Can you tell the difference between guns? If you're not sure, you're not alone. "There's a lot of people out there that hear guns and think they're all the same. They only see the ones on the front page of the newspaper and on the news," said Dave Steinberg, manager at Ra-Lin's in Syracuse.
Steinberg says most people mistakenly think any military-style rifle must be an assault rifle, but that's not the case. Both are semi-automatic weapons, which means they fire just one round for each pull of the trigger. Automatic rifles, which can fire continuously with just one pull of the trigger, are banned in the U.S. One other way to determine an assault rifle is whether or not it has a selective fire. Assault rifles have a switch which allows users to change the weapon's rate of fire between semi-automatic and a three round burst or fully automatic fire. Steinberg says many civilian semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15 are made to look like military assault rifles in order to increase sales. "It's a copy of the military and the law enforcement fully automatic one with parts in there so it can't be fired fully. And just because of its looks and what the military police do with it, people want to have something that looks like it."
Most semi-automatic rifles come with magazines that hold 10 rounds of ammunition. But high capacity ones can hold 100 rounds or more. They've been used in many mass shootings including Columbine and the recent massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
Representative Carolyn McCarthy (D, New York) has introduced legislation to ban the sale of high-capacity magazines. The bill, originally introduced after the Colorado movie theater shooting last July, would ban the sale of magazines that hold 10 or more rounds.