Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

APPEARS IN News

Semi-Automatic Firearms and the “Assault Weapon” Issue Summary

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Semi-automatics, like all firearms other than machine guns, fire one shot when the trigger is pulled, and they reload themselves after each shot. They were introduced in the 1880s and account for about 15 percent of the 250+ million firearms in the United States. Of new firearms sold in the United States during the last 20 years, semi-automatics account for about 75 percent of handguns, and a significant share of rifles and shotguns. 

In the mid-1980s, anti-gun groups invented the term “assault weapon” and applied it to semi-automatic firearms that look like modern, fully-automatic military rifles, hoping to trick the public into thinking that the two were identical. As one such group put it, “The weapons’ menacing looks, coupled with the public’s confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons—anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun—can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons.” (Machine guns have been regulated since 1934, prohibited from importation and manufacture since 1968 and 1986, respectively, and are prohibited by about half the states.) 

In 1989, the BATF banned the importation of 43 military-looking semi-automatic rifles equipped with various external attachments, such as a pistol-like grip, folding stock or flash suppressor. (E.g., rifles fashioned after the AK-47 and Uzi.) In 1993, it banned the importation of handguns having a similar styling, generally referred to with the slang term “assault pistols.” In 1994, it prohibited the importation of revolving cylinder shotguns and one semi-automatic shotgun, by subjecting them to the National Firearms Act. In 1998, it expanded the 1989 ban, to prohibit importation of rifles capable of using magazines designed for guns BATF banned in 1989. These bans remain in effect. 

Between 1994-2004, federal law prohibited the manufacture of semi-automatics with the same external attachments, calling them “assault weapons,” and magazines holding more than 10 rounds, for any firearm. Between 1989-2000, several states passed similar laws. Gun control groups now want bans that define “assault weapon” to include a greater variety of semi-automatics, plus pump-action rifles and shotguns. 

NRA opposes reinstating the federal “assault weapon” ban, imposing an expanded federal ban, and similar bans at the state level, for a variety of reasons, including:


(Semi-Automatic Firearms and the Clinton Gun Ban)


  • Like all firearms other than fully-automatic firearms (machine guns), a semi-automatic fires only one shot when the trigger is pulled. Therefore, semi-automatics cannot “spray fire,” nor are they “easy to convert” to do so. Federal law prohibits manufacturing an easily convertible firearm, converting a firearm, and making or possessing conversion parts.
  • Semi-automatics are not “high-powered.” Semi-automatic center-fire pistols use ammunition similar in power to center-fire revolver ammunition. All other semi-automatics (rifles, shotguns and rimfire pistols) use the same ammunition as other firearms (bolt-action, lever-action, pump-action, revolver, single-shot, etc.).
  • Semi-automatics are the type of firearm used most often for self-defense, training and competitive marksmanship, and are commonly used for hunting. They’re used to defend against crime much more often than to commit crime and, like every other kind of firearm, the vast majority are owned by people who do not commit crimes.
  • External attachments such as a pistol-like grip, folding stock or flash suppressor don’t change how a firearm operates or provide an advantage to a criminal.
  • “Assault weapons” have never been used in more than about 1-2 percent of violent crime. A study for Congress found that the federal ban affected guns “never used in more than a modest fraction of all gun murders,” and that its 10-round limit on new ammunition magazines didn’t reduce multiple-victim or multiple-wound crimes. There are more than 30 times as many murders without guns, as with “assault weapons.” Most, if not all, crimes committed with “assault weapons” could also be committed with a different firearm or by other means.
  • Since 1991, the number of firearms in the U.S. has risen by more than 75 million (one-third of them semi-automatic, including several million guns defined as “assault weapons” in the now-expired federal ban of 1994), the number of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds has risen by more than 50 million, and the U.S. violent crime and murder rates have decreased 39 percent and 44 percent, respectively.
TRENDING NOW
Kentucky: House Introduces Constitutional/Permitless Carry Legislation

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Kentucky: House Introduces Constitutional/Permitless Carry Legislation

The Kentucky House of Representatives introduced their own constitutional/permitless carry bill. House Bill 316, sponsored by Representative C. Wesley Morgan (R-81), recognizes Kentuckians’ freedom to legally carry a concealed firearm without the burdensome requirement of acquiring ...

Senate Votes to Block Obama Social Security Administration Gun Ban; Legislation Heads to President Trump

News  

Friday, February 17, 2017

Senate Votes to Block Obama Social Security Administration Gun Ban; Legislation Heads to President Trump

On Wednesday morning, the U.S. Senate voted 57-43 in favor of H.J.Res.40, which would block the implementation of an Obama-era rule under which the Social Security Administration (SSA) would report the names of tens of ...

NRA-Backed Resolution to Stop Obama Attack on State Wildlife Management Passes House

News  

Hunting  

Friday, February 17, 2017

NRA-Backed Resolution to Stop Obama Attack on State Wildlife Management Passes House

On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.J. Res. 69, a measure that would use the Congressional Review Act to repeal an Obama-era rule passed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to preempt ...

Massachusetts: Legislation Introduced to Challenge AG Healey’s Gun Ban

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Massachusetts: Legislation Introduced to Challenge AG Healey’s Gun Ban

The Massachusetts General Court’s 2017 legislative session is in full swing with the introduction of numerous pro- and anti-gun bills.  Among the pro-gun bills are Senate Docket 1157 and Senate Docket 1889.  Both SD 1157 ...

Washington: One Anti-Gun Substitute Dies in Committee, Another is Headed to the House Floor

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Washington: One Anti-Gun Substitute Dies in Committee, Another is Headed to the House Floor

Today, the House Judiciary Committee considered substitute bills for House Bill 1387 and House Bill 1122. 

Connecticut Governor Covers for Failed Policies by Increasing Fees on Gun Owners

News  

Friday, February 17, 2017

Connecticut Governor Covers for Failed Policies by Increasing Fees on Gun Owners

Times are tough in the Constitution State, where Democrat governor Dannel Malloy of Connecticut, despite governing the fifth wealthiest state in the nation, where 25% of households earn more than $100,000 and 10% earn more ...

Media Smears the Disabled, Misinforms on Social Security Gun Ban

News  

Friday, February 17, 2017

Media Smears the Disabled, Misinforms on Social Security Gun Ban

Last week, the Richmond Times-Dispatch issued an editorial titled, “Time to license guns - for journalists,” which cited an embarrassing string of journalistic blunders to illustrate the media’s dearth of firearms knowledge. The piece concluded, ...

California DOJ Withdraws “Assault Weapon” Regulations

Monday, February 13, 2017

California DOJ Withdraws “Assault Weapon” Regulations

As previously reported, after the California Department of Justice submitted regulations regarding newly classified “assault weapons” to the Office of Administrative Law (“OAL”) for publication in the California Code of Regulations (CCR), NRA and California ...

South Dakota: Bill Introduced to Silence NRA Communications

Friday, February 17, 2017

South Dakota: Bill Introduced to Silence NRA Communications

Recently introduced in the House of Representatives is House Bill 1200, legislation that would severely limit your NRA-ILA’s ability to communicate with its membership in South Dakota.

Georgia: Multiple Firearm-Related Bills to be Considered in Committee Next Week

Friday, February 17, 2017

Georgia: Multiple Firearm-Related Bills to be Considered in Committee Next Week

On Monday, February 20, the Georgia House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee is scheduled to hear multiple important pro-gun bills:

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -
NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.