Ding, dong, the Witch (the Assault Weapons Ban) is dead... for now.

After ten years, the Feinstein Amendment to the 1994 Crime Bill is now no longer in effect in America.  Once thought guaranteed to be reauthorized, this amendment's ten year sunset provision has come back to bite its authors.

Few will recall every detail of this battle, since it has spanned more than a decade and the main "combatant" on the pro-gun side -- namely, the NRA -- spent so much time pretending the battle didn't exist.  The 2002 Congressional election debates were devoid of this issue, largely because the group that purports to represent gun owners rarely brought it up.

Case in point: does anyone remember the NRA even attempting to pressure then-presidential candidate George W. Bush into changing his position on the assault weapons ban?  Bush had staked out his position as early as 1998, yet many chose to ignore it -- giving credence to the claim that some organizations are more interested in getting invites to cocktail parties than effecting a strong change in our public policies on firearms.  As the saying goes, you don't get invited to tea often when you are known to break the china.

But this issue could not be ignored: for the first time in American history, an entire class of firearms was banned.

The defense of these weapons was often a disingenuous plea of ignorance ("What IS an assault weapon, really?"), though this rang hollow.  We all know what the gun-banners were trying to do: vilify an entire class of weapon they believed most gun owners would not defend.  To tinker and argue about the definition of an "assault weapon" is ludicrous, as we all know which weapons (minus the gray areas) they are attempting to lock away from future use.

The gun-banners' calculations were wrong, though: grassroots gun owners around the country have been incensed by the issue (which is largely what prompted the NRA to begin their recent media campaign against the ban -- they know which side their bread is buttered).

In March of 2004, the witch had her best chance to reauthorize: Sen. Larry Craig, an NRA board member, was so driven by a piece of legislation (gun lawsuits immunity bill) that he accepted a "Unanimous Consent Agreement" to have a slew of gun control amendments offered (by objecting, he could have denied these attempts singlehandedly), not the least of which was reauthorization of Sen. Feinstein's "Assault Weapons ban".

This was the pivotal point, to date, in the life of the ban: had nothing been done, polite gentlemen in the U.S. Senate would have shaken hands and forwarded the ban (along with the largest collection of gun controls ever advanced in one piece of legislation) to the House.  The very existence of this ban would be trusted to a small few in the U.S. House of Representatives, a tenuous defense indeed.

Instead, the grassroots answered with outrage: a dozen state-level gun rights groups openly attacked the ban, and more importantly, exposed the dangerous card playing the NRA was doing with this vital issue.

Now, we understand that "grassroots" is a frequently overused cliche.  In this case, though, it was a textbook definition of the action.  These groups, called the "Coalition Against the Semi-auto Ban" or CASB, openly defied the gun rights giant.  It was a gamble, to be certain, since many gun owners always believe the NRA is doing the right thing.  But remember: "A man famous for getting up at the crack of dawn can sleep until noon."  In this case, the alarm clock rang loud.

And wake up many pols did: Sen. Craig committed the highest crime on Capitol Hill -- he killed his own bill.  And with it, the witch's best chance of buying more time for her failed gun control was now dead.

But there was one more chance to reauthorize the ban: Sen. Bill Frist, Republican leader of the Senate.  He could either allow Feinstein to offer her ban reauthorization amendment (to virtually any bill) or block it with a parliamentary move, something Frist claimed was not possible.

However, the able staff at Gun Owners of America -- don't kid yourselves, they are THE national pro-gun group -- showed Frist that a parliamentary move was possible, and may be the only way to stop the ban in the Senate.  Again, with grassroots action, GOA and state-level groups applied enough heat to Frist to use that parliamentary move (which is always maligned by the left but used when they are in power).  As former Sen. Dirksen said "When they feel the heat they see the light."  Finally, a Republican proved why gun owners should want the GOP in leadership.  This was truly a milestone

The real milestone in America was just reached today, on Sept. 13th, 2004 -- the first repeal of a major gun control has taken place, though mostly because of inaction than the affirmative action of Congress.  Either way, we'll take this victory, even if it is short-lived.

The witch isn't going away, but its power is fading.  Though public opinion polls show support for banning "assault weapons" (likely because they believe these weapons are "machine guns") some politicians are starting to understand that a vocal minority is a force to reckon with.  Gun owners who want to see the certain future attempts at resurrecting this ban die must strive to prove that we are a force for politicians to fear, not eager lapdogs to dealing politicians.

For now, happy shopping.

The following are some links to sites which can answer many of the questions about the ban.

Coalition Against the Semi-auto Ban

GOA's alert about winning this battle

ATF Q&A on the Assault Weapons Ban

ATF letter on Ban



Semiautomatic Assault Weapon (SAW) Ban


September 13, 2004

Q: What was the semiautomatic assault weapon (SAW) ban?

A: The SAW ban was enacted on September 13, 1994, by PL 103-322, Title IX, Subtitle A, section 110105. The ban made it unlawful to manufacture, transfer, or possess SAWs. The law defines SAWs as 19 named firearms, as well as semiautomatic rifles, pistols, and shotguns that have certain named features. The ban was codified at 18 U.S.C. § 922(v). SAWs lawfully possessed on September 13, 1994 were not covered by the ban. There also were certain exceptions, such as possession by law enforcement.

Q: Was the SAW ban permanent?

A: No. The law enacting the ban provided that it would expire 10 years from the date of enactment, which was September 13, 1994. Therefore, effective 12:01 a.m. on September 13, 2004, the provisions of the law will cease to apply.

Q. What was the Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device (LCAFD) ban?

A: The LCAFD ban was enacted along with the SAW ban on September 13, 1994. The ban made it unlawful to transfer or possess LCAFDs. The law generally defined a LCAFD as a magazine, belt, drum, feed strip, or similar device manufactured after September 13, 1994 that has the capacity of, or can be readily restored or converted to accept, more than 10 rounds of ammunition. The ban was codified at 18 U.S.C.
§ 922(w). As with SAWs, there are certain exceptions to the ban, such as possession by law enforcement.

Q: Was the LCAFD ban permanent?

A: No. The LCAFD ban was enacted by the same law as the SAW ban. Therefore, like the SAW ban, it expires 10 years from the date of enactment. Therefore, effective 12:01 a.m. on September 13, 2004, the provisions of the law will cease to apply.

Q: Does expiration of the ban affect records maintained by licensed manufacturers, importers and dealers?

A. Yes. Federal firearms licensees are no longer required to collect special records regarding the sale or transfer of SAWs and LCAFDs for law enforcement or government sales. However, existing records on SAWs and LCAFDs must still be maintained for a period of 5 years. Moreover, records of importation and manufacture must be maintained permanently and licensees must maintain all other acquisition and disposition records for 20 years.

Q: Are SAWs and LCAFDs marked “Restricted law enforcement/government use only” or “For export only” legal to sell to civilians in the United States?

A: Yes. SAWs and LCAFDs are no longer prohibited. Therefore firearms with the restrictive markings are legal to transfer to civilians in the United States and it will be legal for non-prohibited civilians to possess them. All civilians may possess LCAFDs.

Q: Does the expiration of the SAW ban and the LCAFD ban affect importation?

A: LCAFDs are no longer prohibited from importation but they are still subject to the provisions of the Arms Export Control Act. An approved Form 6 import permit is still required. Non-sporting firearms are still prohibited from importation under sections 922(l) and 925(d)(3) of the GCA. Because the vast majority of SAWs are nonsporting, they generally cannot be imported.

If an importer has an approved Form 6 import permit for LCAFDs with a restriction stamp on it related to the ban, the importer may import LCAFDs using the permit and disregard the restriction stamp. Importers may apply for a new permit if they prefer.

Temporary importation of SAWs and LCAFDs is now lawful under the provisions of Title 27, CFR, section 478.115(d) because firearms that are temporarily imported are not required to meet sporting purpose requirements.

Q: Does the expiration of the SAW ban change laws regarding assembly of nonsporting shotguns and semiautomatic rifles from imported parts?

A: No. The provisions of section 922(r) of the GCA and the regulations in 27 CFR 478.39 regarding assembly of non-sporting shotguns and semiautomatic rifles from imported parts still apply.

Q. Does the expiration of the SAW ban affect firearms under the National Firearms Act?

A: All provisions of the National Firearms Act (NFA) relating to registration and transfer of machineguns, short barreled rifles, weapons made from rifles, short barreled shotguns, weapons made from shotguns, any other weapons as defined in 26 USC section 5845(e), silencers, and destructive devices still apply. However, it is now lawful to possess NFA firearms that are also semiautomatic assault weapons, as long as all provisions of the NFA are satisfied.

USAS-12 and Striker12/Streetsweeper shotguns are still classified as destructive devices under ATF Rulings 94-1 and 94-2 and must be possessed and transferred in accordance with the NFA.

Q: Can tribal law enforcement entities now possess SAWs and LCAFDs?

A: Yes.

Q: Does the expiration of the ban affect State law?

A: Expiration of the federal law will not change any provisions of State law or local ordinances. Questions concerning State assault weapons restrictions should be referred to State and local authorities.

Q: Whom should I call if I have a question?

A: Your local ATF office.

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