Many people like to throw around the word “Assault Weapon” a lot. Reporters love utilizing the phrase as a buzzword, that delivers fear into your heart and the hearts of your loved ones. It is tossed around during debates as if nobody really knows the definition of an assault weapon. What exactly constitutes an “assault weapon”?
First we need to define what an assault rifle is. An assault rifle is any selective-fire weapon that utilizes an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine. In order to be considered an assault rifle, a firearm must be capable of selective fire, have an intermediate-power cartridge with more power than a pistol but less than a standard rifle, its ammunition must come from a detachable box magazine, and have an effective range of at least 110 feet. Any weapon that does not meet all of these requirements is not an assault rifle.
To make matters confusing, legislation came up with the term “Assault weapons” in an attempt to rush the idea of fear into certain firearms. Bruce Kobayashi and Joseph E. Olson explain, “Prior to 1989, the term ‘assault weapon’ did not exist in the lexicon of firearms. It is a political term, developed by anti-gun publicists to expand the category of ‘assault rifles.'” Assault weapons are usually defined as semi-automatic (one shot per pull of the trigger) firearms that have features that are associated with military firearms. A firearm is considered an assault weapon if it is a rifle type, semi-automatic, has the ability to accept a detachable magazine, and two of the following; folding/telescoping stock, a pistol grip beneath the action of the weapon, a bayonet mount, flash suppressor/ threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor, a grenade launcher.
The M4A1 Carbine is a U.S. Military Service assault rifle. It is fully automatic and fires 950 rounds per minute. Automatic firearms are also called machine guns which were made illegal to sell or transfer in 1986 under federal law.
The Colt AR-15 is sold legally in the United States and is semi-automatic. For the reason that the it is semi-automatic, it fires much slower than the M4A1 does at only 45 rounds per minute which is comparable to other semi automatic rifles. David Kopel explained in the Wall Street Journal, “What some people call ‘assault weapons’ function like every other normal firearm- they fire only one bullet each time the trigger is pressed… Some of these guns look like machine guns, but they do not function like machine guns.” By saying this, Kopel stresses the fact that guns like the AR-15 function just as normally as a hunting rifle does, and does not have the capability to put forward the damage that an assault rifle can create.
Not only do “assault weapons” such as the AR-15 work just like a regular hunting rifle. It also works just like every other gun sold in America; shotguns, ranch guns, and even pistols. However, the design of the gun affects the perception of many citizens who do not know any better. According to a 1998 report by the Violence Policy Center, “The weapon’s menacing looks, coupled with the public’s confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons- anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun- can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons.” Much of the population is uneducated on the topic of guns and do not understand the difference between the “menacing” AR-15 and any machine gun.
In 1989, after the Cleveland Elementary School Shooting in Stockton California that left thirty-two injured and five children dead, anti-gun lobbyists and the media began campaigning against AR-15’s and other “military style”firearms which caused the public to believe that these ordinary rifles are as dangerous as fully automatic, militaristic, machine guns. The shooter, Patrick Purdy, used a semi-automatic weapon to shoot 106 rounds in 180 seconds. Purdy then took his own life with a pistol, not an assault weapon. These numbers are easily recreateable by any semi-automatic weapon, regardless of the aesthetics of the firearm. The amount of dead and injured children would have skyrocketed had the gun been fully automatic. Although semi-automatic weapons are dangerous nonetheless, to make some of them illegal (although they each posses the same amount of power and danger) based off it’s appearance instead of its functionality is completely erroneous.
In 1994, Bill Clinton signed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban (Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protections Act) which prohibited the manufacturing and civilian transfer, possession, or use of semiautomatic assault weapons and large capacity magazines for ten years, to expire on September 13, 2004. The NRA (National Rifle Association) opposed the ban, stating the fact, “‘Assault weapons’ are used in only one percent of all crimes,” which was then proven by the Department of Justice in 1999. The act also banned the transfer or possession of Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Devices, which is defined in the act as, “any magazine, belt, drum, feed strip, or similar device manufactured after [September 13, 1994] that has the capacity of, or that can be readily restored or converted to accept, more than ten rounds of ammunition,” which is absurd after the realization that many guns typically take more than ten bullets. However, the Assault Weapons Ban incorporated a grandfather clause which holds that possession or transfer of weapons or ammunition that was possessed lawfully before the date of enactment is allowed. This means that while the manufacturing of these guns have come to a halt, the same amount is still on the streets in the hands of people, still holding the power to be abused.
As one can see, an “Assault Weapon” is in no way different than it’s semiautomatic counterparts. Although they may look much more intimidating than most other guns on the market, they do not function any differently. An assault weapon is just as dangerous as the pistol that just barely missed the classification. To make the assumption that they are more dangerous to our society followed by attempts to remove them from the hands of families requiring protection is the most erroneous and frightening portion of the situation. Our government means well, which is why the situation is so counterintuitive.
- Anonymous. “The Truth About Assault Weapons.” The Truth About Assault Weapons. Anonymous, n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2016. <http://www.assaultweapon.info>
- “Assault Rifle.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2016.<http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assault_Rifle
- “Federal Assault Weapons Ban.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2016. <http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Assault_Weapons_Ban>
- “Assault Weapon Truth: The Facts about Assault Weapons.” Assaultweapontruth. Assault Weapon Truth, n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2016. <http://www.assaultweapontruth.com.