Saturday, August 17, 2019

A Look at HR 1296 -- The Assault Weapons Ban of 2019

Firearms are uppermost on the minds of Democrats, with a level of vitriol and hyperbole that we haven't seen for a long time. While Democrats have long described any weapon designed after 1940 as "weapons of war,"  Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA), House Democratic Assistant to the Majority Whip, decided to turn the hyperbole up to eleven, terming semi-auto weapons to be "weapons of mass destruction." Weapons of mass destruction (WMA) is a term used to describe nuclear weapons, biological warfare agents, and chemical weapons (NBC weapons). In other words, Democrats believe that an AR, AK, or some other modern weapon is the equivalent of a nuclear warhead!

     In any event, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) is reconvening his committee early in order to address gun control. One of the bills he will consider is HR 1296, which is intended as a new and improved version of the 1994 AWB. So, let's look at what is in the bill (the full text of which you can view here). The bill is described as a bill "[t]o regulate assault weapons, to ensure that the right to keep and bear arms is not unlimited, and for other purposes." It has eight (8) sections and an appendix:
  • Section 1 merely provides for a short title to the Act, being, in this case, the "Assault Weapons Ban of 2019."
  • Section 2 contains the definitions of various terms used in the bill. 
  • Section 3 is the primary operative section of the bill, and contains the restrictions on weapons and magazine sizes. It also sets out an appendix listing specific weapons that are exempted from the proposed Act.
  • Section 4 is the penalties section, but only amends certain portions of existing statutes to reflect the changes to the numbering/lettering of various subsections and paragraphs that would be caused by the adoption of the Act.
  • Section 5 is a section governing background checks for transfers of a "grandfathered semiautomatic assault weapon."
  • Section 6 requires that local law enforcement be notified about a failed background check being made to transfer a "grandfathered semiautomatic assault weapon."
  • Section 7 authorizes the provision of grants to pay for the buyback of "semiautomatic assault weapons" or "large capacity ammunition devices."
  • Section 8 is the severability section, which has standard language that if any part of the Act is struck down, the remainder will remain in force.
     I will discuss some of the key aspects of Section 2 (definitions) with the operative language in Section 3.

     The key provision is: "It shall be unlawful for a person to import, sell, manufacture, transfer, or possess, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, a semiautomatic assault weapon." A "semiautomatic assault weapon" has a lengthy definition, but includes the following:
  • A semiautomatic rifle with any one of the following features: a pistol grip; a forward grip; a detachable, folding, or telescoping stock (i.e., adjustable for length of pull or comb height, or which is collapsible); a grenade launcher; a barrel shroud (which is defined such that it would include any handguard or forestock that completely encircles the barrel); and/or a threaded barrel.
  • A semiauto rifle that has a fixed magazine capable of accepting more than 10 rounds (except for .22 rimfire rifles with a tubular magazine).
  • A semiauto pistol that accepts a detachable magazine and any one of the following features: a threaded barrel; a second "pistol grip" (which, despite the term, includes any type of forward grip); a barrel shroud; can accept a magazine at any location other than through the pistol grip; is a semiauto version of a fully automatic firearm; a manufactured weight of more than 50 ounces when unloaded; and/or a stabilizing brace.
  • A semiauto pistol with a fixed magazine capable of accepting more than 10 rounds.
  • A semiauto shotgun with any one of the following features: a folding, telescoping or detachable stock; a pistol grip; a fixed magazine that can accept more than 5 rounds; the ability to accept a detachable magazine; a forward grip; and/or a grenade launcher.
  • Any shotgun (that is, whether semiauto or otherwise) using a revolving cylinder.
  • And, just in case the foregoing somehow does not apply to an evil "semiautomatic assault weapon," the definition then includes a list of specifically banned models and variants of firearms.
      There are some exceptions to the foregoing restrictions, the most of important of which it doesn't include any firearm "possessed" prior to the enactment of the bill--i.e., "grandfathered semiautomatic assault weapons." Helpfully, the law also stipulates that it does not apply to: a firearm that is manually operated by bolt, pump, lever, or slide action; is rendered permanently inoperable; or is an antique.

      In the appendix, there are also very lengthy of lists of weapons specifically exempted from the law. Strangely, most of the lists are weapons that are not semiautomatic and would not fall under the purview of the Act. As for the exempted semiautomatic weapons, the majority are semiauto rifles or shotguns that have been historically used for hunting (e.g., the Browning BAR hunting rifles and the Remington 1100 shotguns). But the list also includes the M-1 Garand, certain models of the M-1 Carbine, the SKS (so long as it has a fixed 10-round magazine), and the standard Ruger Mini-14. Mini-30, 10/22 and PC 9.

      Of course, there are also exceptions for the government, and, to appease the police unions and fraternal organizations, exceptions for law enforcement officers as long as they purchase their weapons while serving as a law enforcement officer (but which can keep after they retire), or which is transferred to the officer by his law enforcement agency upon his/her retirement.

      The bill also provides: "It shall be unlawful for a person to import, sell, manufacture, transfer, or possess, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, a large capacity ammunition feeding device." A "large capacity ammunition feeding device" is defined as "a magazine, belt, drum, feed strip, or similar device, including any such device joined or coupled with another in any manner, that has an overall capacity of, or that can be readily restored, changed, or converted to accept, more than 10 rounds of ammunition." It does not include, however, a tubular magazine for rimfire .22 caliber.

      One of the overlooked features of the prior AWB was that it didn't really provide any means for easily determining whether a particular weapon or magazine was pre- or post-ban. This bill would require manufacturers to serialize all weapons and magazines in a manner that would indicate when it was manufactured.

     Then, to add insult to injury, the bill regulates the transfer of "grandfathered semiautomatic assault weapons." Transfer includes any sale, gifting, or loaning. Generally speaking, any transfer of such weapons must be made through an FFL which would have to run a NICS check. The only exception is when the "grandfathered semiautomatic assault weapon is, at all times, kept within the premises of [a licensed] target facility or [established] range," and the person to whom the weapon is transferred is not known to be ineligible to possess firearms. So, if you are hunting or target shooting in the field or forest, you can't legally hand the firearm to someone to use. On the other hand, it appears that the transfer restrictions would not apply to sales so long as the person to whom the weapon was sold stored the weapon on the premises of the target facility or range.

     While existing "large capacity" magazines are grandfathered, there is no provision allowing for the transfer of a "large capacity ammunition feeding device".

     Finally, the bill would require the "safe storage" of a "grandfathered semiautomatic assault weapon" (although, again, this doesn't apply to the government or law enforcement).

     While the original National Firearms Act was a grave insult to the Second Amendment, this bill is an even more egregious violation of the natural right to possess weapons, and, I would hope, be intolerable to any true American.


  1. Nadler wants to take the "Firearms Salesman of the Year" title away from Obama?

    1. It sure seems like it. I guess we'll have to see if it gets out of committee and gets a floor vote. I'm guessing that it will be stopped in the Senate. But who knows?