Like most arguments that the blood dancers fall back upon, it starts with a fallacious concept...that somehow, the laws only recognize guns as legitimate for hunting or target practice. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. The Constitution specifically refers to the right to bear arms being recognized as necessary for the militia, which constitutes "...the people themselves, ... all men capable of bearing arms..." Militia weapons are military weapons, because the purpose of the militia is not hunting.
So, yes, regardless of what you think of it, the Constitution does allow for people to own military style weapons. But, let's assume for a moment that there IS some "sporting purpose clause" that doesn't allow any gun that can't be used for hunting. "Wow, things would be different," you might be tempted to say. "No one would ever get shot again. People would sing and get along. Birds would land on your shoulder every day. Unicorns would poop jellybeans on your doorstep."
Pay no attention to the fact that we had an assault weapons ban at one time from 1994-2004 and it failed to prevent the Jonesboro shooting in 1998 and the Columbine shooting in 1999, along with a few others. This time, it will work!
But even if the blood dancers were intellectually honest and decided to ban ONLY "assault" weapons that had no sporting purpose, what would the display cases at the gun stores look like? The short answer is: much the way they look today, but again, only if they could be trusted to remain intellectually honest. Why? Because many of the so-called "assault weapons" not only can be used for sport, but many, many are already used for sport.
"But everyone agrees that you don't need an AK-47 to go hunting!" Dismissing the fact that taking firearms advice from someone who wants to ban guns is like taking fire extinguisher advice from an arsonist, I can only say, "Yes, in fact, some ALREADY use an AK-47 to go hunting". The truth is, the AK-47 can actually be an excellent rifle for deer or other medium sized game, dependent upon several factors. None of those factors would necessitate any changes to the gun.
Most AK-47 type rifles fire one particular type of round, known as "7.62x39", in the nomenclature that the Russian makers of ammunition use to denote their caliber. What this means in layman's terms is that the round is 7.62 mm in diameter, and the entire shell casing is 39 mm long. If you think of 39 mm, you're not talking about a big object...just 1.5 inches. It doesn't sound like a very powerful round, because it isn't. In fact, it's American counterpart is considered the .30-30, which is very similar in size and power, that is to say, small size and low power. Nevertheless, the .30-30 (and by extension, the 7.62x39) is an ideal cartridge for deer.
But how does either stack up to a .30-06, a classic caliber that even non-gun owners have probably heard of? In terms of total killing power, not very well. The .30-06 is a much larger round. The bullet is the same diameter, but the overall length of the shell casing is 63 mm, or 2.48 inches long, almost an inch longer. What does this mean? A larger casing means more room for gun powder. More powder means a much higher powered and deadlier round. A gun that shoots a 7.62x39 or a .30-30 round is NOT a high powered weapon. It's effective range is around 200 yards. Puny, by most hunting rifle standards, and no match for the .30-06 that has a range of hundreds of yards.
So, here is an incontrovertible fact that assault weapons ban proponents don't want you to hear: one shot from your Grandpa's old hunting rifle, which they claim to be uninterested in banning, is far more dangerous than a round out of an AK-47 which they favor banning. Logical?
"So why would people hunt with an AK-47, if it has so little power?" Because in some circumstances, low power has advantages. Youths, females, or shooters that are slight of build love the 7.62x39 and the .30-30, because of the smaller size and weight of the guns that fire them, the small size and weight of the ammo, and the low recoil. These guns are comfortable to shoot, but are still plenty powerful enough to take a deer or wild hog at reasonable ranges. I would give a novice shooter an AR-15 or AK-47 to learn on before I would EVER let them shoot a "classic" high-powered hunting rifle. In fact, my own son mastered my AR-15 before I ever let him try my higher powered .308.
Furthermore, in many locations, with hilly terrain and an abundance of brush and trees, a long range firearm is overkill, and even the veteran shooter who's accustomed to recoil will grab a lighter, easier to handle rifle if logic dictates. There's simply no need to carry a long, heavy, 1000 yard rifle into the woods with large, weighty ammo (yes, even a few rounds of .30-06 can weigh several pounds) when a lightweight carbine like an AK-47 with smaller rounds will do the job, and leave you much less fatigued at the end of the day.
So yes, the AK-47 can be used for hunting. If you still don't believe me, look at this:
A "regular" AK-47:
The only difference between the regular AK and the sporter AK is the lack of a pistol grip and the movement of the trigger group rearward to accommodate the different stock. Guess what? It can shoot the same rounds at the same speed and in the same volume as the regular AK-47. Cosmetically, they are clearly different. Look how scary the top one is! No matter. Functionally, they are identical, so much so that some parts interchange out of the box or with slight modification.
Why did they change the second gun? To make it importable, because our silly laws ban importation of rifles with pistol grips. But, only from certain countries, one of them being Russia. You can still get a Romanian AK type rifle that looks almost EXACTLY like the scary "regular" AK-47 pictured above, pistol grip and all, functionally identical to the "sporterized" Saiga. Stupid, huh?
"But, the modifications made the gun less 'assaulty' and more 'sporting', right?" In a word, no. With no pistol grip on the Saiga, the trigger had to be moved rearward so the shooter could reach it easily when holding the stock. The movement of the trigger actually affected the "trigger pull", which is the amount of tension and general feel of the trigger, because it now had to be connected with an extra linkage.
This linkage made the trigger mushy and more difficult to pull, causing the gun to drift off target due to too much effort being exerted on the trigger, It also meant that the gun might not fire exactly the same way every time, preventing the shooter from getting a consistent shot. So, despite being an attempt to make the AK-47 more "sporting" according to the law, it is actually less so in practice, because there is a slightly greater chance of an inaccurate shot wounding an animal instead of dispatching it cleanly.
As a result, many people who buy Saigas convert them right back to the "classic" pistol grip configuration of the original AK-47 and move the trigger back where it belongs, circumventing the intent law and making them more accurate and pleasant to shoot. It is perfectly legal to do so, and in fact a cottage industry has sprung up just for the purpose of doing "Saiga conversions".
I guess the "broken window" theory of economics is alive and well. Either way, removing the pistol grip wouldn't prevent the gun from being used for nefarious purposes, nor would the presence of one prevent a person from using it for hunting. For all intents and purposes, it only changes the outward appearance of the gun.
"Well, what about the AR-15? Surely THAT is a powerful, evil assault weapon. After all, that's what the Aurora shooter used, and look how many people he killed. There's simply no need for people to have THAT rifle for hunting."
The .223 round used in AR type rifles is even lower in recoil than that used in the AK, and the bullet is smaller to boot. Most AR-15's are renowned for their accuracy, largely in part because they are built to close tolerances, and as a result, can shoot within an inch of the "bullseye" at 100 yards or more. AR-15's can still take deer sized game, but are also ideal for smaller animals, and for pest control.
If you still don't believe me, look at this:
Here's a typical, scary AR-15 with a 20" barrel:
So, what modifications would I have to do to the scary rifle on the top to make it a legal hunting rifle like the one on the bottom? None. I could take the top rifle out into the woods in most locations and legally (and effectively) hunt with it in the configuration pictured, just like the "sporter". For almost any purpose, and as far as the law is concerned, these rifles are functionally identical. Both can be equipped with accessories, scopes, different capacity magazines, etc. The second "sporter" version fires the same ammo as quickly and in the same volume as the "original" in the first picture. But the first one is more scary.
"Wait a minute...you mean it's LEGAL to hunt with an assault weapon?" Yes, it is, and people do it all the time. Here are the regulations concerning what guns can be used for hunting in my home state:
"It is illegal to hunt deer with...a rifle using rimfire ammunition of less than .25 caliber...[or] a fully automatic rifle, shotgun or handgun...."
There you have it. Both the rifles I mentioned are center-fire rifles, not rimfire, and both are semi automatic, not fully automatic. There are actually more regulations concerning the characteristics of bows and arrows used for hunting than rifles, at least in my home state. I suspect other states would have similar regulations.
Just for fun, let's look at one more rifle I haven't mentioned, the Mini 14 Tactical:
So, when you hear someone say "No one needs an assault weapon to go hunting", as if that is a hypothetical, ridiculous situation that few, if any, sensible people have tried, the fact is, lots of successful hunters have already used "assault weapons" for years as a matter of routine, which is why they think "assault" weapons bans are stupid. The AR is a precision weapon with great accuracy. The AK is a tough "brush gun" that is super reliable and cheap to shoot. The Mini 14 combines qualities of the AK-47 and the AR-15. They are all versatile, handy rifles, so it's no wonder that all three are used frequently in sports shooting and hunting.
So, what's the difference between a sporting rifle and an "assault" weapon? Scary appearance. Seriously, if you're for banning assault weapons, this is the trick you're falling for. When you're lobbying for a ban on "assault" weapons, you're admitting you can be manipulated by scary pictures of things. Adding a pistol grip, barrel shroud, flash suppressor, folding stock, or any other cosmetic accessory does nothing to the functioning of the rifle. It just makes it look scary. And people who are easily manipulated, as if on cue, stand and say, "We should ban these scary things!"
You can't ban a rifle based on how it looks any more than you can ban people based on how they look. Both concepts are incredibly narrow minded and show a lack of intelligence.
"Well, then, why the continued hysteria about assault weapons if the only thing that makes an "assault" rifle is scary appearance?" Because people simply don't know how they function, and politicians and journalists like to capitalize on people's ignorance by using terms like "bullet hoses" and "spraying death", which are completely inaccurate and misleading descriptions of how these guns work. This is no accident. You are being intentionally deceived, for the sake of an agenda. As Josh Sugarmann of the Violence Policy Center once said:
"The weapons' menacing looks, coupled with the public's confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons—anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun—can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons. In addition, few people can envision a practical use for these weapons."
By the way, if you're wondering why I didn't cite sources when giving specs on the guns and ammo mentioned in this post, it is because I am speaking from personal experience. I have fired every gun and every caliber mentioned in this post extensively, often in multiple iterations, over the course of many, many years.
I AM the source.