Fox News host Chris Wallace agreed to a conservative radio host's request to not use the term “assault weapon” on Fox News Sunday because it upsets gun advocates.
Wallace guested on the December 3 edition of KFTK's Allman in the Morning to discuss the December 2 mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, that left 14 people dead. NBC News reported that “Two .223-caliber assault-style rifles -- a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 and a DPMS model -- were recovered after the police shootout, police said. The two suspects also had two 9mm semiautomatic handguns, police said.”
During the appearance, St. Louis-based radio host Jamie Allman said “it agitates people ... like me and my listeners, who are gun owners” that the media uses the term “assault weapon.” He added that “people who are gun owners never call -- that's not any official name of any weapon out there -- an 'assault weapon.'”
Conservative media have frequently claimed “assault weapon” is used by anti-gun advocates to mislead the public, even though the term was originally coined by the gun industry.
Wallace responded that “if that's something that ticks people off because it's so imprecise, and such a kind of cover word that means nothing, I don't want to do that.” He then pledged, “You will not hear the word assault weapon out of my mouth on Sunday. I may fall back into it later, but on Sunday I will be more precise”:
WALLACE: Thank you for the information, because if that's something that ticks people off because it's so imprecise, and such a kind of cover word that means nothing, I don't want to do that.
ALLMAN: Yeah it's almost like it's an -- and again, I'm not accusing you of this. It's almost like an editorial description of a gun. And that's all I'm saying is that it drives a lot of us crazy when we hear assault weapon because --
WALLACE: I don't want you to be driven crazy.
ALLMAN: No, I'm just saying if I can have an impact on a premier journalist like yourself, then I think I've made some headway.
WALLACE: Well, OK, no, listen.
ALLMAN: And we all fall into that.
WALLACE: You will not hear the word assault weapon out of my mouth on Sunday. I may fall back into it later, but on Sunday I will be more precise.
ALLMAN: That's good, OK.
Wallace and Allman then moved into a discussion about gun laws, with Wallace disagreeing that the country “would be safer if every place you went ... everybody was packing” and said there may need to be more “restrictions” about who should own a gun.
While Allman claims “gun owners never” use the term assault weapons, the term actually came into being because that's what the gun manufacturers and gun enthusiasts called them, as Media Matters documented in an analysis of the history of the term:
Conservatives in media have adopted the false National Rifle Association claim that the term “assault weapon” was invented by proponents of assault weapons bans in order to arbitrarily single out certain firearms for further regulation. However, before the gun industry trade association attempted to rebrand assault weapons as “modern sporting rifles” in 2009 -- a change in terminology also adopted by the NRA -- the gun industry and firearm publications routinely used the term assault weapon to describe the very military-style semi-automatic rifles that would be covered by Sen. Dianne Feinstein's assault weapons ban.
The truth is that military-style semi-automatic rifles were called assault weapons because that is what gun manufacturers and gun enthusiasts called them. The term has played a key role in the ongoing effort of the gun industry to rebrand and market military-style weaponry to civilians. Now, as legislation supported by a majority of Americans has been proposed to ban these weapons, the NRA and its gun industry and media allies are using semantics and terminology arguments to downplay the dangers of a class of weapons often associated with horrific mass shootings and law enforcement killings.
While conservatives claim the term is imprecise, since at least the 1994 federal assault weapons ban, an assault weapon is widely understood to be a military-style semi-automatic rifle with a detachable magazine.