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Loaded language poisons gun debate


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#1 concert andy

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 08:29 PM

 
(CNN) -- It's the biggest, fiercest debate taking place across America. But it's poisoned from the get-go by a Tower of Babel predicament.
 
In disputes over the future of gun laws, people espousing different positions often literally don't understand each other.
 
"The sides are speaking different languages," says Harry Wilson, author of "Guns, Gun Control, and Elections: The Politics and Policy of Firearms."
 
Many of the most frequently used words and phrases in this debate mean different things to different people -- or, in some cases, don't have clear meanings to anyone. From terms like "assault weapons" to the battle between "gun control" and "gun rights," the language in the national conversation is making it tougher to find common ground.
 
"What language does is frame the issue in one way that includes some things and excludes others," says Deborah Tannen, a Georgetown University linguistics professor and author of "The Argument Culture: Stopping America's War of Words."
 
The gun language debate: Join the discussion on Facebook
 
It's a phenomenon that America sees all the time: "pro-life" vs. "pro-choice" in the abortion debate; "marriage equality" vs. "protecting marriage" in the battle over same-sex marriage. Those who oppose the estate tax have termed it a "death tax."
 
"The gun control debate is catching up to this now," says Wilson, director of the Institute for Policy and Opinion Research at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia.
 
The massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, "was a game changer. It changed the political landscape overnight."
 
As the debate rages in Washington and throughout the country, here's a look at some of the flashpoint lingo muddying the waters:
 
 
When President Obama recently announced plans to sign 23 executive orders on the issue, he avoided the phrase "gun control." Instead, he emphasized the need "to reduce the broader epidemic of gun violence in this country."
 
"We've seen this transformation from use of the term 'gun control' to 'gun violence,' " says Wilson, "because no one can be in favor of gun violence. That's universal."
 
"Gun control," to many Americans, is not a positive term, Tannen adds.
 
The key is "the set of associations people have with a word" -- and Americans don't like the idea of the government "controlling" many of their decisions.
 
That's why "gun rights" works well for the National Rifle Association in pushing against new gun laws. "For Americans, the word 'rights' is always a positive thing. That's not necessarily true in other cultures, but it is for Americans," Tannen says.
 
Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the NRA, spoke to those associations this week during his testimony before Congress.
 
"We believe in our freedom," he said, speaking for gun owners who are NRA members. "We're the millions of Americans from all walks of life who take responsibility for our own safety and protection as a God-given, fundamental right."
 
While the current debate has its own tenor, the focus on language has been around for decades. It's embodied in the title of one of the best-known gun control groups.
 
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence grew out of an organization called the National Council to Control Handguns.
 
Listen to any leading voice on this issue, and you're likely to hear that term repeatedly.
 
President Obama used it to describe the steps he's calling for, including universal background checks for gun owners and legislation prohibiting "further manufacture of military-style assault weapons."
 
The NRA, meanwhile, announced in December that LaPierre would offer "common sense solutions." He then pushed for armed guards in American schools. Many Americans were angry and argued that was the opposite of common sense. The NRA later said it believes each school should decide for itself.
 
Former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, have begun a political action committee to take on the gun lobby's influence. In an op-ed in USA Today, they said LaPierre's initial remarks showed that "winning even the most common-sense reforms will require a fight."
 
Wilson says the term seems to be playing well for those pushing for new gun regulations. "It makes people say, 'these are common-sense ideas,' " he says.
 
Assault weapons
But what exactly are those ideas? When it comes to the most controversial one being discussed -- banning "assault weapons" -- it's unclear. That's because the term itself is abstract. There is no clear definition of an "assault weapon."
 
The 10-year so-called assault weapons ban enacted in 1994 named 19 semiautomatic firearms, as well as semiautomatic rifles, pistols, and shotguns with specific features.
 
"In general, assault weapons are semiautomatic firearms with a large magazine of ammunition that were designed and configured for rapid fire and combat use," the Justice Department said at the time.
 
That may be the closest thing to a simple explanation the government ever gave, but if you want to see how incredibly complicated the official definition is in the law itself, check out the language.
 
"I wrote a book on gun control. I don't know what an assault weapon is," Wilson says.
 
The National Shooting Sports Foundation and other gun enthusiasts complain that what ultimately separated an "assault weapon" from a "non-assault weapon" under the 1994 law was cosmetic.
 
Some Second Amendment groups and gun retailers prefer the terms "tactical rifle" or "modern sporting rifle."
 
The term "assault rifle" was first used by Germany during World War II, The New York Times notes. Later, U.S. manufacturers adopted the words as they began to sell firearms modeled after new military rifles.
 
In today's parlance, adding "military-style" doesn't draw a clear line either.
 
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, who has submitted legislation for a new "assault weapons ban," says it would include, among other things, "all semiautomatic rifles that can accept a detachable magazine and have at least one military feature: pistol grip; forward grip; folding, telescoping, or detachable stock; grenade launcher or rocket launcher; barrel shroud; or threaded barrel."
 
The previous ban included semiautomatic pistols with at least two features, including a detachable magazine, threaded barrel, a shroud allowing the shooter to "hold the firearm with the nontrigger hand without being burned," a weight of 50 ounces or more unloaded, or what was described as "a semiautomatic version of an automatic firearm."
 
Semiautomatic'
An automatic weapon, as the Justice Department put it, is a machine gun that allows you to fire bullets in succession by holding in the trigger. Fully automatic weapons are severely restricted under existing law, but in some cases they are still legal to own, as the Los Angeles Times notes.
 
They're commonly used in the military but rarely owned by civilians.
 
A semiautomatic weapon can load bullets automatically, but it fires only once each time you pull the trigger.
 
In the effort to prevent mass killings, those pushing for a new assault weapons ban want to halt the production and sale of certain semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity "feeding devices" -- such as magazines -- that allow for a large number of rounds of ammunition.
 
Feinstein's bill would ban selling, transferring, importing or manufacturing 120 named firearms, certain semiautomatic rifles, handguns, "shotguns that can accept a detachable magazine and have one military characteristic" and "semiautomatic rifles and handguns with a fixed magazine that can accept more than 10 rounds."
 
During the previous ban, gun manufacturers were able to make cosmetic changes to evade the law. One chief question now is how a piece of legislation could avoid the same happening again.
 
Can words help bridge the gap?
 
"If you get new words, there's a better chance of moving beyond the polarization," says Tannen, who is spending this year at Stanford's Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. But, she warns: "Words don't stay neutral for long -- because they quickly get associated with the people that use them."
 
When asked for a case in which more neutral language may have helped the government reach a consensus on a controversial topic, Tannen said "nothing comes to mind."
 
Instead, the race is on to control the semantics, which are "crucial," says Wilson.
"In American politics, the person who gets to define the issue wins."


#2 Jabadoodle

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 09:19 PM

Gun debate is important but....in the 2012 presidential debates not a

single question was asked of the candidates about arguably the most

important issue facing the world, climate change. Distraction Politics. 

 



#3 TakeAStepBack

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 09:20 PM

Gun debate is important but....in the 2012 presidential debates not a

single question was asked of the candidates about arguably the most

important issue facing the world, climate change. Distraction Politics. 

 

 

Definitely arguable. In many ways.



#4 concert andy

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 09:29 PM

Gun debate is important but....in the 2012 presidential debates not a

single question was asked of the candidates about arguably the most

important issue facing the world, climate change. Distraction Politics. 

 

 

The world is made up of 196 countries.

 

Why would question to candidates to run one of these countries matter?  Yeah we have a lot of influence and pull.  Say the US became the most green country in the world today.  Just say we removed our dependence on oil today.

 

 

That said, what should the US do about the other 195 countries in the world?  With China probably being the biggest offender?



#5 MeOmYo

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 09:31 PM

Although they didn't talk about it much, there were wide variations in epa regulation beliefs between the presidential canidates. Which is essentially what drives the global warming debate.

#6 TEO

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 09:32 PM

I'd hazard that poisoning/depleting our environment, water and food sources is more important than climate change.



#7 MeOmYo

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 09:43 PM

Interesting tidbit on the new weapons registration law in NY. Upon registration of a weapon requiring registration, you are giving consent for your home to be searched at any time and for any reason.

Now who the F is going to register anything with shit like that in there.

I'm in no way against fair and logical legislation but it has to be reasonable.

#8 concert andy

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 09:44 PM

 
After President Lyndon Johnson signed the Gun Control Act of 1968, many anti-gun politicians looked forward to the day when they could completely ban the sale and ownership of firearms and perhaps even confiscate those already in private hands.
 
That didn't happen. Those hostile to firearms ownership and the Second Amendment thought they were on the verge of victory, but had in fact managed to wake up millions of Americans who hadn't previously believed that government would ever threaten their guns or their way of life. They were joined by others who were not necessarily gun owners but believed the Second Amendment and the rights it guaranteed a free people worth preserving.
 
The NRA was founded in 1871, but until the passage of the 1968 legislation had never been much involved in politics and didn't even have a lobbying office. That changed as the men and women the organization represented demanded that the NRA step up to defend their rights in the frenzy of the late 1960s.
 
Within a few years, many of those who had so fervently believed that the public would welcome their sponsorship of "gun control" were defeated and before long Republicans and Democrats in Congress joined forces to pass the "Firearms Owners Protection Act" of 1986 that rolled back many of the restrictions adopted in 1968.
 
Since that time, the NRA has continued to devote more than 85% of its resources to its traditional mission of providing civilian firearms training, teaching firearms safety and working to introduce new generations of Americans to the shooting sports, but has taken on the added role of protector of the right of law-abiding Americans to own and enjoy firearms.
 
That role has become especially important as some, unfortunately, have sought to exploit December's incomprehensible murders in Newtown, Connecticut, to impose further restrictions on honest people.
 
The organization's political strength rests on the bipartisan and diverse make-up of its membership and of the millions of nonmember firearms owners who look to the NRA for leadership and their willingness to step up to the plate and the ballot box when their rights are threatened.
 
It is that second attribute of Second Amendment supporters that has surprised the president and his allies. The Obama administration has attempted to demonize the NRA and cow gun owners into accepting restrictions that they know won't make anyone safer but which will interfere with a citizen's ability to acquire, keep and rely on firearms to protect their families or participate in the shooting sports.
 
Among those proposals are "universal" background checks that will never be "universal" because criminals won't submit to them, and magazine bans that will put the law-abiding at a disadvantage against multiple attackers. The president also backs a new ban on "assault weapons," even though Christopher Koper, the researcher who studied the last ban for the Justice Department concluded that it caused "no discernible reduction in the lethality or injuriousness of gun violence" and did not contribute to the general drop in crime in the 1990s.
 
But gun owners have been energized rather than cowed. They are presenting a truly united front as they rally to fight for their constitutionally guaranteed rights.
 
Anyone who doubts this need only look at what happened in the literally bankrupt city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, last week. The organizers of the largest outdoor show in the country, the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show, announced that they would not allow the display or presence of the firearms the president likes to demonize as assault weapons. Within days, more than 300 vendors withdrew in protest as the NRA and others urged Second Amendment supporters to boycott the event.
 
Soon after, show organizers announced it was being postponed indefinitely. This was the largest outdoor show in the country. It draws a huge crowd every year and according to local estimates, about $80 million won't be arriving in the pockets and coffers of the pro-Bloomberg, anti-gun mayor of Harrisburg now.
 
As the battle over restricting Second Amendment rights continues, other elected officials under pressure from the Obama administration to ignore the feelings and deep beliefs of some of their constituents will learn a similar lesson.
 
Hundreds of self-proclaimed gun advocates didn't believe Obama was anti-gun based on his first term and wrote the NRA saying we were using scare tactics to have our way: Now they know.
 
Second Amendment supporters are in no mood to give those who would deny them their rights a pass and will vote in the next election in the same united way they responded to the insult leveled at them by the organizers of the Harrisburg show.


#9 concert andy

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 09:45 PM

Interesting tidbit on the new weapons registration law in NY. Upon registration of a weapon requiring registration, you are giving consent for your home to be searched at any time and for any reason.

Now who the F is going to register anything with shit like that in there.

I'm in no way against fair and logical legislation but it has to be reasonable.

 

This is why Cuomo has been getting a lot of heat for his passing of this law.



#10 Joker

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 09:49 PM

Does it really matter what they're asked in debates when we know they'll say whatever it takes to get elected and they know we'll accept being lied to?



#11 MeOmYo

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 09:52 PM

This is why Cuomo has been getting a lot of heat for his passing of this law.

As he should. Make legal people register them, fine, whatever the hell that does, fine. Give up your 4th ammendment right upon doing it, Fuck you.

Making law abiding people criminals.

#12 TEO

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 09:54 PM

A good number of "law abiding people" are probably already criminals in one fashion or another.



#13 Joker

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 09:59 PM

A good number of "law abiding people" are probably already criminals in one fashion or another.

:moose:



#14 MeOmYo

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 10:41 PM

Only break one law at a time is a good rule of thumb. :lol:

#15 TEO

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 10:46 PM

:lol:   Definitely a guideline.



#16 china cat

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 12:09 AM

Interesting tidbit on the new weapons registration law in NY. Upon registration of a weapon requiring registration, you are giving consent for your home to be searched at any time and for any reason.

Now who the F is going to register anything with shit like that in there.

I'm in no way against fair and logical legislation but it has to be reasonable.

 

If this is true, it's total bullshit. 

 

While I don't like the extremism of the NRA (more conciliatory spokespeople would be a start), I could say the same about PETA and the ACLU but... I'm still grateful these organizations have some social/political clout and act as watchdogs and advocates.



#17 TEO

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 12:16 AM

There would be a number of law abiding citizens who would/will register without realizing such implications, which makes it so important to get that information out to the unsophisticated gun owners.



#18 TakeAStepBack

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 05:18 PM

As he should. Make legal people register them, fine, whatever the hell that does, fine. Give up your 4th ammendment right upon doing it, Fuck you.

Making law abiding people criminals.

 

Yup. That's the sentiment I'm hearing. This law is ultimately going to be challenged and reps in NY better get ready for a serious fight, or plan to loose their seats next election. Upstate NY is full of hunters who aren't going to take this sitting down.



#19 MeOmYo

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 06:05 PM

If this is true, it's total bullshit. 
 
While I don't like the extremism of the NRA (more conciliatory spokespeople would be a start), I could say the same about PETA and the ACLU but... I'm still grateful these organizations have some social/political clout and act as watchdogs and advocates.

The NRA certainly seems to be the lesser of the evils

#20 concert andy

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 06:16 PM

Yup. That's the sentiment I'm hearing. This law is ultimately going to be challenged and reps in NY better get ready for a serious fight, or plan to loose their seats next election. Upstate NY is full of hunters who aren't going to take this sitting down.

 

you are forgeting that in NYC there are LOTS of hunters too.  Hunting is not just a rural thing.  



#21 TakeAStepBack

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 06:25 PM

you are forgeting that in NYC there are LOTS of hunters too.  Hunting is not just a rural thing.  

 

I'm not forgetting. But on average, city folk do not participate in outdoor sports such as hunting. I've lived here for 8 years and have met exactly zero people that are even knowledgeable of a basic rifle. They bike, they ski, they go on expensive vacations, they love their iphones and a trip to the pub.