Following the horrific Terrorist Attack in Orlando, Florida, it has been difficult for anyone knowledgeable about firearms to stay out of the debate on guns in general, and “assault rifles” specifically. We have to ignore the facts of the case at the moment because the facts have not been revealed. It will take forensics experts several weeks just to figure out who was shot by whom and with what firearm. That, of course, has not slowed the sometimes vicious arguments on the subject of guns.
Although I try to remain as distant as I can from such debates, especially in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy, it is very hard to do so and I am often dragged, kicking and screaming, into the fray. Recently, I have witnessed an interesting trend, specifically among younger shooters, and, even more specifically, among those with military experience. I would like to discuss that trend here.
The language of the gun has been both hijacked and adulterated by the anti-gun establishment. Terms such as, “Military-style”, “Military-grade weapon”, and “assault rifle” are wholly constructed terms, created by the anti-gun crowd, and intended to cause fear and anger. They don’t actually mean anything. But, somehow, we, the gun community, have also adopted them. We then go into minute details about what “actually” constitutes “military-style” and “assault rifle”, explaining to those poor humans that the civilian model AR15-style rifle is anything but an assault rifle because an assault rifle is an “actual” military weapon designed to fire in three-round burst or full-auto. This younger generation then pats itself on the back in congratulatory celebration because they have clarified the facts of the matter.
AND THEY ARE WRONG.
I am always surprised when a military veteran offers this newly-created definition of an assault rifle because the military does not refer to these weapons as an assault anything. Not a single rifle in the armory possesses the nomenclature of Rifle, assault, total killing machine, one each. None. So, my question is, how do these military veterans and supposedly educated gun experts think they are clarifying the terms when using terms that don’t actually exist? It happens because they have adopted the language of their opponents and, in so doing, they now feel compelled to create new definitions for irrelevent terms that had no meaning from the beginning.
The best we can figure is that the term “assault rifle” emerged sometime in 1972, more than a decade after the design and creation of the AR15 rifle. When the military adopted the design as the M16 rifle, it was not known as an assault rifle by, well, anyone. In 1963, Colt made the semi-automatic AR15 available to the public and it was marketed as the AR15 Sporter. A rifle. Just a rifle. Somehow, and I don’t think anyone actually knows when, the label of “assault rifle” caught on and several firearm manufacturers began using it in their marketing campaigns. It was a gimmick designed to get your attention, nothing more. The term still meant nothing.
Fast forward to the 90s and the term “Battle Rifle” emerges. This is also a term that means absolutely nothing. When the term earned wide use, people began adding their own definitions until one eventually stuck. Now, Battle Rifle is used to describe military-style rifles that utilize a full-power rifle cartridge instead of those intermediate cartridges used by assault rifles. The preceding sentence is full of terms that are completely made up and actually mean nothing. But, those younger people, even those supposed “gun experts” and “military experts” grew up in a time when those terms were in common use. They were taught about guns using those meaningless terms. Once those terms entered common use, the government began using them in their legislative efforts to either preserve or deteriorate the rights associated with firearms.
Now that we have representatives in Washington, DC, who have served in our long war against terrorism, we see statements from both sides of the debate beginning with phrases like, “I carried an assault rifle in Iraq/Afghanistan and…” No, no you didn’t. Neither the manufacturer of that rifle, nor the military service that issued it to you, refers to it as an assault rifle. You did that. Just you, because the term doesn’t actually mean anything. You adopted the language of the anti-gun crowd, whether your position was pro, or con.
To this day, more than 40 years after the emergence of the term assault rifle, a commonly accepted definition does not exist. The anti-gun crowd defines it as any rifle that simply looks like a military rifle. The legislation defines it as a semi-auto rifle that contains several features commonly found in military rifles. The younger gun crowd and military “experts” define it as a rifle capable of select-fire, such as three round burst or full-auto. So there are now three definitions for a non-existent term and all three parties to the debate are using it. They are all wrong.
Stop creating and refining definitions to words that mean nothing. Assault, is not a weapon type. Neither is “Battle”, really. In the military, your battle rifle is whatever rifle you happen to carry into battle. It’s just a rifle. Some rifles are bolt-action, some are not. Some rifles fire semi-auto only, some fire more rounds after the trigger is gently squeezed. (You shouldn’t pull the trigger, it will throw your shots off.)
The terms you are using are all neologisms – which means made up words that eventually make it into common use even if they don’t mean anything or make sense. We have to stop adopting the language of our opponents if we are to make any headway in securing the future of our 2nd Amendment rights. Make them use our words. The real words. Make them, and make your own people, speak the truth. Otherwise, we will lose. By using the terms, you are conceding the existence of them. You are helping give life to something that isn’t real.
Sure, someone is going to ask, “Oh Yeah? What about the STG44?”
Seriously, you Nazi-lovers just need to shut up. The Sturmgewehr rifle was NAMED the assault rifle, not DESCRIBED as an assault rifle. Sturm actually means Storm, which can be translated as assault, as in, “Storm the castle!” You’ll notice that the other German rifles didn’t carry the name. The venerable G3 “Battle Rifle” wasn’t known as “The G3 Storm Bringer Death Machine.” Regardless of what Hitler decided to call this innovative weapon, and even though it spawned an entire lineage of superb military weapons, including the ubiquitous AK47 and its subsequent offspring – because the Russians stole much of the design from the Germans – it was still just a rifle.
The only real assault taking place during any of this debate is upon the language. And the firearms community is just as guilty as the other side.