To the editor:
I would like to address a corner of the gun debate which the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas has highlighted, but which I have not seen anyone discussing on the news: the definition of what is an assault rifle. The NRA very cynically maintains that assault rifles are not any different from other semi-automatic rifles. They look more sinister somehow, but people who wish to ban them are merely reacting emotionally to their appearance.
Assault rifles differ from other semi-automatics in 2 ways. They are designed to fire in full automatic, and they fire lightweight ammunition. The fins and other projections on assault rifles are designed to cool the weapon in sustained full automatic fire. A hunting rifle cannot fire in semi-automatic for extend periods because it will overheat and jam.
Assault rifles fire lightweight ammunition. My father in WWII carried a limit of 80 heavy bullets because of their weight. In Vietnam soldiers often carried 1,000 lightweight bullets. Assault rifles can fire as fast as you can pull the trigger for extended periods. That’s how one guy with an assault rifle and a pair of gloves was able to shoot over 500 people in one incident.