That Was Then, This is Now
The NRA and the Gun Industry Talk About Assault Weapons–From Both Sides of Their Mouths
Myth One

Gun Experts Say There is No Such Thing as a Civilian Assault Weapon

The NRA, the gun industry, the gun press, and other pro-gun “experts” today claim that there is no such thing as a civilian assault weapon. But before the guns came under fire, these same experts enthusiastically described these civilian versions of military weapons as “assault rifles,” “assault pistols,” and “military assault” weapons. For example:

  • In 1982, Guns & Ammo published a book titled Assault Rifles, advertising “Complete Data On The Best Semi-Automatics.”[1] In 1988 Guns & Ammo handgun expert Jan Libourel defined an “assault pistol” simply as, “A high-capacity semi-automatic firearm styled like a submachine gun but having a pistol-length barrel and lacking a buttstock.”[2]
  • Gun magazines also specifically praised the spray fire features of civilian assault weapons. For example, a 1989 Guns & Ammo review of the “Partisan Avenger .45 Assault Pistol” noted that when the gun “is fired rapidly from the hip, its swivelling front grip makes for easy and comfortable control of the recoil,” and that the “forward pistol grip extension of this powerful assault pistol not only helps point it instinctively at the target but goes a long way to controlling the effects of recoil….”[3] Guns & Ammo also found point shooting from the hip to be “surprisingly easy” with the HK 94 9mm Carbine.[4] A 1990 review in the NRA’s American Rifleman of the Sites Spectre HC Pistol said, “A gun like the Spectre is primarily intended for hip-firing….”[5] The same magazine’s 1993 review of the Steyr Mannlicher SPP Pistol reported, “Where the SPP really shines is in firing from the hip….”[6]
  • A cottage industry of accessory suppliers sprang up, all of which targeted ads soliciting owners of civilian “assault weapons.” [7]
  • The gun industry deliberately used the military character of semi-automatic “assault weapons” and the lethality-enhancing utility of their distinctive characteristics as selling points. The German company Heckler & Koch, for example, published ads in 1984 calling their civilian guns “assault rifles” and stressing their military lineage. “The HK 91 Semi-Automatic Assault Rifle from Heckler & Koch…was derived directly from the G3,” a German army weapon, said one ad.[8] Another ad that year described the HK 94 Carbine as “a direct offspring of HK’s renowned family of MP5 submachine guns.”[9] A 1989 Intratec ad said the company’s TEC-9 “clearly stands out among high capacity assault-type pistols.”[10] And in 1982 Magnum Research advertised that the Galil rifle system to which it had import rights “outperformed every other assault rifle.”[11]


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