What Is a Semiautomatic Assault Weapon?
Semiautomatic assault weapons are civilian versions of automatic military assault rifles (like the AK-47 and the M-16) and automatic military assault pistols (like the UZI).
Military AK-47 Assault Rifle
Civilian AK-47 Assault Rifle
These guns look the same because they are virtually identical, save for one feature: military assault rifles (like the rifle on the left above) are machine guns. A machine gun fires continuously as long as its trigger is held back—until it runs out of ammunition. Civilian assault rifles (like the gun on the right) are semi-automatic weapons. The trigger of a semiautomatic weapon must be pulled back separately for each round fired.
Because federal law has banned the sale of new machine guns to civilians since 1986,a and heavily regulates sales to civilians of older model machine guns, there is virtually no civilian market for military assault weapons. The gun industry introduced semiautomatic versions of military assault weapons in order to create and exploit new civilian markets for these deadly weapons. The next section explains why civilian semiautomatic assault weapons are no less deadly than military automatic assault weapons. In fact, they are arguably even more deadly.
a) See, 18 U.S. Code, Section 922(o).