“Those arms are dangerous and solely useful for military purposes,” he continued. “Instead, the firearms deemed ‘assault weapons’ are fairly ordinary, popular, modern rifles.”
Most of the legislative solutions under negotiation in Washington today focus on background checks. The federal assault weapons ban expired in 2004 — but, along with California, several states have passed assault weapon bans, albeit with varying lists and definitions of which and what types of firearms qualify as assault weapons.
The term does not have a technical definition and is used by some to refer to all types of guns — including rifles, shotguns and pistols. There is no specific caliber size, speed at which the weapon fires or other technical measure used to classify a gun as an assault weapon.
The gun-control advocacy group Giffords defines assault weapons generally as firearms built for war and made to “kill humans quickly and efficiently.”
Assault rifles, automatic and semi-automatic firearms
Guns that can fire automatically — meaning they will fire continuously after only one pull of the trigger — are heavily regulated in the US and manufacturing new automatic weapons for civilians has been banned since 1986.
The vast majority of rifles in the US are semi-automatic. Many gun control advocates, however, argue that guns designed after weapons made for military use also fall into the category of “assault rifle.”
Guns and deaths
When it comes to gun violence in the US, the problem stems not primarily from the use of rifles, military-style or otherwise, but rather from handguns.