August 18, 2009
Educating Reporters Two at a Time about AR-15 Rifles
Dear Amanda Lee Myers and Terry Tang,
As Associated Press reporters, I know you want to "get it right."
However, it's utterly incorrect to say an AR-15 rifle is an "assault weapon," as is done several times in your story yesterday headlined, "Man carrying assault weapon attends Obama protest."
An AR-15-style rifle is not an assault weapon.
An assault weapon is a fully automatic firearm–a machine gun that, as long as the trigger is depressed, will continuously fire until the magazine is empty. Fully automatic firearms have been severely limited from civilian ownership since 1934.
An AR-15-style rifle, on the other hand, functions as a semi-automatic. It fires only one round with each pull of the trigger–just like countless other semi-automatic firearms that millions of Americans own legally for hunting, target shooting and self-defense. AR-15s are among the most popular firearms selling today and can rightfully be called today's modern sporting rifle.
Granted, AR-15-style rifles look like military rifles, such as the M-16, but as good reporters it's important that you not confuse the way AR-15s and military weapons function. Unless you deliberately want your readers to be confused about this issue, which is exactly what groups wanting to ban these types of firearms are after–confusion–you should not promote misinformation by using in accurate terms.
Versions of modern sporting rifles are legal to own in all 50 states, provided the purchaser passes the mandatory FBI background check required for all retail firearm purchasers.
If you would like an introduction to learning more about AR-15-style rifles at a target shooting range with a certified instructor, the National Shooting Sports Foundation would be pleased to arrange such a seminar, as we've done for hundreds of other journalists who now understand that AR-15s are not assault weapons.
Thanks for listening.