top of page

“Assault Weapons”―Part 3 of 4 Parts

Effects of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban (AWB)

Between 1998 and 2019, there have been at least nineteen studies to determine the impact of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban on mass shootings, firearm homicides, gun violence, and crimes committed with assault weapons. Following is a summary of the individual studies:

· 1998 study: no impact on violent crime

· 2001 study: …did not reveal any clear impacts on gun violence….

· 2003 study: insufficient evidence….

· 2004 studies: (1) no significant evidence that either the AWB or the ban on magazines holding more than 10 rounds has reduced gun murders. (2) if the ban was renewed, the effects on gun violence would likely be small and perhaps too small for reliable measurement….

· 2013 study: the ban did not seem to affect gun crime rates….

· 2014 studies: (1) no impact on homicide rates…. (2) There is no compelling evidence that [the ban] saved lives.

· 2015 studies: (1) found a small decrease in the rate of mass shootings…. (2) …fatalities and injuries were statistically lower…. (3) these bans significantly reduce mass shooting deaths….

· 2016 study: found uncertain effects of AWB on the annual incidence of mass shootings.

· 2017 study: there was no evidence that the Federal AWB had a significant effect on firearm homicides.

· 2019 study: mass shooting fatalities were 70% less likely to occur during the 1994 to 2004 federal ban period, and that the ban was associated with a 0.1% reduction in total firearm homicide fatalities….

“The scientific consensus among criminologists and other researchers is that the ban had little to no effect on overall criminal activity, firearm deaths, or the lethality of gun crimes. Studies have found that the overwhelming majority of gun crimes are committed with weapons which are not covered by the Assault Weapon Ban, and that assault weapons [AR-15 style rifles] are less likely to be used in homicides than other weapons. There is tentative evidence that the frequency of mass shootings may have slightly decreased while the ban was in effect, but research is inconclusive, with independent researchers finding conflicting results.”

This concludes the discussion of the relevant studies, regulations, legislation, and effects regarding gun control bills.


Now let’s look at terminology. In discussing these bills, politicians, advocates, social media, and pundits of all genre use terms such as assault weapons, AR-15, miliary-style weapons, assault rifle, semi-automatic, automatic, barrel shroud, pistol grip, vertical front grip, bolt, pump, and lever action, large capacity ammunition feeding devices, side folding stocks, telescoping stocks, detachable magazines, tubular magazines, threaded barrels (muzzle threads are situated at the muzzle end of the barrel and can be used for mounting accessors such as a flash hider, suppressor or muzzle brake,) and “black guns” or “black rifle,” which is another term for assault rifle. What do all these words mean?

Unfortunately, many in the media, celebrities, and some members of Congress do not know the meaning of all the terms listed above and rather than clarifying the issue, they simply add to the confusion.

“Among sporting rifles, AR-15 is the king of the industry, so to speak,” said Michael Weeks, owner of Georgia Gun Store. “It’s everything you want,” said Bartocci, the “Black Rifle II” author. “You want a hunting rifle? It does it. You want a target rifle? It does it. You want a law-enforcement rifle? It does it.”

“The AR-15 is now the most popular sporting rifle in the U.S. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation. AR-15 style rifles accounted for an estimated 61 percent of all US civilian rifle sales in 2016.”

Note: Since a Colt AR-15 is very expensive, I believe that the term “AR-15 style rifle” should be used in the above paragraph because they are more affordable.

“AR-15s are the most commonly used rifles in marksmanship competitions, training, and home defense and they’re increasingly popular among hunters.” September 2019

Let’s start with the definition of “assault weapon.” Spoiler―it won’t be easy.

· An automatic pistol or rifle means you pull the trigger and the weapon keeps firing until you release the trigger.

· Semi-automatic means you have to pull the trigger for each shot whether it’s a pistol or rifle.

Webster: “Any of various intermediate-range, magazine-fed military rifles (such as the AK-47) that can be set for automatic or semiautomatic fire. Also, a rifle that resembles a military assault rifle but is designed to allow only semiautomatic fire.”

Semi-automatic rifles made their debut in 1885, semi-automatic pistols came on the market in 1892, and the first semi-automatic shotgun appeared in 1902 and none of them resembled today’s AR-15/M-16. So, the semi-automatic feature is not the cause of today’s furor―they’ve been around for over one hundred year―but rather it’s the appearance of the weapon and magazine capacity that are the real issues. Note: the AR-15 was initially on the market as a civilian weapon. The military got interested, adopted it, and called it the M-16 of Vietnam fame.

“An AR-15-style rifle is any lightweight semi-automatic rifle based on the Colt AR-15 design. The original ArmaLite AR-15 is a scaled-down derivative of Eugene Stoner's ArmaLite AR-10 design. …ArmaLite sold the patent and trademarks to Colt's Manufacturing Company in 1959. After most of Colt's patents for the Colt AR-15 expired in 1977, many firearm manufacturers began to produce copies of the Colt AR-15 under various names. While the patents expired, Colt retained the trademark of the AR-15 and is the sole manufacturer able to label their firearms as AR-15. The "AR" in Colt AR-15 stands for "ArmaLite Rifle", not "assault rifle.”

*The term “AR-15” is now considered a style of rifle, rather than a specific brand of one.

According to, the Army has a definition for “assault

rifle,” which is news to thousands of veterans who never heard the term until recently. Despite

my best effort, I have been unable to find an official Army document that defines “assault rifle.”

Nonetheless, Wiki states, the U.S. Army defines assault rifles as "short, compact, selective fire

weapons that fire a cartridge intermediate in power between submachine gun and rifle cartridges." Wiki states a firearm must have at least the following characteristics to be considered an assault rifle:

· It must be capable of selective fire (the soldier may select semi-automation or full-on automatic.)

· It must have an intermediate-power cartridge: more power than a pistol but less than a standard rifle or battle rifle.

· Its ammunition must be supplied from a detachable box magazine.

· It must have an effective range of at least 300 meters (330 yards).

Rifles that meet most of these criteria, but not all, are not assault rifles according to the supposed U.S. Army's definition. For example:

· Select-fire M2 Carbines are not assault rifles because their effective range is only 180 meters (200 yd).

· Select-fire rifles such as the Fedorov Avtomat, FN FAL, M14, and H&K G3 main battle rifles are not assault rifles because they fire full-powered rifle cartridges.

· Semi-automatic-only rifles like the Colt AR-15 are not assault rifles because they do not have select-fire capabilities.

· Semi-automatic-only rifles with fixed magazines like the SKS are not assault rifles; they do not have detachable box magazines and are not capable of automatic fire.

SKS with permanently attached magazine. Rounds must be loaded into the magazine as shown or manually one at a time.


According to the Firearm Industry Trade Association website, “The only real way to define what is an ‘assault weapon’ is politically, as in how any given law chooses to define the term.

The 1994 ban outlawed Colt’s AR-15 by name. However, the ban didn’t cover versions of these weapons unless they had two of the purely cosmetic features: a folding stock, a bayonet mount, a “conspicuously protruding” pistol grip, a flash suppressor or a grenade launcher.

“It makes no sense, banning something based on appearance,” said Chris Bartocci. “It’s the same weapon; one just looks meaner.”

Manufacturers quickly found a way to redesign around these constraints.

Associated Press

Associated Press Advises Journalists to Quit Using ‘Highly Politicized Terms’ Like ‘Assault Weapon’14 Jul 2022

“The Associated Press announced an update to its stylebook Wednesday, advising journalists to quit using phrases like “assault rifle” or “assault weapon.” The AP tweeted the update, noting, “The preferred term for a rifle that fires one bullet each time the trigger is pulled, and automatically reloads for a subsequent shot, is a semi-automatic rifle. An automatic rifle continuously fires rounds if the trigger is depressed and until its ammunition is exhausted.”

The update continues: “Avoid assault rifle and assault weapon, which are highly politicized terms that generally refer to AR- or AK-style rifles designed for the civilian market, but convey very little meaning about the actual function of the weapon.”

The Second Amendment Foundation’s Alan Gottlieb responded to the AP’s focus on changing terminology on semiautomatic rifles, saying, “It’s about time the media realized the terms ‘assault rifle’ and ‘assault weapon’ are inflammatory and meaningless.”


WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that Americans have a broad right to arm themselves in public, striking down a New York law that placed strict limits on carrying guns outside the home and setting off a scramble in other states that have similar restrictions.

June 23, 2022, ruling from the Supreme Court of the United States. The decision in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association (NYSRPA) v. Bruen, in which SCOTUS ruled that New York’s proper cause requirement for concealed carry permit issuance was unconstitutional.

“…certain gun controls in states other than New York were done away with shortly after the ruling. For example, 24 to 36 hours after the ruling against New York’s proper cause requirement, the states of California and New Jersey dropped similar concealed carry permit issuance requirements. And on July 5, Maryland suspended its “good and substantial reason” clause for concealed carry permit issuance.

…the Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) is pointing to the Bruen decision as it seeks to have New York’s “assault weapons” ban ruled unconstitutional.FPC claims, “There is no constitutionally relevant difference between a semi-automatic handgun, shotgun, and rifle. While some exterior physical attributes may differ — wood vs. metal stocks and furniture, the number and/or location of grips, having a bare muzzle vs. having muzzle devices, different barrel lengths, etc. — they are, in all relevant respects, the same.”


Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page