With last week's passage of California SB 374, which will redefine so-called "assault weapons" to include any detachable magazine-fed semi-automatic rifle, the California legislature has abandoned any pretense that the objective of "assault weapons" bans is to curb civilian access to "military-style" firearms, "designed to kill as many people as possible, as quickly as possible."
To those of us who have been paying attention, this is hardly surprising, as it has been a long time coming. When the now-expired federal AWB was in effect, it banned semi-automatic, detachable magazine-fed rifles only if they also exhibited two or more "military-style" features (which were identified as including folding or collapsible stocks, pistol grips, bayonet mounts, grenade adapters, flash hiders and threaded muzzles). The Violence Policy Center loudly and shrilly condemned this ban as not going nearly far enough, and demanded that even one "military-style" feature be grounds for a ban.
In 2000, California eventually went to the "one-feature test" (a change for which the Brady Campaign awards itself some credit) and that, indeed, is one of the "improvements" over the old AWB that U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) wrote into her new proposed ban, S. 150. From the far-left Mother Jones magazine, back in January:
At a Capitol Hill press conference on Thursday to introduce new legislation banning assault weapons, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) promised that she and her colleagues had learned from their mistakes. "One criticism of the '94 law was that it was a two-characteristic test that defined [an assault weapon]," Feinstein said. "And that was too easy to work around. Manufacturers could simply remove one of the characteristics, and the firearm was legal. The bill we are introducting [sic] today will make it much more difficult to work around by moving a one-characteristic test."
When gun rights advocates argued against the old AWB, and legislation like it, saying that these so-called "military features" were merely cosmetic, with no real affect on the gun's function, the forcible citizen disarmament lobby accused us of lying. They made the same accusation when we argued that once we got started down that slippery slope, efforts to expand the ban well beyond firearms with arbitrary, mythical "military-style" features would be inevitable.
So, for example, we have the Violence Policy Center claiming a distinction between "assault weapons" and other semi-automatic rifles:
The assault weapons threat is exacerbated by the fact that the weapons are difficult to define in legal terms. Legislators and members of the press have proposed placing increased restrictions on all semi-auto firearms, which would include some hunting rifles. Whether these proposals are merely the result of ignorance of the wide variety of firearms that are semi-automatic, or misguided efforts in the face of definitional problems, they only lend credence to the gun lobby's argument that restrictions on assault weapons are merely the first step toward banning all semi-automatic guns.
Assault weapons have distinct features that separate them from sporting firearms. While semiautomatic hunting rifles are designed to be fired from the shoulder and depend upon the accuracy of a precisely aimed projectile, the military features of semiautomatic assault weapons are designed to enhance their capacity to shoot multiple human targets very rapidly.
But oddly, neither VPC nor the Brady Campaign has shown any inclination to criticize California for being a governor's signature away from banning sporting rifles--obviously marketed for hunting--such as the Browning BAR. The Brady Campaign is indeed unabashedly enthusiastic about such a ban, saying that it "simplifies California’s assault weapons law" (because a blanket ban is, after all, "simpler" than one that has some exceptions).
None of this, by the way, should be interpreted as an argument that a gun ban that did only target "military style" firearms, while exempting guns on which the government has bestowed the privileged status of "suitable for sporting purposes," would be any less heinous than this abomination. This column has long argued that the right to keep and bear arms does not constitute ten percent of the Bill of Rights because the Founding Fathers were terribly concerned about protecting the right to own sporting goods-- not, at least, unless a new and very different sport were to become popular.
The idea instead is to illustrate how blatantly the other side lies about its eventual intentions, and in their denial of a slippery slope. The only guns they do not think are "too dangerous" are those in the hands of the government's hired muscle. That's a truly epic level of historical illiteracy.
- 'Assault weapons' bans depend on lies
- So what if they are 'weapons of war'?
- Brady Campaign promoting gun recall as solution to violence is nuts
- The right to keep and bear arms is not based on 'sporting purposes'
- Gun rights: Of rights, needs and 'sporting purposes'
- If ammo needs a 'sporting purpose,' slaying aspiring tyrants must be a 'sport'