DC Download: What's in a (gun) name?

(LIN) — You say tomato, I say tomatoh. (Dan Quayle might even say tomatoe.) When it comes to guns, though, it’s not as easy to “call the whole thing off.”

This week, President Barack Obama listed 23 proposals to curb gun violence. In one of those, he stated he wants to ban the use of “military-style assault weapons,” using that phrase four times in the White House event Wednesday.

In a measure that requires Congressional action, Obama wants to re-instate an assault weapons ban.

But what exactly is an assault weapon?

Obama described this kind of weapon as one that can “pump out as many bullets as possible, as quickly as possible, to do as much damage, using bullets often designed to inflict maximum damage.”

But the details are a little more tricky than that.

While there’s no readily available definition for “assault weapon,” there is a particular breakdown of different kinds of guns.

First, there are fully automatic weapons, which will fire rounds continuously as long as a trigger is depressed. Then, there are semi-automatic weapons that only fire once each time the trigger is pulled, but they have the ability to reload automatically on their own.

Fully automatic weapons have been strictly regulated since 1934, but semi-automatic weapons come in many shapes and sizes, and the lines get blurred when trying to distinguish between the dangers of different types.

The blurred lines were evident when Congress chose what should be banned and what was OK in the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.  There they specifically named off different specific guns – UZI, Beretta AR70, Colt AR-15, Street Sweeper and others – as well as specific guidelines. (To view a list of those, visit section 110102 of the bill.

Gun enthusiasts and activists have strong opinions about the abilities of Congress to outline what can and cannot be used, as some of the guidelines are based around aesthetics and design rather than a gun’s ability to hold and fire a large capacity of ammunition.

For example, when gun makers realized that they could still design guns that had the same function, but could work around the cosmetic limits outlined in the gun ban, guns were simply redesigned for the same purpose.

What’s ahead for Congress now is another battle of semantics.

Simply re-instating the 1994 gun ban will not likely serve the purpose Obama is after. Instead, crafting more specific limitations, while delicately balancing 2nd Amendment rights will be Congress’ biggest challenge.

Creating gun more strict gun restrictions isn’t always the most popular action a president can take, regardless of his intentions to make our country safer.

However, his toughest challenge may not necessarily be convincing Americans what’s best for them. It could lie in a simple definition of a term he’s trying to ban.

Online: Full text to the "Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994’’

DC Download is a week-in-review featuring the latest news from Capitol Hill published every Friday. Get the latest political news at  onPolitix.com,  and join in the conversation on  Facebook  and  Twitter.

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