In the past 2 weeks, the Associated Press, the world’s oldest and largest news-gathering organization, has stunned many old-school journalists, me included, with its interpretation of modern vernacular relating to dissimilar, yet equally controversial, subjects—firearms and illegal immigration.
The AP Stylebook was created in 1953 and continues to be the go-to guide outlining grammar, writing style and word choice for working print and electronic journalists—as well as journalism schools—across the country and around the world.
On Wednesday, March 27, those journalists who have an online AP Stylebook account that permits access to the guide electronically, received an e-mail update regarding firearms and weapons terminology that included a detailed description of what the venerable journalistic organization considers as standard usage.
Most hunters and sportsmen already know the term “assault rifle,” used (continually and purposefully) when referring to modern sporting arms primarily built on the AR platform, is meant to mislead and frighten the non-hunting, non-gun-owning public.
Here’s AP’s new official definition of the modern sporting rifle:
assault rifle, assault weapon
Terms for military or police-style weapons that are shorter than a conventional rifle and technically known as carbines. The precise definitions may vary from one law or jurisdiction to another. Although the terms are often used interchangeably, some make the distinction that assault rifle is a military weapon with a selector switch for firing in either fully automatic or semi-automatic mode from a detachable, 10- to 30-round magazine. Comparatively lightweight and easy to aim, this carbine was designed for tactical operations and is used by some law enforcement agencies. The form: an M16 assault rifle, an AK-47 assault rifle, a Kalashnikov assault rifle. An assault weapon is the civilian version of the military carbine with a similar appearance. This gun is semi-automatic, meaning one shot per trigger pull. Ammunition magazines ranging from 10 to 30 rounds or more allow rapid-fire capability. Other common characteristics include folding stock, muzzle flash suppressor, bayonet mount and pistol grip. Assault weapon sales were largely banned under federal law from 1994 to 2004 to curb gun crimes. The form: AR-15 carbine with military-style appearance.
- Each soldier carried an M16 assault rifle into combat, facing enemy troops armed with AK-47 assault rifles.
- Politicians debated sales restrictions on assault weapons, including military-style AR-15 carbines for gun hobbyists.
If that wasn’t bad enough, AP’s new firearms definitions also included an obsolete and ambiguous definition and description leftover from decades long passed:
Saturday night special
A compact, relatively inexpensive handgun.
This week, serving up a double whammy of linguistic insults to long-in-the-tooth news hacks who remember manual typewriters, AP issued its new directive on how to properly identify those persons who live in the United States without having legal documentation to do so.
According to the all-knowing AP, it’s no longer proper journalistic style to refer to these persons as “illegal immigrants,” per an update issued on April 2.
Entering or residing in a country in violation of civil or criminal law. Except in direct quotes essential to the story, use illegal only to refer to an action, not a person: illegal immigration, but not illegal immigrant. Acceptable variations include living in or entering a country illegally or without legal permission.
Except in direct quotations, do not use the terms illegal alien, an illegal, illegals or undocumented.
Frankly, in this old newspaperman’s opinion, it would have been more appropriate to announce the two AP Stylebook updates on the same day—April 1—because they only illustrate what fools many Americans are for continuing to rely on mainstream media sources for their news.