"What makes a firearm an assault rifle"
it is that little lever that can be selected to the FA position !!
any rifle without that FA position is NOT an assault weapon !!
simple, plain and clear.., at least for those intelligent enough to understand terminology !!
And even those who are intelligent enough to understand the terminology can make mistakes, as show in the above quote.
It boils down to the usage of language, translation, and context. We are talking about two nearly identical terms, yet each one refers to very different specific things, in law, and a third thing as well, in common usage. Let's look at the first two, to begin with.
This term was coined by Adolf Hitler. Leaving aside the rather interesting history, the basic facts are that when Hitler was shown the weapon, he decreed that it was to be the Sturmgewehr
is German which translates into English as either "storm" or "assault", in the military sense of storming or assaulting an objective. Sturm
also translates as "storm" in the meterological sense, depending on the context.
translates as rifle. Sturmgewehr
is assault rifle.
After the war, the shooting community adopted the main features of the Sturmgewhr
to define the class of arms called assault rifles. The primary features are selective fire (the ability to fire both semi auto or full auto on demand) a detatchable magazine, and an "intermediate power" cartridge. If it had all of these features, it was an assault rifle. If it didn't, it wasn't.
(intermediate power cartridge was loosely defined as more powerful than the standard WWII era pistol cartridge, and less powerful than the standard WWII infantry rifle cartridges)
All other features usually found on most assault rifles (bayonet lug, pistol grip, etc..) were just cosmetic, and immaterial to the classification of the gun.
Under US law, all weapons capable of full auto fire are legally machineguns, and fall under the regulation of the National Firearms Act of 1934.
The ONLY assault rifles
legally in the hands of US citizens are those that were registered with the ATF before May 19 1986, on which the $200 tax has been paid, multiple layers of background checks have been performed, and the owners have obtained written permission from the local head of law enforcement. NO new ones have been allowed since congress closed the registry in 86.
This is a term made up by the anti gunners, assisted by the media, and codified in law in 1994, thanks to politicians.
It went like this...Stockton Schoolyard shooting, semi auto AK47 used. Media screams, he used an assault rifle!!! Sanity responds with "No, he used a rifle. Assault rifles are select fire (semi & full auto)."
Media screams "He used a semi automatic assault rifle!!!"
Now, "Semiautomatic assault rifle" is quite a mouthful, and not the optimum sound byte. Although the media did persist with the term for some time, by 94 they had all settled on the name "assault weapon". And the weapons they were calling assault weapons were semi auto rifles, pistols, and shotguns, if they had a given combination of the cosmetic features that were on the "evil features" list. NOT machineguns, NOT assault rifles, SEMI AUTO firearms, many models by name, and all others if they met the criteria on the list.
This was codified into Fed law in the 1994 AWB (assault weapons ban), and several states also passed state laws at this time that were virtual carbon copies of the Fed law (without the sunset clause), or were even more restrictive.
Note that the recent New York SAFE act has seriously increased the restrictions and expanded the list of banned features over the still in effect 1994 NY AWB.
In effect, ASSAULT WEAPON means what ever they write into law saying it is.
Those are the big two, and the anti's deliberately chose the term assault weapon to confuse the issue. The semi auto AR that they say
is an assault weapon looks identical to the M16 that is
an assault rifle. The semi auto AK looks identical to the full auto one. Unless you can see the selector in the full auto fire position, you cannot tell from a picture which one is whch, AR, AK, and many other semi autos look just like the full auto ones.
The third thing clouding the discussion is the context of the word assault, in English. Some people say that any weapon used to assault someone is an assault weapon. And, sadly, in English, they are correct, but in the wrong context. When discussing things in law, we must be precise, AND correct. Even if the other side isn't.