Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A Thorn by Any Other Name

I hate to keep writing about the gun debate, but I feel an urgent need to weigh in on one particular aspect of it that is driving me up the proverbial wall.

I am, by education, study, and lifelong continuing interest, a linguist. I care about words. Words matter. And they matter a lot in the endless gun debate. I'm not an expert in weapons, but I am an expert of sorts in words, and so I ask ...

For the love of God, all of you, no matter which side of the debate you fall on, stop talking about "assault weapons" or "assault rifles!"

I'm sick of the pro-gun partisans who talk down to me with detailed lectures about the similarities and/or differences between "hunting rifles" and an "assault rifles." I'm sick of people who quibble over the use of the term "assault weapon/rifle" rather than addressing the fundamental issue - which is the suitablity of some types of weapons for killing large numbers of people in a short period of time.

Shut up, all of you! People are dying, and they're dying in large numbers partly because you are busy torturing the language to deflect attention from issues you don't want to face. How about this: instead of the term "assault weapon/rifle," which sidetracks the debate into a uselessly Talmudic linguistic argument, say what you're really talking about: "high-powered semiautomatic rifles with large capacity magazines" or "high-powered semiautomatic rifles with military features or accessories*."

It doesn't solve the problem, but at least it removes one way the discussion can be lost in a morass of dissembling and false equivalencies.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* I'm thinking here about things like pistol grips, laser aiming devices, large-capacity magazines, folding or collapsible stocks, bayonet mounts, and barrel shrouds. See a useful discussion of the problem of definition in this article ... which dates to 2013.


Mike said...

How about we call them murder sticks?

eViL pOp TaRt said...

There's a problem and it's not reduceable to semantics.

allenwoodhaven said...

Words do matter and they ideally actually have a precise meaning. For too many, this is lost.

Mike, as usual, put it succinctly.