What the “Assault Weapon” Bans Really Prohibit

Published by the LearnAboutGuns.com Author on April 12, 2008 at 7:50 pm
LearnAboutGuns.com > Pro Gun Rights Articles > What the “Assault Weapon” Bans Really Prohibit

The federal government had an “assault weapons” ban from 1994 until 2004, and many state and local governments have enacted or considered enacting their own “assault weapon” bans. These bans make illegal many safety and utility features of guns, while not serving to prevent crime. The purpose of this article is to clear up misconceptions around what exactly these “assault weapon” bans prohibit, and why such “assault weapon” bans harm the law abiding citizens they are supposedly intended to protect.

It is important to note that the “assault weapon” bans don’t cover automatic weapons (“machine guns”), which have already been banned by the US federal government and many states for many decades. Instead, the “assault weapon” bans only ban cosmetic features of semi-automatic guns. See the numbered features and their descriptions below.

Banned Items include:

1. A Pistol Grip or other Protruding Grip
These features allow the user to better handle the gun while dealing with recoil, or with a home invader who is trying to snatch the gun away from its owner. A user who is able to aim their gun and hold on to it while firing to defend themselves is less likely to miss, which makes things safer for that person who is trying to defend themselves, as well as any bystanders in the area.

2. A Collapsing Stock, Folding Stock, or Telescopic Stock
These features allow a gun’s stock to be folded or telescoped out of the way, allowing the gun to fit into a safe or other secure storage area where it would not otherwise fit. Banning this feature means that people who lack full size gun safes may not be able to securely store their guns to prevent theft or misuse. Telescoping stocks also allow the length of a gun to be adjusted so that people of different arm lengths can use the same gun. Banning this feature also means that a smaller person would have difficulty holding on to and using their larger spouse’s gun during a home invasion.

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3. A Barrel Shroud
Perhaps the most safety oriented feature of all, a barrel shroud goes around the barrel of a gun and prevents the user from being burned, since the barrel will get hot when the gun is fired. There is a misconception on the part of those who have never fired a gun, that barrels only get hot when firing very rapidly, but this is simply not true. For example, my .22 rifle I use for target practice will heat up considerably when I am slowly firing, taking many seconds between each shot to ensure my aim is correct. My pump action shotgun also gets quite warm. Banning barrel shrouds will just mean more burned gun owners when they accidentally touch the barrel of their guns, and more melted gun cases when gun owners put their hot un-shrouded gun barrels away in a case while on the way home from the shooting range.

4. A Muzzle Compensator
This is a device which attaches to or is built into to the end of the barrel, and uses some of the hot gases released by the gun to prevent the muzzle from lifting up as the gun is fired, helping keep the gun aimed at its intended target. Banning this feature means that when a person who is not physically able to handle the recoil from the gun tries to defend themselves, they may miss their attacker and even hit an innocent bystander, or miss their attacker and then suffer at the hands of the attacker.

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5. A Flash Suppressor
A flash suppressor is a device that fits on the end of the barrel and help keep the bright flash from blinding the user, when the gun is fired. This feature allows a home owner who fires their gun in self defense during a night time home invasion to not be blinded by their own gun. Banning this feature leaves home invasion victims unable to see at the worst possible time.

6. “High Capacity” Magazines
Assault weapons bans also focus on “high capacity” magazines, but instead define “high capacity” in a way that bans many ordinary guns. Often rifles and handgun magazines are banned if they hold more than 10 rounds, and shotguns if they hold more than 5 shells. A typical 9MM handgun, which would allow a 100 lb. grandmother to defend herself from a 250 LB home invader, often hold 12 or more rounds. Such a ban converts these law abiding citizens into possessors of “assault weapons”, and since most people who own a gun for home defense don’t read the fine print of the laws that are passed, they won’t even know that their perfectly normal 9MM handgun is now an “assault weapon”.
Also troubling about the “high capacity” magazine ban is the effect upon the ability of law abiding, ban following, citizens to defend themselves. Ideally a person forced to act in self defense would have to fire their gun just once, but in reality, the stress of having to defend oneself reduces the accuracy of even the most well trained shooters. Having that 11th or 12th bullet could mean the difference between life and death when faced with home invasion or similar situation.

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The net result of these bans is guns that are less safe, and law abiding citizens who are less able to defend themselves.

These “assault weapon” bans target firearms hardly worthy of the term “assault weapon”, and take safety features such as barrel shrouds out of the hands of law abiding citizens. Just as bad, the bans on folding/telescopic/collapsing stocks make it harder to safely and securely store a rifle or shotgun in a smaller gun safe.

The politicians enacting these bans also play on the general public’s lack of knowledge about firearms, showing pictures of “scary looking” guns, and failing to distinguish between machine guns which have been prohibited nation wide for over 75 years, and the purely semi-automatic guns included in the new “assault weapon” laws.

With these bans in place, criminals who are not deterred by our laws against robbery, murder, and rape certainly won’t be deterred by the laws that ban “assault weapons”. These criminals will have guns whose barrels don’t burn them, while their law abiding victims may be burned by their own guns. The criminals will be able to better aim their guns and deal with recoil, while law abiding citizens struggle with recoil while trying to defend themselves. The criminals will have flash suppressors so that they are not blinded at night, while law abiding citizens may be blinded by their own gun’s flash. Criminals will have ample bullets left in their magazines, while law abiding citizens may run out of bullets while trying to defend themselves and their family.

Also, a much more in-depth discussion of so called “assault weapons” can be seen here.

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  • charlie

    first time to your site ,really good .Their trying the same thing here in Louisiana,I’AM borrowing some of your stuff to send to our Congress people.Do you have any stats. on how many crimes are actully committed with assault weapons.Thanks for the GREAT WORK

    Best Regards CHARLIE

    Gun bans don’t disarm criminials,gun bans attract them……..Walter Mondale

  • http://www.learnaboutguns.com LearnAboutGuns.com


    Thanks, and I’m glad that my site is proving useful to you.

    Criminals use so-called “assault weapons” in under 1% of gun related crimes:

  • Don

    After reading the article on what assault weapon bans forbid, I feel like a dummy! It should have been obvious all along that the assault weapons ban was not what I thought. I hate to think that Barack Obama LIED to the people who elected him, but what else could it be? He is a lawyer, so he should know the law, and not misrepresent it. Perhaps he, as a Democrat, has been indoctrinated by anti-gun lobbyists who blindly assume everything, without bothering to check their facts! Even a Democrat can be pro-gun: Charlie quoted Walter Mondale as saying that gun bans ATTRACT criminals, so clearly he was no idiot! Perhaps Mondale was seen as too pro-gun, and so he lost the election 525-13.

  • mattgoldmanmd

    First time on this site and want to both compliment and thank you. The compliment is because the information is presented in a calm, rational manner which allows the reader to absorb and analyze the content. Thank you for actually allowing me to learn something. Too many pro- or anti-gun articles that use specific terminology to direct the reader's thinking for them. I don't own a firearm, but I do support our 2nd Amendment and appreciate being shown factual info rather than emotional propaganda. Keep up your good work and take care.

  • Dudejo

    i saw a Youtube video a while ago where a man, a police officer, demonstrated the stupidity of "assault weapons" bans by dismantling a hunting rifle from its wooden platform and re-installed it into a "military-looking" polymer frame.

    it's the same freakin' weapon but it looks "military"

  • Shivam Gandhi

    Hey i have to do a debate on why assault weapons shouldn't be banned, is there somebody who can give me more info? Email me at shivamgandhi1997@gmail.com. Thanks oh and great article by the way

    • Lloyd Booth

      Take a look at Hi-Point Carbines. Hi-Point makes a carbine for the 9mm, 40 ACP, and 45 ACP. The company did not want a firearm that would have the assault weapon designation, but had the look. That company makes a good gun.

  • DSoup

    Ok, so I am all for gun ownership, but some of your arguments are unfounded.
    I agree with pistol grips because I love shooting my C7 :)
    Collapsing stocks were designed so that you could shoot from the inside of a vehicle, like an APC. If your rifle does not fit in your gun case, get another gun case that will safely fit your weapons.

  • DSoup

    "Banning this feature means that when a person who is not physically able to handle the recoil from the gun tries to defend themselves"
    If you can't safely handle the recoil, that is not the right rifle for you.
    I have shot at night, with an AR-15 without a flash suppressor, which while fairly bright was definitely not blinding. I don't think civilians need the capability to hide their muzzle flash which is what a flash suppressor is for. It was NOT designed to not blind you.
    If your main aim is self defence, your pistol should be put away for a Shotgun anyways, which I think should be allowed 10 rounds. If you ARE using a pistol though, why do you need 10 rounds? That's taking out 5 targets if you double tap everyone (as you should since bullets are cheap, lives are not)
    I'm not some anti-gun nut or a troll, I own and shoot a variety of rifles, and am still serving in the forces, but seriously…Flash Suppressors? Why do you need that?

    • dudejo

      maybe an AR-15 isn't blindin but what about other firearms? not everyone uses NATO calibers for home defense.

      also, while it's true that a pistol is weaker than a shotgun, not everyone has the physical strength for even intermediate magnums. if i had little strength, i would still feel confident with even a .22 LR because i would KNOW i'd be able to at least keep it on target and make the shots count.

      as for multiple shots per magazine, imo, you should know as a soldier how hard it can be to remain accurate under pressure. even MORE so for a civilian who ISN'T accustomed to exchanging shots with hostiles. while i agree on the importance of training accuracy, i still think it would help the civilian defending against a night robber if he knows he can afford to miss a shot or two.

    • fled

      Many flash suppressors also act as muzzle brakes these days and suppress recoil as well allowing for faster, more accurate follow up shots. If you live rural (and especially near the southern border these days) you also know that in a situation where there may be rustlers, drug runners or multiple intruders looking for transportation, cash, weapons,harrassment of your family or what have you, police may take a while to respond and you may be forced to flee and/or hide and possibly be required provide covering fire for others or return fire from concealment., flash hiders help tremendously with this.

  • AK-47

    William Merrill Charged With Manslaughter for Killing His Wife With AK-47; 25 Guns at Home.
    The shooting, with an AK-47 assault rifle, took place Tuesday morning, Feb. 21.
    Stefanie Merrill had been giving a bath to her 3-year-old daughter.

  • Mike Travers

    You need to check out the "Assault Weapons for Dummies" poster.

    This belongs everywhere the misinformed gather.

  • matthew

    guns dont kill people. stupid people with guns kill people. the gun is metal and plastic. it doesnt have a brain. thats like saying when a drunk driver gets into a car its the cars fault when you run over someone. really….anyway im all about 2nd ammendment rights. you cannot have enough guns and ammo. protect yourselves, protect your families!!!!