The Myth of the 'Assault Weapon'

By George Halsey, Secretary

May 21, 2019

To the Editor:

Of the anti-2nd Amendment legislation currently doing the rounds in Congress, two notions make a significant priority for Democrats (and certain Republicans): Universal background checks and ‘assault weapon’ bans. The former’s nonsense and unconstitutionality has been well covered by others, so allow me to tackle the latter. Quite simply, ‘assault weapon’ is a fake term used as cover to justify prohibition of the exact arms that the 2nd Amendment explicitly protects.

The word ‘assault’ only appears once in the world of firearms, within the term ‘assault rifle’. It is distinguished from a regular rifle by the presence of three features: capability of full-auto fire, use of a certain type of ammunition and having a detachable magazine. The first one, full-auto, has been highly regulated under federal law since 1934 so is irrelevant to this argument. The latter two have little to do with lethality in the wider context of firearms; any number of commonly available rifles, shotguns or pistols are comparable in this regard.

In contrast, when a layperson hears the phrase ‘assault weapon’, criminal assault comes to mind; a legal offense as opposed to defense. To that layperson the gun must be different from others supposedly intended for defensive use, by surely being designed to attack and injure individuals offensively. This is a complete misunderstanding - the term ‘Assault’ here actually refers to the small-unit infantry tactic, or combat action, of firing and advancing towards an enemy. It certainly does not concern violence towards an individual or relate to whether a weapon is wielded offensively or defensively.

Unfortunately, absent of this information or anything like it in the mainstream media, one might be persuaded to believe that these weapons are so dangerous only the correct authorities should be trusted to use them. This is the foundation upon which ‘assault weapon’ bans work, in practice prohibiting the sale of guns possessing features useful in combat. The designated features have nothing to do whatsoever with assault rifles or criminal violence but included things like pistol grips, which make a rifle slightly more comfortable to hold, flash hiders, which slightly reduce the muzzle blast at night and standard-capacity magazines, which are unrelated to the ‘assault’ definition.

The 2nd Amendment inarguably codifies the right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of combat, especially militia combat, which has always been the domain of any individual or unit of persons-at- arms. To prohibit arms exclusively because they are useful in combat is to obliterate the 2 nd Amendment.