Will A New Bayonet Redefine "Assault Weapons"?

AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane

An interesting and I’m going to assume unpopular concept was brought to my attention recently. This is not a piece containing legal advice but simply discussing some concepts which are important to ponder. I take in a lot of content and tips for stories. I happened upon an episode of Evan Nappen’s “Gun Lawyer Podcast”. In the episode Nappen himself even admits that what he’s going to discuss will perhaps raise some eyebrows.

Today I want to talk about something that, frankly, the powers that be did not want me to talk about. They did not want you to know what I am going to tell you next, and I had to weigh that out. But I believe that knowledge is the key to law-abiding, honest gun owners being able to defend themselves. The truth is the truth, and you need to know what you need to know so that you can protect yourself.

What’s Nappen talking about? Recently a company announced they are selling a new type of bayonet. The why this is important comes into play when looking at the different “assault weapon” or “assault rifle” laws in the country. As a refresher, in 1994 a bill was signed into law which, among other things, limited the “features” one may have on semi-automatic rifles. This is old news, as the law had a sunset provision, and expired in 2004. The pertinent section of that law will aid in understanding where there may or may not be issues going forward.

From the federal “Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994”.

“(B) a semiautomatic rifle that has an ability to accept
a detachable magazine and has at least 2 of—

“(i) a folding or telescoping stock;
“(ii) a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath
the action of the weapon;
“(iii) a bayonet mount;
“(iv) a flash suppressor or threaded barrel designed
to accommodate a flash suppressor; and
“(v) a grenade launcher;

That was the federal standard for ten years in the country. Many states also adopted either prior to, during, or after the passage of the 94′ law their own provisions regulating semi-automatic firearms.

From Massachusetts General Law Part I Title XX Chapter 140 Section 121: Firearms sales; definitions; antique firearms; application of law; exceptions:

‘Assault weapon”, shall have the same meaning as a semiautomatic assault weapon as defined in the federal Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act, 18 U.S.C. section 921(a)(30) as appearing in such section on September 13, 1994…

Interestingly, if you visit the wikipedia page on the subject, they list the feature as a “bayonet lug“, which is not “the same meaning” noted in the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. Bayonet mount is the verbiage used in the cited act. Perhaps that is splitting hairs, but it’s important to note since words have meaning.

From New Jersey Administrative Code Title 13 – LAW AND PUBLIC SAFETY Chapter 54 – FIREARMS AND WEAPONS Subchapter 1 – FIREARMS PURCHASER IDENTIFICATION CARD AND PERMIT TO PURCHASE A HANDGUN § 13:54-1.2 – Definitions

i. A semi-automatic rifle that has the ability to accept a detachable magazine and has at least two of the following:

(1) A folding or telescoping stock;
(2) A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon;
(3) A bayonet mount;
(4) A flash suppressor or threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor; and
(5) A grenade launcher;

From New York State Consolidated Laws Part 3 Title P Section 265.00

22. “Assault weapon” means

(a) a semiautomatic rifle that has an ability to accept a detachable magazine and has at least one of the following characteristics:

(i) a folding or telescoping stock;
(ii) a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon;
(iii) a thumbhole stock;
(iv) a second handgrip or a protruding grip that can be held by the non-trigger hand;
(v) a bayonet mount;
(vi) a flash suppressor, muzzle break, muzzle compensator, or threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor, muzzle break, or muzzle compensator;
(vii) a grenade launcher; or

Maryland, Connecticut, California, and Hawaii are other states that regulate so-called “assault weapons” or “assault rifles”, but none of them make any mention of a firearm’s ability to accept a bayonet. Perhaps these states actually have it figured out that drive by bayonettings are just not all that common or that there are low instances of bodegas being robbed via bayonet wilding madmen.

A July 6th press release brings this full circle:

Ontario Knife Company (OKC) is an award-winning knife, cutlery, and tool manufacturer with more than 130 years of experience creating quality knives for every need. The company is also the long-time primary bayonet provider to the U.S. military and is proud to announce its newest, patent-pending innovation that brings its bayonet design expertise to the civilian market. Introducing the new OKC Retractable Bayonet.

“OKC has been making high-quality bayonets for the U.S. military for decades, and this new retractable bayonet design is unlike anything we’ve ever created before,” said Kenneth Trbovich, President, and CEO of Ontario Knife Company. “With its unique retractable feature, premium materials used and ability to easily mount to your AR or any Picatinny Rail System, it truly is a multifunctional blade and we’re excited to launch it to the civilian market”.

By now the hairs should be standing up on the back of the necks of any AR platform owners in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. The laws note “bayonet mounts”, not “bayonet lugs”. Should you own an AR with a Picatinny Rail that will accept the bayonet, does that mean your rail is a “bayonet mount” if it runs to the muzzle of the firearm? That’s the compelling question that was brought up in the podcast:

So, how is that significant? It is significant, not because it is a retractable bayonet, which is a cool feature, but that does not have any impact as far as gun laws are concerned. No, the key is that this bayonet mounts to a Picatinny Rail. We are talking here about a company which is one of the long time, primary bayonet providers to the U.S. military. That is who is making this. This is not even a one off, etc. This is one of the primary bayonet makers to the U.S. military who is now making this bayonet that attaches to the Picatinny Rail.

The significance is that in the definition that is followed for assault firearm, there is a matrix of features that we call the “offending features”. These features are determinative as to whether it is an assault firearm or not.

So, in New Jersey, if you have a semi automatic rifle that takes a detachable magazine, you are allowed one of these offending features, but not two or more of those features. Here they are. “A folding or telescoping stock, a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon, a bayonet mount, a flash suppressor or threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor, and a grenade launcher.” Okay, great. That grenade launcher is hilarious because it is not the grenade launcher, folks. It is the frickin grenades.

I’m personally not a “sky is falling” Chicken Little type myself, but there is some really compelling information here. I’m well aware this is probably not a popular thing to talk about, but Nappen said it best early in the episode:

You can dispute what I have to say. You could say, “Nappen does not know what he is talking about, or he is being an alarmist or a fearmonger.” I have heard it all. But the problem is that after all those things get said, I end up with actual cases and having to defend people. The fearmonger thing is wonderful to say except when you are the guy facing 10 years in State Prison with a minimum three and a half years, no chance of parole, because you did not know something that could have saved you.

What does this all mean? That’s going to have to be for the reader to decide. Whether or not there is any weight or not to this concept is something you’ll have to decide on your own. Nappen discussed this from a New Jersey perspective, but you can see there are two other states that have substantially similar wording in their laws. Given the states discussed are Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York, I think we’d all be kidding ourselves to think that there is not an overzealous prosecutor out there that would not take an opportunity to capitalize on this situation.

The situation though does highlight the absurdity of these arbitrary laws in the first place. Joking about a grenade launcher attached to a firearm or drive by bayonettings is all good fun, but these are the ridiculous laws that so-called educated people put into effect. A telescoping stock is not a hazard to the public. None of the features listed do anything to make a firearm anymore or less lethal, contrary to what the talking heads, commie mommies, or some congresscritters will say. The evil features lists do nothing to contribute to public safety to the population at large what so ever. In fact, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 proved to have zero effect on curbing violent crime overall, with varied findings on the subject.

If you’re worried about the situation, seek legal advice from a trusted attorney in your jurisdiction, as this article is not legal advice. At minimum, this is something to think about. Interested in listening to Nappen’s episode “38 New Technology Turns Ar-15 Owners Into Instant Felons”? Tune in: