top of page

“Assault Weapons”―Part 2 of 4 Parts

Part 1 clarified the difference between a Colt AR-15 and an AR-15 style rifle. Politicians often use the two types of rifles interchangeably, but do use correct terms when crafting laws and regulations. For those who know the difference between an AR-15 and AR-15 style rifle, the use of incorrect terminology may be off-putting, but it really doesn’t make any difference. Similarly, the cavalier use of the term “assault rifle” is equally annoying because outside of legislation or government studies, it is a confusing, and perhaps, meaningless term.

Through studies and proposed legislation, Part 2 identifies those military characteristics of a rifle that are used in legislation as the basis to ban their sale, transfer, manufacturing, and importation. For example, the 1989 study determined that assault rifles containing a variety of physical features such as a folding/telescoping stocks, separate pistol grips, flash suppressors, and bipods, distinguish them from traditional sporting rifles.


The purpose of the 2011 study was to establish criteria that the ATF` will use to determine the importability of certain shotguns under the provisions of the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA). This study determined that certain shotgun features are not particularly suitable or readily adaptable for sporting purposes. These features include:

(1) Folding, telescoping, or collapsible stocks;

(2) bayonet lugs;

(3) flash suppressors;

(4) magazines over 5 rounds, or a drum magazine;

(5) grenade-launcher mounts;

(6) integrated rail systems (other than on top of the receiver or barrel);

(7) light enhancing devices;

(8) excessive weight (greater than 10 pounds for 12 gauge or smaller);

(9) excessive bulk (greater than 3 inches in width and/or greater than 4 inches in depth);

(10) forward pistol grips or other protruding parts designed or used for gripping the shotgun with the shooter’s extended hand.

Although the features listed above do not represent an exhaustive list of possible shotgun features, designs or characteristics, the working group determined that shotguns with any one of these features are most appropriate for military or law enforcement use. Therefore, shotguns containing any of these features are not particularly suitable for nor readily adaptable to generally recognized sporting purposes such as hunting, trap, sporting clay, and skeet shooting.

“ATF’s plan to ban tactical shotguns fails thanks to obscure provision.” 11/22/2011


New Assault Weapons Ban failed to pass in the Senate, but notice that the approved and disapproved weapon characteristics are mostly in-line with previously identified characteristics.

The proposed 2013 legislation bans the sale, transfer, manufacturing, and importation of:

(1) All semiautomatic rifles that can accept a detachable magazine and have at least one military feature: pistol grip; forward grip; folding, telescoping, or detachable stock; grenade launcher or rocket launcher; barrel shroud; or threaded barrel.

(2) All semiautomatic pistols that can accept a detachable magazine and have at least one military feature: threaded barrel; second pistol grip; barrel shroud; capacity to accept a detachable magazine at some location outside of the pistol grip; or semiautomatic version of an automatic firearm.

(3) All semiautomatic rifles and handguns that have a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds.

(4) All semiautomatic shotguns that have a folding, telescoping, or detachable stock; pistol grip; fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 5 rounds; ability to accept a detachable magazine; forward grip; grenade launcher or rocket launcher; or shotgun with a revolving cylinder.

(5) All ammunition feeding devices (magazines, strips, and drums) capable of accepting more than 10 rounds.

(6) 157 specifically-named firearms….

The legislation excludes the following weapons from the bill:

· Any weapon that is lawfully possessed at the date of the bill’s enactment;

· Any firearm manually operated by a bolt, pump, or lever action;

· Assault weapons used by military, law enforcement, and retired law enforcement; and

· Antique weapons [made prior to 1899]

The legislation protects hunting and sporting firearms:

(1) The bill excludes [from the ban] 2,258 legitimate hunting and sporting rifles and shotguns by specific make and model.

(2) The legislation strengthens [the provisions of] the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban and State bans by:

(3) Moving from a 2-characteristic test to a 1-characteristic test.

(4) The bill also makes the ban harder to evade by eliminating the easy-to-remove bayonet mounts and flash suppressors from the characteristics test [that were used to get around the 1994 ban].

(5) Banning dangerous aftermarket modifications and workarounds.

(6) [Banning] Bump or slide-fire stocks, which are modified stocks that enable semi-automatic weapons to fire at rates similar to fully automatic.

(7)[Banning ]So-called “bullet buttons” that allow the rapid replacement of ammunition magazines, frequently used as a workaround to prohibitions on detachable magazines.

(8) [ Banning] Thumbhole stocks, a type of stock that was created as a workaround to avoid prohibitions on pistol grips.

(9) Adding a ban on the importation of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines.

(10) Eliminating the 10-year sunset that allowed the original [1994] federal ban to expire.

Thumb hole grip

Forward pistol grip

But not everyone was happy with the 2013 bill.

“Gun control advocates frequently complained that firearm manufacturers got around the law by making minor, functionally unimportant changes to their products. Bushmaster, for instance, introduced the XM-15 rifle, a ban-compliant version of the AR-15. The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence notes that it was "functionally equivalent in all relevant respects to its banned cousin." But if companies could legally produce guns that were just as deadly as the ones covered by the ban, that was an indictment of the law, not the manufacturers who complied with it.”

The proposed 2013 law prohibited guns “based on features with little or no functional significance.”

The forbidden features of the proposed 2013 legislation are somewhat different than other laws. The bayonet mounts prohibition is missing, but barrel shroud, a covering that protects the shooter's hand from the heat generated by firing a rifle, has been added.

The bill specifically exempts the Iver Johnson M1 carbine and the Ruger Mini-14 rifle, but only when they have fixed stocks. Adding a folding or adjustable stock to these rifles transforms them from legitimate firearms into proscribed "assault weapons," even though that change does not make them any more lethal. A folding stock makes a rifle shorter for transport or storage, while an adjustable stock allows a more comfortable fit for shooters of different sizes. The Ruger Mini-14 tactical Rifle has an adjustable stock while the Ranch Rifle has a fixed stock.

According to a Reason-Rupe survey, about two-thirds of Americans mistakenly thought "assault weapons" fire faster than other guns, hold more rounds, or use higher-caliber ammunition.”

Some confuse "machine guns" or "automatic weapons" with semi-automatic rifles. Others would ban semi-automatic rifles with barrel shrouds. (Libertarian website)


The proposed Assault Weapons Ban of 2019 prohibits the sale, transfer, production, and importation of:

· Semi-automatic rifles and pistols with a military-style feature that can accept a detachable magazine;

· Semi-automatic rifles with a fixed magazine that can hold more than 10 rounds;

· Semi-automatic shotguns with a military-style feature;

· Any ammunition feeding device that can hold more than 10 rounds;

· And 205 specifically-named and listed firearms.

The proposed 2019 law also includes a definition of “assault weapon” as follows:

“The term ‘semiautomatic assault weapon’ means any of the following, regardless of country of manufacture or caliber of ammunition accepted:

A semiautomatic rifle that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and any 1 of the following:

· A pistol grip [by the trigger]

· A forward grip.

· A folding, telescoping, or detachable stock, or is otherwise foldable or adjustable in a manner that operates to reduce the length, size, or any other dimension, or otherwise enhances the concealability, of the weapon.

· A grenade launcher.

· A barrel shroud. A barrel shroud (below) is an external covering that envelops (either partially or full-length) the barrel of a firearm, to prevent unwanted direct contact with a hot barrel leading to burns.

· A threaded barrel.

· A semiautomatic rifle that has a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds.


Proposed H.R. 8 – Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021

Proposed H.R. 1446 – Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021

In February 2019, the House passed the first of two bills called the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 aimed at broadening the federal background check system for firearms purchases.

A second bill, would extend the period federal authorities have to complete a background check before a gun sale can go through. Under current law, if a check isn't finalized in three business days, the transaction can automatically proceed.

The legislation mandates background checks be performed on all gun sales, including firearm purchases made privately, whether it be online or at gun shows. Under current law, only licensed gun dealers are required to conduct a background check for someone seeking to obtain a gun.

There are exceptions:

· The background check does not apply to transfers between close relatives.

· A firearm could also be loaned to someone using it at a shooting range or for the purposes of hunting and trapping, unless there's a reason to suspect the gun will be used in a crime or the person receiving the gun is prohibited from possessing the gun under state or federal law.

· A temporary transfer of a gun can also take place in situations where it's "necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm."

· An amendment requires federal immigration officials to be contacted in the event someone in the U.S. illegally tries to buy a gun.

The revised House Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021 is unlikely to get Senate approval.


Bipartisan Safer Communities Act

Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was signed into law by President Joe Biden on June 25, 2022. Gun safety laws in the bill include extended background checks for gun purchasers under 21, clarification of Federal Firearms License requirements, funding for state red flag laws and other crisis intervention programs, further criminalization of arms trafficking and straw purchases, and partial closure of the boyfriend loophole.

Senator Murkowski (R-AK) states, “The bill does NOT create a national red flag law, or require or incentivize states to enact red flag laws, or penalize states that do not have these laws; it does NOT infringe on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens; and it does NOT create universal background checks, mental health checks or mandatory or de-facto waiting periods.”


Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page