New York Times: What The Hell is an “Assault Weapon”?

“One obstacle President Obama may face in proposing a new federal ban on assault weapons could lie in the use of the term ‘assault weapon’ itself,” nytimes.com admits. Coming hard on the heels of the paper’s condemnation of New York’s ill-conceived gun ban bill, the lede is another sign that the Times is losing its hard-on for an Assault Weapons ban. “‘When the military switched over to this assault weapon, the whole context changed,’ said Tom Diaz, formerly of the Violence Policy Center, whose book about the militarization of civilian firearms, ‘The Last Gun,’ is scheduled for publication in the spring. ‘The conversation became, ‘Is this the kind of gun you want in the civilian world?’ And we who advocate for regulation say, ‘No, you do not.’'” We who don’t say yes. Yes you do . . .

But Second Amendment groups — and many firearm owners — heatedly object to the use of “assault weapon” to describe guns that they say are routinely used in target shooting and hunting. The term, they argue, should be used only for firearms capable of full automatic fire, like those employed by law enforcement and the military. They prefer the term “tactical rifle” or “modern sporting rifle” for the semiautomatic civilian versions.

They argue that any attempt to ban “assault weapons” is misguided because the guns under discussion differ from many other firearms only in their styling.

“The reality is there’s very little difference between any sporting firearm and a so-called assault weapon,” said Steven C. Howard, a lawyer and firearms expert in Lansing, Mich.

But defining the home defense modern sporting rifle is critical to the agenda of those who would remove them from sale or, indeed, gun owners’ safes. So scribe Erica Goode takes a proverbial whack at it.

The most basic criteria have to do with a firearm’s ability to fire multiple rounds quickly. Because of this, the firearms included under any assault weapons ban are usually semiautomatic, meaning that a new round is automatically reloaded into the chamber but is not fired until the trigger is pulled again. The weapons also have detachable magazines, allowing them to fire 10, 20, 30 rounds or more without the need to insert a new magazine.

Which applies to a whole range of rifles (and handguns) that don’t look like a Bushmater AR-15. Which is a bit  . . . problematic for advocates of civilian disarmament. As our Armed Intelligentsia know, an “assault rifle” refers to a specific rifle.

Erica knows that too, now, and shares it with the group. And then blames The People of the Gun for broadening the term. And then heads off to her favorite bar for an Aviator.

But the term “assault rifle” was expanded and broadened when gun manufacturers began to sell firearms modeled after the new military rifles to civilians. In 1984, Guns & Ammo advertised a book called “Assault Firearms,” which it said was “full of the hottest hardware available today.”

“The popularly held idea that the term ‘assault weapon’ originated with antigun activists, media or politicians is wrong,” Mr. Peterson wrote. “The term was first adopted by the manufacturers, wholesalers, importers and dealers in the American firearms industry to stimulate sales of certain firearms that did not have an appearance that was familiar to many firearm owners. The manufacturers and gun writers of the day needed a catchy name to identify this new type of gun.”

And there I was thinking Josh Surgarmann of the Violence Policy Center invented and popularized the term. Anyway, it’s clear that the Times is uncomfortable carrying the water for the Obama administration on an AWB.

If there’s no AR-related spree-killing between now and August we may dodge that particular bullet. While adding millions of new gun owners, all of whom will gain a new appreciation for their Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms.

Now that would make a Goode story . . .