Fox News host Sean Hannity used prior comments from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) about her past gun ownership to claim that her proposed assault weapons ban would deny Americans the same gun rights that Feinstein herself bragged about enjoying. In fact, the .38 caliber revolver Feinstein previously carried after being attacked by terrorists in the 1970s would not be banned under her proposal.
Feinstein turned her revolver over to police in 1982, citing the shooting deaths of San Francisco mayor George Moscone and San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk as the impetus. [The Washington Post, 7/31/82 via Nexis] Feinstein, who was president of the Board of Supervisors at the time, discovered Moscone and Milk after they had been shot by ex-supervisor Dan White, and later described the incident as "a devastating moment. For San Francisco, it was a day of infamy."
On the March 18 edition of his show, Hannity played a clip from a 1995 U.S. Senate hearing on terrorism where Feinstein described how she carried a gun in the 1970s and claimed she was "bragging" about her prior gun ownership:
HANNITY: Now the interesting part, with all this gun control talk. You, for example, in New York City, very few people have the right to carry a weapon. It's almost impossible to get a carry permit in New York City. So she's not affording her fellow Americans the same right that she was bragging about back then.
Feinstein's proposal, however, is not about where guns may be carried but instead aims to "halt the sale manufacture, transfer and importation of 157 of the most commonly-owned military-style assault weapons and ban an additional group of assault weapons that are particularly lethal because they can accept a detachable ammunition magazine and have one or more military characteristics."
While the assault weapons ban does cover some military-style pistols, the weapon that Feinstein carried would not fall under the ban. Under Feinstein's proposal, banned assault pistols would be handguns that could accept a detachable magazine and have one or more of the following military characteristics: threaded barrel, second pistol grip, barrel shroud, detachable magazine capacity outside of the pistol grip.
Weapons with these characteristics are often handgun versions of military-style semi-automatic rifles:
According to the Violence Policy Center, these types of assault pistols "have the penetrating power of an assault rifle in the concealable format of a pistol."
The Smith & Wesson .38 carried by Feinstein would not have accepted a detachable magazine because it was a revolver. While semi-automatic pistols use a detachable or fixed magazine to feed rounds into the chamber, a revolver uses a rotating cylinder, often consisting of six separate chambers. Furthermore, the Smith & Wesson .38 model of revolver was not outfitted with the military features described in Feinstein's legislation.
During his show, Hannity did not air Feinstein's entire statement from the April 27, 1995 Senate hearing, which was held in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing. In her comments Feinstein shared "a personal anecdote about terrorism" and described how she decided to carry a gun after her home was attacked by a bomb and gunfire before noting, "Now having said all of that, that was a period of time ago":
FEINSTEIN: I want to just give you a personal anecdote about terrorism. Because less than 20 years ago I was the target of a terrorist group. It was the New World Liberation Front. They blew up power stations and put a bomb at my home when my husband was dying of cancer. And the bomb was set to detonate around 2 o'clock in the morning. But it was a construction explosive that doesn't detonate when it drops below freezing. It doesn't usually freeze in San Francisco, but on this night it dropped below freezing and the bomb didn't detonate. I was very lucky. But I thought of what might have happened. Later the same group shot out all of the windows of my home.
And I know the sense of helplessness that people feel. I know the urge to arm yourself. Because that's what I did. I was trained in firearms. I'd walk to the hospital where my husband was sick. I carried a concealed weapon. I made the determination that if somebody was going to try to take me out, I was going to take them with me. Now having said all of that, that was a period of time ago. And I've watched for these 20 years as terrorism has increased both on the far-extremist left and the far-extremist right in this country.