Biden Conflates a Broad Category of Rifles With Intolerable ‘Weapons of War’
The Biden administration says H.R. 7910, a bill imposing new age restrictions on sales by federally licensed gun dealers, “would ensure that individuals under 21 years of age cannot purchase weapons of war.” But H.R. 7910, dubbed the Protecting Our Kids Act, sweeps much more broadly than the phrase “weapons of war” suggests, covering all semi-automatic centerfire rifles that accept detachable magazines.
President Joe Biden and other politicians who support a federal ban on “assault weapons” often call those arbitrarily defined firearms “weapons of war.” But this bill applies to many guns that do not fit the legislative definition of “assault weapons,” which hinges on military-style feature such as folding stocks, pistol grips, and barrel shrouds. That ambiguity suggests Biden is not sure which guns he wants to ban or why, and it illustrates the challenge of deciding which firearms are too dangerous to be tolerated.
The distinctions drawn by H.R. 7910 actually make more sense than the distinctions drawn by H.R. 1808, the proposed federal “assault weapon” ban. While the latter bill focuses on functionally unimportant characteristics, H.R. 7910 focuses on the type of ammunition (centerfire vs. rimfire) and the ability to use detachable magazines, both of which have practical implications. But those differences cut both ways: The same characteristics that might make the rifles covered by the bill more effective in a mass shooting can also make them more suitable for self-defense or other legal uses.
California recently imposed age restrictions similar to those that Biden wants Congress to approve. Unlike H.R. 7910, which applies only to sales by federally licensed dealers, California’s law applied to all sales. But it targeted the same age group and the same broad category of rifles. It did not deal with “assault weapons,” which California has long prohibited.
Last month the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit concluded that California’s law imposed an unjustified burden on the Second Amendment rights of young adults. Since California had already prohibited 18-to-20-year-olds from buying handguns, the 9th Circuit said, the new rule left them with few viable options for home defense.
“Non-semiautomatic rifles are not effective as self-defense weapons because they must be manually cycled between shots, a process which becomes infinitely more difficult in a life or death situation,” the Court said. “Rimfire rifles generally aren’t good for self-defense either, because rimfire ammunition has ‘poor stopping power’ and [is] mostly used for things like hunting small game. So for self-defense in the home, young adults are left with shotguns.”
The 9th Circuit noted that the shotgun option—the one that Biden thinks should be adequate for everyone, not just young adults—has significant drawbacks. “Eve
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