What has erroneously been termed an "assault weapon" is a
semi-automatic firearm that fires just one bullet with each pull of the trigger
(versus a fully automatic firearm -- machine gun -- which continues to shoot
until the trigger is released). Specifically, legislation has incorrectly
defined an "assault weapon" as a semi-automatic firearm that can accept a
detachable magazine and has two or more of the following cosmetic features (it
is these cosmetic features that distinguish the firearm from other "non-assault
* A folding or telescoping stock
* A pistol grip
* A bayonet mount
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* A flash suppressor, or threads to attach one
* A grenade
None of these features figure into the criminal misuse of firearms,
regardless of their appearance.
SEPARATING FACT FROM FICTION
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There is a tremendous amount of misinformation surrounding the issue of
so-called "assault weapons." Below are several of the more misleading
allegations related to these firearms followed by corresponding statements of
Claim: A commercially-sold "assault weapon" is a machine gun and has
no place in civilian hands.
Fact: A so-called "assault weapon" is NOT a machine gun or
automatic firearm. Automatic firearms were severely restricted from civilian
ownership under the 1934 National Firearms Act. A so-called "assault weapon" is
functionally no different than any other "legal" firearm. These guns fire in the
same manner as any other semi-automatic firearm (one shot per trigger pull - no
spray firing), they shoot the same ammunition as other guns of the same caliber
and are no more powerful. What differentiates a so-called "assault weapon" from
other guns is cosmetic; for example, the type of stock on the gun, which makes
the conventionally operating firearm look more like a military firearm.
The gun-ban lobby understands that the confusion over what is and what is not
an "assault weapon" only benefits them. Consider this statement from Josh
Sugarmann of the Violence Policy Center:
"The public's confusion over fully-automatic machine guns versus
semi-automatic assault weapons -- anything that looks like a machine gun is
presumed to be a machine gun -- can only increase the chance of public support
for restrictions on these weapons."
Claim: Semi-automatic "assault weapons" are high-powered guns that
are meant for war.
Fact: So-called "Assault weapons" are more often than not
less powerful than other hunting rifles. The term "assault weapon" was conjured
up by anti-gun legislators to scare voters into thinking these firearms are
something out of a horror movie. These guns are used for many activities. In
fact, the Colt AR-15 and Springfield M1A, both labeled "assault weapons," are
the rifles most often used for marksmanship competitions in the United States.
And their cartridges are standard hunting calibers, useful for game up to and
Claim: The 1994 "assault weapons ban" helped to reduce violent
Fact: A recent comprehensive study by the Centers for
Disease Control -- hardly a pro-gun entity -- looked at the full panoply of gun
control measures -- including the "assault weapons ban" -- and concluded that
none could be proven to reduce crime. Homicide statistics demonstrate that the
miniscule use of so-called "assault weapons" in crime (less than 1 percent)
continued to decrease after the ten-year ban expired in 2004 and their
manufacturing and sales resumed.
Another study, commissioned by Congress, found "the banned weapons and
magazines were never used in more than a modest fraction of all gun murders."
The report also noted that so-called "assault weapons" were "rarely used in
gun crimes even before the ban."
Crime control legislation should be based upon solid facts, not emotions,
cosmetics or appearance. Semi-automatic firearms are now the most popular type
of firearm in America and are used for a wide variety of legitimate sporting
purposes, including hunting, small game control, target shooting and personal
defense. They should not be banned.
Watch a video response from the Brady Campaign: "What's the Difference Between Semi and Fully Automatic Weapons? About 3.5 Seconds."
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