ar-15 assault weapon rifle ban
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By Miguel A. Faria, M.D.

What are “assault weapons” and why are they being demonized? To begin with, the appellation “assault weapon” is a misnomer, a disparaging political label. It was invented by Josh Sugarmann, a media-lionized gun control advocate, as a political tool to demonize semi-automatic firearms that frequently have a military appearance, but are not, strictly speaking, military weapons.

Sugarmann had unsuccessfully tried to ban handguns as a member of the National Coalition to Ban Handguns. By the early 1990s, he’d moved onto bigger and better things — the demonization and banning of “assault weapons” which, unbeknownst to many apolitical hunters and gun enthusiasts, could very well include hunting rifles as well as some handguns and shotguns.

The term was eagerly taken up by the Democrats in Congress in anticipation of the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 that was enacted into law and remained in effect until it lapsed in 2004. It was shown that the ban did not have any effect on crime or in preventing mass shooting incidents.

Bill Clinton assault weapons ban
In this Sept. 13, 1994, file photo President Bill Clinton, center-right, shakes hands with Stephen Sposato as Marc Klaas looks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington after he signed a $30 billion sweeping crime bill that was six years in the making and included a hotly disputed ban on assault weapons. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Undaunted, the Democrats re-introduced the Assault Weapons Ban of 2012 that was wisely rejected by Congress. Had this ban been enacted, it would have proscribed over 50 percent of all firearms already lawfully owned by Americans.

True, “assault weapons” may have higher capacity magazines, pistol-type grips, adjustable stocks, and a mean-looking military appearance — characteristics that are also be included in many hunting and recreational sporting rifles, handguns, and shotguns. But the fact remains that these firearms release one bullet with each pull of the trigger. They are not automatic weapons as frequently implied by the media and gun control advocates.

Unlike “assault weapons,” actual assault rifles are true military weapons, fully automatic, capable of producing bursts of automatic fire and designed so that in war, they are more likely to wound than to kill, thus tying up more enemy troops and resources.

On the other hand, as fully automatic weapons, actual assault rifles have been strictly regulated since passage of the National Firearm Act of 1934. They have little to do with “assault weapons,” except in appearance and the fact they are more likely to wound than to kill, as do hunting rifles.

The mainstream media have contributed to the confusion in their drive to promote gun control, implying that these two distinct types of firearms are one and the same — and they have been quite successful in the deception.

“Assault weapons” and implications of certain court decisions

In the US v. Miller (1939) decision, the Second Amendment was interpreted as protecting an individual’s right “to keep and bear arms,” especially and explicitly, the ownership of military-style weapons, as “part of the ordinary military equipment.” And yet before he dropped from the circus of Democrat candidates for President, Beto O’ Rourke claimed that “there is no right to own a weapon of war.”

He went on to say, “We wouldn’t allow you to have a bazooka or drive a tank down the street because those rightly belong in the battlefield and do not belong in our communities.”

In fact, in  the US v. Verdugo-Urquidez decision of 1990, the Supreme Court held that when the phrase, “the people” is used in the context of the Second Amendment, it means “individuals,” which of course implies individuals possessing and carrying small arms.

Tanks and bazookas are not the small arms that citizens, as part of the militia (every citizen capable of bearing arms) would keep and bear for personal or collective defense. It can then be argued that while artillery and heavy ordnance are not protected by the Second Amendment, small arms — from handguns to military-style firearms, including “assault weapons” certainly are. So much for Beto’s straw man fallacious comparison.

We should also note that the duty of police officers is not to prevent crime, but to apprehend criminals and bring them to justice — after a crime has been committed.

Contrary to popular belief, the police do not have a legal duty to protect the public against criminals. According to several court opinions including the 1982 ruling (Bowers v. DeVito),

There is no constitutional right to be protected by the state against being murdered by criminals or madmen. The constitution… does not require the federal government or the states to provide services, even so elementary a service as maintaining law and order.

When chaos reigns, “assault weapons” can be helpful in protecting our homes and families.

Nevertheless, the issue of the constitutionality of “assault weapons” has not been judicially settled. And these semi-automatic firearms with military appearance have been under attack at both the federal and state levels.

Despite their usefulness for hunting, sport shooting as well as life-saving tools during natural catastrophes, urban unrest, and self-defense against multiple criminal assailants, these firearms have been so maligned that some courts have yet to rule favorably on their constitutionality.

Assault weapons in self-defense and as deterrents to crime

The fact that the role of “assault weapons” has not been judicially settled is a travesty because their hunting and sporting usage is widespread, not to mention their use for self and family protection can be life-saving.

In November 1990, Brian Rigsby and his friend Tom Styer left their home in Atlanta, Georgia, and went camping near Oconee National Forest, not too far from where I live in rural Georgia. Suddenly, they were assaulted by two drug-crazed crack-heads who fired at them with 12-gauge shotguns seriously wounding Styer.

Rigsby returned fire with a Ruger Mini-14, a semi-automatic weapon frequently characterized as an assault weapon. It saved his life and that of his wounded friend.

In January 1994, Travis Dean Neel was cited as citizen of the year in Houston, Texas. He had saved a police officer and helped the police arrest three dangerous criminals in a gunfight, street shooting incident.

Neel had helped stop the potential mass shooters using, once again, a semi-automatic, so-called assault weapon with a “high-capacity” magazine. He provided cover for the police who otherwise were outgunned and would have been killed.

What would have happened if these citizens did not have the “assault weapons” to save their lives from these mentally deranged mass shooters or outright criminals.

“Assault weapons” during national catastrophes and civil unrest

In 1989 after Hurricane Hugo hit the city of Charleston and surrounding coastal areas in South Carolina, Governor Carroll Campbell Jr. issued “shoot on sight” orders to the South Carolina National Guard. The authorities, in some cases assisted by armed citizens, deterred some of the thugs from looting.

Likewise, in 1992, during the catastrophic Hurricane Andrew that devastated Florida, looting was limited because citizens used high-capacity magazine assault weapons — just as the Korean shopkeepers in Los Angeles did earlier that Spring of that same year, when they protected their property from the usual parasitic thugs roaming the land and capitalizing on the suffering of others.

Although assault weapons have been used in several heinous and notorious mass shooting incidents, it must be noted that less than 2% of homicides are mass shooting incidents and less than 2% of homicides are committed with “assault weapons.”

Handguns and ordinary hunting rifles are used in the vast majority of firearm homicides and suicides. And as the aforementioned examples show, “assault weapons,” can be very useful for self, family and property protection, not only during natural disasters and civil unrest, but also when the police cannot (or are not willing to) protect us, during riots or assaults involving multiple assailants.


Miguel A. Faria, M.D., is Associate Editor in Chief in socioeconomics, politics, medicine, and world affairs of Surgical Neurology International (SNI). This article is excerpted and edited from his newly release book, America, Guns, and Freedom: A Journey Into Politics and the Public Health & Gun Control Movements (2019)

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  1. It’s all very simple…..Rename them MS-13 & the liberal democraps will start to welcome them with open arms & will expect all the American Citizens to cover the cost of them! Problem solved^^^^^

    • I think you are on to something.

      I disagree with using “assault weapons” as this seems to be conceding the vocabulary in the debate to our opponents.

      When Federal agencies solicit bids for supplying such autoloading weapons (semi-auto or select fire) they use the term “personal defense weapons”. Having the official impramatter of carefully chosen language for contractual definition, that seems the appropriate term for the debate.

  2. I don’t know who Josh Sugarmann is, but he didn’t coin the term assault rifle. That has been around since at least the 70s. I remember reading Mel Tappan’s article Survive in Guns and Ammo when I was a kid. Assault rifle was a common term in all magazines and books. No need to apologize for it then or now. They can kiss my ass if they can’t take a joke.

    • StG 44

      The StG 44 (abbreviation of Sturmgewehr 44, “assault rifle 44”) is a German selective-fire rifle developed during World War II. It is also known as the MP 43 and MP 44 (Maschinenpistole 43 and 44).

      The StG 44 was the first successful assault rifle, with features including a relatively short cartridge, controllable automatic fire, a more compact design than a battle rifle with a quicker rate of fire, and intended for hitting targets within a few hundred metres.

      The StG 44 fulfilled its role effectively, particularly on the Eastern Front, offering a greatly increased volume of fire compared to standard infantry rifles. It came too late to have much effect on the war, but did influence the Soviet AK-47 that was introduced three years after the war concluded. Its influence can still be seen in modern assault rifles.

      • If you are going off of select fire, intermediate cartridge, mag fed rifle. The STG wasn’t the first. But the like a lot of things the Germans did in WW2 they get credit for being first.

        The Winchester 1907 was used by the French army in WW1. Mag fed weapon, firing .351 WSL which is ballistically similar to 7.62×39. And the French ordered the weapons to have select fire from the factory

      • The German word “Sturmgewehr” litteraly translates as “Storm Rifle” not assault rifle; assault rifle in German is “Angriffgewehr” A leftwing loon in congress invented the term assault rifle to instill fear in the minds of the unknowing masses

    • GF – your reply is the perfect embodiment of the success of the left in brainwashing even ardent 2A supporters into believing that assault rifles and assault weapons are one and the same.

      • Phil, no one has brainwashed me into anything. Assault weapon? Definition. Anything used to assault someone. I’m an eyewitness to a homicide. Assault weapon? Glass bottle. Worked another homicide. Assault weapon? Cast iron skillet. Lots of knives, firearms, etc. used to assault others. I honestly can’t remember a single “assault weapon” (whatever that is) used in a homicide. And I’ve seen a lot of them. So brainwashed? No.

      • Merle, from what I understand the carbine’s proper designation is MP-44. Although, Sturmgewher (storm rifle) was used. Hitler didn’t like the idea of an assault rifle. He liked a battle rifle and a sub-machinegun. The weapons designers used the term machine pistol (MP) to deceive him. I could be wrong. Just something I read decades ago.

    • “Assault rifle” is a legitimate, specific term with a well documented and decades long provenance.

      “Assault weapon” is a phony, anti-2A political term invented in the 1980s and deployed both for its scary imagery and its infinite elasticity. You can apply it to any gun you want to ban because it has no objective or universal meaning, other than being terrible, horrible, no good and very bad.

  3. Those that think the founders couldn’t have envisioned semi/full-automatic weapons are sorely mistaken:

    The Girandoni Air Rifle was an airgun designed by inventor Bartholomäus Girandoni circa 1779. It saw service with the Austrian army from 1780 to around 1815. It is reported to have been used on the Lewis and Clark Expedition of North America in the early 1800s. Lewis and Clark demonstrated the rifle to nearly every Native American tribe they encountered on the expedition.

    The advantages of the rifle were a high rate of fire, no smoke from propellants, and low muzzle report. In addition to having a 19, (plus one in the chamber), round capacity of .46 caliber balls in an internal tubular gravity-fed magazine. The velocity was equivalent to that of the .45 ACP cartridge. It was fired by utilizing a detachable air reservoir, which was capable of around 30 shots. It took nearly 1500 strokes of a hand pump to fill the reservoirs. which of course helped lead to its demise. Even though a wagon-mounted pump had been made available later.

    James Puckle demonstrated his gun, called the Defense, to the English Board of Ordnance and a patent, number 418, was granted in London on May 15, 1718, on a single barreled gun with a revolver-like mechanism that allowed a semblance of rapid fire operation. In a demonstration in 1722, Puckle’s gun fired 63 shots in seven minutes; a truly remarkable performance at this time period. The English Board of Ordnance remained unimpressed and no further action was taken on their part. Nevertheless, Puckle’s Defense gun actually went into production, an example is extant, and is historically important for a number of reasons.

    • You are correct and factual,however as Leftards have no morals and truth and fact mean nothing to them,as they are enthralled with lies and deceit in their never ending craving for control and power.

    • True, and there were many other multi-shot weapons the Framers would uave known about. Some weapons are repeating arms which fire sequential shots without conducting a full reloading process of bullet and powder as people normally think of with revolution era muskets. There were repeating flintlocks as far back as the 1600s including the Lorenzoni and Berseli magazine pistols and Kalthoff repeater. Decades before the Puckle gun, there were Cookson repeating rifles and many other similar designs.

      There were also simultaneous firing weapons, similar in this sense to shotguns, which fired multiple projectiles through various mechanisms. See the duck foot gun, the pepper box gun, and the Nock volly gun for examples from that era.

      Really, the idea of increasing firepower through either simultaneous or repeating firing goes back at least to Antiquity. See the polybolos dating back to ancient Greece in the third century B.C. The Framers of the Constitution understood this march of technology. That’s why they also included the patent protection clause in the Constitution, expressly to promote progress in science and useful arts.

    • There absolute proof is the Belton Flintlock. Congress obviously knew of it because it ordered 100 of on May 3, 1777 specifically because it was supposed to fire eight to 20 shots without reloading and with a single pull of the trigger, probably via a superposed load.

      Though it was too expensive and Congress canceled the order Belton went on to create another similar rifle with a slide lock that eventually evolved into the “repeating flintlock” design of Isaiah Jenning.

      If Congress knew about it in 1777, and even ordered some, then many of those same people obviously knew about them when the the Constitution was signed a decade later.

    • I don’t believe in gun control, but until like, the late 19th century, semi-autos didn’t exist, the girardoni, kalthoff, lorenzoni, etc, were all hand cracked and had to be re-cocked after each shot. If your gonna dicuss guns and shit, I recomend you go into the philosophy first, guns are the greatest equalizer in the world and need little training to use, in the interests of combatting authoritarianism, guns are important to assert independence and protect communities, go in with that arguement and stop idolizing falible men, this is a war of ideas, not figures.

  4. Have I been reading the 2nd Amendment incorrectly? Somehow I have never seen “the right to keep and bear arms…but only those arms you can, you know, carry…shall not be infringed”

    Also, I don’t know why I bother clicking the “save my name, email, etc” box. It doesn’t work.

  5. Assault weapon today is a semi automatic rifle with a detachable magazine and pistol grip. Usually black in color but can be rainbow colored .
    Assault weapon of tomorrow will be any hi capacity semi auto pistol.
    Assault weapon of next week will be any semi auto weapon.
    Assault weapon of next month will be any lever action or revolver type rifle or hangun.
    Assault weapon of next year will be any weapon that shoots a projectile using gun powder of any type.
    End game will be gun powder is a assault weapon……..any questions?

    • The vagueness of the term “Assault Weapon” is deliberate. It allows the definition to change over time. Currently is is used for self-loading rifles using intermediate cartridges fed from detachable magazines and with a military appearance. But is already being extended to “rapid fire lever action” rifles in Australia.

  6. “and designed so that in war, they are more likely to wound than to kill, thus tying up more enemy troops and resources.”

    Can we please stop repeating this myth. It’s not true.

    Or start using it to our advantage. “What?! You want to ban the type of weapons that are more likely to wound than kill?!”

  7. All of this really pisses me off. Every discussion like this only validates the anti gun lefts terminology and mentality. US v. Miller decision clearly cites the introductory phrase of the 2nd Amendment and correctly notes that all weapons of efficacy to the military are SPECIFICALLY protected by the 2nd Amendment for the People. POTG keep saying the AR is not a weapon of war but semiautomatic weapons were the weapon of choice in many wars. We need to stop talking using THEIR terminology.

  8. Well TTAG cognoscenti RIGHT NOW 60 Minutes is doing a glowing fanboy piece praising Red Flag laws. Poor cops get shot violating their oath and everyone’s right’s. And of course CBS lies. Keep yer powder dry…

  9. First, they came after my handguns, next, they came after my rifles, next, they came for my shotgun, then they came for me….

  10. “they are more likely to wound than to kill, thus tying up more enemy troops and resources.”
    Actually the cartridge is designed to be controllable in automatic fire from a lightweight rifle.

  11. Sugarmann is an anti-civil rights history denier. He is like many Liberal whites who support the militarization of the police with a “weapon (AR15) of war”. A “patrol rifle” for every officer. But not for a law abiding civilian who’s home is invaded by multiple criminals.

    Your choice is “free stuff” from the government. Your public sexual wishes, drugs, granted and government promoted. And vote for those people who will give you all of that.

    Or you can fight to keep your guns by supporting 2A civil rights fighters. Place gun civil rights far and above other “so called” rights. Yes to the Bill of Rights. Everything else. No.

  12. Wasn’t it actully Adolf Hitler whom first coined the phrase “assualt weapon”? ( Being serious here folks.) It then fell out of use until Sugarmann started using it for a negative conotation against hign magazine capacity rifles.

    • My recollection of the history is that Hitler was kept in the dark about the STG project because he didn’t like the concept. Probably not his term If that’s the case.

      • That was the case at first until he was actually presented with it and shown its use. At first he despised any innovation on rifles and only wanted SMG’s developed. That’s why it was originally unveiled as the MP43, to get his approval. Once Hitler was actually shown it’s abilities he was supposedly thrilled with it and personally deemed it the “Assault Rifle”.

      • Actually, its development was kept from Mien Fuhrer, but when it was shown to him as a working prototype he remarked that it would make “an excellent sturm gewehr”, and gave his blessing to its production. The literal translation is “storm rifle”. As the Germans had soldiers called “storm troopers” the name was adopted.

    • Keep in mind that the purpose of that fateful British expedition on April 18 and 19, 1775 to Lexington and Concord, was to seize and destroy the arsenals of the colonial militias, that held primarily cannon, powder, and shot. The militias of the surrounding towns were roused (by the midnight ride of Paul Revere (and two others)), and by that afternoon, enough militia members had arrived to cause the British forces to break and flee back towards Boston where they had begun.

      It is hard to believe that the 2nd Amdt doesn’t cover crew served weapons, such as cannons, when the armed hostilities that began our Revolutionary War centered around the British attempting to seize and destroy precisely those weapons.

      • Sure enough, at least all the way up to 1909:

        Cheap Guns for the People.

        The army appropriation bill was being considered. The clerk of the House of Representatives read in his silver drone; “Sales of ordnance store are authorized to civilian employees under such regulations,” &c.

        What kind of stores asked Mr. DRIBCOLL of New York. Mr HULL, the Iowa martialist, explained that revolvers, rifles, any ordnance stores could be sold to “teamsters and to those who may have to defend themselves.” Civilians all to whom the Government doesn’t issue arms. Originally, Mr. HULL said, the provision included members of Congress but it was decided that they “had better buy from private individuals than the Government.” [Laughter] Doubtless there was much to laugh at, though the reader’s risibles be unwrung.

        Now our soon to be parted with friend Dr. JOHN WESLEY GAINES came forward as usual. He wanted to amend so that the Secretary of War shall furnish members of Congress thirty days before the sale with a list of the stuff to be sold. This so-called “junk,” he was informed, was often valuable for private use and ornament. He wanted to give the people a chance to buy guns pistols and so on. JOHN WESLEYS people are either very warlike or very fond of adornment or both:

        “I want a list of things to be sold sent to members, delegates and Senators so that they can give the list to the newspapers in their neighborhood. They will publish it, and the people in every part of the United States, in every district, can send and buy cannon or guns or pistols or the things to be sold; and the gentleman knows that all of these implements of war are very much sought after, both for the use of private and for ornamenting the corners of our streets and as relics.

        “Mr. DRISCOLL–They get the cannon for nothing now, for ornamental purposes.

        “Mr. GAINES of Tennessee–I had a great deal of trouble in getting two, and the gentleman helped me to get both of them, but the law has been recently changed, and it is easier to get them now.”

        We trust Dr. GAINES implicitly. May he have as many cannon in front of his house, as many condemned horses in his stables and as many guns and pistols on his walls or his person as they can carry. But aren’t the people tolerably stocked with firearms at present? Isn’t the crop of winter killings ample enough? “Does the gentleman,” asked Mr. MANN of Illinois, “think it more important to make it easy for the people to buy firearms than it is to buy blankets, boots and shoes?” Of course not. Mr. MANN wasn’t going to give people a chance to buy condemned guns or anything of that kind to carry around for the purpose of raising Cain.”

        Dr. GAINES subsided But why does he want guns and pistols? Can they add anything to his noises? And why do his people want them? Is he not a ample blockhouse, palisade and set of patereros?

        [The Sun, New York, Friday, February 5, 1909. Vol. LXXVI.–No. 158. Pg. 6]

  13. The argument in favor of banning “assault weapons” because they are “weapons of war” runs hard aground on the original intent of the 2nd Amendment. The 2nd Amendment is very clear in its meaning that an armed citizenry is essential to opposing tyranny. As a practical matter, it’s kinda hard to do that if you’re limited to 6 rounds and the bad guys can have 30. At the time the 2nd Amendment was written the preferred assault weapon of the revolutionary citizenry was a Pennsylvania/Kentucky long rifle, a superior battlefield weapon that was in common use by the very militias that caused the British forces considerable grief. Those rifles easily out-ranged the British muskets by several hundred yards and provided the “untrained militias” a considerable battlefield advantage. There is no space between that historical fact and today’s practice of owning AR and AK pattern rifles. The 2nd Amendment either means what it says or it doesn’t mean anything at all.

  14. Something to keep in mind is that the AR design is 65 years old (1954 for the AR-10) and the AR-15 design is 63 years old (1956). When these guns were designed Eisenhower was in his first term. Cars had big steel fins, but usually not seatbelts. Computers used vacuum tubes, phones were landlines using rotary (and not DTMF) dialing, and operators were still in use. The select fire version has been the main battle rifle (and carbine) for our military for over half a century now. Under Miller, that arguably means that the government cannot Constitutionally ban these firearms because of their use by militias.

    It is important to note that banning AR-15 type firearms would essentially ban most firearm advances of the last 60 years. Imagine being limited under the 1st Amdt to rotary phones and vacuum tube computers. Or the implied right to travel being limited to cars with heavy steel bodies, but no seatbelts. Yet, that is precisely what is sought with the Constitutionally enumerated right to keep and bear arms, by banning AR-15s.

  15. The term assault rifle is generally attributed to Adolf Hitler, who, for propaganda purposes, used the German word Sturmgewehr (which translates to “assault/storm? rifle”) as the new name for the MP-43
    The U.S. Army defines the assault RIFLE as a “short, compact, selective-fire weapon that fires a cartridge intermediate in power between submachine gun and rifle cartridges In this strict definition, a firearm must have at least the following characteristics to be considered an assault rifle:
    It must be capable of selective fire.
    It must have an intermediate-power cartridge: more power than a pistol but less than a standard rifle or battle rifle.
    Its ammunition must be supplied from a detachable box magazine.
    It must have an effective range of at least 300 meters (330 yards).
    The military does NOT define any piece of equipment in it’s vast arsenal as an ASSAULT WEAPON… In fact ANY item used to commit an assault should/could/would be construed as an assault weapon (aka the weapon used to assault). I could assault someone with anything that will fit in my hands and can be used to visit physical or mental harm on another person.. a word can be an assault weapon, a threat can be an assault weapon I can assault (and kill) someone with a spork (hell with my bare hands if necessary), but apparently the term only applies to what gun grabbers have defined as any rifle that can hold more than 10 rounds and can be reloaded quickly making it capable of causing bodily injury or death to a maximum amount of people… With the exception of the number of rounds that sounds a lot like my Lincoln Navigator 4×4 ….

  16. Like it or not, in several states “Assault Weapon” has a legal, statutory definition. Playing semantics games will not change that.

    And yes tanks, bazookas, and artillery should be protected by the 2nd Amendment. There were militia companies that were artillery units.

  17. “…designed so that in war, they are more likely to wound than to kill, thus tying up more enemy troops and resources.”
    Complete myth.

  18. Assault is an act committed by someone with a weapon; gun, knife, baseball bat, club, fist, foot, etc….NO weapon assaults anyone

  19. “Tanks and bazookas are not the small arms that citizens, as part of the militia (every citizen capable of bearing arms) would keep and bear for personal or collective defense.”

    The battles at Lexington and Concord were fought over confiscation of various items, not the least of which were privately owned cannon.
    Fully automatic weapons are the birthright of every free man, along with “every terrible implement of the soldier,” as Coxe said.

    At a bare minimum, anything that can be carried is covered by the 2A.


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