On the side of freedom, we often talk about how language matters. The days of asking what “‘is’, ‘is’?” and such word salads need to be shattered to a million pieces and tossed to the wind. Trying to accurately report or even have a normal discourse with someone on the Second Amendment is challenging due to the media misinformation campaigns that have proliferated for decades. I remember one such conversation where someone “on my(our) side” used both the term “assault rifle” and brought up hunting, all in the same statement about the Second Amendment. All stop! Right? Even those that allegedly subscribe to being a lover of freedom are subject to the ignorance MSM has fed us. The time has come and we’re taking back some of the language. Recently the Associated Press made a determination on how the media should be referring to commonly owned semi-automatic rifles, so-called “assault weapons” or “assault rifles”.
The level of joy that this brings me goes beyond comprehension.
We probably need to look at the etymology of the terms “assault weapon” or “assault rifle”, and when they fit into the lexicon in the United States. Specifically, it was Josh Sugarmann who thrust this term upon the public. From his own writings, circa 1988, Assault Weapons in America, he noted in the conclusion:
…and the fact that until someone famous is shot, or something truly horrible happens, handgun restriction is simply not viewed as a priority. Assault weapons—just like armor-piercing bullets, machine guns, and plastic firearms—are a new topic. 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 [emphasis added]. In addition, few people can envision a practical use for these weapons.
Sugarmann knowingly and willfully pushed this confusing terminology onto the public. The terms have been so mutated and overused, we’ve read about the so-called “fully semi-automatic” firearms in reports, as if that’s to not also be misleading. Such bastardizations of the word use have occurred and we’ve seen news reporting really jump the shark.
Assault-style weapons also include police Glock pistols with more than 10 rounds and semiautomatic weapons that can be turned into machine guns.
When Congress enacted a temporary assault weapons “ban” in 1988, Sugarmann objected that the new law created a small island of regulation in a vast sea of laissez-faire manufacture.
The ban grandfathered every existing assault-style weapon in the U.S., as well as ammunition drums, armor-piercing bullets and second-hand police weapons — everything from Glock pistols to Army rifles.
“We warned about the limits of the original ban,” he said.
The Violence Policy Center also warned about the “sporterization” of assault weapons as purported hunting guns, when some were clearly designed to hunt people.
Correspondence came in the other day from the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) that’s fairly big in my opinion. The notice revolves around this use of language and how inauthentic Sugarmann’s beloved terms really are. Alright, this might just be the nerd in me that’s taking joy in this, but really, this is a big deal.
After years of incorporating the terms “assault rifle” and “assault weapons” into news reports involving firearms, especially when used in crimes, journalists are now advised by the Associated Press to avoid the “highly politicized terms,” and the Second Amendment Foundation says it’s a “smart gun change.”
“It’s about time the media realized the terms ‘assault rifle’ and ‘assault weapon’ are inflammatory and meaningless,” said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb. “Those terms have become part of the gun prohibition lobby’s lexicon, and unfortunately, journalists across the country have been all-too-willing to adopt their vocabulary and repeatedly use it in their reports.
“I’m glad to see the AP Stylebook now recognizes that these firearms only fire one round each time a trigger is pulled,” he continued, “and really function no differently than any other semi-auto rifle, pistol or shotgun, all of which have been in common use in this country for more than a century.”
According to an AP Style Tip, “The preferred term for a rifle that fires one bullet each time the trigger is pulled, and automatically reloads for a subsequent shot, is a semi-automatic rifle. An automatic rifle continuously fires rounds if the trigger is depressed and until its ammunition is exhausted.
“Avoid assault rifle and assault weapon,” the AP adds, “which are highly politicized terms that generally refer to AR- or AK-style rifles designed for the civilian market, but convey little meaning about the actual functions of the weapon.”
The Stylebook's weapons entry offers guidance on terms including semi-automatic rifle, assault rifle, assault weapon, military-style rifle and modern sporting rifle. pic.twitter.com/RvNrZp1lu2
— APStylebook (@APStylebook) July 13, 2022
So correct the SAF and Gottlieb are in pointing this out.
Recently I reported on the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs lawsuit challenging the Garden State’s so-called “assault weapons” ban, and I brought this up.
A bit of poetic justice in several facets and meanings of the term, the “factual allegations” explores a bit of the history of the term “assault weapon”. Quoted within is a section of a dissent Justice Thomas issued in a case unrelated to firearms, but relevant to the proliferation of such a pejorative term when describing “black rifles”:
Although the Act describes common semi-automatic firearms as “assault firearms,” this is a gross and misleading misnomer. Stenberg v. Carhart, 530 U.S. 914, 1001 n.16 (2000) (Thomas, J., dissenting) (“‘Prior to 1989, the term “assault weapon” did not exist in the lexicon of firearms. It is a political term, developed by anti-gun publicists to expand the category of “assault rifles” so as to allow an attack on as many additional firearms as possible on the basis of undefined “evil” appearance.’”) (citation omitted).
The MEMO must have completely leaked and perhaps the Associated Press is trying to right a wrong. Do I expect more inauthentic reporting from MSM? You betcha. But at least the factual guidance is out there. I’m waiting for a saccharine mass email from Sugarmann’s group about this change. Will he address that he’s been called out for his many decades worth of lies?
As noted by Gottlieb, “The gun prohibition lobby has always used ‘assault rifle’ or ‘assault weapon’ to confuse and frighten the public and make people think it’s a fully automatic ‘weapon of war.’ Now we’ll have to see how intellectually honest journalists will be in adopting this correct terminology, rather than continuing to use these deliberately misleading references.
“This laudable effort by the Associated Press may help restore the level of trust the public should have in the media,” he observed. “It will be interesting to see if the media now challenges politicians and anti-gun lobbyists whenever they use such terms, especially since ‘AR’ never referred to ‘assault rifle’ but to Armalite Rifle, and the gun control crowd has always known it.”
The war on America’s rifle I may quixotically say is coming to an end. Really, we know it’s not. The multiple challenges across the United States in the way of the Maryland GVR, the pending case in limbo in California, and newly filed cases in both New York and two in New Jersey, makes me hopeful that we’ll have a ceasefire, with a respected DMZ on the subject.
Having the Associated Press come to the realization that the topic needed to be addressed is a big win. While this win is not like the win we got with New York’s law being deemed unconstitutional by the high court, it is a win that will help us gain ground in the court of public opinion.