Feinstein Assault Weapon Ban of 2021 [EXPLAINED]

by Ryan Cleckner

March 12, 2021

15 comments

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As she seems to do every year, Senator Diane Feinstein dusted-off her “assault weapon” ban bill and re-introduced it.

Normally, we roll our eyes and hope that our elected officials aren’t crazy enough to try and take away a fundamental right.

However, this year, we are particularly worried. Why?

First, the Democrats control the House, the Senate, and the Presidency so it would be fairly easy for them to ram through whatever legislation they want.

Second, anti-gun bills like the HR 8 Bipartisan Universal Background Checks Act of 2021 and HR 1446 the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021 are already making progress through the legislature.

Third, instead of just re-using the same failed attempt each year with effectively the same language from the 1996 Assault Weapon Ban, she has gone MUCH further with this latest gun-grab attempt and has made it worse.

In this overview of the 2021 Assault Weapon Ban bill, we’re going to explore what it proposes to ban and even some good news (if you can call it that) in the exemptions.

  • Assault Weapons (generally)
  • Assault Weapons Ban Bill of 2021 Introduced
  • What Firearms/Items the AWB of 2021 Bans
    • New Firearm Definitions
    • Firearms Banned by Feinsteins AWB of 2021
    • Magazines Banned
  • Other Requirements of the 2021 AWB
  • Assault Weapon Ban Exemptions
  • What you Can Do About the 2021 Assault Weapon Ban

ASSAULT WEAPONS

We don’t like the term “assault weapons.”

This isn’t just because it drives anti-gunners into a gun-hating frenzy. It’s also because the term is not accurate.

And, unlike some, we prefer to speak in facts and accurate terms.

First, the term “assault weapon” seems to give an impossible characteristic to an inanimate object. No inanimate object can assault anybody.

For example, any knife could be used to assault someone, however, the knife is not an “assault knife.” Instead, an assaulter (a person) used a tool (a knife) to assault someone. Likewise, drunk driving cars don’t exist. We have drunk drivers, who happen to use cars to injure themselves and others.

Second, if we do try to define the term “assault weapon,” we typically end up with the military definition which includes a medium-caliber fully-automatic (machine gun) rifle. Whenever an anti-gunner refers to an “assault weapon,” it is clearly not one of these.

But…. it’s the term that has stuck so we’ll use it….. begrudgingly.

During the Clinton era, we had an assault weapons ban (AWB). The ban, which sunset (expired) in the early 2000s, restricted the sale and ownership of certain rifles. Typically, these were AR-15 style rifles that had certain characteristics. So, under the federal AWB, an AR-15 could be used (same firearm/mechanism/ammo/etc.) but, the stock couldn’t collapse (somehow this made it more dangerous?) and it couldn’t have a bayonet lug (you know, to stop those drive-by bayonettings).

Some states have their own versions of AWBs and they typically include a features-based prohibition (collapsible stock, pistol grip, magazine capacity, etc.), and sometimes they also include a list of specific firearms by name.

ASSAULT WEAPON BAN OF 2021 INTRODUCED

From Senator Feinstein’s Press release: “Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Congressman David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.) today introduced the Assault Weapons Ban, an updated bill to ban the sale, transfer, manufacture and importation of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, like were used in the massacre in Dayton, Ohio, where the shooter had a 100-round magazine attached to an assault rifle.”

This assault weapons ban is very similar to prior bans, however, it goes a bit further in that it also bans certain non-firearm objects.

Senator Feinstein said, “It’s been 17 years since the original Assault Weapons Ban expired, and the plague of gun violence continues to grow in this country. To be clear, this bill saves lives. When it was in place from 1994-2004, gun massacres declined by 37 percent compared with the decade before. After the ban expired, the number of massacres rose by 183 percent. We’re now seeing a rise in domestic terrorism, and military-style assault weapons are increasingly becoming the guns of choice for these dangerous groups. I’m hopeful that with the new administration and Democratic control of the Senate, we can finally pass commonsense gun reforms to remove these deadly weapons from our communities.”

Congressman Cicilline said, “Assault weapons are designed for a single purpose – to kill as many people as possible in as short an amount of time as possible. That’s why they are the weapon of choice for mass shooters and domestic terrorists. They are weapons of war and do not belong in our communities,” said Congressman Cicilline.“Banning these weapons will make our cities and towns safer and more secure and help to reduce gun deaths.”

First, these so-called “assault weapons” are the most popular firearm in America.

Let’s assume for a second that their existence is why we have mass shootings (it’s not). If that is their belief, then why would they only ban new ones and grandfather existing ones (see below)?

The most common rifle in America is, by far, the AR-15. This bill does nothing to address the vast majority of rifles in America. Now don’t get me wrong… we’re VERY HAPPY that they aren’t going after existing rifles. We’re just pointing out the absurdity of this ban and how it won’t achieve what they’re proposing it will.

Second, and a reason why the first point is moot, “assault weapons” are not why we have mass murder. If they were, then how do you explain the Virginia Tech mass shooting, the Ft. Hood shooting, the 9/11 hijackers, the Boston Bombers, etc? These tragedies took place with the use of handguns, box cutters/airplanes, and pressure-cookers.

Banning objects will never work.

In fact, there’s a strong correlation to be made that these mass-shootings ONLY happen where guns are banned.

Also, gun violence DROPPED after the last federal assault weapon ban expired (it actually peaked during the ban) and less than 2% of firearms used in crimes are affected by this ban as a DOJ report shows.

WHAT IS BANNED BY THE ASSAULT WEAPONS BILL OF 2021?

The Assault Weapons Ban of 2021 would effectively ban all AR and AK-style rifles as we know them, magazines with a capacity over 10 rounds, semi-auto shotguns with certain features, pistols with threaded barrels (among other features), pistol braces, and much more.

The ban, in its current state, will not affect those who currently own the banned firearms/magazines. However, these firearms/magazines will no longer be allowed to be made, nor imported, except for exempted law enforcement/government purposes.

This means that the firearms/magazines that are banned by the bill will be “grandfathered.” That is, if you possessed them before the ban goes into effect, you may keep them.

The banned firearms may be sold in accordance with special rules (see below) but the magazines may not – if you don’t possess the magazines before the ban goes into effect, it will be illegal for you to purchase them after.

For the other items on the proposed ban, it is not yet clear whether they will be “grandfathered.” For example, much like the current rule-making that banned bump-fire stocks and required their destruction or surrender, the same may be true for the stock and pistol braces banned below.

NEW DEFINITIONS IN THE AWB OF 2021

The first part of the Assault Weapon Ban Bill of 2021 adds some new definitions for firearms into federal law.

If you didn’t already know, much of the nuances of laws come down to the definitions.

Because the AWB bill bans certain semiautomatic pistols and shotguns, definitions for each are to be added to 18 USC 921(a). The definitions are fairly straightforward.

The definitions that are really important are the added terms “Semiautomatic Assault Weapon” and “Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device.”

FIREARMS BANNED BY THE ASSAULT WEAPON BILL OF 2021

The AWB bill proposes to ban “assault weapons” based on a firearms features, name, and functioning. If someone lawfully possesses one of these firearms on the day this bill becomes law, they are allowed to keep them and they may even sell them.

However, all new versions of these firearms after the bill becomes law can only be imported, or made for law enforcement of government purposes.

The following would become “Assault weapons” if the bill becomes law and therefore banned:

Features-Based Firearm Ban:

  • Semi-auto rifles that can accept a detachable magazine AND which have ONE of the following:
    • Pistol grip,
    • Forward grip,
    • Folding, telescoping, or detachable stock,
    • Grenade launcher,
    • Barrel shroud, or
    • Threaded barrel
  • Semi-auto rifles with a fixed magazine capacity greater than 10 rounds (except for .22 rimfire)
  • Semi-auto pistols that accept a detachable magazine and which have ONE of the following:
    • Threaded barrel,
    • Second pistol grip,
    • Barrel shroud,
    • Ability to accept magazine outside pistol grip,
    • Semi-auto version of an automatic firearm,
    • Weight greater than 50 ounces unloaded, or
    • Stabilizing brace
  • Semi-auto shotguns without a fixed magazine that have any ONE of the following (*NOTE: it was odd to us that they used the term “without a fixed magazine” instead of “that can accept a detachable magazine”):
    • Folding, telescoping, or detachable stock,
    • Pistol grip or “bird’s head” grip,
    • Fixed magazine capacity of more than 5 rounds, (*NOTE: yes, you read that right. They just added a “fixed magazine” as a feature that would make a shotgun banned only if it doesn’t have a “fixed magazine”)
    • Ability to accept a detachable magazine,
    • forward grip, or
    • grenade launcher (*NOTE: sorry, all those semi-auto shotguns with grenade launchers are now banned)
  • Shotguns with revolving cylinders
  • Semi-auto firearms that are belt-fed

Summary: The old Clinton-era Assault Weapon ban required TWO features for a semi-auto rifle to be an “assault weapon” whereas this ban lowers that to ONE feature. This means an AR-style rifle with a pistol grip alone is banned.

Additional items of note are semi-auto pistols with threaded barrels, pistol braces (we expected that this was coming), and semi-auto shotguns with ANY “scary features,”

Banned Firearms by Style

The Assault Weapon Ban of 2021 proposes to ban a long list of rifles, pistols, and shotguns by style, and it specifically calls out many firearms by make and model. However, unlike previous bans where the firearms were only banned by name, this bill bans:

  • All of the following rifles, copies, duplicates, variants, or altered facsimiles with the capability of any such weapon thereof

This means that a name-change or minor feature change alone is not enough. If a firearm is not on the list but it is a variant with the same capability, it will also be banned.

The list, which starts on page 4 of the bill, includes:

Rifles such as: AK-style rifles, AR-style rifles, as well as other similarly purposed rifles like the IWI Tavor, and the Ruger Mini14. It also includes much bigger rifles, by name, like the Barrett M107.

Pistols such as: AK-style pistols and AR-style pistols.

Shotguns such as: Saiga shotguns, Striker 12, and Franchi SPAS 12

Banned Firearm Parts

The bill proposes to ban parts that will increase a firearms rate of fire.

This includes things like bump-fire stocks (which are already banned… thanks to the NRA and Trump) and trigger cranks. However, it invites the question: does a better trigger increase a firearms rate of fire?

MAGAZINES BANNED BY THE FEINSTEIN ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN BILL OF 2021

Another definition added by Feinstein’s Bill is “large capacity ammunition feeding device.” These “high-capacity” magazines, that we call standard-capacity magazines, will be banned on the day this becomes law. If you already possess one of these magazines when the bill becomes law, you may legally keep them. However, unlike the firearms above, there are no sales of these allowed after (if) the bill becomes law.

A “large capacity ammunition feeding devices” is:

“a magazine, belt, drum, feed strip, or similar device, including any such device joined or coupled with another in any manner, that has an overall capacity of, or that can be readily restored, changed, or converted to accept, more than 10 rounds of ammunition”

The definition does NOT include attached tubular magazines for .22 rimfire.

OTHER REQUIREMENTS OF THE AWB 2021

Among banning many objects, the Assault Weapons Ban of 2021 also adds a new requirement, and provisions.

The AWB 2021 will require that these newly defined “assault weapons” be stored using a safety device, such as a trigger lock, or secure gun storage. The bill specifically defines that “stored” refers to any time a firearm is not in the direct control of the possessor, or in the immediate vicinity where it could readily be in the direct control of the possessor. Effectively, you walk away from it and it has to be stored properly.

All “assault weapons” made after this bill becomes law will need to have the date of manufacture engraved into the receiver of the firearm. All “large capacity ammunition feeding devices” made after this bill becomes law will also need markings engraved or stamped AND a serial number.

EXEMPTIONS TO THE ASSAULT WEAPONS BILL

Feinstein’s Assault Weapons Ban exempts more than 2,200 firearms by name and it includes a grandfather clause that exempts all current owners (those that owned prior to the bill taking effect) of the banned firearms/magazines.

Also, FFLs are exempt from the ban on these firearms as they can still buy, possess, make, and sell “assault weapons” to law enforcement. If you’re thinking about getting your FFL, you should consider starting the process to getting your FFL now so that you can get it in time.

An FFL costs less than you think and you can even run your FFL business from your home.

In addition to being exempt from gun-control legislation like this, you can also have access to other firearms you wouldn’t normally be able to have (or make) like full-auto machine guns.

If this sounds good to you, check out RocketFFL’s How to Get Your FFL Course, which guides you through everything you need to know to get your FFL the right way.

If you’re wondering why I recommend that course, it’s because I’m the teacher. ????

WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT THE AWB 2021

First and foremost, be an advocate against gun control.

Call and write your representatives explaining how this ban won’t accomplish what it intends to and it will only infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens.

Also, please consider supporting advocacy groups. As of today, this also means supporting the Firearms Policy Coalition.

I will not be giving any support or money to the NRA until they make some SERIOUS changes to their organization. In my opinion, they are directly responsible for the current ban on bump-fire stocks and they are not demonstrating advocacy for Second Amendment rights.

The NRA, after taking serious criticism for supporting gun control by rule-making, explained that they were playing chess and not checkers, and stated that they supported gun control as a compromise to avoid another “assault weapons” ban. I was a strong voice against this at the time, explaining that their stance was absurd.

The NRA could never get the Democrats to agree not to introduce an assault weapons ban in exchange for rolling over on bump-fire stocks.

They can introduce a ban whenever they like… and they just did.

In addition to fighting this, and getting your FFL to be exempt from the weapons ban, you might want to stock up on some of these items now – if this bill takes effect, you won’t be able to get them later.

Here’s a collection of deals we found for you:

Rifles: Deals on rifles covered by this proposed ban: herehere, and here.

Magazines: We’ve found good deals for you on magazines here and here. We’ve also organized our list of the Best AR-15 magazines for you.

Other Parts: It’s not clear whether pistol bracesfolding stocks, nor bump-stocks will be grandfathered.

ASSAULT WEAPON BAN FAQ

Q: What is an “Assault Weapon?”

A: Technically, there is no such thing as an “assault weapon.” However, the term “assault weapon” is often used to refer to AR and AK-style rifles.

Q: What Guns are Banned by the 2021 Assault Weapon Ban Bill?

A: The assault weapon ban bill of 2021 bans AR and AK-style rifles, certain semi-auto handguns and shotguns, and accessories like pistol braces.

Q: Does the Assault Weapon Ban include Gun Confiscation or “Buybacks”?

A: No, the assault weapon ban bill does not contain provisions for confiscations or “buybacks.” Instead, all firearms that would be banned by the bill but are lawfully possessed if/when the bill becomes a law will be “grandfathered.”

Q: Will “High Capacity Magazines” be banned by the Assault Weapon Ban of 2021?

A: Yes, magazines with a capacity of over 10 rounds of ammunition (sometimes called “high capacity magazines”) will be banned. Currently owned magazines will be allowed to be kept but not sold or purchased.

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About Ryan Cleckner

Ryan is a former special operations sniper (1/75 Ranger) and current firearms attorney, firearms industry executive, university lecturer, and bestselling author of the Long Range Shooting Handbook.

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15 COMMENTS

  1. I wish both sides will come together and try to find a solution, it seem that the left goes more to the left and the right goes even more to the right, its unfortunate what is happening here with the proposed law, this one seems a bit confusing (I haven’t read it just reading your articule), I read the Florida proposing law back in 2018 and it was clear to me, even when I am not a lawyer, that was a clear ban on assault rifles, I am not a friend of the NRA also, I saw some radical commercial campaning from the NRA and I found it less than tastfull and divisive, I am an gun owner, but I get that we having a big issue here, I should participate in your post cast Ryan one day to express the middle (with some Bias) ground Lol

  2. Thanks for getting quality, informed information out in such a timely manner. Without the full proposed text, it’s hard to say much for sure, but I appreciate you writing from facts rather than speculation.

    I’m curious, was the 1994 AWB ever challenged in court?

    1. The 1994 AWB was challenged as a violation of the Commerce Clause, not the Second Amendment. It was upheld as a valid act of Congressional authority.

  3. The NRA sold out the NFA guys back in the eighties so it is not a reach to think they would sell out other segments of the gun culture for for something their patrons considered a bigger win.

  4. It should be noted that this AWB is far more extreme than the ‘94 ban. The language as presented in Feinstein’s announcement would define a Thompson Center Compass bolt action rifle as an assault weapon. It has a detachable magazine and one of the “military style features”; it has a threaded barrel to accept a suppressor. So a basic deer rifle is now deemed an “assault weapon” because of that. Nevermind that you need a stamp and background check from the feds for the can.

    That said, the NRA and other gun lobbyists along with their supporters got us into this. I’m not one for compromise, but if you don’t offer up viable solutions to a problem, then someone is gonna fix it for you. And you aren’t going to like their solution. It has effectively been analogous to sticking one’s fingers in their ears and screaming “I can’t hear you!” Worse yet, a number of measures far more restrictive are being introduced at the state level across the country. Things are about to get dicey.

  5. I’m truly in discuss about how all this Constitutional end run is progressing ! The Constitution written by the State or by the Founding Fathers is as it is, Period !! The Supreme Court ruled already that the 2nd amendment and other amendments are as they stand.
    The Socialist Left is nibbling away little by little and the sheep are falling for it !
    IF all this make their own rules are Illegal how can any of these Bills even be brought up for discussion? Is the Constitution not the Constitution ????
    I understand that all the laws being broken are being fought as legal as possible and as peaceful as possible but as simple examples, If you drive under the influence, run a red light, or shoplift then as written by law you are arrested.
    Knowing that many more people are killed by means other that a firearm and the Socialist Left wants our guns is just saying that the sooner the people are disarmed the faster the DEM elite can make begging dogs out of us all.
    With all the so called intellectuals in this country falling for this Constitutional law breaking I really wish that they would read deeply about true Socialism and what freedoms they will lose.
    None of this crap that it would be different here !!
    To Ryan Cleckner: Do we follow the Constitution, Is this still the United States of America ???
    YES I do write my representatives, BOTH State and US.

  6. Thank you for taking the time to write this. Like you I hate arguments based on falsehood. I have little hope this issue will ever be resolved. For that to happen we would have to agree to at least be honest with one another and to re-examine engrained false beliefs. For me it’s simple. The Constitution and BIll of Rights define our American citizenship. Without them we’re subjects, not citizens. Opportunistic politicians and big government will always attempt to reinterpret the Constitution to concentrate power at their level and take it away from ours. This is just another attempt to do that. Gun control has never ever been about public safety. It has always been and always will be about power and control. Once we understand and admit that basic truth we can start to look for solutions that might really work instead of taking shots at low hanging fruit that has nothing to do with the preservation of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

  7. there is not one weaopn clasified as an ASSAULT weapon, it is a definition of weaopns made up be the media and the liberals. just cuz a weapon looks scary it is STILL a semi auto, meaning only ONE BULLET will be fired at a time when the trigger is pulled.so in the court of law this bill could be beaten due to the fact their is NO SUCH CLASSIFICATION AS AN ASSAULT WEAPON

    1. The only definition I have ever saw that designated an assault rifle was this:
      The U.S. Army defines assault rifles as “short, compact, selective-fire weapons that fire a cartridge intermediate in power between submachine gun and rifle cartridges.” In this strict definition, a firearm must have at least the following characteristics to be considered an assault rifle:
      It must be capable of selective fire.
      It must have an intermediate-power cartridge: more power than a pistol but less than a standard rifle or battle rifle, examples of intermediate cartridges are the 7.92×33mm Kurz, the 7.62x39mm and 5.56×45mm NATO.
      Its ammunition must be supplied from a detachable box magazine.
      It must have an effective range of at least 300 metres (330 yards).
      Rifles that meet most of these criteria, but not all, are technically not assault rifles.

      For example:

      Select-fire M2 Carbines are not assault rifles; their effective range is only 180 metres (200 yd).
      Select-fire rifles such as the FN FAL, M14, and H&K G3 main battle rifles are not assault rifles; they fire full-powered rifle cartridges.
      Semi-automatic-only rifles like the Colt AR-15 are not assault rifles; they do not have select-fire capabilities.
      Semi-automatic-only rifles with fixed magazines like the SKS are not assault rifles; they do not have detachable box magazines and are not capable of automatic fire.

      Origin of the term:
      The term assault rifle is generally attributed to Adolf Hitler, who, for propaganda purposes, used the German word Sturmgewehr (which translates to “assault rifle”) as the new name for the MP 43, subsequently known as the Sturmgewehr 44. The StG 44 is generally considered the first selective fire military rifle to popularize the assault rifle concept.

    1. As a general rule, anything above HR 1-10 is not a real legislative priority for a new party in power.

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