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Clarification of Gun Terms: Semi-automatic, Assault, Machine gun

Many news reports and programs equate "semi-automatic" with "assault" guns. People are led to believe that a semi-automatic can shoot several rounds per second. We hear news commentators calling for a ban of semi-automatic weapons.

Federal Assault Weapons Ban: “Semi-automatic firearms, when fired, automatically extract the spent cartridge casing and load the next cartridge into the chamber, ready to fire again. They do not fire automatically like a machine gun.”

Probably most hunting guns are semi-automatic, requiring a separate trigger pull for each round; that doesn't make them assault weapons. Of course, a victim can reasonably claim “assault” even if only one shot is fired at them (assault: a crime that involves causing a victim to apprehend violence).

“Assault weapon (semi-automatic) refers primarily (but not exclusively) to firearms that possess the cosmetic features of an assault rifle (which are fully-automatic). Actually possessing the operational features, such as 'full-auto', changes the classification from an assault weapon to a Class 3 weapon. Merely the possession of cosmetic features is enough to warrant such classification as an assault weapon.”

If a weapon has certain cosmetic features of an assault rifle (e.g. pistol grip, high capacity magazine etc ) it’s classified as an assault weapon.

Note that fully-automatic operation (hold trigger - several rounds per second) is not an assault weapon but a Class 3 weapon (e.g. machine gun) regulated by National Firearms Act).

What if a semi-automatic gun has not only cosmetic features, but also operates as a Class 3 rifle?

A popular conversion product provides that:
It's approved by BATF:
Apparently the product is “OK” because the operator controls the action.

This weapon provides an advantage; but may be less accurate / continual auto may damage barrel.

Topics: gun control

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    Dec 25 2012: George,

    I am curious to know what your intent is with this debate? The information you provide regarding classification of weapons is available on line. I also suspect that when certain guns are banned, those who author the regulations will be knowledgeable enough to know what they are talking about, why they are banning certain guns, and they will make that clear in the written law. I'm sure you know that we HAD a ban on assault guns not too long ago?
    • Dec 25 2012: Despite the information being “on line”, I’m curious about the misinformation on news programs. For example, “Piers Morgan Tonight” has been talking about the dreadful event at Sandy Hook. I think it was the Thursday program (12/20) in which Piers asked a guest several times: “How many rounds a second can an AR-15 fire?” – giving the impression of a military machine gun. For some reason, the guest did not answer.
      The next day, Piers started the show with a video showing operation of an AR-15-type with “automatic” fire.

      But when you see a person shooting a semi-automatic rifle at target practice (accuracy most important), he/she pulls the trigger to fire one round. It appears to take one second for the body to absorb the shock and get ready for another attempt. From the factory, the semi-automatic AR-15 apparently enables only that operation. Am I incorrect on that?
      (My only personal experience with guns is with a .22 rifle my dad and older brother used for hunting, some 60 years ago.)

      When I found information about the SSAR-15, a light came on. It explained how a semi-automatic rifle could be transformed into another kind of weapon. Perhaps there are other ways to do it. There is evidence from Sandy Hook that automatic fire was used (many rounds in each victim). During a murder trial, details are exposed by ballistics experts and eye-witnesses. But when the perpetrator commits suicide, there is no trial. Apparently the type of gun is an important issue. Shouldn’t we know if the semi-automatic rifle was a modified version?

      I find it difficult to understand:
      >> The SSAR-15 product is approved by the BATF, the resultant weapon having a “machine gun” operation.
      >> Nobody talks about it.
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        Dec 25 2012: George,
        I cannot understand focus on EXACTLY how many rounds per minute or second a gun fires....whether or not it is automatic or semi-automatic....unless it is for the purpose of figuring out how fast and how many people we can shoot. There are certain guns, with certain criteria that are catagorized "assault weapons", and one can get that information on line.

        To me, it doesn't matter how "many rounds" there were "in each victim". Those who are dead, are dead, and the person who shot them mis-used the weapons against innocent people. It feels odd to me to be debating the number of rounds in each of those victims
        • Dec 25 2012: Fully -auto (military style) weapons have the potential to pierce body armor along with the higher % of hitting parts of the body that are not covered. That is one of the main reasons they are considered more threatening. I would like to point out again that those type weapons are only available to persons with a class 3 weapon permit as talked about in the main subject.
        • Dec 25 2012: Colleen,
          As I mentioned initially, even one round from a gun is an assault on the victim.
          Rifles used in 1776 inflicted fatal wounds as modern “semi-automatic” guns do today. The effect is the same. As you say, the person is dead.

          In this case, it was the news reports and programs that reported the “number of rounds” information and concluded that a military assault rifle was used, implying automatic fire. And that’s a problem, because we’re told that the shooter’s gun was a semi-automatic.

          The difference between semi-automatic and automatic operation is explained and demonstrated here:
          "The Truth About Semi-Auto Firearms" (Uploaded on Jan 8, 2007)
          At 3:22, the retired police officer says the “automatic rifle” is sold only to policemen and law enforcement.
          Towards the end, they say it's impossible to convert a semi-automatic to automatic operation.
          Has something changed since 2007?

          Why do Piers Morgan and other people report that a (military) automatic firearm was utilized at Sandy Hook?
          What was the police evidence?
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        Dec 26 2012: Dear George,
        As I also mentioned, even one round from a gun is an assault on the victim.....on that we agree.

        I am aware that weapons have changed since 1776.

        News reports, are news reports George, and we know that information is sometimes inaccurate.

        Yes, I believe something has changed since 2007. To the best of my knowledge, in the past 6 years, new guns have been designed, manufactured and used.

        If you want to find out why people report certain information, you need to ask the person you are questioning or his/her representative. I have noticed that more information is available as the Sandy Hook investigation continues. Generally, ALL information is not available to the public until AFTER the investigation is finished.

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