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The subject? Semiautomatic firearms. Their object? To ban all of them.

The Subject? Semiautomatic Firearms Their Object? To Ban All Of Them

In the 16 years I have been covering the gun issue. I have never seen as much frenzied activity on the part of the anti-gunners as is occurring right now in Washington D.C., and around the country. The hysteria currently sweeping the nation makes the anti-gun pushes of the mid-70's look absolutely tame.

The subject? Semiautomatic firearms.

The object? On the federal level, it would appear to be a ban on certain types of semiautomatics--perhaps all semiautos. Similar efforts are underway at the state and local level.

The apparent reason for all this hysteria over semiautos seems obvious at first glance. Patrick Purdy, a "nut" with a criminal background, opened fire on a Stockton, Calif., schoolyard in January (1989) with an AK-47, killing five children and wounding others.

However, I remember attending a conference at the National Rifle Association's headquarters in Washington, a couple of days after the attempted assassination of then President Reagan back in 1981. Then the anti-gunners were crying. "Ban handguns!"

A pro-gun spokesman from Great Britain predicted that despite all the uproar about handguns, it would only be a matter of time until the anti's went after all semiautos, long guns as well as handguns. That was eight years ago.

In the meantime, British anti-gunners have been successful in banning semi-automatics. The scenario there was frighteningly similar to events in this country. The anti's had proposed banning semiautos, been rejected and then simple waited for a tragedy to create the hysteria needed to propel the measure through Parliament.

Following the stockton incident, progunners, such as Congressman Larry Craig (R-ID), were quick to point out that Purdy had been arrested in 1979 for extortion and possession of dangerous weapons, in 1980 for sex crimes, in 1982 for possession of drugs, in 1983 for dangerous weapons and receiving stolen property, in 1984 for attempted robbery and conspiracy, and in 1987 for weapons charges and resisting arrest. The probation report called him a danger to himself and others.

Yet, the charges were always plea bargained down to misdemeanors, which meant Purdy could legally continue to purchase firearms--complying with the state's waiting period for handgun purchases. So the real culprit was a failed criminal justice system in California.

Fortunately, President Bush is standing with us amid all this media hype. When asked about banning semiautomatic firearms at a White House interview with eight reporters on Feb. 16, (1989) Bush said he will "strongly oppose" such a measure.

"No, I'm not about to do that," Bush added. "And I think the answer is the criminal -- do more with the criminal."

After noting the difference between automatic and semiautomatic firearms, Bush said, "If you're suggesting that every pistol that can do that (fire each time the trigger is pulled) or every rifle should be banned, I would strongly oppose that."

The President's statement was certainly welcomed by pro-gunners who had become alarmed a couple weeks earlier when Barbara Bush told Associated Press that she is afraid of guns and "absolutely believes" that so-called assault guns should be outlawed.

bush campaigned for President on a pledge of no new federal gun laws and appears to be sticking by his promise.

A Look At

Proposed Bill S-386

Perhaps the most serious threat at the federal level is S-386 by the old anti-gunner himself, Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D-OH).

S-386 would make it illegal to "transfer, import, transport, ship, receive or possess any assault weapon" or "large-capacity detachable magazine or large-capacity ammunition belt" not lawfully owned within 60 days of enactment of the law. "Assault weapons" would also have to be registered, and there would be added penalties for using them in crime.

The bill describes "assault weapons" as including the :

-- Avtomat Kalashnikov:

-- Uzi;

-- Ingram Mac 10 or 11;

-- TEC 9 and TEC 22;

-- Ruger Mini 14;

-- AR-15;

-- Beretta AR 70;

-- FN-FAL and FN-FNC;

-- Steyr Aug;

-- shotguns with revolving cylinders

known as the "Street Sweeper"

and "Striker 12";

-- any other semiautomatic firearm

with a fixed magazine capacity

exceeding 10 rounds; and

-- any shotgun with a fixed magazine,

cylinder or drum capacity

exceeding six rounds.

As you can see, under that definition S-386 would ban such popular guns as the Ml Carbine; .22 rifles such as the Marlin Glenfield Model 60; Remington Nylon 66 and Remington Model 550 series; and all modern 9mm pistols.

However, S-386 also defines assault weapons as "all other semiautomatic firearms which are determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Attorney General, to be assault weapons." That could be expanded to include virtually anything under an anti-gun administration.

The bill specifically exempts any firearm which:

-- does not employ fixed ammunition;

-- operates by manual bolt actions;

-- operates by lever action;

-- operates by slide action;

-- is a single shot weapon;

-- is a multiple barrel weapon;

-- is a revolving cylinder weapon

other than a shotgun;

-- employs a fixed magazine with a

capacity of 10 rounds or less;

-- is a rimfire weapon that employs

a tubular magazine with a magazine

capacity of six rounds or less;

-- cannot employ a detachable

magazine or ammunition belt with

a capacity of greater than 10 rounds; or

-- was modified so as to render it

permanently inoperable or so as to

make it permanently a device which

may not appropriately be designated

as an assault weapon.

Other Bills

To Be Introduced

Another bill, HR-669 by Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), is similar to Metzenbaum's proposal and certainly just as dangerous, but it is not as likely to receive as much attention in Congress.

At a Feb. 10, (1989) hearing on semi-automatic gun legislation held before the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution, both Jim Baker and John Snyder testified in favor of specific proposals to crack down on crime. Baker is director of the Federal Affairs Division of the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA), and Snyder is a Washington lobbyist and director of publications for the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA).

Later both Baker and Snyder told me that an aggressive anti-crime program is at the heart of the pro-gun movement's strategy to counter the anti-gunners' calls for banning semiautomatics.

Both men also stressed that it's important that gunowners and dealers keep in mind that these bills -- supposedly aimed at "assault weapons" -- are generally so broadly worded that they cover millions of other semiautos.

Of course, other anti-gun bills have also been introduced in Congress. For example, the Brady Amendment is back. Rep. Edward Feighan (D-OH) has filed HR-467, a bill which would provide a national seven-day waiting period for handgun purchases.

Rep. Cadiss Collins (D-IL) has introduced HR-128, which would establish handgun registration at the federal level for those states which do not already have a registration and licensing system.

Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) has filed S-229, a bill to ban the production of .25- and .32-caliber ammunition.

On the pro-gun side, Rep. Phil Crane (R-IL) has again introduced a resolution that would put the House of Representatives on record as supporting the concept that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to keep and bear arms, not just a collective right of states to have militias.

Unfortunately, the Crane proposal, HR-467, appears to have little chance of passing.

The action is equally hectic at the state and local level. Washington, D.C., wants to hold firearms manufacturers liable for any misuse of their guns. Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, who appears determined to get his revenge against gun-owners for helping defeat him last fall, is pushing a semiauto ban in the Bay State.

In California, seven gunowners -- supported by the NRA -- have asked the California Supreme Court to rule that state law pre-empts city bans of semiautomatic rifles in Stockton and Los Angeles. Among the gunowners are two Los Angeles. police officers.

Their chances of success would appear good considering that a few years ago this same court nullified San Francisco's handgun ban, declaring that such authority was reserved for the state alone.

Richard Gardiner, assistant general counsel for the NRA, pointed out to the media that the city bans are really against all semiautomatic rifles because the mechanisms of the assault rifles are the same as other types of rifles.

On another topic of considerable interest to dealers, I asked Gardiner about the significance of the ruling handed down last December (1988) by the U.S. District Court of Charleston, S.C.

The decision came in the lawsuit filed by the NRA, several state associations and several individuals challenging the validity of five regulations promulgated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) to implement the Firearms Owners' Protection Act (the FOPA or McClure-Volkmer Bill). Basically, the plaintiffs were claiming that the BATF regulations were a misinterpretation of what the law intended.

The court set aside one of the regulations and sustained four of them -- even though interpreting two of them in the plaintiff's favor.

The court did set aside the BATF regulation which stated that to "alter" a firearm was to "manufacture" it. This would have required any gunsmith or dealer who even so much as mounted a scope on a gun to obtain a manufacturer's license.

The court sustained BATF's definition of "business premises," which excludes a "private dwelling, no part of which is open to the public." However, the court acted only after BATF insisted that in administering the regulation, it only required the premises be open to the clientele the licensee would be serving.

The plaintiffs also challenged the BATF regulations' definition of the term "gun show," which appeared to limit dealer gun show sales to those gun shows which are sponsored by not-for-profit firearms-related organizations. The court upheld the regulation after BATF stated that it interpreted the term "organization" to include both not-for-profit and for-profit organizations.

The court sustained a BATF regulation requiring that when a person obtains a collector's license, he must record in his bound book all the "curios and relics" he already has in his possession, as well as those which he later acquires independent of his license.

The court also sustained a BATF regulation requiring dealers to record the sales of all personal firearms, without regard to when or how they were acquired.

I asked Gardiner how safe dealers are in those gray areas where what's in the regulation seems to differ with BATF's declared intentions before this court.

"If you show that you relied on a government agency's advice and were prosecuted, that's a complete defense," Gardiner said. He added, "We're not trying to get the court to make this a formal judicial declaration, and then BATF is stuck with it."
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Article Details
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Author:Schneider, Jim
Publication:Shooting Industry
Article Type:column
Date:Apr 1, 1989
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