U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)- During the first 24 hours after the Associated Press posted a “style tip” to journalists about avoiding the terms “assault rifle” and “assault weapon,” a verbal brawl has erupted on social media that should be required reading for grassroots gun rights activists, firearms enthusiasts, gun prohibitionists and, yes, members of the working press, some of whom engaged in the digital fisticuffs.
The arguments are continuing on the Facebook and Twitter AP Stylebook sites, and much of the jousting is visceral and occasionally nasty. It is also revealing about the biases of some in the media, on both sides of the issue, and about the basic lack of knowledge some people have when discussing firearms, especially those identified as “assault” this or that.
The Facebook debate had more than 420 comments by Friday morning, and the Twitter notification had been re-tweeted more than 175 times.
What sparked the fireworks were two paragraphs from the AP on suggested revised style:
“The preferred term for a rifle that fires one bullet each time the trigger is pulled, and automatically reloads for a subsequent shot, is a semi-automatic rifle. An automatic rifle continuously fires rounds if the trigger is depressed and until its ammunition is exhausted.
“Avoid assault rifle and assault weapon,” the AP adds, “which are highly politicized terms that generally refer to AR- or AK-style rifles designed for the civilian market, but convey little meaning about the actual functions of the weapon.”
The Stylebook's weapons entry offers guidance on terms including semi-automatic rifle, assault rifle, assault weapon, military-style rifle and modern sporting rifle. pic.twitter.com/RvNrZp1lu2
— APStylebook (@APStylebook) July 13, 2022
The style tip elicited this reaction on Facebook from Dion Lefler, described online as a senior journalist for the Wichita Eagle: “Who made this bonehead rule? More to the point when and why did the Associated Press become the handmaiden of the gun industry?”
That brought a response from photojournalist Laurence Kesterson: “You should re-read the second graf of the AP Style Tip. They’re avoiding the terms assault rifles and weapons because they are highly politicized terms while conveying little meaning about the actual functions. You proved their point with your Pavlovian response. Clearly you have a partisan take on guns, and that’s okay if your role is as an advocate. However, the AP claims to be nonpartisan journalism, not advocacy.”
Lefler’s remark drew several reactions, most of them in rebuttal.
Veteran journalist Emily Miller, author of “Emily Gets Her Gun,” entered the discussion with professional level-headedness and simply asked AP in a tweet, “Do you now recommend print reporters put the term “assault weapon” or “assault rifle” in quotation marks inside quotes from political figures? Example: “‘Assault weapons’ need to be banned,” said Pres. Biden at the White House on Monday.”
Do you now recommend print reporters put the term "assault weapon" or "assault rifle" in quotation marks inside quotes from political figures?
Example: "'Assault weapons' need to be banned," said Pres. Biden at the White House on Monday.
— Emily Miller (@emilymiller) July 14, 2022
Excellent question, and so far, nobody has provided an official reply. But the queryreflected an observation made by Alan Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation, who publicly applauded the AP Thursday for suggesting the changes.
“It will be interesting to see if the media now challenges politicians and anti-gun lobbyists whenever they use such terms,” Gottlieb stated.
Gottlieb, who also chairs the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, told Ammoland News Friday morning that a statement released to the media, which appears in Ammoland here, was “picked up by most of the gun media and conservative news sites.”
“But,” he said, “the general media has ignored it. That was really surprising to me because the mainstream press likes to report on media news.”
Chris Knox, son of the late, legendary gun rights advocate Neal Knox, twisted the knife a bit with this tweet: “Can we talk about “gun safety” as a euphemism for “gun control?” His query is also unsurprisingly being met with crickets.
Can we talk about "gun safety" as a euphemism for "gun control?"
— Chris Knox (@ChrisKnox_AZ) July 14, 2022
In recent years, in addition to repeatedly tapping the gun control lexicon in news reports about “assault rifles,” the terms “gun safety” and “gun reform” have crept into articles about gun control as substitute references. At TheGunMag.com and Liberty Park Press, as well as Ammoland and other news platforms covering firearms, reports typically include references to “so-called ‘assault rifles.’”
Other remarks, from people not part of the media but certainly with anti-gun viewpoints, included “F—k you and the NRA. They care more about profits than gun owners anyway,” and “Yeah, shooting grade school kids is pretty sporting.”
The AP suggestion comes as the 56th edition of the Associated Press Stylebook is now available. According to the AP, this new edition “includes more than 300 new or revised entries, with chapters covering data journalism, business, religion and sports terms, as well as media law, news values, punctuation, social media and polls and surveys, plus a new chapter on inclusive storytelling.”
The book spans 612 pages and is available either as a paperback or a spiral bound volume.
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