Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Winning the Battle of Words on the Second Amendment

Words have power. Words more often than not have an emotional or visceral connotation that goes far beyond the definition provided by Webster or the Oxford Unabridged. For many years, the public discussion around firearms, firearm law, and the Second Amendment has for the most part used terminology designed by and for those who want to eliminate the individual right to keep and bear arms. This tendency puts those who support the Second Amendment at an immediate and distinct disadvantage; therefore I propose that to win the battle of words on the Second Amendment, we first have to take back the terminology.

I started a thread on one of my favorite gun boards (Guns Network) – and had several people contribute their thoughts and ideas. I want to thank the following users who participated in the thread (as of the writing of this blog entry, as the thread is still open): MikeTx, Ezra Coli, Partisan1983, Accurizer, American Rage, Dr Scholl, retromullet, ATAK Inc., GunBum, meatball, Bluntforce, T2K, John Kennedy, krupski, Sr Wing Commander, ironhead7544, ksuguy, Skibane, Blacksmith, Buster Charlie, and DavePAL84.

The following is a list of terms that are frequently misused, abused, or made up – frequently to create an emotional response and prop up the anti-Second Amendment case - with discussion following each term:

High-capacity magazines: Also known as “high-cap mags”. There is no such thing. The term “high capacity” means whatever the anti-Second Amendment crowd dictates it means. Instead they should be referred to as full capacity magazines, normal capacity magazines, or simply magazines as they hold only as many rounds as the overall firearm platform dictates or they are designed to carry.

Rapid-fire magazine: There is no such thing. This term is frequently used by the Brady Campaign and other groups opposed to the Second Amendment interchangeably with the equally erroneous “high capacity magazine” term. The rate of fire of any firearm is not controlled by the magazine – but rather the firing mechanism.

Clip: The M1 Garand and Carcano use “clips” – virtually every other firearm in existence uses a magazine.

Banana Clip: There is no such thing – technically incorrect term used to refer to curved magazines – typically with a 30+ round capacity.

Assault rifle: This one caused a fair amount of discussion. Ultimately the prevailing view is that an assault rifle is a military firearm firing an intermediate power cartridge capable of fully automatic or select fire with at least a 20 to 30 round detachable magazine. The term “assault rifle” is a translation of the German Sturmgewehr. The StG44 was the first firearm with all of these features to be put into production. I therefore contend that if your rifle isn’t fully automatic or select fire it is not an “assault rifle”, even if it has all of the other features.

High-Powered Assault Rifle: Used by anti-Second Amendment proponents as a more emotion evoking version of the term “assault rifle”. The term is deliberately misleading and is meant to create the impression that “assault rifles” are “inherently dangerous” and vastly more powerful than other firearms. In reality, most semi-automatic rifles the anti-Second Amendment crowd deems to be “assault rifles” or “assault weapons” (see below) fire a medium to low power cartridge. Most of these firearms do not have the stopping power of a larger caliber pistol and fire a bullet weighing 130 grains or (frequently) less.

Assault Weaspon: There’s no such thing – its legal jargon coined and written into law by individuals hostile to the right to keep and bear arms. It refers to a firearm containing whatever features the sponsor of the legislations wants to limit or ban, and has no fixed definition. Some recently proposed bills even referred to level action rifles with a tubular magazine capacity of greater than 5 rounds as “assault weapons”.

AK-47: Media outlets all too often use this term to refer to any non-pistol firearm used in a crime rather than an actual Kalashnikov (with the SKS, Mini-14, and even a Ruger 10/22 being the actual firearms in some cases). In fact there are very few fully functional AK-47’s in the United States, and all are Class III weapons. The rest are semi-automatic variants. See assault rifle above. This obfuscation is deliberate in order to demonstrate the “need” for a new “assault weapon ban”.

High-Powered Sniper Rifle: Some argued whether or not the term “sniper rifle” really exists outside of anti-Second parlance. World War II vintage manuals for the M1903A4 rifle, however, referred to it as a “Sniper’s Rifle” – so it’s not too far a stretch there. However, the anti-gun crowd is deeply and profoundly concerned about these “high-powered sniper rifles”. To them that’s any rifle with a scope that fires a military caliber (or more powerful) round. That’s what most of the country calls a basic hunting rifle.

Gun-show loophole: Term used to refer to the fact that private face to face sales of firearms are still legal, as if it’s some “legal trickery” to circumvent the law. Many states require all transactions (even those among private individuals) at gun shows go through a background check, but not all states. Closing the "gun-show loophole" would eliminate private face to face sales at gun shows without a background check. The next step planned by the anti-Second crowd is to eliminate private face to face sales completely.

Gun culture: Term used by anti-Second Amendment groups and individuals to paint firearms owners as a strongly negative influence on society. Term is analogous to the terms “drug culture” or “gang culture”. America does not have a “gun culture” in that sense of the word, it has a “firearms heritage” (thanks Skibane) that promotes individual responsibility and empowerment. That heritage is affirmed (not GRANTED) by our Federal Constitution and most State Constitutions.

One key to protecting the Second Amendment is winning the battle of words around the Second Amendment. The majority of major media outlets and groups dedicated to abridging or removing the right to keep and bear arms have thus far controlled the debate by controlling the terminology. We can no longer afford to try to preserve our heritage and liberties by continuing to debate and discuss firearms using their poisoned lexicon. Effective communication requires using a vocabulary that actually conveys the intended meaning. Gun owners as a group must stop using the “weasel words” of the anti-gunners, and expose their inaccuracies, distortions, and lies for what they really are!

Until next time!

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