67 Ind. L.J. 187 (1991-1992)
State Assault Rifle Bans and the Militia Clauses of the United States Constitution

handle is hein.journals/indana67 and id is 201 raw text is: State Assault Rifle Bans and the Militia Clauses
of the United States Constitution
KEITH R. FAFARMAN*
INTRODUCTION
On May 24, 1989, the Governor of California signed into law the Roberti-
Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989,' which placed severe restrictions
on the private possession and use of assault rifles.2 Though presently
California and New Jersey3 are the only states with such a statute, cities
across the nation have adopted assault rifle bans.4 Gun control supporters
have targeted assault rifles for such legislation on the grounds that these
weapons are not suitable for sporting or recreational use.' It is due to the
* J.D., 1991, Indiana University School of Law at Bloomington; M.S., 1978, Texas A
& I University; B.S., 1972, State University of New York.
1. CAL. PENAL CODE §§ 12275-12290 (West 1991).
2. A true assault rifle is a military weapon capable of providing either semiautomatic or
full automatic fire by means of a selector switch. Assault rifles today are typified by the AK-
47, designed by the Soviet Union, and the M-16, designed by the United States. Common
characteristics shared by most assault rifles include use of a cartridge of intermediate power,
extensive use of plastics and metal stampings, and magazine capacities of 20 to 30 rounds.
These rifles are usually quite compact and weigh from six to ten pounds. G. NoNTE, JR.,
FIREARMs ENCYCLOPEDIA 12 (1973). An assault rifle, as popularly understood, is used in this
Note to describe a semiautomatic rifle that is capable of accepting a high-capacity magazine
and resembles in appearance a military weapon. See Assault Weapons: Hearings on S. 386
and S. 747 Before the Subcomm. on the Constitution of the Senate Comm. on the Judiciary,
101st Cong., 1st Sess. 16 (1989) [hereinafter Testimony] (statement of Edward D. Conroy,
Deputy Associate Director of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms); 135 CONG.
REc. S3515-16 (daily ed. Apr. 7, 1989) (introduction of the Assault Weapon Import Control
Act of 1989 and supporting statement by Senator Moynihan). A semiautomatic rifle requires
that the trigger be released and pulled between successive shots. J. O'CONNOR, COMPLETE BOOK
OF RImPas Am SHOTGUNS 86-87 (2d ed. 1965). On the other hand, an automatic rifle will
produce a rapid discharge of successive shots with a single pull and continuous pressure upon
the trigger. G. No=TI, JR., supra, at 13.
3. N.J. STAT. ANN. §§ 2C:39-1 to -15, :43-6 to -7, :58-5, :58-12 to -14 (West 1982 &
Supp. 1991).
4. Baer, Guns, U.S. NEws & WORLD REPORT, May 8, 1989, at 20.
5. The Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989 states: The Legislature has
restricted the assault weapons ... based upon finding ... that its function as a legitimate
sports or recreational firearm is substantially outweighed by the danger that it can be used to
kill and injure human beings. CAL. PENAL CODE § 12275.5 (West 1991). See also Testimony,
supra note 2, at 41 (statement of Daryl F. Gates, Los Angeles Chief of Police) (A reasonable
right to bear arms does not mandate that weapons designed and built for the express purpose
of killing human beings on battle fields be made available to the general public.); Church,
The Other Arms Race, Ta, Feb. 6, 1989, at 21 (Some would ban the high-powered
paramilitary weapons that, foes say, have only one use: to kill human beings.). But see
Testimony, supra note 2, at 28-29 (statement of Edward D. Conroy, Deputy Associate Director
of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) (Other than appearance, an AKS
semiautomatic assault rifle is no different from other semiautomatic rifles.).

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