Getting the language right: Assault What?

This is going to take a minute.  Please bear with me.

Imagine you like to cook, right?
There are a series of house fires.  And so it becomes illegal to install new gas stoves.
And so thirty years pass, and you have an electric range, like everybody else in America.
And then someone leaves a towel on his stove.  In a large apartment building.
And the apartment building catches fire.
And a lot of people die.
And you notice that the people that don't cook seem to be pretty well convinced  that everyone should just use induction cooking.  And you understand why a non-cook would feel that way, but you really hope they don’t get electric ranges banned, for a lot of reasons.
But to start the debate about switching to induction, all those people insist that it is just  atrocious that all these gas ranges are causing house fires.

"Wait"  you say "look, those people shouldn't be using their electric ranges wrong, but they aren't using gas ranges.  Gas ranges are banned."
These people say.
Or perhaps you're a car enthusiast.
And you drive a Mazda Speed3.  Now it doesn't have a stick shift because standard transmissions have been banned since there were a series of fatal accidents caused by members of the street racing community in the 80s.  But it's got a sport shifter, and it still looks fast.
And then a guy in an Automatic-Transmission Trans-Am spins out at 90 and clips a schoolbus.
And a lot of innocent people die.
And you discover to your anguish that there is a widespread push to insist that all modern cars are built with CVTs.
But to start the argument, the people who commute to work on the train start talking about how awful it is that all these stick shift cars are constantly getting in crashes.
"Hey"  you say "There's like. . . millions of us on the road with sport shifters that didn't hit anybody.  And stick-shift transmissions are already banned."
"ALL THOSE DEAD SCHOOLCHILDREN." The mass-transit commuter crowd screams.
Not clicking for you?

Let's try again.
You’re a geek.  Marvel, DC, Star Wars AND Trek.  Dr. Who. You love it all.
And  then after Jessica Jones comes out, there are a series of copycats that decide to deify Kilgrave and try to hypnotize people into doing horrible things.  And a few of them succeed, and there is a very understandable outrage.
And you think to yourself that you really liked Jessica Jones and maybe those people are missing the point and you really hope that it isn’t yanked from Netflix.
And so the people who haven’t watched Jessica Jones but who have fear about more copycats say that all of that stuff with the 9th doctor who abducts that woman is just atrocious and all future episodes of Dr. Who should be banned.
“What?” You say, momentarily bewildered.  “That’s a totally different character in a totally different show!  I mean yes, If you’ve never seen Jessica Jones or Doctor Who, the actor is playing both roles and so they look really similar but the internal motivations of the characters are totally differ--”

Can you imagine that feeling in your mind?  That confused outrage at someone else doing something wretched and criminal with something you love?  And a huge and ignorant mass of people getting angry at a thing they barely understand, but then also calling for something only marginally related to be banned?
This is how people who own AR-15s feel every.
that someone says “Assault Rifle” in the context of the modern gun debate.
So every.
you use the term “Assault Rifle” wrong, a couple of things are going to happen to the person you’re talking to, if they are a member of the pro-gun camp.
1) Their opinion of your familiarity with firearms is going to plummet, making it very hard for them to continue taking your position seriously.
2) They are going to get defensive, and sidetrack whatever your actual point is with a combination of a half-baked firearms history and linguistics lecture and defensive rhetoric.
if you want to be heard--not just argued with--by people on the other side of the fence, learn what an assault rifle is, and then stop using the term to describe the thing you want more closely regulated.
If you want to be informed about guns, so that you can speak about them eloquently, that means you need to understand the differences between a semi-automatic rifle and an assault rifle.  There are lots of passionate gun guys out there that have made diagrams, and written essays, and updated wikipedia pages, and even created excellent videos like the one in the comment section below.  Go forth and be educated.

Maybe, if you get the language right, you’ll even change someone else’s mind.

And wouldn’t that be worth it?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016