Say Farewell to Feinstein Specials

Say Farewell to Feinstein Specials

by LF (11/97)

[Please Note: The information in this article came primarily from National Rifle Association ( Grassfire! alerts dating from November 14th to December 18th, the November 20th "Firearms Coalition" column by Neal Knox, and Craig Fields of Gun Owners of America (, who was kind enough to send me the actual text of Clinton's directive.]

On November 14th, one day after Congress broke for an extended holiday vacation, President Bill Clinton issued an order to the Secretary of the Treasury instructing the Department to conduct a four-month review to determine whether currently-legal semi-automatic firearms that the Administration has recently begun to describe as "sporterized assault weapons" may continue to be imported legally. Clinton also put on hold approximately 600,000 permits for new guns from overseas granted to importers who had already fulfilled the paperwork process required by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

Cosmetically-altered versions of the self-loading firearms prohibited by the 1994 "Assault Weapon" ban have been permitted into the country due to the fact that Senator Dianne Feinstein, who successfully shepherded the ban through the legislative process, settled upon a definition which stated that foreign and domestically made "Assault Weapons" have more than two of a handful of specific features (e.g., a flash-hider, a bayonet lug, the ability to accept a detachable magazine, etc.). Thus the guns now under review are currently allowed under present laws, as they do not run afoul of the factoring criteria previously established by either the 1994 ban or the 1989 import ban championed by William Bennett, the "Drug Czar" of the Bush Administration.

The Administration's request is based upon Section 925(d) of the Gun Contol Act of 1968, which states that the Secretary of the Treasury shall authorize firearms for importation if they are "generally recognized as particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes . . . ."

The Secretary has been specifically ordered to:

  1. Conduct an immediate expedited review not to exceed 120 days in length to determine whether modified semiautomatic assault-type rifles are properly importable under the statutory sporting purposes test. The results of this review will govern action on pending and future applications for import permits, which shall not be acted upon until the completion of this review.
  2. Suspend outstanding permits for importation of modified semiautomatic assault-type rifles for the duration of the 120-day review period. The temporary suspension does not constitute a permanent revocation of any license. Permits will be revoked only if and to the extent that you determine that a particular weapon does not satisfy the statutory test for importation, and only after an affected importer has an opportunity to make its case to the Department.

(Source: White House Press Office, Memorandum for the Secretary of the Treasury, "Importation of Modified Semiautomatic Assault-Type Rifles", November 14, 1997)

The "review period" imposed by the Executive Order will expire in the middle of March, 1998. At that time, the Treasury Department will be expected to present its findings.

Sources within the White House have justified this action based upon a supposedly unprecedented surge in applications for permits by firearm importers, which according to some represents many more units than the importers could currently afford, or expect to be able to sell at this time. Much of the increased activity has been attributed by those familiar with the industry to rumors from news outlets like the Los Angeles Times, which was circulating hints of a cutoff of future imports for many weeks prior to the Administration's instructions actually being handed down. Thus the true cause-and-effect relationship of the ballooning of requests with respect to the Executive Order's timing is being hotly debated.

. . .

Commentary Portion

Is it just me, or ain't it kind of funny that Bill Clinton decided to shut off the flow of foreign-made semi-automatic guns less than two weeks after Washington State Initiative 676 went down in flames? In case you were napping, I-676 promised to place a huge number of restrictions on private firearm ownership, all promoted in the name of "the children".

Plenty of anti-gunners based in D.C. dumped a lot of hope into that basket because, as a state-level measure, it promised to trap pro-gunners in a two-front war. Even more important, non-Kennedy politicians who lack an iron-clad guaranteed lifetime post could see a cherished goal being furthered without placing their own power and comfort on the line.

If the anti's had won, you can bet that their exact tactics would have been reproduced elsewhere. I mean the same press releases, heart-tugging ads and signs, and plaintive letters to the editor would have popped up in rapid order in other states where the political climate seemed promising. And Clinton's long-rumored order was waiting in the wings, poised to provide a heavy blast of momentum to the process.

Thanks to carefully-worded polls extolling astounding future child-safety benefits (which had objective readers of the proposition's actual text scratching their heads) it looked like Washington State's second-rate Sarahs and Chuckies were going to pull it off, right up to the wire. But they got stomped, with the "NO" vote total ending up at 71 percent! Newspapers all over the nation which had been trumpeting the measure swept its utter rejection under the rug.

Ten days later, Clinton feebly trotted out his latest semi-auto ban. The thrill was gone. All I remember seeing on one of the network channels was a fairly-tight closeup of his enormous head, so he apparently wasn't flanked by crippled children or injured police officers at the time of the official announcement. Not much of a show, considering Bill's penchant for grotesque exploitation.

As I've noted elsewhere, the Secretary of the Treasury's report on the "sporting uses" of the semi-automatic firearms impacted by the Executive Order will be due in mid-March. That leaves plenty of time for a fortuitously-juicy "gunman run amok" story to ignite a media feeding frenzy.

If it comes down to it, I wouldn't be surprised if the White House crew decides to kick some additional cocaine up Presidential Brother Roger Clinton's nose (along with a few more exotic drugs), hand him a post-Feinstein Rumainian-made AK-Minus, and let him loose in a shopping mall. Then Bill would be assured of at least two chances to dramatically chew his lower lip for the adoring cameras.

That's because nothing surprises me any more about this country. I mean nothing.

Up the spout