Words mean things. That statement may not be too surprising coming from a writer and editor in recovery. Among the great unwashed—who’s collective IQ continues a steady decline, especially in reading comprehension—it seems that words mean one thing today and another tomorrow. More specifically—the great unwashed abhors specificity—words mean what they want them to, and they have not a whit of concern for continuity. Take, for example, the term “assault rifle” or the even more obfuscatory “assault weapon.”
The term is credited to Adolf Hitler, the now defunct Nazi dictator of Germany during World War II. In German it’s Sturmgewehr, literally “storm rifle.” It is reputed that “storm rifle” referred to a rifle used to storm or assault an enemy’s position. Hitler was a terribly demented and depraved individual who—much like the modern so-called ISIS proponents—received perverse satisfaction by inflicting massive amounts of pain, suffering and despicable carnage on others. Like these Islamic terrorists, Hitler liked to propagandize his perverted murderous exploits, hence the name.
In 1944 the first Sturmgewehr—the StG 44—was brought out. Designed by Hugo Schmeisser, it was a selective-fire carbine chambered in 7.92×33mm Kurz, an intermediate-powered 8 mm cartridge. The 10-pound rifle was fed from a 30-round detachable magazine. The concept was the natural evolution of firearms’ design, answering the age-old dilemma of providing a warrior with a more effective and portable weapon. Before the StG 44 there were submachine guns chambered in pistol calibers—useful at short range but lacking in power and trajectory past 100 meters—and medium-weight machineguns chambered in major rifle calibers, which were very effective but lacking in portability. The StG 44 concept spawned the Avtomat Kalashnikova (AK 47), FN-FAL and the M16, as well as several lesser known rifles of intermediate caliber, selective fire and fed from detachable box magazines.
Armalite, the company that developed the AR 15 (the “AR’ standing for Armalite, not assault rifle) sold the manufacturing rights of the AR 15 rifle to Colt in 1959. Colt marketed the rifle to military and law enforcement markets, and in 1964 the rifle was adopted by the U.S. military as the M16. A year before that, Colt tapped into the civilian market offering the rifle in semi-automatic only. The rifle had a somewhat spastic performance and acceptance initially, but the M16 or one of its closest descendants (i.e. the M4 carbine) has been in service for more than a half century. Eventually we learned how to run this “Mattel toy” rifle, and today the AR 15 is the most popular rifle in the U.S. It is used by hunters, target shooters and homeowners for protection. Functionally, it is virtually identical to the Remington Model 7400 or the Winchester Model 100 hunting rifles of approximately the same vintage.
The culture, morals and mean intelligence of the United States have been in steady—often precipitous—decline for about the same time the AR 15 has been with us. Some may argue the decline started even before that, but we can argue that later. The Fourth Estate—what many refer to with lofty reverence as journalists—has been in lockstep with that decline, devolving from watchdog to corrupted propagandists. Someone got hold of the term “assault rifle” and ran with it, co-opting it to mean virtually any semi-automatic rifle. Not too long ago, I saw one of these “esteemed” members of the Fourth Estate refer to one of the San Bernardino terrorists dressed in “assault clothing,” whatever the hell that is.
Folks, assault is either a verb—he assaulted her—or a noun—he was the victim of an assault. It most definitely is not an adjective. Unfortunately, however, the great unwashed are only too eager to guzzle down copious amounts of the mind-poisoning drabble of the propagandists. And given the collective diminished intelligence and reading comprehension qualities of today’s great unwashed, the vast majority of them have their little minds all made up, thank you, and refuse to allow themselves to be confused with facts or truth. Hence the drivelous hue and cry to ban assault rifles. The notion of controlling a behavior by controlling an object is like heroin; it feels so good but in reality does tremendous damage.
So while Adolf Hitler is most remembered for being a murderous Nazi dictator, I would argue that his most nefarious legacy is the introduction of the term “assault rifle.”