Weapons Expert Defines Meaning Of ‘Assault Weapon’

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SPRINGDALE (KFSM)- Assault weapon is a term that many say has divided our nation.

Because the term means different things to different people, 5NEWS spoke to a weapons expert to get a more concrete definition.

Steve Sturm, who owns an indoor shooting rage in Springdale, said an assault weapon “is anything somebody is coming at you with.”

“To me it could be a baseball bat, a frying pan, a hammer, even bare fists,” Sturm said.

However, the term "assault rifle" is a military weapon that shoots "fully automatic,” he said.

“So, you pull the trigger once, and it shoots full automatic. It will keep shooting until you let go of the trigger,” Sturm said.

Sturm has been a weapon enthusiast for nearly 60 years. He said people can fire automatic rifles at his range for a fee, and there is no age restriction.

Sturm said automatic weapons are not easy to get for people who want to buy one.

“You might find one for $10,000, but probably $15,000,” Sturm said.

Those who want to own one face a background check and could be required to wait up to one year for approval.

“You have to fill out paperwork and get permission from the government to buy it,” Sturm said. "In 1986 they passed a law that they could make no more full-automatic weapons in the U.S. or import them, so, what was there then is what is here today."


  • Michael Chapitan Collins

    The definition of ALL weapons is an assault weapon. If it doesn’t assault, it is a stick. The technical definition is: Does it work well? And the real definition is: Does it scare uninformed people who are ruled by their emotions and political correctness? If so, then it is an “assault weapon.”

  • Horace

    How about this–An assault weapon is the weapon of choice when someone wants to kill a lot of people in a short period of time. With devastating firepower and the huge magazines that are available, one can slaughter a whole crowd before anyone can rush you. I’m not against sane, law-abiding citizens owning guns, (I have a couple myself) but civilians have no business owning military grade weaponry. Owning one may boost someone’s sagging ego, but the danger they pose to grade schools, people in theaters, etc, isn’t worth it. If these are somehow okay, then where will you draw the line? What kind of weapon won’t be okay under the loose interpretation of the second amendment?

    • Honey Badger

      I GUARANTEE you that you do not know anyone who owns a military grade weapon nor does anyone else reading this post. The common AR15s that you see for sale on store shelves including your second home (Walmart) are NOT military grade. They fire one round for every trigger pull just like your guns do. Also, people who purchase these weapons went through the same FBI background check that you did even if they bought them at a gun show. If they purchased the gun illegally then they are what educated people refer to as criminals. Ordinary, sane, law abiding gun owners do not go to grade schools or theaters and gun down the masses.

      • subman

        I do. The gentleman owns a fully automatic Thompson .45 caliber machine gun. He is fully authorized by ATFE to own it. He also has an AK-47 that is fully automatic.

    • CAM

      So we are back to defining “assault” and/or “military grade”. Personally, I’m good with keeping fully automatic weapons out of the hands of most, and I think that’s where we are now. What most are wanting to ban are what they call assault rifles, mostly because they look like what you see in the movies and on TV being used by the military, SWAT teams, etc. In fact, they are nothing but semi-automatic weapons and those have been around since the early 1900s. The operation of the weapons being discussed here really hasn’t changed all that much, it’s the person behind the weapon that has evolved in a negative manner. We could discuss societal changes all day long, but THAT is what drives the nut cases behind mass shootings, not the guns themselves. Most of the people who want legislation on “assault” weapons, don’t even have a clue as to what they are or how they operate.

      • davehernandez1

        You have “assault rifles” and “assault weapons” confused, which is the entire point of the article — most people have no clue what each is.

      • CAM

        Dave, I have been known to fail in getting my point across due to my writing skills, or lack thereof. I DO know the difference very well, I just can’t put it into words well.

    • davehernandez1

      Defined “military grade”. FWIW, most military grade stuff is inferior to commercial grade. The term “assault weapon” is self-redundant (weapons are objects that can be used to assault) and is used by the ignorant to demonize what ever object they currently hate or fear.

    • davehernandez1

      BTW you are more likely to be killed by a person wielding a knife (2008 to 2012 average of 1,752) than to be killed by someone using any kind of rifle, to include those so called “assault weapon” versions (2008 to 2012 average of 350).

      In fact, you are far more likely to be killed just walking down the street or across a parking lot by someone wielding a motor vehicle (2008-2012 average of 4,557).

    • davehernandez1

      “What kind of weapon won’t be okay under the loose interpretation of the second amendment?”

      The Second Amendment, right off the bat, protects the individual right to arms they can “keep and bear”, meaning that they can store, maintain, transport, carry, serve, and operate as individuals, ruling out things like artillery, crew served, etc.

      Furthermore, the term “arms” as used in the time, as attested to by English Common Law, which most US jurisprudence is based, meant items of common use by individuals for one on one combat. That means area effect items like grenades, artillery, and full-auto AKA machine guns are beyond the scope of the Second.

      As for civilians owning “military grade” arms, in 1776, the military and the civilians carried the same firearms. In the 1860s, the military and civilians carried the same firearms. In WWI, civilians and the military carried the same firearms. It wasn’t until WWII that things started to diverge, though most military firearms were readily available for civilian use (sub-machine guns being the major difference).

      • teebonicus

        Dave, first off I submit that the NFA is unconstitutional. The SCOTUS so ruled before FDR extorted compliance and the Court reversed itself. According to a contemporaneous ruling (U.S. v. Miller, 1939), arms that “could contribute to the common defense” were those within the ambit of the 2A. In 1789, they were muskets and long rifles. In 2014, they are select-fire rifles and semi-auto pistols. The NFA illegitimately intercedes in this categorization. That given, the Court’s “in common use” criteria forecloses full-auto weapons, because one would be hard-pressed to argue that they have an everyday “common use” outside military applications. The enactment of the NFA actually has little effect on the nature of things, though, because full-auto has no common civilian use save for the amusement of hobbyists. They aren’t suitable for hunting, they aren’t suitable for self-defense, they aren’t suitable for anything other than circumstances when the battle balloon goes up. I would argue that this factor alone brings them within the ambit of the 2A, but the Court has already ruled on this issue.

        All that said, bans on so-called “assault weapons” are facially unconstitutional pursuant to U.S. v. Miller’s two-pronged test; magazine-fed semi-auto rifles and pistols are undeniably “in common use”, and they also “could contribute to the common defense”. We lost on the NFA. We sure as hell CANNOT afford to lose on the “assault weapons” horse doody.

      • davehernandez1


        A common misperception is that Miller devised a general test as to what is and is not permitted. Federal courts within even a few years of the Miller decision even stated that it was not a general test (see Cases vs US, 1942).

    • sianmink

      “An assault weapon is the weapon of choice when someone wants to kill a lot of people in a short period of time. With devastating firepower and the huge magazines that are available, one can slaughter a whole crowd before anyone can rush you.”

      Yes, this is why it is the weaponry of choice for police, who as you know are chiefly concerned with killing as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.

    • sianmink

      the sort of weapons you described, military grade, automatic fire, legally owned, have been used to murder all of 2 people since they were first regulated in 1937. Both times, by a police officer gone bad, and both times, the number of people murdered was 1.

      Clearly, these evil and powerful weapons must be taken off the streets and have no business in the hands of civilians.

  • davehernandez1

    Sturm is correct. There are two different terms that people/press routinely get confused.

    The Assault Rifle is a term going back to 1944 and is defined as a select-fire carbine length rifle firing light to intermediate power cartridges fed from a detachable magazine. This is the definition used by the military, state dept, and firearm experts/historians. The term and definition are based on the progenitor of the type, the StG 44.

    Select fire means the rifle has BOTH a semi-auto (1 trigger pull = 1 bang) and a full-auto (or burst) mode (1 trigger pull = multiple bangs). As such, they are considered a type of machine gun and are highly restricted items — not something you can buy over the counter at most firearm stores. The paperwork to buy one takes about 9 months to be processed.

    Light to intermediate power means they fire a cartridge in between the power of a pistol cartridge (9 mm or .45 ACP) and a full-power “battle rifle” ( 8 mm Mauser or .30-06).

    The military M-16 and M4 are classic examples of assault rifles.

    Assault weapon, on the other hand, dates back to the 1970s and was never defined until 1994, and even then the definition morphs at will. In 1986 the term was used in the title of a firearm book, but it was not defined and the book contained firearms of many types and actions. In 1988, the leader of a vehement gun control group advocated usurping the term and intentionally using it to confuse the public. In 1994, the federal government defined the term based primarily on external features such as flash hiders and bayonet lugs. However, several states have created their own definitions and the gun control groups use the term at will to refer to any firearm which has earned their ire. For example, the civilian semi-auto only AR-15 is often referred to as an “assault weapon”.

    • billy

      Except AR NEVER meant assault rifle but armalite rifle.some people know their stuff, some know some things, and other’s…well they shouldn’t comment on this subject at all. My wife just learned that last year. I had to correct her that I do not own an assault or automatic rifle.

  • Janet

    KFSM, Thank you for asking someone who actually is familiar with fire arms. It’s refreshing to hear a knowledgeable person explain the difference.
    Horace who posted earlier must learn that calling his law abiding fellow Americans murderers will not win any debates.

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