Does Feinstein’s ‘Assault Weapon’ Ban Cover All Semiautomatic Rifles?

6e8eDave Kopel testifying Does Feinsteins Assault Weapon Ban Cover All Semiautomatic Rifles?

Gun writer Alan Korwin, who
blogs here,
argues (in an email missive that does not seem to be online yet)
that the “assault weapon” ban
introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) last week
effectively bans all semiautomatic rifles, not just the
scary-looking, military-style ones. How so? Under
her bill, a rifle that accepts a detachable magazine qualifies
as an “assault weapon” if it has one or more of six features,
including “a pistol grip.” The bill defines a “pistol grip” as “a
grip, a thumbhole stock, or any other characteristic that can
function as a grip” (emphasis added). Therefore, Korwin says,
“any semi-automatic firearm that exists, with anything on it you
can grip, is banned.”Sound far-fetched? In testimony
before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, Independence Institute
scholar (and Reason contributor) David
Kopel noted:
The Feinstein bills outlaw any long gun that has a grip, or
anything which can function as a grip. Of course, all guns
have grips—or they couldn’t be held in the hand to fire at
all. While this means that some bills would presumptively ban
nearly all semi-autos, the likely intent is to ban pistol-style
grips.
If Feinstein’s bill were enacted, of course, the courts might
very well favor the statute’s literal meaning over its “likely
intent.” In any case, Kopel seems to think this highly elastic
definition of “pistol grip” was accidental, while Korwin calls it
“very clever,” because it covers a lot more guns than you might
think at first glance.If you accept Korwin’s theory that ignorance, stupidity, or
carelessness do not account for this aspect of Feinstein’s bill,
Appendix A, which lists more than 2,000 guns that are
not covered by the ban, begins to make more sense.
The list includes, for example, the fixed-stock Iver Johnson M-1
Carbine, which I happen to own (along with several of the “large
capacity ammunition feeding devices” targeted by another provision
of the bill). By Feinstein’s reckoning, the exact same gun with an
adjustable stock would be an “assault weapon,” and therefore
intolerably dangerous, although it is hard to see why. In any
event, since my gun does not appear on Feinstein’s list of 157
“assault weapons” banned by name and does not have anything
that would ordinarily be described as a pistol grip or any of the
other forbidden features, there is no apparent reason to mention it
at all, except to impress us with Feinstein’s generosity. But if
any “characteristic that can function as a grip” makes a gun an
“assault weapon,” my rifle (or new versions of it, since currently
owned guns are grandfathered) would be banned had it not been
included on the list of exempted firearms.Kopel’s
testimony, by the way, is an excellent summary of the case
against “assault weapon” bans and limits on magazine capacity that
every member of Congress and every state legislator should be
forced to read before voting on either.

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Does Feinstein’s ‘Assault Weapon’ Ban Cover All Semiautomatic Rifles?

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