Assault weapon, assault rifle ‘politicized’ terms that media have to stop using, per AP Stylebook
Gun terminology change could have huge impact on public debate
The AP Stylebook is like a mix of the dictionary and a bible for journalists. We use the reference book to know how to correctly write out terms on any subject, punctuate and adhere to a consistent standard. When the gods who run the Associated Press guide make a change, it reverberates through the media as we are expected to adhere to it.
Thus, it is a really big deal that the Stylebook announced Wednesday that reporters should not use the terms assault weapon and assault rifle because they are:
highly politicized terms which generally refer to AR- or AK- style rifles designed for the civilian market, but convey little meaning about the actual function of the weapon.
The AP told reporters in a “tip” that the preferred term is “semi-automatic rifle.” Frankly, I don’t think it’s necessary to include semi-automatic because there are no fully automatic rifles being used in crime in America or included in any laws banning them.
I only have an old hard copy of the stylebook because the online version - and their wire service is expensive for independent journalists. So I don’t know if the AP changed the section on “assault-style weapons” too. I tweeted to ask:
These terms have been used by politicians and media to refer to any black rifle that has certain cosmetic features such as a collapsing stock or a pistol grip. Pres. Biden just this week said at the White House:
Assault weapons need to be banned. They were banned. I led the fight in 1994. And then, under pressure from the NRA and the gun manufacturers and others, that ban was lifted in 2004.
As I wrote in my book, Emily Gets Her Gun, using “assault weapons” for black rifles was a scheme by gun control activist Josh Sugarman in 1988 to make the public believe there were military weapons in civilian society. Then the term was codified in the 1994 federal “assault weapon ban” that made guns illegal based on cosmetic features. The media just went along with this wording until now.
Next steps for journalism
“This laudable effort by the Associated Press may help restore the level of trust the public should have in the media,” Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, said Thursday.
“Now we’ll have to see how intellectually honest journalists will be in adopting this correct terminology, rather than continuing to use these deliberately misleading references,” said Gottlieb.
The AP StyleGuide does not say (though I tweeted to ask, see below) if reporters should now put quotation marks around “assault weapon” when quoting a politician because that would adhere to the concept that the term is not factual.
This surprising development from the AP reminds me of the time in 2003 when I was on MSNBC with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brezinski, and we debated the term “assault weapon.’ They seemingly had never heard before that the so-called assault rifle functioned the same as a hunting rifle.
Watch below at the time I set the video to start and then fast forward to 5:30 when I tried to educate them and was met with total denial. After the video, I’ll tell you what they said when the cameras weren’t rolling and my private conversations with the liberal media about guns….
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