This post is on the topic of a possible new gun control law, including limits on gun magazine capacity, as proposed by some members of Congress. I know this is a controversial topic. But I think we should consider how greater restrictions on guns and magazines might affect prepping.
Tragedies like the mass shootings at a movie theater and at a school in 2012 do great harm to individuals and to our society. In addition, any type of gun crime, especially one that is very severe, harms the right to bear arms by making greater restrictions on gun ownership a prudent necessity. And every responsible ownership and use of guns supports the right to bear arms by showing the reasonableness of the use of firearms by law-abiding citizens. But every time a mass shooting occurs, greater restrictions become more likely.
California Senator Dianne Feinstein has completed a bill to ban weapons with certain military features and any gun magazines with more than 10 rounds, to be submitted in both the House and the Senate “on the very first day the new House session”, which is Thursday, January 3rd, 2013.
“I’m going to introduce in the Senate and the same bill will be introduced in the House….” Feinstein said. “It will ban the sale, the transfer, the importation and the possession. Not retroactively but prospectively. And it will ban the same for big clips, drums or strips of more than 10 bullets.” There was a similar gun control law from 1994 to 2004. There was some conversation about re-introducing the ban around the time of the Aurora shooting, too. “There will be a bill. We’ve been working on it now for a year,” Feinstein said. “We’ve tried to take my bill from ’94 to 2004 and perfect it. We believe we have. We exempt over 900 specific weapons that will not fall under the bill. But the purpose of this bill is to get just what Mayor Bloomberg said, weapons of war, off the streets of our cities.” (Yahoo News)
The bill in question does not seem to be publicly available, so I can only comment based on the news reports.
I have one main concern about the proposed bill, that it might restrict gun ownership without any substantial reduction in gun violence or gun crimes. I support the second amendment right to bear firearms, but I’m also in favor of prudent and reasonable limitations on gun ownership. The problem that I have with many of the stricter gun laws is that they seem to have no significant effect on gun crime.
There is a useful study of the effectiveness of the Clinton-era law is here on a DOJ-administered website. The study concludes that banning certain features used to categorize a rifle as a military-style weapon was not effective in reducing gun crime. This conclusion makes sense to me because a rifle in the hands of a criminal is just as dangerous, with or without a bayonet lug, or pistol grip, or folding stock, or threaded barrel.
This 2004 study also concludes that: “Because the ban has not yet reduced the use of LCMs in crime, we cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence.” LCMs are large capacity gun magazines, holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
If the Feinstein bill of Jan. 2013 is like the Clinton-era law, it is difficult to see how it would have any substantial effect on gun crime. Since the previous gun control law, gun manufacturers have devised new ways to make an AR-style rifle that is functionally the same, without having those features that would classify it as a banned weapon. The ‘bullet-button’ magazine release allows a gun magazine to be exempt from the classification of guns with “detachable box magazines” because the magazine can’t be released without a tool (the tip of a bullet). Rifles are available with fixed stocks, no bayonet lug, and no threaded barrel. And one manufacturer has even devised a gun stock for AR-type rifles with no pistol grip:
Add to these facts the assertion by Senator Feinstein that over 900 particular guns will be exempt, and it seems to me that a rerun of the Clinton-era gun control law will not be effective. The restriction on LCMs is well-intentioned, but since the bill is said to prohibit only prospectively, not retroactively, LCM might still be widely available in the form of pre-ban (before the new ban) magazines.
How Will This Affect Prepping?
If the bill does in fact contain no retroactive restrictions, then any guns and magazines you already own should be legal to keep — but since the bill is not publicly available and the law has not yet passed, this assertion is speculative. As always, you should keep appraised of all federal and local gun laws that affect you.
If you wish to buy guns or magazines after the bill passes, you should be able to find a rifle that avoids the ban, and still puts .223 or .308 rounds downrange effectively. But you might have a hard time finding magazines with more than 10 rounds, at reasonable prices. When the Clinton-era ban was enacted, prices for LCMs rose sharply.
Are 10 rounds enough for personal or home defense? In most cases, the answer would be “Yes”. It is onerous to have gun restrictions that have no real effect on gun crime. But it is not so heavy a burden that we would not be able to defend ourselves. And if it turns out to be true that pre-ban magazines will be legal to own, so much the better for self-defense.
All things considered, a new gun control law with limitations on magazine capacity will not affect prepping too badly. My concern is that the law might be amended before it is passed, so we cannot be certain what the restrictions will be. Will certain types of ammunition also be prohibited? Will the wording of the law be vague, leaving gun owners unclear as to how to comply with the law?
Another issue is that an imminent gun control law may result in a buying frenzy that reduces availability of guns and hi-cap magazines, even before the bill passes. This would affect prepping perhaps more so that the law itself. A decrease in availability is often accompanied by a rise in prices. If guns and magazines (and probably ammo also) are less available and more costly, that result does have a negative effect on prepping. We all have a limited amount of money to spend on prepping, so cost is always an issue.
Will this proposed bill pass and become law? It seems clear that the President will sign such a bill. And the Democrats have sufficient votes in the Senate to pass any bill that has good support from the President and the Democratic leadership, as this bill does. The House is controlled by Republicans, but recent tragedies this year involving guns may sway enough Republicans to pass the bill into law.
I’m skeptical that this type of law will decrease gun violence. But it looks like we might have to live with it.