There are no ‘assault weapons’

Shortly following the Aurora tragedy, a non-gun-owner friend of mine, obviously upset, began to question me about why I supported ownership of ‘deadly assault weapons.’ Even as he continued his extended, impassioned diatribe, I could tell that he was yet another victim of the media’s ‘assault weapon’ disinformation campaign.

When he paused, I asked him what he thought an ‘assault weapon’ actually was.  Looking at me as if I were mentally challenged, he said that everyone knows “assault weapons are military-style, fully-automatic guns capable of emptying a 100 round magazine in 3 seconds.”  When I told him that fully-automatic firearms had been heavily regulated since the National Firearms Act of 1934 he simply stared at me blankly as if unsure what to say.  When I went on to point out that, despite public misconceptions, President Clinton’s now-expired ‘Assault Weapons Ban‘ had nothing to do with fully-automatic firearms at all, he sarcastically replied “What kind of idiot would fall for such a thing?

I felt really bad about my response but the only thing I could think of to say was “Apparently … you.”  It took several minutes with Google to convince him that I was telling the truth but he still wasn’t ready to give up the debate.  Grudgingly admitting that I might be right, he thought about it a few seconds and said “Then I think we should call everything except single-shot guns assault weapons.

Amazing enough, he had stumbled upon the truth without even realizing it, or at least ‘a’ truth.  As Wikipedia so aptly states, the term ‘assault weapon’ is not a technical term describing an actual type of firearm but rather a political term denoting whatever firearm the anti-gun crowd wishes to demonize, regulate, and ban at a given point in time.

During the Clinton Assault Weapon Ban, the definition included any semi-auto firearm with cosmetic features emulating that of fully automatic firearms.  Let that settle into the logic center of your brain for a few minutes … it was literally a ban on ‘looks’ and accessories.  The same firearm, with the same caliber, ammunition capacity, and rate of fire, would be legal or not depending upon whether it had a bayonet lug or a folding stock.  When pressed on the ludicrousness of the definition, many anti-gun activists resorted to simply defining ‘assault weapons’ as “those scary black guns.”

And the ridiculousness of the law was also not lost on its sponsors or supporters.  In 1996, syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote a piece titled “Disarm the Citizenry, But Not Yet” in which he stated that:

In fact, the assault weapons ban will have no significant effect either on the crime rate or on personal security. Nonetheless, it is a good idea … Given the frontier history and individualist ideology of the United States, however, this will not come easily. It certainly cannot be done radically. It will probably take one, maybe two generations. It might be 50 years before the United States gets to where Britain is today. Passing a law like the assault weapons ban is a symbolic — purely symbolic — move in that direction. Its only real justification is not to reduce crime but to desensitize the public to the regulation of weapons in preparation for their ultimate confiscation.

Even the Department of Justice acknowledged the fact that the so-called ‘Assault Weapons’ ban was ineffective as a tool to fight crime.  In a study titled “Updated Assessment of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban: Impacts on Gun Markets and Gun Violence, 1994-2003,” the DOJ found that:

Should it be renewed, the ban’s effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement. AWs were rarely used in gun crimes even before the ban.

But facts have little to do with politics at the best of times and those who oppose gun rights for citizens have used the Aurora attack as a springboard to launch new attacks on ‘assault weapons’, whatever they might be at the moment.

So as these new ‘debates’ rage on … the next time you hear someone talking about ‘assault weapons’, tell them they simply don’t exist and challenge them to prove otherwise.  They might just learn something even if they won’t admit it.

About John Pierce

Monachus Lex is written by Virginia attorney John Pierce. John is a life-long gun rights advocate, an NRA certified instructor and co-founder of the nationwide gun rights group

He has an undergraduate degree in Computer Information Systems, an MBA from George Mason University and is a 2012 Honors Graduate of Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul, MN.

Professionally, John is a member of the American Bar Association Second Amendment Civil Rights Litigation Subcommittee and his writings have been published by the ABA Civil Rights Litigation Committee and the ABA Minority Trial Lawyer Committee.

In addition, his open carry advocacy has been featured on Nightline and The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.
This entry was posted in 'Assault Weapons', California, Gun Control, Illinois, Media Views on The Second Amendment, Myths & Misconceptions, National Politics, New York. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to There are no ‘assault weapons’

  1. Rich7553 says:


    “Assault weapons—just like armor-piercing bullets, machine guns, and plastic firearms—are a new topic. The weapons’ menacing looks, coupled with the public’s confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons—anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun—can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons. In addition, few people can envision a practical use for these weapons.” – Josh Sugarmann, Assault Weapons and Accessories in America, 1988

  2. Grapeshot says:

    One need look no further to find the Great American Conspiracy – demonize guns. It is the psychological attack in the battle for control over the minds of our people and incorporates tried and true methodology – including a lie told often enough…………well you know the rest.

    Our best weapon is truth/facts, but we must not be silent warriors – we must raise our voices in a cacophony of sound to be heard across this land. Education, publication, speaking out before our legislative bodies, writing letters to the editors and yes, engaging in conversation with your friends and neighbors on this subject.

  3. Lawrence Doerr says:

    Well written article. Concise and informative. I need to distribute copies to my non-gun owner friends. Please re-post this from time to time.

  4. Rich says:

    The fact is that legally owned machine guns have not been involved in any crime except one since 1934. That crime was by a police officer. With a lawless government as we have now the ownership of weapons as good as a infantryman should be required. If not what good is the 2nd amendment if it is not to stop tryanny?

    • Alex says:

      What about the north hollywood shootout? Those were automatic weapons, if I remember correctly.

      • John Pierce says:

        They were. And that is my point. Those were automatic weapons but they were NOT the subject of the so-called ‘assault weapons ban’. THAT particular piece of legislation addressed semi-auto firearms with arbitrary cosmetic features.

  5. Ray says:

    Anyway we can share this on Facebook?

  6. Bill Gray says:

    Imagine that street racing became a problem. High powered cars with modified suspensions, exhaust systems, racing tires and racing stripes are mowing down innocent drivers and pedestrians. If cars with those characteristics are banned from the streets does the ban include a stock Yugo with racing stripes?

  7. Grapeshot says:

    It is against the law to yell “fire” in a crowded theater. Yet using the term “assault weapon” is much the same thing – it induces panic solely for that purpose, hoping that thereby our rights will be trampled.

    To abuse of one right (1st Amendment) to harm another right (2nd Amendment) should be repugnant to all freedom loving people.

  8. Gordon says:

    Actually it is NOT against the law to yell “FIRE” in a crowded theatre, it is only illegal if there is no fire. What is against the law is inciting panic.

  9. Grapeshot says:

    That is true – I should have made that point clear.
    Thank you for doing so.

  10. Pingback: Anonymous

  11. Of course these attempts to ban or restrict various types of firearm have nothing to do with reducing crime but they have everything to do with the imposition of social control.
    Witness the successive bans on semi automatic rifles & then handguns here in the UK, both of which were followed by a rise in crime where firearms played a part.
    Read this to see how the almost total disarming of a nation’s citizens is achieved:

    Note also that Derrick Bird managed to kill the same number of people as Holmes did in Aurora, using a bolt action .22 rimfire & a shotgun of the type used for pigeons & pheasants.
    Nor did the tight restrictions on amounts of ammunition he could possess lessen the severity of his crime.

  12. In New York State, the police have no duty to provide police protection to any particular individual. The Courts in New York have held that “generally, a municipality may not be held liable for the failure to provide police protection because the duty to provide such protection is owed to the public at large, rather than to any particular individual” (Conde v. City of New York, 24 AD3d 595, 596 [2005]; see Cuffy v. City of New York, 69 NY2d 255, 260 [1987]).

    As the Chair of the Public Safety Committee of Manhattan Community Board 12. I will be holding a Public Hearing in September 2012 on NYS Senate Bill S1427 & S1863 with an emphasis on self-defense education & firearm training for women.

    Bill S1427 PURPOSE: This proposed constitutional amendment would provide within the New York State Constitution for a right of the people to keep and bear arms for traditionally recognized purposes

    Bill S1863 PURPOSE: This legislation would remove a gun licensing officer’s ability to deny or restrict the issuance of licenses to law abiding citizens who have successfully undergone the state’s strict application process and appropriate New York State and Federal Bureau of Investigations fingerprint background check required under law. In addition, this bill will conform New York State law to current ATF requirements regarding background checks for firearms transfers.

    September 12, 2012 at 6:30 PM at Isabella, 515 Audubon Avenue New York, NY 10040. If you live in New York State feel free to take a look at the information that I will be presenting as well as sign my on-line petition included at the link below. I hope that you will come out and support me as I support you. Fraternally.

  13. JustVic says:

    Couldn’t you have just handed him a mirror and left it at that?

  14. John,
    my utter thanks for a well written article explaining the myth, bed time story, tale, nursery rhyme, fable and lie of “gun control”. What really burns me is why “gun control” is continued to be promoted. A lie can only be told long enough until the recipients act upon it. 1968 is long enough. If elections are used as a graph, I’d have to acknowledge the fact we have abused ourselves into believing we have gained what we lost in 1968. And that is Our Freedom. Sadly, an election will doing nothing, what a mass gathering of law abiding citzens would and can do. How about for once we garner the courage and amass a said gathering of Patriots ? Pick one large city, and show our numbers. Unarmed, of course. It would be the Revolution this country needed, not a tired election.

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  19. Edward says:

    I was at the range a couple weekends ago with my Ruger 10/22 and in the stand next to me was a fellow with his M&P 15-22. Both are 22 caliber rifles, yet one simply looks more tactical.

    I have been trying to convince a friend to not buy the M&P, and go with the Ruger. I quote: “Buying the M&P is like stuffing your underwear with a pair of socks. It looks great until you get naked.” Spot on with your point – mechanically and functionally, they are the exact same gun. One looks like a tactical weapon, the other a traditional hunting rifle.

    Maybe the solution is to paint the muzzles on “assault weapons” orange 😉

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