Should we ban so-called "assault weapons", regulate them more heavily, or freely allow their ownership?
Explore all perspectives, stances, and arguments for and against assault weapons bans with AllStances™ by AllSides.
Banning assault weapons makes everyone safer. The government should outlaw them.
Certain accessories and modifications that guns much more lethal should be banned, and background checks should be strengthened.
The exact definition of an “assault weapon” has largely been nebulous. Assault weapons have been defined by how they function, how many bullets they hold, and even how they look. Today, “assault weapon” is a catch-all term used to describe semi-automatic or automatic rifles. These firearms usually have a magazine holding more than 10 rounds and a military-like aesthetic.
The term “assault weapon” originates from the military term “assault rifle,” which applies only to automatic firearms. Many gun ownership advocacy groups claim the term “assault weapon” is now used broadly in order to deliberately create confusion and make civilian guns sound more dangerous than they are, pointing out that automatic weapons are not available to the general public.
Gun control advocates defend the use of the term, claiming that in the 1980s, firearms manufacturers developed new firearms based on high-powered military designs to bolster the consumer market.
RELATED: What are “Assault Weapons”?
If you're already familiar with background information and key terms regarding gun control and gun rights, click here to jump ahead.
Second Amendment: Amendment to the United States Constitution that established the right to own and carry firearms in America. It reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Mass Shooting: An incident wherein an individual or group kills or injures multiple people with firearms. The FBI has not set a minimum number of casualties to qualify an event as a mass shooting, but U.S. statute (the Investigative Assistance for Violent Crimes Act of 2012) defines a “mass killing” as “3 or more killings in a single incident.”
Semi-automatic: A firearm that fires one bullet when the shooter pulls the trigger; a new bullet is automatically loaded.
Magazine: An internal or detachable component on some firearms that stores and feeds ammunition that has not been fired.
Assault Weapon Ban: Legislation that bans the sale, possession, and usage of an assault weapon, usually defined by a high capacity magazine or faster firing rates
NRA (National Rifle Association): Gun advocacy association in the United States that promotes gun rights and opposes gun restrictions.
Gun Lobby: A group of advocacy groups that advocate for the interest of gun owners and oppose measures that hinder firearm access or usage.
Gun Registration: The required registration of a firearm with a law enforcement agency, so that its use can be tracked in a crime.
Gun Licensing: Permit issued to an individual to legally carry and operate a gun in the U.S.
Concealed Carry: The act or practice of keeping a firearm on oneself in a safe and hidden location.
Open Carry: The public carrying firearms in open view.
Gun Buyback Program: Government programs that provide financial compensation to those who voluntarily surrender firearms.
Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, and Tobacco (ATF): U.S. federal law enforcement agency that enforces firearm regulations.
Core argument: Banning assault weapons makes everyone safer. The government should outlaw them.
- Mass shooters are increasingly adopting assault weapons.
- “Between 2004 and 2014, suspected terrorists attempted to purchase guns from American dealers at least 2,233 times. And in 2,043 of those cases — 91 percent of the time — they succeeded.”
- Mass shootings “traumatize countless Americans, distorting how we engage with the world outside our own homes,” and banning assault weapons would reduce the number of mass shootings.
- Assault weapons are often wielded against law enforcement.
- Since Australia instituted a ban on semi-automatic weapons, gun homicides dropped by 60%.
- “Stricter legislation to ban some types of guns (such as assault rifles) and further strengthening background checks could help prevent some would-be terrorists from getting access to weapons.”
- “Assault weapons are hardly used for self-defensive purposes.”
- Owning an assault weapon does not contribute to personal safety. “In 2015 a combined analysis of 15 different studies found that people who had access to firearms at home were nearly twice as likely to be murdered as people who did not.”
- Hunting does not justify owning these weapons. “You don’t need an AR-15 to bring down a deer.”
Core Argument: Certain accessories and modifications which make guns much more lethal should be banned, and background checks should be strengthened.
- “These add-ons make [assault weapons] even more lethal.”
- Suppressors are “a public safety risk because they make it difficult for people to know where shots are coming from.”
- At least a half dozen devices, designed to flout federal gun restrictions — or come right up the edge of legality.”
- Implementing “waiting periods” can allow time for a thorough background investigation and act as “an informal cooling off period” for gun buyers.
- Along with assault-style weapons, making it harder to obtain large capacity magazines is effective, as some evidence showed “that the 1994 law’s restrictions on LCMs may have been effective in reducing the death toll.”
- Closing loopholes will make it harder for irresponsible people and criminals to obtain and operate assault weapons.
- Loopholes like “gun shows” enable minors to obtain assault weapons very easily.
Core Argument: Civilian access to “assault weapons” is important for protecting individual rights and self-defense.
- Ending gun bans ensures everyone has a right to self-defense. No one should be denied the right to defend themselves in the face of grave danger.
- Guns provide protection for those who may not be able to physically fight, protecting the right to self-defense.
- Breaking down gun stigma can make gun education easier, reducing accidents.
- In the landmark 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court said the Second Amendment applies to weapons "in common use" for "lawful purposes.” The state bears the burden of proving such arms are 'dangerous and unusual,’ as mentioned in Heller. With 24.6 million Americans having owned up to 44 million AR-15 or similar rifles, these weapons are certainly “usual.”
- Outright bans elevate and encourage black market sales, leading to more crime.
- The increase in gun rights will decrease the chances of a totalitarian government, because citizens are allowed to arm themselves.
- Responsible gun owners should have the ability to obtain a firearm without having to justify it to the government; this is an unalienable right.
- “AR-15 style rifles … are in common use for lawful purposes.”
- Gun control laws have historically been used to target people of color, and continue to disproportionately impact people of color.
- Up to 44 million AR-15-style rifles and up to 542 million magazines with capacities exceeding 10 rounds are already in circulation. Banning these weapons is not feasible and makes any bans vulnerable to constitutional challenges.
- FBI data from 2019 found "there were only 364 homicides known to be committed with rifles of any type, compared to 6,368 with handguns, 1,476 with knives or other cutting instruments, 600 with personal weapons (hands, feet, etc.) and 397 with blunt objects." Only a subset of those rifles would qualify as "assault weapons."
- Gun ownership is a culture and way of life for many Americans, and the government should not infringe upon that in any way.
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