NRA Explore
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

News  

Friday, April 29, 2016

Say What? Gun Control Advocates Try to Change the Language of Crime

As a cabinet level official in the Obama administration, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton both reflected and informed the regime’s values and tactics, some of which she has carried forward into her own campaign ...

News  

Friday, April 29, 2016

Social Security Administration Releases Proposed Rulemaking on Disability-Related Gun Ban

On Friday, the Social Security Administration (SSA) released a draft of a proposed rulemaking that would supposedly bring the agency into compliance with what it claims is its responsibility to report prohibited persons to the ...

News  

Friday, April 29, 2016

Hillary Clinton to Attack Gun Owners Her “Very First Day” in Office

In what has become as reliable as clockwork, with the passing of another week comes another Hillary Clinton attack on gun owners. This time, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination explained to supporters her ...

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

New Jersey: Anti-Gun Legislators Move to Quash Gov. Christie’s Gun Reforms

Undeterred by the Garden State’s failed, draconian gun laws, Senator Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37) has quickly schemed to block Governor Chris Christie’s recent executive action.

News  

Friday, April 29, 2016

Aging Rocker to College Students: You’re Too Drunk, Violent, and Stupid for Your Rights

Throughout its history, rock-n-roll music has provided youth who are fed up with being lectured and condescended to by out-of-touch or hypocritical elders a voice to respond and to advocate for their own generation. Athens, ...

Monday, May 2, 2016

Georgia: Your Right-To-Carry Under Veto Threat

Governor Deal has until tomorrow, May 3, to sign these critical self-defense bills into law and he needs to hear from you NOW!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Louisiana: Firearm Legislation on the Move at the Capitol

Yesterday in the House Administration of Criminal Justice Committee, House Bill 959 was voluntarily deferred by its sponsor, state Representative John Bagneris (D-New Orleans).

News  

Friday, April 29, 2016

Hollywood Ramps up Anti-gun Campaign

Gun control advocates and Hollywood have long been allied in an effort to propagandize the public against firearm ownership. However, as detailed in an April 27 piece in entertainment industry trade publication Variety, anti-gun groups ...

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Michigan: Your Urgent Action Needed: Important Preemption Legislation Vote Tomorrow!

Tomorrow, May 4, the House Local Government Committee is scheduled to consider and vote on House Bill 4795, as substituted.  HB 4795, sponsored by Chairman Lee Chatfield (R-District 107), is important legislation aimed at protecting ...

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Oklahoma: Conference Committee Members Named for Self-Defense Legislation

In mid-April, House Bill 3098 was overwhelmingly passed by the Oklahoma Senate and sent to conference committee for further consideration.  

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.