>> . If people don't know the difference, and those people affect policies, things from the AR-15 all the way to the ever reliable Ruger 10/22 will all of a sudden become illegal.
Sadly it seems that most policies are decided by people who havent a clue about the subject at hand.
I think you don't understand the way the debate is being framed. When people say they want to ban <x> guns they don't mean to be particularly precise. The language they choose is muddied and wrong but that's not really a bad thing so long as it rallies support. Phrases like "automatic", "assault rifle", "military style" are great for rallying support from both people who think that "yeah, maybe we don't need 100-round magazines but 30 is probably okay" to people who would gladly ban all guns.
The "ban all the guns" crowd would consider a wide-reaching ban to be a good thing. The middle ground people ('yeah, maybe 30 round magazines is all we need') aren't hearing particularly compelling arguments from the "don't ban my guns bro" side of the debate.
The pro-gun-ban guys have good rhetoric. Ultimately their argument can go something like "if nobody had guns, or if it were much harder to get guns, then it's way less likely you'll be murdered by one". If you don't trust your fellow citizens then this is a pretty reasonable argument. Sure, the occasional nutter will still get their hands on a weapon and kill people but it could help (plus there's the accidental shootings and suicide angle).
The anti-gun-ban lobby hasn't done a very good job of arguing why the community is better if guns are as accessible as they are now. The main talking points come down to things like "its my right to have a gun" which just don't work. American's don't particularly value the rights of individuals (look at how hard the gays have to fight to get married, or at laws like free-speech zones, or how vilified people were for attacking the US government in 2002). The only other arguments that seem to have any traction are "its video games and media stupid". That sort of deflection might buy time but its not a lasting position - they can get around to making violent games into the new xxx magazines once they've finished with your guns. And of course the personal-protection argument - but most burglers aren't doing home invasions and even if they are: a safely stored gun isn't necessarily something you'll have access to. When you look at violent crime that most people concern ourselves with - it's things like being jumped in the street where my rifle stored at home is useless or the abusive spouse that premeditates murder and stabs his wife to death while she sleeps. Carry laws might help when you have warning - but when the mugger sticks a gun in your back turning around and shooting him even if you have a gun isn't very likely (or rather, if it is: the anti-gun-ban lobby hasn't done a good job of arguing this point).
I think when people who oppose increased gun regulation are being distracted when they attempt to educate people on things like "the difference between semi-automatic and automatic" or how there's no important difference between a M14 from Vietnam that might be used for hunting and a modern scary-looking assault rifle. That would be a worthwhile endeavor if the people seeking to ban guns really did only want to ban a specific type of weapon - but they don't: for the most part they consider nearly all firearms to be an unnecessary risk. If they want to win this discussion I think it's important to shift the debate to economic concerns, individual freedoms, constitution, opportunity cost, etc. It's like arguing beer vs gin to people who say they want to ban liquor only to have them turn around and say "actually we're okay with banning all alcoholic drinks if it means getting rid of the scourge of gin"
IMO if the anti-gun-ban people lose this debate it'll be a real shame not because "horray guns!" but because it'll squander resources that could have been better spent addressing the real cause of violence in america. If the American gun control program looks anything like the Canadian registration program it'll cost billions of dollars to implement. That money would be better spent on after-school programs, mental health care, decreasing poverty and the rich/poor gap, improving prison rehab programs, etc.
It's also a tragedy that the "save the children" talk has focused on violence at all. Sure, maybe America could use a bit tighter gun regulations and maybe violent crime in the US is too high compared to other western nations - but even if you accept that position I think any reasonable person can look at statistics and realize that violent crime is less important than improving the infant mortality rate, safer highways, lowering incidence of cancer, reducing childhood obesity, improving education, etc. You'll save more children by getting vaccination programs back to 1960s levels of compliance than you will by eliminating all incidence of gun crime against children under the age of 16. If our goal is to have a better/safer country for young people then we're going about it in an very inefficiency manner.
It might be nice to have less gun crime in the US but any resources we put into that are taken from more pressing issues. More gun control legislation is worse than doing nothing because when you've done the wrong thing it becomes that much more difficult to stop and do the right thing instead.