Mike Weisser is a lifelong member of the National Rifle Association, a former gun dealer and firearms trainer.
“I’ve given the NRA so much money, they can’t throw me out," he said. "So I can say what I want.”
Weisser, who lives in Massachusetts, writes for his blog “Mike the Gun Guy,” and has been quoted in The New Yorker and written essays on gun issues in The New York Times.
And he says that Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s resistance to a proposed assault weapons ban is “complete nonsense.”
Weisser might know what he’s talking about. The leaders of Ban Assault Weapons Now! consulted with him when they crafted the amendment they want to put on the 2020 ballot.
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Weisser, who wasn’t paid, spent weeks crafting a definition of “assault weapons” with group members.
On Monday, Moody called his work “deceitful and misleading”. She said the measure would ban “virtually every semi-automatic long gun” now sold in the state, “including those that in no shape of the imagination would one think would be described as an assault weapon.”
During an interview this week with the Times/Herald, Weisser explained why he helped write the assault weapons ban the way he did, and why he believes Moody is misinterpreting it.
1. Would it ban “virtually every semi-automatic long gun?”
It’s not supposed to, Weisser said.
He said Moody is taking an overly broad interpretation of the proposed amendment.
The proposed amendment defines an assault weapon as “semiautomatic rifles and shotguns capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition at once, either in fixed or detachable magazine, or any other ammunition-feeding device.”
Existing owners would still be allowed to own their rifles and shotguns, but they’d have to register them within a year or turn them over. The amendment does not apply to handguns.
The issue over magazines is key to the amendment. Many rifles can be equipped with magazines that carry more than 30 rounds, and Moody says that’s why the amendment is too broad.
The Times/Herald asked for examples of guns that Moody believes would be banned but that the public wouldn’t consider an “assault weapon," and her office provided a list of more than 40 models.
2. What does he make of Moody’s list of weapons that would be banned?
He called it “complete nonsense.”
More than half of the weapons Moody listed were shotguns. Her list said they’d be outlawed because they could be equipped with extension tubes that could carry more than 10 rounds.
“There’s only one problem,” Weisser said. “You would have a loading tube that extends a foot-and-a-half in front of the barrel.”
That would be absurd, he said.
“Nobody would ever walk around with a shotgun like that,” he added.
But some shotguns can be equipped with other devices to carry more rounds. One video online shows a shotgun firing 23 rounds in less than four seconds.
Moody’s spokeswoman, Lauren Schenone, said the amendment refers to weapons capable of carrying magazines or tubes with more than 10 rounds.
“There is not an exception for what 'no one would ever do’ in the proposed amendment,” Schenone wrote.
One of the rifles on Moody’s list is the Ruger American Rifle. Weisser noted that it’s a bolt-action rifle, which requires the user to operator a lever in between each shot.
By its very definition, it is not a semi-automatic rifle, which simply fires a round each time the trigger is pulled. Therefore, it would be entirely exempt from the ban.
The Times/Herald also spoke to David Chipman, a former Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms special agent for 25 years who is now a senior policy adviser for Giffords, a non-profit that advocates for stricter gun laws.
He glanced at the list and immediately flagged one weapon that Moody doesn’t consider an “assault rifle.”
That rifle is the Ruger Mini-14, a weapon notorious in FBI and police circles. In 1986, a bank robber used it to shoot and kill two FBI agents during a shootout in Miami-Dade County.
The FBI, realizing its agents were outgunned, later outfitted its agents with more powerful pistols to better compete with the weaponry, such as the Ruger Mini-14, wielded by civilians.
3. Would it ban Moody’s grandfather’s rifle?
Possibly, Weisser said.
Moody’s office told the Times/Herald that her grandfather passed down a Remington .22 to her father and uncle 60 years ago. (There are many variations of the Remington .22, and her office hasn’t said which kind it is.)
Weisser said he didn’t know enough about her grandfather’s gun to say if it would be banned. But he said it didn’t matter anyway.
“So what if you can’t own that gun?" he said. “You can’t own other guns?”
4. Why didn’t he craft a more specific definition of an “assault weapon?”
Some states — and the federal assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 — have very specific definitions of what constitutes an “assault weapon,” focusing on the particular attachments, grips, stocks and other features.
That is not what he and the group Ban Assault Weapons Now! are proposing.
Their description is purposely broad for a reason, Weisser said. Gun manufacturers have quickly created ways to get around specific gun bans in other states.
“They’ll get around that in 30 seconds,” he told the group’s leaders. “It ain’t going to work.”
The shooter in Dayton, Ohio, for example, used an AR-15 pistol to kill nine people and wound 27 in less than a minute over the weekend. It’s a shorter rifle meant to skirt federal laws prohibiting rifles with short barrels, advocates say.
Instead, Weisser and the group crafted an amendment that gets to the heart of the gun debate: simply outlaw semi-automatic long guns that can be equipped with magazines that carry more than 10 rounds.
“You don’t need to have 10 rounds,” Weisser said. “You don’t go out in the woods and shoot Bambi 10 times.”
Another reason? To provide clarity to gun manufacturers. They would still be allowed to sell modified rifles in Florida that cannot accept magazines greater than 10 rounds.
He said gun makers have adapted to sell weapons that are slightly different in states that have stricter gun laws.
“The whole point was, when we were talking the wording, my feeling was that you simply had to make it as definitive as possible, to give guidance to the manufacturers,” he said.