While performing research for an article about modern sporting rifles, I stumbled upon the Associated Press (AP) “Stylebook”, that appears to be the foundation of where the “assault weapon” lie originates in journalism.
Manasquan, NJ --(Ammoland.com)- This is something that has been perpetuated for over 20 years, ever since Josh Sugarmann, head of the virulently anti gun group, “The Violence Policy Center”, first publicly admitted to creating it out of thin air in 1988.
The so called “assault weapon“ phrase is a deliberate and cynical ploy to mislead and confuse the American Public over an entire class of firearms that Gun Banners don’t like.
“The semi-automatic weapon’s 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 that chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons.” ~ Josh Sugarmann - Violence Policy Center
But with origin of this meme so factually clear and deceptive, why do so many supposedly educated journalists keep misusing the term “assault weapon“ when talking about America’s most commonly owned firearms?
Apparently the Associated Press is the source of the problem!
They clearly direct all Journalist to keep misusing the Term “assault weapon“ in their published 2012 Stylebook. The AP Stylebook is a resource and definition guide, published and distributed to 10,000′s of media outlets, print, online and television Nationwide, for use by journalists, reporters, students and editorial staff to promote correct formatting and accurate reporting of news stories.
From the 2012 Associated Press Stylebook Press Release:
“Updated regularly since its initial publication in 1953, the AP Stylebook is a must-have reference for writers, editors, students and professionals. It provides fundamental guidelines for spelling, language, punctuation, usage and journalistic style. It is the definitive resource for journalists. “
This so called “definitive resource for journalists” has it wrong!
From the 2012 AP Stylebook:
“Assault Weapon: A semi-automatic firearm similar in appearance to a fully automatic firearm or military weapon. Not synonymous with assault rifle, which can be used in fully automatic mode. Wherever possible, be specific about the type of weapon: semi-automatic rifle, semi-automatic shotgun or semi-automatic pistol.”
Gun Banners & Freedom Haters
Now, no one really expects anything approaching the truth or facts from gun control groups and their supporters, they are infamous for their extensive and well documented history of deception in furtherance of their agenda, as our lead-in story illustrates.
Groups like the Violence Policy Center lead the way in audaciously making outrageous claims and arrogantly expecting no one to call them on it. The Brady Campaign is equally culpable. A few years ago, gun banners were vociferously exclaiming to a sympathetic media the immense “dangers” associated with Citizen ownership of .50 cal, long range target rifles, publicly claming on their website that firearms of that type were only “needed by terrorists” while making the stunningly absurd claim that .50 cal rifles could “take out a target at a range of 4 MILES” !
Gun control groups know they can’t win the debate on the facts, so they suppress them, deny them, pretend they don’t exist, and lie with amazing hubris, hoping no one will notice.
But we expect, demand and frankly are entitled to more, far more from the media. Media whose first and overriding obligation is to report the truth and the facts, impartially and without personal bias, to the American Public, so we are informed and armed with the truth.
Its been blatantly obvious for years now, the media bias against firearms and their owners that is passed off as factual news, but is really nothing more then the crassest yellow journalism, intentionally pushing the mantra of gun control in a deliberate and ideologically driven effort to subvert and undermine Citizens Rights.
From individual writers and TV commentators alike, [see Bill O’Reilly] but also indoctrinated as a corporate culture from once respected media institutions like the NY Times, The LA Times, The Chicago Sun Tribune, ABC, CNN, NBC and many, many others. In fact, the last time calls for further restrictions on socalled “assault weapons” reached the level we are seeing today, CNN was caught red handed doctoring video footage they shot at a gun range.
By showing a semi automatic rifle being fired, and then panning down range to the target, where multiple bullet impacts registered in fractions of a second, with the sound of fully automatic gunfire in the background. When confronted, CNN was forced to publicly admit the weapon being fired at the target was not the semi automatic civilian rifle they showed in the hands of the person at the range, but was in fact an actual, military grade weapon fired on full automatic or, for the lay person, a machine gun, in the hands of a Police Officer.
In the aftermath of last months mass shooting in Aurora Colorado and again in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, the issue of so called “assault weapons” has had the media shirking even their most basic duty to the canons of journalistic integrity and unbiased reporting. Accompanying the cry for more gun control was the same litany of intentionally mis-represented “facts“, overly emotional rhetoric and ignorance laced commentary by individuals and media alike, for whom things like basic fact checking and the barest adherence to the truth are apparently foreign concepts.
The inclusion and perpetuation of the made up term “assault weapons” by AP Stylebook cuts straight to the heart of the issue. Not holding to the truth. The facts are this is a made up term.
From Gun Facts, a quick reference guide for civil libertarians on gun control issues. They define an “assault weapon” as follows.
An “assault weapon” is an invented term. In the firearm lexicon, there is no such thing as an “assault weapon.” The closest relative is the “assault rifle,” which is a machine gun or “select fire” rifle that fires rifle cartridges. In most cases so-called “assault weapons” are cosmetically similar to military guns but are functionally identical to and less powerful than hunting rifles.”
Wikipedia, not the most reliable source and one that has liberal left leanings, has this to say:
““Assault weapons” is a political term, often used by gun control advocates, typically referring to firearms “designed for rapidly firing at human targets from close range,” sometimes described as military-style features useful in combat.”
A quick Google search pulls up a 2005 copy of the Associated Press Stylebook that is even more heinous. It is notable that they have somewhat revised the definition but here is the 2005 version, which said.
“assault-style weapon Any semiautomatic pistol, rifle or shotgun originally designed for military or police use with a large ammunition capacity. Also, firearms that feature two or more accessories such as a detachable magazine, folding or telescopic stock, silencer, pistol grip, bayonet mount or a device to suppress the flash emitted”
Nothing in the definition lays out what the parameters are, or provides examples, to illustrate how one determines whether a particular firearm was “originally designed for military or police use“.
In fact, under the 2005 definition, ANY semi automatic pistol, by far the most common handgun style in use for the last twenty plus years by citizens and law enforcement alike would qualify as an “assault weapon“.
Pay particular attention to definition of “assault weapon“ in the more recent 2012 AP Stylebook. The last line in the entry admonishes that a journalist or reporter should “Wherever possible, be specific about the type of weapon: semi-automatic rifle, semi-automatic shotgun or semi-automatic pistol.”
Yet that distinction is rarely, if ever made when crimes committed with firearms are reported. After more then a decade as a Second Amendment Scholar and Activist, closely studying how the issue is reported on, I can safely and confidently say with some authority that it is unheard of for any report or news concerning “assault weapons“ used in crime to go any further then to use the term “assault weapon“.
Thus creating and leaving the impression amongst readers or viewers that the firearm in question is an actual military grade assault rifle, capable of fully automatic, machine gun type rates of fire. Remember Sugarmann’s quote and CNN being caught intentionally creating exactly that impression.
This isn’t journalism, it’s pure propaganda, plain and simple. Its’s a shameful betrayal of even the most basic adherence to any semblance to journalistic integrity and ethics. And it needs to be exposed.
About Dan Roberts
Dan Roberts is a grassroots supporter of gun rights that has choosen AmmoLand Shooting Sports News as the perfect outlet for his insiteful articles on Guns and Gun Owner Rights.
As a resident of the oppressive state of New Jersey he is well placed to be able to discuss the abuses of government against our inalienable rights to keep and bear arms as he writes from deep behind NJ’s Anti-Gun iron curtain. Dan Roberts Email Dan at DRoberts@ammoland.com