Silly policy — but smart politics.
The Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act will mirror a failed bill introduced during the 112th Congress. Its authors hope that in the wake of the shooting deaths of 20 first grade students in Newtown, Conn., there will be heightened political urgency to act when it is reintroduced on Jan. 3.
Backed by DeGette and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), the legislation has gained a wave of Democratic co-sponsors since the shooting, which also claimed the lives of 7 adults. But no Republican has come forward yet to offer his or her support. Even more critical to its political prospects, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has not indicated whether he will allow such legislation to come to the floor for a vote…
The bill Democrats will introduce would limit magazines, belts, drums, feed strips and “similar device[s]” to 10 rounds of ammunition. It would allow people to hold on to the “large capacity ammunition feeding device[s]” that they currently own, but prohibit them from buying others or transferring the ones they have.
Alternate headline: “Entire national supply of high-capacity magazines to be sold out next week.”
Democrats have two strategies available to them, each geared to the reality that it’ll be next to impossible to get something passed. Strategy one: Go big and use the gesture as proof to American voters (especially those in your base) of how much you care. That’s Feinstein’s gambit. Her new assault-weapons ban is headed straight into the crapper, but it’s loaded with bells and whistles to make the progressive conscience feel good. More than a hundred different firearms banned by name! A slight tightening of the old assault-weapons ban by limiting the number of “military characteristics” on other semiautomatics to one! Background checks, replete with photos and fingerprints, of everyone who owns a grandfathered-in assault weapon! It’s going nowhere — even now, per Gallup, a slim majority opposes a new assault-weapons ban — but it shows that Feinstein and her supporters really do want to Do Something, and that’s what’s important.
Strategy two: Go small and try to make the GOP squirm. That’s DeGette’s strategy and that’s the smarter play. Banning high-capacity magazines isn’t nearly enough to satisfy the progressive id, but they’ll enjoy watching Republicans being forced to explain why they won’t support even a comparatively “modest” tightening of regulations, especially one that seems aimed squarely at mass shootings. The same Gallup poll that showed 51 percent against a new AWB also showed 58 percent support for making gun laws more strict, the highest number in eight years, so you may well see a few GOP votes for a bill like this. Frankly, although I hate to admit it, I thought Jim Moran’s idea to push a bill composed entirely of gun-control measures supported by a majority of NRA members was clever and maybe a starting point for Democrats. Given the slim prospects of anything passing, the only thing to be gained here by either side is messaging points. Moran’s bill would help the left with that, as would DeGette’s bill.
In case you need reminding why banning high-capacity magazines or any other paramilitary weapon contradicts the Second Amendment, read Kevin Williamson today at NRO. He’s got one of the sharpest, and boldest, defenses of gun rights to be published since Sandy Hook. His point, quite simply: If the right to bear arms was designed as a check on government tyranny (not as a license to hunt or to scare off burglars), why shouldn’t the public have paramilitary weapons? The whole point is to give the people a fighting chance against the military in case the government ever turns on them. Obligatory exit question: How far does that logic extend, though? RPGs are useful paramilitary weapons too. Time to legalize those?