This all started a couple of days ago when the Washington Post ran this op-ed by a former Gawker writer named Adam Weinstein. Weinstein is incensed that gun-rights supporters keep confounding anti-gun fascists and their talking points by insisting that words mean something: The NRA and its allies use jargon to bully gun-control supporters.
The phenomenon isn’t new, but in the weeks since the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., a lot of gun-skeptical liberals are getting a taste of it for the first time: While debating the merits of various gun control proposals, Second Amendment enthusiasts often diminish, or outright dismiss their views if they use imprecise firearms terminology. Perhaps someone tweets about “assault-style” weapons, only to be told that there’s no such thing. Maybe they’re reprimanded that an AR-15 is neither an assault rifle nor “high-powered.” Or they say something about “machine guns” when they really mean semiautomatic rifles. Or they get sucked into an hours-long Facebook exchange over the difference between the terms clip and magazine.
Has this happened to you? If so, you’ve been gunsplained: harangued with the pedantry of the more-credible-than-thou firearms owner, admonished that your inferior knowledge of guns and their nomenclature puts an asterisk next to your opinion on gun control.
If only these adversaries were a little more honest, I’ve often thought, and more precise in their language on the subject, we could have a serious debate on the finer points of a gun violence policy, instead of a bad-faith propaganda race.
Gunsplaining, though, is always done in bad faith. Like mansplaining, it’s less about adding to the discourse than smothering it — with self-appointed authority, and often the thinnest of connection to any real fact.
The first thing to keep in mind is that this guy used to write for Gawker. That tells you everything you need to know about his integrity. But beyond his whiny, weaselly dishonest there is a petulance about revealed as a buffoon.
He makes fun of Dana Loesch for pointing out that rapid fire weapons had to have been contemplated by the Founders as prototypes were being worked on contemporaneously with the drafting of the Bill of Rights. (I don’t know how he’d react to the argument that the First Amendment doesn’t cover anything not produced paper by a hand-press but I suspect he’d befoul himself.) Heaven only knows he would have reacted if Dana had pointed out, in response to the silly “weapon of war” argument, that most cannon at the time of founding of the Republic were actually in civilian hands and the major market for the Gatling gun was not the U.S. military.
More recently, Tomi Lahren, a Fox News personality with no obvious qualifications, preemptively tweet-lectured “Lefties” that the “AR” in AR-15 doesn’t stand for “assault rifle” but for the name of the gun’s original manufacturer, Armalite. She failed to note that the family of Eugene Stoner, Armalite’s onetime chief engineer and the brains behind the AR-15, insisted in 2016 that he would be “horrified and sickened” to see his military rifle pattern become so common in civilian households and school shootings.
I’m not going to defend Tomi “I need a minion to crank up my butt-warmer” Lahren, but I will say this. Regardless of what the family of Eugene Stoner says, Stoner was alive and professionally active when the AR-15, it’s predecessor the AR-10, and its successor models were manufactured and sold to civilians. He didn’t object. This does not make him a bad person.
This has led to a veritable cascade of lefties chiming in to agree that one doesn’t need to know anything at all about a subject in order to develop policy. This goes a long way towards explaining ObamaCare, but that is a different subject.
The reason that gun-rights people want to be specific in language is that we are supposed to be engaged in a dialog in which our rights are being put up for grabs. If you are using a term like “assault weapon” or calling a semi-automatic weapon an automatic then you are saying that you want to ban weapons and features that you really don’t understand. In a free society you are entitled to express your opinion and people who actually understand the issue are free to ignore you.