'Assault Weapon': The Semantic Trojan Horse

There is no better example of muddy thinking than the expression "assault weapon."  This expression is a combination of two inexact lay terms that are together even more unclear.  The expression has something of a visceral punch that news reporters and pubescent demonstrators find as useful as aging senators do.  The muddiness suits them.  Therein lies its danger.

A weapon, after all, can be anything.  In the case of London, the weapons of choice these days are knives and acid.  At the other end of the spectrum, some people are so assertive that a dirty look can instill fear.  Consider "rapier wit."

So what is the difference between a knife in a housewife's kitchen for chopping vegetables and a knife wielded against an innocent London tube passenger?  The difference is intent.  Any weapon becomes an "assault weapon" when the user attacks another party with it.  The "assault" nature of any weapon lies in the heart of its possessor.

Many Americans who seem to accept that this vague phrase means "big bad guns in the hands of madmen."  Under its banner, a lot is happening.

The expression "assault weapon" is a semantic Trojan horse that represents a real threat to our constitutional rights.  Since it does not define the weapons in question, it can be used to define anything people want to get rid of, starting with semi-automatic long guns and ending with revolvers and even ammunition.  "Banning" such weapons means a whole lot more than merely ceasing their sale; it addresses the guns already in the hands of citizens.  It addresses this issue through the holy grail of lefties everywhere: confiscation.  Criminals don't give a damn about this expression or any other you might want to use to interfere with their lives, so confiscation under an "assault weapons ban" is limited to law-abiding gun-owners.

This phrase has been normalized through continual use by the media.  People accept its use and should not.  This phrase should never appear in any law, regulation, or policy.  Lawmakers should specify what they are banning or confiscating and should have to amend the law to add another weapon. 

An excellent article points out that gun confiscation has already started.  They start out with "assault weapons," which the politicians define.  How hard would it be to add a gun or two to the ban?  You wouldn't even see it go by.

I have seen photos like this of confiscated weapons.  The photos include small revolvers.  The small guns are not sexy enough for movie stars.  They have no magazines, no safety, and limited ammunition capacity – so how did they get picked up while rooting out "assault weapons"?

Representative Jan Schakowsky of Illinois didn't realize she was talking to a conservative reporter at a Feb. 13 press conference when she had this exchange:

"We want everything on the table," Schakowsky told Mattera.  "This is a moment of opportunity.  There's no question about it."

One poignant exchange was as follows:

Schakowsky: We're on a roll now, and I think we've got to take the–you know, we're gonna push as hard as we can and as far as we can.

Mattera: So the assault weapons ban is just the beginning?

Schakowsky: Oh absolutely.  I mean, I'm against handguns.  We have, in Illinois, the Council Against Handgun...something [Violence].  Yeah, I'm a member of that.  So, absolutely.

In Seattle, police have begun seizing guns under their "Red Flag Law," which allows the policeman to make decisions on the fly.

 Washington state is one of five states that has passed the law, known as the Extreme Risk Protection Order, which gives law enforcement the ability to seize a gun from a person if they believe the person poses a significant danger to themself [sic] or others.

They leapt right past the "assault" part and went right for any firearm they felt like taking.

Guns are removed for one year, but there is due process. Only family, roommates and police can petition the court for the civil order. The burden of proof is on the petitioner. A judge determines if the person is a danger to himself or others. If the order is issued, the guns can be seized immediately, but the gun owner gets to make his or her case in court within two weeks.

"Family"?  Does this include third cousins?  "Roommates"?  Does this include vindictive ex-girlfriends?  I'm not sure making your case to a typically liberal Seattle judge falls under the umbrella of due process.  And what happens at the end of the year?  Do they come and find you and give you your stuff back?  I doubt it.

The vague phrase "assault weapon" has been misused to stampede lawmakers into passing laws whose close scrutiny would make those laws unthinkable.  It has been used by lawmakers to whip people, particularly teenagers prone to drama queenery, into making amorphous demands and interpreting those demands to mean what the liberal politicians always wanted.  The press makes sure the issue gets wall-to-wall coverage as evidence of chaos, while politicians insert their stealthy statutes into the mix as the only solution: convince a few thousand kids that their bill is the answer, and ram it through before their attention span fades.

Progressives insist that the founders of our country did not envision so many guns in public hands when they crafted the amendments.  Not true.  Gun ownership was ubiquitous in their day.  The way I see it, the founders needed the public to place a great deal of faith and trust in them.  I think it was a deal-clincher to include the people's right to make sure no one took over their country or did anything to prevent citizens from protecting themselves – you get to keep your personal guns, and you get to assemble with other like-minded people who also have guns.  At worst, you can go down fighting.  Why in the world would we let scheming bullies bleed this away?

The least we should do is make politicians specify exactly what they want to confiscate instead of allowing a generic term to give them carte blanche.  If they want to change the Constitution, let them do it through the amendment process.  It's not easy to get two thirds of the states to go along with the destruction of a treasured right.  It's not supposed to be easy.

I'm praying for lawsuits and lots of them.

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