as they are no longer manufactured) so their value is unlikely to affected. For example, a “new” AO Thompson will never bring the same money an original Colt-Thompson 1921 brings.

          1. OK, but today even a cruddy, non-collectible pre-86 machine gun commands a price many times that which LEAs pay for a new one today. Unfortunately we’ll probably never see.

          2. Pretty much this. Those that support the Hughes Amendment are considered quislings by the vast majority of the rest.

            1. I could care less about the value of the registered NFA items I have against all the semi-auto rifles I could legally register and convert if the Hughes amendment was struck down.

  2. every state legislator should be forced to read before voting on

    Bwahhhaaahhahaaa! You made a funny, Reason? No? Legislators reading things before they vote. Next you’re going to say that they should know the Constitution before they take office. You are funny, Reason! Make me laugh much!

    1. Maybe like a citizen test

  3. America doesn’t need more gun control. It needs less. How will they ever protect themselves from a tyrannical government with just assualt rifles. The people need access to M4’s, anti-aircraft missles, anti-tank missles, RPG’s and hand grenades. It’s the only way to protect themselves. They need to removes theses restrictions so Americans are capable of killing each other in greater numbers and with greater effeciency. It’s the only way.

    1. America needs to learn how to spell “assault.”

    2. “”…How will they ever protect themselves from a tyrannical government with just assualt rifles. The people need access to M4’s, anti-aircraft missles, anti-tank missles, RPG’s and hand grenades.”

      well, apparently Obama believes this of Syrians, which is why he’s had arms smuggled to them all last year

      other than that, your straw-man point is pretty fucking stupid

      1. your straw-man point is pretty fucking stupid

        Not stupid enough for Nick.

    3. Guy Laguy| 1.30.13 @ 7:37PM |#
      “America doesn’t need more gun control. It needs less…”

      I’ll bet your mom told you that you’re clever. She lied.

      1. Oblivious Troll is whiny.

    4. Shorter Dumbass Guy: Tyranny could never happen in America. Trust your government.

    5. What I want to know is how people expect to protect themselves from a tyrannical government with elections? I mean, if a government goes all evil, it will just rig the elections so they always win! When you add up all the time people spend in line, elections kill thousands of people. It would be safer to restrict voting to a small group of people trained to use votes responsibly, like police and soldiers.

  4. At least my semi-automatic cannon is safe.

  5. Wow Snorg Tees “Bacon Girl” sure has nice thighs!

    1. i trump bacon girl with roadkill lounging girl

      i suspect photoshop may have been involved, but i dont care

      1. I stand by my initial statement!

      2. Yeah…she is uh…..yep.

    2. I like unzipped jeans girl.

    3. All I got is Christian dating and Bad Ideas shirts girl.

    4. I’m a fan of the “favorite color of the alphabet” girl. She’s just what I like.

  6. OT – Piers Morgans march to irrelevancy continues unabated……

    1. …irrelevancy

      Where the hell did that come from?


      1. Oh, and I had thought you meant irrelevancibility-ness.

        1. I was going to go with irrelevancibility-ness but I don’t like to come across as a smug intellectual! I like to keep it real.

    2. That was Tony watching Piers 545,000 times…

  7. Jacob, how do you like your M1? Realiability? You like the .30 round? I’ve been thinking about trading in my .45 uzi for one.

    1. IIRC .30 carbine produces a bit more energy out of the M1 as a .357 does out of a pistol. Which is to say, not a hell of a lot when you’re talking about a centerfire rifle. Trading a .45 Uzi for it wouldn’t be much of a step up, energy-wise.

      Still a nice rifle, though.

      1. Yeah, it would still be short range gun for me. I’m thinking I can probably pick up a little distance accuracy wise and still have some decent power. Also, could maybe drop a couple pounds in weight. I’m not sold on the idea but was exploring it. I really do like the Uzi. It’s an IMI and is very accurate and reliable and fun to shoot. The top charging handle is not very optics friendly but how much optics do you need on a .45.

        1. Also, could maybe drop a couple pounds in weight.

          That didn’t make sense to me until I looked up the Uzi’s weight. Almost eight freaking pounds. The M1 Garand only weighed 9.5 lbs. And that’s before you add the 16″ barrel so that it’s not a short-barreled rifle…

          They must have made it heavy on purpose to help control recoil in full-auto fire. Only thing that makes sense.

          Yeah, an M1 carbine would definitely be lighter; IIRC they were 5 or 6lbs. Even the full-auto M2 wasn’t much heavier.

          1. Yeah for a carbine it’s bulky. Spits out those .45’s like candy though:)Yeah, the weight and bulk is probably
            one of the main reasons I had been thinking about the trade. It’s certainly not unmanagable though.

            1. What’s funny though is seeing that shoulder kick back a little shooting that .30 in that video . You have zero kick with the Uzi. That extra weight absorbs it all. It’s like shooting a .22.

              1. May just end up shortening up my AR with a collapsable stock and new upper. Need to see evaluate what calibers are available for that short range scenerio. I was looking at the .450 but that kicks like a shotgun which is fine for hunting but not what I’m looking for. May end up getting that as well though.

          2. That didn’t make sense to me until I looked up the Uzi’s weight. Almost eight freaking pounds.

            The Uzi has a blowback action. The main thing that keeps the bolt closed long enough for the bullet to exit the barrel and the pressure to drop is the mass of the bolt. So the bolt has to be heavy, particularly with the .45ACP cartridge. Lengthening the barrel escalates the problem.

            The M-2 “grease gun” works the same, and is also heavy.

            1. Sorry: M-3 grease gun.

  8. The Feinstein bills outlaw any long gun that has a grip, or anything which can function as a grip. Of course, all guns have grips?or they couldn’t be held in the hand to fire at all.

    We joke that Feinstein, et al are completely ignorant when it comes to guns and their features, and that the criteria for these bans is random abd based solely on a weapon’s appearance. I’m really not so sure about that. I have a feeling she knows axactly what she’s doing here.

    . . . the likely intent is to ban pistol-style grips.

    Again, I’m not so sure.

    1. *exactly, not axactly

    2. Well, it’s being sold as a ban on pistol grips. Whether that’s the intent is another question.

  9. I believe the commentariat spotted the whole “grip” issue way back when this was just a press release.

    You’re welcome.

    1. And no hat tip, of course!

  10. Is that the Ancient Aliens dude with a decent hair cut?

    1. “We need to ban assault crystals. Only wizards and grays should have access to this dangerous technology!”

  11. Why a barrel shroud is acceptable on this particular rifle but not on others is anyone’s guess.

    I’ll guess: “Fuck you, that’s why!”

  12. The ban may or may not cover all semi autos, but it surely doesn’t cover alt-text!

  13. Feinstein’s having trouble convincing her fellow Dems in the Senate.

    [Judiciary Committee Chairman] Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., called for “common sense reform,” that closes loopholes in current gun laws and enforces background checks. Buthe did not endorse Feinstein’s tougher ban. “I know gun store owners in Vermont,” Leahy said. “They follow the law and conduct background checks?why should we not try to plug the loopholes in the law that allow (criminals and the mentally ill) to buy guns without background checks?”

    The rebuffed California Democrat plans to hold her own hearing in her Judiciary subcommittee on her legislation, which is strongly opposed by the National Rifle Association. Senate majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has also refused to back a ban on military-style weapons and high-capacity clips. Reid’s position reflects the political fact that a whole bevy of conservative Democrats do not support Feinstein’s ban.

    1. Leahy is from Vermont, which has arguably the most liberal gun laws in the nation; he knows his constituents. There are some well armed hippies up there.

      Besides, Feinstein is toxic right now to any rep not in a solidly blue state.

      1. I also found a Politico story where DiFi’s complaining that Leahy allowed anti-gun-control witnesses to testify at the Judiciary Cmte hearings.

        1. This whole thing is a fucking farce.

          What did you think of Gifford’s statement?

          1. She needs to stop taking acting lessons from William Shatner.

            1. Your glib comment has been noted, and reported.

  14. I believe Feinstein’s bill would non-vaguely ban my Ruger 10/22, which has been modified to have a thumbhole stock.

    That’s stupid.

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