“In our country, assault weapons have become the subjects of limitless and absurd gun-fetishist metaphysics, of the medieval angels-and-pins kind . . . the argument seems to be that, failing some essential definition of an assault weapon, no assault weapon can be believed to exist—not only should they not be banned, they cannot be banned because they are not a fixed, eternal category in the mind of the God of guns.” – Adam Gopnik in Sanity from the Courts on Gun Control in a Time of Trump [via newyorker.com]

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68 Responses to Quote of the Day: The God of Guns Defines ‘Assault Weapons’

    • So does the concept of “absolute and immutable truths”. Liberals thrive on changeable word definitions and moral relativity.

      • Yep, the malleability of words and concepts are central to their attack on the 2A. It also should remove all doubt (in case any remains) that their end-game is complete nullification of the 2A and the ultimate removal of gun rights from ordinary private citizens (i.e., “all the wrong people”).

        • The malleablity of words, cultural relativism and post-modernist philosophy is also central to their general war on Western Civilization. It is, indeed, a war. Let’s win it.

    • I guess he wants the Constitution and legislation to be written with something other than WORDS. Only the New Yorker would allow a moron like that to write for them.

  1. Anti-2a folks call 10/22’s and bolt actions with pistol grips and a black stock “assault weapons.” They don’t care as long as they scare ignorant people.

  2. Well, he isn’t wrong… I think he is presenting it as an absurd argument, but saying “this is absurd!” Does not magically make it absurd.

    • Firearms freedom enthusiasts aren’t apt to sit quietly or even satisfy themselves with a single objection. “This is absurd” or similar is rarely a stand alone counterargument. Consider it more of a prefatory clause, as it’s often followed by great and substantial arguments opposing imperious gun haters such as Gopnik.

      • I read the article, at least the part relevant to the quote, I don’t have time to read it all here at work. It didn’t even seem to be followed by an argument. Just “here, we defined it” I don’t know. The whole writing style is full of boring flaff that causes me to lose interest. I’m a very too the point person. If you’re not on point, I’m not interested.

        • From my experience with the few NewYorker articles I have read, it seems that the object of that publication is to put as much filler, supposition, and tangential thoughts in order to eloquently fill up pages. When most of their articles can be boiled down to a couple sentences.

        • Robert W. that’s not surprising. I’ve never read much of the New Yorker, but I do know that they seem to place a premium on “higher education”. And that’s about the only thing you really learn in higher education; how to use a lot of really eloquent, specious language to say nothing.

  3. Any weapon is an assault weapon when it is used to assault someone. That is the definition I work with. The focus should be on the actions of the user not the instrument, but that requires holding people accountable. Something these twits are reluctant to pursue. It is easier to just take away rights and pretend you did something good.

    • That may be the goal of outlawing assault weapons without defining assault weapons. After outlawing them, we can *then* define them as Objects which use an explosive charge to propel a projectile. ie, all firearms. Our job here is done!

      • Woah there, Larry. The job is NOT done; after outlawing all firearms, you still need to move on to all knives. Most likely, after that, it will need to include all forms of clubs and such. I forgot arrows as well; really anything that is a bit pointy, sharpish, or heavier than a small piece of balsa wood should probably be outlawed. Also, having hands, elbows, feet, or knees should also probably be eliminated in the long run. It really would just be best for everyone to just be blobs of barely sentient meat, fat, etc, incapable of any sort of sudden movement and controlled by a central authority in every aspect of our lives.

  4. “In our country, assault weapons have become the subjects of limitless and absurd gun-fetishist metaphysics, of the medieval angels-and-pins kind.”

    And homicides committed with any rifle have continued to decline steadily. A full 36% since the federal assault weapon ban. So what about the absurd gun control metaphysics which seem to impart such power upon a firearm which only accounts for about 3% of total gun homicides.

  5. Adam gopnik is a Marxist of the third degree. None of us should expect him to understand.

    The second amendment speaks for itself. We were intended to be armed and intended to use those arms in defense of self and country. Not only should “the people” have assault weapons or whatever cosmetic appearance a semi-auto rifle may have, but we were intended to have fully automatic rifles. We were intended to have “arms” for defense of country and to deter our own government from becoming tyrannical. The current military arm of the day is the select fire rifle – so that is what we were intended to have.

    • I skimmed through one of his other tomes called ‘The Second Amendment Is a Gun-Control Amendment’. His argument was that because the words ‘a well regulated militia’ were used in the 2nd Amendment that it gave the right to the government to regulate what arms the people (militia) were or weren’t allowed to own. This first requires you to completely ignore ‘the right of the people to keep and bear arms SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED’ (what, does he think ‘people’ meant like ‘People’s Republic of China’ or something?), but also the totally illogical placement of the amendment in the Bill of Rights. The enumerated powers granted to the federal government are found in the Constitution, not the Bill of Rights.

      • The real argument, found in Heller, is that “well-regulated” does not mean “subject to regulation,” i.e., subject to gun control, but instead meant, at the time written, well-trained. The same word root is found in the terms “regular” army troops, meaning troops trained to act and march as a unit, as opposed to irregulars.

        • You could tell the ‘regulars’ from the ‘irregulars’ by which weapon they were carrying. The regulars carried govt. issued smoothbore muskets and the irregulars carried their own privately owned rifles.

  6. The problem is prohibitionists using scaremongering terms to sway an ignorant publics opinion. Or, if we are not to attribute malice, prohibitionist simply don’t know what the f@#$ they’re talking about so why should anyone listen to them?

    Seems to me not coming across as ignorant fools or as manipulative elitists would serve their cause well but I guess they’re happy with the angry uninformed bully tact they’ve been taking for the last ever.

    • It occurs to me that the Bill of Rights lists those things the government is specifically not allowed to do. All of the other amendments are administrative changes to the Constitution itself or further injunctions against government action (13. Abolishment of Slavery).

      The sole exception(s) are the 18th Amendment, which is the only amendment to the Constitution attempting to tell the PEOPLE what they could not do, and the 21st Amendment recognizing this error and repealing the 18th Amendment.

      It stands to reason then that the legislature is intended to enact laws which have the effect of controlling the activities of the citizenry (within the limits of the Bill of Rights and their Constitutional authority) and the Amendments are limited to corrections, changes, additions to the body of the Constitution itself.

      • The 14A expanded the powers of the federal government, giving them authority (beyond that of the courts) to limit state actions in violation of the 14A.

        The 13A limited our rights to own people, which seems fair to me.

  7. He is barking up the wrong tree. “Assault Weapon” is a made up term by the gun control lobby. It didn’t exist before the late 80s. Assault rifle is a real term defined by the Army and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It is not a fluid term.

    • Not only is “assault weapon” an invented term, it is fluid since it subject to different definition in different states (and localities) that seek to ban it. An assault weapon isn’t a “thing,” but is rather whatever the legislature says its is.

      I also likes how he adopts the 4th Circuits idiotic opinion that any rifle that has military features is a “weapon of war.” Back in 1787, the typical rifle of the militia is the same on e they used for hunting deer and bear. People didn’t have one rifle for militia duty and another for general purposes. In fact, a smooth bore musket of .69 caliber could be used as a fowler if one could not afford a separate firearm for birding.

      • “Weapon of war” is another nonsense term that can mean anything the speaker wants it to mean.

        E.g. only weapons used in war are weapons of war. Which could mean my specific gun, not model, was not used in war, so it is not a weapon of war, or it could mean since my AR’s are not select fire and no military issues semi-auto rifles in such calibers, they are not weapons of war.

        It could also mean only weapons that are only used is conflicts that can be accurately described as war. This would mean if you could find any purpose other than war, such as recreation, the weapon would not be a weapon of war.

        It could mean only weapons invented specifically for war. The Tommy gun was invented with the intent of ranchers using it to defend themselves from attack, i.e., self defense. Therefore, Tommy guns are not weapons of war.

    • Or on what the definition of “assault” is, since it is now possible in some states to be charged with “assault” for stepping between an attacker and his victim if the attacker is then somehow injured because of his use of force being deflected by you, for example if he is swinging and charging and because you got in the way he bounces off and hits a solid object with his head; it is even possible to be charged with “assault” if someone has engaged in theft and you intervene to keep him from making off with the stolen item by grabbing it without touching him.

      So I suppose carrying a rifle that is sufficiently scary that someone seeing it stumbles and as a result sustains some improbable minor injury could count as “assault”, thus making your rifle an “assault weapon”.

      • Interesting(?) fact: while battery is a criminal offense involving the unlawful physical acting upon a threat, distinct from assault which is the act of creating apprehension of such contact, under the common law, it was the other way around. Legislatures, being inherently stupid, confused the two when codifying the common law, thereby switching definitions.

        This means an assault weapon is a weapon that scares someone while not harming them.

  8. Assault Weapon = ” Un- elected , Un- accountable bureaucrats who MURDER citizens while holding babies , or burn them to DEATH in Churches ……… The one and only , FAKE & Fraudulent ….. B.A.T.F. !!

    **** No better example exists as to why we have a Second Amendment ! ****

    Dissolve this beast , Here’s why ………….
    http://www.supremelaw.org/authors/cooper/cooper.htm

  9. “not only should they not be banned, they cannot be banned because they are not a fixed, eternal category”

    Because California’s experience with changing the laws every 6 months in pursuit of a chimera is of course totally unrelated to this epistemological quandary.

    Because, wile not every McGuffin is an Assault Weapon, every Assault Weapon most definitely is a McGuffin.

  10. Wow, that’s bad writing. Take two Hemmingway …

    No, this needs emergency intervention; an all out assault, to coin a phrase.

    To start, take two Hemmingway, a Twain short story, one Orwell radio script plus ‘Politics and the English Language’, and work through Strunk & White, twice. Then we’ll look at this mudslide again, along with a maintenance dose of any of the good modern essayists to prevent reinfection.

    If that doesn’t take, we’ll have to go with a big gun: Ellison’s ‘Sleeples Nights In The Procrustean Bed’ collection. Or, exactly the kind of overdone feels-wrangling by metaphor this New Yorker was going for,l. Except that works.

    Bog, that was bad. I feel 30% dumber, like I’ve just accidentally watched Twilight. (The third one ‘Twilight: Shouldn’t It Be Dark By Now?’)

  11. In other words, “let’s ban something which carries no agreed-upon definition and doesn’t make a meaningful contribution to crime but haunts the minds of hypochondriac progressives (i.e.: New Yorker magazine readers). This, even though it is precisely in the class of items which the founders sought to preserve.”

  12. If anyone read gopniks ridiculous article, it’s focus was the decision from the courts. While the courts decision took full advantage of the weakness of the heller decision, by banning “certain” arms –

    The [second] amendment does not grant the “right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever for whatever purpose”

    So they used that to ban America’s most popular firearm. Obviously not the intention of the second amendment, the founders, and not conducive to positive liberty (the greatest enemy of the collective liberationist group known as the democrat – I.e. the “freedom from” group). But gopnik of course never mentions the arbitrary nature of it all and could never draw the line at “thou shall not kill.” Instead we need to ban things, and keep banning them until the liberationist dream is realized.

  13. No it isn’t that failing some essential definition of an assault weapon, no assault weapon can be believed to exist. It’s that we must call you out for fabricating illogical, amorphous terms like “assault weapon.” East Coast gun haters employ invented terms because they can control their definition and their application. Absent definitions, they’re free from accountability.

    They use such infinitely elastic terms to demonize all weapons based on the appearance of some weapons. “Assault” heavily implies that these tools are purely appliances of aggression, despite the fact that countless millions of them for decades have never been fired in anger. “Assault” amps up emotion and tamps down reason.
    Really, you trot out such stilted language and analogies as that, and it’s clear you’re the one obsessed; you’re the gun fetishist. With a BA. in Art History from McGill University and a career largely spent as an art critic and children’s book writer, it seems an especially unsettling and Walter Mitty-esque obsession, at that.

    And what’s with this “our country” business, anyway? Ok, Gopnik was born in Philadelphia. Technically, American, but he was raised in Montreal by his McGill University professor parents and has lived long stretches of his adult life in Paris. There’s a bit more to be American than having the right passport, and Gopnik doesn’t have it.

  14. This is akin to the ’80s and ’90s “critical legal theory” mumbo jumbo pushed by Catherine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin to justify repressive anti-pornography legislation in Canada and the U.S. They considered consistency and predictability in the law “sexist”.

    According to them, pornography has to be banned because it “discriminates against women”. Of course that made banning of all male pornography problematic. No problem. For the purposes of the law, one of the men could arbitrarily be designated a “woman”.

    The bottom line: If you can tell objectively whether or not you’re obeying the law, they consider that “unfair” and “discriminatory”. In other words, you might be able to wriggle out from underneath the boot heel they want planted firmly on your neck.

    Similarly, the BATF says you can’t be “engaged in the business” of selling guns… without defining that in a way in which a reasonable person could tell whether they were actually violating the law.

  15. Oh Adam is probably pizzed off because he has a funny sounding surname😜…and THAT makes as much sense as his diatribe.

  16. “’When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty Gopnik said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’”

  17. I’m a gun fetishist metaphysisist, according to a sanctimonious, bloviating writer for the New Yorker. That is indeed disconcerting. It’s going to take me a while to wrap my head around this new identity.
    (Sips coffee)

  18. >>The very features that qualify a firearm as a banned assault weapon—such as flash suppressors, barrel shrouds, folding and telescoping sights, pistol grips, grenade launchers, night sights and the ability to accept bayonets and large-capacity magazines

    Pardon my ignorance, but WTF is “folding sights”? Does it mean that foldable BUIS qualify as 1 Assault Weapon Stigma Point, or had Mr.Gopnik (the fella has best surname ever) enriched the world with another “shoulder thing that goes up”?

    • Also, it’s funny that he doesn’t seem to know the difference between “telescoping” and “telescopic”. I for one have never seen any “telescoping” sights, though if they exist, they’re sure to be funny looking!

      • To be fair, the 4th paper says “include folding and telescoping stocks, pistol grips, grenade launchers, night sights, and the ability to accept bayonets and large-capacity magazines.”. So mysterious “telescoping sights” is just nice, juicy failure of proofreadng 🙂

  19. Anyone notice that there is no way to comment on that article, so as to formulate a rebuttal to the author? They will allow no dissent against the “wise, mighty, and elite” opinions that they hold.

  20. Here’s the rub: Gopnik, in his treatise, the video at the bottom of the page, and another article titled: “The Second Amendment is a Gun-control Amendment,” first dwells on the false comparison between the power he felt when he learned to drive a car and the power that gun owners feel from possession of a lethal weapon. While there’s a shred of truth in the comparison, he emphasizes the wrong shred.

    Yes, the freedom afforded by a car – to someone previously subject to the schedules and routes of a bus – is liberating; control, freedom, autonomy, self-reliance. And the freedom afforded by ownership of a gun – to someone otherwise helpless under the thumb of an overarching and intrusive, controlling government of oppression – is liberating; control, freedom, autonomy, self-reliance. Not fetishism – not for the majority, that is – but rather freedom from dependency on others for safety.

    His argument is that the key feature of the Second Amendment is in its first, dependent clause – “A well-regulated Militia” – and that those words are the defining rationale for keeping and bearing arms. His siding with Justice Stevens’ disagreement with Heller on those grounds, has been echoing about for decades as the refuge of the tyrant: that is, when it suits the state to enlist you for the purpose of supporting the state, you may then have temporary possession of guns for that purpose, and not otherwise.

    Leaving aside for the moment how people living under such a yoke know where to put the bullet or which end of the gun goes on the shoulder, the notion plays well with the prime objective of the ruling class: to make its rule unchallengeable. Yet we know well the circumstance under which that Amendment was drafted, and the mindset of the people of that time, who had just thrown off the yoke of such a tyrant, by means of their personally-owned arms.

    But what is often ignored as a key feature of that first, dependent clause of the Second Amendment is what follows: “being necessary to the security of a free state.” What constitutes a “free state?” Is it a state autonomous of the rule of another state? Or is it a state wherein the people, themselves, are autonomous of an oppressive rule of the state. That is, composed of people who retain their autonomy as people, rather than just as a member of a class?

    That question is answered definitively in the very first three words of the Constitution that limits the power of the state and enumerates those powers to which it is entitled: We the People. The Constitution is not a set of rules decreed by government, defining under what constraints the people must live. The Constitution is a set of rules decreed by the people, defining under what constraints the government must live. Above the primacy of the Constitution as the guiding principle of the law of the land is the primacy of the people who constituted it.

    Thus the freedom referenced in the second phrase is that of the individuals composing the state, setting a precedent affirmed by Justice Scalia of the relative weight of interest of the people vs the interest of the state, and invisible to Justice Stevens, that stands as a firm statement upon which to view individual rights as superior to those of the state in many other issues, such as eminent domain. Heller was about more than a handgun. And Gopnik, in his compliant, sheeplike hive-mindset born of the passive crowd, can no more see that than he can intuit the marrow that makes firm the stance of the Independent Man.

  21. Based on the article, he clearly holds the position that the 2A somehow refers to a “collective right”. So, he’s (deliberately) off on the wrong foot from the start.

    The “assault weapon” definition problem that he mocks is actually very real, because it falls into the Meese-porn problem of “I’ll know it when I see it”. Today it’s an AR-15 pattern rifle with such evil features as night sights (WTF?!) or a handguard, but tomorrow it could be the “scoped, bolt action, long range sniper rifle” or the “rapid-firing, pump-action, short-range anti-personnel shotgun” that many people, including Fudds, use to hunt. It all depends on the whim of the powers that be, and historically their whim is growing their power.

  22. “they cannot be banned because they are not a fixed, eternal category in the mind of…”

    Whoops! I’m gonna stop you right there because no one knows what the fuck you’re talking about. In my 30 years of shooting, I’ve never heard of any “God” of guns. You are generally correct, however; they cannot and should not be banned.

  23. An assault weapon is the full-auto AR you should have in your hands to assault multiple home invaders with. There! I just saved the angels from all that dancing!

  24. I would assume that’s why terms like ‘Gun Safety’ and ‘Gun Violence Prevention” can exist in the realms of progressive since they need don’t need concretes words. And their nothing more concrete to the loss of progressive support in the United States than the term GUN CONTROL. Well, at least the whole ‘weapons of war’ wording in the majority opinion leaves a opening to using the Miller decision to overturn at the Supreme court level; at least for judges who believe in precedent.

  25. In the past few days, we’ve been treated to reprinted posts by a Figa and a Gopnik. The first is Italian slang for a woman’s, uh, privates and the other is Russian slang for a uneducated young punk.

    Now we need anti-gun posts from a Muzhik and a Cazzo to hit the grand slam.

  26. The capability of a firearm is a function of: primarily, the design of the cartridge; and, secondarily, the length of the barrel. Neither of these 2 considerations has (to my knowledge) ever been considered by any court.
    Arguably, the sustained rate-of-fire ought also to be considered. However, in every mass-shooting of modern record the actual rate-of-fire could have been sustained by a gunman of moderate skill using a single-shot action. Unless-and-until there is empirical evidence to support a sustained rate-of-fire characteristic significantly distinguishing the capability of one firearm relative to another, this argument appears merely theoretical, the counting of angles on pin-heads.
    Where is the objectivity in our courts’ reasoning on the 2A’s language: “necessary”; “Right”; “People”; “keep and bear”; “arms”; or, “infringed”.

  27. Gonna buck the trend and agree with Mookie on this one – just because you can’t define it legally doesn’t mean that every last one of us doesn’t what what it means. We don’t have military weapons, they just use all the same accessories and fire the same ammo from the same magazines and are indistinguishable at any real distance.

    It’s intellectual dishonesty. It’s also cowardly. We should brag about having military weapons and make absolutely no apologies or attempts to evade the label.

  28. Most Anti gunners – Anti American – illegal immigrants lovers, are so in lock step with ignorance, educated by the government in subsidized education! Students then spew what they have learned from these arses with their Anti-American, Socialistic, googly gook as true facts just ask the Donald! LOL

  29. Category, Schmategory; the real issue is: what’s wrong with assault weapons? Real ones – not the lookalikes that the mewling leftie control freaks cower from because they know nothing about them, and because they look “scary” – but honest-to-God, fully automatic, IR scoped, suppressed, 100 round magazine or belt-fed, grenade launcher-equipped, bayonet lugged and mounted assault weapons that shoot armor piercing incendiary ammunition around corners via iPhone control, in the hands of citizens who have gone through a background check to establish that they aren’t arms smugglers, nuts, or violent felons? That’s the argument that should be made, and the question that should be answered.

    The fact that YOU don’t want or need it should have NO effect on my right to own it – any more than bike riders should stop people from owning cars. The security of a free state, being the rationale behind the proscription against government infringement on my right to arm myself as I deem best suited to protect myself, my family, and my state, demands that I be able to effectively counter any armed threat of whatever type – drug gangs, invaders, rogue police, domestic and foreign terrorists or armies, or whatever. My call. Let them try to explain why we shouldn’t.

    Will I buy a Howitzer? Probably not. Should I be able to buy a Thompson without paying the government a $200 bribe? Damn straight I should. Why? Because I’m a citizen, and I make the rules. We are so dogmatized to believe we owe fealty to a ruling class that we forgot who made us free. WE did. WE own the place. The government is hired help. And the Second Amendment keeps it that way.

    We retain the right to alter or to abolish that government whenever it becomes destructive of the ends for which we established it. When you read the Declaration, read it with the fervor in your heart that the founders had. And read the list of outrages to which they were subjected by King George III – you will be surprised just how many of them are being slipped into practice today by your “representatives.” The swamp has never needed more draining.

  30. I don’t have a problem with the term “assault” rifle as long as it’s used properly. To me an assault rifle: 1. was or is used by any military, 2. fully automatic, and 3. effective at least 300 meters.

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