Back to vacation blogging a little later. I was listening to NPR this morning, and the reporter was making a point about the dangerous US/Mexican border as illustrated by the confiscation of "semi-automatic rifles." Semi-automatic rifles? Oh, my! Although this sounds ominous to the uninformed, I can go buy a semi-automatic rifle at Wal-Mart right now. I mean, right this second. I don't have to have a permit or a waiting period. It's really not that big a deal.
When I was 12, growing up in northern Michigan, we took hunter saftey courses in school. We learned about guns, how to handle guns, how to respect guns, and how to fire guns. It was part of the curriculum, as was boat safety and snowmobile safety. One of the first things we learned was about actions. The action of a gun defines how it is prepared to fire again after the gun has been fired the first time. There are single-action guns, bolt-action, lever-action, pump-action, semi-automatic action, and automatic action guns.
What gets a lot of people confused is the difference between semi-automatic and automatic actions. I've seen a lot of writers of adventure stories, both in prose and graphic form, get this completely wrong. So, here it is in a nutshell: Fully automatic weapons fire automatically. If you depress the trigger and hold it down, the weapon will fire as fast as the action allows until the ammunition is fully expended. This is what is commonly known as a machine gun. There are selective fire weapons that will fire a pre-determined number of times and then stop, but these have to be fully automatic in the first place to have this setting.
A semi-automatic weapon (also known as self-loading) fires one round when the trigger is depressed and will not fire again until the trigger is released and depressed again, when it will fire exactly one round.
I'm no expert on guns but I have fired my share; though the last time I fired one I was 19 years old. It just seems kind of silly that my hunter safety courses from sixth grade made me more knowledgeable about guns than a professional reporter doing a story on the dangers of the US/Mexican border. I guess growing up in the north, I got a more classical education?