January 25, 2013

A War of Words

To start, may I present Carlin? (If this is safe for work you have a really cool job...)

See a pattern? Alter a name & something can seem better or worse than it actually is. "the doc's gonna poke you in the ass with a needle" doesn't sound nearly as bad as "you'll receive fundament specific medication via injection from a health care delivery professional" does it? The reverse can happen as well.

English was not my first language. I grew up speaking redneck and jive (which are surprisingly similar). When I got older I learned that damned near every band I played with had its own peculiar dialect. The slang used in each band was different enough that another band might not be hip to it at first. and much later I took a girlfriend of mine from Colorado back to the Carolinas. Now she was trilingual (English, Spanish and Italian, having lived in Italy for a number of years) but I had to translate for her cause she couldn’t catch on to Southern English. (oh and it was high-sterical, the way she’d politely smile and nod until I whispered a translation in her ear and she’d perk up and say “oh yes, I think hushpuppies are nature’s perfect food too!”)

What I’ve surmised is that the choice of words can never be underestimated in any discussion. Personal, political, financial, legal, ecumenical, what words we use matter, and often times whomever has a better command of the language ends up seeming more persuasive. Language controls the debate.

The mainstream media, as well as Hollywood and pop culture in general, are against us on this one (le duh! - ed.). They use terms that somewhat (and in some cases wildly) inaccurately describe the objects being discussed. There have been some attempts at correction that have worked, but for the most part when we argue about banning this or that, we’re working with whatever our enemies want to call said object. I can’t express strongly enough how much of a non forced error this is on our part.

One of my semi guilty pleasures is catching the occasional episode of The View. Mainly cause Whoopi is funny despite her politics and to see what kind of drivel is being impressed upon the masses of moms who watch the damned show. Using those ladies as an example, I really think that 3/5ths of them would have a different conclusion if they understood what they were talking about – literally. Whoopi and Joy are the most frequent offenders, but I’ve seen everyone there make the same mistake. Now here are 4 terms they seem to use interchangeably:

Automatic Weapon

Automatic Rifle

Assault Rifle

Assault Weapon

4 – count ‘em! 4! - different terms to describe the same object. and the funny thing is none of those terms are accurate in context. Mainly they’ve been talking about the rifle used by that evil little punk to murder children up in Connecticut, but it’s not any of those things. Lemme break those terms down for ya:

Automatic Weapon – a firearm capable of automatic fire

Automatic Rifle – an automatic weapon that is configured as a rifle

Assault Rifle – a short or compact rifle firing an intermediate powered cartridge capable of selective fire

Assault Weapon – a legal term of art applied to certain semi-automatic or selective fire firearms. Though the definitions vary from state to state and city to city where they are banned, mainly the distinguishing characteristics have been cosmetic or ergonomic rather than functional.

Now the Bushmaster XM-15 that was used was not an automatic weapon, or an automatic rifle, or an assault rifle. It wasn’t even an assault weapon as assault weapons are a legal construct and the Connecticut assault weapons ban did not cover it. It was legal in Connecticut after their assault weapons ban, thus not an assault weapon. and since the federal assault weapons ban expired, assault weapons don’t exist in the united States except in certain states and cities which have enacted local bans. The SandW MP15 used by the evil little punk in Aurora, Colorado wasn’t an assault weapon either, as Colorado has no assault weapons ban, except in Denver. Nor was that rifle automatic.

It’s been long known that folks tend to support assault weapons bans cause they think all assault weapons are automatic weapons. Consider this quote from Josh Sugarmann from the Violence Policy Center:

"The public's confusion over fully-automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons -- anything that looks like a machine gun is presumed to be a machine gun -- can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons."

See? By getting the terms all mixed up, the objects get all mixed up. and with Connecticut’s assault weapons ban including selective fire weapons as well as semi-auto’s, it’s understandable that some gun owners misunderstand the respective terms, as well as most folks who aren’t firearms enthusiasts.

The type of rifle used in both crimes was semi-automatic. That’s it. They function the same as a Remington 7400. If you want to get fancy you can try to one up the anti’s and keep calling them Modern Sporting Rifles, American Sporting Rifles or even Homeland Defense Rifles. But it all means the same thing – they’re semi-automatic rifles.

“Big clips, drums and strips” is a phrase Difi has been trying to circulate for a while. Now y’all know that that phrase better describes the happenings in a topless club than a magazine, which is what she means. Or do y’all?

I see a lot of gun owners get things confused when it comes to ammunition feeding devices, so it’s no wonder that anti-gunners and the undecided get the terms wrong. So I do admit to cringing a bit when I hear someone speak of “a clip that holds 30 bullets”.

Here’s an easy way to remember things:

A cartridge goes into a gun; a bullet comes out.

A clip holds cartridges to load into a magazine; a magazine holds cartridges to load into a firearm

High capacity magazines” or “high capacity ammunition feeding devices” merit mention. The latter is an attempt to circumnavigate not understanding what magazines and clips are. But the “high capacity” part is often wrong. Here’s how I usually explain it:

A magazine is an integral part of the feeding system of most repeating firearms. When a firearm is designed so is the magazine. So if it comes from the manufacturer with 10 or 20 or 30 rounds, then it’s not “high capacity”, it’s factory standard. Think of it like a semi – all come with tanks from the manufacturer, but some will hold more fuel than others. So if one model of truck has a 20 gallon tank and another 25, you don’t think of the 25 as a “high capacity” fuel tank do ya? That’s just the way it’s designed.

Unlike fuel tanks though, magazines are a bit more finicky. Most reliability problems with semi automatics are caused by the magazine. So if a rifle is designed to work with a 30 round magazine from the factory, or a pistol is designed to work with 18 round magazines from the factory, then altering the magazine capacity can have an adverse effect on reliability. There are some after-market magazines of increased or reduced capacity that work well in specific firearms, but you have to experiment to see what works and what doesn’t. and firearms have to be more reliable than vehicles, cause if someone breaks into your house and the 7 round magazine that the law imposes in place of your 18 round factory standard magazine malfunctions, you can’t call Triple A to send a gunsmith out.

A few phrases seem nonsensical, mainly because they are. “High capacity ammunition” is the most egregious. Of course they may be talking about shot shells (why, some of those things hold hundreds – hundreds I tell ya – of wee tiny little round bullets!), but odds are they mean magazines. “Magazine clips” is another one. There are clips that hold two magazines together, but methinks that’s not what most folks mean.

A lot of folks think that support for gun control is built on misinformation. and I think a lot of folks happen to be right in this instance. It stands to reason than in most cases, not all but most, if you take away the bad info and replace it with good info then the support for gun control evaporates, or at least diminishes. It doesn’t take a leap of logic to conclude that if guns have very scary sounding names, and/or are branded with these names by gun control advocates, then it’s harder to dissuade folks from supporting restrictions. If our enemies control the language they control the debate, and that makes it much harder for us to do anything constructive.

So how do we regain control of the language and therefore the debate? Well all we can do is try – the enemy is heavily entrenched as it were and their methods have been ingrained into their tactics and strategy for several decades. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t bother trying.

See a newspaper article misusing a term? Then try to write the author. If it’s an unsigned piece, track down the editor of the paper and write him/her. Same for any TV or other video productions. If there’s a comment feature, use it. If you’re there in person, try clarifying what someone means. Then try to politely interject the correct term for what they’re talking about. Usually folks won’t repeat a mistake if they get called on it enough by enough different people. Usually.

I’ll try to put up a separate post, just for reference, with various definitions. Cause not only am I helpful like that, but I’m anal like that.

Posted by Publicola at January 25, 2013 09:39 AM | TrackBack

Glad to see you're back!

Posted by: Kevin Baker at January 25, 2013 04:09 PM

Welcome back...and well written as always...
Lock and load, bro...Take charge and move out.

Posted by: kalashnikat at January 25, 2013 04:20 PM

The semantics are always important. Generally speaking we are all against sticking knives in people, but we don't usually demonstrate against surgeons outside hospitals.

Posted by: Windy Wilson at February 19, 2013 02:58 PM
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