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The semantics of gun control

By: M. Ryder

Question of the Day

The Senate passed its first budget in four years. Will thenext budget it passes happen before 2017?

Since the Senate Judiciary Committee passed Sen. DianneFeinstein’s “assault weapons” ban March 14, a fitting question might be, whatis an “assault weapon”? A term that originated in the 1980s, it was popularizedafter the original “assault weapons” ban in 1994. “Assault weapon” is now thepopularly accepted term for the AR-15 and many other rifles and pistols thatwould be more accurately described as “defense weapons.”

Mrs. Feinstein’s ban, which suffered a setback Tuesday whenSenate Majority Leader Harry Reid excluded it from the larger Senate gun bill,defines an “assault weapon” as any semiautomatic rifle that can accept adetachable magazine and has at least one military feature: a pistol grip; aforward grip; a folding, telescoping or detachable stock; a grenade launcher; arocket launcher; a barrel shroud; or a threaded barrel. The exhaustive list ismuch longer and also includes restrictions that would ban most pistols.

How are firearms usually named or defined? In the military,weapons are defined by their primary use or simply by their nomenclature, suchas M16A4 or M240G. Never once in my time in the Marine Corps did I hear anM-16, the fully automatic military version of the AR-15, referred to as an“assault rifle.” The M-16 and other service rifles such as the M-14, and as farback as the M-1 Grand in World War II, have often been referred to as “mainbattle rifles,” because that is what the military uses them for — battle.

Local, state and national law enforcement organizationsthroughout the nation have another word for the AR-15: “patrol rifle.”Standards vary by agency, but the deputy sheriffs in Loudoun County, Va., wherecrime rates are significantly lower than the national average, carry at leastone pistol on their persons while on duty and keep a loaded AR-15 and shotgunin their patrol vehicles at all times. It makes sense that they do not refer tothese rifles as “assault rifles” or even “battle rifles.” They take them onpatrol, and they very rarely use them. They do not use them to assault people.

In civilian circles, hunting rifles are known as huntingrifles. That is because they are made for, and generally used for, hunting.People have used hunting rifles to assault other people in the past, but thisis a minority usage, and the fact remains that hunting rifles are for hunting.

So that means “assault weapons” are generally used toassault people, right?

Wrong. According to a study published by the Jerry LeeCenter of Criminology for the National Institute of Justice in 2004, only 2percent of gun crimes were committed with “assault weapons” of any kind beforethe first “assault weapons” ban went into effect in 1994.

There is no exact count on the number of “assault weapons”in the United States, or of any specific firearms for that matter, but anestimate in Slate magazine in 2012 pegged the number of AR-15s in the UnitedStates at around 3.75 million. According to FBI crime statistics in 2011, ofthe 12,664 homicides committed in the United States, 323 were committed withrifles of any kind. Though data on the number of AR-15s used in killings arenot available, an incredibly liberal estimate would be that, of the 323 riflekillings, 32 were with AR-15s. If this number is accurate, this means that in2011, .00085 percent of the 3,750,000 AR-15s in the United States were used as“assault weapons.” So what were law-abiding Americans doing with the other3,749,968 AR-15s in 2011?

They were defending their homes.

According to Florida State University criminologist GaryKleck, private citizens in the United States use firearms defensively toprevent crimes about 2.5 million times per year, a number that has even beendefended by self-proclaimed gun-control advocate Marvin Wolfgang.

The AR-15, like all other firearms in the United States, isused to defend private citizens far more often than it is used in crime. ButMrs. Feinstein, California Democrat, and other gun-control advocates stillbrand it an “assault weapon.” Why? It comes down to control.

The Second Amendment was put in place to give citizens theability to defend themselves, not just against criminals, but also againstinvading militaries and even their own government. AR-15s and other defenseweapons would be the go-to firearms for private citizens if they had to defend themselvesfrom local, state or even federal forces. Perhaps this bothers some careerpoliticians who would prefer keeping that sort of power for themselves.

The label matters because words matter. He who defines theterms often wins the argument. We may be arguing about the relative dangers ofswimming pools, but if swimming pools became branded “watery death traps,” itwould certainly cause a negative shift in public opinion over the years.

AR-15s are no more “assault weapons” than hunting rifles,revolvers, knives or hammers. They are the primary defensive weapon of afreedom-loving people, and a favorite of military veterans. Don’t let the leftdefine its way into taking our tools of liberty.

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