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« FUNDAMENTALS | Main | Keep it clean! »

September 03, 2003

Assault Weapons Ban Primer

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. Okay, it 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.

Posted by SayUncle