This article was provided as an op-ed from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF). For more info, visit nssf.org.
The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing on gun control. There will be blustering about the need for background checks for gun sales, closing so-called “loopholes” and getting “weapons of war” off the streets. Before the inflated labels get thrown around, it’s important to know the facts.
All retail guns sales already require background checks, whether it’s at a brick-and-mortar store, at a gun show or purchased online. Each and every one requires a face-to-face transaction, with background check forms completed and submission of information to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). There’s no such thing as a “Charleston Loophole.” If a background check is delayed, the FBI has three business days to dig further for more information before a retailer “may” transfer the firearm. They’re not required to do so, many do not.
The “weapons of war” rhetoric also needs to be corrected. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) will surely talk about her bill proposing to ban the most-popular centerfire rifle in America – the modern sporting rifle (MSR), or those AR-15-style rifles. She’s using a decades-old play to confuse the American public about what the rifle really is – a semiautomatic firearm that uses the same technology first introduced in the late 1800’s and commercially available since the early 1900’s. She’s betting looks can deceive.
Sen. Feinstein claims “domestic terrorism” as the impetus for her latest proposal, the Assault Weapons Ban. What she’s really wants to do is ban the sale of commonly-owned rifles, with over 20 million in circulation, legally owned by millions of Americans for a variety of reasons, including self-defense, hunting and recreational and competition shooting.
The facts might not matter, but Sen. Feinstein should understand who is leaving gun stores after undergoing a background check and purchasing MSRs and their reasons why.
MSRs Not ‘Weapons of War’
Sen. Feinstein’s proposal bans more than 200 varieties of MSRs, like AR-15s. AR stands for the original manufacturer, ArmaLite, not “Assault Rifle” as is commonly and intentionally repeated. No matter how often gun control proponents repeat it, MSRs aren’t what they claim. They use war terminology to scare and mislead to impose more gun control.
The truth is MSRs are semiautomatic rifles that use the same one-trigger-pull, one-fire mechanics as commonly-owned semiautomatic handguns and shotguns. This firearm technology is over a century old. MSRs appear similar to the military versions such as M-16s, but that’s it. They aren’t automatic. They’re not supernatural and they’re not a scrouge in America. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports consistently demonstrate that more murders are committed with knives, fists and clubs than by rifles of all kinds – not just the MSR. The truth is Americans who own these rifles are overwhelmingly law-abiding and responsible.
Sen. Feinstein is also ignoring Americans who are rejecting gun control and taking ownership of their gun rights. More than 21 million background checks for guns sales were completed in 2020, including for more than 8.4 million first-time buyers. This includes large percentages of women and minorities. African-Americans did so by 58 percent greater than 2019. Hispanic-American purchases rose by 49 percent and Asian-American purchases rose by 42 percent. Retailer data showed MSRs were among the most popular choices. Despite California being one of the strictest gun control states, nearly 1.2 million Californians registered a firearm purchase, the most since 2016. A third of those were rifles.
Twenty-six-year old Megan Hill from Utah explained why she chose an MSR. “We looked at the AR-15, and it was all in one package. You can target-shoot with it, protect yourself with it, hunt with it. Luckily we haven’t had to use it in self-defense, but it’s a comfort knowing that it’s there to protect my children and my family,” she explained.
Californians too are growing frustrated that gun control efforts like Sen. Feinstein’s proposed ban, is targeting law-abiding gun owners but does nothing to address criminals. Scott Kane explained his frustration with 10-day waiting periods and California bans earlier this year.
“This has taken me, a law-abiding citizen with nary an unpaid parking ticket to my name, over a month,” Kane told Washington Free Beacon. “Meanwhile Joe Bad Guy has probably purchased several fully automatic AK-47s out of the back of an El Camino in a shady part of town with zero background checks.”
Record of Failure
Owners of MSRs know the folly. Sen. Feinstein’s ban won’t reduce crime or violence. It’s only a means of restricting the rights of law-abiding Americans. She should understand this. She authored the failed 1994 Assault Weapons Ban which expired in 2004. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) admitted the ban didn’t reduce crime. NSSF data shows just the opposite: as MSR ownership increased, violent crime has trended lower.
The 2008 landmark U.S. Supreme Court District of Columbia v Heller decision held the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to own a firearm. Millions of Americans agree with and hold that right sacred. That includes commonly-owned firearms like MSRs. Sen. Feinstein, and her fellow gun control advocates in Congress, seem to have a greater issue with the Constitution than they do with a rifle, of which she shows little understanding.