The text of the bill is now online. What follows is select excerpts from the bill, with my questions and comments. I’m not a lawyer, and this bill is not yet a law, so the discussion below is merely for your consideration; it is neither legal advice, nor expert commentary. See the site disclaimer.
(30) The term ‘semiautomatic pistol’ means any repeating pistol that –
(A) utilizes a portion of the energy of a firing cartridge to extract the fired cartridge case and chamber the next round; and
(B) requires a separate pull of the trigger to fire each cartridge.
OK, so revolvers are not semiautomatic. I wonder if there is a way to make an AR-15 that does not use “a portion of the energy of a firing cartridge to extract the fired cartridge case and chamber the next round.”
(36) The term ‘semiautomatic assault weapon’ means any of the following, regardless of country of manufacture or caliber of ammunition accepted….
The phrase “regardless of…caliber of ammunition” is problematic. At the press conference for the bill, Senator Feinstein described the weapons to be banned as: “Weapons, designed originally for the military, to kill large numbers of people in close combat,” and “Military-style assault weapons have but one purpose…to hold at the hip if possible, to spray-fire, to be able to kill large numbers” and “powerful military-style weapons”.
Is a Ruger 10/22 in .22 LR really a powerful military assault rifle? At that caliber and cartridge size, the rounds are not designed to “kill large numbers of people in close combat”. And the S&W MP-15 in .22 LR may look just like an AR-15, but it is, in fact, far less dangerous. The definition of assault weapon in this bill is too broad.
Likewise, the list of military features is overly-broad. Why is a pistol grip on a semi-automatic rifle a military feature? Many guns designed specifically for hunting, sporting, and self-defense have a pistol grip. And what is it about a threaded barrel that makes the gun so much more dangerous? None of the shooting crimes that are so widely discussed in support of gun control used a sound suppressor. And flash suppressors are largely irrelevant in that context.
A semiautomatic rifle that has a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds, except for an attached tubular device designed to accept, and capable of operating only with, .22 caliber rimfire ammunition.
So the Marlin Model 60 is exempt. Fine. But a manufacturer cannot design a similar rifle in .17 caliber, because the law only exempts .22 rimfire guns.
This next portion of the bill is a little vague and more than a little troubling. The ban includes:
(D) A semiautomatic pistol that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and any 1 of the following:
(i) A threaded barrel.
(ii) A second pistol grip.
(iii) A barrel shroud.
(iv) The capacity to accept a detachable magazine at some location outside of the pistol grip.
(v) A semiautomatic version of an automatic firearm.
Is the Glock 17 considered to be a semi-automatic version of a Glock 18 (full auto)? Is the Beretta 92FS a semi-automatic version of a Beretta 93R (full auto)? So I can have a 9mm Beretta PX4 (no full auto version, AFAIK), but I can’t have a 9mm Beretta 92FS?
The bill goes on to ban shotguns with a magazine that accepts more than 5 rounds. So I guess that 5+1 shotguns are not high capacity, because the +1 resides in the chamber, not the magazine. A single well-aimed shot from a shotgun is at least as deadly as a double tap from many a rifle. But is 5+1 sufficient for home defense? It depends on the circumstances. Sometimes yes, and other times no.
As for the list of specifically banned weapons, it includes the “Armalite M15 22LR Carbine”. Is a .22 rimfire rifle really an assault weapon? The .22 rimfire with tubular magazine is exempt from the hi-cap mag ban, but the .22 LR that looks like an AR15 is not.
The “Beretta CX4 Storm” and the “Hi-Point Carbine” are specifically banned, but each fires only pistol caliber ammunition. The Hi-Point has no high cap magazines available for it, and the .45 version only has a 9-round magazine. In public discussions, proponents of gun control use the argument that assault weapons are powerful military guns. But a .22 rimfire and a pistol caliber carbine are clearly not in the same category as a 5.56 or 7.62 military rifle. The written bill does not match the verbal explanation.
The “Sturm, Ruger Mini-14 Tactical Rife M–14/20CF” [sic -- it actually says "Rife" instead of "Rifle"] is specifically banned, but only in one model of the tactical version here, the M-14/20CF. That model has a folding stock and a pistol grip. So it looks like the Ruger Ranch rifles will be the closest thing to an AR that is not banned.
The bill specifically bans “All Thompson rifles, including the following….” However, the named models are all made by Auto-Ordinance, which has the rights to the Thompson machine gun and similar guns. The Thomson machine gun is the “Tommy gun” used by gangsters in the 1930′s. A different company, called Thompson/Center, has firearms on the list of exempted firearms.
The term ‘detachable magazine’ means an ammunition feeding device that can be removed from a firearm without disassembly of the firearm action.
This change in wording precludes a “bullet-button” device used to push the magazine release button.
The term ‘pistol grip’ means a grip, a thumb hole stock, or any other characteristic that can function as a grip.
Vague. Some shotguns and rifles have a quasi-pistol grip. Browning BLR rifles actually use the term “pistol grip”, although those guns are lever-action, not semi-automatic. Guns that are “manually operated by bolt, pump, lever, or slide action” are exempt from inclusion in the ban on assault weapons, but apparently still subject to the high-cap mag ban.
There is also an unusual exemption for retired LEOs. The exemption is for:
the possession, by an individual who is retired in good standing from service with a law enforcement agency and is not otherwise prohibited from receiving a firearm, of a semiautomatic assault weapon — (i) sold or transferred to the individual by the agency upon such retirement; or (ii) that the individual purchased, or otherwise obtained, for official use before such retirement;
But this seems to apply only to a service weapon, not a personal weapon.
The following is from: “APPENDIX A – FIREARMS EXEMPTED BY THE 2 ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN OF 2013″
“Benelli R1 Rifle” – a semi-auto rifle that would be exempt even if not listed: no pistol grip, folding stock, threaded barrel, hi-cap mag, or other feature. This type of rifle is the nearest equivalent to an AR that will still be legal if the bill passes into law.
Several Browning BAR rifles are also listed, but not the “Hog Stalker” with the pistol grip. Again, the listed guns would be exempt even if not listed. I suppose that listing them offers a certain clarity. But it is not a true exemption. The exemption for semi-auto .22 rimfire rifles is a true exemption, since you can have more than 10 rounds. But most of the guns listed in this section of the bill would be exempt anyway.
“M-1 Carbines with standard fixed stock” — a semi-auto with detachable mag, but no military features. Exempt anyway.
“M-1 Garand with fixed 8 round capacity and standard stock” — Hey, a rifle that actually does use “clips”! Exempt anyway.
“Marlin Model 9 Camp Carbine”
“Marlin Model 45 Carbine” — this type of pistol caliber carbine is out of production, but if the bill passes, I expect it will go back into production pretty quickly.
“Ruger Mini 30″ in 7.62×39, the same round used by the AK-47, is exempt.
“Ruger Mini-14 (w/o folding stock)” in .223 (civilian version of 5.56 NATO) is exempt.
The Ruger Ranch Rifle is not categorized as an assault weapon, even though it shoots the 7.62×39 and the .223 rounds (used in military combat). Yet the Beretta Cx4 and Hi-Point carbines are considered assault weapons, even though they only shoot pistol calibers (9mm, .45 ACP). I can’t have a CX4 9mm carbine or a .22LR AR-style rifle, but I can have a 7.62×30 or .223 carbine. Why? because the CX4 has a pistol grip, and the ranch rifle doesn’t. But the Minis are much closer in capability to AR-15s. Why should pistol grips be unlawful?
“Henry Big Boy .357 Magnum” is on the exempt list, even though it takes 11+1 rounds of .38 Special.
“Marlin Model 1894 Marlin Model 1894 Cowboy” — likewise an 11+1 gun in .38 Special. I’m not sure how many rounds of .44 Special the .44 magnum lever-actions will take.
“Cimarron 1873 Sporting Rifle” holds 12 rounds in .44-40, and yet is on the exempt list.
“Uberti 1873 Sporting Rifle” is 13+1 and yet is exempt.
“Uberti 1876 Rifle” is 11+1 only and yet is exempt.
There are other lever actions that are more than 10+1 and are on the exempt list. So this seems to be a true exemption, and not a list of guns that would be exempt even if not listed. The law clearly bans tubular rifle magazines of more than 10 rounds, except .22 rimfire; but then the list of exemptions allows more than 10 rounds in certain lever-action rifles. This point needs clarification. Are manufacturers required to reduce mag capacity, or are the guns entirely exempt?
Well, there is much more to this bill. Read it for yourself here. I expect that the bill will undergo significant changes before it passes into law, if it passes at all.