Can a US civilian own an SMG

In the discussion about handguns in the USA, terms such as assault rifle, machine gun, automatic fire rifle or even submachine gun are used again and again. The categories "Assault Rifle" or "Assault Weapon" appear in Anglo-Saxon media. They are known as automatic, fully automatic, or semi-automatic. Again and again there are misunderstandings or even misrepresentations as to which weapons we are talking about and how they are actually called.

Rapid firearm

Rapid fire weapon is a generic term that, in addition to assault rifles, also describes other weapons that do not play a role in the debate. This includes machine guns, for example.

Rapid fire rifle / assault rifle

In addition to handguns (handguns such as pistols or revolvers, but not submachine guns), the contemplated ban on handguns mainly concerns assault rifles, which are also known as automatic rifles. In the Anglo-Saxon area one speaks of the "Assault Rifle".

These rifles are characterized by having a high rate of fire. The cartridges are loaded automatically after each shot and do not have to be manually transported individually from the magazine as with so-called repeating rifles. That makes them "automatic" weapons. They also have a pistol grip, and on some the rifle stock can be folded away. They are usually loaded with interchangeable magazines with ten to 30 cartridges. In addition, they are designed in such a way that the muzzle flash and recoil disturb the shooter as little as possible.

The weapons can be adjusted differently. Semi-automatic means that when the trigger is pulled, a single shot is fired. (The weapon is still an automatic weapon because it is loaded automatically.) When set to fully automatic, the rifle fires as long as the trigger is held or until the magazine is empty. There are also weapons in which the shooter can (fully automatically) trigger a short burst of fire with, for example, three shots.

The most famous assault rifles include the Russian-Soviet AK-47 Kalashnikov, the G36 from Heckler & Koch, the Galil from IMI (Israel Military Industries) or the M-16 from the US company Colt.

Civilians can purchase such rifles in the United States. However, these are modified versions that cannot fire in fully automatic mode. The Newtown gunman killed some of his victims with a Bushmaster XM-15. This is a version of the AR-15, the civil version of the US military's M-16 rifle.

Since these weapons only have the semi-automatic mode, the weapon lobby in the USA speaks of "Tactical Rifles" or "Modern Sporting Rifles", since they are actually only used by sport shooters or also for hunting.

Proponents of a gun ban argue that although these assault rifles can only fire semi-automatically, all other properties of the guns also serve to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible.

US President Barack Obama demands that civilians should be banned from buying "military-style" assault rifles. With this, Obama is referring to features such as the pistol grip or the devices for concealing the muzzle flash. In addition, magazines with more than ten bullets should not be available. In 1994 Congress had already issued a corresponding ban and prohibited the sale of a number of certain weapons to civilians. However, the ban expired in 2004. Modified versions of the prohibited weapons were also sold under a new name during the restrictions of those ten years.