If you are asking what the technical lawyer definition of “assault rifle” is, you are missing the point entirely. The definitions that are on the books were crafted to minimize the impact on gun manufacturers. What actually matters is how efficient a gun is at killing large numbers of people very quickly. From what we have witnessed this week, there is little confusion on that point: you can do a pretty good job using “just” a semi-automatic.
If you prefer, let’s just stop using the term “assault rifle”; let’s pick a new word. For this post, I’m going to go with “Sandy Hook class weapon”. To ask technical questions such as “does a Sandy Hook class weapon need to have a folding butt stock?” would be premature. Putting those questions aside, the bigger question, the one that people are asking around the dinner table is this: Should Sandy Hook class weapons be allowed? Is there a net benefit to society?
It’s not too hard to guess what the NRA has to say about that question; you might as well be listening to a broken record. Instead, let us turn to our hearts and our minds. Are we willing to put up with the occasional shooting rampage in exchange for being able to carry such weapons ourselves? To assume that we can have the latter without the former, to call Sandy Hook an “anomaly” is to ignore history. The sad truth of the matter is that Sandy Hook is just another data point in a trend that was already obvious to folks not blinded by dogma.