On Wednesday, I wrote a story about how most of the Democrats in the House have signed on as co-sponsors for the latest “assault weapon” ban. While the bill referred to in the original story wasn’t specified, it appears the bill in question is H.R. 1296, the Assault Weapon Ban of 2019.
Since the Democrats are so close to getting this passed in the House, and since a Senate version already has 30 co-sponsors and we’re hearing rumblings from Republicans about supporting gun control, I figured it would be smart to take a quick look at what’s in the bill and what it would mean should it pass.
In short, though, as Washington Free Beacon‘s Stephen Gutowski said on Twitter, it’s basically the Assault Weapon Ban of 1994 all over again, but rather than a weapon getting two “evil features” and still being legal, it now would only get one.
In particular, here’s how the law defines a “semiautomatic assault rifle.”
“(36) The term ‘semiautomatic assault weapon’ means any of the following, regardless of country of manufacture or caliber of ammunition accepted:
“(A) A semiautomatic rifle that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and any one of the following:
“(i) A pistol grip.
“(ii) A forward grip.
“(iii) A folding, telescoping, or detachable stock, or is otherwise foldable or adjustable in a manner that operates to reduce the length, size, or any other dimension, or otherwise enhances the concealability, of the weapon.
“(iv) A grenade launcher.
“(v) A barrel shroud.
“(vi) A threaded barrel.
“(B) 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.
In other words, it’s based on cosmetic features. This will, of course, be sidestepped by companies just like the 1994 ban was. The difference is that it might be a little bit trickier to keep it with just one feature. After all, pretty much all muzzle devices on an AR or AK are screwed on via threads. Is this a threaded barrel? If so, the pistol grip has to go.
The problem here is that it’s open to interpretation, and that means what’s legal today may not be legal tomorrow. (See also: bump stocks)
Also, the bill explicitly bans a number of existing “assault weapon” models by name including pretty much every AR- and AK-pattern rifle on the market. This isn’t particularly surprising, though, but these companies will simply sell compliant models under a different name and move on, should the bill pass somehow.
While most of this is a rehash and update from 1994, there’s one bit that’s not, however.
“(C) Any part, combination of parts, component, device, attachment, or accessory that is designed or functions to accelerate the rate of fire of a semiautomatic rifle but not convert the semiautomatic rifle into a machinegun.
Now, this is clearly meant to ban things like bump stocks should the ATF decide to reverse their ruling on the devices. However, this one would have far greater potential implications than that.
For example, a competition trigger functions to make the trigger easier to pull, thus making it faster to pull. Arguably, any such trigger or something like a binary trigger will run afoul of the law at that moment. Even having a gunsmith modify your trigger to make it easier to pull would become illegal with the passage of this bill, should that happen.
While there’s a grandfather clause in the bill, again like the 1994 version, this last provision may be the most troubling. It’s overly broad and proves that the lawmakers behind this never spoke with anyone familiar with firearms while trying to craft it.
To be fair, though, there’s not a lot of chance of it passing. While some in the GOP are making anti-gun noises, there’s little chance they’ll be willing to go that far. With them being unwilling to pass it, House attempts to make this law are little more than bluster.