Far too often, in the current culture, the majority of Americans accept that a headline, meme, short title, or a summary description by one or more political commentators is all that is needed to understand a Bill or Law in our country. This is almost never accurate. A point highlighted even by Bill Maher, who is hardly considered conservative by any definition of the political meaning, when he said in part,
“Yes, the people who see themselves as morally superior are actually ignoring their sacred job of informing citizens of what’s important, and instead sowing division for their own selfish ends. Hey, wait, isn’t that what Russia was doing to us? Yeah, it is. And we have to stop both of them from using us as the cocks in their cock fights.”
Even without taking into consideration the numerous amendments that are constantly added to any Bill – modifying it on either a legal or real-world context – the multiple references of any Bill to preceding law that it either supplements or overrides, creates applications of law that may not be intended or understood at the time. Further, within any given Bill the actual scope and effect of the proposed law is normally far beyond the bullet points used to describe the law. A simple but well know example is in Obamacare – where the promise of keeping your doctor was infamously proven to be without merit (Politifact -Lie of the year, 2013).
Thus a real understanding of HR 5087 – also known commonly as the “Assault Weapons Ban of 2018” can only be attained by a full reading of the Bill. Something that the supermajority of Americans will not do, and as stated by Rep. Conyers even a large number of members of Congress fail to do. Therefore, what a Bill upon becoming law, will do to affect the nation is often entirely unknown even to lawmakers even as they profess certain outcomes as if concrete. Of course there are examples that some outcomes are well known and lawmakers in support of such Bills obfuscate the reality until it is too late for the public to react. Again the example of that is Senator Kirsten Gillibrand as she admitted Democrats purposefully omitted real consequences from public discussion.
To try to avoid yet another fiasco as those described above, this article will attempt to provide a more clear understanding of the words and consequences of HR 5087. We recommend that every American read the Bill in full themselves, to make their own conclusions on the veracity of politispeak and bullet points being bandied by political commentators and elected officials on each side of the debate.
First and foremost is the short or common title of the Bill. “Assault Weapons Ban of 2018“. This is a misleading wording. An assault weapon historically is defined as a military-grade firearm, capable of continuous or burst fire of ammunition. In common terms, a machine gun as defined by the National Firearms Act of 1934. The Act also covers sawed-off shotguns, grenade launchers, and rocket propelled weapons (bazookas). These weapons are called Title II firearms, and are extremely restricted. There has never been a mass shooting with a machine gun or fully automatic firearm, unless prohibition era mob battles like the St. Valentine’s Day massacre, are considered (though they are classified in a separate category of crime).
But if there has never been a mass shooting with a true assault weapon, what in fact is HR 5087 meant to address? Title I firearms, or ordinary civilian firearms. The truth is that the current Hollywood image of the term “assault weapon” was only created in 1985 in the California State Assembly. It is a fiction no different than the films created in that State.
In fact the Bill mocks the concept of safety. Though it names a slew of firearms (rifles, shotguns, and pistols), its reasoning is not based in safety. The differences are purely cosmetic. This can be seen in the fact that the Ruger Mini-14, used by NYPD and California Department of Corrections, is legal according to HR 5087 – except 1 model. The “Tactical Rifle” variant is the same firearm, with the same capabilities that come in the stainless steel and wood stock “Ranch” versions, but is banned for no apparent reason beyond looks. While the argument that cosmetics can affect safety is a mainstay of some against the 2nd Amendment, we will continue with this Bill and address that in a separate discussion as it is not the basis of this Bill.
Aside from the quest to restrict the looks of a firearm, the Bill goes on to denote the legality of firearms it does not approve of. The Bill states,
“(v) (1) It shall be unlawful for a person to import, sell, manufacture, transfer, or possess, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, a semiautomatic assault weapon.
(2) Paragraph (1) shall not apply to the possession, sale, or transfer of any semiautomatic assault weapon otherwise lawfully possessed under Federal law on the date of enactment of the Assault Weapons Ban of 2018.”
This is critical. HR 5087 makes it illegal to own a firearm without that firearm being recorded by the Federal Government. In effect, the Government would have a listing of any person that would oppose it, as is categorically opposed by guarantee of the 2nd and 4th Amendments. In reference to the 4th Amendment, HR 5087 violates the privacy of an individual, and effectively create an illegal warrant of every citizen with a firearm.
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” – http://constitution.findlaw.com/amendment4.html
This is even more evident in that HR 5087 goes on to criminalize ownership of firearms in a section that is less cited by media. In the section affecting storage of firearms, the Bill states that access to a firearm that is classified as the ambiguous “assault” category is a violation of law and can result in seizure and jail sentence. The exact wording is,
“(aa) SECURE STORAGE OR SAFETY DEVICE REQUIREMENT FOR GRANDFATHERED SEMIAUTOMATIC ASSAULT WEAPONS.—It shall be unlawful for any person, other than a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, or licensed dealer, to store or keep under the dominion or control of that person any grandfathered semiautomatic assault weapon that the person knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, will be accessible to an individual prohibited from receiving or possessing a firearm under subsection (g), (n), or (x), or any provision of State law, unless the grandfathered semiautomatic assault weapon is—
“(1) carried on the person, or within such close proximity that the person can readily retrieve and use the grandfathered semiautomatic assault weapon as if the grandfathered semiautomatic assault weapon were carried on the person; or
“(2) locked by a secure gun storage or safety device that the prohibited individual has no ability to access.”.
The key terms applicable are “reasonable cause to believe, will be accessible to an individual” as well as “secure gun storage or safety device“. According to 18 USC 922, the individuals being referred to are those under 18, virtually anyone under indictment of a crime (not guilty or convicted), any person subject to a restraining order, among others.
Therefore, any parent with children under 18, that owns a firearm under this broad and ill-defined category of “assault” that does not have adequate storage or safety devices, is subject to having such firearm seized by the Government. To be effective, such parents would have to be registered with the Government, their firearms as well as safety features and storage must be registered, and approved to be inaccessible to said juveniles – which requires inspection of said by Government. Again, to be effective, any and all changes of law on safety features would be required to be updated by said parents, with adequate notification of the Government, and inspection again.
But what happens if a parent does not register the firearm? Or does not notify the Government of any upgrades of safety features? Or does not allow inspection to prove such safety? Or an accusation of violation of the safety parameters in the law? By the way, who in the Government is authorized to catalogue and approve of all of this? This is not addressed by law, or adequately where partial provision is mentioned, and is part of the unintended consequences of the Bill.
As complicated as this appears, and searching through all relevant law is a time consuming cross-referencing task for even those familiar with the process, it is further complicated by HR 5087 in another proposed change to law. That relevant section is,
“(d) SEIZURE AND FORFEITURE OF LARGE CAPACITY AMMUNITION FEEDING DEVICES.—Subsection (d) of section 924 of title 18, United States Code, is amended—
(1) in paragraph (1)—
(A) by inserting “or large capacity ammunition feeding device” after “firearm or ammunition” each time it appears;
(B) by inserting “or large capacity ammunition feeding device” after “firearms or ammunition” each time it appears; and
(C) by striking “or (k)” and inserting “(k), (r), (v), or (w)”;
(2) in paragraph (2)—
(A) in subparagraph (C), by inserting “or large capacity ammunition feeding devices” after “firearms or quantities of ammunition”; and
(3) in paragraph (3)—
(A) in subparagraph (E), by inserting “922(r), 922(v), 922(w),” after “922(n),”.
The term “large capacity ammunition feeding device” was previous defined in the Bill as,
“(37) The term ‘large capacity ammunition feeding device’—
“(A) means a magazine, belt, drum, feed strip, or similar device, including any such device joined or coupled with another in any manner, that has an overall capacity of, or that can be readily restored, changed, or converted to accept, more than 10 rounds of ammunition; and
“(B) does not include an attached tubular device designed to accept, and capable of operating only with, .22 caliber rimfire ammunition.”.
What this does, under 18 USC 922, 18 USC 924, Internal Revenue Code 5845 (a), and 27 CFR 478.152, make possible is the seizure of firearms, without trial or conviction, of any firearm under HR 5087 merely because a larger than 10-round magazine is present. Once again, how does a citizen affirm that such a magazine is not present, at any time of possession, in order to comply with the mandate of the Government is not clear. Nor is it clear how enforcement is possible without violation of the 4th Amendment in addition to violation of the 2nd and 10th Amendments. [It should be noted that the limit of 10 rounds is directly related to the NY SAFE Act losing a court battle to limit law abiding citizens to less than 10 round magazines]
HR 5087, the Assault Weapon Ban of 2018, goes even further to punish otherwise law abiding citizens that are embracing their 2nd Amendment Rights. It adjusts the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) 34 U.S.C. 40911–40916 such that a person(s) in violation of storage of a firearm or possession of a large capacity ammunition device, as previously addressed, would be added to the NICS and barring them from possession of ANY future firearm purchase. It could also result in grounds for seizure of all firearms of affected persons, due to NICS listing. As address in a prior article, House of Representatives passes Bill enables restriction of 2nd Amendment right, the NICS has been used in this manner consistently over time.
Equally important is that if HR 5087 is passed, and the changes made to all law and NICS in particular, the known problem of lack of notification of affected Americans, and further lack of means to challenge such classification exists. At no point is it made clear, nor is it addressed, how a citizen can defend themselves from improper execution of HR 5087 or NICS. Such improper action can be seen clearly in the example of Lois Lerner and the IRS Scandal of 2013.
It appears quite clear, in reviewing the cross-referenced laws and changes proposed by HR 5087, Assault Weapons Ban of 2018, that the intent – directly and indirectly – is the ultimate seizure of all firearms possessed by American citizens affected by this proposed law. All claims that this is not the case willfully ignores the careful wording and ramifications of the Bill and its impact on existing law. This Bill is clear in its attempt to chill the 2nd Amendment Rights of all American citizens.
Lastly, it must be address on whether any weapons ban can provide the safety it is ostensibly claimed to be intended to do. To date, no weapons ban has ever been shown to provide increased safety to the public. This is in large part to the fact that the overwhelming majority (in excess of 99%) of all law abiding citizens owning firearms in fact abide by the law. Conversely, the overwhelming number of criminals (including the mentally deranged that enact criminal actions) are not affected by laws mean to target law abiding citizens and not criminals or criminal use of weapons.
The aforementioned National Firearms Act of 1934 had no affect on the majority of citizens, as it was targeted to address the use of automatic firearms used by organized crime in acts of crime – generally targeting other targets of criminal activity. Prior to, and subsequently after, Prohibition the use of automatic firearms is unheard of among the general public. Even the mentally deranged have not used such military grade firearms, before or after the ban. It should be noted also that, though the 1934 Act banned bombs as well, several acts of domestic terrorism and mass shootings, have featured the creation and/or use of bombs, in violation of the law. Once again proving that criminal intent is not limited nor bounded by law, and in fact is the definition of criminal behavior.
Looking more closely at recent history, we refer to the article published October 6, 2017, where all data reflecting the increase of Federal (Executive Orders), State and Municipal gun bans in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting have resulted in no real or even implied improvement in safety of the public. As stated in that article,
“Deaths due to rifles in 2016, the primary target of gun restriction legislation under the “assault weapon” mantra, are virtually unchanged versus the 3 yr average in each of these States, except in Illinois (which has doubled). Handgun murders in Connecticut and New York were unchanged, with California and Illinois having increases. In all 4 States, murders due to knives, by hand, and all other means not otherwise listed (bombs, cars, ect.) were significantly higher than rifles and shotguns.
Factually, increases in the number of gun restriction legislations have done nothing to improve the safety of residents of States with the most extreme laws. Equally, murders by means other than firearms has been unaffected and untargeted by those claiming to seek the safety of the public.”
Therefore, it can be concluded that the Assault Weapons Ban of 2018, HR 5087, is unlikely to provide the general public with any credible increased assurance of safety, yet it perhaps exponentially assures the reduction in freedom of all American citizens.