GonzoSKS1 on the 1994 AWB:
When the .gov wants to prosecute a criminal, the key is (and the jury is instructed) as to the "elements of the offense."
The "elements" are what is presented in the statute.
The statues on gun laws are all "strict liability" crimes -- i.e., they do not require that you "knowingly and voluntarily" do anything. Merely possessing M16 parts and also having an AR-15 in which to install them is good enough.
To make a "prima facia" (latin for "at first sight") case, the government needs to show it can demonstrate the elements of the offense.
The "elements" of a violation of the 1994 ban, for example are set forth in the statute:
"(1) It shall be unlawful for a person to manufacture, transfer, or possess a semiautomatic assault weapon"
Which of course is defined as having the detachable mag and more than one "evil feature."
Notice that the "preban" stuff is not something that the prosecutor has to prove. It could have been drafted otherwise, for example that statute could have said: "It shall be unlawful for a person to manufacture, transfer or possess a semiautomatic assault weapon that was not lawfully possessed prior to the date of this enactment." That would have "increased" a prosecutor's burden by requiring that he demonstrate that the gun was not pre-ban.
What they did instead was say, in a separate part of the statute: "Paragraph (1) shall not apply to the possession or transfer of any semiautomatic assault weapon otherwise lawfully possessed on the date of the enactment of this subsection"
Most court cases have held that when the lawmaking body proscribes a wide swath of conduct or items, and then "carves out" an exception to such illegality, the "exception" is something we call an "affirmative defense" under the law. That means, if a Defendant can establish the elements of the affirmative defense, he can walk. But a defendant bears the burden of proving he falls into the exception, the prosecution does not have to prove he does not.
Like I said, the laws could have been drafted to make the "postban" status of the rifle a strict element of the offense itself, in which case the prosecutor would need to prove it in order to prove up the offense. But that's not how they wrote these laws.
I'd bet a good lawyer might be able to convince a good (e.g., not hyper liberal) judge that the statute should be "interpreted" -- even in its current state -- as requiring the prosecutor to prove it wasn't preban; however, I would never count on that occurring. Too risky.
On a 1994 Assault Weapons ban, vio