House Democrats have introduced a plan to bring back the long-expired federal ban on “assault weapons” with a host of new tweaks.
The Assault Weapons Ban of 2019, introduced as H.R.1296 by U.S. Rep. David N. Cicilline, D-RI, and joined by 190 co-sponsors from his party, comes with strong endorsements from several national gun control groups.
The bill, one of the most ambitious bans proposed in recent years, would bar the importation, production, or transfer of 205 firearms by name to include a myriad of semi-auto AR-15 and AK-47 variants. Going past that, any semi-auto rifle with a detachable magazine and any “military-style feature” such as a barrel shroud, pistol grip or threaded barrel, would be caught in the net. Even semi-auto rifles with a fixed magazine capable of holding more than 10 rounds would be covered by the new ban. Its title as introduced was “To regulate assault weapons, to ensure that the right to keep and bear arms is not unlimited, and for other purposes.”
A similar Senate bill, introduced by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein in January, makes the same case in that chamber and includes a nationwide ban on adjustable stocks, Thordsen-style stocks such as used in “featureless rifles” marketed in states like California, “assault pistols” that weight more than 50 ounces when unloaded, and popular pistol stabilizing braces that have become widespread in recent years. It currently has 28 co-sponsors, none of whom are Republicans.
Both bans have been referred to their chamber’s respective judiciary committees. They are, however, just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to other new bills that have joined the growing stack of gun control measures introduced to the Democrat-controlled House since the 116th Congress was sworn in last month.
Pushing the time limit on background checks
A South Carolina Democrat, U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, has rebooted his bill to end the “default to proceed” practice in pending gun background checks. Under federal guidelines, licensed firearms dealers can transfer a gun immediately after issuing a “proceed” authorization through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System. In cases where the FBI gives a “delay,” it is up to the dealer whether to go through with the transfer after three business days.
Clyburn’s bill, H.R.1112, aims to strip away that ability, replacing it with a plan that would stretch the time allowed for delays out to 10 business days after which a would-be gun buyer could request a further review if the check is still pending, which could result in another 10 business days to finalize the check before the transaction could proceed.
The NRA argues such a policy would turn the Second Amendment into a privilege and would give the federal government a means to block gun sales, pointing to the fact that in some circumstances the check may be in limbo long enough to expire as NICS checks are only good for a 30 calendar day window from the time they are initiated. “This would turn all firearms sales from dealers into something akin to may-issue licensing,” the group said. “Prospective gun buyers who are not prohibited from owning firearms by law could be denied by bureaucratic dictate through the form of an indefinite delay.”
Clyburn’s bill was marked up last week and is on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s calendar for a possible floor vote as early as Feb. 25.
Rifle-caliber pistols to NFA
Meanwhile, gun control champion Val Demings, an Orlando, Florida-area Congresswoman, last week unveiled a bill to put pistols capable of firing armor-piercing ammunition under the purview of the National Firearms Act.
A statement from Demings’s office seems to point that the bill would target gun such as AK and AR-pattern pistols, saying, “They fire the same rifle rounds, but because they are designed to be fired from the hand, they escape NFA regulation. This concealability, accuracy, and ability to penetrate body armor make these handguns as dangerous as those currently under NFA regulation.”
Deming’s bill has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.
Require tax stamps for rifles with detachable magazines
Deming’s fellow Florida Democrat, Ted Deutch, has filed a bill that would classify any semi-automatic rifle capable of accepting a detachable magazine of any size as an item to be regulated by the NFA. Deutch’s H.R. 1263 would not directly ban the guns, just hit them with the same extensive requirements used to transfer suppressors and machine guns to include registration and a special tax.
“Eighty-nine years before the attack at Stoneman Douglas High School, a horrific Valentine’s Day gun violence massacre in 1929 led Congress to enact the National Firearms Act,” said Deutch in a statement. “Since then, the framework built by this law has withstood time, legal challenges, and political pressure from the gun lobby.
“Notably, it did not ban any firearm; rather, it applied strict regulations on weapons of war like automatic machine guns and short-barreled shotguns so that they were much more difficult to acquire,” he continued. “Congress should apply this standard to semiautomatic rifles that can accept a detachable magazine, which has been the common weapon of choice for gunmen in mass shootings.”
80 percent is the new 100 percent when it comes to firearm receivers
U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat, D-NY, last week introduced a bill to require some types of firearm assembly kits currently sold over the counter or online to be considered to be firearms that can only transfer after a background check. Describing such guns as “ghost guns,” Espaillat backed a similar proposal in 2017 to add the broad definition of “any combination of parts designed or intended for use in converting any device into a firearm and from which a firearm may be readily assembled” to the definition of what constitutes a firearm under federal law.
Overall, Democrats have over 20 pieces of anti-gun legislation in Congress including H.R.8, a universal background check bill that was marked up last week and has joined Clyburn’s “Charleston Loophole” bill on Pelosi’s calendar. Gun rights groups have long argued that universal background check laws have little impact on crime while pouring the foundation for firearm registration and possible confiscation.
Updated to reflect that the language of Clyburn’s bill would stretch the three-day delay window to 10 business days coupled with a second 10-day period if the would-be gun buyer requests it.