After all, when you come right down to it, how many people speak the same language even when they speak the same language? —Russell Hoban


Election season has arrived, and we're all likely to be involved in more than the usual number of political conversations. These discussions, I've found, can be like spontaneous household repair projects. The task is urgent and you're highly motivated, but you soon discover that you're missing some tools. Then the job hits quicksand.

Election-year conversations about the Second Amendment can follow a similar course. We jump in, ready to debate, but find ourselves lacking in the toolkit department. The missing tools, though, often are not statistics, citations, or other hard proof of the points we'd like to make. Rather, we fall back on our opponents' stale, biased gun-control lexicon and thereby forfeit critical ground in the debate. "Without even realizing it, you’re probably using terms that actually help the people who want to disarm you," says Alan Korwin, author of Gun Laws of America. He has written a brilliant article on the vocabulary of gun conversations, which includes some tactical advice.

For example, Korwin suggests replacing the conversational phrases on the left with those on the right:

pro-gun -----> pro-rights
anti-gun -----> anti-self-defense
Second Amendment -----> Bill of Rights
concealed carry -----> discreet carry
gun lobby -----> civil rights organizations
gun rights -----> civil rights, human rights
handgun -----> sidearm
gun-control laws -----> illegal infringements
anti-gun -----> anti-rights, anti-gun bigotry

You can download Alan Korwin's complete article here.

In the meantime, I've added a few ideas to Alan's list:

hollow-point ammo -----> self-defense cartridges
gun -----> family firearm
concealed carry -----> lawful possession
firing range -----> training site
gun rights -----> guaranteed right to protect family
gun rights -----> Biblical/ancient/universal right of self-defense
gun ban -----> violation of civil rights
shoot someone -----> stop rape or murder in progress
deadly force -----> stop rape or murder in progress
gun-free zone -----> criminal protection area

If it seems that, by tuning our vocabulary, we're apologizing for our beliefs or adopting the speaking habits of some shifty and disingenuous liberals, don't worry. The suggestions above (and the many others contained in Korwin's article) are honest and accurate. But they're also tactical. "People who would deny your rights have done a good job of manipulating the language so far," says Korwin. To keep the conversation real, we must choose our language with extreme care.

In other words, we must make sure the toolbox is stocked for the job at hand. As Noam Chomsky said: "The structure of language determines not only thought, but reality itself."

Category: Opinion

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