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What is an assault weapon?

by Debi Sporleder
Assault Weapons – what an eerie word, conjuring up images of crazed men running around with big black scary looking guns, with their finger holding the trigger, spraying bullets through a crowd of innocent children. At least that is what some would have you believe.
When technically an assault weapon is anything used to assault someone, the genuine assault weapon is a hand-held, selective fire weapon. This means, depending on the position of a selector switch, the weapon can fire in semi-auto or auto mode. These kinds of weapons are heavily regulated by the National Firearms Act of 1934.
Current “assault weapon” legislation includes certain semi-automatic weapons in their definition. A semi-automatic weapon fires a round with each pull of the finger while an automtic weapon shoots continuous rounds as long as the finger is holding the trigger pulled back.
If you look back to the 16th & 17th centuries to the Flintlock mechanism of the period, many considered this an “assault weapon” because of its improved firing mechanism (over the Matchlock, Wheellock, etc).
Then the lever action was invented in the early 1800’s, and it was the most advanced rapid fire weapon of its time. Citizens who chose to arm themselves had one of these rifles, the lever action “assault rifle”.
As we’ve progressed through time, the term “assault weapon” has been redefined so many times, it is getting to the point where simple hunting rifles are being classified as an “assault weapon”.
As an example, below is a picture of a Ruger 10/22 rifle which shoots a .22 rimfire cartridge. This rifle is the type you could buy in Walmart up until a few weeks ago (now you have to be there on the day delivery is made and be lucky enough to be there before they are sold out within minutes of being shelved). The 10/22 is traditionally used for hunting small game, killing varmints and just target shooting. The ammo was cheap and it was fun to go out plinking inexpensively. I say “was” because as of a few weeks ago, with all the talk about new gun control laws, it is very difficult to even find .22 rimfire ammo.
Below, too, is a picture of the same gun, the Ruger 10/22, which has had its stock and barrel modified with plastic add-ons. No changes were done to the action, so it still is only a plinking gun or used to hunt small game or varmints. The function is the exact same rifle, it just looks “scarier”. The question has to be asked, is it more deadly because of the modifications?
Do you see why it is so important to understand where legislation is going when defining “assault weapons”? They are taking “scary” looking guns and making them illegal. In turn, it will make the above non-scary gun illegal, too.
Because the term assault weapon has been redefined through the years, as Americans, we must be educated on what those definitions are when it comes to banning weapons.
President Obama knows he cannot pass his executive orders without public support and ultimately Congressional support. Congress can revoke his executive orders, so it would be vitally important to have the American public support the bans he wishes to invoke. That makes it even more important for Americans to be educated so they can know how and where to direct their support.
There is absolutely no way to adequately define an assault weapon. The term itself is vague and can be anything from a shoe horn to a fork to a fully automatic rifle.
How do we legislate danger out of existence? Is that possible? When you look at the number of deaths in the US, the top 10 killers according to the FBI were….tobacco use, 529k; medical errors, 194K; unintentional injuries, 118k; alcohol abuse, 107k; motor vehicle accidents, 34k; unintentional poisoning, 31k; drug abuse, 25k; accidential falls, 24k; non-firearm homicides, 16k; and finally firearm homicides, 11k [most of which is gang on gang violence]. The number one weapon used in violent crimes is a BASEBALL BAT. Also, if you look at actual statistics by the FBI, violent crime has dropped 4% in 2011, after a drop of 5.5% in 2010. Forcible rape and assault fell 4% each year as well. We have to ask, when violent crimes are going down, why are the politicians promoting more gun control under the guise that we are rampant with gun crime?
So what do we, as Americans, do to protect our Constitutional freedoms? We first have to know what our rights are – if we don’t know our rights, we have none. Just a final thought – the gun is the only weapon as lethal in the hands of an octogenarian as it is in the hands of a housewife (in other words, it is a force equalizer helping them protect their families). (Crime references are cited from Center for Disease Control, FBI, U.S. Federal Government)