By Tom Rhodes, 1/31/2013
The is good reasoning to think that the proposed ban on modern sporting rifles, mis-named "assault weapons," will not meet constitutional muster. Modern sporting rifles, shooting relatively low powered .223 caliber rounds, including Armalite's Model 15 rifle and other manufactures versions are not assault weapons, they do not use high powered rounds, do not shoot automatically, and Homeland Defense considers them to be "personal defense weapons." That said, Feinstein's proposed ban of AR-15 and similar weapons if passed will probably be defeated on constitutional grounds.
The right to arms is a pre-existing right that our constitution declares the government shall not infringe. In the Miller case, the SCOTUS decision justified limitations on some weapons, specifically sawed off shotguns, because the sawed-off shotgun served no military purpose and was not in common use. The SCOTUS declared that the sorts of weapons protected were those "in common use at the time." The AR-15 is in common use by our police departments and the people, and the full automatic version the M16 and its variants are the common weapon of our military at this time.
The Heller decision, the SCOTUS overturned the District of Columbia's ban on handguns, noting that are overwhelmingly chosen by American society for the lawful purpose of self-defense. "The enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table. These include the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home."
In addition to a detachable magazine, the following features are what Feinstein says make a rifle an "assault weapon:" threaded barrel, barrel shroud, folding stock, telescopic stock, thumbhole stock, pistol grip, flash suppressor, etc. None of these features changes the performance or ability of the rifle, all they do is subjectively make the rifle more comfortable for the user. How does any of these features make a rifle more dangerous? What of these features overwhelming chosen by Americans and in common use today grants the government the authority to restrict their ownership? Even the liberal members of the SCOTUS are logical people, the so called assault weapons ban proposed by Senator Feinstein even if passed will not survive legal challenges.
Traditionalists my not like the look of modern sporting weapons, but like the bolt action hunting rifle so popular today was based on military assault weapons of WWI and WWII, the AR-15 style modern sporting rifle is what a modern rifle looks like. The M1 was a popular civilian rifle after WWII. Springfield's M1A civilian variant of the Korean War M14 is popular today. Today shooters use semi-automatic civilian version of the military's M16, for recreation, hunting, and self defense. Civilian rifles do not have the same capabilities that the military versions have, period.
Nearly 5 million modern sporting rifles have been sold in the past 20 years, and current manufactures aren't accepting new orders because they have more than a one year back log. Obviously the modern sporting rifle is in common use at this time. The data is clear AR-15 style weapons meet both the SCOTUS Miller and Heller decisions, they are "overwhelmingly chosen by American society" and "in common use at the time."
All Supreme Court of the United States rulings to date make it clear that banning modern sporting rifles is clearly unconstitutional.