EXCLUSIVE: Patrol Rifles Good/Assault Rifles Bad?

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

19 thoughts on “EXCLUSIVE: Patrol Rifles Good/Assault Rifles Bad?

  1. BikerRN

    In my view the patrol rifle, when brought in to the non-LEO home for the purpose of defense, becomes a defensive rifle.


      1. Roy Black

        So they can shoot an ex-marine 60 times in his own home, find nothing illegal and the safety engaged on his gun. Oh yeah, it takes an hour to “clear” a small house to ensure the “Safety” of paramedics and make certain there is no surviving victim.

    1. Mike

      They aren’t. You can call it a patrol rifle and assult rifle a carbine, a semi-auto what ever you like and its still the same weapon.

  2. John Wazowicz

    Living in central Florida, a patrol/assault style rifle is necessary. Heavy woods and thick swamps prove the usefulness of this type of weapon. Non-jamming and quick target acquisition can mean the difference between life and death for patrolmen and women. Police can be up to 45 minutes away. A citizen may need this type of weapon in that situation. If used with forethought and common sense, what’s the problem?

  3. Dimitri D

    The reason Police Officers in South Florida are arming themselve with Patrol Rifle(assualt rifles) is because of certian areas in broward and dade counties where street crime has evolved into using a ak 47 and body armor to commint crimes. How are Police supposed to cobmat that with a 9mm or .40 when that wont penetrate armor? Deputy Todd Fatta was gunned down with a 30-30 rifle, serving a warrant for a suspected child porn pedler, SGT. Chris Reyka shot to death because his sidearm couldn’t penetrate the vehicle he was being shot from. Life evolves so do crimals and LEO’s have to apapt to combat the threat. The community need to get over the b.s. that a citizen can’t have an assualt rifle just like the cops have to soften the name of assualt rifle to patrol rifle, a spade is a spade wether its red or black why should this be anything else.

    1. Mike the Limey

      A semi automatic rifle isn’t an “assault rifle” per se as it doesn’t have a selective fire capability- either full auto or burst.

  4. LeadSled

    Ahhh – “patrol rifles” v. “assault rifles.” Very good! Noting this usage reminds us of how the definition of an “assault rifle” was twisted from a very specific WW2-era military definition (main battle rifle with select fire capability) to a political definition (“nebulously defined evil black gun”). I see you also put quotation marks around the word “civilian.” Excellent! This is yet another example of morphage or neologism deployed in the war of words. Traditionally, the only people who were not civilians were those who are in the military. In recent years even supposedly pro-RKBA writers have slipped badly, allowing “civilian” to refer to LEOs and even firefighters.

  5. Dann in Ohio

    Words DO have power, especially the word “civilian”. They no longer refer to police and law enforcement as civilians, they are now something else… maybe public military?

    They may call’em “patrol” rifles, but I’m waiting for the quote, “We can’t have civilians running around with patrol rifles.”

    1. Roy Blackk

      “They no longer refer to police and law enforcement as civilians, they are now something else… maybe public military?”

      They have become the “Select Militia” that was described in the Heller case. An armed body of men, exempt from the law, whose purpose is to keep the peasants under control. Serve and Protect their masters in office and collect revenue at every opportunity.

  6. threeper

    Screw it. What part of “shall not be infringed” don’t you understand. I say repeal every law restricting my right to own any weapon of self-defense since and including NFA1934.

  7. stevelyn

    I guess it all depends on who the media are sucking up to as to how they portray their subject matter.

    Based on the above article it’s safe to say that they aren’t being ignorant when they do an anti-gun hit piece, they’re being purposely deceitful to affect an outcome.

  8. Ghostwriter

    Police wield Assault Weapons.
    Civilians own Sport/Utility Firearms.
    Police carry High-Cap detachable Magazines and Assault Clips.
    Civilians own some detachable magazine-feeding devices with a capacity to hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
    Police need Assault Weapons, detachable High-cap Magazines and Assault Clips because their job requires them to put themselves in environments and situations in which dangerous criminals are encountered.
    Civilians own Sport/Utility Firearms and some detachable magazine-feeding devices with a capacity to hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, primarily for sporting and hobby purposes.
    Hunting, marksmanship practice, competition-shooting, plinking and paper-punching all part of the sport/hobby.
    Buying, selling, trading, collecting and gifting of firearms and accoutrements is, of course, part of an American tradition older than the Nation itself.
    While Police need Assault Weapons, detachable High-Cap Magazines and Assault Clips because their job requires them to put themselves in environments and situations in which dangerous criminals are encountered, Civilians in stark contrast, primarily inhabit only completely insulated, isolated, safe and secure environments.
    This fortunate situation affords the Civilian the time and opportunity to pursue aspects of their sport/hobby and additionally carry on the American Tradition of buying, selling, trading, collecting and gifting of firearms and their accoutrements.
    At such a time when dangerous criminals extend their predatory activities beyond those environments which require the need for Police to wield Assault Weapons, carry detachable High-Cap Magazines and Assault Clips, and into the otherwise completely insulated, isolated, safe and secure environments of the Civilian sport/hobby/traditionalist, the Civilian is then forced with the unwanted and undesirable task to utilize their Sport/Utility firearms for the utility purpose and perform their immediate duty of Policing their own environment.

    Since it’s been the Moral obligation and duty of all adult-age males to provide arms for defense of self, family, other persons, property and possessions and State and Nation as required for hundreds of years, those having assumed this Moral obligation and solemn duty distinguish themselves as more than mere ’Civilians’, and have thus earned their rightful status as “Citizens.”

    On the matter of ‘patrol rifles’ as utilized by the Police, I know of one instance when a Police Department traded in their side-folding stock, stainless steel Ruger Mini-14 rifles used on patrol, back to the dealer who initially supplied them before the need arose for the Police to up-arm and wield Assault Weapons.
    The dealer, in turn–upon completion of the required forms and background check clearance–sold the patrol rifles to Civilians. One Civilian in particular, holding the earned status as a “Citizen”, purchased one of the rifles, at which time it was retired from its patrol duties and became a Sport/Utility firearm.

  9. Shane

    Does the average American need an assault rifle? Probably not although I think every responsible American, whether it be an assault rifle, shotgun or pistol, should be armed (make notice that I stated “Responsible”). An assault weapon by deffinition is: any of various automatic or semiautomatic rifles with large capacity magazines designed for military use, according to Websters dictionary. I think the key word here is large capacity magazine since most Civilian American’s whom own an assault rifle, by Webster’s deffinition, do not own a full-auto rifle. Of course one could own a full-automatic rifle, but at a pretty big expense.

    So most anti-gun organizations and lobbyists are going after the fact that these type of weapons have large capacity magazines therefore they become dangerous since it allows one to harm multiple people at a much quicker rate. What these lobbyists fail to comprehend is that high capacity magazines are not the issue since you could own a 10 round magazine, expend it and reload the weapon twice more at almost the same rate of expending a 30 round magazine.

    Times have changed since the wheel gun ruled the wild wild west and the reloading process of a “six shooter” was time consuming. With the invention of the semi-auto pistol, reloading has become quicker and more efficient.

    With that said, most semi-auto pistols are not considered assault weapons but if you really stop and think about Webster’s definition, What’s the difference between a semi-auto pistol and an AR-15 or AK-47? Of course a rifle is more accurate at longer ranges but when you think about it they are pretty much one and the same.

    California has a 10 round magazine limit law set in place but you can still accomplish the same thing since one can own more than one magazine….this law is ludicrous if you ask me.

    Going back into history, if it wasn’t for the average citizen being able to own a firearm, we might be a nation under British rule but it was these average American’s with their pistols and hunting rifles that stood up and fought for this countries freedoms. Today we don’t have to worry about Britain taking over our country but we do have to worry about terrorists attacks, which have already happened on our own soil…more than once! Certain leaders of this country are now trying to take away these rights that our forefathers gave us because they understood and believed that the average American needs to be armed.

    The government has made marijuana illegal to posses in this country but it has not stopped people from using it. You will find this as well as cocaine and other illegal drugs in the hands of criminals and we all have to worry about it being pushed on our children in schools. Regardless of weather it’s an assault rifle/weapon or any gun for that matter…what do you think will happen when the government bans guns completely? Oh don’t be ignorant and tell me that they just want to ban assault weapons…this is only the beginning. If assault weapons are banned, the same government will move on to certain length rifles and then on to owning pistols. What do you think will happen when average “responsible” citizens are not allowed to own a firearm period? I shudder at the thought.

  10. Carl Timmons

    Let’s re-frame the argument and call any semi-automatic long gun a FREEDOM RIFLE.

    And as for “civilian owned” ALL peace officers are civilians, too.

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  12. Scott M

    The intent of the 2nd Amendment was not to protect ownership and possession of arms for hunting or target shooting, but to overcome a tyrannical government, should that ever become necessary. Throughout our history the guns we use for hunting were military weapons or based on military weapons. We, as a country, have forgotten the lesson that those who forget history are condemmed to repeat it. These anti’s are assuming that it won’t happen to us, but I’m sure that most Germans thought the same thing before Hitler came to power.

  13. Eric Morris

    I was in the army for 14 years (injuries prevented 20+) and I am a God fearing, Christian, and Patriot, that believes in the Constitution 100%. The 2nd Ammendment is clear and is a Constitutional right for all Americans. Notice, I did say Americans. These idiots in the government that are against the law-abiding citizens carrying a weapon of self defense are just spouting their own stupid opinions. 99% of them have never been in any situational theat would require them to use a weapon. The other 1% against weapons are just idiots. Weapons are not just for protecting one’s self, but also for protecting others. If the places that don’t allow guns woould allow them, a lot of the massacres would not have happened. At least not to the extent they happened. Anti-gun politians are not just anti-gun, they are anit-Constitution, and anti-American. Everytime they come up with a new anti-gun bill, we should sue them for their stupidity. Just remember this…. 65 MILLION GUN OWNERS KILLED NO ONE YESTERDAY!!!!!!!


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