One 'Assault Weapon' Banner Says Barrel Shrouds Are Sometimes OK; Another Doesn't Know What They Are


The closer you look at the list of exempted firearms in the "assault weapon" ban that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced last week, the less sense it makes. To begin with, the list, which accounts for 95 of the bill's 121 pages, consists mostly of guns, such as bolt-action rifles and pump-action shotguns, that are not semiautomatic and therefore could not possibly qualify as "assault weapons" under Feinstein's definition. This part of the list is, as the National Rifle Association says, nothing but "window dressing" aimed at impressing us with Feinstein's generosity. It is like banning red cars with manual transmissions, then listing every car that is not banned because it is a different color or has an automatic transmission.

The list of exempted firearms does include some semiautomatic rifles that would otherwise be deemed "assault weapons" by Feinstein's criteria. The other day I noted that the Iver Johnson M-1 carbine is exempted as long as it does not have an adjustable stock, even though it has a barrel shroud, another one of Feinstein's forbidden features. More generally, Feinstein exempts all "M-1 Carbines with [a] standard fixed stock" (just one of the list's many redundancies). She also exempts Ruger Mini-14 models, as long as they have fixed stocks. That means she would allow the manufacture and sale of semiautomatic rifles that accept detachable magazines and have several of the "military characteristics" that are otherwise prohibited.

Leaving aside the fanciful "grenade launcher or rocket launcher," an M1 could have a barrel shroud, a threaded barrel, and a forward grip yet still be OK in Feinstein's book. It could even have the dreaded pistol grip with an after-market modification. The version of the Ruger Mini-14 Tactical Rifle with an adjustable stock would be banned, but the other versions would remain legal, even though they have barrel shrouds. And if Ruger introduced a Mini-14 that looked like this but with a fixed stock, apparently that would be permitted as well.

Feinstein, for whatever reason, clearly does not like adjustable stocks. But since she implicitly concedes in her list of exempted firearms that barrel shrouds and the other proscribed features don't really matter, why include them in the definition of assault weapon? Even if you accept Feinstein's arbitrary distinctions based on functionally unimportant features, there is no apparent method to her madness.

Video bonus: Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), who wants to ban barrel shrouds, admits to Tucker Carlson she does not know what they are.

That interview inspired this (via Robert Woolley):