Almost everything on the liberal agenda uses an Orwellian label and the “assault” gun ban is no exception. The media campaign for the ban has been so successful that many don’t even know what an assault rifle actually is, yet are all for banning them. None of the guns banned in the erroneously titled Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 (FAWB), were actually assault rifles as they were all semi-automatic only. The true assault rifles were already highly controlled before they even existed, by the National Firearms Act of 1934, which regulated all fully automatic weapons. Furthermore, the importation or manufacture of assault rifles has been banned for civilians since the Firearms Owner Protection Act of 1986.
In short: An assault rifle is a selective fire rifle that uses a medium powered cartridge and a detachable magazine. The phrase “high powered assault rifle” is an oxymoron and use of it demonstrates ignorance of the topic, as does “semi-auto assault rifle.”
Selective fire means the weapon is capable of firing in fully automatic (the rifle continues to fire the next cartridge as long as the trigger is pulled), or semi-automatic (loads the next round automatically but requires the trigger to be pulled each time the gun is fired). Burst fire rifles discharge more than one shot, as in a 3 round burst per trigger pull, and are considered automatic rifles; they are TRUE assault rifles.
Medium or intermediate powered cartridges fill the gap between the pistol ammunition (used in sub-machine guns) and full powered (high powered) battle rifles. Pistol ammo lacks the stopping power and range for many battle situations. While the full powered rifle ammo, with over 2,000 ft. lbs. of energy, has too much recoil for affective full-auto use in lightweight rifles.
The first assault rifle was the German Sturmgewehr, also called the StG44, and literally translates as “storm rifle”. The rifle got its intermediate power by shortening the 7.92 x 57 Mauser rifle cartridge to the 7.92 x 33 Kurz. This was developed late in World War 2, long after automatic rifles were controlled for civilian use in the United States. In response to the German design, the Russians developed the AK-47, and the US adopted the M-16. The M-14, although capable of selective fire and has a detachable magazine, is a battle rifle and are not an assault rifle because the 7.62 x 51 (308 Winchester) cartridge would be considered a full power cartridge for military purposes, and is virtually impossible to aim accurately in full-auto firing. Semi-auto for civilian use versions of the AK series rifles and the M-16 are what the media tries to claim are “assault weapons”.
Prices skyrocketed, and there was an explosion of sales between when the FAWB passed and went into effect; creating a huge demand for slightly modified versions of the banned guns that, once cosmetically adjusted, were not affected by the FAWB. Ironically, the guns were not very popular for civilian ownership before their ban, and were seldom used in crimes, accounting for less than 2% of armed crimes*. I was unable to find evidence of any legally owned assault rifle ever being used by the owner in a gun crime.
The term “assault weapon” is a phrase coined by the media and their anti-gun minions. It would be very difficult to define, since the common determination of what is an assault weapon is based on its appearance and what they feel is offensive. They usually include things like pistol grips, high capacity magazines, bayonet lugs, flash suppressors, and folding or collapsible stocks. True assault weapons generally have these features and though it’s not a requirement, often will have a short barrel to keep weight down and allow for quicker/easier handling. I have never heard of any civilian causality caused by the pistol grip, folding stock, or flash suppressor of a weapon. But I have no doubt that many lives have been saved because of their intimidation factor, making it less likely that one would even need to fire the weapon, whether it’s in self defense or to prevent a crime. Keep in mind that virtually any weapon can be used for assault, and any object as a weapon.
*Congressional Research Service report: see page 93, paragraph 2.