Quick quiz: Which of the above firearms would be covered by Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposed assault-weapon ban?
Easy question, right?
But here’s a tougher one: Which is a .223 caliber semi-automatic capable of taking a 30-round magazine?
The answer, as shown below, is: both. And that illustrates the difficulty in drafting legislation that would define and restrict “assault weapons.”
Under Connecticut’s current law, semi-automatic rifles are banned if they accept a detachable magazine and have at least two of five specific features: a pistol grip, a folding or telescoping stock, a bayonet mount, a grenade launcher or a flash suppressor. The proposal Malloy released today would ban rifles that contain any one feature. Pistol grips are universal on military-style rifles, so the proposal would effectively ban all such weapons, including the plastic and steel Bushmaster A3 Quad Rail pictured here.
But the wooden-stock rifle also pictured, the Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle, takes the same ammunition and features the same semi-automatic action as the Bushmaster, with each firing bullets as fast as a shooter can pull the trigger. The Ranch Rifle, lacking a pistol grip, would remain legal under Malloy’s plan (though, as with any permitted weapon, it would be limited to a 10-round magazine under the governor’s proposal).
There has a been a renewed call to revive or strengthen assault-weapon laws since the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. But gun enthusiasts say proposals like Malloy’s amount to banning cosmetic features while allowing the sale and ownership of equally powerful firearms. U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, a gun-control proponent, counters that it’s possible the aggressive appearance of a military-style weapon – in the hands of a disturbed person like Adam Lanza – might make it a more dangerous instrument.
“I don’t know why Adam Lanza walked into that school,” Murphy said earlier this month during a weapons demonstration at a state police firing range. “But I do think that his access to a military-style assault weapon, that he may have used in video games, gave him a sense of confidence that he might not have otherwise had.”
Malloy’s proposals will certainly face political jousting at the legislature. But if passed, the real battle may come after they are enacted. At a Gun Appreciation Day rally at the state capitol last month, gun owners cheered when Roger Saucier, co-founder of the Connecticut Minutemen, had a clear message for politicians.
“I only have one comment: I will not comply,” he said, referring to a weapons ban. “When they pass a law or an executive order that violates the Constitution, I will not comply.”