Assault rifles, semi-automatic rifles designed for use on the battlefield, have been in the news as of late. They were the type of weapons used by Islamic terrorists in San Bernardino and most recently in Orlando. An assault rifle was also used by non-Islamic terrorists in Aurora and Sandy Hook.
Assault rifles are generally easy to use, feature a high-capacity magazine, and can be quite lethal. With that said, the common belief that they are responsible for a large number of gun deaths nationwide is wrong.
According to the FBI, in 2013 (the most recent year reported) there was a total of 12,253 murders. Of that number, 8,454 involved a firearm. A majority of those murders were carried out with a handgun, 5,782 to be exact. That works out to be 68.39% of all firearm murders. When it comes to killing people, handguns are used more than any other firearm.
What I found quite remarkable with the FBI’s numbers is how few deaths are attributed to assault rifles. They don’t even get their own category. They’re grouped in with rifles. An assault rifle is a rifle, but not all rifles are assault rifles.
Even if you pretend that each and every rifle listed on the FBI crime report is a banana clipped, pistol griped assault rifle, they only account for 3.37% of all murders committed with a firearm.
If you really want to do something to curb gun-related murders, then you have to look at handguns, not assault rifles. Statistically and historically speaking, assault rifles are the safest of all guns in that they pose the smallest threat to public safety.