Washington State is set to implement a ban on so-called assault weapons even as the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) was unable to define what an assault weapon is during sworn testimony in front of Congress.
“WA does not and will not accept gun violence as normal. Banning the sale of assault weapons, our bill to enact training requirements and a wait period, and the bill to improve accountability of manufacturers and retailers will save lives.”
The legislation bans the “importation, distribution, selling, and offering for sale of assault weapons” to the public. It does not require those who already own such weapons to get rid of them. The bill provides more than one description of what an assault weapon is.
In the legislature’s findings, the bill says, “Assault weapons are civilian versions of weapons created for the military and are designed to kill humans quickly and efficiently. For this reason the legislature finds that assault weapons are ‘like’ ‘M-16 rifles’ and thus are ‘weapons most useful in military service.’”
The bill then defined assault weapons as any of a long list of specific guns, as well as any with a number of characteristics. More succinctly the list can be understood by how the bill chooses not to define assault weapons. “‘Assault weapon’ does not include antique firearms, any firearm that has been made permanently inoperable, or any firearm that is manually operated by bolt, pump, lever, or slide action.”
The key characteristic in the ban is “semiautomatic,” which means that a firearm fires one round for each trigger pull and feeds another round into the chamber.
Among the banned weapons is the AR-15.
Although the legislation claims that the AR-15 and other firearms are “civilian versions of weapons created for the military,” that is false. Unlike military weapons, these firearms do not contain an option for automatic fire.
In Colorado, an attempt to ban so-called assault weapons was narrowly stopped after three Democrats crossed the aisle. That bill defined assault weapon as “a semiautomatic rifle that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine, or that may be readily modified to accept a detachable magazine,” as well as a long list of one or more other possible characteristics.
After the bill was defeated, Mark Oliva, speaking for the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the Colorado vote was
“a tremendous victory for the firearm industry and law-abiding gun owners in Colorado. This legislation was an attempt to block the sale and transfer of the nation’s most popular selling centerfire rifle today — the Modern Sporting Rifle. There are more than 24.4 million of these rifles in circulation today, more than there are Ford F-150s on the road. NSSF worked tirelessly with state legislators to ensure that they understood that commonly-owned firearms are protected by the Second Amendment, and that has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Heller and Bruen decisions.”
The bans seem to have more to do with political rhetoric than reality. The moniker of assault weapons is more a political scare tactic than accurate descriptor. Even ATF’s own director, Steven Dettelbach, who has called for a ban on assault weapons, doesn’t know what the definition is.
When he was asked by Rep. Jake Ellzey, R-Texas, to provide a brief 15-second definition of the term “assault weapon,” Dettelbach answered that he was not a firearms expert. “I’ll go shorter than that, because honestly, if Congress wishes to take that up, I think Congress would have to do the work, but we would be there to provide technical assistance. I, unlike you, am not a firearms expert to the same extent as you maybe, but we have people at ATF who can talk about velocity of firearms, what damage different kinds of firearms cause, so that whatever determination you chose to make would be an informed one.”
The Associated Press, which leans left, admitted in its style guide that the term has no meaning. It recently tweeted:
“The preferred term for a rifle that fires one bullet each time the trigger is pulled, and automatically reloads for a subsequent shot, is a semi-automatic rifle. An automatic rifle continuously fires rounds if the trigger is depressed and until its ammunition is exhausted. Avoid assault rifle and assault weapon, which are highly politicized terms that generally refer to AR- or AK-style rifles designed for the civilian market, but convey little meaning about the actual functions of the weapon.”
Moreover, both the Washington State and Colorado bills relied on the false claim that when the federal assault weapons ban was in place, mass shootings went down, and in the 10 years since it sunset, mass shootings rose.
The claim has been made by President Joe Biden and his administration more than once. The ban was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994. In 2004, researchers working for the National Institute of Justice wrote, “We cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence. And, indeed, there has been no discernible reduction in the lethality and injuriousness of gun violence.”
Assault weapons bans are really bans on scary-looking semi-automatic weapons. This is one more example of politicians and the media creating a talking point and a narrative designed to scare the public into supporting a particular policy.
Media outlets do this by focusing almost exclusively on mass shootings, not the daily murders taking place in inner cities. And they and politicians focus on the gun rather than the underlying motivations, which is increasingly mental illness. The media and politicians also ignore the number of murders committed with objects other than guns, or even any murder committed with a gun that doesn’t fit their policy preferences.
The Second Amendment, as upheld by the Supreme Court, most recently by the Heller and Bruen decisions, protects the right of law-abiding Americans to have guns in order to protect themselves and their families from attackers or a tyrannical government.
Being allowed to only use a weapon that must be reloaded after each shot leaves Americans unable to defend themselves against criminals who have no qualms with carrying an illegal, semi-automatic or even automatic weapon.
This is one more example of the left’s manipulation of language to deceptively advance their goal to strip Americans of their rights. Using the term “assault weapon,” which the ATF director can’t even define, is meant to trick Americans into supporting gun bans.
Proverbs 26:28 tells us:
“A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin.”
The left has been using deception, language manipulation, and scare tactics for decades to further their goals. For example, abortion rights was sold on the idea that it should be “safe, legal, and rare,” but now the push has fully evolved to insist on abortion “anytime, for any reason, up until the moment of birth.” LGBTQ activists sold their cause by saying they just wanted people to be able to “marry who they love” but now insist that biological men should share private spaces with biological women and that children should be allowed to undergo chemical castration and mutilating surgeries. The examples go on and on.
The left is in a war with reality and with free society. Every time they gain a little bit of ground, Americans lose a little more freedom, and then instead of being content, the left pushes even harder to gain more ground.
The American public must be on guard against those who seek to deceive them. If they give ground on their Second Amendment rights, they might one day find themselves completely disarmed and at the mercy of those who would harm them and their families.
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.