Sen. Dianne Feinstein's proposed ban on military-style firearms and advocacy of other gun restrictions won praise Thursday from a Riverside County prosecutor and condemnation from the head of a gun owners' rights group.
"This could play an important part in saving lives," veteran Deputy District Attorney Burke Strunsky told City News Service. "If you look at the specifics of the senator's legislation, it really factors in all the legitimate uses of firearms. This is not about raiding somebody's home and taking away their guns."
Strunsky, author of "The Humanity of Justice," which delves into the various aspect of gun control, said Feinstein's proposals pick up where the now-expired 1994 national assault weapons ban left off.
"This is in line with what we've had in California since 1990," he said. "It's needed at the federal level for consistency and to protect states with strong gun control laws from those with weak restrictions, from which these weapons can be transferred. There's significant upside and limited downside."
Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Seattle-based Citizens Committee on the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, told CNS that Feinstein and the Democratic co-sponsors of her legislation are interested in only one thing: diluting the right to "keep and bear arms" guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
"Whether I use a pistol or a rifle for self-protection, it's my right," Gottlieb said. "The bottom line here is preserving the right of self- defense. If you deny a person the means of self-defense, you deny them the freedom to exercise a civil right."
Under Feinstein's proposals, introduced during a news briefing Thursday on Capitol Hill, more than 150 guns currently legal to own in many states would be banned outright. The senator also advocates re-implementing restrictions included in the 1994 ban that would limit pistol and rifle magazine capacities to 10 bullets.
A national gun registry would be the centerpiece of the "Assault Weapons Ban of 2013," mandating that existing owners of outlawed rifles declare them, though they would be permitted to keep them under a "grandfather" clause.
"There should be a national database so we know where the assault weapons are," Strunsky said. "That information could provide the public with some sense of solace ... We really don't know a lot about where crime guns originate. This could help identify straw purchasers and others who are putting guns on the street."
Gottlieb countered that registration has only one path -- to eventual confiscation.
"The anti-gun lobby's agenda is not to stop at assault rifles. Their wish list is much longer, like every handgun sold in the United States," Gottlieb said.
Feinstein told CBS's "60 Minutes" in 1995 that if the congressional support had been in place, she would not have stopped with the original assault weapons ban, but would have pushed for an "outright ban" on firearms, telling "Mr. and Mrs. America, turn 'em all in."
"This is about demonizing guns and their owners, the overwhelming majority of whom are law-abiding citizens," Gottlieb told CNS.
According to Strunsky, the rhetoric on both sides of the assault weapons debate has crowded out reason and compromise.
"Gun control advocates need to state unequivocally that they respect the Second Amendment," the prosecutor said. "But the other side can't keep saying that these gun deaths are a cost of freedom."
Strunsky acknowledged that massacres -- like at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. in December, or a packed movie theater in Aurora, Colo. last July -- are a rarity, but said they cry out for solutions.
"How could banning high-capacity magazines be harmful?" he asked. "Does someone really need more than 10 rounds at a time to defend their house?"
Gottlieb pointed to instances in which large-capacity rifles proved their worth, noting how Korean merchants protected their stores against rampaging mobs during the 1992 Los Angeles riots and how homeowners protected their property against looters following Hurricane Andrew that same year.
"These rifles on the proposed ban list account for less than four percent of weapons used in violent crime," he said. "What you never hear the anti-gun lobby talk about is how many people successfully use guns for self- defense. Since Newtown, an estimated 65,000 people have used firearms to prevent an attack. That's a conservative estimate."
The figures are based on university studies showing that anywhere from 800,000 to 2.5 million firearms uses annually are by individuals defending themselves, according to Gottlieb.
He expects the Feinstein proposals to stall in committee.
"The bill is too extreme and radical," he said. "All she's done is scare people into buying record numbers of guns and ammo."
Strunsky doubted the senator's entire legislative package would see daylight but was hopeful at least parts of it would make it out of Congress.
"If we can avoid another tragedy, it's worth it," he said. --Paul Young, City News Service