Earlier today, I discussed proposals to broaden the definition of assault weapon, an arbitrary category of firearms prohibited based on military-style features that have little or no functional significance in the context of violent crime. New York Daily News reporter Douglas Feiden suggests one option for the new legislation that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has promised: Feiden defines "assault weapons" as "flesh-piercing, fast-firing, killing machines." There is another term for that kind of weapon: a gun.
Feiden also claims that "military-style assault weapons" are "favored by spree killers like the gunman in Newtown, Conn." He overlooks the point that the rifle used by Adam Lanza to kill 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday was not, legally speaking, an "assault weapon," because otherwise it would have been banned under Connecticut law. In any event, the gun nuts at Mother Jones report that mass shooters are far more likely to use semiautomatic handguns than "assault weapons," which by their count were used in about one-third of mass gun homicides since 1982. Those handguns, of course, would fit the new definition of assault weapon proposed by Feiden, since they 1) pierce flesh, 2) fire just as fast as the guns currently classified as "assault weapons," and 3) kill people.