Before Discussing Restricting the Second Amendment, Terms Have to Be Defined

MOTOHIDE MIWA. Motohide Miwa from USA, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


Liberals argue that drugs should be legalized to reduce drug-related crime, claiming that legalization would lower prices and eliminate criminal gangs from the equation. These same individuals advocate for reducing gun deaths by making guns illegal. Ironically, drugs kill more than twice as many Americans each year as guns, yet they want to legalize drugs and criminalize guns.

Cain killed Abel roughly 5,000 years before guns were invented, showing that people will always find ways to kill each other. Criminals will always be able to obtain illegal guns to commit crimes. Additionally, many of those who support drug legalization and gun control also favor soft sentences for violent offenders and release without bail. This combination leaves honest citizens defenseless.

Before discussing the problem of gun deaths, it is important to look at the numbers. In 2023, nearly 43,000 people were killed by guns in the United States. This number is less than half the number that are killed by drugs, which was 107,000. More than half, roughly 57%, of these deaths were suicides, close to 40% were homicides, 1% were considered unintentional or accidental gun deaths, and 1% were shootings by police. Spousal murder and gang-related violence account for a large percentage of gun homicides. Because gang members are frequently under the age of 18, the number of “child” gun deaths is distorted. While mass shootings, which tend to get the most press, represent a smaller percentage of deaths.

Every time there is a mass shooting, the subject of gun control comes up. People push for legislation regarding gun control, but they often lack the vocabulary to discuss the issue rationally. Terms like assault rifle, semi-automatic, military-style weapons, bump stock, AR-15, and mass shooting are thrown around. If you wish to build a case for or against anything, your facts have to be correct, and you should begin by defining these terms accurately.

Most importantly, rather than just making laws to show they care, lawmakers should only propose laws that effectively reduce deaths while preserving gun rights. However, suicides and murders will continue with or without guns. Gangs will continue to operate and kill people. Individuals with mental illnesses who kill for no reason will still exist and will use cars, bombs, or knives, as seen in other parts of the world experiencing mass stabbings. Guns will still be available on the black market or can be homemade. Restricting cosmetic changes to guns, reducing magazine sizes, or limiting the number of guns or bullets purchased in a year will have no impact on death rates. Finally, the term “shall not be infringed,” as written in the Second Amendment of the Constitution, needs to be considered.


This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The information provided is based on general knowledge and may not reflect the most current legal standards or interpretations. Readers are advised to consult with local, state, and federal authorities to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Always verify legal requirements with the appropriate governmental agencies before making any decisions related to firearms or firearm ownership.

  1. Fully automatic weapons are true military firearms. As long as you hold down the trigger, bullets continuously fire from the weapon. These guns are generally not available to the public. They require a tax stamp under the National Firearms Act (NFA), which involves a thorough background check, paying a $200 tax, and registering the firearm with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). In most cases, a Federal Firearms License (FFL) is required for dealers, manufacturers, and importers of such firearms, but not for private ownership. It is very difficult to legally purchase or obtain the necessary permissions to own a fully automatic weapon. Neither the NFA process nor fully automatic or military weapons have played a significant role in many mass shooting incidents.
  2. Assault Rifle – Technically, an assault rifle is a military rifle, such as an M-16, which has a selector switch that allows you to switch from semi-automatic to fully automatic fire. The rules for ownership are the same as for fully automatic weapons. They require a tax stamp under the National Firearms Act (NFA), which involves a thorough background check, paying a $200 tax, and registering the firearm with the ATF. In most cases, an FFL is required for dealers, manufacturers, and importers of such firearms, but not for private ownership. It is very difficult to legally purchase or obtain the necessary permissions to own an assault rifle. These weapons have not been used in most of the mass shootings in the U.S.
  3. Semi-automatic – A semi-automatic weapon is one where each time you pull the trigger, a single round is fired. This includes nearly every make and style of weapon sold, with the exception of bolt-action and pump-action long guns, as well as some revolver pistols. These are the most common weapons available to the public, and they are the ones used in most mass shootings. However, I have seen numerous stories where the press mistakenly referred to pump-action weapons (usually shotguns) as semi-automatic, even though they aren’t.
  4. Assault-style or military-style weapons – Many news reports have claimed that shooters were using assault rifles, which is a misnomer because the weapons were not fully automatic. The correct term would be military-style or assault-style, which only refers to the general appearance of the weapon and has no influence on how or how quickly the weapon fires. The fact that a gun is assault-style or military-style is a moot point in terms of legality or firepower in most states; however, some states have imposed additional restrictions on military-style weapons. Many guns are sold in multiple versions, or conversion kits can be purchased separately, which alter the appearance of the weapons to make them look like military-style weapons.
  5. A bump stock is a device attached to a semi-automatic rifle that uses the weapon’s recoil to allow rapid firing by “bumping” the trigger against the shooter’s finger. It increases the rate of fire but does not convert the rifle into a fully automatic weapon because each bullet fired still requires a separate trigger pull. Fully automatic weapons, in contrast, fire continuously with a single trigger pull. Therefore, by legal definition, bump stocks do not make a rifle fully automatic.
  6. AR-15 – The original AR-15 is very similar to the M-16 and was developed for military use. The military version, M-16, has a selector switch allowing for fully-automatic fire and was the weapon of choice from the early 1960s until the 1990s. However, the AR-15s used in mass shootings are generally not military-grade AR-15s. These civilian versions only look like the military AR-15 but fire the same as any other semi-automatic rifle, meaning each trigger pull fires a single round.
  7. Conversion Kits – Conversion kits to change the appearance of a weapon, making it look like a military weapon, are generally legal and can be purchased in gun stores. However, conversion kits that alter the way a weapon fires, such as making it fully automatic, are illegal and are not sold in gun stores. There are many online sites that will teach you how to convert your firearm, but it is illegal to do so or to possess a weapon that has been converted. Again, fully automatic weapons have not played a role in most mass shooting incidents.
  8. Caliber – In the US, the caliber system is used to measure the diameter of bullets, while the rest of the world typically uses millimeters, hence terms like 9mm. Generally, the smallest diameter bullet commonly used in the US is a .22. Another round, called a .223, has essentially the same diameter but is a much longer bullet, and this is a common round for sport shooting and hunting. The international size equivalent is 5.56 mm. This is also the same size as the bullet used by the US military M-16, which is .223 or 5.56 mm. If a report claims the shooter used military-style ammunition, it means nothing significant, as this size round is sold everywhere, not just to the military. The .22 is the only truly small caliber gun widely sold in the US. When people hear that a shooter used a large caliber weapon, they might picture a hand cannon, but in reality, it refers to any bullet larger than a .22, including a .25, .32, or .38, which are still relatively small.
  9. Gun Laws – In the US, federal laws set some broad regulations, but gun licensing and sales are usually regulated at the state or even city level. New York City, for example, has some of the strictest gun laws in the world, while New York state is more lenient but still significantly stricter than Tennessee. In most states, for long guns, including rifles and shotguns, you typically only need a driver’s license and to be over the age of 18. For pistols, however, you generally need to be over 21, and depending on the state, you may need a gun license or permit and to register the purchase. There are often waiting periods for pistols, but these can vary significantly from state to state.
  10. Gun Shows and the “Gun Show Loophole” – Gun shows are events where firearms, ammunition, and related accessories are sold, often by private sellers as well as licensed dealers. The term “gun show loophole” refers to a perceived gap in the legal requirements for background checks on firearm sales. While federally licensed firearms dealers are required to conduct background checks on all buyers, private sellers at gun shows are not subject to the same federal requirement in many states. This means that individuals can purchase firearms from private sellers without undergoing a background check, creating a potential loophole in the regulation of firearm sales.
  11. Used Weapons – Used weapons are firearms that have been previously owned and are resold through various channels, including gun shows, pawn shops, online marketplaces, and private transactions. The sale of used weapons is subject to the same legal regulations as new firearms. However, the specifics of these regulations can vary widely depending on the state. In states with stricter gun laws, even private sales of used firearms may require background checks and registration. In states with more lenient laws, private sales of used weapons might not require any background checks or registration, potentially allowing individuals to acquire firearms without official oversight.
  12. High Capacity Magazine – A unified definition of high capacity magazine doesn’t quite exist, but most laws and proposed bans define them as magazines that hold more than 10 or 15 rounds. In the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, the shooter used magazines holding 30 rounds, similar to what an extended M-16 magazine holds. By banning high capacity magazines, the government could inconvenience shooters by forcing them to change magazines more frequently. However, it is doubtful that such a ban would save many lives.
  13. Mass Shooting – The FBI defines a mass shooting as an incident in which four or more people are shot, either injured or killed, excluding the shooter. This definition is used to categorize and analyze such events for law enforcement and statistical purposes.

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