LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Feinstein bill violates Fifth Amendment

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Emily Miller’s article on high-capacity magazine bans (“The high-capacity magazine myth,” Comment & Analysis, Monday) does not address a critical concern about these anti-gun bills: the violence they would do to Fifth Amendment protections by depriving Americans of their property without due process.

While the ban proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, would allow current owners to continue to possess magazines owned before the law went into effect, it would not permit these magazine to be resold or transferred. They would literally “die with their current owners.” This constitutes a novel, uncompensated federal taking, since current owners would be unable to either recover the value of a legal investment they made or will it to their heirs. Whether people favor or oppose gun control, they should be very concerned about the sweeping precedent this would set.

For example, what would stop some future Environmental Protection Agency from declaring older cars — including valuable antiques — to be “gas guzzlers” and banning their resale for anything other than scrap? It’s the same principle of mandated destruction of something for a public purpose without compensation to the owners.

Mrs. Feinstein should know her bill violates Fifth Amendment tenets, since her 1994 ban specifically allowed resale of grandfathered firearms and magazines in part to avoid this very concern. The likely reason she is avoiding discussion of this issue is that the cost of implementing her ban legally could top $1 billion, given the courts have held that compensation is determined by market value when the taking occurs. If most Americans were given that price tag upfront, they would probably question what they are getting for their money. Legislators should ask the same question.



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