Wisconsin state representatives Lisa Subeck, Terese Berceau, Melissa Sargent, and Chris Taylor–all Democrats representing portions of Madison–are circulating an Assembly bill to make “the transportation, purchase, possession, or transfer” of semiautomatic “assault” pistols a felony in Wisconsin.
Yet the characteristics they provide for determining an “assault” pistol are so broad and arbitrary that they could ban a large portion of some of the most popular guns for self-defense and target shooting.
For example, from the bill itself, the means of determining whether a semiautomatic pistol is actually a semiautomatic “assault” pistol begins with ascertaining whether it “has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine.” If it does, then the addition of any one of the following characteristics would make the firearm an “assault” pistol:
a. A folding, telescoping, or thumbhole stock. b. A 2nd handgrip or protruding grip that can be held by the nontrigger hand. c. The capacity to accept an ammunition magazine that attaches to the pistol outside of the pistol grip. d. A threaded barrel capable of accepting a barrel extender, flash suppressor, forward handgrip, or silencer. e. A shroud that is attached to, or partially or completely encircles, the barrel, and that permits the user to hold the firearm with the nontrigger hand without being burned. f. A manufactured weight of at least 50 ounces when the pistol is unloaded.
Under these guidelines a Glock 19 9mm with a threaded barrel would banned, even if the pistol only a had 10-round magazine. On the other hand, a Glock 9mm without a threaded barrel, but with an extended magazine that protrudes beyond the base of the grip would also be banned because of the visibility of’the magazine. This is based on a cosmetic reading of the characteristic that a pistol has that “capacity to accept an ammunition magazine that attaches to the pistol outside of the pistol grip” is an “assault” pistol.
However, if the ban on magazines that “[attach] to the pistol outside of the pistol grip” is literal rather than cosmetic, then the possession of an AR, AK, or Ruger 10/22-based pistol would immediately become a felony because these guns do not technically accept magazines in a “pistol grip.” And the permissible weight of less than 50 ounces would certainly shift the AR and AK pistols into the “assault” category as well, while also banning some of the Ruger 10/22 pistols but leaving others less than an ounce away from being a “assault” pistol.
Note that the difference between Ruger 10/22 pistols that would be banned and those that would remain legal is not measured in the velocity of the bullet they fire but in how they look and feel. The same can be said of the Glock 19–or H&K, Smith & Wesson, Sig Sauer, FNP, Walther, or pistols–that would be legal without a threaded barrel but illegal with one. Or cosmetically speaking, that would legal without a drum magazine but illegal with one. The gun still shoots a 9mm round at the same velocity and still only shoots one round each time the trigger is squeezed regardless of magazine size or whether the barrel is threaded.
But the focus on cosmetics combined with ambiguity in the language has always been the Democrats’ friend, especially as it relates to “assault weapons” and related bans. This approach shrouds the ban with a touch of the unknown, which leaves the ultimate determination on what will or won’t be banned open to the interpretation of whichever Democrat office holder is applying it at a given moment in time.
Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.