Senators Wrap Yet Another ‘Assault Weapons’ Ban Bill in a Slightly Different Package for the Holidays

by Tommy Grant

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We’ve lost count of how many attempts there have been to enact another federal “assault weapons” ban since the Clinton-era gun control law sunsetted in 2004. A new election year version that was introduced yesterday is just as doomed as those prior iterations, but it takes a slightly different approach than its predecessors.

Maine’s Angus King and New Mexico’s Martin Heinrich are the lead sponsors of the cleverly monikered Gas-Operated Semiautomatic Firearm Exclusion (GOSAFE) bill. But like the so many other examples of intentionally mislabeled legislation (think: Inflation Reduction Act) this one would do literally nothing to make anyone any safer.

Rather than taking a feature-based approach like earlier gun ban attempts, the GOSAFE bill targets semi-automatic gas-operated firearms that take detachable magazines. It also limits magazine capacity to ten rounds. Owners of any newly-banned firearms would be grandfathered in.

The bill has carveouts for

  • .22 caliber rimfire or less firearms
  • Bolt action rifles
  • Semi-automatic shotguns
  • Recoil-operated handguns
  • Rifles with a permanently fixed magazine of 10 rounds or less
  • Shotguns with a permanently fixed magazine of 10 rounds or less
  • Handguns with a permanently fixed magazine of 15 rounds or less

All of the usual suspect gun control operations are, of course, enthusiastic.

None of that matters, though. In an election year and with the current makeup of Congress, the bill has virtually no chance of passage. And then there are its obvious constitutional problems under Bruen. But the real motivation here isn’t actual passage, it’s been introduced to force Senate Republicans to vote against it. The intent is to provide Democrats with a campaign talking point to help them in a number of competitive races next November that will determine control of the Senate.

As you’d imagine, the NSSF isn’t a fan of the maneuver . . .

NSSF, The Firearm Industry Trade Association, flatly rejects the Gas-Operated Semi-Automatic Firearms Exclusion (GOSAFE) Act, which would ban the sale of Modern Sporting Rifles (MSRs) and most other semi-automatic rifles. This proposed legislation is clearly unconstitutional, as the U.S. Supreme Court held in Heller that entire classes of firearms cannot be banned from legal sale and possession by law-abiding citizens. The bill was introduced today by U.S. Sens. Angus King (I-Maine) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.).

“The legislation introduced by Senators King and Heinrich is openly defiant of the rights protected by the U.S. Constitution. There is no path forward for legislation of this nature that would deprive law-abiding citizens the ability to lawfully possess the firearm of their choosing and the full spectrum of their Second Amendment rights,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF Senior Vice President and General Counsel. “This legislation is a knee-jerk reaction to a travesty for which the American public is still demanding answers as to why the Lewiston murderer, who clearly showed signs of mental instability and professed to violent threats, was allowed by state and federal agencies to continue to possess firearms. Depriving law-abiding citizens of their Constitutional rights for the criminal acts of a depraved individual doesn’t make our communities safer.”

The legislation introduced by Sens. King and Heinrich would ban the sale of commonly owned gas-operated, semiautomatic rifles that can accept detachable magazines. The bill would also place a federal limit on magazine capacity, a measure that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found had no appreciable effect on crime reduction during the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban.

The murderer in Lewiston, Maine, was identified by military authorities while training in New York as having shown signs of violent criminal intent and was involuntarily committed to a mental health facility by authorities for two weeks before being released. Federal law should have prohibited the possession of firearms but there was clearly a failure to properly report and act on this information. The murderer reportedly made threats of violent attacks against a National Guard facility in Maine. New York State Police were notified and reacted to the verbal threats made by the murderer, as well as Maine State Police. While the investigation is ongoing, it appears that neither the military nor either state law enforcement agency reported these instances to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

NSSF championed the FIX NICS Act, which compelled federal agencies and incentivized state authorities to submit all disqualifying records to FBI NICS. The law was named after NSSF’s FixNICS initiative to change the law in 16 states and in Congress to get all disqualifying records submitted to FBI NICS to ensure firearms remain out of the hands of those who cannot be trusted to possess them. The FIX NICS Act was signed into law by President Donald Trump after the U.S. Air Force failed to submit disqualifying records of the murderer in Sutherland Springs, Texas, who should have been disqualified from purchasing firearms before his crimes. The failure of the U.S. Air Force to follow the law and submit several instances of disqualification resulted in the background check system being incomplete.

There are over 24.4 million MSRs in circulation since 1990, which are used daily for lawful purposes, including self-defense, hunting and recreational target shooting.

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