With the gun control debate ramping up in the US and Canada one term that you hear thrown around in the narrative is "assault weapon". Gun control advocates and Politicians are using this term to paint entire makes of rifles in a negative light, but do they really know what they are talking about?
To get it out of the way quickly, there is no military nor legitimate use of the term "assault weapon", none. There is no firearm that is manufactured under the classification of "assault weapon". There is no such thing as an "assault weapon", and that goes double for any firearm that's available for civilian ownership.
Where the term "assault weapon" came into being was in politics and that was to describe a firearm that was semi-automatic and had a certain amount and type of physical external features. If the firearm had a combination of features that included a pistol grip, an extendable stock, a detachable magazine, threading on the end of the barrel for a exchangeable muzzle device, or a bayonet lug, then it was defined under the political terminology as an "assault weapon".
This new term of "assault weapon" was then used as a catch all that prohibited new manufacture of firearms that had a combination of external features and came into effect in the US under the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban which then expired in 2004. From 1994 to 2004 manufacturers and importers in the US still made and imported semi automatic rifles, they just lacked the external features that would classify them as an "assault weapon" under the ban. To recap, there were still just as many semi-automatic firearms being produced and imported, they just didn't look as scary. This is what our lawmakers, media, and gun control advocates would have you believe to be the main solution to any kind of gun violence; the banning of an object based on external features.
So let's be honest in the debate then shall we? When a Politician, gun control advocate, or the media speaks about banning assault weapons, they are really speaking about banning all semi-automatic firearms. A semi-automatic firearm is simply defined as a firearm that shoots one round for every pull of the trigger. A semi-automatic firearm is not capable of full automatic fire by design. Full automatic fire is defined as being able to fire the entire magazine by simply holding down the trigger, and the full automatic firearm will load and fire until the firearm has no further ammunition. To make a semi-automatic firearm capable of full automatic fire takes illegal modifications, and would require illegal and heavily controlled parts, both areas of which are already heavily federally regulated in both the US and Canada. Let's face it, a double action revolver at the very basic function is capable of semi-automatic fire discharging one round with every pull of the trigger, it just doesn't typically have a large magazine capacity. A ban on semi-automatic firearms would include a ban on pistols and revolvers as well, even though the ban is disguised as being against "assault weapons".
Now of course there's the argument that semi-automatic firearms aren't used for hunting. Any bird hunter would know that simply isn't true, as a favorite of that segment hunters are semi-automatic shotguns. Semi-automatic rifles have also become a favorite in the hunting community as they're typically lightweight, have great ergonomics, and as new generations become hunters they want to use the rifles they were raised with which are typically semi-automatic. Legislation disguised as an "assault weapons" ban would ban these shotguns and rifles used by hunters.
The most touted argument as of late is that "assault weapons" were designed as weapons of war and to kill people. Again let's seek honesty in this debate, other than a few Olympic target style firearms, all firearms were originally designed as tools of war that soon became favorite rifles of civilians for hunting and target shooting. Just in the modern era alone there are examples of this such as how the 1903 Springfield bolt action rifle introduced the 30-06 cartridge to the World War One battlefield. Today the 30-06 bolt action rifle is still a sought after rifle by hunters, and one of the most ubiquitous and popular big-game calibers in North America. World War Two introduced the M1 Garand semi-automatic 30-06 rifle which carried over into becoming popular semi automatic hunting rifles and shotguns sought after by hunters all over North America. The Vietnam War era introduced the M-16 service rifle to the battlefield chambered in 5.56 NATO (also .223 Remington) which has updated versions of this rifle serving NATO armies to this day. The civilian market adopted a semi-automatic version of the rifle that is based on the AR (Armalite) platform for hunting and target shooting. The AR-15 as it is now known is not a weapon of war, nor has it ever been fielded by a regular army force, it is a civilian design that is highly sought after for target shooting and due to it's caliber modularity has like all rifles before it made it's way into the hunting community. Don't be fooled by the "designed to kill" or "weapon of war" argument, nearly every rifle started with military function and has either been adopted or adapted for civilian use. This argument is designed to divide the firearm community, and to muddy the water to the non-firearm owner that isn't educated in this topic.
Semi-automatic firearms have been invented and in circulation since the late 1800's. They were quickly being made at that time by hobby gunsmiths with nothing more than hand tools. The technology isn't going away, and neither is the ability to make this type of firearm. It is only recently that they have been demonized as "assault weapons" and "weapons of war" by the media and Politicians. However the cry to ban semi-automatic firearms does nothing to stop real crime, and only punishes the people that are inclined to follow the law in the first place.
Perhaps it's time that we stop talking about "assault weapons" and start the conversation of enforcing laws already on the books. Start the conversation of community outreach programs to at risk youth. Start the conversation of funding vastly overstretched frontline Police forces. The conversation about "assault weapons" is nothing but a distraction and appeal to an emotional response, and it does nothing to solve or cure the population from violent crime.