Editorial: Sen. Feinstein Revives “Assault-Weapons” Ban Surrounded by Politicians, Gun Victims, and Guns

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Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) held a media event this morning to announce her new gun control bill, which she introduced in the Senate later in the day.  In her bill, she has listed specific rifles, shotguns, and handguns which she has designated “assault weapons”. 

The proposed bill would ban the sale, transfer, importation or manufacturing of about 150 named firearms, plus certain rifles, handguns and shotguns fitted for detachable magazines and having at least one military characteristic. It would also change the definition of what constitutes an “assault weapon”. It would ban firearms with “thumb-hole stocks” and “bullet buttons”, and the importation of both assault weapons (as defined) and large-capacity magazines that contain more than 10 rounds.

Feistein’s bill has already begun to stir up a new round of controversy over gun control.

The merits of the bill itself will be discussed in another article. This commentary is specific to the event that preceded the filing of the bill.

Theater for the Masses

Feinstein invited a host of politicians and victims of gun violence to support the passage of her bill. In order to bolster the dramatic effect, she employed two theatrical devices which made the media event particularly tasteless.

The first device was the display of several scary-looking “assault weapons” to support her message (below). To people unused to guns, the array of large, black weapons might indeed look ‘scary’. In reality, they were just various types of semi-automatic rifles, none of which were either military weapons or automatic “machine guns”, which are illegal in civilian hands.  As mentioned here  only a fully automatic weapon can “spray” the target  with a barrage of bullets, as Feinstein declared today. With a semi-automatic gun, the only kind that civilians are allowed to own, the shooter must pull the trigger every time he wants to fire a round.  Despite Feinstein’s assertions, neither handguns nor shotguns are “assault weapons.

Democratic Lawmakers Introduce Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 Legislation

She also claimed during her remarks that people could legally change semi-automatic firearms to fully automatic machine guns. This is patently false, because it is illegal under current Federal Law to even own the parts required to make a so-called “machine gun” without an ATF issued manufacturer’s license. The possession of the necessary parts is an automatic Federal Felony carrying a minimum mandatory 10 yr sentence in Federal Prison.

The second theatrical device she used was to invite both political proponents of the bill and victims of gun violence to say a few words. Each of the politicians who spoke at the event brought up the tragedy of Sandy Hook and instead of presenting intelligent, thoughtful statements in support of the bill, each one evoked the heart-breaking images of the bullet-riddled bodies of small children and the unbearable grief of the families who survived them. 

Feinstein then invited a parade of  gun violence victims to come up to the microphone and tell their stories, in order, she said,  to put a “human face’ on the issue. The emotional content of the presentation was designed to evoke the greatest pathos, turning real and overwhelming tragedy into a maudlin, self-serving media event. It was unconscionable.

Sandy Hook was a shocking event, and no words can overstate the senselessness of the tragedy or the scope of the loss. Violent death, however it comes, is dreadful and gives rise to the fiercest of emotions.  But the issue of gun ownership is so basic to what America is all about, that it is absolutely essential that the subject be discussed calmly and dispassionately, without the dramatics and heart-rending narratives we heard today. 

What was not mentioned this morning were two very significant issues:

1) That most gun violence occurs at the hands of people who possess the weapons illegally. The guns were either stolen, or they come from the street through the dark industry of illegal weapons trafficking,  closely aligned with drugs and gang activity. 

2)  That a few, like Seung-Hui Cho, who carried out the Virginia Tech massacre, slipped through the cracks when local laws prohibited health care professionals from reporting his well-known bizarre and frightening behavior to officials, which would have made it impossible for him to acquire the weapons and ammunition he used to kill 32 people and wound 17 others.

The “gun safety” groups who were represented at this morning’s event, don’t,  dianne feinstein's trigger fingerin reality, promote gun safety but rather gun control. The clearest proof of Feinstein’s lack of knowledge about guns can be seen in the photograph at the top of this article, where she stands in a crowded room, holding a rifle with her finger firmly on the trigger (see detail at right). Had she had even the most basic firearms training, she would know that the only time you put your finger on the trigger is when you are ready to shoot something. At all other times, when holding a gun, the index finger lies straight, along the side of the gun, above the trigger.  Any one of the representatives of the so-called “gun safety groups”, had they known anything about real gun safety, would have intervened immediately or run from the room.

A finagun ban nullificationl wrinkle that may convince legislators not to support this bill is the response from local law enforcement around the country, which is beginning to seriously resist the federal government’s move towards severe gun control.  Citing the Second Amendment, which states that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed,” there is a growing consensus that the such severe restrictions as are now being proposed are unconstitutional.  (This amendment to the US Constitution was upheld twice recently by the Supreme Court:  in the 2008 ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, and in the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in McDonald v. Chicago.) 

In a letter to Vice President Joe Biden,  Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer, of Canyon City County, Oregon,  wrote: “I will not tolerate nor will I permit any federal incursion within the exterior boundaries of Grant County, Oregon, where any type of gun control legislation aimed at disarming law-abiding citizens is the goal or objective.” This is only one Sheriff, but he has been followed by others from around the country (see photo left), and this just the beginning of what may turn out to be a national resistance to the legislation, should it pass.

It is disappointing, although not surprising, that Senator Feinstein is concentrating all her efforts on prohibiting legal gun ownership of some 150 types of guns, and ignoring the real causes of gun violence: the illegal gun trafficking that is the source of most gun violence, and our broken mental health system, that has allowed seriously disturbed people to fall through the cracks.

In any case, it looks as though Feinstein’s bill is going to have a rough time getting passed, largely because of the huge backlash from the American people.  Even Senate majority leader Harry Reid expressed a reluctance to support Feinstein’s bill, marking a possible break with the President as he considers the political impact on Democrats in his own state in less than two years.

In 2011, a Gallup poll revealed that 47% of American adults report that they had a gun in their home. Since President Obama’s announcement that he would act aggressively to address gun violence, gun stores have reported record sales and shortages of both weapons and ammunition. Replacement inventory is back ordered for weeks, and prices have skyrocketed.The likelihood is that many more homes now have legally acquired guns, with some recent estimates approaching 65% of all homes in America.

This has the potential for a huge political reaction that may dramatically shift the balance of power in the 2014 elections.
Posted in US
2 comments on “Editorial: Sen. Feinstein Revives “Assault-Weapons” Ban Surrounded by Politicians, Gun Victims, and Guns
  1. Richard Freedman says:

    As in his first term, the president ignores what the people want and need the government to focus on, the economy, jobs, and the budget. He continues to push his own agenda.

    Senator Feinstein claimed more than once in her presentation that her proposed bill would not affect hunters and sportsmen. She is unwilling to understand that the second amendment was not about hunters and sportsmen, but about preserving the ability of the people to follow the precedent of the Declaration of Independence: “…Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…”

  2. Daniel in Brookline says:

    Sen. Feinstein is a cold-hearted liar, and she knows it.

    She knows full well that semi-automatic weapons do not “spray” bullets. She has a California gun license herself (or did once)… and as such cannot claim ignorance about how a gun works.

    She also knows full well that nothing she proposes would have made the slightest difference to the tragedy in Newtown CT. It is with utmost cynicism that she cites the tragedy at Virginia Tech at all as she tries to ban “assault weapons”… because the Virginia Tech shooter only used handguns! None of what she proposes would have made a difference there either.

    Her repeated mention of high-capacity magazines is likewise ridiculous, as she certainly ought to know. At Newtown CT, it took the police 20 minutes to arrive on the scene… during which time, the shooter fired over 100 rounds and killed 26 people. (He killed himself as soon as he was confronted by armed resistance… if only someone with a gun had been there earlier!) A little arithmetic makes it clear that he could have done it all with low-capacity magazines; he could probably have done it with a single-shot gun. An experienced shooter could have done it with a Revolutionary War – era muzzle-loading musket!

    ONE THING, AND ONE THING ONLY, COULD HAVE SAVED LIVES AT NEWTOWN… and that’s armed resistance. But Sen. Feinstein doesn’t want that, does she?

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