A new Senate bill seeks to take legal gun owners back a century or so in the name of preventing mass shootings.
The Gas-Operated Semi-Automatic Firearms Exclusion Act was introduced Thursday by Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, and Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, according to The Hill.
King indicated the bill was a response to the deaths of 18 people ni Lewiston, Maine, in October.
“For years, I have said that rather than using the appearance of these guns to restrict them, we should instead focus on how these weapons actually work and the features that make them especially dangerous,” King said in a release on his website.
Heinrich also said the bill protects gun rights while dealing with weapons that should not exist.
“I firmly believe we must uphold the laws that protect safe and responsible gun ownership. This bill achieves that, while taking steps to get those firearms that are inherently dangerous and unusually lethal, designed for maximum harm, out of the hands of those who pose a threat to themselves or others,” he said.
King’s release said his bill would establishing a list of prohibited firearms; prevent unlawful modifications of those guns the law allows; require “future gas-operated designs are approved before manufacture;” and ban what are called ghost guns – weapons made at home without going to a store and undergoing backgrounds checks.
He said his bill “addresses the lethal capacity weapons like the one used in Lewiston and most of the deadliest mass shootings across the country.”
“The key is the lethality of the weapon,” King said, according to NewsCenterMaine. “How do you make it less dangerous? Not what it looks like, but how do you make it less dangerous?
“Two people charged the shooter in Lewiston, but he killed them both because he didn’t have to stop and reload,” King said, speaking of gunman Robert Card, according to the Portland Press-Herald.
The legislation, which would have to pass the Republican-controlled House as well as the Democrat-controlled Senate to become law, was denounced as an infringement on Americans’ Second Amendment rights.
“This legislation blatantly violates the U.S. Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court rulings by banning the very types of firearms and magazines most often utilized by Americans for defending themselves and their families,” Randy Kozuch, executive director of the NRA’s legislative arm, said in a statement.
“This bill unjustly and improperly places the full burden of the law on law-abiding residents, while doing nothing to take guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals. The NRA opposes this legislation and will fight to protect the constitutional freedoms of all law-abiding Americans,” he said.
Republican state Rep. Donald Ardell noted that King is about a century too late to head off the use of semi-automatic weapons.
As noted by the NRA-linked site Americas1stFreedom, semi-automatic rifles and handguns were developed around the turn of the 20th Century.
“Semi-automatic arms have been commercially available in the U.S. for well over a century, and standard-capacity magazines are commonly owned,” Ardell said, according to the Press-Herald.
“Senator King’s bill, which would limit arms to a certain design and firearm magazines to a specific, arbitrary capacity, would clearly violate the people’s civil rights,” he said.
The bill “is openly defiant of the rights protected by the U.S. Constitution. There is no path forward for legislation of this nature that would deprive law-abiding citizens the ability to lawfully possess the firearm of their choosing and the full spectrum of their Second Amendment rights,” Lawrence G. Keane, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said, according to Guns America.
King’s release said his proposal “protects Americans’ constitutional right to own a gun based on a firearm’s established use for self-defense, hunting or sporting purposes.”
Weapons exempt from the law include .22 caliber rimfire or less firearms; bolt action rifles; semi-automatic shotguns; recoil-operated handguns, as well as rifles and shotguns with a permanently fixed magazine of 10 rounds or less and handguns with a permanently fixed magazine of 15 rounds or less.
King’s release said the bill “will force would-be mass shooters to reload their guns more frequently — giving people time to flee and law enforcement time to arrive on the scene – while also maintaining law enforcement access to regulated firearms, so law enforcement continues to have the tools they need to respond to a mass shooting event.”