New York Times: What The Hell is an “Assault Weapon”?

“One obstacle President Obama may face in proposing a new federal ban on assault weapons could lie in the use of the term ‘assault weapon’ itself,” nytimes.com admits. Coming hard on the heels of the paper’s condemnation of New York’s ill-conceived gun ban bill, the lede is another sign that the Times is losing its hard-on for an Assault Weapons ban. “‘When the military switched over to this assault weapon, the whole context changed,’ said Tom Diaz, formerly of the Violence Policy Center, whose book about the militarization of civilian firearms, ‘The Last Gun,’ is scheduled for publication in the spring. ‘The conversation became, ‘Is this the kind of gun you want in the civilian world?’ And we who advocate for regulation say, ‘No, you do not.’’” We who don’t say yes. Yes you do . . .

But Second Amendment groups — and many firearm owners — heatedly object to the use of “assault weapon” to describe guns that they say are routinely used in target shooting and hunting. The term, they argue, should be used only for firearms capable of full automatic fire, like those employed by law enforcement and the military. They prefer the term “tactical rifle” or “modern sporting rifle” for the semiautomatic civilian versions.

They argue that any attempt to ban “assault weapons” is misguided because the guns under discussion differ from many other firearms only in their styling.

“The reality is there’s very little difference between any sporting firearm and a so-called assault weapon,” said Steven C. Howard, a lawyer and firearms expert in Lansing, Mich.

But defining the home defense modern sporting rifle is critical to the agenda of those who would remove them from sale or, indeed, gun owners’ safes. So scribe Erica Goode takes a proverbial whack at it.

The most basic criteria have to do with a firearm’s ability to fire multiple rounds quickly. Because of this, the firearms included under any assault weapons ban are usually semiautomatic, meaning that a new round is automatically reloaded into the chamber but is not fired until the trigger is pulled again. The weapons also have detachable magazines, allowing them to fire 10, 20, 30 rounds or more without the need to insert a new magazine.

Which applies to a whole range of rifles (and handguns) that don’t look like a Bushmater AR-15. Which is a bit  . . . problematic for advocates of civilian disarmament. As our Armed Intelligentsia know, an “assault rifle” refers to a specific rifle.

Erica knows that too, now, and shares it with the group. And then blames The People of the Gun for broadening the term. And then heads off to her favorite bar for an Aviator.

But the term “assault rifle” was expanded and broadened when gun manufacturers began to sell firearms modeled after the new military rifles to civilians. In 1984, Guns & Ammo advertised a book called “Assault Firearms,” which it said was “full of the hottest hardware available today.”

“The popularly held idea that the term ‘assault weapon’ originated with antigun activists, media or politicians is wrong,” Mr. Peterson wrote. “The term was first adopted by the manufacturers, wholesalers, importers and dealers in the American firearms industry to stimulate sales of certain firearms that did not have an appearance that was familiar to many firearm owners. The manufacturers and gun writers of the day needed a catchy name to identify this new type of gun.”

And there I was thinking Josh Surgarmann of the Violence Policy Center invented and popularized the term. Anyway, it’s clear that the Times is uncomfortable carrying the water for the Obama administration on an AWB.

If there’s no AR-related spree-killing between now and August we may dodge that particular bullet. While adding millions of new gun owners, all of whom will gain a new appreciation for their Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms.

Now that would make a Goode story . . .

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

70 Responses to New York Times: What The Hell is an “Assault Weapon”?

  1. avatarDavid W. says:

    “But the term “assault rifle” was expanded and broadened when gun manufacturers began to sell firearms modeled after the new military rifles to civilians. In 1984, Guns & Ammo advertised a book called “Assault Firearms,” which it said was “full of the hottest hardware available today.””

    So close… In 1984 they were actually SELLING assault rifles, the fully automatic kind. Bleh you would think they would have access to wikipedia there at the New York Times….

    • avatarMark says:

      Assault is a behavior, not a device.

      • avatari02much says:

        ASSAULT= a white crystalline substance that gives seawater its characteristic taste and is used for seasoning or preserving…

      • avatarWilliam says:

        Very true. Am I wrong in that I think the term “assault weapon” derives from the WWII German term, (don’t quote me on the spelling) STURMGEWEHR, (i.e., “storm war” = “assault war”)?

        • avatarFabian_CH says:

          You got the spelling right, but not the translation. “Gewehr” means rifle. Which is how you get the direct translation “assault rifle”.

          (Btw., the term originated with the Nazis, but is in common usage today. It’s nothing obscure.)

    • avatarMr aNINNYmouse says:

      you’d think a lot of things…..

    • avatarWyndage says:

      I think you nailed it David. How much do you want to bet that nobody at the New York Times has ever heard of the Hughes Amendment, much less know the year in which it was passed?

  2. avatarchewcudda says:

    WTF

    when did the NYT take an about face on the issue.

    I have seen three different articles from them that sound like they are anti ban

    • avatarLC Judas says:

      When this ban in New York state reached ridiculous levels of restriction.

      My best guess is that some of the journalists are now law breakers in the freshly passed law interpretations on weapons in the city and they likely are NOW exercising their right to common sense. “Hey, if guns that hold more than 7 are bad and I have one…wait a second…”

    • avatarArmchair Command'oh says:

      The irony is that in July 1863, the New York Times staff manned Gatling guns to defended their office during the NYC draft riots.

      You’d think after that the Times would realize that but for their 2nd Amendment right to the most advanced military firearms available, their 1st Amended rights, along with everything else, would have been destroyed by the wanton destruction of the mob.

      • avatarWilliam says:

        How many at the NYT do you think have the FAINTEST awareness of that? You’re making the most common human mistake: thinking others are just like you.

        In some basic ways, this is true. The rest of them? NOT A CHANCE.

    • avatarChainsawWieldingManiac says:

      Anyone with half a brain should be TERRIFIED that the New York legislature could make criminals out of law-abiding people overnight for no apparent reason. It’s basically legislative malfeasance.

  3. avatarg says:

    Assault weapons, assault box cutters, assault fertilizer… ASSAULT SPATULAS.

    So what should the next thing people have be labeled “assault”?

    • avatarFlubnut says:

      Assault politicians

      • avatarJo11yGr33nG!&nt says:

        +1

      • avatarTR says:

        “What we need is a one-law-per-month limit. It’s these darn rapid-fire politicians that are causing the degradation of our society. Why do they need more than one new law per month? Nobody needs more than one. We need to limit these so-called assault politicians before they do any more hard. For the children.”

        • avatarDavid W. says:

          But that would actually be useful!

        • avatarWilliam says:

          I like this, because, for decades I have said we need a Constitutional amendment that says, basically, “for every law you insist on passing, you have to repeal TWO first.”

          How great is THAT?

        • That my friend was a brilliant post and I just want you to know I will be plagiarizing you in the future… :-)

    • avatarmountocean says:

      My favorite are the proclaimed “assaulter/operator” designers for a “tactical” retailer and TTAG advertizer.
      But what I’d really like to see are “Assault n’ Pepper” shakers.

    • avatarMOG says:

      “Your Honor, it was not rape, it was an assault with a friendly weapon………..”?

  4. avatarborekfk says:

    When the NY Times has trouble defining the term “assault weapon”, you know it’s going to take plenty of political chicanery to get them banned. As for the “Modern sporting rifle” or “Home defense rifle”, I never liked those terms, since I prefered the rather simplistic “Rifle”. Since it makes no one rifle sound scarier, or more important than the other. True the AR-15 can carry 30 rounds of .223, but the .223 is a varmint round compared to the Mauser 98′s 7.92mm which can bring down any game in the world, however that Mauser can only carry 5 of them, unless you’re a German Sturmtruppen on a trench raid or a Russian Partisan. Just calling them “rifle” would seem like the best thing to do, and would help end the demonizing of the black rifles, and hopefully bring the fence sitting Fudds into the modern era.

    • avatarKat says:

      How about just calling them “Duded Up Rifles” with cool add on accessories.
      Since I’m primarily a handgun owner, did not know much about rifles of any sort, much less “assault rifles”
      Found presentation The Truth About Assault Weapons on this site
      (http://www.assaultweapon.info/) really informative and got a different prospective on the subject. NRA might want to buy rights to this presentation for Television. If a long time gun owner such as me was naive about the true nature of “assault rifles” Is it any wonder that non-gun owners would freak at scary black weapons?

    • avatarSubshooter says:

      I’m with you I just call them rifles. It’s simple and clean and generic.

  5. avatarTex74 says:

    The problem when discussing nearly anything with liberals is that they don’t let themselves be inconvenienced with things like the truth or reality. There are clear definitions of an assault rifle and there is no such animal as an assault weapon. AND, the fact that assault rifles have been used in 0.6% of all gun crimes seems irrellevant to liberals as well.

  6. avatarAharon says:

    “the lede is another sign that the Times is losing its hard-on for an Assault Weapons ban”

    It is a new one to me that the NYT is losing any degree of its decades-long ignorance and hysteria towards gun ownership and the ‘assault weapons’ in particular.
    “Governor Andrew Cuomo is trying to lead the nation in gun control, but he’s picked a peculiar way of doing it,” New York Times editor Andrew Rosenthal opines.” What I’m picking up from the above statement is a criticism of the political method used by the governor and not so much a criticism of a move to ban modern sporting rifles.

    • avatarBill says:

      A-A Ron I agree. Rosenthal didn’t have any issue with the ban but he agree with it being pushed threw under emergency rules and he REALLY didn’t like the part about making CCW info private!

  7. avatarBruce says:

    My AR-15 killing machine just happens to be a 22. Don’t think I’ll be assaulting anything with it. Why are they trying to ban it?

    I also think any soldier who took an AR-15 of any type into combat would be “asked” to exit the military.

  8. avatarTommy Knocker says:

    Forget about Assault rifles, guns, weapons. Its those ASSAULT CLIPS that are the scourge of America. DAM THE MAN WHO INVENTED THEM ! He must have been some sort of demonic Hitler kiddie killing pervert. Yes that man was Hugo Borchardt !!! Track him down and make him pay for his crime !!!

    Hmmm….or was it James Lee??? Oh well track them both down and make them pay !!!

  9. avatarRobert K. Tompsett says:

    My Red Ryder BB gun could be an assault weapon, if I was wanting to assault the squirrels on my bird feeder!

  10. avatartdiinva says:

    Just had a short “you don’t need a semiautomatic rifle to hunt exchange in the office. ” I informed the person that my bolt action hunting rifles are nothing more than a Mauser 98K or an ’03 Springfield and were a lot more lethal than an AR-15. I got nowhere since the person didn’t know squat about firearms.

  11. avatarJeff says:

    In 1984, Guns & Ammo advertised a book called “Assault Firearms,” which it said was “full of the hottest hardware available today.”

    Yes, in 1984 you could buy fully automatic guns that could accurately be called “assault weapons”

  12. avatarscottlac says:

    How can we expect legislators to define a term like “assault weapon” when they do not understand a simple word like “infringed”?

  13. avatarTTACer says:

    If my calendar is correct, 1984 is two years before 1986. Maybe they actually meant “assault rifles”

    • avatarWyndage says:

      I wondered this as well. It’s entirely possible they were using the correct terminology, since true assault rifles were still for sale to civilians in 1984.

  14. avatarRandy Drescher says:

    Its a real treat to have people that never held a gun in their lives suddenly become experts on firearms. To have someone who can’t tell the difference between semi & full auto making decisions is, how you say, real f’d up. In a court of law their dog & pony show should be a real laugh, Randy

  15. avatarWilliam says:

    Next mass shooting? It’s out there, waiting. Anytime they wave their arms it can be brought to bear. You had better come to grips with this.

  16. avatarDaveL says:

    The most basic criteria have to do with a firearm’s ability to fire multiple rounds quickly.

    Double-action revolvers, pump-actions, lever-actions… probably 95% of firearms that have been in civilian hands at any point in the last 100 years would qualify as “assault weapons” under this criterion.

    • avatarMark says:

      Ever watch how fast Cowboy Action shooters can empty a pair of single-action revolvers, a lever-action rifle and two shells per reload shotgun? Typical times for two dozen rounds downrange is 20-40 seconds.

      • avatarIng says:

        Yep. The lever-action rifle was the AK-47 of its time. Anyone whose ancestors came west in the 1800s owes a lot to the cowboy assault rifle.

      • avatarSpoons Make You Fat says:

        Record for five rounds from a revolver is 0.4 seconds. Yes, all on target.

    • avatarMOG says:

      I could load and fire a single barrel 20 gauge shot gun so fast, the squirrels would be screaming, “you all stop”!!

  17. avatarAdam says:

    I’m just glad they banned those Assault Lightbulbs & Assault Toilets a few years ago. Taking away the rights of citizens to defend themselves doesn’t bother me that much since the criminals would also have no weapons either….I mean, they made crack cocaine illegal and you never see any bad news reports involving anything with that stuff. Heck no…you think a criminal wants THAT added to the assault/robbery/rape/etc. charges they’re already facing? Our military doesn’t even need guns since Obama is such an eloquent negotiator and expert in foreign policy. Who could say no to somebody that cool? Plus, think of the environment when those gases and lead are rapidly released from those instruments of death. Global Warming, anyone? Hey guns, thanks for El Nino and Katrina!

    But the thought of having those inefficient light bulbs & toilets in the same house with the kids just sends tremors down my spine. The government knows what they’re doing, folks. Just think, mail used to take weeks to be delivered via horseback….now it only takes a week or so to get to the next county.

  18. avatarLevi B says:

    You should really link to the article you’re talking about in the post.

  19. avatarIng says:

    They’re not assault weapons, they’re utility rifles.

  20. avatarAJ says:

    “If there’s no AR-related spree-killing between now and August we may dodge that particular bullet.”

    Unless you live in NY, or CA, or MA, or any of the other gun hating states, who also feel that the Federal ban isn’t going to happen, and are enacting their own state level bans, which do just as good a job at making us the “Formerly Armed Intelligentsia”

  21. avatarLance says:

    Hope your right RF. I do think again doesn’t matter on NY times since they lie about guns to get a ban anyway. They are toys for the liberals in power.

  22. avatarSGC says:

    They pretty much want to ban anything semi-automatic and military looking…that’s all…BUT REMEMBER: noone is trying to take your guns away! Gimme a break..

  23. avatarTheSleeperHasAwakened says:

    “If there’s no AR-related spree-killing between now and August we may dodge that particular bullet.”

    Don’t think for a second the Guv’ment wouldn’t pull off a False Flag before then. If they can stage Fast & Furious, they can stage another “Active Shooter” event.

  24. avatarSoutherner says:

    Florida tried to ban repeating rifles in the late 19th century – yes lever action “cowboy” rifles that held 16 rounds in the magazine.

  25. avatarCZJay says:

    I don’t exactly remember.

    Wasn’t the term assault rifle or assault weapon created by Hitler? Then American politicians translated legislation from the Nazi party, to be used to disarm Americans, thus bringing in the terms used today.

  26. avataral formerly from chgo says:

    changed to assault weapons? what the hell was that BAR I humped over 50 years ago? a squirrel gun?

  27. avatarLongPurple says:

    There’s lots of conflation lately, including semi-auto AR-15 type rifles in the M-16 full-auto capable “assault rifle” category.
    I’ve come across some who claim they are right to call an AR-15 an “assault rifle” because they found that inclusive definition in a dictionary e.g.
    Mirriam-Webster online:
    “any of various automatic or semiautomatic rifles with large capacity magazines designed for military use”

    Maybe this insistence on equating an AR-15 with an M-16 will bite the gungrabbers in the butt (not to be confused with the barrel shroud). The SCOTUS decision in MILLER focused on the type of weapon that would be protected under the guarantee of the 2nd Amendment .

    The Court viewed the 2 A. as only protecting “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” that would be useful for militia service. They considered any other weapons as beyond the scope of the 2 A., and very likely to be an unprotected “gangster weapon” with no military purpose, which no citizen would have a 2nd Amendment protected “right to keep and bear”.
    All the objections of those proposing a ban on “civilians” i. e. “CITIZENS” owning similar, but semi-auto ONLY versions of rifles issued to our Armed Forces, emphasize the “military style” of those rifles, and they try to equate them with the full-auto military versions.
    Such a rifle, identical in design to the military issue, but lacking the ability to fire full-auto, would necessarily be viewed by the MILLER Court as a civilian version of a weapon that is “part of the ordinary military equipment”. As such, “its use could contribute to the common defense”.
    If the question of a so-called “Assault Weapon Ban” was before the MILLER Court today, the Court could only conclude that the 2nd Amendment “guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument”.

  28. avatarLongPurple says:

    Maybe all this attempt to equate semi-auto AR-15s with full-auto M-16s will bite the gungrabbers in the butt (not to be confused with their barrel shroud).
    The more they insist the AR-15 is one of those weapons “that only belong on a foreign battlefield”, the more such a weapon appears protected by the MILLER decision.
    In MILLER, the Supreme Court focused on the question of what TYPE of weapon was protected under the 2nd A. They viewed the 2 A. as only protecting “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” that would be useful for militia service. They considered any other weapons as beyond the scope of the 2 A., and very likely to be an unprotected “gangster weapon” with no military purpose, which no citizen would have a 2nd Amendment protected “right to keep and bear”.
    All the objections of those proposing a ban on “civilians” i. e. “CITIZENS” owning similar, but semi-auto ONLY versions of rifles issued to our Armed Forces, emphasize the “military style” of those rifles, and they try to equate them with the full-auto military versions.
    Such a rifle, identical in design to the military issue, but lacking the ability to fire full-auto, would necessarily be viewed by the MILLER Court as a civilian version of a weapon that is “part of the ordinary military equipment”. As such, “its use could contribute to the common defense”.
    If the question of a so-called “Assault Weapon Ban” was before the MILLER Court today, the Court could only conclude that the 2nd Amendment “guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument”.

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