Those Deadly, Depressing, Syncopated Semiautomatic Assault Rifle Blues

An Exercise in Calculated Hysteria

The semiautomatic rifle has been part of the American scene for nearly a century. In 1903 the Winchester Repeating Arms Company marketed the first commercially successful semiautomatic rifle. It was not designed as a military arm, and no sales were made to the US Army. The new rifle was marketed among sportsmen and touted as a great technical improvement over the lever- and bolt-action weapons that had dominated hunting since the post-Civil War period. Only in 1939 did the United States Army begin large-scale issue of a recently adopted semiautomatic rifle (the famous M-1 Garand), and it was not until the mid-1960's that the American military adopted a selective-fire "assault rifle" (the initially problem-plagued M-16) as its new standard small arm.

Eighty-six years after the first Winchester semiautomatic rifle left the factory and entered a private citizen's hands, the nation has been convulsed by a wave of controversy and deliberately induced hysteria over the alleged menace of the privately-owned "semiautomatic assault rifle." The result has been massive confusion on the part of the nonshooting public, generated in large measure by the ignorance, incompetence, and poorly concealed bias of a national news media working in concert with an alliance of social activists whose ultimate goal is to deny the private citizen any right to own firearms of any description....

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