Taking Gun Ownership Down to the Bone
February 20, 2019
“How does the U.S. attorney general not step in and stop this? HOW does the U.S. attorney general NOT sue any state that violates the BILL OF RIGHTS??” a comment poster to one of my recent articles about the State of Hawaii’s denial of carry permits asks. It’s a fair question and one I’ve asked myself over the years.
It was the basis of a petition effort I was involved in several years back to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, asking him to enforce the Second Amendment against the State of California the same way the Department of Justice had enforced civil rights decades earlier by desegregating public schools. Per a 1986 article in The Yale Law Journal, the DOJ “brought legal actions against more than five hundred school districts in the first ten years after enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
I actually got the idea for the “Ashcroft Petition” after the FBI involved itself in the Rodney King beating case and went after LAPD officers for civil rights violations. If they could send the feds down for that, why not also dispatch them to protect an enumerated right? With the Attorney General scoring political points by telling everyone what a great pal of the Second Amendment he was, here was a chance to put his money where his mouth was, especially when it seemed California was so blatantly in-your-face with its infringements.
We ended up shipping DOJ over 40,000 hard copy signatures, which were essentially ignored (but for a response to us pointedly – and chillingly – sent from the Chief of the Terrorism and Violent Crime Section).
Curiously, but unsurprisingly, some gun owners attacked the effort under the assertion that applying the Bill of Rights to the states is an assault on federalism. I argue that the Constitution, which all states signed on to is acknowledged as “the supreme Law of the Land,” and the militia of the whole people is an obligation on the part of the states which cannot be fulfilled if those people are disarmed. But rather than merely offer my opinion, I’d also cite William Rawle, the man Washington wanted as Attorney General, and a scholar whose authoritative “View of the Constitution” was the constitutional law text used by Dartmouth and Harvard through the mid-19th Century.
“No clause in the Constitution could by any rule of construction be conceived to give the Congress a power to disarm the people,” Rawle instructed. “Such a flagitious attempt could only be made under a general pretence by a state legislature. But if in any pursuit of an inordinate power either should attempt it, this amendment may be appealed to as a restraint on both.”
As an aside, when I first read that I had to look up “flagitious” because it’s just not that commonly used these days. Per Merriam-Webster, it means “marked by scandalous crime or vice: VILLAINOUS.”
That’s exactly what all the citizen disarmament subversion by the feds, by the states and by municipalities is. And unsurprisingly, “pro-gun” President Donald Trump and his legal machine, first headed by “pro-gun” Jeff Sessions and now by bump stock-banning Acting AG Matthew Whitaker (now to be followed by “gun control”-embracing William Barr) show no signs of defending the gun owners who put them in power from “3,000 tyrants one mile away.”
In my last Firearms News offering, “Is the Firearms Industry Selling the Guns Which Will Be Used to Enslave Us?,” we explored how gun and ammo manufacturers are enabling gun confiscations by arming the enforcers in federal alphabet agencies, in states like California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, and in the country’s 10 largest police departments. Firearms News Editor Vincent DeNiro thought it appropriate to add an afterword that bears repeating here:
“In addition to CA, the states of MA, VT, NY, NJ , FL, MD, and WA have seriously infringed the Second Amendment during President Donald Trump’s first two years in office, and there has not been any comment from the president or from his staff regarding states destroying the Second Amendment, with the exception of Trump’s support of former Florida Governor Rick Scott’s gun control measures. Currently, there are serious efforts to eradicate almost all gun ownership in VA, NM, OR, IL, and PA. The president made many promises and statements about gun rights during his campaign: ‘Make the Second Amendment great again’, ‘THE SECOND AMENDMENT WILL NEVER BE REPEALED!’ and ‘Your Second Amendment rights are under siege, but they will never be under siege as long as I am president.’ The Second Amendment is not only under siege, it is being eviscerated at state level on President Trump’s watch and Trump has not condemned any of it.”
There are plenty of online resources that will show you edicts already on the books (and whenever you hear “Enforce existing gun laws,” ask the proponent how that’s any different form “Enforce existing Intolerable Acts”). A good place to start is with NRA’s “gun laws” website page, allowing you to drill down by state (go to https://www.nraila.org/gun-laws/). Pending gun laws can also be found at the NRA website but don’t stop there. Effective advocacy means keeping track of alerts from state “gun rights” groups, and it helps to understand that there will sometimes be multiple groups, some more “hard core” than others, that may or may not agree with each other or with NRA. It’s on you to figure out whose position makes the most sense.
I’m not going to try to compete with those online resources by presenting a comprehensive state-by-state report here, especially since there are so many duplicate efforts to impose so-called “red flag laws,” end private sales, ban “bump stocks” and set the stage for confiscating firearms of militia utility. Instead, consider these representative examples of proposed disarmament edicts that have come across the transom recently:
- In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom is making some gun owners long for the days of Jerry Brown as he pushes for even more ways to confiscate guns, limit purchases of rifles and shotguns to one-a-month, and more.
- Oregon Firearms Federation alerts members to a ballot measure and competing bills [that] will “ban modern firearms and feeding devices, and make thousands of Oregon residents criminals. “A bill backed by the governor “defines ‘assault weapons’ as any long gun you can hold with two hands.” And “there are several ... ‘lock up’ bills [that] would even hold you responsible for a gun you did lock up if a thief was able to obtain a ‘device’ to open the lock.”
- In Washington State, not satisfied (they never are) with recently-imposed I-1639’s raising of the age to 21 to buy a gun, the oxymoronically-named Alliance for Gun Responsibility wants to ban magazines holding more than 10 rounds, empower cops to seize guns based on “domestic” allegations, ban non-existent “undetectable” firearms, and impose “training” requirements before allowing the right to bear arms.
- The City of Pittsburgh is attempting an illegal end run against Pennsylvania’s state preemption law for firearms, proposing to ban semi-autos, accessories, ammo and magazine and to enact due process-denying gun confiscations.
- In Virginia, a key Republican betrayal helped killed “constitutional carry” and 10 bills currently threaten gun owners with everything from ending all private sales, make previously-“legal” devices illegal, impose age-based discrimination against gun owners under 21, reduce firearm ammunition capacity and more.
- Gun-grabbers in Illinois, in addition to proposing a “so-called assault weapons ban”/registration edict, is floating a novel trial balloon we can expect to see more try: “an anti-gun social media bill [that would require] the Illinois State Police (ISP) to conduct a search of a person’s social media accounts before issuing or renewing their FOID card.”
It’s interesting to compare states in the land of the Second Amendment banning “assault weapons” to our neighbor to the north, especially if some of us think we’ve got it so much better. Per the January article “Should Canada ban assault-style firearms?” we learn “Canada’s current firearms legislation contains no definition of an assault rifle,” and:
“Some semi-automatic firearms are non-restricted, meaning they can be used for hunting and only require purchasers to obtain a basic possession and acquisition licence. Other semi-automatic guns are classified as “restricted” weapons. Such guns must be registered and are usually only fired at shooting ranges. Owners must possess a different license and must have authorization to transport such firearms from one location to another.”
Again, we can turn to DeNiro, who has over 35 years in the firearms industry including extensive experience in the import and export of firearms, regarding Canadian gun ownership.
“Some models are banned by name in the prohibited category like UZI Carbines, FALs, AUGs, AK-type rifles, etc. and were grandfathered but cannot be transported outside the home – so they cannot be fired UNLESS you have a government-approved shooting range on your property,” he says. “However, some models of semi-auto MSR are not prohibited or restricted (as long as these models have a barrel length of 18 ½” or more) like the Tavor, Cx4, vz-58, M1A, WK-180C (AR-180-type), XCR, SU-16, Aero Carbine, Type 97, and many others – these are known as non-restricted. Restricted-class firearms, such as the AR-15 as well as all handguns with barrels of over four inches (except those manufactured before 1898 in uncommon calibers), can only be fired on a government-approved range. Semi-auto center fire rifles can only use five-round magazines but it is legal in Canada to use a 10-round pistol magazine in rifles,” he continues. “For example, using AR-15 pistol magazines in rifles which will accept them, is legal as long as the AR-15 pistol magazine was intentionally manufactured as a pistol magazine and marked as such (yes, AR-15 pistols are legal in Canada but in the same class as all modern handguns which is ‘restricted’). Beretta 10-round 92FS pistol magazines can be used in Beretta Cx4 carbines, Glock 10-round pistol magazines can be used in Aero carbines, etc. As far as semi-auto .22 LR rifles, there is no restriction, in most cases, on capacity so a 110-round drum in a GSG-5 .22 LR carbine is legal. These non-restricted MSRs can be used for target practice, hunting, and fired on private property. So, in many ways, Canadian citizens have more firearms freedom than those citizens of NY, CA, and MA have today.”
And it’s not just Canada. As Firearms News noted a May, 2018 article titled “Where is President Trump as Some States Reduce RKBA to Sub-Foreign Levels?”:
“Did you know, with said permits, they can own semiautomatic rifles in the Czech Republic? Or Panama? Or in Norway, Sweden, Finland, Italy, Ukraine, Germany, Poland, Costa Rica, and Honduras? And there are many others. Did you know that ‘In France, private possession of semi-automatic assault weapons is permitted under license’? In France!”
“Italy, Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, Holland, and others – currently, under their nations’ laws, owning a semi-auto MSR with a ‘high capacity’ magazine is legal,” DeNiro elaborated further. “However, the EU just passed restrictions on magazine capacity which limits rifles to 10 rounds and pistols to 20 rounds as well as some restrictions on MSR features BUT these restrictions are nowhere near where CA, NY, or MA have gone or where NV, OR, IL and other states are headed.”
“The Czech Republic, Poland, and a few other countries have pushed back against the EU restrictions and currently will not enforce these new gun restrictions,” he continued. “Italy may be pushing back as well with the new pro-gun leadership but it looks like Germany and Holland will cave in to the EU law and may be enforcing it at present. Contrary to popular belief, even France has a system in place to own AR-15s for sport shooting.”
“Although handguns are not legal to own in Ukraine (along with military handgun calibers like 9mm) with the exception of those which fire hard rubber bullets in odd calibers, there are very few restrictions on owning semi-auto, military-styled rifles (MSRs) once you are approved to buy firearms,” DeNiro further explained. “Any MSR can be owned with any capacity magazine so AR-15s, AR-10s, SCARs, Tavors, AK-type rifles, HK93-type rifles, MP-5-type semi-auto carbines in 9x21mm, etc. are all available and one of the largest outdoor chains, Ibis (which has been called the Gander Mountain of Ukraine), has them for sale as well as so-called “high capacity” magazines (NOTE: All U.S. guns sold in Ukraine come with 10-round magazines but this has more to do with U.S. export law and the exporting of ‘sporting firearms’ which the Department of State considers 10 rounds or less.)”
“Although there is a complex categorization of firearms in New Zealand, there are separate licenses which allow the purchase of firearms depending on their features,” DeNiro noted. “In regard to MSRs, the easiest license to obtain is the A Category which will allow manually-operated rifles, and shotguns, single-shot long arms, antiques/primitive firearms, and the like as well as ‘featureless’ MSRs which have thumbhole stocks, no muzzle brakes or flashiders, no bayonet lugs, and only a five-round maximum-capacity magazine. The B Category license [bona fide pistol club members] covers handguns with barrels over four inches in length as well as handguns with shoulder stocks. The C Category license [bona fide collectors] will allow any type of firearm (pistols with barrels less than four inches, etc.) including machine-guns, however, this license only allows an individual to own these guns and they cannot fire them with live rounds (but blanks are allowed for reenactments, movie making, etc.). The E Category License will allow any type of MSR with all features and any magazine capacity and this license is typically reserved for 3-Gun Match shooters as well as collectors and professional pest/animal control. Silencers are not really regulated and are considered to be just a gun accessory.”
Note there are also D and F Category licenses which are reserved for gun dealers and gunsmiths.
“Other countries like South Africa, Costa Rica, Argentina, Uruguay, Slovenia, Barbados, Aruba, Switzerland, Belgium, Moldova, Sweden, Finland, and others, allow MSRs with ‘hi-cap’ magazines so the above are just some examples,” DeNiro related. “Even Russia will allow the purchase of MSRs but only with 10-round maximum magazine capacity after a five-year wait from the time the individual received their shotgun/smoothbore license. (Contrary to incorrect information about Putin allowing CCW in Russia, real handguns are not legal in Russia, outside of competition handguns stored at shooting ranges, and only tear-gas pistols and pistols which fire hard-rubber bullets can be owned at home with a permit.)”
“In the USA, leftist politicians are not even allowing for a collector’s or a shooting competition license for new buyers to own so-called ‘hi-cap’ magazines and so-called ‘assault rifles’ and just call for a complete ban,” he observed. “Even if grandfathering is allowed, the leftists are mandating that the guns or standard capacity magazines cannot be transferred to heirs unless they are rendered inoperable. In the ‘Land of the Free’ which guarantees a Second Amendment, the reality is that citizens are neither free nor have a Second Amendment. The Second Amendment is about the citizens’ right to defend their liberty and life against tyranny and genocide - it's not about gun collecting, sporting purposes, or just defending yourself against robbers and rapists but that is only what our politicians and the NRA talk about when discussing the Second Amendment.”
Meanwhile, what is our supposedly “pro-gun” administration doing about states that want to make U.S. gun ownership more restrictive than those of many foreign countries such as the ones cited above? Is it lifting a finger to oppose them and enforce the Bill of Rights against state infringements?
To the contrary, it’s upholding federal infringements against “states’ rights.” It’s on the other side in the case of an honorably discharged, medically disabled veteran who bought a suppressor for hearing protection relying on Kansas’ Second Amendment Protection Act (See “JEREMY KETTLER v. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”). It’s making sure the NFA ‘34 Intolerable Act that was the genesis for “modern” federal citizen disarmament prevails over state Tenth Amendment-based efforts to provide “firearms freedom” within their borders.
As such, it’s helping totalitarian-minded states that are paring 2A to the bone to cut deeper, to the marrow, to cut all the way through.
About David Codrea:
David Codrea is the winner of multiple journalist awards for investigating / defending the RKBA and a long-time gun owner rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament.In addition to being a regular featured contributor for Firearms News
and AmmoLand Shooting Sports News
, he blogs at “The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance,”
and posts onTwitter: @dcodrea
[Editor’s Note: In addition to CA, the states of MA, VT, NY, NJ , FL, MD, and WA have seriously infringed the Second Amendment during President Donald Trump’s first two years in office, and there has not been any comment from the president or from his staff regarding states destroying the Second Amendment, with the exception of Trump’s support of former Florida Governor Rick Scott’s gun control measures.
Currently, there are serious efforts to eradicate almost all gun ownership in VA, NM, OR, IL, and PA. The president made many promises and statements about gun rights during his campaign: “Make the Second Amendment great again”, “THE SECOND AMENDMENT WILL NEVER BE REPEALED!” and “Your Second Amendment rights are under siege, but they will never be under siege as long as I am president.” The Second Amendment is not only under siege, it is being eviscerated at state level on President Trump’s watch and Trump has not condemned any of it.]