EDITORIAL: Are Glocks, Berettas and 1911s 'assault weapons' too?

California senator Dianne Feinstein has published her proposed “assault weapon” bill, and it includes the usual suspects: ARs, AKs, Saigas, Uzis, MACs, Tommy Guns, Barretts and TECs.

But the legislation is not very particular. It includes a bit of writing that encompasses pistols, in an especially-vague way.

As it stands, you can buy MAC clones and variants, AR and AK pistols to your heart’s content. These compact guns are not sought out for their utile properties; arguably, they aren’t great self-defense guns and they certainly don’t serve much purpose in sporting circles, both hunting and competition. But they’re fun to shoot, make a lot of noise and very large fireballs.

They are at the nucleus of scary black rifles, if for cosmetic reasons alone. And they’re hard to define in legal terms, which is why Feinstein’s proposed assault weapons ban includes a single, simple prohibition.

  • All semiautomatic 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 [a] semiautomatic version of an automatic firearm. (Emphasis ours.)

That’s to keep people from owning guns like MasterPiece Arms’ MPA57SST, what with it’s intimidating pedigree. 

But, due to its broad and vague language, it could include some of the most popular firearms in the country.

Thanks to the Glock 18, the world has one of the most fun—sorry, tactical—handguns of all time. The Glock 18 is a select-fire Glock 17, possibly the single best-selling handgun in the U.S. If the assault weapons bill is enacted and interpreted strictly, America’s favorite handgun could be banned.

And it’s not alone. Because of their popularity, many successful guns have had select-fire variants, like the Beretta 92, the CZ 75 and America’s iconic handgun, the 1911. Even the Browning Hi-Power has been produced with select-fire capacity by Fabricaciones Militares (FM) of Argentina. 

Does this mean that they will be banned? Probably not, at least, not now. But the law, as it is written, could be used that way.

While it stands to reason that the Glock 18 is a Glock 17 derivative, that doesn’t change the fact that the Glock 17 is a semi-automatic version of an automatic firearm. Like so many others.

Feinstein said, in an interview, that, “I have been working with my staff for over a year on this legislation. It will be carefully focused on the most dangerous guns that have killed so many people over the years while protecting the rights of gun owners by exempting hundreds of weapons that fall outside the bill’s scope. We must take these dangerous weapons of war off our streets.”

Feinstein had this bill drafted prior to the killing sprees that have pushed U.S. gun laws into the spotlight. Just the same, it uses uncertain terms and superficial language to prohibit the manufacture, sale and transfer of guns to the degree that it could be used to target some of the most successful and prominent firearms of all time.

It’s hard to see this bill as a means to reduce crime over its capacity to restrict guns to a collection of approved firearms. And the way it’s been written, even guns that may be approved could be added to the ban list.

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