'Assault Weapon' Myths
43 Southern Illinois Law Journal 193 (2018)
39 Pages Posted: 11 Nov 2018 Last revised: 16 Jun 2020
Date Written: October 19, 2018
Four federal circuit courts have rejected Second Amendment challenges to “assault weapon” bans. The main target of these bans is the civilian AR-15, the most popular rifle in America. Most recently, the en banc Fourth Circuit in Kolbe v. Hogan took the unprecedented step of declaring that the AR-15 is not a protected firearm under the Second Amendment because it is functionally equivalent to the military M16. These courts have based their decisions upholding bans on the AR-15 and other “assault weapons” on certain factual claims about how these firearms operate.
This Article critically examines these factual claims. It identifies three common myths — the weapon of war myth, the rate of fire myth, and the combat features myth — that repeatedly appear in the four decisions and drive their outcomes. It shows how these myths are perpetuated by the judges’ refusal to take seriously readily-available evidence about the operation and use of these weapons, with a special focus on Kolbe’s attempt to depict the semi-automatic only AR-15 as functionally identical to the fully-automatic M16.
Keywords: Assault Weapons, Firearms, AR-15, Second Amendment, Right to Keep and Bear Arms, Right to Arms, Mass Shootings, Kolbe v. Hogan
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