Free Minds & Free Markets

The Whimsical Illogic of 'Assault Weapon' Bans

The category is defined by politicians, who focus on looks rather than function.

Since 1996 Gallup has been asking Americans whether they support a ban on "assault weapons." Gallup has never explained what "assault weapons" are, and there's a good reason for that: The category is defined by politicians, so its meaning is arbitrary, mutable, and illogical.

Last week Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who wrote the federal "assault weapon" ban that was enacted in 1994 and expired in 2004, introduced her latest attempt to reinstate and expand it. Her bill bans "205 military-style assault weapons" by name, along with any rifle that "accepts a detachable ammunition magazine and has one or more military characteristics," such as "a pistol grip, a forward grip, a barrel shroud, a threaded barrel or a folding or telescoping stock."

The 1994 definition required two "military characteristics" instead of just one, and the list was different. Back then, Feinstein said nothing about barrel shrouds, but she was worried about bayonet mounts, which she is now willing to allow.

Now as then, however, features that do not make a gun any more deadly in the hands of a mass shooter or an ordinary criminal, such as a folding stock or a threaded barrel, nevertheless transform it into an intolerable "assault weapon." Compounding the craziness, Feinstein's new bill also targets products that reverse this magic by removing the features that offend her.

The California company Thordsen Customs, for example, sells a kit that replaces an adjustable stock and pistol grip on a rifle that would otherwise qualify as a prohibited "assault weapon" in some states. Feinstein claims "Thordsen-type grips and stocks" are "designed to evade a ban on assault weapons," which is a bizarre way of looking at it.

"We are complying with the ban," says Alan Thordsen, the founder and CEO of Thordsen Customs. "If there's a feature that is banned, we change the feature. That's not evading. That's not skirting the law or violating the spirit of the law. We are conforming with the law and creating products that enable law-abiding people to keep their legal firearms in a legal configuration so that they are not criminals."

By Feinstein's logic, smooth rifle barrels should be banned because they can replace threaded barrels, changing a prohibited "assault weapon" into a legal gun. The problem here is not sneaky entrepreneurs like Thordsen but irrational legislators like Feinstein. Thordsen's real offense, one suspects, is highlighting the silliness of legislation like Feinstein's.

An "assault weapon" ban that just took effect in Boulder, Colorado, cuts Feinstein's list of "military characteristics" in half, focusing on pistol grips, adjustable stocks, and "any protruding grip or other device" that "allow[s] the weapon to be stabilized with the non-trigger hand." Unlike Feinstein, it seems, Boulder's gun controllers are not afraid of barrels with shrouds or threads.

A ballot initiative that took effect this month in Washington goes in a different direction. While the state's ban applies only to adults younger than 21, it defines "semiautomatic assault rifles" so broadly that the category includes all semi-automatic rifles.

The seven states with general bans on "assault weapons" define them more narrowly than Washington, but the criteria vary. New York, like Feinstein circa 1994, cannot abide bayonet mounts, for example, but California, which enacted the nation's first "assault weapon" ban in 1989, is OK with them.

Once you realize that "assault weapons" are in the eye of the beholder, it's hard to take seriously the extravagant promises of legislators who want to ban them. Feinstein claims her bill would "put a stop to mass shootings." Yet even if it eliminated the millions of "assault weapons" that Americans already own (something it does not even purport to do), mass shooters would still have plenty of equally lethal alternatives.

After three decades of this nonsense, Americans may be starting to wise up. According to Gallup, support for legislation like Feinstein's fell from a peak of 59 percent in 2000 to 40 percent last year.

© Copyright 2019 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  • loveconstitution1789||

    2nd Amendment: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

    Its all academic since the 2nd Amendment protects the People's right to keep and bear Arms from any government infringement.

    Those are Armaments and they are talking about infringement [period]

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    Article 1, Section 8: To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization... To declare War ...

    Article 1, Section 9: The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight ... I have never seen this used in any context but slavery, which is the only subject the Framers dodged, kicking the can down the road 20 years. They didn't dodge war or naturalization; why single out immigration, which was not contentious?

    14th Amendment, Section 1: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

    9th Amendment: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

    10th Amendment: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

    For someone who likes to quote absolute phrases ("shall not be infringed") as gospel, you do a remarkably poor job of justifying immigration control. How about showing where the federal government gets its authority to control immigration?

    Don't fall back on hand-waving about border control being too obvious to enumerate; it's hard to think of a natural right more obvious than self-defense.

  • KevinP||

    You answered your own question:

    Article 1, Section 9: The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight ...

    This is not limited to slavery. It applies, by its own terms to the Migration of Persons.

    Done. Congress could not prohibit migration prior to 1808 if the States permitted it.

  • Tionico||

    you cut and pasted this mindless drivel yesterday. How's about contributing to the discussioin at hand?

  • JesseAz||

    Open border acolytes are fucking dumb in this regard.

  • KevinP||

    "Assault weapon" means a gun that looks scary to the uninformed, but functions no different than other firearms.

    The Assault Weapons ban was born in deceit - in the words of gun control activist Josh Sugarmann on the pages of the Violence Policy Center, a gun ban group:

    Assault weapons - just like armor-piercing bullets, machine guns, and plastic firearms - are a new topic. The weapons' 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 chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons.


    Assault Weapons and Accessories in America (Violence Policy Center)

    It is amazing how many people have been taken in by this fraud.

  • Tionico||

    After four cops were murdered in broad daylight in a coffee shop near Tacoma a few years back, with a HANDGUN, a stoopud excuse of a Senator from Seattle, Adam Kline, submitted an "assault weapons ban" in the Senate to "stop such shootings" (which, as noted, was accomplished with an illegally supplied handgun, NOT an assault weapon. Kline happened to be the chari of the Judicial Committee, and this the keeper of the keys for which bills come to the Senate floor. Sugarman had been invited to a gun club range to test fire a Ruger 10/.22, wooden stock, as purchased new. After he fired a few rounds, the senator and the Rangemaster helped him safe and clear the rifle, then, with Sugarman watching , carried the rifle he had been using to a bench a few feet behind them, RM took out a standard screwdriver, removed ONE screw, and the entire barrel and action came separate from the wooden stock. SUgerman observed, nothing done to the metal parts. THEN the RM reached down to a shelf where he took out a cardboard carton, opened it up, and inside was a black plastic stock... with forward vertical grip, telescoping shouder piece, a partial shroud... the metal assembly that had been removed from the wooden stock was then placed upon the black plastic assembly remvoed from the box, the same single screw was used to attach the two together, they it was carried back to the firing line and placed on the bench there.

  • Tionico||

    Sugarman was instructed to reload the rifle and fire it again. He agreed, it was exactly the same rifle... but now looked different. Function, rate of fire, etc, had not changed.

    A week later he testified before Kline's Judiciary Committee on WHY "assault weapons" had to be banned.... they are "more lethal", and are "easy to modify to make them fully automatic", are "more powerful", etc.. he perjured himself for the sake of trying to get the bill passed. What a dirtbag that creature is!!!!The bill got one vote.. Kline's, and was DOA. He, being the chair of that committee, however, made a desparate attempt to bring it to the floor for a vote as the session was ending a few weeks later. Another dirtbag, glad he was not reelected.

  • sparkstable||

    Do you have a link to this story? I would love to have a few "enlightened" co workers read it and then defend their "common sense."

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    Dianne Feinstein is a direct threat to your constitutionally protected rights. Unfortunately the Constitution does not absolutely guarantee that your rights and freedoms will be respected. Sometimes action is necessary to defend those freedoms. What action that is, I couldn't say, but the price of freedom is constant vigilance.

    We're talking about someone who was an enthusiastic supporter of mass-murdering extremist cult leader Jim Jones. Now she is arbitrarily deciding what American citizens can and can't do, say, own, buy, sell, all based on her fevered, zealous agenda of "progress" and control.

    I'm going full lc1789 on this. He knows what's up.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    ...We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security....
    -Declaration of Independence

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    *nods in approval*

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    Along with barrel shrouds, I expect Feinstein will wish to ban oven mitts?

  • Tionico||

    but only if their last name begins with the letter "R"

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    Feinstein claims "Thordsen-type grips and stocks" are "designed to evade a ban on assault weapons," which is a bizarre way of looking at it.

    If pistol grips and adjustable stocks are what they're really afraid of, then isn't Thordsen doing them a favor by replacing them with non-banned features?

    This response from Feinstein is pretty telling that it isn't the features that she's after (ie exactly what she proposes banning). Instead, she is trying to ban the types of weapons which are most likely to have these features, semi-automatic rifles. If she were intellectually honest she would come out and say that. If only she were intellectually honest.

  • Qsl||

    I think you are giving her too much credit. Not knowing the particulars of firearms, the best she can do is describe their superficial characteristics. A Ruger Mini ranch rifle wouldn't even raise an eyebrow, while the exact same model in tactical dress would be declared a WMD.

    And Thordsen makes clear why most bans will fail. Eliminate semi-autos, someone will design practical chain gun. Eliminate pistol grips and an ergonomist will design an even more comfortable grip.

    Gun bans are essentially laws against human ingenuity, and all things being equal, nature prevails.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    I'm with you. I don't think Feinstein or her staff are not knowledgeable about guns. On the contrary, I believe that they expect that a ban on all semi-auto rifles is unobtainable, so they try to dumb it down to get more public support.

    At the end of the day though, no government bans of popular behavior work. Whether it is drugs, guns, immigration... government has been unsuccessful at curbing individual behavior through bans.

  • KevinP||

    Correct. An excellent site with clear graphics:

  • Longtobefree||

    They are not illogical.
    Every step along the way has been predicated on disarming the American population in anticipation of the day the socialists will take over the USA by force of arms, which only they will have.
    Good luck.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    More evidence that Lefties in the USA are delusional.

    They think gun control schemes will work if only they try harder. America compromised with anti-gun nuts decades ago and we have been rolling back gun control ever since in all but the Bluest of Socialist states.

    Trump is a response to gun control advocates that we are fighting back. Hillary would have implemented as much gun control as she could get away with. Trump's bumpstock ban is unconstitutionally bad and can be changed by dialing another phone number and using a different pen.

  • TxJack 112||

    They simply want to impose their will on us and to do so effectively, we cannot have the ability to fight back. The main problem they face is they live with the assumption that if they make something illegal, people will simply comply and surrender their weapons and hi cap magazines. This maybbe true in blue states and cities where they already bow to the will of the government but in all the "rural" areas they love to mock, it will not happen. The threat of prison means little to those who see a life without liberty as a prison itself. Pass you laws and then be astonished when states rebel and tell you "no". Look at what is happening right now in Boulder, Co and Washington state. Exactly what will happen nationwide

  • Mock-star||

    inb4 Hihn shits the place up

  • Freddy the Jerk||

    It appears that Hihn is taking his medication these days, as his bold-face sneering and ass-jamming has been mostly absent.

  • Freddy the Jerk||

    (Maybe he's found a person to practice his ass-jamming on in the nursing home.)

  • Brett Bellmore||

    "Whimsical?" I personally don't find a lot of whimsy in conspiracies to violate civil liberties.

  • Rich||

    Yep. "Perverse"? "Unconstitutional"? "Evil"?

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    All of the above?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Obviously it's never been about how dangerous a firearm is. This is an incremental step on the way to a total gun ban.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    "Assault weapons and high-capacity magazines are deadly and dangerous weapons of war that belong on battlefields—not our streets. They have no purpose for self-defense or hunting, and no business being in our schools, churches and malls," said Senator Richard Blumenthal."

    So, you'll be taking them away from the cops, Secret Service protective details, etc.?

  • TxJack 112||

    So we are supposed to listen to "Stolen Valor" Blumenthal about what constitutues a battlefield weapon? He cannot even identify what IS a battlefield.

  • KevinP||

    Exactly. If these guns are "weapons of war", why are police officers on routine patrol carrying them and calling them "patrol rifles"? After all, police officers have no need to mow down hundreds of people on a battlefield.

    For instance, here is the Massachusetts manual of arms for police officers to use AR-15 rifles:

    Basic Firearms Instructor Course PATROL RIFLE (Massachusetts Municipal Police Training Committee)

    Note that police officers are not soldiers. They are ordinary citizens who have been tasked with protecting the safety of the public. Unlike soldiers, they are allowed to use deadly force only in lawful defense of themselves and others.
    Just like ordinary citizens.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    ""If these guns are "weapons of war", why are police officers on routine patrol carrying them and calling them "patrol rifles"?""

    Because we need to protect the homeland while we are at war with Eastasia.

  • Tionico||

    anyone else remember back a few years when there was a big kerfuffle over renewing the now-dead AWB of the last century, when guns and ammunition were in very short supply (thanks to the greatest gun salesman ever) and we were all incensed that DHS were ordering thousands of AR type rifles....... for their own use....... to :keep us safe", I guess. Anyone remember what they called those new tactical rifles chambered in 5.56? They called them "DEFENSIVE WEAPONS.". And they are precisely what DieFie wants to label "assault weapons" and ban them.
    SO, my question" WHICH branch of the government is correct? DieFie's? Or DHS?

  • awildseaking||

    I think Feinstein and most of the gun grabbers know exactly what they're doing, but it isn't as heinous as some might believe. Logically, these bills make no sense. So why do they keep supporting them if all they do is create the appearance of safety? That's the answer. They're tapping in to the ignorant voters who think "SOMETHING must be done!" and this is that something. Feinstein knows these laws don't work and that they aren't remotely constitutional, but maybe that's what you have to do to win an unprincipled, milquetoast districts like hers.

    It wouldn't surprise me that unprincipled voters end up electing unprincipled candidates who say whatever is necessary to hold power.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Americans has been brainwashed into thinking that TOP MEN must do something to protect us.

    "those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
    -Ben Franklin on behalf of the Pennsylvania General Assembly

  • TxJack 112||

    Of course they know. Fortunately, they beleive that the "majority" of voters support them because they swallow the popular vote BS. Their problem is the majority of their supporters are in states where this type of gun control already exists.

  • Rich||

    By Feinstein's logic, smooth rifle barrels should be banned because they can replace threaded barrels, changing a prohibited "assault weapon" into a legal gun.

    By Feinstein's logic, all guns should be banned because they can replace "assault weapons", changing a prohibited "assault weapon" into a legal gun.

    "I carried a concealed weapon," she said. "I made the determination that if somebody was going to try to take me out I was going to take them with me."

  • Robert||

    By Feinstein's logic, all gunsconsumer goods should be banned because they can replace "assault weapons",

  • Tionico||

    She did not neet the handgun. Anyone attemting to accost her, once realising WHO they had, would NOT have her "take them with me". I mean, come ON, DieDie.. WHO would want to go off to wherever it is YOU are going? Most people with a modicum of sense would learn which way YOU are headed, make a 180, and go the exact other way.

  • Jerry B.||

    Wonder why Sen. Feinstein hasn't gone after the deadly "Assault knives" that kill four times as many Americans as ALL rifles.
    2017 FBI Homicide Stats

  • TxJack 112||

    Right? In Texas you can no legally carry a sword walking down the street. Ban guns and people will simply carry edged weapons. People have been killing each other for thousands of years. No law will change this fact. How about eliminating the attacks on boys telling them they are brokem and "toxic" so they believe their only response is mass violence? Mass shootings, especially school shootings are a modern phemomena. There were no school shootings prior to the 1990s when leftists seized control of the school and began their indoctrination. Zero tolerance and gun free zones only prompted more violence on a larger scale than ever before. Fighting between teenage boys in school in the 70s and 80s was normal but the violence stop there because issues were settled. Now fighting is a crime that can get you arrested

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    "Mass shootings, especially school shootings are a modern phemomena. There were no school shootings prior to the 1990s"

    Not at all true. Here is a list of US school shootings going back to 1840.

    The most common definition I've seen for mass shooing is anything over 4 casualties.

    By that standard the firs mass shooting in a school in the US was in 1893.

  • Tionico||

    FBI's definition of "mass public shooting" is four or more deaths, not including the perpetrator. It also excludes such events in private homes, etc. because they are not "public places". I believe the fed CDC use the same definition.

    I beleive what makes them SEEM a "modern phenomenon" is the pubicity given them in the media, and theway that inspires copy cat events. I had not heard of anything prior to about 1950 or so, other than gang and bootleg shootings, you know, preserving OUR turf and all that. That's just "bidniss".

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    ""Ban guns and people will simply carry edged weapons."'

    +2 buck knives

  • Tionico||

    UNLESS, of course, you attend a school in Parkland, Florida....... they'd rather have the $54Mn than arrest any kid for fighting. And we see how well THAT works.

  • See.More||

    Don't question the narrative.

    Stay on the narrative.

  • TxJack 112||

    Besides the obvious problem of any bill never passing the Senate, the larger issue is the entire facade of "assault weapons". There will never be another national ban because any such ban will not work. By ignoring immigrations laws at a state and local level, Democrats have established the precedent any state can ignore any Federal law it deems to be unjust and a violation of the Constitution. Toss in all the leftist judges who have supported these actions and you have a clear precedent. Since 95% of US law is based on legal precedent, Democrats have screwed themselves. States like Texas and many others will simply say "no" and any cities who attempt to enforce such laws will be overridden by the state government.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    The fact that it won't work wouldn't stop them from enacting another 'assault weapon' ban. The only reason we didn't get one when they controlled Congress in the early Obama administration is that they were still smarting from gun control induced losses. They go through these regular cycles of embracing gun control, getting punished for it, avoiding the topic for a while, and then returning to it when the memory fades.

    If the next time they control the White house and both chambers of Congress happens to line up with one of their periods of gun control hysteria, they will certainly try again.

  • BadLib||

    Fortunately now that we understand that a single district court judge can simply issue a "national injunction", we can find one to issue a national injunction blocking such a law nationwide.

    Although, I'd be a bit more comfortable with the eventual outcome if RGB and/or Beyer were to shed their mortal coils in the next 12 months or so. So far, Trump seems to have done a good job on at least (or perhaps only) one of his jobs - nominating Supreme Court Justices (and, perhaps, judicial nominations in general but I don't track them nearly as closely).

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    The fundamental natural right to self-defense is not at stake; they can't take away that instinct. What they refuse to recognize is that guns are the great equalizer; God made man, but Sam Colt made them equal.

    If they could wave their Harry Potter wands and eliminate all guns, then we'd be back to those with genetic luck and time to train running roughshod over everybody else.

    Of course, they then say that police and the military should have guns (and keeping mum on whether bodyguards count as police), but ignore corruption, because, By Gum, everybody knows that weak cops and soldiers will gladly "lose" their guns for the right price, that Bad Guys with Some Guns will hijack shipments and get More Guns, and lots and lots of people will make their own zip guns and steal Real Guns.

    3-D printing will eventually moot the problem of controlling manufacturing. That won't make it legal to go target shooting, and it will complicate actual instances of self-defense. But when guns can be manufactured as easily as bicycle pedals or spark plugs, at home, from general purpose materials, it will make gun bans ridiculous enough to become de facto unenforceable.

  • ConstitutionalDon||

    Democrats may be evil but they are not stupid. They know that eventually deficit, debt, interest, social programs, taxation and printing money will crash the economy. They need to make sure We the People are disarmed when that happens. They may say "Swedish Socialism", which is just a slogan, but they understand math well enough to anticipate Venezuela.

  • Tionico||

    A ballot initiative that took effect this month in Washington goes in a different direction. While the state's ban applies only to adults younger than 21, it defines "semiautomatic assault rifles" so broadly that the category includes all semi-automatic rifles

    This is the boilerplate Bloomburg bill that he also tried to get onto Oregon's ballot, but their Supreme Court was not corrupt like WA SC are, and disallowed it to go onto the ballot.

    The above quote is partially true. Yes, it does ban "assault weapons" from those under 21, and yes it DOES define "AW" with precisely the same language as lifted from federal definition of "semi-automatic". In other words, theRuger 10/.22 that is THE most common /22 rimfire rifle ever made is now an "AW" per the nitwits in WA.

  • Tionico||

    The scary part is that, while the first part does drop this month (several friends of mine have taken their 18 year old kids on a buying trip to Cabelas to get THEIR OWN "assault weapons" (Ruger 10/.22 rifles) which are now grandfathered
    the second part drops this coming July, unless stopped by an injunction. THAT part brings in 10 day waiting period for ALL gun purchases (bye bye gun shows), mandates training (undefined, government suppllied, I guess) as a preconditioni to new gun purchases, getting your first Mother May I Card to carry a handgun, or for any subeqeuent renewal of the MMIC. It establishes a new registry of "assault weapons", and mandates "enhanced" background checks.. even for we who have our Mother May I Cards, having passed a far more comprehensive and intrusive check. Other new changes also result, but those are the main and most objectionavle ones. And the likely bases for an injunction to prevent it taking effect until after the courts (at least one federal.... because it bans interstate sale of all firearms, against the ICC)

  • Uncle Jay||

    Well, politicians will always take looks over substance, even when it comes to guns.

  • DrZ||

    We should have the freedom to own guns except I don't think that men should be allowed to have pink guns. It would make them look like a sissy, but perhaps that what Gillette was trying to say in their ad?

  • ValVerde1867||

    Does Congress get anything right? Yep, when it comes to self-service, they are A+.

  • SimpleRules||

    By this logic, if I can get a .50 cal fully automatic to look like a Red Rider BB gun then we good?


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