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Old January 10, 2009, 03:01 AM   #23
44 AMP
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Join Date: March 11, 2006
Location: Upper US
Posts: 11,139
The Devil is truly in the details

and, to our detriment. What happened during the Clinton Administration was the legal creation of a new class of firearms. They called them Assault Weapons. Unlike the class of firearms known as Assault Rifles, the new catgegory included only certain semi auto firearms, both rifle and pistol that had certain cosmetic features that made them resemble assault rifles (or other military firearms) externally.

Assault rifle is a term that has been in use in the firearms community since the end of WWII. It is a translation of the German term Sturmgewehr, the name Hitler gave to the first firearm of the type deployed in field use in any significant quantity. The primary features of the rifle became the general description for the class. Selective fire, using an intermediate power cartridge. The rifle configuration usually included a prominent pistol grip, detatchable magazine of 20/30 rnds (since called a "high capacity" magazine), and often a stratght line (or nearly so) stock. The AK 47 is the most produced example of this class.

Assault Weapon is a term that was coined by the anti gunners, to describe military looking semi auto firearms. Originally the quasi accurate term "semiautomatic assault weapon" was used, but both the antis and the press quickly shortened it to assault weapon, for the convienience of the sound byte. This was (and is) a highly misleading term, and was open for debate as to its validity, until certain laws were passed in 1994, both at the state and Federal level. These laws, known as "Assault Weapons Bans" codified in law a legal definition of what an "assault weapon" was. The definition was taken straight from the anti-gun literature, and had nothing to do with actual assault rifles (which are legally machine guns) or reality in general. They defined assault weapons as semi-auto guns having a combination of certain features, which included prominent pistol grip, bayonet lug, flash hider/suppressor/grenade launcher, ability to accept detatchable magazines, folding stocks, heat shields or barrel shrouds among other things. Semi auto handguns which did not take the magazine in the grip were also included.

Different laws varied in detail over how many of the features a firearm could have and not be included on the list of banned/controlled guns. In extreme cases (like New York's state law) even a single feature (such as a bayonet lug) places the gun in the assault weapon category, for legal purposes.

The similarity between the terms assault rifle and assault weapon is, apparently, deliberate, intended to cause confusion between an actual valid definition and the made up one. To confuse non enthusiasts into thinking the laws applied to actual military class guns, instead of mere cosmetic look alikes. it worked quite well. To this day there are many shooters, and a majority of the public that still do not understand the small, but vital difference between the proper correct definitions of these terms.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that online dictionaries and even the slower to change printed ones have used the terms indiscriminately. We are taught (falsely) to look to dictionaries for the correct proper definition of words, but the reality is that (and they will tell you so if you ask) that dictionaries reflect the definition of terms as found in popular usage. With the agenda driven media (and members of govt) constantly using inaccurate and misleading terms for the items under discussion, the public soon came to accept that the terms were actually valid, and once they became established in popular usage, dictionaries reflected that fact, and since it was in the dictionary, the misuse was further re-enforced.

I advise all shooters (and especially posters in L&CR) to please do some research and understand the actual valid definitions, as well as the legal definitions of the terms machine gun, assault rifle, and assault weapon, etc. so that we may discuss such things without adding to the confusion already existing.
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