Argument: Assault weapons banned in 1994 were not uniquely lethal

Issue Report: Assault weapons ban in the United States


  • Clark A. Wohlferd. “Much Ado About Not very much: The Expiration of the Assault Weapons Ban as an Cact of Legislative Responsibility.” May 19th, 2005 – “A. Marginal Reduction in Lethality The term ‘assault weapon’ is itself intimidating, conjuring images of the powerful, rapid-fire weapons used by the military or in'” LEGISLATION AND PUBLIC POLICY [Vol. 8:471 action films.35 These images increase fear in the public consciousness, but do not reflect the reality of assault weapons as defined by the federal government.36 In fact, the weapons banned under the AWB are not actually automatic weapons—they cannot fire more than one round per pull of the trigger.37 Guns that fire more than one round per trigger-pull have been heavily regulated since the 1930s, and nothing in the AWB affected these firearms.38 Although they are dubbed ‘military- like,’ they are not military weapons used by conventional militaries.39 Assault weapons, as defined by the AWB,40 are functionally the same as other semiautomatic guns. They fire no faster than other semiautomatic firearms not prohibited by the AWB.41 Moreover, gun control advocates’ contention that semiautomatic weapons fire at an extraordinary rate is untenable; a U.S. Navy Seal study shows they fire roughly one-tenth of a second faster than bolt-action weapons.42 Furthermore, when a weapon is actually aimed, the rate of fire is only about one shot per second on target.43 Thus, the fear of hundreds of rounds being fired in a matter of seconds is unfounded. The AWB did prohibit large capacity clips,44 and in that sense did reduce the firing rate of guns. However, the delay in firing caused by smaller ammunition clips is marginal due to the split second it takes for the shooter to press the release button and lock in a “new fully-loaded clip.’45
Furthermore, the ammunition used in assault weapons is not uniquely lethal compared to the ammunition used in other weapons permitted by the federal government.46 The two major factors that determine the destructive force of a round are its weight and velocity, 47 and rounds fired by assault weapons have less weight and a lower velocity than rounds used in many hunting rifles.48 Because assault weapons are not automatic weapons, they do not spray ammunition at nearly the destructive force of an ordinary shotgun firing buckshot.49 Therefore, looking purely at the firing rate and power of the firearms included under the AWB, the nineteen banned weapons are less dangerous than many weapons left untouched by the ban.
The second prong of the AWB prohibited firearms with at least two of the listed characteristics, such as a folding stock, a pistol grip, a threaded muzzle, a bayonet mount, or a grenade launcher.50 However, these criteria have little connection to the dangerousness of the”