Assault Weapons Studies and Explainers

Assault weapons manufactured for the civilian market, equipped with detachable high-capacity ammunition magazines, are virtually identical to their military counterparts designed for the battlefield. The difference is that military assault weapons are selective-fire. That is, they are capable of fully automatic fire (firing rounds continuously as long as the trigger is depressed by the shooter)—or three-shot bursts—as well as semiautomatic fire. Civilian assault weapons are semiautomatic-only firearms (the trigger must be pulled back separately for each round fired). In the civilian world, this is a distinction without a difference in terms of public safety. The unique design features of semiautomatic assault weapons allow the shooter to efficiently kill as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time available. In fact, increased lethality is the exact purpose for which these weapons were designed.

There is no reason for assault rifles, assault pistols, and assault shotguns to be sold on the civilian market. Nevertheless, these weapons have become a primary sales focus as the gun industry markets its products to a shrinking customer base.

In 1988, the VPC first warned of the threat posed by assault weapons. Our research continues to expose the public safety threat assault weapons represent as well as the need to ban their sale to civilians. Issues addressed in our research include: specific weapons that are used in mass shootings; how the firearms industry markets these weapons; and trends in assault weapon manufacture, such as the marketing of next-generation assault pistols, some of which are even capable of piercing the body armor worn by law enforcement. Some of our major reports can be found below.


The Militarization of the U.S. Civilian Firearms Market (June 2011)
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United States of Assault Weapons: Gunmakers Evading the Federal Assault Weapons Ban (July 2004)
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Bullet Hoses: Semiautomatic Assault Weapons — What Are They? What’s So Bad About Them? (May 2003)
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That Was Then, This Is Now: The NRA and the Gun Industry Talk About Assault Weapons — From Both Sides of Their Mouths (December 1997)
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Assault Weapons and Accessories in America (1988)


Assault Weapons Primer

Key Points About Assault Weapons (June 2016) | Puntos claves sobre armas de asalto (de junio de el año 2016)