Earlier today my colleague Tom Knighton covered the introduction of the “Gas-Operated Semi-Automatic Firearms Exclusion (GOSAFE) Act” sponsored by Sens. Angus King of Maine and New Mexico’s Martin Heinrich, which would ban the production and sale of the vast majority of modern sporting rifles that are currently on the market. While gun control groups like Everytown are tripping over themselves to portray the bill as some sort of new approach to combatting mass shootings, the truth is that this is still just a sweeping gun ban; gussied up with some new language, to be sure, but with the same old intent behind it.
People should read the bill to understand that the gun banners are defining "gas operated" as any semi-auto which somehow uses the force of expanding gas. In other words, any semi-auto. Not a mistake. This is the plan.
— Tom Gresham (@Guntalk) November 30, 2023
In a statement, the firearms industry trade group the National Shooting Sports Foundation, slammed the introduction of the GOSAFE Act, with senior vice president and general counsel Larry Keane declaring it openly defies the U.S. Constitution and the Second Amendment.
This proposed legislation is clearly unconstitutional, as the U.S. Supreme Court held in Heller that entire classes of firearms cannot be banned from legal sale and possession by law-abiding citizens.
“The legislation introduced by Senators King and Heinrich is openly defiant of the rights protected by the U.S. Constitution. There is no path forward for legislation of this nature that would deprive law-abiding citizens the ability to lawfully possess the firearm of their choosing and the full spectrum of their Second Amendment rights,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF Senior Vice President and General Counsel. “This legislation is a knee-jerk reaction to a travesty for which the American public is still demanding answers as to why the Lewiston murderer, who clearly showed signs of mental instability and professed to violent threats, was allowed by state and federal agencies to continue to possess firearms. Depriving law-abiding citizens of their Constitutional rights for the criminal acts of a depraved individual doesn’t make our communities safer.”
I spoke with David Trahan of the Sportmans Alliance of Maine about those colossal failures of government on Wednesday’s Bearing Arms Cam & Co, including the multiple opportunities to arrest the suspect and charge him with felony offenses long before the shootings took place, and King has co-authored a letter to the Army Inspector General along with Sen. Susan Collins demanding answers about how the Army handled the suspect’s “erratic” behavior and his stay in a military mental hospital, so he knows well that there were multiple opportunities to prevent the Lewiston shootings beforehand, along with multiple points of failure.
King couldn’t even wait for the IG’s reply before introducing this broad prohibition on the most commonly owned rifles in the country, so I guess his mind is already made up as to where the problem ultimately rests; not with any local, state, or federal agency, and not even with the killer himself, but with the gun that he used in his attack.
Keane is right that under the Supreme Court’s Second Amendment jurisprudence there’s no way that King’s proposed ban could stand up to legal scrutiny, but until SCOTUS weighs in directly on an “assault weapons” ban, anti-gunners are going to continue to push the envelope as far as they can. There are plenty of cases that could serve as that vehicle, including the Bianchi v. Brown case that’s been pending for months in the Fourth Circuit, and just this week the National Association of Gun Rights along with two other plaintiffs asked the Court to intercede on an emergency basis and grant a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the Illinois ban on so-called assault weapons and large capacity magazines.
The Supreme Court has declined to intervene in the case before, so I’m not optimistic that it will reverse course now, even though I am fairly confident that the Court will find these bans unconstitutional when a case reaches the justices on a non-emergency basis.
Maybe the fact that Senate Democrats have now shredded their own rules as part of their witch hunt against Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito will serve as a wake-up call for the conservative majority and spur them on to accept a gun ban case on an emergency basis, but ever since they issued their decision in Bruen at least five justices appear to be satisfied with letting the lower courts fight over the constitutionality of a semi-auto ban, even as more and more Americans become subject to these prohibitions. Until SCOTUS steps up and shuts down these assaults on our fundamental rights, however, the gun control lobby and the politicians they support are only going to be more emboldened in their anti-2A efforts.