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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 26 2012: In general, I tend to be more technical, looking for details about how things work.
    For example, I’m truly amazed at the process of “genes to proteins”.

    When I heard the tragic news from Sandy Hook, of course I felt very sad for the loss of those children and teachers.
    But as time passed and hearing reports of a Bushmaster .223 weapon, I learned what “semi-automatic” operation looks like in a firearm. The “six-guns” used by cowboys were the predecessor; they could shoot six times by merely pulling the trigger six times (“double-action”). Then someone invented magazines (“clips”) to store more rounds and make it easier to reload.

    If a criminal from the days of Roy Rogers days wanted to kill a bunch of people, he could fire 12 rounds, using both hands. Then he would need to reload.
    Or he could get a Gatling gun that enabled rapid fire.

    Here’s a question.
    Did the shooter at Sandy Hook have a gun that operated like a “six-gun” revolver used by Roy Rogers?
    Or did the gun operate more like a Gatling gun?

    Many news programs claim that it was a “military assault rifle” that could shoot many rounds per second.

    The website “Federal Assault Weapons Ban” says:
    “The Act addressed only semi-automatic firearms, that is, firearms that fire one shot each time the trigger is pulled. Neither the AWB nor its expiration changed the legal status of fully automatic firearms, which fire more than one round with a single trigger-pull; these have been regulated by the National Firearms Act of 1934 and Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986.”

    This statement is misleading. In the Sandy Hook example:
    The news reports say a semi-automatic gun was used. (weapon covered by AWB)
    But automatic fire was used. Weapon Not covered by AWB; therefore, the AWB would have no effect on the crime…


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