The Truth about “Assault Weapons”

Gun Rights

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris want to ban certain types of semi-automatic firearms that are rarely used in crimes. These firearms are also commonly owned; estimates from 2018 peg the number owned in the U.S. at more than 16 million. So why are Biden and his would-be Florida man, Michael Bloomberg, so focused on these semi-automatic firearms? Why are certain types of semi-automatic rifles “uniquely deserving of prohibition?”

Law professor E. Gregory Wallace analyzed the arguments used to justify bans on these firearms, and his conclusions have been published in the Tennessee Law Review. Wallace does not address why anti-gun activists focus on semi-automatic rifles, but it is important to consider the origins of this effort. In the early 1980s, efforts to ban handguns failed to gain traction with the American public so gun controllers decided that a new focus on rifles could be a steppingstone to their ultimate goal. Their scheme depended on Americans’ ignorance regarding these rifles – and it still does. That’s why Biden and others continue to push the same falsehoods nearly 40 years later.

Wallace tackles these deliberate falsehoods and dismantles the assertions that semi-automatic rifles are somehow exceptionally lethal because they are “military-style” “weapons of war” or have a “capability for lethality…far beyond that of other firearms in general.” That last quote isn’t from Joe Biden; it’s from a court decision upholding a ban on certain types of semi-automatic firearms. Judges are important, so vote – but back to Wallace’s excellent analysis. Let’s briefly review the truth Wallace shines onto these claims.

The fact that the military M16 and M4 resemble a civilian AR-15 does not make the rifles equal. That they fire the same cartridge is also irrelevant. The military chooses service weapons and calibers based on any number of factors and trade-offs are necessary. Military personnel also use 9mm pistols like the Glock 17 and the Sig P320; the 1911 .45 caliber pistol; 12-gauge shotguns like the Mossberg 500 or the Remington 870; and bolt-action rifles like the Remington 700.

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An argument to ban “military-style” firearms is really an argument to ban all firearms. All modern firearms have some type of military analogue.

The second claim alleges that semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 are supposedly “extra lethal” because they shoot faster, are more powerful, hold more ammunition, and cause more serious wounds that other firearms. These allegations would require semi-automatic firearms like the AR-15 to have a higher rate of fire, a higher velocity than other rifles, a unique ability to accept magazines with more than an arbitrary number of rounds, and somehow be differently subject to the laws of physics and physiology than any other firearm.

It’s important to note here that Wallace is, by his own admission, a firearms instructor and competitive shooter but his insight and experience only informs his analysis – it does not drive him to a predetermined conclusion. That much is obvious, as his analysis is based on indisputable facts – the same raw facts that are willfully ignored by gun control proponents. We’ll take each of these claim requirements individually, though without the same depth.

First, all semi-automatic firearms have essentially the same rate of fire: one round fired for every trigger pull. Another go-to gun control claim is that an AR-15 can be fired between 300 and 500 times per minute, which would require between five and eight trigger pulls per second for an entire minute (without time for necessary reloads). Wallace points out that the sources for these claims were prominent gun control advocates. Again, all semi-automatic firearms have essentially the same rate of fire. 

The most common AR-15 cartridges – the .223 or 5.56 – produce less kinetic energy than other common rifle rounds. These factors, and a myriad of other variables, determine the type and severity of wounds inflicted by a gunshot. There is nothing exceptionally unique about the AR-15 or other semi-automatic firearms in this regard. Wallace explores these ballistics topics in great detail, noting that the “wound severity depends largely on the type and quantity of tissue disruption, which in turn depend on the location of the bullet strike.

Claims to the contrary from gun control advocates or even physician advocates, Wallace argues, are based on emotion or myths and some such testimony has been directly contradicted by the facts. 

A magazine of a certain capacity does not make an AR-15 or any firearm any more powerful or fire any faster. Most full-size handguns come with magazines that hold 15 or more rounds and are capable of taking magazines with even greater capacities. In other words, the term “high-capacity” is a misnomer; these are common magazines. Wallace cites research that estimates more than 100 million magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds in circulation and cites Gary Kleck’s research that found that larger-capacity magazines do not produce more lethal outcomes in mass shootings.

Wallace goes into significantly more depth on these topics, but his point is constant: the semi-automatic firearms targeted by “assault weapon” bans are no more lethal than any other rifle.

Wallace injects facts into a debate driven by emotion and ignorance, and demonstrates that semi-automatic rifles are not uniquely lethal firearms that warrant special restrictions.

But that is precisely what Biden wants to do.

Imagine this, if you dare: Joe Biden is inaugurated President of the United States. He and Vice President Kamala Harris force law-abiding gun owners to either surrender their lawfully acquired firearms or pay a punitive tax to keep (and register) their own property.  What do you think happens when crime is not impacted (since rifles are rarely used in crime)? 

They’ll turn back to handguns. That’s been the gun control end game since the beginning. Biden has already admitted he does not consider the 2nd Amendment to be an individual right, in direct contradiction to the Supreme Court decision that affirmed that exact status.

What do you think will happen if Biden gets a chance to fulfill the dreams of Michael Bloomberg and Beto O’Rourke?

What happens if Biden gets a chance to appoint justices to the Supreme Court?

That’s what’s at stake this November. None of the facts presented by Wallace matter to gun grabbers. They want your guns – and they plan to start with semi-automatic rifles.

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