Yes, assault rifles are legal to own in the United States. The United States has some of the loosest gun laws in the world. Therefore, there are lots of types of weapons you can own in the United States, and an assault rifle is definitely one of them. At the same time, assault rifles have not always been legal in the United States.
In 1994, Congress passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act which made it basically illegal to manufacture or possess a semiautomatic assault weapon. For several years during the 1990s and early 2000s, this assault weapon ban was in place in the United States. The ban was allowed to expire in 2004 without being renewed, and assault rifles once again became legal in the United States. At the same time, if you are interested in owning an assault rifle, you need to take a look at the laws of your state.
The vast majority of states allow assault rifles. States do not have to explicitly allow assault rifles by codifying them into law, but they simply need to not have legislation against them. Because the overwhelming majority of states allow assault rifles to be purchased within their borders, it is easier to name the states that do not allow assault rifles.
There are several states that have a ban on assault weapons. They are California, Connecticut, Delaware, New York, New Jersey, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Maryland. In addition, the District of Columbia also has an assault weapon ban within its borders. Each of these states has its own rules concerning the registration of already-owned assault weapons, transportation of weapons, and the firearms that are defined as assault weapons. For example, while Hawaii has an assault weapons ban, but it only applies to assault pistols.
People argue that it is their right under the Constitution to purchase an assault rifle, and some people believe they need them for self-defense. Those opposed to assault rifle ownership argue that the people who wrote the Constitution never could have envisioned that assault rifles would be invented, and they believe the Constitution should be adjusted to reflect the reality of the danger posed by assault weapons, particularly when in the hands of civilians.
Yes, the AR-15 is considered an assault rifle, one of the most common assault rifles people purchase. The AR-15 has a similar build and look to certain military weapons, but there are distinctive features that differentiate the two. The main distinction would be the semi-automatic nature of the AR-15. Semi-automatic weapons only fire one round per trigger pull, versus a fully automatic assault rifle that can fire multiple. In addition, the abbreviation "AR" in the name does not stand for Assault Rifle. AR is short for ArmaLite, a name referring to the manufacturer of the gun in the 1950s.
|California||Prohibited||California prohibits anyone from possessing an assault weapon (as defined by state law), unless they lawfully possessed the firearm before it was classified as an assault weapon and registered the firearm with the California Department of Justice (“DOJ”) within specified timeframes|
|Connecticut||Prohibited||Connecticut prohibits any person from possessing an assault weapon unless the weapon was possessed prior to July 1, 1994|
|Delaware||Prohibited||On June 30, 2022, Gov. Carney signed into law the Delaware Lethal Firearms Safety Act of 2022 prohibiting the manufacture, sale, offer to sell, transfer, purchase, receipt, possession, or transport of assault weapons in Delaware, subject to certain exceptions.|
|Hawaii||Prohibited||Hawaii criminalizes the manufacture, possession, sale or other transfer, barter, trade, gift or acquisition of an assault pistol|
|Illinois||Prohibited||On January 10, 2023, Illinois became the 9th state to pass comprehensive legislation to generally ban commerce and possession of assault weapons|
|Maryland||Prohibited||Maryland now prohibits the possession, sale, offering of sale, transfer, purchase, receipt, or transportation into the state of an assault weapon, which includes assault pistols and assault long guns|
|Massachusetts||Prohibited||It is generally unlawful in Massachusetts to sell, offer for sale, transfer or possess an assault weapon that was not otherwise lawfully possessed on September 13, 1994.1 Firearms dealers are also specifically prohibited from selling, leasing, renting, transferring, delivering, or offering for sale, lease, rent, transfer or delivery, any assault weapon or large capacity feeding device not otherwise lawfully possessed on September 13, 1994|
|Minnesota||Prohibited||In 2023, Minnesota extended the waiting period for assault weapon purchases from federally licensed dealers from seven days to 30 days (effective August 1, 2023). Minnesota prohibits the possession of semiautomatic military-style assault weapons by persons who are under 18 years of age.|
|New York||Prohibited||New York’s assault weapon law prohibits manufacturing, transporting, disposing of or possessing an assault weapon in the state|
|Virginia||Prohibited||Virginia law prohibits any person under 18 years of age from knowingly and intentionally possessing or transporting an assault firearm|
|Washington||Prohibited||Washington became the 10th state to generally ban the sale and manufacture of assault weapons. Unlike most other states with assault weapon bans, however, Washington does not ban or regulate the possession of assault weapons, only their sale, manufacture, import, and distribution|
|New Jersey||Legal (specific license required)||Any person seeking to purchase or possess an assault firearm in New Jersey may apply for a license to do so by filing a written application with his or her county's superior court, setting forth in detail the reasons for desiring such a license.|
|Iowa||Legal||Iowa does not regulate assault weapons. However, any person who “sells or offers for sale a manual or power-driven trigger activating device constructed and designed so that when attached to a firearm increases the rate of fire of the firearm is guilty of an aggravated misdemeanor|
|Ohio||Legal||Ohio has no law restricting assault weapons generally. However, Ohio includes within the definition of “automatic firearm” any semi-automatic firearm designed or specially adapted to fire more than thirty-one cartridges without reloading, other than a firearm chambering only .22 caliber short, long, or long-rifle cartridges.|
|Texas||Legal||Texas has no law restricting assault weapons. As a result, researchers have found, Texas is a major source of assault weapons trafficked south of the border into Mexico and Central America|