So What Is an Assault Weapon?
With many Dems ambivalent, gun control faces big obstacles
By Mark Russell, Newser Staff
Posted Jan 17, 2013 7:14 AM CST
John Jackson, co-owner of Capitol City Arms Supply shows off an AR-15 assault rifle for sale yesterday at his business in Springfield, Ill.   (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

(Newser) – A key part of President's Obama's gun control agenda is a ban on assault weapons, but both sides of the gun debate can't even agree on what is an assault weapon, much less whether to ban them, reports the New York Times. Gun control proponents generally use the term to refer to semiautomatic rifles with detachable magazines and features like flash suppressors and pistol grips. But gun advocates say that "assault weapon" can only refer to fully automatic fire, and that the semiautomatic versions available to civilians should be called "tactical rifles" or "modern sporting rifles." Gun historians, however, point out that using the term "assault rifle" for semiautomatic firearms was originally coined by the gun industry.

On the other hand, the whole debate may be pretty much moot as the president's gun agenda faces stiff opposition by Republicans and much ambivalence by centrist Democrats, reports the Washington Post. Two decades of defeat for gun-control legislation has left little interest on Capitol Hill to take it on again, and observers say Obama's call to restrict assault weapons and magazine sizes are most likely to go nowhere. Universal background checks and new gun trafficking penalties are more likely to be passed, although even those components face opposition. (Click to read about Obama's 23 executive orders.)

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Jan 18, 2013 9:08 AM CST
Smitty: Thank you for the kudos. My purpose here has been to educate people. While I am no genius, I have had experience in many fields from counselor to warrior. I am not trying to convert people to become gun-owners, I have associated with people whose country's require their citizens to maintain firearms in their homes as all adult citizens are considered military reservists until a certain age. And, the 2d amendment, by intent, was designed so all states could count on its populous to be called upon as militia in times of emergency. Our forefathers foresaw this need. In fact, the Homeland Security Act, echoes this despite Ms. Napolitano's ignorance. Even the right and authorization for a citizen to have arresting authority in situations involving a felony supports the 2d Amendment, in fact and spirit. Interestingly enough, I watched a program, last night, where a Doctor, who also had a law degree stated that the responsibility to teach kids right from wrong, falls with the parents. And, it was also the responsibility of the parents to know when behavior problems were too much for them to handle alone and look for appropriate agencies to provide assistance. From all the muddled reports, Adam Lanza's mother was faced with months of procedure, with Connecticut's Mental Health System, before she could get him institutionalized with professional health care. We now know that a psychiatrist had interviews with Holmes, in Aurora, CO, where he indicated wanting to do violence and kill people. Why did she delay and not notify authorities immediately? We now know that Spengler, the New York firemen ambusher, was a convicted murderer, released early from prison; had someone buy guns for him; and his sister violated laws regarding a convicted felon having guns and it led to his violence. Why was a man who murdered his grandmother with a hammer only given 25 years in prison? Why did a parole board release him eight years early, when mental health professional had questions about his violent tendencies? I keep on asking myself these questions. I was in San Diego, some years ago, when a mentally deranged man, who wasn't even supposed to drive, took a van and ran over more than 40 people, killing 32, near the border crossing to Mexico. And, this man backed up over his victims and rolled over them numerous times to ensure he killed them, before border agents wounded him. My daughter, whose town is 30 minutes away from Newton, CT, was derided by local politicians when she proposed a resource officer program similar to the one we have here in Florida. They said it wasn't needed; provided the wrong message to businesses and potential residents; and would cost too much. What price the security of our children? Ultimately, while I see this as the media and politicians promoting hysteria and promoting their personal agendas--gun bans--I see all this rhetoric and media hype as clouding the real issues. Inadequate parenting. Inadequate mental health systems and oversight. Inadequate appropriations and support for law enforcement. Inadequate support for our judicial, parole and penal systems. Political recalcitrance on real-world issues. You can ban high capacity magazines, but that won't stop crime. You can ban military looking rifles(incorrectly calling them assault weapons), but that won't stop mentally deranged or violent people from killing others. And, as a former science teacher, I remember how Timothy McVeigh killed 169 people with a truck bomb using farm fertilizer as the explosive main ingredient. As a parent, my kids were exposed to firearms all their lives. Much of their lives overlapped with my being in the Marine Corps. When they were of an age, I began teaching them about firearms safety, respect for people and to notify me or an adult if they saw a firearm where it shouldn't be or on a school campus. My children all went to the range with me. They never broke my trust. In fact, I had access to firearms when I was 10 and I was a latchkey kid. When my brother joined the Corps, I had access to his desk with a pistol in it and I had a .22 rifle in my closet. All my firearms and ammunition are stored in excess of BATF criteria, except for self defense weapons. Like I said, I don't want to convert everyone to gun-owners. But, I do ask that people on both sides of the debate to look beyond the hype, hysteria and rhetoric. There are literally thousands of restrictive gun laws already on the books. I'll bet Obama and his supporters don't even know half of them. I'll bet that Joe Biden didn't even do the research, before he bullied his way through his special committee,,,which I wonder why it wasn't televised. There are up to 80 million legitimate firearms owners in this country. We have invested in a sport or means of self-defense that constitutes huge investments. We are law-abiding citizens who have undergone criminal background checks and our legitimate purchases are already a matter of public record. We have people in the U.S. that have to hunt to put meat on the tabel...oh yes, the government doesn't address those poverty levels. We pay taxes on everything that has to do with firearms, which depending on the state, those taxes are directed to law enforcement, education and the environment. Do we have high capacity magazines? Some of us do. Do we have military look-alike firearms? Some of us do. Are millions of law-abiding gun owners the problem? We are registered, background checked and taxed. So, why is our government proposing more laws, when the current laws are only weakly supported, like mental health. Bad guys getting guns. outlawed firearms in the hands of criminals, gangs and mentally illl persons. Why should I be punished for the wrongs committed by deranged or violent criminals. Why should I be forced to pay higher taxes or licensing fees for a right guaranteed by the constitution, when I and millions of other firearms owners comply with all the laws regarding responsible firearms ownership and use. We pay for hunting licenses which goes to the government. We pay taxes or government fees to go to the range. And, we subject ourselves to laws that holds us up to "public" scrutiny. I grieve over the victims and families of these massacres. But, as an informed citizen, former science teacher and retired Marine, I am more worried about that emotionally unstable kid, making bombs out of commonly purchased goods. And, the same for some wack job or drunk running over a group of kids at a bus stop. Moreso, I am more concerned that Obama and others will try to force more laws on legitimate firearms owners, while ignoring the real issues. Mental Health, Law Enforcement, A weak judicial and penal system. Parole boards who are not held to more stringent rules and culpability. And, politicians who compromise the security of our children and population at large, for expediency or the sake of money. If Obama and legislators gave up their "special constituencies," reduced foreign aid, and stopped pork barrelling their personal agendas, we'd have the money to reinforce the systems in our society that can stop these heinous killings. Da Gunny
Jan 18, 2013 4:01 AM CST
CONGRATULATIONS !! The respect and civility I've seen on this thread far surpasses those I've seen on previous threads I've been on over the last few weeks. I think the posts by( new faces to me) GUNNY, GSSUSARR, and JackNelsonSteward are well-written and extremely informative. It's really great to have some with background/experience in the mental health issues involved. Of course, Dave Masters and BrushMan always are. Thank you, GENTLEMEN, and LADIES, too. NITE; Y'all p.s. I may have mis-spoke: I'm not sure there were any LADIES on this thread.
Jan 17, 2013 7:44 PM CST
I'd like to add a few things here, that impact on the assault rifle debate and related issues. Historically, whenever politicians look for ways to cut the budget, defense, law enforcement, education and health suffer. But, don't touch entitlements like welfare. Before Vietnam, the VA had more than 912 hospitals in the U.S. and it's territorities. Now, VA facilities number less than 450. Budget cutbacks. Federal aid to law enforcement went spiralling in over the years. Mental Health Institutes have been closed due to lack of federal and state financial cuts and in some parts of the country, teachers are accepting pay cuts just to keep their jobs. So, what's that have to do with the gun debate. How does adding more gun bans on already existing gun bans help law enforcement. How does more gun bans help mental health inadequacies. How does that help making our children and teachers safer? How does that help a weak judicial system and parole boards who release convicted murders from jail....or repeat offenders that matter. If a mental health professional fails to report a violent patient to the police(e.g. Aurora, CO) why isn't that mental health professional held up to stringent punitive measures? Could the AMA lobby be so strong in Washington, that our president and legislators are afraid to enact stronger punitive measures against negligent psychologists/psychiatrists? Why hasn't the government investigated why Connecticut's mental health system let Adam Lanza fall through the cracks? Why hasn't President Obama pledged to give all law enforcement agencies the wherewithal to get already banned and illegal firearms off the streets. And, why is it when one president was shot down for trying to use the CDC to research violent crime, Obama grandstands and says he will provide funds for CDC to do the research? Why does he want to hire a commission to study the problem, when increased law enforcement, mental health investments and penal system upgrades and expansion is the answer????? Why? Firearms owners and well-researched firearms owners are asking these questions on other blogs. We veterans wonder how Obama can cut 1.3 trillion out of defense, but won't invest the 8 billion for increased law enforcement on and off the campus. How is it, that Oklahoma found the funds to set up a task force to shut down illegal gun seller and gangs, but Obama can't use Oklahoma as a model. More law enforcement. More mental health support. Stronger judicial systems. More stringent Parole criteria. and keeping repeat offenders in jail. Da Gunny