The Senate Judiciary Committee passed Thursday Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s “assault weapons” ban by a straight party-line vote, despite Republican efforts to point out the obvious holes in the legislation.
The California Democrat’s bill — which prohibits 157 specific firearms, those with a single cosmetic feature she thinks is scary looking and standard magazines that have over 10 rounds — applies to all Americans except current and retired law enforcement officers. She believes this one class is able to use the firearms for self defense.
Sen. John Cornyn attempted to point out the flaws in the logic of her legislation. During the first part of the markup on March 7, Mr. Cornyn said that the exception for law enforcement is a “remarkable concession” because the “bill sponsors have long declared that so called assault weapons are purely offensive in nature — as in designed for killing — hence the name ‘assault weapon.’”
He explained that the one exception conceded ”that there are at least some Americans who should be allowed to possess these weapons for the purpose of defending themselves, their families and their communities.”
The Texas Republican strongly opposes the “assault weapons” ban, but used the amendment process to show the absurdity of only allowing certain Americans use the banned guns for self defense. Mr. Cornyn offered several amendments in committee and will hold the rest for the full Senate floor debate. Mrs. Feinstein said Thursday that this was an effort to “nip it and tuck it” and opposed Mr. Cornyn’s efforts.
Before Thursday’s committee meeting, Mr. Cornyn told The Washington Times that, “These amendments highlight the tragic consequences of a ban that, if passed, would restrict groups of people who are particularly susceptible to violence – like victims of sexual assault and domestic violence – from defending themselves against future attackers.”
Along those lines, he asked that victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking be allowed obtain and possess the self-defense weapons prohibited by this legislation. A separate amendment exempted those who have obtained a protection order, as defined in the Violence Against Women Act. Both of these amendments failed in committee along party lines.
Last week, Mr. Cornyn attempted to give current military and veterans the same rights as law enforcement, asking his colleagues: “Why should this exception only be limited to retired law enforcement officers? Is it that we believe they have some special competency and training to use these weapons to defend themselves and others? Or is because we think they and their families are worthy of special protection?”
The Texas senator offered an amendment that would allow members of armed forces and veterans to obtain and possess the self defense weapons prohibited by this legislation.
“Members of the armed forces and veterans are the most highly trained and qualified individuals to own these weapons for self defense purposes,” said Mr. Cornyn last week. “We should think long and hard before disarming these heroes — preventing them from protecting their families and their communities.”
Mrs. Feinstein responded that, “The problem with expanding this is that, with the advent of PTSD — which I think is a new phenomenon as a product of the Iraq war — it’s not clear how the seller or transferor of a firearm banned by this bill would verify whether the individual was a member or a veteran, and that there was no impairment of that individual with respect to having a weapon like this.”
Mr. Cornyn replied by pointing out that PTSD sufferers are already prohibited by law. He added that, “I think it’s a mistake to paint so broadly to say that any active duty military or veterans can’t use these kinds of weapons — or any lawful kinds of weapons — for self defense.” He said that, “I wouldn’t want to suggest that we think that anyone who served in the military all suffer from some debilitating illness that would prohibit them from defending themselves.”
The military amendment failed to pass the committee, with all Democrats voting against it.
Also, Mr. Cornyn’s amendments to exempt Americans who live in rural areas and in counties on the southern border of the U.S. failed on a party-line vote.
During the Senate floor debate, Mr. Cornyn will offer amendments for those with certain T-Visas and U-Visas to possess the self-defense weapons. The ban would only apply the ban to visa holders who are already disallowed from obtaining any firearms. Furthermore, he would would exempt from the ban all hate crimes victims.
Finally, Mr. Cornyn will try to get an exemption for public officials, including judges, whose families have been threatened with crimes of violence or terrorism to obtain and possess the guns prohibited by the bill.
Mrs. Feinstein’s legislation was never based on facts or intellectual reasoning. Her gun ban was in effect from 1994 to 2004 and did nothing to reduce crime or prevent mass shooting. It is nonsensical to think it will do so now.
President Obama, Mrs. Feinstein and their allies call these firearms that differ only cosmetically as “weapons of war.” So, it is illogical to say former law enforcement are able to use them for self defense, but veterans or sexual assault victims could not.
The Democratic majority committee was able to strike down Mr. Cornyn’s amendments by party line vote, but that will not be as easy in the full Senate. Those Democrats from rural states who are up for election in 2014 are going to have a tough time explaining why they are choosing only one small group of Americans to possess these firearms and magazines, while leaving others more vulnerable to crime.
The “assault weapon” ban is bad policy based on emotions, which is becoming more clear the more it is exposed on Capitol Hill.
Emily Miller is senior editor of the opinion pages for The Washington Times. Her “Emily Gets Her Gun” series on the District’s gun laws won the 2012 Clark Mollenhoff Award for Investigative Reporting from the Institute on Political Journalism. Click here to follow her on Twitter and Facebook.