Misinformation. It’s everywhere. It is even more pervasive – and dangerous – when people who don’t understand what they are talking about try to teach other people what it is they don’t know themselves. Case in point: the assault rifle. Everytime there is a tragic murder involving firearms reporters, politicians and even celebrities feel the need to share their opinions about guns. More often than not, these talking heads know nothing about the subject other than that a gun shoots bullets and that they can be deadly. What’s worse is that average Joes and Janes believe the misinformation and take it as fact, when in truth it’s not even close to being accurate.
First: AR does NOT stand for “Assault Rifle”
The “AR” in AR-15 is assumed to mean “assault rifle”. It does not. Period. Just because Piers Morgan or Oprah said that’s what it stands for it doesn’t mean that they are right. The “AR” comes from the firearms manufacturer Armalite. Those letters are used as a standard naming practice for their firearms. Just like the Ford F-150, the AR-15 is a specific model. While I’m not positive that the “F” stands for Ford (but it seems logical), I do know that the AR means nothing more than that it is a firearm model identifier. Just like there’s an F-250 and an F-350, there’s also an AR-10 and an AR-30. So, let’s stop referring to an AR-15 an “assault rifle”. It is not an assault rifle.
Second: What is an Assault Rifle?
- has selectable firing modes
- can fire in fully automatic mode
Select fire means that there is a switch to toggle between firing modes. One firing mode is called “semiautomatic”. Semiautomatic means that when the trigger is pulled, the following happens:
- A bullet is fired
- The spent bullet casing is ejected from the firearm
- The next bullet round is loaded into the firing chamber
That’s it. One trigger pull = one bullet fired. That’s semiautomatic. That is how most handguns work, how many rifles work and even how some shotguns work. Pull the trigger and one bullet comes out. Just one and only one. A firearm that fires one bullet at a time and loads the next round into the chamber is called a “semiautomatic” firearm. Semiautomatic rifles are NOT assault rifles.
Now, there is another firing mode that is called “fully automatic”. In the case of full auto firearms, when the trigger is pulled and held down, the firearm will shoot continuously until the trigger is released or until the gun runs out of ammunition. A fully automatic firearm is often referred to as a “machine gun”. Machine guns can be described as assault rifles.
Third: Machine Guns are NOT Readily Available to the Public
Once again, just because the news guy said it was a machine gun, it doesn’t mean he is right. Despite what most people have been led to believe, you can’t walk into any gun store and buy a machine gun. Don’t believe me? Try it. In order for a civilian to legally own a machine gun (aka – a REAL assault rifle), they have to obtain expensive permits and other documentation as well as pass federal, state and local screening processes. The vast majority of gun owners and NRA members do NOT own machine guns. The narrative spewed by the mainstream media and the liberal left saying otherwise is completely FALSE.
So Why All the Confusion?
Well, there are a lot of theories on that one – some of which include massive conspiracies and such. However, most of it is simply misunderstanding the real terms and definitions. Another part of it is the media hype. It’s far more intriguing and shocking to talk about a murderer with an assault rifle than it is a killer with a simple “hunting rifle”. The third part is a deliberate goal to confuse, misinform and frighten people.
We could go on about those last two for a long time, so I’ll focus on the simple misunderstanding part. The firearm below is a U.S. Military M4:
This is what is referred to as an assault rifle. Variants of this rifle can fire in semiautomatic mode, three-round burst mode or fully automatic mode. In full auto mode, the M4A1 can fire at a rate of 700-900+ rounds per minute. This is a machine gun. This is NOT what was used in the mass murders in Columbine, Sandy Hook, San Bernadino or Orlando or any other of the mass murders people refer to when talking about AR-15 rifles or “assault rifles”. This rifle can NOT be purchased at corner gun shops.
Contrastly, the firearm below is a Mossberg MMR:
This is NOT an assault rifle. While it looks like the M4, it isn’t. Many, many of the parts and functionality of the MMR are just like the M4 but one key piece is missing: the MMR is semiautomatic and is only available in semiautomatic. Once again, this means one trigger pull = one bullet fired. The firing rate of a gun like this is around 60-90 rounds per minute. Yes that is a lot of rounds and yes that can mean a lot of carnage, but it is NOT an automatic or a machine gun or an assault rifle. It is considered a “Modern Sporting Rifle”. Most people who own guns like these use them for target shooting, home defense and shooting competitions. These types of firearms were NOT intended for combat or warfare and the vast majority of people who legally own them do NOT want to kill anyone with them.
The MMR, like many of the privately and legally owned rifles like it, are designed based on what is known as the “AR-15 Platform”. The AR-15 platform is simply a design platform based on an original design by Eugene Stoner in the 1950’s. Any and all firearms built on the AR-15 platform are commonly referred to as an AR-15 but they have many names depending on the manufacturer. Some of these names are M&P15, SR15, M15 and MMR. They are all AR-15’s in the sense that Ram 1500’s, Ford F-150’s and Chevy 1500’s are all half-ton pickup trucks. There’s a lot that make them similar and a lot that seperate them. In they end they are trucks, just like AR-15’s are rifles. Comparison ends there.
I really hope people take the time to read this and thus will better understand what is and what is NOT an assault rifle. The most important thing I want everyone to take away from this article is that by and large, what much of the media and politicians define as assault rifles are in fact not. If you’ve learned that much today, that’s a good start to better understanding firearms and hopefully better understanding the truth.