Associated Press Aims to Drop the Term "Assault Rifle" from Stylebook

Luke C.
by Luke C.
Associated Press Aims to Drop the Term “Assault Rifle” from Stylebook

The mainstream media has often been at odds with the firearms community, especially in recent years. Conversations and articles can often be found riddled with highly politicized terms like “assault rifle” and “assault weapon” which often makes anti-gun proponents feel vindicated, but often leaves pro-second amendment people feeling irked by the blanket terminology that often is used to cast a negative light on all firearms, regardless of function. The Associated Press recently released a new AP Style Top to their stylebook which now aims to drop “highly politicized terms” such as the two mentioned above in an effort to help restore the level of trust the public has for the media.

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Associated Press Aims to Drop the Term “Assault Rifle” from Stylebook

The Second Amendment Foundation has lauded this style tip by the Associated Press as a “smart gun change” as the terms “assault rifle” and “assault weapon” are both inflammatory and meaningless in their use. According to Second Amendment Foundation founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb “Those terms have become part of the gun prohibition lobby’s lexicon, and unfortunately, journalists across the country have been all-too-willing to adopt their vocabulary and repeatedly use it in their reports.”

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The new AP Style tip that has been added to their Stylebook now clearly defines rifles based on their actual function rather than blanket terminology for certain styles of rifles. The following quote is directly from the APStylebook Twitter account:

The preferred term for a rifle that fires one bullet each time the trigger is pulled, and automatically reloads for a subsequent shot, is a semi-automatic rifle. An automatic rifle continusouly fires rounds if the trigger is depressed and until its ammunition is exhausted.

Avoid assault rifle and assault weapon, which are highly politicized terms that generally refer to AR- or AK-style rifles designed for the civilian market, but convey little meaning about the actual functions of the weapon.

More detail is in the Stylebook’s weapons entry.

This, I believe, is a step in the right direction and at least acknowledges that these terms are not only “highly politicized” but also misconstrue the actual functions of many of the most popular rifles in the United States. Opponents to this change say it is muddying the waters as they believe the difference between an M-16 and an AR-15 is marginal and that they are “otherwise functionally identical” going on to say that the difference between the two firearms is akin to the difference between a stock car and one that has had a supercharger fitted to it – an oversimplification almost as egregious as the term “assault weapon.”

Photo: Rodger Young @ARtweaker

Despite the controversy, we will have to wait and see if mainstream media outlets who often follow the AP Stylebook will drop both terms and put more effort into properly characterizing firearms based on their function rather than a blanket term devoid of such accuracy. As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome below.

Luke C.
Luke C.

Reloader SCSA Competitor Certified Pilot Currently able to pass himself off as the second cousin twice removed of Joe Flanigan. Instagram:

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  • JLR84 JLR84 on Jul 21, 2022

    Unfortunately, I've noticed a lot of the time even the police department uses the term in their public communications after an incident.

    So at that point media outlets can simply quote law enforcement. Especially since so much of reporting these days is just regurgitating press releases and such.

  • Paul Velte Paul Velte on Jul 21, 2022

    The only reason they're changing to accuracy is because... the propaganda did not work. Remember, it was Josh Sugarmann's policy paper from the late 80's that created the term and suggested it be used because "The weapons' menacing looks, coupled with the public's confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons . . . can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons." See it for yourself here,