“Liberals Don’t Understand Gun Control”

On Enabling Negative Characterizations

We’ve done a terrible job debating gun control. We’ve allowed gun-control opponents to steal the show because we haven’t done the basic legwork to even know what we’re saying.


  • “I can’t imagine why anyone would need a semi-auto for self defense.”

  • “ARs should be banned.”

  • “The shooter used a high power rifle.”

If you’ve said one of these, you’ve expressed an opinion you (probably) haven’t researched. Anyone with a reasonable understanding of guns will spot this immediately. This discredits anything further you have to say on the topic – even if it is compelling statistics backed by studies. Alternatively, they’ll take you at your word and you’ll find yourself defending a ridiculous or untenable position.

If you’re going to debate gun control, respect your conversational partners enough to know what you’re saying. Imagine how you’d feel if a marriage equality opponent mixed up the terms “trans” and “gay” or constantly assumed all gay men are effeminate. In the realm of gun control, you are on their turf and must use their terminology to be taken seriously. Words have meaning and we can’t expect to have meaningful, serious discussions without agreeing on definitions.

Language shapes how we perceive the things it describes, and knowledge of less-known parts of it can become part of your identity. Failing to learn the basics before spouting an opinion says that you don’t take the other side seriously enough to even learn to speak with them and understand what they’re saying. It voids any possibility of common ground and makes you susceptible to making a public fool of yourself. It kills your ability to show empathy – one of the strongest tools for building compromise.

Gun control is a complex topic. Have the personal responsibility to learn about it before speaking. If there’s a requirement for constructive discourse, it’s being able to communicate. If someone uses a term you don’t know – ask – showing humility is a great way to build rapport with an opponent. I’ve included a list below of several terms you should know to be an informed citizen.

Commonly Misused Terms

Don’t use these unless you mean them. If you don’t care enough about the topic to learn these and use them properly, stay out of gun control debates – you’ll do far more harm to your side than good.

AR – ArmaLite Rifle, a series of rifles produced by ArmaLite, a small arms engineering company.

High Power Rifle – a type of scored shooting sport.

Semi-automatic – a mode of fire that chambers a new round with each pull of the trigger, but only fires one round per trigger pull.

Automatic – a mode of fire that chambers and fires rounds continuously as long as the trigger is held down. (Also: full-auto, fully-automatic)

Burst mode – a mode of fire like automatic, but stops after a predetermined number of rounds. Usually 2-5, depending on the firearm.

Selective-fire – a firearm which allows switching between two or more modes of fire (such as the above).

Assault rifle – a selective-fire rifle with a detachable magazine. Not necessarily automatic. Uses an intermediate cartridge.

Manual operation – firearms that require an additional action from the user to chamber a new round (not just pulling the trigger).

There are many more you should know, but these are the ones I see misused by gun control advocates most often.

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