Just What Is an Assault Rifle?

It is a widely-spread falsehood by the NRA and assault weapon supporters that the AR-15 civilian versions of the M-16 are not “military-style assault weapons” because they are semi-automatic (you have to pull the trigger for each single round), while military versions support full automatic fire.  In fact, M-14s, Most versions of M-16s, and several versions of the newer M-4, do NOT support full automatic fire. The M-14 (predecessor to the M-16) was originally fully automatic, but due to the extreme difficulty soldiers had in controlling the weapon under full auto (due to the large 7.62 x 51 NATO round it was chambered for), the full automatic option was disabled. Making its appearance during the Vietnam era, the M-16 came in several models, only some of which supported full auto on their selector switches. The M-16 was chambered for the smaller, lighter 5.56 x 45 NATO round, so the lighter ammo was easier to carry and the weapon easier to control on full auto. M-16 rifles were made in several models, some of which did NOT support full auto. The original M-16 and M-16A1 had a 3-position selector switch for safe/semi/full automatic. Concerned with the tendency of all but the [More…]


One thing is obvious from the start – we are NEVER going to be able to implement a rational solution to gun violence. We can, of course, pass laws preventing (most of) the sale of assault-style weapons and semi-automatic handguns with magazines capable of holding, say, more than 7 or 8 cartridges. These would have to be federal laws, because many states have no inclination to do it themselves. Still and all, with the exception of the mass killer phenomenon, most gun deaths are caused by people with ordinary handguns, most of which would not fall under any ban we could conceivably get through Congress. We could drastically improve identity checks for criminal histories and a history of mental instability, but that is, at best, a weak sieve, as many people buy guns before their first criminal act (often a murder with said handgun) and, since many thought disorders do not manifest themselves before late teen or young adult years, perhaps years after a person purchases a gun. And, as in the Newtown shootings, the murderer simply appropriated his mother’s guns (legally bought in a state with reputedly the strongest gun laws in the country), shot his mother, and took [More…]