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President Joe Biden wishes Congress to ban “assault weapons,” and so does David Chipman, his nominee to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). But neither Biden nor Chipman will say what that term means, and their obfuscation makes it unattainable to take their notion significantly.
Chipman, who labored as an ATF special agent for 25 years and later served as a senior coverage adviser to the gun manage neighborhood Giffords, turned into many times asked to outline assault weapon all through his Senate confirmation hearing remaining month, and he time and again dodged the query. Given Chipman’s long event as both an ATF agent and a gun handle advocate, his evasiveness cannot plausibly be ascribed to an absence of training or potential. Instead it seems to be an intentional strategy designed to keep away from exposing the illogic of focused on firearms in line with their “defense force-trend” appearance.
“I have an easy question for you,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R–Ark.) noted. “what is an assault weapon?”
Chipman’s reply not most effective turned into now not basic; it changed into no longer basically a solution at all. “An assault weapon can be, within the context of the query you asked, whatever Congress defines it as,” he advised Cotton. That lots is right: The “assault weapon” legal category become invented by means of politicians, who define it despite the fact they need. But “in the context of the query” that Cotton asked—the scope of the federal ban that Biden and Chipman support—that remark clarified nothing. The senator wanted to grasp which firearms Chipman thinks Congress should ban, and the nominee replied that Congress would must make that resolution.
“you are asking us to ban assault weapons,” Cotton stated. “We ought to write legislations. Are you able to inform me what’s an assault weapon? How would you define it in case you were the head of the ATF? How have you ever defined it over the ultimate several years [in] your position as a gun handle suggest?”
Chipman tried a unique avert, referring to an ATF requirement that federally licensed gun dealers close the southern border document varied earnings of definite rifles. “That software,” he talked about, “has defined an assault rifle as any semi-computerized rifle able to accepting a detachable journal” that holds ammunition “above the .22 caliber, which might consist of the .223, which is largely the AR-15 circular.”
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That definition is plenty broader than those used in the 1994 federal “assault weapon” ban, which expired in 2004; the brand new, supposedly improved version backed through Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D–Calif.); and state bans reminiscent of California’s, which a federal judge lately deemed unconstitutional. Whereas those laws do not discuss with caliber, they listing forbidden facets akin to folding stocks, pistol grips, barrel shrouds, and flash suppressors.