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Assault Weapons Ban Primer (reprint)

I posted this entry with a little over a year to go on the ban. Since the ban is looming, I figure a repost is in order:

The Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 (hereinafter AWB) is confusing.

People were led to believe that rifles like this one:

Would be banned. While rifles like this one:

Wouldn’t be. Of course, both rifles above fire 5.56MM ammo, accept magazines with a capacity of 30 (and even more) rounds. Oh, and both of the above rifles are actually not banned by the AWB. The latter rifle doesn’t look as mean. Continuing with the rifles that look evil theme, look at this one:

The above rifle is legal to own:

This one isn’t:

Alert readers will note that this is a picture of the same rifle mentioned above. What then is the difference? The first rifle was made on September 13, 1994. The second was made on September 14, 1994. Tricky, isn’t it?

The most important factor is that the AWB doesn’t ban Assault Weapons. It bans features. It actually doesn’t ban individual features. It bans combinations of features. From the text of the AWB:

(B) a semiautomatic rifle that has an ability to accept a detachable magazine and has at least 2 of-

(i) a folding or telescoping stock;
(ii)a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon;
(iii)a bayonet mount;
(iv) a flash suppressor or threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor; and
(v) a grenade launcher

First, grenade launchers have been regulated as destructive devices since the 1934 Gun Control Act. And drive-by bayoneting hasn’t been a problem for anyone. A rifle made on or after September 14, 1994 can have one of the above features but not two or more. Such as this one:

You wouldn’t know it to look at the picture, but the one above has a pin (which coincidentally is easy to remove) inserted into its stock that prevents it from collapsing. Mind you, you can purchase stocks that come in varieties of sizes ranging from the shortest position of a telescopic stock to longer than the telescopic stock. The AWB has just banned the ability for the same stock to change sizes. You can still purchase small stocks or large ones.

Also, that thing on the tip of the barrel isn’t a flash suppressor, it’s a muzzle break. A flash suppressor doesn’t actually suppress the flash. It causes the flash to disburse to the sides of the barrel instead of straight ahead. A gun with a flash suppressor is as easy to see fired at night as one without. What is the significance of a suppressor then? You can maintain a site picture without the flash getting in the way. Now the muzzle break is designed to keep the barrel from rising when fired. You’ll notice that you can’t tell the difference between a flash suppressor and muzzle break in this picture so I will tell you the difference. A flash suppressor has vents all the way around the circumference of it. A muzzle break only has vents on top. So, the AWB has essentially banned the placement of little holes on a small piece of metal, which doesn’t affect the fact that the gun is still a semi-automatic rifle based on a military design.

As for pistol grips, that seems to be the feature most people want. It doesn’t affect the function of the weapons it just makes it more comfortable to shoot.

People interpret the threaded barrel bit as a ban on threaded barrels when really it is a ban on threaded barrels that can accept flash suppressors. Of course, you could have a threaded barrel so long as there no suppressors available for it.

So to recap: A rifle made before September 14, 1994 can have any of the above features. A rifle made after can only have one. If you think you have it mastered, I suggest you take this little quiz. Good luck and tell me how you did. I missed one.

13 Responses to “Assault Weapons Ban Primer (reprint)”

  1. bjbarron Says:

    Missed the last one…darn.

  2. jed Says:

    So, I’m gonna ask the really dumb question. The answer should be obvious, but given the examples of fed. legislation I’ve actually read, the convoluted nature of their wording makes my head spin.

    Once the AWB expires, will it then be legal to do the “nasty feature combo” on any rifle manufactured/imported during the ban period? Or will it be legal only for guns manufactured/imported after the sunset?

  3. SayUncle Says:

    When it expires, you should be able to put the banned features on any rifle.

  4. jed Says:

    One of my rifles is going to get a facelift. Of course, it will be a much more evil rifle when it looks menacing. Uh, yeah.

  5. Douglas Says:

    This is a very helpful article. I am e-mailing a link to some friends so they understand that one can oppose this law without being in favor of war zones on the street.

    By the way, for what it is worth, I am a Cornell Law student and I think you have done a good job describing why this statute is ineffective.

    Thank you,

  6. Brutal Hugs Says:

    OK, I’m Convinced

    Later this year, the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban will sunset, and I’ve decided that that’s OK, even if you’re for gun control. The assault weapons ban deals with semiautomatic rifles, but doesn’t actually ban them. It just limits the number of nifty …

  7. Les Jones Blog Says:

    Thursday Gun Links #10
    John of Argghhh!!! found a police chief who was against concealed carry, but has now changed his mind after a woman used a gun to defend herself against two assailants. SayUncle re-posted his great, illustrated post on the Assault Weapons…

  8. Damn Foreigner Says:

    Gun stuff
    For anyone who is on the fence, SayUncle has a great visual roundup of why the Assault Weapons Ban is a joke. Also, Talkleft has a roundup on where each of the different Circuits stand on interpretations of the 2nd…

  9. SayUncle : Now, some anti-gun lefties Says:

    […] is likely the case for most folks because it’s what the press constantly tells you. The ban does not. 2 – You are for gun control and think the ban […]

  10. SayUncle : Another unsigned gun editorial Says:

    […] or example). I just don’t think that restricting the aesthetic features of a rifle (which is all the ban does) qualifies as reasonable. The ban doe […]

  11. SayUncle » Bloomberg summit round-up - 2 Says:

    […] Since they are attacking illegal guns, it makes perfect sense to have more guns made illegal. The ban on weapons that look like assault weapons is basically pointless. See here and here. […]

  12. SayUncle » Federal Gun Bills That Suck Says:

    […] Les alerts us to the introduction of a ban on weapons that look like assault weapons. It is H.R. 1022. It says it’s a re-authorization so I assume it mimics the old one. You can read all about how useless the old one is here. […]

  13. SayUncle » Getting the word out Says:

    […] we all know that is one stupid law and it had no impact on crime. Here’s why. Repeal the so-called “Tiahrt Amendment,” which as an annual appropriations rider bars […]

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