1. What is the difference between a semi-automatic and an automatic weapon?
A semi-automatic weapon can only shoot one round per pull of the trigger. An automatic weapon fires multiple shots per pull of the trigger. Semi-automatic guns are available for sale in the US. Automatic guns however are much harder to obtain as they are highly regulated and generally only available to military personnel.
2. What classifies a gun as an “assault weapon?”
This is much more confusing, as the answer depends on who is defining it. Generally speaking there are two schools of thought. One definition is clear, that an assault weapon is a weapon that is automatic. The government tends to disagree on this definition, including only semi-automatic guns in various assault weapons bans that have been implemented and proposed. Overall, being that the definition is vague, gun experts don’t really use it. When someone uses this term with you in a discussion, you should inquire as to what they mean when they refer to an “assault weapon.”
3. How does the government define an assault weapon?
The government has little to no definition. If you observe the trends of what definitions the government has used in various pieces of legislation, the main factor that qualifies a gun that way is whether it has some kind of military-like application. This ranges from anything from a grenade launcher to a scope. So the difference between the two can be something as simple as a pistol grip. To be clear, according to the government, all assault weapons are semi-automatic, but not all semi-automatic weapons are assault weapons.
4. What is an AR-15?
AR-15s are commonly brought up in reference to mass shootings. AR-15s are semi-automatic rifles. They differ very little from standard rifles, despite what the media typically reports. An AR-15 can be configured to look a number of ways and have a number of different attributes from barrel length to bore size for different ammo, etc. It can look similar to a military weapon or it can look like a hunting rifle.