“”Just in case they don't see the light, I suggest we take their guns away before they come in.
|—"Jim Bowie" in Comanche Territory|
A gun is a device for launching projectiles at targets one wishes to damage, injure, or kill. They come in all lengths and calibers, with projectiles made of many materials, for various purposes. The principal uses for the gun are war, hunting, and target shooting, self-defense, and sometimes, compensation for emasculation.
 Killing sprees
Guns are associated with atrocities because they make them so much easier to perpetrate. Mass atrocities are sometimes mistakenly called "killing sprees." According to criminologists James Allen Fox and Jack Levinthe term "spree killing" identifies events that fall neither into the categories of serial killing nor mass atrocity. Thus the 1959 killings of the Clutter family of four in Holcomb, Kansas by Richard "Dick" Hickock and Perry Smith were described in press accounts as a "killing spree." When the numbers of victims climb beyond the single digits and a political rather than criminal motive is evident then the event is normally called an atrocity. Unless of course one wants to diminish the horror of the event. The term "spree" connotes irresponsibility rather than rational intention, as in a "shopping spree." Curiously, some of the English language news coverage of the atrocity committed by Anders Behring Breivik uses the term "killing spree."
 Gun types
A rifle is a long barrelled gun with rifling, where the barrel is grooved and twisted to spin the projectile as it passes through. That's about all you need to describe it.
 Assault rifle
An assault rifle is a
a big black scary gun term for a subset of rifles with specific features making them more apt for fighting wars than for personal defense or hunting. They are widely used by military and law enforcement forces around the world. They are also often discussed in the debate over gun control (in the USA at least), but their exact definition is somewhat murky.
The major features of an assault rifle are man-portability, the use of rifle cartridges (as opposed to handgun cartridges or shotgun shells), detachable magazines and a rapid rate of fire. The US military definition of an assault rifle specifies that it must have a selective-fire function (meaning that it can be switched between semi-automatic and burst and/or fully automatic firing modes), whereas the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994-2004, applying to civilian gun ownership, defined assault weapons specifically as semi-automatic rifles (i.e. ones which fire one round for each trigger pull) with certain features. Many of the guns subject to the Federal Assault Weapons Ban were semi-automatic rifles which had been adapted for the civilian market from select-fire military assault rifles. These guns, especially the AR-15 in the U.S. (due to it being in literally every gun shop, show, etc. ever since it started getting sold to civvies, because gotta have something to hide the fact that your dick is real small, eh, rednecks?) have frequently been used in school shootings and other civilian gun massacres, before and after the Assault Weapons Ban.
 Light machine guns
These fully-automatic weapons are usually loaded from a belt of cartridges composed of rifle or specialized machine gun rounds. Some machine guns use magazines, especially earlier ones, though they are making a comeback. They are difficult to use because of their size and weight and are generally illegal in the USA for civilian ownership. These differ from heavy machine guns, which are usually too... um... heavy for one person to carry and fire, and must be mounted on a rigid platform or disassembled and carried by multiple people. Since 1986, no newly manufactured machine gun can be registered for private ownership. It is still common for companies to make semi-auto only machine guns to get around this, though.
 Submachine guns
Typically smaller than an assault rifle, but often fire much faster. Submachine guns (often abbreviated to SMG, because, seriously. Who wants to write that all out every single time?) have less range due to a shorter barrel and use of lower-power handgun ammunition. The Thompson sub-machine gun (the classic "Tommy Gun" associated with 1920s gangsters) is perhaps the most famous example, but the Uzi also falls into this category. Many state police and security forces use submachine guns because of their small size, ease of use and high rate-of-fire. They are regulated under Title II and civilian ownership is banned outright in many states.
Han Solo's blasterA Mauser C96, an early self-loading pistol. This one comes with a stock that can be attached to the grip and sights that can be calibrated all the way out to over a kilometre.
Handguns are the smallest firearms, use specific ammunition and typically are not made with stocks, though there are some exceptions. They usually have semi-automatic or revolver actions. They also end up in many mass shootings and are responsible for roughly three fourths of annual gun deaths in the United States. What's trendy with handguns these days are polymer frames. These are sometimes met with derision for being "plastic toys", and even caused quite the fuss when they were first introduced in the 1970s and 80s about them supposedly not showing up on metal detectors, despite the need for metal parts when designing a functioning and "safe" (for lack of a better word) gun having not changed with the introduction of polymer-framed guns.
Another double-barrelled shotgun. The barrels on this one have been cut down, something often done by gangsters both back in the day and today.
Shotguns are defined by the type of ammunition they use: the shotgun shell. Shotgun shells typically contain numerous small lead balls (or shot), but can also contain lead slugs only slightly smaller than the shell itself or less-lethal munitions like beanbags and rubber balls. Shotguns typically come in break action (often with multiple barrels in various configurations; the most common number is 2 and the most common configurations are either side-by-side or over-and-under), pump-action, and semi-automatic varieties, but lever-action, full-auto, and revolver shotguns also exist.
 Sniper rifles
A sniper rifle with a largely defensive weapon of hunting rifle. Note the assorted differences.
Sniper rifles are typically rifles equipped with some form of scope. They are usually chambered for full-power rifle cartridges, but some use even bigger rounds like .50 BMG or 12.7x108mm, typically intended for use in heavy machine guns. Pretty much the only difference between a sniper rifle and your usual hunting rifle is what is on the other end of the scope. If it's an animal, good news! It's just a hunting rifle. Person? Sniper rifle. Fairly simple, right? Well, sniper rifles are often used by both sides of the law, as well as military forces. A related concept to the sniper rifle is the "designated marksman rifle", or an accurized military rifle, often with select-fire capabilities.
 Common Misconceptions
Due to their nature, most people do not have direct experience with guns, only seeing them in movies, television, and more recently, video games. Almost none of these products meant to entertain portray guns and what they can do accurately, and more often than not show guns doing things that would be unlikely if not completely impossible. These misconceptions tend to color all sides of the gun debate, from gun control advocates who only have the slightest concept about how guns work to those who greatly overestimate their knowledge. While most people are aware that movies are fictional, it is not always easy to tell what is realistic and what is not.
Handguns tend to be portrayed the most inaccurately. The recoil is barely ever shown properly in movies, and characters often handle and shoot them with one hand. While not impossible to do so, it is very hard to shoot accurately and keep control of the weapon with one hand, which is why real trained shooters get into a proper two-handed pistol-shooting stance by reflex. Ammo capacity is also inflated for entertainment purposes, most semi-automatic handguns have between 7-15 shots per magazine, revolvers typically have 6-7 shots and have to be cocked before each shot. Fully automatic assault rifles in particular are portrayed as wildly unrealistic, turning a single person into a killing machine able to mow down perhaps dozens of people without having to reload. In reality, fully-automatic weapons are very hard to control beyond a three-round burst, and even a 30-round magazine will deplete very quickly if fired like they are in movies.
The nuances of ammunition in general are complex. There are many, many different types of ammunition for different guns and purposes, and in some ways the types of ammunition used are more important than the type of gun used. While there are many different kinds of ammunition, all rounds with metal bullets are lethal (and even rubber bullets and beanbags can be potentially lethal). Smaller, "pea-shooter" rounds are often maligned as being barely lethal. The .22LR round is a very common round that is much smaller than most and typically only used for casual, inexpensive shooting and training. The Israeli military tried to claim the .22LR round was "non-lethal" in order to justify shooting stone-wielding protesters with them . The late Ronald Reagan might be surprised to hear that, as a .22LR round would have killed him if they were a little farther away from a hospital.
Oh, and guns are loud. Like, way louder than you're probably imagining them. Too much exposure to guns without ear protection will almost certainly cause hearing problems, a fact lampshaded by some shows like Archer. "Silencers", or more correctly "suppressors" do exist but are not as effective as shown in movies. In order to make a gun significantly less ear-splitting you have to design it from the ground-up for that purpose, not just screw on an attachment.
Guns able to fire more than one round from a single barrel per trigger pull are considered fully automatic weapons. In the U.S., these are regulated under Title II of the National Firearms Act, which also regulates weapons like "sawed-off" shotguns and high explosive devices. Civilian ownership of Title II weapons is heavily restricted and limited by a lengthy and expensive permit process along with heavy taxes (such as $200 per weapon manufactured and/or sold). Many states also have additional regulations on Title II weapons, with some, like New York and California, banning their ownership by the general public outright. Some semi-automatic assault weapons like the AR-15 can be converted to fully automatic by changing a few parts; these parts are also regulated under Title II.
 See also
- Bowling for Columbine
- Dick Cheney
- Gun control
- Charlton Heston
- Second Amendment
- National Rifle Association
- Ted Nugent
- A Brief History of the Assault Rifle, The Atlantic
- ↑ "Multiple Homicides: Patterns of Serial and Mass Killing." Crime and Justice. Vol. 23 (1998): 407-455]
- ↑ https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/26/5845
- ↑ 
- ↑ https://web.archive.org/web/20110608211810/http://www.nraila.org/federalfirearms.htm#TITLE%20II
- ↑ https://www.atf.gov/firearms/docs/atf-national-firearms-act-handbook-chapter-2/download