Each time I read or hear the general media referring to “assault firearms,” I cringe. Why? Because many of them have little or no idea of what they’re talking about. The term “assault weapon” is an arbitrary (and politicized) phrase used all too often by the media to describe a collection of semi-automatic firearms that outwardly only “appear similar” to those used by the military but are not alike in actuality.
On April 18, 2007 in an interview, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (NY), sponsor of the bill “Assault Weapons Ban and Law Enforcement Protection Act of 2007” spoke on the Virginia Tech massacre and her proposed reauthorization of the Assault Weapons Ban. Asked to explain the need to regulate barrel shrouds, one of the many provisions of the Act, she responded that more importantly the legislation would ban large capacity "clips" used in the Virginia Tech massacre and that the class of guns chosen were those used by gangs and police killers. However, she apparently either never learned the facts or else was highly uninformed about the very firearms she was trying to ban.
The Virginia Tech shooter did not have high capacity magazines. They were of the legal, 10-round variety. After admitting that she did not know what a barrel shroud was, an item which she was so adamant to see banned, McCarthy ventured a guess, "I believe it is a shoulder thing that goes up". Actually a barrel shroud is a ventilated covering attached to the barrel of a firearm that partially or completely encircles the barrel, preventing burns when the barrel gets hot from rapid or fully automatic firing.