What is an assault weapon?

What is an assault weapon?

This editorial correctly states that “assault weapon” has no rigorous definition. The Federal Assault Weapons Ban prohibited semiautomatic rifles with a detachable magazine and two or more of the following: pistol grips, folding or telescoping stocks, a flash suppressor or threaded barrel designed to accommodate one, a bayonet mount, a barrel shroud, or a muzzle mounted grenade launcher.

The editorial addresses each of these features, although it conflates the discussion of detachable magazines with the discussion of large capacity magazines. I have some thoughts about the remaining features:

No one carries a grenade launching attachment or a bayonet for self protection or hunting, but the addition of any of these accessories mentioned do not make a firearm anything other than a rifle that is dressed up fancifully to resemble a military or tactical weapon.

The threat from a bayonet or a grenade launcher seems clear. If there is no need for them other than “dressing up” a weapon, banning them is understandable.

The pistol grip allows the shooter more control over his weapon. How this accessory has become a menace is incomprehensible.

I agree. It’s hard to identify any shooting in which a pistol grip was the decisive factor.

A folding or telescoping stock allows the shooter to adjust the weapon to his size for better fit, comfort, and accuracy.

A telescoping stock yes. A folding stock? No. It’s easy to see the problem with folding stocks: they make a weapon easier to conceal. This does not make a persuasive argument for folding stocks.

A flash suppressor simply reduces the fire ball at the end of the muzzle so the shooter can see quickly.

It also makes it easier for a shooter to remain concealed at night. The threat is clear, if possibly unrealized, but one could argue that it would be useful for shooting at intruders at night. It would be useful to attach some data here.

And last but not least, the barrel shroud prevents the shooter from the heat of the barrel which becomes hot as rounds are shot.

I can’t see how shooters burning their fingers prevents any shootings. Banning barrel shrouds seems more like a hysterical reaction than sensible policy.

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