“Alas, how many have been persecuted for the wrong of having been right?” — Jean-Baptiste Say
On the topic of gun control, few issues generate such controversy as the subject of so-called “assault weapons”. Heated discussions from members of the non-gun-owning public generally ensue about how “Nobody needs to own an ‘assault weapon'” or “‘Assault weapons’ are evil” or “‘Assault weapons’ have no legitimate defensive uses”. However, when one usually asks these vocal opponents what a so-called “assault weapon” actually is, the response is almost invariably muted or, if an answer is actually provided, the revealed and subjective definition is either unclear, inaccurate, or downright false. However, blame on the general public’s lack of expertise regarding so-called “assault weapons” can hardly be so easily assigned. After all, legislators and lawmakers on both the federal and State levels are seemingly unable to provide a clear-cut definition of “assault weapons” themselves. However, it appears that, when it comes to a hot-button political issue such as “assault weapons”, an accurate and definitive understanding of the concept is unnecessary before taking the steps required to pass sweeping legislation that would affect millions of common, law-abiding citizens all across the country.
The most common misconception about so-called “assault weapons” is that it is often confused with the military term “assault rifle”. An assault rifle is a military weapon that can be used to effectively “assault’ a fortified enemy position. Assault rifles are select-fire, full-automatic firearms that expend an intermediate cartridge and have a detachable magazine. Assault rifles are used by military personnel for the purposes of war in countries all over the world. Two of the most iconic military assault rifles of the modern age include the M16 (or its M4 variant) and the AK-47. So-called “assault weapons”, however, are a completely different class of firearms altogether.
On September 13, 1994, President Bill Clinton signed the 10-year Federal Assault Weapons Ban into law. Prior to this genesis of this legislation, no one even knew what an “assault weapon” was. Apparently, at the prompting of the gun control lobby, it was finally decided that semi-automatic rifles with two or more of the following features were considered “assault weapons”–a folding or telescoping stock, a pistol grip, a forward grip, a threaded barrel, or a barrel shroud. In addition, specific definitions were also put in place to help classify certain shotguns and handguns as “assault weapons”. However, by and large, the debate over so-called “assault weapons” almost exclusively centers around rifles fitting this ambiguous description.
It is precisely with this ambiguity in mind that the gun control lobby has been able to prey on the fears of the general public. The anti-gunners have been able to capitalize on the similar appearance of these semi-automatic rifles that are effectively used for self-defense (i.e. Korean shop owners used so-called “assault weapons” on rooftops to defend themselves and their families against the violent mobs roaming the streets during the Los Angeles riots following the Rodney King verdict in April of 1992) and demonize them by intentionally misrepresenting them as their select-fire, full-automatic counterparts. This willful misrepresentation became so flagrant that even District Attorneys and top law enforcement officials in one of the most anti-gun States in the Union, California, have gone on record in an attempt to set right these calculated gun control lobby wrongs.
To see beyond the political maneuvering over this hot-button issue and get the facts straight regarding so-called “assault weapons”, one needs to look no further than the testimony from San Jose Police officer, Leroy Pyle. Officer Pyle does an excellent job explaining and demonstrating the difference between so-called “assault weapons” and actual military assault rifles to the general public. His effort in educating the general public regarding the facts about “assault weapons” was so damaging to the gun control lobby in California that it actually earned him a verbal reprimand from his superiors.
The truth is, so-called “assault weapons” are functionally no different than many common, semi-automatic hunting rifles, as Officer Pyle clearly demonstrates in the video linked above. What’s more, despite the gun control lobby’s claims that “assault weapons” deliver nearly unmatched devastation in their firepower, many semi-automatic hunting rifles that the anti-gunners consider relatively innocuous are actually more powerful than their so-called “assault weapon” counterparts. For instance, the standard, semi-automatic Springfield Armory M1A, with a Mossy Oak Stock, fires a .308 Winchester, which is a significantly more powerful round with a greater effective range than the rounds fired from either the M16’s semi-automatic variant, the AR-15 (5.56 x 45mm) or the semi-automatic AK-47 (7.62 x 39mm). So, while these relatively devastating hunting rifles that are mild in appearance can, in reality, wreck far more human collateral damage, are left completely alone on the stage of anti-gun political theater, it is the weaker semi-automatic rifles with a military-style appearance that somehow manages to pique all of the anti-gunner’s ire.
Another aspect of the gun control lobby’s apparent distaste for so-called “assault weapons” lies in their claim that these semi-automatic variants of their select-fire, full-automatic counterparts can be easily converted by nearly anyone off the street to a full-automatic firearm. Yet again, this claim is clearly proven to be false. Detective Jimmy Trahin, of the Los Angeles Police Department, at 9:41 of Officer Pyle’s “assault weapons” video linked above, testifies before the California State Assembly, that “these military-style ‘assault weapons’ of today are not easily and readily convertible without extensive knowledge of modifications to the weapon and/or with substitution of available parts.”
The Los Angeles Police Detective then elaborates further, “Now, in my twelve years within the unit, considering the enormous number of firearms that we have taken into custody, and that is over 50,000, I would say, and these include ones from the hard-core gangs and the drug dealers, our unit has never, ever, had one AK-47 converted, one Ruger Mini-14 converted, an HK 91/93, never converted, an AR 180, never converted. So, this media blitz of many of these ‘assault weapons’ or supposedly military-style weapons are being converted to full automatic is not true.”
So, as the reader can determine for him or herself, the gun control lobby’s aggressive push against so-called “assault weapons” is more about fear mongering and less about facts. The anti-gunners capitalize on the general public’s lack of expertise regarding these relatively weakly-powered semi-automatic firearms and demonize them in front of the mainstream press for being guilty of nothing more than having cosmetic features similar to their select-fire, full-automatic military counterparts. These artificial similarities are necessary for common, law-abiding citizens because many owners of so-called “assault weapons” are active duty or retired military and have an extensive skillset afforded by their military training with the ergonomic features of these military-style weapons. This inherent ergonomic familiarity proves to be extremely useful when engaging violent criminals in lawful self-defense. What’s more, these cosmetic similarities allow for easier and uniform training, cleaning, and maintenance on the weapon. Therefore, these so-called “assault weapons” do serve a legitimate defensive purpose and their physical ergonomic features are actually a benefit to many if not most of those common, law-abiding citizens who own them.