Black Rifles & Tactical Guns

The Truth About “Assault Weapons”

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By Mike Sweeney, Gun Owners Action League

In the United States today Americans lawfully own an estimated 20-30 million rifles which are commonly used and often misconstrued by the media, politicians, and gun control advocates as “assault rifles.”

Here are some facts about these rifles.  Thanks to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) for some of the facts below: (note that the NSSF has labeled these rifles “Modern Sporting Rifles” (MSR).

Also note: there is an estimated 100 Million lawfully owned rifles of all types in the United States.

  • AR-15 and other MSR style rifles are no more powerful than other hunting rifles of the same caliber and in most cases are chambered in calibers less powerful than common big-game hunting cartridges like the 30-06 Springfield and .300 Win. Mag.
  • AR-15 and other MSR style rifles are NOT “assault weapons” or “assault rifles.” An assault rifle is fully automatic and more commonly referred to as a machine gun. Machine guns have been severely restricted from civilian ownership since 1934, obtaining a permit to own one is an arduous, time intensive and expensive process.
  • There are many civilian variants of MSR’s that resemble the famous AK-47.  Just as the AR-15 is semi-auto only, these AK type MSR’s are also semi-automatic, they are not fully automatic machine guns and are no more powerful than any other common rifle.
  • The AR in “AR-15” rifle stands for ArmaLite rifle, after the company that developed it in the 1950s. “AR” does NOT stand for “assault rifle” or “automatic rifle.”
  • MSR style rifles look like military rifles, such as the M-16 and AK-47 but function like any other semi-automatic civilian sporting firearms, firing only one round with each pull of the trigger.
  • Versions of modern sporting rifles are legal to own in all 50 states, provided the purchaser passes the mandatory FBI background check required for all retail firearm purchasers.
  • These rifles’ accuracy, reliability, ruggedness and versatility serve target shooters and hunters well. They are true all-weather firearms and are very fun to shoot.
  • These rifles are used for many different types of hunting, from varmint to big game. And they’re used for target shooting in the national matches.
  • AR-15-platform rifles are among the most popular firearms being sold.  Lawful gun owners in the U.S. own an estimated 5-10 million of them.
  • Depending on the definition there are an estimated 20-30 million lawfully owned Modern Sporting Rifles in the U.S.  These include AK’s, HK’s, SKS’s, and all other types of modern sporting rifles.  

Who owns these rifles?  Here are some more facts, once again from the NSSF.

  • Nearly half (44 percent) of MSR owners are current or former military or law enforcement members.
  • 30 percent of all MSR owners purchased their first rifle in 2009 or 2010.
  • 99 percent of all MSR owners owned some type of firearm prior to their first MSR purchase.
  • The typical MSR owner is 35-plus years old, married and has some college education.

Now let’s take a look at some crime numbers.  If one were to believe our President and those who align with him by calling for a renewed AWB we would be led to think that these “automatic weapons” are being used on a daily basis by violent criminals to kill scores of Americans.

As usual with most things said by the control crowd, it’s simply not true.  (The following numbers are from 2009, which is the last time the FBI released a complete statistical data set.)

  • Since 1980 there has been a steady decade by decade drop in violent crime in the United States.
  • In the last year reported – 2009 there were a total of 13,636 murders in the United States; this reflects a total drop of 59% from 1980.
  • Rifles of all types were used for less than 2.5% of the total murders.
  • Of this >2.5% it is not known how many included MSR’s as that is not reported.  Based on simple math we can conclude that approximately 25% of all rifles owned in the U.S. are MSR’s.  Therefore we can guesstimate that number at approximately .625%.

The Clinton Ban was a failure.  In 1994 President Clinton initiated a Federal Assault Weapon Ban that lasted a decade, sunsetting in 2004.  Since the sunset of the Clinton ban rifle related homicides, along with all other homicides have dropped, in the year 2000 the center point of the AWB ban, rifle deaths in the U.S. were 14.4% higher than they were in 2009.

Since 2004 and especially since 2008 there has been a nationwide MSR sales boom; they have literally been flying off of the shelf.  As noted above, nearly 30% of all legally owned MSR’s have been purchased since 2009.  During this time period the almost non-existent crime rate has continued to drop.  Early crime statistics released for 2010-2011 show another 18+% drop in homicides committed with firearms.  The axiom once again holds true, more MSR’s = less crime.

Millions and millions of MSR’s have been sold to lawful owners across the country and are in common use on a daily basis.  They are used for the action sports, target shooting, plinking, hunting, and legal defense inside the home.

Over the last few months there has been a lot of talk about renewing the “Assault Weapons Ban”.  The chatter started anew moments after the smoke cleared in the Colorado movie theater and soon television sets across the country and the iternet were buzzing.

As usual those who wish to control us by denying our Second Amendment freedoms were on the pulpit before grieving families had a chance to make plans for funeral arrangements.  Led by Mayor Bloomberg and a host of others, they seized the moment to jump in front of the klieg lights and preach the evils of “Assault Weapons designed for the battlefield.”  What they didn’t talk about though, was the “Assault Weapon” jamming early on, as that factoid would have gone against their agenda.

Summer has turned to Fall and here we are, in the midst of what is undoubtedly the silliest election season in history.  During the second presidential debate, one which was a “town hall” style in which “undecided voters” were handpicked by an “unbiased” moderator to ask questions, a woman, who as it turns out used to work for the Obama campaign was selected to ask a question.  She got up and asked the candidates what their thoughts on Americans owning AK47s was.  In a rare moment of honesty, President Obama had yet another of his “off the prompter” moments and said what he actually believed;

“My belief is that, (A), we have to enforce the laws we’ve already got, make sure that we’re keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, those who are mentally ill. We’ve done a much better job in terms of background checks, but we’ve got more to do when it comes to enforcement.”

    “But I also share your belief that weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters don’t belong on our streets. And so what I’m trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the violence generally. Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced. But part of it is also looking at other sources of the violence. Because frankly, in my home town of Chicago, there’s an awful lot of violence and they’re not using AK-47s. They’re using cheap hand guns.”

Once again “Assault Weapons” were all the talk, and suddenly every politician who thought they needed a few more votes was taking a stance against them.

The President, in his comment was purposefully deceitful as he blended the facts about what exactly is being used by violent criminals while committing deadly acts of crime.  As to the “automatic weapons on the street”, this is simply not true either as a miniscule percentage of “automatic weapons” are used to commit these deadly acts on American streets or elsewhere in America for that matter.

Two issues are at play here:

First: Politicians who campaign on failed social programs and don’t want to reform our often failing criminal justice system need something to point the finger of blame at.  As MSR’s bear a resemblance to military arms, it’s easy for these same politicians to blame the object, especially to a nation that for the most part doesn’t know the difference between an AR15 and an M16.  By speaking with conviction in regard to banning these rifles they present themselves as being for public safety.  As we know, that is disingenuous as the statistics prove otherwise.

Second: There are typically two groups at work here, there is a cadre of very well funded factions of “concerned citizens” and elected officials who wish to control the population by disarming them.  These are your George Soros types.  The other group typically consists of people who have a direct, very negative personal connection via relationship to a victim of a violent criminal.  As a coping mechanism they, like the gun grabbing politician, places the blame on the object and seeks closure via banning the object to insure that the crime is not repeated.  Unfortunately this is not realistic.

There is no correlation between regulation and crime reduction. Looking at the continued decade by decade drop in violent crime, the surge in sales, the millions of MSR’s which are currently lawfully owned, and the ever dropping miniscule % of them used in crime it’s pretty easy to conclude that there is no real issue in the United States with these rifles in regard to crime.  Therefore a ban of any kind is by default needless legislation looking to solve a problem that simply does not exist.

Bottom line, the numbers don’t lie, the gun grabbers do, and that is the truth.