Drudge: Kerry Violates Bill He Sponsored


Was Dem presidential hopeful John Kerry seen this weekend waving a gun which would have been banned if legislation he co-sponsored became law?
Kerry co-sponsored S. 1431 last year (“The Assault Weapons Ban and Law Enforcement Protection Act of 2003) which would have banned a “semiautomatic shotgun that has a pistol grip.†Opponents of the bill successfully argued how nearly all guns have “pistol grips,” inluding millions of Browning Auto-5 shotguns produced since 1903.

Photos show Kerry’s hand resting on the “pistol grip,” as loosely defined in the bill.

It’s not insignificant that Kerry’s bill didn’t pass and therefore isn’t the law.

Regardless, while the photos Drudge provides are rather shadowy, I don’t actually see a pistol grip on the weapon in question. Kerry appears to be holding the stock. The definition from the bill is indeed vague:

(42) PISTOL GRIP- The term `pistol grip’ means a grip, a thumbhole stock, or any other characteristic that can function as a grip.

Still, I don’t see anything in the picture that seems meet it. Contrast it with a shotgun with an actual pistol grip:

Kerry was presented with the gun during a Labor Day stop in Racine, West Virginia. “I thank you for the gift, but I can’t take it to the debate with me,” Kerry told a cheering crowd as he held up the device.

The man should probably refrain from unscripted attempts at humor.

[Kerry’s gun bill would also ban any “gift” transaction. It is not clear if Kerry submitted to a waiting period and completed the required paperwork (a 4479 form) or Brady background check before he claimed the gun. Also, since the Gun Control Act of 1968 was passed, it has been illegal for an unlicensed individual (a non-dealer, non-collector, non-manufacturer, etc.) to obtain a firearm in a state in which you are not a legal resident.]

The Brady Law applies to handguns, not shotguns. The Gun Control Act of 1968 is very long but as best I can tell it only precludes the sale of firearms out of state.

Update (1350): Juan Non-Volokh points out some of the same errors in Drudge’s story and notes that Drudge has now changed much of the story–although without acknowledging that he’s done so. Interestingly, the National Rifle Association links Drudge’s initial story without comment.

Update (9/8 1055): Donald Sensing has a more detailed discussion of the issue.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. McGehee says:

    James, maybe it isn’t strictly the Brady Law, but I did have to get a background check to buy a rifle a couple of years back. The background check law, which replaced Brady’s waiting period, does apply to all firearms.

  2. I’ver lightened the image substantially. There is not a pistol grip in the Kerry Photo.

    My version is quite bright, but I had to adjust the levels that much to know.

  3. htom says:

    Now that you’ve lightened it, I can see that this IS a pistol grip stock. “Protrudes below the action or stock” is the usual phrase.

    Now I’m sure that since it’s a shotgun and only protrudes a little that there will be some mitigation in sentencing. 😉

    More seriously, pistol grip stock refers in the gun culture to a shaping of a stock, like that shown in the shotgun Kerry holds, that provides a better grip on the stock than a straight stock. If it’s too large, it becomes difficult to use such from a saddle scabbord.

    The second firearm also has a pistol grip, and may have been what various legislative bodies meant to regulate. But that’s not what they’ve usually said.

    It would (IMAO) be legal to give Kerry the firearm as long as it was legal for him to own it and possess it in his state of residence (whichever that is.)

    The waiting period thing, though … yikes.

  4. Boyd says:

    I think Drudge may have a point on the “pistol grip” dilemma, though. As he quoted, a pistol grip is “any other characteristic that can function as a grip.” Since we have to throw out common sense when interpreting a law, a stock qualifies as a pistol grip.

    At least, I believe that’s the point that Drudge was trying to make.

  5. Rodney Dill says:

    DRUDGE BREAKING… During the debates, John Kerry has indicate that he will engage President Bush in a battle of wits, unarmed.

  6. Rodney Dill says:

    DRUDGE BREAKING… During the debates, John Kerry has indicated that he will engage President Bush in a battle of wits, unarmed.

  7. Xrlq says:

    Htom is correct. Even as to sales, the GCA (as amended by the FOPA IIRC), does not prohibit anyone from purchasing a long gun outside his state of residence, as long as the sale complies with the laws of both states.

    Boyd, I presume you were being sarcastic. One of the first things they beat into you in the first year of law school is DON’T check your common sense at the door. The literal definition would ban all guns, since all guns have something that can function as a grip, but I seriously doubt it would be construed that broadly. More likely, it would be construed to mean a grip that functions as a pistol grip, i.e., allows your hand to grasp it like a normal pistol grip. Potentially, it could get voided completely, for vagueness. But Dave Kopel thinks it would be enforced that way, so who am I to disagree?

  8. Boyd says:

    My point exactly, Xrlq. There are waaaay too many judges who check common sense at the door and look at the words in a law and not at the meaning behind them.

    Present this case before the Massachusetts Supreme Court and all firearms will be illegal. You know it’s true.