Limbaugh Lied About Assault Rifles

Some words should not be used lightly, especially when they come in the wake of a tragedy.

I realize I’m in the minority now, people that deal with facts and reality… but I still want you to know what are the facts are about all this…

Many people love Rush Limbaugh, American talk radio host. Others despise him. I think he acted like a jackass for calling a woman a prostitute just because she holds opinions that he disagrees with. But Limbaugh and I definitely share one opinion. I feel in the minority when it comes to dealing with facts and reality. In fact, I would say that I no longer trust anyone in mass media to deliver facts, which is why I always double-check every interesting ‘fact’ that I hear. To my mind, it is a great shame that more people do not do the same, especially when we live in the information era, and humanity’s vast stores of knowledge can now be accessed even by phone. Limbaugh made a comment about gun control and assault rifles toward the end of last year, after the murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School, but just before Limbaugh took his holidays (why Limbaugh needs a holiday from mouthing off his opinions, I will never know, as he clearly loves his job and would do it for free). Many will have ignored the peculiar claim that Limbaugh made at that time, and those that noticed it will have probably forgotten it as their minds turned to festive celebration or the latest topic to grist the mills of the current affairs cycle. But a man should be judged according to his own words, and that rule equally applies to Limbaugh. He started by professing how he felt that he belonged to a minority still concerned with facts and reality. And then he went on to denounce US politicians that propose a ban on assault weapons. This is how Limbaugh tried to shoot down their plans:

Let’s go through these gun terms just for the heck of it here, for what it might matter. “Assault weapon.” “Assault rifle.” There is no such thing. Go to a gun store and tell ’em you want an assault weapon, and the guy will look around and show you his entire inventory and say, “Pick one.” But there is nothing – no brand, no label – that identifies the weapon as an assault rifle or assault weapon.

There’s no such category.

It has been manufactured, invented, purely for political-agenda advancement reasons. The term “assault weapon” first began being used in the early 1990s by people opposed to the Second Amendment. There was legislation in 1994 that banned “assault weapons,” and they had a definition. What they did was simply repeat a bunch of cosmetic features…

A semiautomatic weapon fires one bullet at a time and puts another bullet into the chamber. It’s called an “assault rifle” to create the image that it is an instrument of mass death with one pull of a trigger. It’s a political invention. The whole term “assault rifle” is a political invention.

To summarize: Limbaugh stated that the term ‘assault rifle’ was made up in the 1990’s by people with a political agenda. So, if somebody with no political agenda was using the phrase prior to the 1990’s, then that would show Limbaugh must have pulled his ‘fact’ right out of his ass. It would show he has not even a passing concern for facts. Being the sceptic I am, I checked this fact. I expected to spend at least ten or twenty minutes checking this particular fact, and perhaps a lots longer. I completed my research in less than a minute, because the relevant facts were so easy to find, even for a multimillionaire concerned citizen like Rush Limbaugh, who presumably can afford access to the internet.

Within a few seconds I found that Wikipedia attributes the phrase ‘assault rifle’ to Adolf Hitler. Now, Adolf Hitler was pretty darn political. But unless Limbaugh is suggesting Hitler survived the war, assumed a new identity, moved to the US, and became a campaigner for gun control in the 1990’s (having lived past his 100th birthday) then we can safely assume that Limbaugh thinks Wikipedia is wrong to give Hitler credit for inventing the term ‘assault rifle’. But a 1945 US Military Report says otherwise. It turns out the phrase ‘assault rifle’ is a political invention – but it was invented by the Nazi Führer in order to motivate his troops:

To bolster troop and civilian morale, the German High Command is now widely advertising the general issue of an automatic small arm which Adolph Hitler has personally designated the “Assault Rifle 44” (Sturmgewehr 44). The much-touted “new” weapon is actually the familiar German machine carbine with a more chest-thumping title.

I suppose Limbaugh might argue that the word ‘sturmgewehr’ was mistranslated by the US military. A more literal translation would be ‘storm gun’, rather than ‘assault rifle’. Nevertheless, nobody made the US military translate Hitler’s words that way… unless Limbaugh has discovered that the liberal mainstream politico-media conspiracy had actually begun during WW2! What prescience those WW2 liberals must have had, inventing a phrase just so they could resurrect it 50 years later and deploy if for the utterly selfish political goal of wanting to make it harder for murderers to shoot people so quickly.

To appease Limbaugh-inspired conspiracy cranks, let us ignore Hitler and that translation and instead look for other evidence that the phrase ‘assault rifle’ was used, without any political slant, well before the 1990’s. What might count as an apolitical use of the term? I think the US military should, once again, be considered a good and apolitical source for the terminology of weapons. So I found excerpts from the US Army intelligence manual FSTC-CW-07-03-70, which was published in November 1970. The book is called “Small Arms Identification and Operation Guide – Eurasian Communist Countries”. It is fair to say that a military intelligence guide listing the kinds of guns used by 70’s Communist countries is not the most obvious starting-point for inventing terminology ‘purely for political-agenda advancement reasons’. Section III of the guide is entitled ‘Assault Rifles’, and it first discusses the famous AK-47:

Assault rifles are short, compact, selective-fire weapons that fire a cartridge intermediate in power between submachinegun and rifle cartridges…

The Soviet-designed Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle, a gas-operated, selective-fire, box-magazine-fed weapon, was the major infantry arm for must Eurasian Communist countries. The Warsaw Pact Armies, however, have generally replaced the AK-47 with the similar, but improved, AKM assault rifle…

So where do Limbaugh’s ‘facts’ come from, when it takes less than two minutes on the internet to find US military documents that prove they are false? Many weapons were already categorized as ‘assault rifles’ long before the 1990 political campaigns to restrict the ownership of guns. This shows that Limbaugh’s ‘facts’ come from his imagination, simply made up as he talks endlessly to his microphone, filling the vacant hours for his vacant audience. He is too busy talking drivel to spend a single minute on checking the accuracy of what he says. He is, in truth, confusing fact with a fiction that he invented for himself and his audience. And that is why Limbaugh is a truly despicable liar. It is one thing to just make something up to push forward your own political agenda, even whilst families grieve the loss of their children. It is another thing to then cynically drape yourself in the clothes of an honest man, pretending that you stand for truth against the tides of a credulous and misled world.

I realize I’m in the minority now, people that deal with facts and reality… but I still want you to know what are the facts are about all this…

I hope that Limbaugh is in a minority, but not the one he would like to be in. I hope he is in a minority of lazy, pompous, self-serving fantasists that make money by telling the foolish the lies that they want to hear. Now is the time when the majority of Americans need to check the facts for themselves, and not rely on the broken values of media whores like Limbaugh. It is no wonder that Limbaugh refers to others as prostitutes. It takes one to know one.

America needs to ask itself one question, and then to answer it. Who needs most protection. Should protection be given to the inflated pay packets of businessmen who sell guns, and to the media trolls who grease the gun industry? Or should protection to be given to those people who want to be free not to carry a gun? It can be very hard to admit to walking down the wrong path. It is harder still to turn around and start the long walk back again. The difficulty of reversing disastrous political policies is the reason why South Africa took so long to reverse apartheid, and why so many North Koreans continue to starve. And it was hard for the US to admit that a person’s pay or job prospects should not be constrained according because of their gender, race or sexual orientation, or that this continues to be a struggle for some. In the same way, every newly manufactured gun is a step in the wrong direction, condemning Americans to an ever-more dangerous and dismal future. Limbaugh’s desperate fiction shows that the gun manufacturers will never sell the solution to the problem they profit from. Like Limbaugh, they just sell twisted fantasies instead.

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