|Smith & Wesson M&P|
An "assault rifle", as defined generally on wikipedia.com, must have these characteristics:
- It must be an individual weapon with provision to fire from the shoulder (i.e. a buttstock);
- It must be capable of selective fire;
- It must have an intermediate-power cartridge: more power than a pistol but less than a standard rifle or battle rifle;
- Its ammunition must be supplied from a detachable magazine rather than a feed-belt;
- It should have a minimum firing range of 300 meters (1000 feet)
The key difference for the lay person to understand is the difference between semi-automatic firing and fully-automatic firing modes.
Semi-automatic means that you must pull the trigger each time you want the weapon to fire. This is the type of weapon that Holmes had. One newspaper article said that his weapon could be fired 50-60 times in a minute. That's true, if he could pull the trigger 50-60 times in a minute (and if his drum ammunition feeder didn't malfunction (which it did) or if he could change magazines quickly enough).
Fully-automatic means that you pull and hold the trigger one time and the weapon will fire all the rounds available in a drum or magazine. This is not the type of weapon that Holmes had.
Anti-gunners love to refer to all nasty-looking rifles as assault weapons. Even Illinois legislators have declared that, if it looks like an assault weapon, then it is an assault weapon.
The author of the Letter to the Editor wrote that an NBC producer went to a Gander Mountain store and within a half hour had a brand-new assault weapon. If that's what NBC aired, then I believe it lied to its viewers. The public cannot buy or own a fully-automatic "assault weapon" without having a highly-restricted Federal gun permit. You cannot just walk into a store and in 30 minutes walk out with a fully-automatic weapon.
An informed public will not tolerate misleading news.
"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." John Philpot Curran (1750-1817), Irish politician and judge.