Assault Weapon Ban

California's Legislature Says Hunting Rifles Are 'Assault Weapons' Because…Why Not?

|

Warner Brothers

California Gov. Jerry Brown will soon decide whether to sign a bill that expands his state's "assault weapon" ban to cover any centerfire rifle with a detachable magazine. That's a very broad category, the National Rifle Association notes, since "millions of semi-automatic rifles have magazines that can be removed with the push of a button," including "classic hunting rifles like the Remington Woodsmaster, Browning BAR, and the Ruger 99/44, among many others." The actual language of the bill, S.B. 374, refers rather confusingly to "a semiautomatic centerfire rifle that does not have a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept no more than 10 rounds." The NRA argues that the bill's definition of a fixed magazine—"an ammunition feeding device contained in, or permanently attached to, a firearm in such a manner that the device cannot be removed without disassembly of the firearm action"—is ambiguous, since "'disassembly of the firearm action' is undefined and nobody (least of all the legislators who voted for it) knows what it means, or for that matter even what a firearm 'action' actually is." But the intended target seems to be any rifle with a detachable magazine that fires rounds of a caliber bigger than .22 (generally the upper limit these days for cheaper, flimsier rimfire cartridges). Hence Fox News says the bill "exempts .22-caliber rim fire rifles," although the legislation does not directly address caliber.

As with the existing "assault weapon" law, current owners could keep the newly prohibited models, provided they registered them with the state by July 1, 2015. But "unlike with previous registration requirements," the NRA says, "there is no planned public education campaign to notify people about the new law and its mandates. So the tens of thousands of firearm owners who do not hear about or understand SB 374 are out of luck if found with an unregistered firearm that falls under the new definition of 'assault weapon.' And even those who do register their firearms on time will be precluded from ever selling them or passing them down to their children or grandchildren."

Remington

Unlike California's current definition of "assault weapon," the new one does not hinge on arbitrarily selected military-style features such as flash suppressors or folding stocks. Instead it apparently aims to ban all rifles capable of firing more than 10 large or medium-sized cartridges without reloading. Those are real functional differences, although one can still argue about how much they matter to mass murderers or run-of-the-mill criminals. But expanding the definition of "assault weapon" to cover equally lethal guns that lack irrelevant features inevitably means banning many models commonly used for legitimate purposes. For anti-gun activists, that may have been the plan all along. The problem for them is that the Supreme Court has said the Second Amendment protects the right to own guns "in common use" or "typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes." So while an "assault weapon" is whatever legislators say it is, since the term has no independent or objective meaning, the Constitution imposes limits on how far this charade can be carried.

For example, the Remington 870 pump-action shotgun used in last month's massacre at the Washington Navy Yard is, according to its manufacturer, "the best-selling shotgun of any type in history." It is hard to imagine that the Supreme Court would uphold a ban on such a popular firearm, despite its indisputable connection to mass murder. Or suppose legislators, suddenly noticing that pistols are the guns favored by mass shooters (as well as ordinary thugs), decided to label them "assault weapons." It is clear from the Court's decisions in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago that such word games would not justify banning handguns. The NRA, which is threatening to sue if Brown signs S.B. 374, argues that banning a wide range of popular hunting rifles cannot pass constitutional muster either.

NEXT: Palestinians Reclaim Old Settlement

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Hunters assault deer with them all the time.

  2. This can’t be true. I am told by every Democrat who runs for Senate and the Presidency, as well as by the media, that they are all avid woodsmen who simply seek to install common-sense regulations that 90% of Americans agree with.

    Who could have possibly predicted this?

    1. Ya’ know, even the commies didn’t ban hunting rifles back during the Cold War.

      Registrations, sure they did. Bans, nope.

  3. This isn’t hard.

    Does it fire bullets?

    Terrorism.

  4. I guarantee when they passed the first assault weapons ban, proglodytes went to great lengths to assure gun owners that they didn’t want to ban hunting weapons. This is why anytime someone pleads for “common sense” gun control, the only proper response is “FUCK OFF, SLAVER”.

    1. If we give them some reasonable restrictions, they’ll go away.

      /Cato

      1. We all knew they’d ban scary looking guns first, then say these non scary looking ones are just as lethal as the ones we’ve decided are too dangerous to be in civilian hands and those gotta go too.

  5. I’m in the market for a Rossi/Puma lever for home defense (ha, ha CA, no detachable mag) – does the brain trust recommend the .357 or the .44mag version?

    1. …to go along w/ the 7 shot .357 in the nightstand…

      1. That you already have a handgun in .357 makes the choice pretty easy. Having your handgun and long gun able to share ammunition has a lot going for it.

        There are also Buffalo Bore rounds that can push a .357 magnum to .30-30 levels of performance out of a long gun.

    2. Eight shots of .357 mag from the 16″ barrel version would be my choice. the 125 gr hp has always carried a reputation as a strong man-stopper. I can also attest to 158 gr hp being a great short-range hunting round for white tails.

      For home defense I’d also put an ammo pouch on the stock or the sling.

      There are some great gun storage magnets (covered with plastic so it won’t mar the finish) so you can put it behind the headboard or over the door inside your closet.

  6. Can you assault somebody with ______________? Assault weapon.

    1. my fists?

      Yes, I can.

      1. The hammer is not my fists.

  7. “a semiautomatic centerfire rifle that does not have a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept no more than 10 rounds.”

    Is this the grammar they teach in law school?

  8. Serious alt text props on this one

    1. I spend most of my time complaining about missing alt-text, so it’s good to acknowledge when it was done well.

  9. “assault weapon” ban to cover any centerfire rifle with a detachable magazine.

    Except for the Ruger 10/22-TD and Winchester 190, every semi-automatic hunting rifle I own is now banned in CA.

  10. Elmer Fudd did have a high capacity rifle. I don’t recall ever seeing him reload.

    1. What’s his damn deal anyway? Is he from Bahhaston or something?

      1. He’s a mushy-mouthed wiberwal democwat?

  11. Any of you dangerous gun nuts know anything about Chiappa Rhinos? It’s the handiwork of the same guy who did the Mateba autorevolver and a beautiful gun, but I don’t know anyone who has any experience with the brand.

    1. I dont know from experience, but I’ve heard that their choice of barrel placement works exactly as intended, as far as reducing muzzle climb. I would love one, but they’re a little too pricey for me.

  12. Do it. Ban those Fudd guns.

    I double-dog dare you.

  13. Or suppose legislators, suddenly noticing that pistols are the guns favored by mass shooters (as well as ordinary thugs), decided to label them “assault weapons.”

    As I remember, D.C. once classified any firearm that could accept a magazine holding more than ten rounds as AW, including handguns.

  14. Tightening the noose in increments will strangle you just as surely, just more slowly.

  15. This is unpossible! Every progtard spouting support for a renewed AWB earlier this year said we were delusional for calling it a slippery slope.

    The PRK seems bound and determined to be the most forward point element on the movement to ban every firearm in existence.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.