Caveat: As long time readers are aware, I am a supporter of the 2nd Amendment and the private ownership of firearms. That does not mean I oppose reasonable regulations. Further, the fact is, I am sick of seeing mass murders committed with assault weapons. Further there will be, in the near future, a National debate on gun control.
This diary is actually a follow on to one I posted recently. In that diary, PoliticsinAlabama and I engaged in a lively debate. While I disagree with and tried to demolish many of his arguments, he/she did an excellent job presenting many of the arguments you will hear from those opposing any further regulation.
A little history here on gun regulation. In 1934 Congress passed a law regulating fully automatic weapons and sawed off shotguns (the weapons of choice for many criminals in the 1920s and 30s).
A fully auto weapon is one where you pull and hold the trigger and it continues to fire until you run out of ammunition in the magazine. A semi-auto fires one time every time you pull the trigger.
The 1934 law did NOT ban private ownership of these weapons. Instead it required a special permit to own them which cost $200.00 a year (a lot of money in 1934), an intensive background check and registration of the gun.
In 1968 Congress forbade the importation or ownership of any fully automatic weapon made outside the USA after 1968. In 1986 Congress forbade the private ownership of any fully auto weapon manufactured in this country after 1986.
There are other laws which affect gun ownership. Federal law forbades (1) a felon (2) a mentally ill person (3) a habitual drug user or alcoholic or (4) a person convicted of domestic violence from owning a gun. Other laws regulate the carrying of concealed weapons.
Much of my debate with Politics revolved around the 1994 Assault Weapon Law. That is a natural place for the upcoming debate to begin because the public is most aware of those weapons. It is also a natural point to start the debate because:
Its enactment followed a spate of mass shootings involving civilian versions of military weapons – just as we face today and
Those who oppose further regulation will argue that the 1994 Law was ineffective. Therefore, lets examine the 1994 law:
First, why regulate assault weapons” Simply put they are semi automatic versions of weapons designed to fire a lot of rounds very quickly and in order to do that, accept large capacity magazines (the thing that holds the bullets for you non gun folks).
Also keep in mind the 1994 law addressed not just rifles but also some types of pistols and shotguns.
The first problem encountered was exactly how do you define an “assault weapon” (my definition -a firearm which (1) is a semi automatic version of a weapon designed originally to fire fully automatic and (2) is capable of taking a large capacity magazine (more than 10 rounds).
The law used two ways to define them. The first way was to define them as a semiautomatic version or duplicates of certain named firearms, among them the Colt AR-15, the Israeli Uzi, The TEC-9 and the AK-47.
The second way was a so called “features test”. If a weapon had two or more features it was an assault weapon.
For rifles, such features included a detachable magazine plus 2 of the following, (1) a folding or telescoping stock (2) a pistol grip (3), a bayonet mount (4) a flash suppressor or threaded barrel or (5) a grenade launcher.
For pistols, it meant a detachable magazine plus 2 of the following: (1) a magazine that extended below the grip (2) a threaded barrel that would accept a barrel extender, a flash suppressor, a forward handgrip or a silencer (3) a barrel shroud (4) an empty weight of 50 ounces or more (5) a semi auto version of a fully auto pistol.
For shotguns – 2 of the following (1) a folding or telescoping stock (2) a pistol grip (3) an internal magazine in excess of 5 rounds and (4) the ability to take a detachable magazine.
The 1994 law also addressed high capacity magazines by defining them as one holding more than 10 rounds except for tubular magazines for .22 rimfire rifles.
Sounds simple enough. Actually there were several problems. Some gun manufacturers avoided the “named gun” provision by simply renaming their guns. They avoided the “features provisions” by removing enough features to make them legal. Of course those features were still available as after market accessories which owners could buy and add.
The other problems were (1)the law did not address those guns or magazines in existence at the time. In fact, it specifically made it legal to sell or transfer the guns manufactured before 1994. Further is allowed assault weapons and HCMs manufactured before 1994, including stocks held by retailers, to be sold after 1994.
Lastly, the law failed to close a huge loophole in the background checks requirement to buy a firearm. That loophole is that if you buy a gun from a private owner (not a licensed dealer), no background check is required.
So what does OP suggest? Here are some suggestions that I think would make us safer and still protect the 2nd Amendment rights.
1 – Don't ban assault weapons , treat them like fully auto weapons. You can still own and enjoy one if
A – You pass a rigorous background check
B – Have a permit for it which you must renew periodically (with a new background check each renewal)
C – Register it. Let me let you in on a little LE secret, if you buy a gun from a licensed dealer, the Feds have a record of it (BATF)
5 – If you have ever been treated for a mental illness, or a committment process has been brought for mental illness, or you claimed insanity in a court proceeding, you can't own a gun
6 – If you live with someone covered in #5, you can't own a gun as long as you do so
7 – Require background checks for private sales
8 – An automatic 10 year sentence (no probation or parole) for illegal possession of a gun. Automatic 25 years additional if that gun is used to injure someone.
Anybody else have any ideas?