Hot on the heels of the passage of a pair of gun control bills in the U.S. House on Thursday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and her Democratic colleague Sen. David Cicilline of Rhode Island introduced a ban on modern sporting rifles and commonly-owned ammunition magazines in the U.S. Senate.
The bill has not yet been assigned a legislative title, but you can read the text of the bill here. Interestingly, the language of the new legislation doesn’t match what Joe Biden had called for on the campaign trail. Remember, Biden’s gun ban plan involves several steps:
- banning the manufacture, sale, and possession of all modern sporting rifles and ammunition magazines capable of holding more than ten rounds
- setting up a compensated confiscation program where gun owners can turn in their now-banned items in exchange for an undetermined cash stipend
- requiring gun owners who do not hand over their guns and magazines to the federal government to register those items under the National Firearms Act (potentially paying $200 per item for the privilege of keeping the guns and magazines you already own)
The gun ban bill introduced by Feinstein and Cicilline, on the other hand, appears identical to the gun ban she introduced last year in the Senate. Here’s how Feinstein’s office describes the new bill.
- Bans the sale, manufacture, transfer and importation of 205 military-style assault weapons by name. Owners may keep existing weapons.
- Bans any assault weapon with the capacity to utilize a magazine that is not a fixed ammunition magazine and has one or more military characteristics including a pistol grip, a forward grip, a barrel shroud, a threaded barrel or a folding or telescoping stock. Owners may keep existing weapons.
- Bans magazines and other ammunition feeding devices that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, which allow shooters to quickly fire many rounds without needing to reload. Owners may keep existing magazines.
- Requires a background check on any future sale, trade or gifting of an assault weapon covered by the bill.
- Requires that grandfathered assault weapons are stored using a secure gun storage or safety device like a trigger lock.
- Prohibits the transfer of high-capacity ammunition magazines.
- Bans bump-fire stocks and other devices that allow semi-automatic weapons to fire at fully automatic rates.
Now, just because this bill lis slightly less awful than Biden’s proposal doesn’t mean it’s any more constitutional. The legislation would still make the most commonly-sold centerfire rifles in the United States off-limits to future buyers, as well as imposing a ban on the most commonly-owned ammunition magazines in the country as well. That clearly contradicts what the Supreme Court has said in the past; arms that are in common use for a variety of lawful purposes are protected by the Second Amendment.
I do think it’s interesting, however, that Feinstein and Cicilline didn’t adopt Biden’s gun ban plan as their own. In fact, Feinstein goes out of her way to note that “owners may keep existing weapons,” though her legislation would also give grant money to states to implement “buyback” events for the banned items.
Obviously I’m not in favor of either proposal, but it seems to me that Biden’s gun ban is at least more intellectually consistent with the notion that modern sporting rifles are just too darn dangerous for anyone but the military and law enforcement to own. I’ve never understood the argument made my Feinstein in her new bill, which is that “nobody should own these guns, but if you’re one of the millions of Americans who do then you can keep them.”
There are more than 20-million modern sporting rifles in the hands of private citizens, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation. It seems incredibly daft to claim that these rifles are “battlefield weapons of war” and then grandfather in all existing owners. Of course, it’s equally as daft to think that simply banning these guns would make existing gun owners turn them in or register them with the government, as Biden’s plan would require.
Despite their differences, Feinstein’s and Biden’s proposals are equally unconstitutional, but that’s no concern to the 34 Democrat senators who are co-sponsoring the legislation introduced by Feinstein and Cicilline. The Bill of Rights is no impediment to their list of demands, at least in their mind. I suspect the Supreme Court would feel differently, and I know that tens of millions of gun owners wholeheartedly disagree and reject the idea that Congress can strip us of the right to keep and bear some of the most popular arms in America.