Senator Dianne Feinstein's proposed ban on military-style firearms and advocacy of other gun restrictions won praise from a Riverside County prosecutor and condemnation from the head of a gun owners' rights group.
"This could play an important part in saving lives," said veteran Deputy
District Attorney Burke Strunsky. "If you look at the specifics of the senator's legislation, it really factors in all the legitimate uses of firearms. This is not about raiding somebody's home and taking away their guns."
Strunsky, author of "The Humanity of Justice," which delves into the
various aspect of gun control, said Feinstein's proposals pick up where the now-expired 1994 national assault weapons ban left off.
"This is in line with what we've had in California since 1990," he
said. "It's needed at the federal level for consistency and to protect states
with strong gun control laws from those with weak restrictions, from which
these weapons can be transferred. There's significant upside and limited
Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Seattle-based Citizens Committee on the
Right to Keep and Bear Arms, told CNS that Feinstein and the Democratic co-
sponsors of her legislation are interested in only one thing: diluting the
right to "keep and bear arms" guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
"Whether I use a pistol or a rifle for self-protection, it's my right," Gottlieb said. "The bottom line here is preserving the right of self-defense. If you deny a person the means of self-defense, you deny them the freedom to exercise a civil right."
Under Feinstein's proposals, introduced during a news briefing today on
Capitol Hill, more than 150 guns currently legal to own in many states would be
banned outright. The senator also advocates re-implementing restrictions
included in the 1994 ban that would limit pistol and rifle magazine capacities
to 10 bullets.
A national gun registry would be the centerpiece of the "Assault
Weapons Ban of 2013," mandating that existing owners of outlawed rifles
declare them, though they would be permitted to keep them under a
"There should be a national database so we know where the assault
weapons are," Strunsky said. "That information could provide the public with
some sense of solace ... We really don't know a lot about where crime guns
originate. This could help identify straw purchasers and others who are putting
guns on the street."
Gottlieb countered that registration has only one path -- to eventual
"The anti-gun lobby's agenda is not to stop at assault rifles. Their
wish list is much longer, like every handgun sold in the United States,"
Feinstein told CBS's "60 Minutes" in 1995 that if the congressional support had been in place, she would not have stopped with the original assault weapons ban, but would have pushed for an "outright ban" on firearms, telling
"Mr. and Mrs. America, turn 'em all in."
"This is about demonizing guns and their owners, the overwhelming majority of whom are law-abiding citizens," Gottlieb told CNS.
According to Strunsky, the rhetoric on both sides of the assault weapons
debate has crowded out reason and compromise.
"Gun control advocates need to state unequivocally that they respect
the Second Amendment," the prosecutor said. "But the other side can't keep
saying that these gun deaths are a cost of freedom."
Strunsky acknowledged that massacres -- like at Sandy Hook Elementary
School in Newtown, Conn. in December, or a packed movie theater in Aurora,
Colo. last July -- are a rarity, but said they cry out for solutions.
"How could banning high-capacity magazines be harmful?" he asked.
"Does someone really need more than 10 rounds at a time to defend their
Gottlieb pointed to instances in which large-capacity rifles proved
their worth, noting how Korean merchants protected their stores against
rampaging mobs during the 1992 Los Angeles riots and how homeowners protected
their property against looters following Hurricane Andrew that same year.
"These rifles on the proposed ban list account for less than four
percent of weapons used in violent crime," he said. "What you never hear the
anti-gun lobby talk about is how many people successfully use guns for self-
defense. Since Newtown, an estimated 65,000 people have used firearms to
prevent an attack. That's a conservative estimate."
The figures are based on university studies showing that anywhere from
800,000 to 2.5 million firearms uses annually are by individuals defending
themselves, according to Gottlieb.
He expects the Feinstein proposals to stall in committee.
"The bill is too extreme and radical," he said. "All she's done is
scare people into buying record numbers of guns and ammo."
Strunsky doubted the senator's entire legislative package would see
daylight but was hopeful at least parts of it would make it out of Congress.
"If we can avoid another tragedy, it's worth it," he said.