The other evening Piers Morgan continually referred to the weapon Adam Lanza used in the Sandy Hook massacre as an “assault rifle.” He’s not alone; many left-leaning hosts do the same. Unfortunately, it’s wrong, and it’s dangerous for any conservative to accept such a mischaracterization of these firearms in any conversation. Doing so immediately cedes to the left that such assertions are acceptable and correct. They are not. Unless Morgan and other pundits are insisting that Adam Lanza used a firearm with fully-automatic firing capability, we need to stop using these make-believe, unicorn terms and get educated on firearms.
First and foremost there is no such thing as an “assault weapon.” Any device used to assault (a behavior or action) someone can be defined as an “assault weapon.” There exist fully automatic firearms and semi automatic firearms, period. There technically is no such thing as an “assault rifle,” either. The term is a Nazi invention (Sturmgewehr) fully named Sturmgewehr 44, and is regarded as the first “assault” rifle. Firearms which shared the technical characteristics of Hitler’s rifle were casually defined with this sobriquet and it grew over time.
The problem with using this phrase to define scary-looking rifles is that it betrays a gross lack of knowledge on firearms. The rifle Lanza had in the trunk of his car (and there are various conflicting reports from a too-eager media about whether or not this rifle was used in the shootings) was not an “assault rifle.” Anyone claiming that it was is insisting that Lanza’s weapon was a military-grade rifle capable of selective fire, meaning, it has the giggle-switch to kick it from semi-automatic to fully automatic. I’ve shot so-called “assault rifles” and I own semi-automatics. They are not the same. Anyone calling any of these rifles “assault rifles” used in the Sandy Hook shooting and any other such tragedies are claiming that fully-automatic weapons, regulated to banned, are somehow in the civilian market used in mass shootings.
That’s a news story.
But since that isn’t the case, it’s simply nothing more than irresponsible reporting and commentary from individuals who should know better.
I get upset whenever I see these terms conflated—especially by our side—because many of us have for years fought against the left’s insistence that all guns are the same. It’s a tactic to encourage public prejudice against scary-looking guns and part of the overall strategy to ban them outright. You can purchase a pellet gun that is closely modeled to resemble an AR-15; just because it looks like an AR-15 (and AR stands for the manufacturer’s name, ArmaLite, not “assault rifle”) doesn’t mean that it’s an “assault rifle,” no more than a semi-automatic similar in looks to a fully automatic makes the semi an “assault rifle.”
If the left can move conservatives into using their misused terminology, they’ve already won ground in the anti-Second Amendment battle. When we start taking on the language of the left, we are no longer defending our position, we will have ceded it. We can’t afford such mistakes.
(FYI, this is meant as a general caution as I’ve seen it happen quite often.)
Previously on this topic: