In my last blog, I discussed the Assault Weapons Ban bill currently pending before the Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary Committee (SB 435). Not to be outdone by their Senate colleagues, several State Representatives likewise introduced a similar Assault Weapons Ban on February 5, 2013 to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives – House Bill 517. As of this writing, this Bill was pending before the House Committee on the Judiciary. Once again, however, Pennsylvania gun owners should be aware of the potential implications of this legislation.
Not surprisingly, this House Bill was introduced and sponsored by 19 democrats – the overwhelming majority of who represent portions of Philadelphia County and its surrounding areas. The primary sponsor, Ronald G. Waters, is the democratic representative for parts of Delaware and Philadelphia counties. He was joined as a primary sponsor by Madeleine Dean (D – Montgomery). Other members of our House of Representatives who supported the introduction of HB 517 include: Steven J. Santarsiero (D- Bucks), Stephen McCarter (D – Montgomery and Philadelphia), Kevin J. Boyle (D – Philadelphia), Michael H. O’Brien (D- Philadelphia), Kevin Haggerty (D – Lackawanna), James Clay James (D – Philadelphia), Louis Williams Bishop (D – Philadelphia), Michelle F. Brownlee (D – Philadelphia), P. Michael Sturla (D – Lancaster), Michael H. Schlossberg (D – Lehigh), Michael P. McGeehan (D – Philadelphia), Phyllis Mundy (D – Luzerne), W. Curtis Thomas (D – Philadelphia), Stephen Kinsey (D – Philadelphia), Rosita C. Youngblood (D – Philadelphia), Thaddeus Kirkland (D – Delaware), and Mark B. Cohen (D – Philadelphia). As you can see, the Philadelphia Democratic Representatives showed up in force to sponsor this legislation.
So, let’s talk about the sum and substance of the Bill itself. Under HB 517, a person may not “do” any of the following: (1) possess, use, control, sell, transfer or manufacture an “assault weapon” OR, (2) obtain a license to do any of the foregoing. Interestingly, the next paragraph prohibits any person from obtaining a license (ie., a federal firearms license?) to do any of the foregoing “in this Commonwealth”. The only exceptions to this prohibition apply to members of the United States armed forces, reserves or National Guard, or law enforcement officers “while performing official duties or traveling to or from and authorized place of duty if possession of the assault weapon is authorized under applicable statute, regulation or military or law enforcement policy”. As to the potential ramifications of violating this proposed law? It seems our esteemed representatives overlooked the punishment to be imposed in their haste to introduce the new legislation.
House Bill 517 broadly defines the term “assault weapon” and also cites to several very specific firearms. (Of some consolation to collectors may be the Bill’s exclusion of any firearm modified so as to render it permanently inoperable.) Under the first definition, the term pertains to “any selective-fire firearm capable of fully automatic, semiautomatic or burst fire at the option of the user”. One could safely assume the Bill refers to firearms subject to a Class III license and not the typical firearm which you would be able to purchase at your local gun store. However, the Bill next outlines several specific SEMIAUTOMATIC firearms which are also included as “assault weapons”. Review this list closely as you may be very surprised!
Algimec Agmi, Armalite AR-180; Austrailian Automatic Arms SAP Pistol; Auto-Ordinance Thompson type; Avtomat Kalashnikov AK-47 type; Barrett Light-Fifty model 82A1; Beretta AR-70; Bushmaster Auto Rifle and Auto Pistol; Calico models M-900, M-950 and 100-P; Chartered Industries of Singapore SR-88; Colt AR-15 and Sporter; Daewoo K-1, K-2, Max-1 and Max-2; Ecom MK-IV, MP-9 and MP-45; Fabrigue Nationale FN/FAL, FN/LAR or FN/FNC; FAMAS MAS 223, Feather AT-9 and Mini-AT; Federal XC-900 and XC-450; Franchi SPA-12 and Law-12; Falil AR and ARM; Gonez High-Tech Carbine and High-Tech Long Pistol; Heckler and Koch HK-91, HK-93, HK-94 and SP-89; Holmes MP-83; MAC-10s and 11s including carbines; Intrateck TEC-9 and Scorpion; Iveer Joshnson Enforcer model 3000; Ruger Mini-14/5F folding stock model only (NOTE: I find it interesting that only this version of the Mini-14 is specifically indicated); Scarab Skorpion; SIG 57 AMT and 500 series; Spectre Auto Carbine and Auto Pistol; Springfield Armory BM59, SAR-48 and G-3; Serline MK-6 and MK-7; Steyr AUG; Street Sweeper and Striker 12 revolving cylinder shotguns; USAS-12; UZI Carbine, Mini Carbine and Pistol; Weaver Arms Nighthawk and Wilkinson “Linda” Pistol.
Of course, the Bill also provides for a “catch-all” categories of semiautomatic firearms which are not specifically listed:
Any semiautomatic RIFLE which meets the following criteria is likewise an assault weapon if it can accept a detachable magazine and has at least TWO of the following: folding or telescopic stock; a pistol grip protruding “conspicuously” beneath the action of the weapon; a bayonet mount; a flash suppressor or threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor; or a grenade launcher.
Any semiautomatic PISTOLS that have the ability to accept a detachable magazine and has at least TWO of the following: a magazine that attaches to the pistol outside of the pistol grip, a threaded barrel capable of accepting a barrel extender, flash suppressor, forward handgrip or silencer; a shroud that attaches to or partially encircles the barrel and permits the shooter to hold the firearm wit the nontrigger hand without being burned; a manufactured weight of 50 ounces or more when unloaded; any semiautomatic version of an automatic firearm.
Any semiautomatic SHOTGUN that has at least TWO of the following: a folding or telescopic stock; a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon; a fixed magazine capacity in excess of five (5) rounds; or an ability to accept a detachable magazine.
The Bill goes even further to define certain parts under the definition of an assault weapon. These include any part or combination of parts designed or intended to convert a firearm into an assault weapon under the above definition OR any combination of parts from which an assault weapon may be rapidly assembled if those parts are in the possession or under the control of the same person. I am sure more than a few of us have some part or accessory which would fall within this category.
Without any indication of the severity of the “crime” outlined by HB 517, it is difficult to comment on the overall effect such legislation could have on gun owners, gun and sporting goods stores, collectors, sportsman and general firearms enthusiasts. However, don’t be fooled into thinking such an omission is a fatal flaw to the legislation. Here again, this legislation could have a very significant impact on lawful gun owners. Contact your local state representatives and urge them to oppose this legislation! It’s up to us to protect our Second Amendment rights!