Learned something today about guns. I’ve always been opposed to handguns, never having seen any purpose to them other than killing another person. I’ve read the statistics about how the US has the highest (by far) rate of handguns per capita and handgun deaths per capita. I’ve always believed in an outright ban on all handguns. I’ve been re-evaluating that position lately, but today, I learned how emotional and knee-jerk my attitude towards handguns has been.
I’m quite sure I’ve said, “If we’re not going to ban all hanguns, at least let’s ban automatic and semi-automatic weapons.” Reading in the Volokh Conspiracy today, I realized that, as far as semi-automatics go, I had no idea what I was talking about!
If you see a cylinder above the trigger, it’s a revolver, because when you shoot, the bullet leaves the gun and the cylinder revolves to put the next bullet in place.
If you don’t see a revolving cylinder, it’s a semi-automatic. Why do we call it a semi-automatic? There’s a magazine — that’s what holds the bullets — which you stick into the handle of the gun. But you can’t shoot bullets that are in the handle of your gun! So there’s a mechanism to move the bullets from the magazine into the chamber. When you shoot the gun, the bullet leaves the gun, the metal case is ejected (wear eye protection!), and an extra bullet is automatically moved from the magazine into the barrel. But when you pull the trigger once, you only shoot once. Hence, semi-automatic.
So, anyway, don’t use “semi-automatic” to mean “an especially scary gun”! Almost any handgun out there is a semi-automatic.