Friday, September 13, 2013

Stop the Ban on Semi-Automatic Rifles in California

We are heading into danger.

I usually don’t write about prospective legislation in detail, but this example is so egregious that I feel obligated to do so. California Senate Bill 374, which was sent to the Governor last night, would prohibit the trade in all centerfire semi-automatic rifles without fixed magazines beginning next year. Rifles lawfully acquired before this time would be retained by their current owners but would have to be registered as “assault weapons” and would thus also be subject to more stringent transportation and usage restrictions.

The definitions involved are so broad that virtually all self-loading rifles would fall under the new law. This includes not only rifles that merely resemble modern military firearms, such as civilian ArmaLite-Stoner (AR) and semi-automatic Kalashnikov-action (AK) rifles that are currently legal with magazine locks installed, but also many target and hunting rifles from most major manufacturers, not excluding the very popular Springfield M1A rifles (and all other civilian versions of the U.S. M14), the Ruger Mini series, the Kel-Tec SU-16 series, surplus and commercial variants of the U.S. M1 carbine, nor arguably Garand rifles and Simonov carbines (Russian SKS, Yugoslavian m1959, etc.). Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of lawful gun owners would be affected, though many might not realize that fact until they were arrested for possession of unregistered “assault weapons.”

SB 374 appears obviously unconstitutional under the common-use test referenced in D.C. v. Heller, so I don’t expect that it would survive a constitutional challenge in court. Semi-automatic rifles are not more dangerous or unusual than other firearms and, in fact, are very rarely used in violent crime, so there is also no utilitarian justification for the would-be law. Nevertheless, we citizens must still do our part to voice opposition to misguided, unconstitutional legislation.

Therefore, if you value the right to arms and/or the civil rights of your children or possible children, I urge you to contact Governor Brown and encourage him to veto this bill.