Brad Harvey: Just what is an assault weapon?

February 2, 2013 

I’ve never had the desire to own an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, and I’m willing to bet that this is true of the majority of gun owners across this country. Maybe not the AR specifically, but every gun owner can point to models that never were part of his or her wish list.

Last week, California U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced a bill to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. That’s about the best description that has been given to the proposed legislation.

The truth behind what could become law, however, goes much deeper.

Feinstein’s Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 “bans the sale, transfer, manufacturing and importation of:

• All semi-automatic rifles that can accept a detachable magazine and have at least one military feature: pistol grip; forward grip; folding, telescoping or detachable stock; grenade launcher or rocket launcher; barrel shroud; threaded barrel.

• All semi-automatic pistols that can accept a detachable magazine and have at least one military feature: threaded barrel; second pistol grip; barrel shroud; capacity to accept a detachable magazine at some location outside of the pistol grip; or semi-automatic version of an automatic firearm.

• All semi-automatic rifles and handguns that have a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds.

• All semi-automatic shotguns that have a folding, telescoping, or detachable stock; pistol grip; fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than five rounds; ability to accept a detachable magazine; forward grip; grenade launcher or rocket launcher; or shotgun with a revolving cylinder.

• All ammunition-feeding devices (magazines, strips and drums) capable of accepting more than 10 rounds.”

And 157 specifically named firearms.

The legislation excludes the following weapons from this bill:

• Any weapon lawfully possessed at the date of the bill’s enactment;

• Any firearm manually operated by a bolt, pump, lever or slide action;

• Assault weapons used by military, law enforcement and retired law enforcement; and

• Antique weapons.

The legislation protects hunting and sporting firearms:

• The bill excludes 2,258 legitimate hunting and sporting rifles and shotguns by specific make and model.

The legislation strengthens the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban and state bans by:

• Moving from a two-characteristic test to a one-characteristic test.

• Making the ban harder to evade by eliminating the easy-to-remove bayonet mounts and flash suppressors from the characteristics test.

• Banning dangerous after-market modifications and workarounds, including:

• Bump or slide fire stocks, which are modified stocks that enable semi-automatic weapons to fire at rates similar to fully automatic machine guns.

• So-called “bullet buttons” that allow the rapid replacement of ammunition magazines, frequently used as a workaround to prohibitions on detachable magazines.

• Thumbhole stocks, a type of stock that was created as a workaround to avoid prohibitions on pistol grips.

• Adding a ban on the importation of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines.

• Eliminating the 10-year sunset that allowed the original federal ban to expire.

The legislation addresses the millions of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines currently in existence by:

• Requiring a background check on all sales or transfers of a grandfathered assault weapon.

• Prohibiting the sale or transfer of large-capacity ammunition feeding devices lawfully possessed on the date of enactment of the bill.

• Allowing states and localities to use federal Byrne JAG grants to conduct a voluntary gun buy-back program for grandfathered assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition feeding devices.

Imposing a safe storage requirement for grandfathered firearms, to keep them away from prohibited persons.

• Requiring that assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition feeding devices manufactured after the date of the bill’s enactment be engraved with the serial number and date of manufacture of the weapon.

Just consider: a semi-automatic shotgun specifically designed for turkey hunting that features a telescoping stock and pistol grip, as mine does, would now be illegal. I’m sure the ones currently made will fall into that list of 2,258 “legitimate” hunting guns, but that’s nothing more than a trick to crush the gun industry.

By listing them by make and model within the law itself, gun manufacturers would never be able to make the slightest change, even cosmetically, to introduce a “new model” to the public and boost their sales, as every industry does with every product.

I have joked of this in the past but, as we are swallowed up by more ridiculous attempts to infringe on the rights of the people, I’m starting to feel more inclined to follow through.

If, as they’ve threatened, Texas were to secede, I might just have to apply for citizenship in that new “Lonestar Nation.”

Brad Harvey is a freelance writer in Clover. Visit his website at or follow on Twitter@BharveyOutdoors.

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