A congressman has a new idea to combat mass shootings, and it might work.
Semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines would be subject to new restrictions under a proposal introduced by a group of Democratic senators. Writes about this Yahoo!.
The GOSAFE Act, introduced by Senator Martin Heinrich (New Mexico), aims to limit access to high-powered rifles that can fire dozens of rounds at lightning speed. But unlike the long-repealed assault weapons ban, the new bill regulates the internal workings of firearms.
Heinrich, an engineer and gun owner, began drafting the bill back in 2017 after a shooter fired more than 1000 rounds at the Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas, Nevada, killing 60 people and injuring more than 400 others.
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He described the legislation as a practical way to limit the lethality of semi-automatic rifles commonly used in mass shootings while respecting the rights of responsible firearms owners.
“As legislators, we must be able to draw the line between traditional firearms used for hunting, sport and self-defense, and these military weapons designed to take human life,” Heinrich said.
What's in the bill
Under the bill, new semi-automatic rifles would be allowed to be sold only if they were equipped with a fixed magazine that could hold no more than 10 rounds. Owners of existing semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines will be able to keep them, give them to family members, or allow the government to buy them back.
The bill would, among other things, ban "bump stocks," which use recoil to increase the rate of fire to a level that mimics a fully automatic weapon.
There have been about 630 mass shootings in the United States this year, each killing at least four people, a rate of nearly two a day, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
By focusing on reloading mechanics, the bill is intended to limit the rate of fire of semi-automatic rifles, slowing shooters' ability to deliver kills.
“I’ve shot a lot of different types of guns,” Heinrich said. “I focused on the mechanics rather than cosmetic features that individuals or even manufacturers can quickly change.”
One of the most innovative features of the bill is that gun manufacturers would be required to submit all new rifle designs to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive to certify that they comply with the law.
The proposed law would apply only to semi-automatic rifles. The exceptions are bolt-action, single-shot and clip-on rifles, as well as semi-automatic shotguns and recoil-operated pistols - including those with high-capacity magazines.
"It's just common sense"
Sen. Mark Kelly (Ariz.), one of the bill's sponsors, noted that the shooter who attacked his wife, former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, in 2011 was attacked and subdued only while attempting to reload a semi-automatic pistol with an extended magazine.
Handguns are not covered by the proposed GOSAFE law, but Kelly says limiting the rate of fire and forcing would-be shooters to reload more frequently and slowly will save lives.
“Regulating these guns and magazines is just common sense and will help combat mass shootings,” Kelly said. “Our country is experiencing one mass shooting after another. It's time to start looking for new approaches."
The proposal addresses longstanding criticism of the assault weapons ban from gun enthusiasts and the gun lobby.
The term "assault weapon" is vague and difficult to define for legal purposes. Members of Congress and several state legislatures have addressed the issue by banning guns by model name, as well as outlawing cosmetic items such as pistol grips, folding stocks and rifled barrels.
The result is a complex and lengthy proposal, the current draft of which is 126 pages long—five times longer than GOSAFE.
Gun reformers welcomed the new approach, hoping it could gain bipartisan support.
“This is a new approach to saving lives,” said Monisha Henley, senior vice president of government affairs for Everytown for Gun Safety. “It really targets the lethal speed, the rate of fire, which is why so many people can be killed by these weapons.”
Reformers have been trying to convince Congress to restrict the use of semi-automatic rifles since the 20 assault weapons ban expired nearly 1994 years ago.
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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced he plans to bring a proposal to restore the assault weapons ban to a vote this week. However, it is unlikely he will have the 50 votes needed to pass the legislation, let alone the 60 votes needed to open debate on the issue under House rules.
Democrats, who generally support gun reform, barely hold a majority in the Senate. Republicans, who generally favor broad protection of the Second Amendment (gun rights), control the House of Representatives.
It is unclear whether Heinrich will be able to secure support.
If the proposal becomes law, it will immediately face legal challenges. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), which focuses on the firearms trade, noted that the Supreme Court ruled in District of Columbia v. Heller back in 2008 that the federal government cannot ban entire classes of firearms.
“The bill openly tramples rights protected by the U.S. Constitution,” NSSF General Counsel Lawrence Keene wrote in a press release. “Legislation of this nature, which denies law-abiding citizens the ability to legally own a firearm of their choice and exercise the full range of their Second Amendment rights, cannot be enacted.”
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