Mind you, the law does not actually ban possession of the newly redefined “assault weapons,” which current owners may keep if they register them. Likewise, despite Cuomo’s complaints about “large-capacity ammunition feeding devices” that were grandfathered under the old law, the new law allows possession of magazines holding eight, nine, or 10 rounds by people who currently own them. With millions of those in circulation, it may be years before the new limit has an impact on the magazines available to mass murderers and other criminals, assuming it ever does. Still, why add a day or two to the time it will take to reach that goal? Who could possibly favor such an unconscionable delay, when the lives of our children are endangered by every second that passes without a new gun law? Only someone who is old-fashioned enough to believe that legislators should read a bill, and maybe even consider its merits, before approving it.
As one indication of how well understood this legislation is, a report on it in today’s national edition of The New York Times claims “the expanded assault weapons ban would bar semiautomatic weapons that have a single additional feature to increase their deadliness.” Here is the list of additional features for rifles (updated to reflect the final text): 1) a folding or telescoping stock, 2) a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon, 3) a thumbhole stock, 4) a second handgrip or a protruding grip that can be held by the non-trigger hand, 5) a bayonet mount, 6) a flash suppressor, muzzle break, muzzle compensator, or threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor, muzzle break, or muzzle compensator, or 7) a grenade launcher. Exactly how, you may wonder, does a flash suppressor, a folding stock, or a bayonet mount make a rifle more deadly in the hands of a mass murderer? Perhaps implicitly acknowledging this misconception, which is crucial to the appeal of “assault weapon” bans, someone at the Times removed that claim from the online version of the story (although there is no correction note at the bottom). Yet every legislator who voted for this law mistakenly believes (or at least pretends to believe) what the Times mistakenly reported: that there is something uniquely dangerous about these firearms.