What Exactly Is an Assault Weapon?

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For the average person, there's a misconception about what exactly assault weapons are.

"When I hear assault rifle, I think fully automatic or something like that," one person told CBN News.

"You just pull the trigger and it continues to go, something like that," another person said.

They're not alone. Several people CBN News spoke with believe there's no difference between the fully automatic weapons our soldiers and marines use in Afghanistan and the assault weapon the gunman used in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

The fact they look identical may add to the confusion. But there is one very important difference.

CBN Chief of Security Chris Mitchell took CBN News Anchor Lee Webb to the range to demonstrate.

"The difference is in the fact that this weapon only shoots in a semi-automatic fashion... meaning it shoots one round for every trigger pull," Mitchell explained.

Mitchell explained the military version of the same weapon has the capability of shooting more than one round with a trigger pull.

"So as fast as you can pull the trigger is as fast as you're gonna shoot," he said about the kind of weapon used at Sandy Hook.

Each time the gunman pulls the trigger, only one round fires, which is no different from a semi-automatic pistol or even a 22-caliber target rifle.

To be sure, this weapon has more power and a longer range than this pistol. You can see the difference between the ammunition.

However, it is important to note that the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007 was the deadliest shooting spree in U.S. history by a single gunman. And he didn't use an assault weapon.

All he had were two semi-automatic pistols.

"So do you believe that putting a ban on these so-called assault weapons will prevent another Newtown massacre?" Webb asked Mitchell.

"I honestly don't believe that that's going to make any difference," Mitchell said. "Law-abiding citizens that own these respect the weapons. That's why we buy weapons."

"But anyone that has a desire to hurt people are gonna use whatever they can get their hands on to do so," he said. "So banning these is not going to make any significant difference."

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Lee Webb

Lee Webb

CBN News Anchor

Lee Webb serves as news anchor for The 700 Club, the flagship program of The Christian Broadcasting Network. He also anchors Newswatch, CBN News' 30-minute daily news program. As a 31-year veteran in the television news business, Lee brings a wealth of expertise and credibility to CBN News.  Follow Lee on Twitter @LeeVWeb and "like" him at Facebook.com/LeeWebbCBN.