Just about every discussion I read about guns includes the following exchange or some variant thereof:
"I'm so mad about 30 round clips being sold and used to kill people."
"What are you talking about? No one sells 30 round clips these days."
"I just read about it, yesterday! That guy who shot those people had a 30 round clip!"
"Don't you mean a 30 round... magazine?"
This little dramatized conversation seems to sum up one of the biggest problems when discussing guns and appropriate gun control in the United States, that being that we just aren't speaking the same language. And we need to be.
Part of the reason, I imagine, is familiarity; the longer you hang around gun people, the more of the discrete technical vocabulary you start to pick up the same as if you hung out with mechanics or doctors. Another part is the media; action movies and TV shows toss out cool sounding jargon and hyperbolic descriptions of firearms without regard to what those terms actually mean, including using the terms "clip" and "magazine" interchangeably, of course.
Those on the gun control side of the argument don't really care about any of this, as such. In fact, if you're reading this and believe that we need further restrictions on firearms, you're probably going "So what? Why do I care if you want show off your gun knowledge? I just want people to stop getting shot?"Meanwhile, the gun people are saying "Of course this matters! You're talking about different things!"
None of this would be a problem except that we're talking about things that may result in legislation.
Consider that people talk about sedans, trucks, SUV's and subcompacts all as "cars". Would you want to treat each the same when discussing fuel emission standards? Would you wish to discuss nutrition for dogs without talking about the breed? Would you try to draft legislation on building codes without having some idea what the difference between a home and a restaurant's kitchens are like?
Why do so when it comes to firearms?
Even if we can agree that everyone should learn the terminology, there comes a second problem. There is a culture gap. Firearms and weapons, more so than many other objects, don't just mark one as the owner of said objects, but immediately tag one as the member of a community. One doesn't have to be active in that community to have the title hung around your neck. And it's not a particularly complimentary picture.
But likewise, when one decides one is for additional gun control, stigma gets attached to that as well by those on the other side. The stereotypes play out like this:
-Pro-Control people see Pro-Gun people as insecure, paranoid, irresponsible, jingoistic cowboys who are just waiting to carve a notch on their Freudian compensation devices.
-Pro-Gun people see Pro-Control people as insecure, paranoid, irresponsible, pusillanimous pantywaists who are ever ready to surrender their rights as well as the rights of others under a flag of surrender.
And of course, like all stereotypes, these are false in general, even if you can confirm them in specific.
The problem is that with these differences, it's hard to even begin to talk reasonably about guns. Fear exists on both sides. I know that I've been equated with a child murderer because I support owning firearms. After the results of the 2012 Presidential election came in, a gun store owner went so far as to say that he would not do business with supporters of President Obama, even though both candidates had, at different times in their careers, made strong statements about gun control and it was Governor Romney who had actually signed gun control legislation that was a carbon copy of the hated 1990's "assault weapon ban".
So how do we overcome these prejudices and differences in perspective?
I think we have to start with reason. Each side has to try to see the other side's perspective. I own guns and carry, but I don't fault anyone for not wanting me to bring my sidearm into their home or who do not wish to own guns themselves. I can't fault anyone for being appalled and shocked when a mass shooting occurs or when a child gets shot by a gun that should have been locked down.
Furthermore, I can't fault anyone for not wishing to be demonized for wanting to keep weapons. I get frustrated by the number of places I can't carry my sidearm. I understand why people get frustrated when others, for whatever reason, say they wish restrict or remove possessions of mine.
There are legitimate gripes on both sides of the argument.
But if we're going to get anywhere, then I think we have to start with communication, learning the language of the side that we don't agree with. We need to understand these aren't stereotypes we're arguing with, they're people. And we need to understand that no one wants innocent people to die.
We have to find common ground or it will continue to be us vs. them. Gun people need to educate, not scold or treat those on the other side of the argument like idiots who don't know the code words. Control people need to familiarize themselves with the objects of their disdain and learn the vocabulary if they wish to be taken seriously and not just as reactionaries. We need to talk and just see each other as people.
Which won't be easy. Overcoming preconceptions never is.
To the end of trying to foster communication, I offer the following:
-A magazine, when referring to an individual firearm, is where the ammunition is stored and from which it is loaded into the chamber to be fired. Modern semi-automatic firearms usually have a detachable magazine.
-A clip is a metal device used to hold a number of rounds together until the are inserted into a magazine. Usually, they are used with firearms that do not have a detachable magazine, like older rifles and revolvers.
-Semi-Automatic means that if I pull the trigger and the firearm is loaded, one round is discharged and I don't need to do anything else to load the next round. Fully Automatic means I pull the trigger and as long as I hold it down, the firearm will continue to load and discharge ammunition until I let go. While both are sometimes referred to as "automatics", usually "automatic" refers to fully, not semi-automatics.
-Select-Fire means that I may set a firearm to act as a semi- or fully automatic. It may also have a burst option, meaning a single pull of the trigger will fire a set number of rounds, usually 3.
Fully automatic weapons are legal to own in most states, but you have to go through a great deal more to own one than with semi-automatic ones. There is a yearly $200 tax per automatic firearm and you have to apply the BATF. Furthermore, you usually have to notify local law enforcement. They are also not the firearms used in virtually any crime you can name in the United States in the past 80 years.
-Single Action means I have to pull the hammer back manually to discharge a round, Double Action means I do not. Revolvers that are single action have to have the hammer of the firearm pulled back for every shot. Semi-automatic handguns only have to have it pulled back for the first round.
-An Assault Rifle is the military distinction for a rifle in a light caliber capable of select fire. They are automatic weapons and not available for civilian purchase without going the BATF and paying an extra yearly tax for them.
-An Assault Weapon is a legal distinction created for the 1990's assault weapon ban. To be qualified as an assault weapon, it had to have a certain number of accessories. A list is here. Furthermore, the ban only applied to the manufacture and import of such firearms. They have never been illegal to purchase.
-One thing on that list is a grenade launcher. Grenade Launchers do exactly what they sound like the do. They are also heavily regulated by the BATF, the same as automatic weapons. Even if you can own the launcher, the only grenades you can get for them typically are practice rounds that do not have the explosive power of proper grenades. What the Assault Weapons Ban referred to, however, were rifles that had devices on the end of the barrel for mounting what are called Rifle Grenades, an explosive device that has fallen out of use and that I'm unaware of anyone owning since WWII. Even if they are available, they would be regulated by the BATF.
-A flash suppressor or flash hider is a device on the end of the barrel that either breaks up or contains the muzzle flash of the firearm. It's usually just a metal cage or a tube that extends the barrel. A silencer or noise suppressor is a device that absorbs some of the sound from the gunshot, reducing it's report (though not eliminating it or turning it into a "pwute" sound, like in the movies). The former is legal for anyone to own. The latter requires licensing through the ATF.
-Of a note, many states have more stringent restrictions on firearms than the Federal Government does. Also, laws governing a CCW (concealed carried weapon) permit vary from state to state highly.
Are there any definitions anyone would like to see added to this glossary? Anything there confusing?
May this help a little bit.