Know Your Gun Terminology!


One of the more annoying features of the gun control debate is the frequent mockery from gun rights folks toward anyone who doesn’t have a deep technical understanding of how firearms operate. After all, how much do you need to know to figure out whether you think dangerous weapons ought to be regulated more than they are now? And yet, occasionally I have to admit that I sympathize with the gun folks a little bit. Here’s a fragment from Hardball yesterday:

CHRIS CILLIZZA: ….You mention in the ammunition used in this shooting was one of these high-round ammunitions…..Chuck is right, the president, I think….he has to do something. The question is, does he do something around these high-round ammunition holders?….Eventually — OK, let’s say assault weapons or let’s say these high-caliber — these high-pack rounds — if they do that, what will they do next….

Seriously? “High-round ammunitions”? Followed by “high-round ammunition holders”? And then by “high-caliber/high-pack rounds”? I don’t even care about this stuff much, and even so I was rolling my eyes listening to this. No one expects every talking head to be a deep expert on the taxonomy of firearms, but this is a common topic of political discussion and has been for decades. Anyone who talks about it should have at least a nodding familiarity with the basics of guns. I assume that Cillizza was trying to talk about high-capacity magazines—though his later mention of “high-caliber” makes me wonder—and knowing that this is what they’re called is about the equivalent of knowing that it takes 60 votes to break a filibuster. You really mark yourself as a dolt if you don’t even know that much.

So maybe some lefty magazine should do all us peacenik lefties a favor and write a really short, punchy guide to the basics of guns. There are probably no more than about a dozen terms you’d need to know to get yourself through a cocktail party without too much embarrassment. Let’s make a list:

  • Automatic
  • Semi-automatic
  • Machine gun
  • Shotgun
  • Clip/magazine
  • Caliber
  • Assault weapon
  • Bolt action
  • Chamber
  • Bullet/round/cartridge
  • __________ (placeholder for other terms that could use a brief explanation)

Hey! Wait a second! I work for a lefty magazine. Maybe we should do it! How about it, Adam?

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