So, what is really causing support for such bans to drop? I think it boils down to three things that many people have become aware of:
It's Rooted In Intentional Deception
From the very beginning of efforts to ban legal semi-auto rifles, anti-gun rights advocates have been intentionally deceptive about what so called “assault weapons” really are. Specifically, they have worked very hard to convince the public that these firearms are machine guns.
Although many (but not all) civilian semi-automatic rifles look like military rifles, there are very significant functional and legal differences:
Functionally, semi-automatic rifles do not “spray bullets” as long as the trigger is held down. Instead, the trigger must be released and pulled again in order to fire another shot. This results in a rate of fire only slightly faster than many manually operated pump and level action firearms (which have been around for over 150 years). Typically, this is about one aimed shot every 2-3 seconds. In contrast, a machine gun will spray 10 or more bullets per second as long as the trigger is depressed and the firearm still has ammunition. To say that this is not a significant difference is absurd.
In this video, a licensed firearms manufacturer demonstrates
the dramatic difference between semi and full auto.
Legally, under federal law, machine guns have been very heavily restricted since 1934. Furthermore, no new machine guns have been allowed to enter the civilian supply since 1986. Buying one requires a background check that takes months to over a year, tens of thousands of dollars, and a willingness to comply with many regulations including home inspections. In contrast, semi-automatic firearms were used by civilians for decades before being widely adopted by the military and are treated like any other rifle under federal law.
From the very beginning of efforts to restrict or ban semi-automatic firearms, gun control advocates have worked hard to confuse the public about the preceding facts. They have called them “military weapons” even though no military uses them, they have called them “slow machine guns” when there is no such thing and they have repeatedly – through allies in the media – shown full auto, machine guns firing while talking about semi-automatic firearms, to name but a few of their efforts.
In this video CNN shows a full auto AK47
while reporting on the semi-auto version
while reporting on the semi-auto version
None of this is accidental. Consider an excerpt from a gun control document written in the late 1980s:
"The weapons' menacing looks, coupled with the public's confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons—anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun—can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons."
The efforts to ban semi-automatic firearms began with intentional deception, and the deception continued with step two.
Fuzzy and deceptive definition
Initially, gun control groups focused only on banning rifles that “looked too military”, ignoring other semi-automatic rifles. However, once they believed they had a majority of people convinced that military style semi-automatic rifles were bad and needed to be banned, they gradually began to expand the definition to include more and more rifles. After nearly three decades, we have now reached the point where a Washington state initiative, if passed, will designate all semi-auto rifles, even .22s, as “assault weapons”. The term “bait and switch" comes to mind.
Anti-gun rights activists have expanded the definition of "assault weapon"
to include common .22 sporting rifles like the pink one above.
They are seldom used in crimes
Given the massive effort to ban them, one would think that these rifles were commonly used in crimes – however, this is far from true. In fact, according to 2016 FBI stats, rifles of any kind – single shot, bolt action, 30-30 lever guns, or semi-auto rifles – were used in only 374 homicides. Obviously, semi-auto rifles are responsible for only a fraction of this figure – but even if they were used in all of these murders they are infrequent murder weapons. In fact, you are more than four times more likely to be killed with a knife and nearly twice as likely to be killed with a club than with any kind of rifle. Your chances of being killed with a semi-auto rifle is likely less than one in a million – literally!
In reality, a pump shotgun, like this hunting model,
is far more dangerous than any rifle at close range
(less than 50 yards)