Why is this?
To understand why almost all gun owners - even those who do not own a gun that will be affected - are vehemently opposed to an "Assault Weapons" ban, you have to understand the history of the issue.
In the mid to late 1980s, gun control groups began to misapply the term "assault weapon" and "assault rifle" to modern (in design and materials) semi-automatic firearms. They did this even though these firearms are functionally no different than the semi-automatic rifle President Theodore Roosevelt used on hunts in Africa over 100 years ago (1).
A Remington Model 8 like the one was used by Teddy Roosevelt on his 1909 African hunting trip.
The term "Assault Rifle" was coined by Adolf Hitler when he was shown a new German rifle called the MP44. This weapon was intended to replace both the sub-machine gun and the rifle in the German army. Instead of a full power rifle cartridge, it fired a cartridge about half way in power and range between a full power rifle round and a comparatively low powered pistol cartridge. Because it was intended to replace the sub-machine gun, it was made with the capability of fully automatic fire. The MP44 is the father of both the AK47 and the M16.(2)
For over 40 years, the definition of an an assault rifle was a rifle firing an intermediate power cartridge with BOTH SEMI AND FULLY AUTOMATIC FIRE OPTIONS.(2) No one considered the civilian versions of these guns "assault rifles" because they were all semi-automatic only. Then, in the 1980s, as younger shooters who had been trained on the M16 in the military began to buy the civilian versions of these rifles, THE GUN CONTROL GROUPS BEGAN TO MISUSE THE TERM.
Gun control groups began to use the term "assault rifle" or "assault weapon" to apply to any modern semi-automatic rifle of modern design made of modern materials. They love this term because it makes the guns they falsely apply it to sound especially evil. In addition, to people who are not familiar with firearms, their modern construction makes them appear very different than the older civilian firearms they may have seen, even though they still function exactly like that semi-automatic rifle Teddy Roosevelt used over 100 years ago. At this point, they have largely succeeded in convincing people that there is a significant difference between the two - when in fact there is not.
For instance, under California's strict assault rifle ban, the Ruger Mini-14, seen below, is not considered an assault rifle.
Because it has a wood stock and lacks a "pistol grip" - this rifle looks more like your grandfather's rifle. It would be very hard to ban it.
Below is a image of an AR15 pattern carbine, which is considered an assault rifle in California and under every proposed ban.
Both rifles shoot the exact same ammunition, use magazines with the same capacities and fire just as fast. Functionally they are identical. What is the difference? Simple: One is WW2 technology, while the other is 1960s to 1980s technology.
So, what makes the AR15 above an assault rifle? Well, it has an adjustable, telescoping stock to enable shooters of different statures, and shooters wearing clothing of different thicknesses.to shoot it comfortably. It also has a pistol grip, which most shooters find much more comfortable to shoot. Finally it has a combination muzzle brake (reduces recoil) and flash hider. Under California law, these features (often called "evil features") that are designed to make the rifle comfortable to shoot make this rifle illegal - even though it is the most popular firearm in the U.S. These features have been around for a very long time too.
This Remington Model 8 - a 100 year old design - is equipped with a forward pistol grip and a 30 round magazine. This would classify it as a "Assault Rifle" under many state laws. However, it is still the same firearm.
Of course, the main reason they can get away with it is that the Ruger is made of wood and blued steel (old school materials) while the AR is made of steel, aluminum, and plastic. The difference in appearance is what enables them to convince people that this rifle is especially evil. But, as we have seen, it is a difference without a distinction.
Another reason that almost all gun owners are up in arms is that this same, dishonest tactic can just as easily be used on many other commonly owned and used firearms. A bolt action hunting rifle can just as easily be called a "sniper rifle". After all, in Vietnam, off the shelf hunting rifles were used for that very purpose. Why wouldn't most "non-gun" people buy into a ban on "sniper rifles"? Gun owners can see this one coming.
One of these Remington 700s is a "Sniper Rifle", the other is a "Hunting Rifle". There is no functional difference.
Then there is the "weapons of war do not belong in civilian hands" argument. This sounds perfectly reasonable - until you realize the implications. THERE ARE NO CIVILIAN FIREARMS IN EXISTENCE THAT HAVE NOT BEEN WEAPONS OF WAR. The lever action rifle was invented for, and used by some, Union forces during the Civil War. Bolt Action rifles were first used by the military and were the military standard from the 1890s though WW2. Semi-automatic firearms were issued to US troops during WW2. Even single shot firearms were "weapons of war", since the US Army used them from the early 1870s through the early 1900s. IF ANY RIFLE TYPE INITIALLY DESIGNED FOR AND USED BY THE MILITARY IS DISALLOWED FOR CIVILIAN USE - ALL FIREARMS WOULD BE BANNED.
Every one of these rifle types began as a "weapon of war". They are functionally identical to their military counterparts.
Where is all of this going? What is the real reason for "Assault Weapons" bans? One of the leading advocates of gun control is the Washington Post. Consider this statement:
“No one should have any illusions about what was accomplished [by the ban]. Assault weapons play a part in only a small percentage of crime. The provision is mainly symbolic; its virtue will be if it turns out to be, as hoped, a stepping stone to broader gun control.” – Washington Post editorial, September 15, 1994
So, one of the leading newspapers pushing the original Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) lays it right out: "We know that this won't do anything to reduce crime - but once we get this we can move on to ban even more guns." They were certainly right about the first part, because no one argues that the 1994-2004 AWB accomplished anything. So far they have been wrong about the second part - but they are still trying.
This is why gun owners will stand united on this issue. We know that this effort to ban the most popular firearm in America is just the beginning. We know what the gun control advocates really want. They want gun control laws that mirror those in the UK: A total ban on handguns, a total ban on semi-autos and all other guns made so expensive and difficult to purchase and possess that only the very well off can afford them. We know this because they constantly hold up the UK as a shinning example of gun control at work.
INDEED THE UK IS AN EXAMPLE OF GUN CONTROL AT WORK - BUT IT IS NOT A POSITIVE EXAMPLE!
Of course, while the UK has always had a low murder rate compared to the US, there is much more to the story. Consider this story from a paper in the UK:
How bad is it? The rate of violent crime is four times that of the US. Pubs are now barred from using breakable glass mugs because fights are so common. Stabbings are so common that their have been calls for a total ban on pointed kitchen knives. The murder rate, after handguns were banned, is up - not down. The UK had a greater number of murders in 2007 than any other EU country. The murder rate per 100,000 was higher than any other western European nation, including France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Finland and Switzerland.
Think that's one isolated article? Check out this article. Here's a table from that article:
The article footnotes that table, "The U.S. has a violence rate of 466 crimes per 100,000 residents, Canada 935, Australia 92 and South Africa 1,609." Interestingly, the order of violent crime almost exactly mirrors the gun control laws, the more gun control, the higher the rate of violent crime. The US has the least restrictive laws, Canada slightly more restrictive, South Africa much more restrictive, and the UK the most restrictive. Australia is the exception, with laws slightly more restrictive than Canada.
The gun control advocates never mention violent crime rates - instead they focus exclusively on US vs. UK murder rates to "prove" that gun control "works". But they NEVER compare the UK murder rates with its' close neighbors - the other nations in and around the EU.
In 2007-2008, the UK's murder rate was 1.57 per 100,000 (better than the US), while Switzerland's murder rate was slightly less than half that (0.72)(3) - the lowest in Europe. Gun laws in Switzerland? About the same as the US.(4) Gun ownership? The Swiss are second only to the US among Western nations (if their "take home" military assault rifles are included they may have a higher rate than the US).(5)
What about other European nations? Well, Germany (0.7), France (1.35), Italy (1.16) and Austria (0.58) all have much more permissive gun laws than the UK and lower murder rates. (3) So, comparing European countries, the more gun control the higher the murder rate.
The bottom line is that everyone, gun owner or not, needs to oppose gun bans because they can be proven to make violent crime much worse - and if they can ban so called "assault weapons", they can and will ban nearly all other guns.
Want to let all of your elected representatives know that you are opposed to any future gun bans? The Ruger Firearms company has set up a web page that allows you to send a letter to every one of your representatives with only a few clicks. They will look up your representatives, address a letter to each one, print and mail it, all at no cost to you. Just click HERE.
1 - Quote from an article in Field and Stream magazine, August 1909 regarding the Roosevelt safari:
"Colonel Roosevelt is not handling toy weapons. A Mannlicher bolt-action in 9mm equipped with a telescopic sight was purchased in Germany. The (Holland & Holland) .450 cordite express was purchased in London, the .30 caliber U. S. Army (note: this is a 1903 Springfield) was made at the Springfield armory and converted into a sporting model, the .35 caliber autoloader was made by the Remington Arms Company, Ilion, and the .405 caliber repeater (note: this is a Model 1895) was made by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company of New Haven. The rest of the party is armed on lines somewhat similar, with the exception of a couple of Mausers." (note: There were a number of shotguns also in the battery, including Roosevelt's favorite Fox double gun.)
"The .35 Autoloading Remington, the other American rifle that Colonel Roosevelt is carrying, is an excellent weapon for all-round use. It carries a bullet of 200 grains which has a velocity of 2,000 feet a second. As it is the latest weapon on the market, it embraces all the inventions and improvements up to date. It is automatic in action, cocking and loading itself, and is charged from a clip that holds five cartridges. The most powerful automatic rifle made, it is a fine arm for jungle work and closer quarter shooting when there is danger, as one has five shots at his command by merely pulling the trigger after each shot. The rifle will be used on leopards, giraffes, and Kudu. In an emergency it could be used on hippos, elephants, and rhinos by a good shot who could place with certainty his bullets in the head or the heart."
2 - "An assault rifle is a selective fire (selective between fully automatic, semi-automatic, and burst fire) rifle that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine." (Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assault_rifle)
3 - European Commission (Eurostat) http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/statistics_explained/index.php/Crime_statistics
4 - Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swiss_gun_laws
5 - Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Number_of_guns_per_capita_by_country