Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Saturday

February 9, 2013

Fact Check: Weapons ban exemptions?

TheTeaParty.net falsely claims in an e-mail that Sen. Dianne Feinstein's proposed assault weapons ban would exempt "all government officials" from the ban. While the bill would exempt military and law enforcement officials, it would not exempt legislators or administrative staff.

The e-mail further misrepresents the proposed bill, claiming that "she (Feinstein) wants to take your handguns, rifles and other weapons away from you." In fact, the proposal would grandfather in all of the existing weapons owned by Americans, so no weapons will be "taken away" from anyone.

Feinstein, a Democratic from California, and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, a Democrat from New York, unveiled their proposed legislation at a press conference Jan. 24. The bill, called the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013, seeks to reinstate and expand on the 1994 assault weapons ban, which was allowed to expire in 2004.

According to an e-mail blast from TheTeaParty.net, under the Feinstein-McCarthy proposal, "We are not all equal under the law."

TheTeaParty.net email, Jan. 30: It is bad enough that Democrat Senator Diane Feinstein (CA) has proposed a national attack on our gun rights. Today, it has been revealed that although she wants to take your handguns, rifles and other weapons away from you, she wants to exempt all government officials from her proposed gun ban! If you needed any more evidence that in our government officials eyes we are beneath them in stature and should bow down before them in reverence, then this is it. Their message is 'guns are bad for you, but they are good for us'. Their message is 'we are entitled to protect ourselves and our families with firearms if necessary, but you cannot'.

"The message that Senator Feinstein and all who support her bill are sending is that their lives, families, and property are valuable and worth defending; yours, however, is not."

The claim appears to originate with reporting from the Huffington Post and the Washington Times. Both vaguely referred to "government officials" being exempt from the ban, without explaining which government officials. That reporting was then worked into headlines by Fox News, the Weekly Standard and numerous conservative blogs.

TheTeaParty.net takes the claim one step further, though, asserting that the Feinstein proposal would exempt "all government officials." The law spells out a number of exemptions, but none of them include a blanket exception for "all government officials."

According to the bill, those exempted from the prohibition against having an assault weapon or large-capacity ammunition magazine would include "a qualified law enforcement officer" (whether on or off duty, and sometimes even if retired), "a campus law enforcement officer for purposes of law enforcement" (whether on or off duty), as well as those transporting nuclear material.

The bill also would exempt "the United States or a department or agency of the United States or a State or a department, agency, or political subdivision of a State." Officials in Feinstein's and McCarthy's offices say that phrase refers to the military. Nearly identical language was included in the 1994 assault weapons ban, which was enacted as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. (See Title XI, Sec. 110102) 1994: Paragraph (1) shall not apply to — (A) the manufacture for, transfer to, or possession by the United States or a department or agency of the United States or a State or a department, agency, or political subdivision of a State, or a transfer to or possession by a law enforcement officer employed by such an entity for purposes of law enforcement (whether on or off duty); 2013: Paragraph (1) shall not apply to — (A) the importation for, manufacture for, sale to, transfer to, or possession by the United States or a department or agency of the United States or a State or a department, agency, or political subdivision of a State, or a sale or transfer to or possession by a qualified law enforcement officer employed by the United States or a department or agency of the United States or a State or a department, agency, or political subdivision of a State, for purposes of law enforcement (whether on or off duty), or a sale or transfer to or possession by a campus law enforcement officer for purposes of law enforcement (whether on or off duty).

We asked Shams Tarek, a spokesman for McCarthy, if the proposed law exempts government officials.

"If by government officials you mean law enforcement and military, then yes," Tarek said. "But absolutely not if you mean lawmakers or administrative staffs "¦ Just soldiers and cops."

One other point, TheTeaParty.net email claims that "she (Feinstein) wants to take your handguns, rifles and other weapons away from you." In fact, the proposal would grandfather in all of the existing weapons owned by Americans, so no weapons will be "taken away" from anyone.

The law clearly states that the prohibition against the import, sale, manufacture, transfer or possession of assault weapons "shall not apply" to "any semi-automatic assault weapon otherwise lawfully possessed under Federal law on the date of enactment of the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013."

By Robert Farley for FactCheck.org

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