By David Codrea
From The August 2011 Issue Of GUNS Magazine Rights Watch Column
“Two police officers, training on patrol rifles…suffered injuries Wednesday morning when one of the firearms exploded,” a recent news account reports. Fortunately, the injuries were not life-threatening.
It was reported the rifle in question is widely used by law enforcement. An initial inspection shows the gun was not defective.
But here’s the thing about that rifle: It’s a semiautomatic rifle and includes features such as a pistol grip, a 30-round capacity magazine, collapsible stock … the very features anti-gunners use to define an “assault rifle.” The very features the anti-gunners demand banning from private ownership.
Something else the antis are counting on is media and public ignorance about the difference between a semi-auto so demonized, and a select fire/full auto weapon. Josh Sugarmann of the Violence Policy Center spelled out a strategy calculated to exploit that. “The weapons’ menacing looks, coupled with the public’s confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons—anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun—can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons,” he wrote back in 1988, outlining a misdirection strategy that is still used to gin up such support.
So when is an assault rifle not an assault rifle? The newspaper called the rifle involved a “patrol rifle.” Does anyone think it would have been referred to as anything but an “assault rifle” had just plain folks been involved in the mishap?
Gun rights advocate and writer Kurt Hofmann illustrated how such terminology is used to manipulate public opinion. Citing a South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial calling for a ban on “civilian” possession of semi-autos, Hofmann showed us how that works.
“What makes this editorial special is the slick rhetorical gymnastics,” he wrote in “The Difference Between ‘Assault Weapons’ And ‘Patrol Rifles,’” showing how the Sun-Sentinel wordsmiths crafted their arguments.
“[T]here is one unmistakable truth—the average person has absolutely no need for an assault rifle. They have one purpose—to hurt or kill people, namely cops,” the editorial began.
“Understandably, officers in more South Florida police agencies have been arming themselves—at their own expense—with patrol rifles to be on more even footing with criminals—particularly gangs—they encounter,” it concluded.
Words have meaning and power, and can be used especially insidiously when the intent is to prompt opinions from people who don’t even know they’re being manipulated—and that can include naïve journalists.
Being aware of the “patrol rifle/assault rifle” sleight of mind is important, because it does just that, and carries with it the sense that citizens so armed are threats to public safety, and only the police can be trusted. Anyone spreading such a gospel of citizen untrustworthiness and authoritarian salvation has an agenda, and freedom isn’t on it.
Visit David’s blog: www.davidcodrea.com for more information—Editor