YAHOO.COM - For years, a debate has raged over the role of assault weapons in a nation where the "right to keep and bear arms" is enshrined in the Constitution. But what exactly is an assault weapon?
The weapons have come to the forefront with President Barack Obama's gun control proposals, including a push for a renewed assault weapons ban and for a ban on high-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
Though politicians and gun enthusiasts each have their own definition
of what is and isn't an assault weapon, a useful framework for the
debate was written into law in 1994, when the Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) was enacted during the Clinton administration.
That law, according to Mike Cooper on PolicyMic.com, defined an assault weapon as "any semiautomatic rifle
with a detachable magazine and at least two of the following five
items: a folding or telescopic stock; a pistol grip that protrudes
conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon; a bayonet mount; a flash suppressor or threaded barrel (a barrel that can accommodate a flash suppressor); or a grenade launcher."
That definition, however, raises about as many questions as it answers.
For example, how does having a bayonet mount (but not an actual
bayonet) turn a rifle into an assault rifle? And outside of Civil War re-enactments, who actually still uses a bayonet?
"Yes, they still make them," Cooper wrote. "In a desperate wartime
situation, a bayonet gives you something somewhat more effective than a
raised middle finger when you've run out of bullets." But labeling a
rifle an assault weapon because it has a metal clip where one might
potentially mount a bayonet is "circular reasoning," Cooper wrote.
One significant problem with the particulars of legal definitions, said John Sweeney of DelawareOnline.com,
is that gun manufacturers easily slipped through the loopholes in the
AWB by removing any features that defined a rifle as an assault weapon.
"The definition of the assault weapon
in that [AWB] legislation had so many extras — bayonet mount, for
example — that simply by making a few superficial changes, the basic
AR-15 [semiautomatic rifle] was no longer an assault weapon," Sweeney
As flawed as the AWB definition of assault weapons may be, the wording
has found its way into many state codes, including that of Connecticut,
site of the December Newtown school shootings. "The AR-15 that [shooter] Adam Lanza used was a legal weapon under Connecticut law," wrote Sweeney.
Another point of contention in the gun control debate
is the use of magazine clips that hold ammunition. The Connecticut
definition of "assault weapon" includes semiautomatic pistols with "an
ammunition magazine that attaches to the pistol outside of the pistol
grip." While many states have no such restrictions on magazine clips,
other states place a limit on the number of rounds a weapon's magazine
can hold. (States can create their own definitions of what makes an
assault weapon, but that definition can't be weaker than the federal
Despite the vagaries of state and federal laws, there is some common
ground among gun rights' activists and gun control advocates. Fully
automatic weapons like machine guns, which continue to fire bullets as
long as the trigger is pulled, are legal to own but are tightly
regulated by the federal government, according to Slate.com. Many states have regulations that are stricter, or have outright bans on automatic weapons.
It's the definition of semiautomatic weapons, which fire a bullet each
time the trigger is pulled, that sets off sparks in the gun control
debate. Most firearms available today, including small handguns, rifles
and pistols, are semiautomatic, according to Slate.com.
The FN Five-seven handgun that was used in the 2009 shootings at Fort
Hood, Texas, was a semiautomatic weapon capable of shooting 20 rounds in
just 5.3 seconds. And the Glock 19 that Jared Loughner used to shoot
Gabrielle Giffords and kill six people in Tucson, Ariz., in 2011 was a
semiautomatic handgun, reports Slate.com.
Both of those handguns, however, were perfectly legal even under the AWB, which expired in 2004.
Tuesday, June 18 2013 5:41 PM EDT2013-06-18 21:41:29 GMT
UPDATE: A male driver has serious injuries, the other driver, who's a female, has life threatening injuries.>>
UPDATE: A male driver has serious injuries, the other driver, who's a female, has life threatening injuries. Authorities tell our Katie Steiner that the female was driving in the wrong-direction in the southbound lanes on Hwy. 195 when she collided with a male driver. GET THE IDENTITIES OF THOSE INVOLVED INSIDE>>> >>
Deputies and firefighters responded to a car crash in Spokane Valley Monday afternoon near the intersection of 4th and Blake. Deputies say the SUV was heading south on Blake when it was struck by another car, causing it to flip onto its top in a nearby yard. One person was able to get out of the SUV, but the driver had to be pulled out through the rear lift gate. Injuries appear to be minor. >>