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Merriam-Webster changes ‘assault rifle’ in dictionary after school shooting

Iraqi airmen fire AK-47s during firing drills March 29, 2011. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau)
April 03, 2018
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The Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary gave the “assault rifle” a new meaning on March 31.

The new definition, prompted by the Parkland high school shooting in February, reads: “noun: any of various intermediate-range, magazine-fed military rifles (such as the AK-47) that can be set for automatic or semiautomatic fire; also: a rifle that resembles a military assault rifle but is designed to allow only semiautomatic fire.”

The new definition of assault rifle. (Merriam-Webster/Screen Shot)

Prior to the Florida shooting, the entry read: “noun: any of various automatic or semiautomatic rifles with large capacity magazines designed for military use.”

The previous definition of assault rifle. (Screen Shot/Cached, Merriam-Webster)

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Public outcry has widened the gun control gap, and activists who support gun control have a tendency to swap the terms automatic or semiautomatic rifles with “assault weapons” and “assault rifles,” which are much more intimidating terms.

There is a difference between an automatic or semiautomatic rifle and an assault weapon.

In 1994, assault weapons were banned from civilian use. This law included semiautomatic rifles only when they featured a detachable magazine, a collapsible stock, a pistol grip, a bayonet mount, a flash suppressor or a grenade launcher, according to the Federalist.

“’Military-style’ means it looks black and scary. Either something is an assault rifle — a military-issue rifle capable of select fire– or it’s not, and if it’s not, it’s not ‘military style,’” said Sean Davis, the co-founder of The Federalist.

The term “assault rifle” originated from the Germans during World War II, and the rifles were labeled as military weapons. They offered both semiautomatic and full-automatic fire. This is no longer the case.

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