Right Hooks

What Is an 'Assault Weapon'?

Uh, er, well, it's a... uh...

Nate Jackson · Jun. 14, 2016

“When you say assault weapon, what exactly do you mean?” a reporter asked Obama spokesman Josh Earnest. After all, if we’re going to talk about banning something, let’s at least know what it is.

“Well, these are weapons of war,” Earnest began. “There was an assault weapons ban that was in place in the ‘90s that lapsed during the term of the previous president, and [Barack Obama] believes that that ban on assault weapons should be reinstated.”

The question unanswered, the reporter asked again: “The AR-15 is a pretty popular weapon, and it was tweaked in response to the assault weapons ban, so conceivably, with that ban this gun would still be out there. … What types of features … would the president want banned in an assault weapons ban?”

(For background, the '94 ban covered primarily cosmetic features of semiautomatic rifles, which are used in 2% of crimes, though several recent mass murderers have used them.)

“I will acknowledge that, um, the technology, uh, uh, behind some of these firearms and the way that they comport with certain aspects of certain pieces of legislation is complicated,” Earnest stammered. “Uh, I’m certainly not an expert in them. But there’d previously been an assault weapons ban in place that took weapons of war off our streets. Certainly did not allow an individual to walk into a gun store, uh, and walk out that same day with a weapon of war, with a weapon that belongs on the battlefield.”

AR-15-style rifles are not “weapons of war.” They are not the same as the select-fire weapons used by our military. They are semiautomatic rifles (one trigger pull, one bullet fired) with detachable magazines and sometimes even the dreaded barrel shroud.

We suggest Earnest use this excellent resource to become, if not an expert, at least mildly informed.

Finally, as the reporter noted, every time Obama engages in “demonizing the most popular gun,” sales only increase.

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