This article is about the American legal and political term. For fully automatic military weapons, see Assault rifle. For other uses, see Assault weapon (disambiguation).
U.S. Firearms Legal Topics
Assault weapons ban
Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act
Concealed carry in the U.S.
Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban
Federal Firearms License
Firearm case law
Firearm Owners Protection Act
Gun Control Act of 1968
Gun laws in the U.S. — by state
Gun laws in the U.S. — federal
Gun politics in the U.S.
National Firearms Act (NFA)
Second Amendment to the Constitution
Sullivan Act (New York)
Violent Crime Control Act
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Assault weapon refers to different types of firearms, and is a term that has differing meanings and usages.
In discussions about gun laws and gun politics in the United States, an assault weapon is most commonly defined as a semi-automatic firearm possessing certain features similar to those of military firearms. Semi-automatic firearms fire one bullet (round) each time the trigger is pulled; the spent cartridge case is ejected and another cartridge is loaded into the chamber, without the manual operation of a bolt handle, a lever, or a sliding handgrip. An assault weapon has a detachable magazine, in conjunction with one, two, or more other features such as a pistol grip, a folding stock, a flash suppressor, or a bayonet lug. Most assault weapons are rifles, but some are pistols or shotguns. Proposed legislation formerly under consideration attempted to define the term even more broadly to mean any semi-automatic firearm, any firearm with a detachable magazine, or handguns holding more than 10 rounds which includes the majority of all firearms, but died in coammittee before even coming to a vote. The exact definition of the term in this context thus varies among each of the various jurisdictions that limit or prohibit assault weapon manufacture, importation, sale, or possession, and legislative attempts are often made to change the definitions. Governing and defining laws include the now-expired Federal Assault Weapons Ban, as well as state and local laws. Whether or not assault weapons should be legally restricted more than other firearms, how they should be defined, and even whether or not the term "assault weapon" should be used at all, are questions subject to considerable debate.
In more casual usage, the term "assault weapon" is sometimes conflated with the term "assault rifle". An assault rifle is a military rifle that utilizes an intermediate-power cartridge, and that generally is capable of full-automatic fire, where multiple rounds are fired continuously when the trigger is pulled one time — that is, a machine gun — or burst capable, where a burst of several rounds is fired when the trigger is pulled one time. In the United States, full-automatic firearms are heavily restricted, and regulated by federal laws such as the National Firearms Act of 1934, as well as some state and local laws.
The use of the term "assault weapon" is also highly controversial, as critics assert that the term is a media invention, or a term that is intended to cause confusion among the public by intentionally misleading the public to believe that assault weapons (as defined in legislation) are full automatic firearms when they are not.
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