Calling modern rifles assault weapons?

 Washington Examiner:

As the debate over firearm ownership in the United States continues to grow following the deadly Boulder, Colorado, Atlanta-area, and Virginia Beach shootings, the term "assault weapon" is once again being used in political discourse to describe many firearms.

The term "assault weapon" or "assault rifle" has been predominantly wielded by those seeking more stringent firearm laws in the U.S. and refers to a class of firearms that possesses certain characteristic features. The components in question make a gun look military-style and have little effect on the overall mechanics of the firearm itself.

On March 11, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a leading voice in the gun control movement, introduced the Assault Weapons Ban of 2021, which defined a "semiautomatic assault weapon" as a firearm that "has the capacity to utilize a [detachable] magazine" and has "any 1 of the following: a pistol grip, a forward grip, a folding, telescoping, or detachable stock, a grenade launcher, a barrel shroud" or "a threaded barrel."


Feinstein's definition, which has been largely adopted by states such as New York, California, Maryland, and Connecticut to craft statewide bans on the firearms, extends to pistols and semi-automatic shotguns, not just rifles. The top Democrat included a list of firearms that would meet "assault weapon" qualifications, including AK-type firearms, the AR–15, the FN SCAR, the Galil ACE rifle, and the Steyr AUG, among hundreds of others.

If Feinstein's bill were to pass, it would outlaw guns such as the Smith & Wesson M&P15, an AR-15 rifle that was among the bestselling firearms of 2020.

Pro-Second Amendment groups revile the term "assault weapon." The National Shooting Sports Foundation opts to use the phrase “modern sporting rifle” to refer to the commonly owned semi-automatic firearms, as the group claims the guns are misunderstood.

"The central reason these firearms are misunderstood is political," its website reads. "Though the semiautomatic design used in today’s pistols, rifles and shotguns was invented in the late-nineteenth century and was popularly sold to consumers in America and Europe in the early twentieth century, the modern sporting rifle has been called a 'weapon of war' by those who want to ban them."

The NSSF claims that "AR-15-style rifles are NOT 'assault weapons' or 'assault rifles.' An assault rifle is fully automatic, a machine gun. Automatic firearms have been severely restricted from civilian ownership since 1934."

The group added that weapons that fall under these supposed classifications "are among the most popular firearms being sold today," and though they "can look like military rifles," the guns "function like other semiautomatic civilian sporting firearms, as they fire only one round with each pull of the trigger."


To call these a weapon of war is misleading and absurd.  The rifles used by US troops are much more sophisticated and lethal.  They also can be switched to fully automatic firing.  You are unlikely to see troops using an AR-15 in battle.   While some of these rifles look like the M-16 version that was introduced in Vietnam there are still significant differences despite a similar appearance.

I think the left calls these weapons "assault rifles" because they look scary to them even though their operation is not materially different from other semi-automatic rifles.


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