I'm not sure what everyone means by “assault weapons.” I know what an assault rifle is, but an assault weapon? The F/A 18 Hornet is an assault weapon, and I agree that private citizens shouldn't be allowed to own one unless they also own an aircraft carrier from which to launch it. I also don't think you should be allowed to own an M1 Abrams tank which is clearly an assault weapon.
Now, if you're talking about assault rifles, you'd think it would get much easier to figure out what one is. Not so, my friend. Different states define assault rifles differently. What is an assault rifle in Connecticut is not an assault rifle in Georgia. In most states, the category includes semi-automatic rifles with a detachable magazine and perhaps a pistol grip.
Here's the problem that many non-gun owners don't understand: the term semi-automatic does not describe the rate at which the gun can be fired. It refers to the way a shell is ejected and a new bullet loaded. If you squeeze the trigger of a semi-automatic, it will fire one bullet. If you squeeze the trigger of a semi-automatic and hold it down, it will still fire only one bullet.
If you shoot a revolver such as Dirty Harry’s .357, the process of loading a new bullet is mechanical. If you shoot a semi-automatic, the explosion that fires the bullet forces the slide backwards and loads a new bullet, and the slide slams forward, making the gun ready to fire again. The process is semi-automatic. So a .357, a 9 mm like many police forces use, or an AR-15 all fire only one bullet at a time.
You can take a semi-automatic rifle and put a lot of stuff on it and make it look really scary, but it still only fires one bullet at a time. The mere fact that it looks scary doesn't make it more deadly. A well-trained shooter might be able to pull the trigger 30 to 40 times in a minute, but that's still a long way from a true automatic, which might fire 900 bullets a minute or even more.
Here's where the problem seems to lie: Gun opponents are hung up on how many bullets can be fired in a short period of time. But that number is about the same for a revolver or a semi-automatic. The real difference is that a revolver fires a limited number of bullets before it needs to be reloaded—typically five or six. Reloading is a pain in the neck and not a quick process, even with a speed loader.
On the other hand, semi-automatics can have ammunition clips that hold as many as 30 bullets at one time. You have thirty shots before you need to reload, and the process of reloading is as simple as pressing a button on the side of the gun. The old magazine pops out and you slam a new one in and you've got thirty more shots.
Seems to me the big problem isn't the gun; it's the ammunition clips we need to be concerned with. Can someone please explain to me why you need any gun with thirty rounds of ammunition? I like to target shoot, and a seven-round magazine works just fine for me. If someone breaks into my house in the middle of the night and I need more than seven rounds to defend myself, then I probably shouldn't own a gun because I would suck at using one.
When gun control advocates start talking about banning assault weapons and they have no idea what they're talking about, they lose me. I agree with them, but they really need to get their shit together or they just sound like idiots.