This week, we saw a new attempt to ban AR-15s and “high capacity” magazines. But it was led by a group of Democrats who’ve been at least a touch more moderate on guns, and it wasn’t called an “assault weapon” ban.
That doesn’t make it any more likely to actually become law before the 2024 election. But it does mark a potential shift in tactics moving forward. Assault weapon bans have largely stalled, despite a small reassurance over the last year. Maybe shifting to a “gas-operated semi-automatic” ban is part of the plan to break that logjam?
But what exactly does this new ban do? Contributing Writer Jake Fogleman takes a deep dive into the text. And I have to say things get pretty weird in there.
Maryland was back in the news on Monday. The state’s largest county had its gun carry and homemade firearm ban found unlawful by a state judge. That comes after a federal court found Maryland’s pistol purchase permit is unconstitutional. As I explain in a piece for members, that ruling took on what I’ve started calling the “one weird trick that plaintiffs hate” theory of Bruen.
No podcast this week since we took a short break over Thanksgiving. Gun sales didn’t take a break for the holiday, though. The FBI performed a record number of background checks on Black Friday, which is further evidence the market may finally be finding its new floor.
Senate Democrats Introduce Broad New Gun, Ammo Magazine Ban Bill
By Jake Fogleman
Democratic lawmakers are set to try once more to get a new federal gun ban on President Joe Biden’s desk.
Senators Martin Heinrich (D.–NM) and Angus King (I.-ME), who caucuses with the Democrats, introduced a new bill on Thursday aimed at so-called assault weapons and large-capacity magazines. The proposal would prohibit the sale and manufacture of semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines, as well as some handguns and devices that “materially increase” a gun’s rate of fire. It would also ban the sale and manufacture of any detachable magazine capable of holding more than ten rounds.
“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,” Senator King said in a press release. “The Gas-Operated Semiautomatic Firearm Exclusion (GOSAFE) Act addresses the lethal capacity weapons like the one used in Lewiston and most of the deadliest mass shootings across the country.”
Senators Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) joined on to co-sponsor the bill as well.
Democratic lawmakers are taking another shot at banning a wide swath of semi-automatic firearms and ammunition magazines. But this time, they’re taking a different approach.
Senators Angus King (I.-ME) and Martin Heinrich (D.–NM) introduced the Gas-Operated Semi-Automatic Firearms Exclusion (GOSAFE) Act on Thursday. Shedding the traditional moniker of “assault weapon ban” that previous iterations of the sort have adopted, the bill instead trains its focus on, as its name suggests, “gas-operated” firearms.
The end result of the legislation would be roughly in line with traditional assault weapon and magazine ban bills, but the route to get there is unique and, at points, quite odd. It’s also almost certainly doomed to fail until at least the 2024 elections, given the current balance of power in the House and Senate. Despite this, it has the backing of nearly every major gun control organization in the country and the high-profile sponsorship of three U.S. Senators who, to this point, have never sponsored an assault weapon ban publicly before.
Therefore, the approach could prove influential if it marks a turning point for advocates looking for new ways to repackage a long-desired policy priority. For that reason, it’s worth looking in closer detail at what the GOSAFE Act does and how it gets there.
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Black Friday Sees Record FBI Gun Background Checks
By Stephen Gutowski
Americans were out in full force buying guns during the start of the holiday shopping season.
That’s the implication of the background check numbers released by the FBI on Monday. The agency, which oversees the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), reported a record number of checks on Black Friday 2023. This year’s 214,913 checks are up 5.5 percent from the previous record set in 2017 and ten percent from last year.
Black Friday 2023 was the third-busiest day in the history of the FBI’s background check system–though the agency’s official report has yet to be updated to reflect that fact. However, the week leading up to this year’s Black Friday did not climb into the top ten rankings. The 680,671 NICS checks performed from Sunday to Friday last week represented a 4.3 percent decrease from 2022 and a 16.8 percent decrease from 2020.
Wear and carry permit holders in Maryland’s most populous county may soon be able to take full advantage of their carry rights following a new state court ruling.
Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Ronald B. Rubin ruled in favor of a group of plaintiffs challenging the county’s local gun restrictions on Monday. He said that the county’s attempt to criminalize the possession of unserialized homemade firearm parts and ban public carry for valid permit holders in nearly all of its jurisdiction was preempted by state law.
“[T]he comprehensive and intertwined scheme of existing State regulation preempts Montgomery County’s efforts, through Chapter 57, to place additional legal hurdles on wear and carry permit holders, State licensed firearms dealers and privately made firearms,” he wrote in Maryland Shall Issue v. Montgomery County.
One of the weakest legal theories in the post-Bruen era has popped up once again in federal court. This time, a federal appeals panel explained why it doesn’t work.
On Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit found Maryland’s pistol purchase permit is unconstitutional. The majority ruled that the gun sales restriction failed the test established in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen because it didn’t fit with the tradition of gun regulation dating back to the Founding Era. Therefore, it decided the law violates the Second Amendment.
As part of that decision, the majority exercised what I’ve labeled the “one weird trick that plaintiffs hate” theory of Bruen.
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Outside The Reload
That’s it for this week in guns.
I’ll see you all next week.