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.