What is an ‘assault weapon’?

As the gun control debate continues to grow in the United States following the deadly shootings in Boulder, Colorado, Atlanta and Virginia Beach, the term “assault weapon” is used again in political discourse to describe many firearms.

The term “assault rifle” or “assault rifle” has been used primarily by those seeking stricter gun laws in the United States and refers to a class of firearm that has certain distinctive features. The components in question make a weapon look military in style and have little effect on the overall mechanics of the weapon.

On March 11, California Senator Dianne Feinstein, a leading voice in the gun control movement, introduced the 2021 Assault Weapon Ban, which defined a “semi-automatic assault weapon” as a firearm that “has the ability to use a weapon” [detachable] Magazine “and has” one of the following properties: a pistol grip, a forward grip, a collapsible, telescopic or detachable stock, a grenade launcher, a barrel cover “or a threaded barrel”.


Feinstein’s definition, largely adopted by states like New York, California, Maryland, and Connecticut to introduce statewide bans on firearms, extends not just to rifles, but to pistols and semi-automatic shotguns as well. The top Democrat included a list of firearms that would meet the “assault weapon” qualification, including AK, AR-15, FN SCAR, Galil ACE rifle, and Steyr AUG.

A semi-automatic AR-15 rifle equipped with a telescopic buttock, pistol grip, bayonet lock and a flash hiding place. (AP Photo / Alex Brandon, File)

Alex Brandon / AP

If Feinstein’s bill were passed, guns like the Smith & Wesson M & P15, an AR-15 rifle that was among the top-selling firearms of 2020, would be banned.

Pro-Second Amendment groups defame the term “weapon of attack”. The National Shooting Sports Foundation uses the term “modern sporting rifle” to refer to the semi-automatic firearms it owns because the group claims the guns are misunderstood.

“The main reason for the misunderstanding of these firearms is political,” the website says. “Although the semi-automatic design of today’s pistols, rifles, and shotguns were invented in the late 19th century and popularly sold to consumers in America and Europe in the early 20th century, the modern sporting rifle was referred to as the ‘weapon of war’ by those who use them want to ban. “

The NSSF claims that “AR-15 rifles are NOT” assault rifles “or” assault rifles “. An assault rifle is fully automatic, a machine gun. Automatic firearms have been heavily excluded from civilian possession since 1934.”

The group added that guns falling under these supposed classifications “are among the most popular firearms sold today,” and although they “may look like military rifles,” the guns work like other semi-automatic civilian sporting weapons in that they are only one fire around with each pull of the trigger. ”

The Gun Owners of America, one of the largest pro-Second Amendment groups in the country, agreed with the NSSF’s assessment, calling “assault weapon” an “invented” term.

“Radical anti-gunners have no problem twisting words to fit their agenda. This is no more obvious than it was decades ago when they invented the term ‘assault weapon’ – a term that has no real definition,” said Erich Pratt, senior vice president of GOA’s Washington Examiner. “Millions of honest Americans own the AR-15 for self-defense and home defense, which makes this rifle a very popular firearm. It can be said that the AR-15 is really America’s rifle.”

In November 2020, the NSSF estimated that there were 20 million modern sporting rifles in circulation across the country, many of which were made by US manufacturers.

During the election campaign, President Joe Biden vowed to ban “assault weapons” and “high-capacity” magazines, an indication of ammunition feeders that can hold more than 10 cartridges. The then-candidate expressed interest in bolstering red flag laws that allow local law enforcement to seize weapons from those deemed a threat to themselves or others, and to lift arms manufacturers liability protection, a provision that protects companies from frivolous lawsuits.


Last week the White House confirmed that Biden will seek to advance gun control through instructions from the executive branch. He gave a hint of what to expect when he spoke to reporters on the tarmac on the way to his Delaware home on Friday afternoon and mentioned guns that were “made with 3D gear.”

“We’re looking at this right now,” Biden said when asked about an executive order. “We’ll look at what authority I have over imported weapons and whether or not I have authority over them.” new weapons made by 3D devices that are not registered as weapons at all. There may also be some leeway there. “

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