Gun legislation of dubious constitutionality
To the Editor:
Again this session a group of progressive Democrats led by Rep. Aaron Rugenberg has introduced the so-called high capacity magazine bill (H5155). Co-sponsors include newly-elected progressive Democrats Marcia Ranglin-Vassell, Susan Donovan and Jason Knight. Progressives seem obsessed with gun control.
The bill would forbid the manufacture, sale or possession of any detachable "ammunition feeding device" that can hold more than ten rounds. Anyone in possession of such a device or components thereof including licensed firearms dealers would have 120 days after the bill is signed by the governor to remove the high capacity magazine from the state; sell it to a licensed dealer; or surrender it to a law enforcement agency for destruction.
This provision is of dubious constitutionality because it represents government-ordered confiscation of private property without compensation -a violation of the Fifth Amendment. Neighboring Connecticut and Massachusetts already have restrictions -not a ban- on high capacity magazines. Since there would be no market for these magazines dealers would not buy them and firearms dealers would have to dispose of their inventory of "hi-cap mags" without compensation.
Unexplained is why ten rounds represent "high-capacity.” Colorado decided the magic number is fifteen and New York says it is seven. In the wake of the Newtown tragedy Connecticut allowed residents owning a hi-cap mag to register it with the State Police with the proviso that they would not load more than ten rounds in them.
I suppose a terrorist or mentally ill person intent on shooting up a school, shopping mall or movie theater would not load more than ten bullets in his gun because that would be against the law.
There are technical problems with H5155 was well. It exempts a hi-cap mag that has been "permanently altered so it cannot accommodate more than 10 rounds", whatever that means. Also exempt are ".22 caliber tube ammunition feeding device[s]" which is ambiguous since there is no ".22 caliber tube ammunition" of which I am aware.
Finally, the bill exempts "A tubular magazine that is contained in a lever action firearm.” However, there are .22 caliber bolt and pump-action and semi-automatic rifles that fed by an attached tubular magazine that holds more than ten bullets. Unexplained is why only lever-action rifles would be exempt especially since there are several lever-actions holding more than ten rounds that are chambered in calibers much more powerful than .22 Long Rifle.
The penalty for violation is a felony subject to no more than ten years in prison. So an otherwise law-abiding, tax-paying citizen who keeps a high-cap mag of can be put away for ten years.
The anti-gun crowd is cleverly marketing this high-capacity magazine ban by noting that waterfowl hunters are limited to three rounds and deer hunters to five. This flawed analogy ignores the fact that the Second Amendment of the federal and Section 22 of Article I of the state Constitutions have nothing to do with hunting. The "right to bear arms" is based on a right to self defense and defense of the nation.
Richard J. August
The writer is co-host of weekly radio show “Lock, Stock and Daria” and writes frequently on Second Amendment issues.