Why Biden’s proposal to classify semi-automatic rifles and magazines holding more than 10 rounds as Class III weapons depends on whether Democrats take control of the Senate

Nov 28, 2020 | Featured

Joe Biden wants to make it more costly for people to own guns (the above information is from his campaign website). There are the costs of background checks that he supports ($125 in DC, $125 to $200 in NYC, as low as $55 in Oregon). But suppose he successfully classifies semi-automatic rifles and magazines holding over ten rounds as Class III weapons. In that case, he will make people have to pay $200 tax on them and register them with the federal government. You start adding these different fees up, and you create significant disincentives for people owning guns.

Politifact claims that the $200 per gun fee isn’t a “new tax” because the law is that Biden is using is already in place. “Biden has not called for a new tax on firearms.. . . He has proposed applying an existing federal law on machine guns to assault weapons, including semi-automatic firearms — and high-capacity magazines. That existing law includes a $200 tax. . . .” If the unwillingness to call a tax a tax doesn’t show the political bias of fact-checkers at places such as Politifact, it isn’t clear what would show their bias.

Politifact acknowledges that Biden’s proposal might include all semi-automatic firearms, including most privately owned guns in the United States.

There’s also a question of how a Biden administration would define “assault weapons” — and whether it would include all semi-automatic firearms, as the post says. A Biden campaign spokesperson told us that the precise definition of “assault weapon” would be worked out during the legislative process.

Daniel Funke, “Does Joe Biden’s plan tax semi-automatic firearms?” Politifact, November 1, 2020

At least if one goes strictly by the National Firearms Act, the law lists explicitly out the types of weapons that it covers, and semi-automatic rifles that are over 26 inches long and have barrels that are at least 16 inches long aren’t covered. Here is the relevant text:

(a) Firearm. The term ‘firearm’ means (1) a shotgun having a barrel or barrels of less than 18 inches in length; (2) a weapon made from a shotgun if such weapon as modified has an overall length of less than 26 inches or a barrel or barrels of less than 18 inches in length; (3) a rifle having a barrel or barrels of less than 16 inches in length; (4) a weapon made from a rifle if such weapon as modified has an overall length of less than 26 inches or a barrel or barrels of less than 16 inches in length; (5) any other weapon, as defined in subsection (e); (6) a machinegun; (7) any silencer (as defined in section 921 of title 18, United States Code); and (8) a destructive device. The term ‘firearm’ shall not include an antique firearm or any device (other than a machinegun or destructive device) which, although designed as a weapon, the Secretary finds by reason of the date of its manufacture, value, design, and other characteristics is primarily a collector’s item and is not likely to be used as a weapon.

(b) Machinegun. The term ‘machinegun’ means any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger. The term shall also include the frame or receiver of any such weapon, any part designed and intended solely and exclusively, or combination of parts designed and intended, for use in converting a weapon into a machinegun, and any combination of parts from which a machinegun can be assembled if such parts are in the possession or under the control of a person. . . .

National Firearms Act, 26 U.S.C. Chapter 53, APPENDIX A

Who knows how the very liberal DC Circuit Court would decide with its 7 to 4 liberal majority, but for Biden’s plan to get put in place, it appears that he couldn’t just do it through executive orders. Whether he can pass legislation to do this would depend on whether Democrats control both the House and Senate. Democrats control the House, but the Georgia Senate races in January will determine whether the Democrats control the Senate.

Nikki Goeser

1 Comment

  1. Ron Hollowell

    “The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.”