'Assault Weapon' Myths

43 Southern Illinois Law Journal 193 (2018)

49 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

Suggested Citation

Wallace, E. Gregory, 'Assault Weapon' Myths (October 19, 2018). 43 Southern Illinois Law Journal 193 (2018), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3269670

E. Gregory Wallace (Contact Author)

Campbell University School of Law ( email )

225 Hillsborough Street
Raleigh, NC 27603
United States

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