Shooting Sports News

High-Capacity Magazine Ban Blocked by Filibuster in Washington


In a move heralding some good news for firearm owners who still want to purchase “high-capacity” magazines (a controversial term with a somewhat shifting definition), a GOP filibuster has temporarily blocked consideration of the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, S. 3414, leaving opponents and proponents of the bill equally convinced that its likelihood of returning this year is minimal.

The Cybersecurity Act was a hotly contested bill throughout its creation, as it original intent was to “create mechanisms for sharing cyberthreat information between government and businesses, and would set voluntary cybersecurity standards for companies that run critical infrastructure such as power grids,” according to the Wall Street Journal. However, the first portion of that description has had civil rights groups up in arms with concerns over exactly what information the government might feel the need to collect and what the government could define as a so-called “threat.” Many, such as Mark Jaycox of the Guardian, noted that the bill “granted new powers to spy on users…and to claim broad legal immunity for their actions.” The ACLU has applauded the vocal opposition to the bill in the Senate, which has been stalled after the vote fell just shy of the necessary 60 votes required to send it through to a full vote (52 in favor, 46 opposed), though the organization remains wary of the bill’s future.

Why, beyond these noted debates, should such a bill concern target shooters? It’s because of a common legislative phenomenon: congressmen and women have been proposing amendments to the bill that step beyond the legislation’s original scope (Outdoor Hub Reporters reported the introduction of the amendment last week here). The amendment in question, S.A. 2575, was introduced by Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey (with numerous co-sponsors) while the cybersecurity bill was in the House of Representatives, and S.A. 2575 was plain in its purpose — to ban future sales of high-capacity magazines:

Except as provided in clause (ii), it shall be unlawful for a person to transfer or possess a large capacity ammunition feeding device. Clause (i) shall not apply to the possession of a large capacity ammunition feeding device otherwise lawfully possessed within the United States on or before the date of the enactment of this subsection.

Obviously, this ban would not apply retroactively, meaning, as the language states, that any currently owned high-capacity magazines would remain legal. A “high-capacity magazine” is defined in this amendment as “…a magazine, belt, drum, feed strip, or similar device that has a capacity of, or that can be readily restored or converted to accept, more than 10 rounds of ammunition.”

The amendment was a seemingly a lateral move away from the point of the Cybersecurity Act, which had been introduced in February but only recently opened to amendments, leading many to believe S.A. 2575 to be an attempt to force gun control legislation through Congress at the most opportune moment available. Senators who support the amendment, however, have been extremely careful in stressing that they do not want to “ban guns” or violate the Second Amendment. Rather, they have stated they are looking for “reasonable” gun control measures. Senator Chuck Schumer of California explained the point of the amendment this way:

We can debate where to draw the line of reasonableness, but we might be able to come to an agreement in the middle. Maybe, maybe, maybe we can pass some laws that might, might, might stop some of the unnecessary casualties … maybe there’s a way we can some together and try to break through the log jam and make sure the country is a better place.

User “NeedsABetterName” from, meanwhile, summed up a common community viewpoint on S.A. 2575’s introduction:

…why, tell me, is [Lautenberg] attempting to hide his little present in a bill on an entirely different subject? Riders are done for two reasons:

1. To pass a piece of legislation that would likely fail or be damaging politically if it were presented on its own
2. To slow or delay the passage of another bill by making it untenable for its supporters

I’m not seeing courage here. Shrewd political sense, possibly, but courage? No, he’s attempting to hide his proposal.

For now the bill is in legislative limbo, and most pundits and politicians seem to agree that the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 won’t come back up to a vote again until at least 2013.

Photo from user ROG5728 from the Wikimedia Commons

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