During a nationally televised interview with controversial CNN host Brooke Baldwin, Florida State Representative Matt Caldwell attempted to explain the reasons for his vote against House Bill 219, which purports to be a ban on so-called “assault weapons.” After Caldwell politely told Baldwin that the bill would actually ban “nearly all guns,” Baldwin couldn’t help herself, immediately scoffing at his explanation – she literally winces on screen, seemingly flabbergasted that Caldwell would say something so outrageous.
“I’m sorry, what do you mean by ‘nearly all guns?'” she interrupts.
After Caldwell explains that “assault weapons” are broadly defined in the bill, he tells her, “Essentially all guns would be banned by that bill.”
By this point, Baldwin is now beside herself, and can’t hide her scorn.
“So this is your interpretation,” Baldwin says, her voice dripping with sarcasm. “Okay.”
Caldwell, now realizing he’s dealing with a hostile host, begins to push back. “No, it’s not an interpretation. It’s very obvious and I encourage anybody to pull it up…you can see what the definition is in the bill that was proposed.”
Clearly, Baldwin herself hasn’t read the bill, or if she has, she doesn’t understand it, because even a cursory understanding of modern modular firearms would reveal that it targets the vast majority of guns being sold today.
He doesn’t need any help but since Mediate is picking on Caldwell, let’s break HB 192 down one section at a time.
The first definition in the bill isn’t all that controversial, because it merely describes military-grade weapons systems with selective fire capabilities. But it’s important to note that fully automatic firing mode is generally prohibited under Florida law. More on that later. Here’s the actual text:
(a)1. “Assault weapon” means any selective-fire firearm capable of fully automatic, semiautomatic or burst fire at the option of the user or any of the following specified semiautomatic firearms:
But then the bill goes on to ban:
…any of the following specified semiautomatic firearms:
The list that follows includes the neatly worded phrase “including but not limited to…” and then lists 97 different types of firearms, some of which are already banned under Florida law, while others get the ban-hammer for nothing more than cosmetic reasons, like the “Ruger Mini-14 with folding stock,” even though the Ruger Mini-14 with a normal stock isn’t explicitly mentioned. So is it banned, too? The bill said, “not limited to….”
But never mind the vague wording. Let’s skip ahead. To do that, you have to go through the next five pages listing banned firearms, until we get to the top of page 6 of the bill:
Section 4 talks about parts or combinations of parts that can be used to convert semiautomatic weapons into automatic weapons. Of course, Florida law already prohibits any weapon that already is, or can be made ready as a machine gun or automatic weapon. Again, GOP lawmakers don’t seem to have a problem with that since it’s been enshrined in state law for years.
Section 5 is where things start to get interesting. It would ban:
Any semiautomatic firearm not listed in subparagraphs 1-4. that meets the following criteria:
And then it goes on to ban a number of mostly cosmetic features used in concert with detachable magazines, such as a folding or telescoping stock, a pistol grip or “thumbhole” stock, a bayonet mount, a grenade launcher, a threaded barrel that can be used to attach flash suppressors, silencers, or a forward hand grip, pistols with magazines that attach anywhere outside of the pistol grip, a fixed magazine in excess of 5 rounds, and more.
And then there are the really vague features that are banned, such as shotguns that hold more than five shells, which would instantly ban a wide range of popular hunting shotguns. Or:
Any feature capable of functioning as a protruding grip that can be held by the non-trigger hand;
And if you’re still not satisfied that the bill would ban most of the popular firearms selling today, the bill also bans a safety feature that is common on many types of rifles, shotguns and handguns:
A shroud attached to the barrel, or that partially or completely encircles the barrel allowing the bearer to hold the firearm with the non-trigger hand without being burned, but excluding a slide that encloses the barrel;
What? Perhaps the bill sponsors don’t know what a barrel shroud is?
Also, don’t get too excited about the listed exceptions to the barrel shroud ban for “slides that enclose the barrel,” because just a few lines later, that is also banned, too:
A slide that encloses the barrel and that permits the shooter to hold the firearm with the non-trigger hand without being burned;
So there you have it. The bill basically bans virtually every popular firearm and / or their safety features because they make the guns look sinister.
And if after all that, you’re still not convinced, the bill defines “high-capacity magazines” as anything that holds more than seven rounds of ammunition, and bans the sale or transfer of such magazines. This affects most modern pistols, shotguns, and rifles, even if it doesn’t ban the guns themselves.
Can Florida lawmakers make some changes to Florida gun laws that might help reduce the likelihood of another mass casualty event at a Florida school? Who knows? New York passed a so-called assault weapons ban a few years ago, but that didn’t stop a doctor from buying a perfectly legal rifle and using it to murder or wound a half-dozen coworkers at the hospital where he worked.
But it did result in the bewilderment of the New York Times and other media outlets that openly wondered how this doctor managed to purchase a perfectly legal “assault rifle” even though the state had an “assault weapons ban” in place:
The transaction appeared to have been legal despite New York’s SAFE Act, which Gov. Cuomo touted as the toughest gun control law in the nation. The 2013 law banned an array of accessories for assault-style rifles, as well as certain models of firearms.
The explanation for how this could happen is quite simple, actually: there’s no strict definition of an “assault weapon” and it turns out the lack of cosmetic features banned by liberal lawmakers won’t really matter all that much when a determined maniac decides he wants to kill people.
We’ve learned over the past two decades that just about anything can be turned into a weapon of mass destruction, including: cars, airplanes, common household chemicals, knives, and of course, guns. Banning cosmetic features on firearms isn’t going to matter much when some people in our society don’t value human life.