Control the words, control the debate! Did Orwell say that, or just think it out loud? Moving on - here is the NY Times Friday front-pager on the terror attack in Paris:
Paris Shootout Leaves Police Officer and Gunman Dead
PARIS — A gunman wielding an assault rifle on Thursday night killed a police officer on the city’s most iconic boulevard, the Champs-Élysées, stirring France’s worst fears of a terrorist attack, which could tip voting in a hotly contested presidential election that starts on Sunday.
The gunman was shot dead by the police as he tried to flee on foot; two other police officers and a bystander were wounded. The police quickly blocked access to the crowded thoroughfare, lined with restaurants and high-end stores, as a helicopter hovered overhead.
Ok, ghastly, lots of implications, but on behalf of gun enthusiasts everywhere let me pick on a detail of vital interest to few - what kind of a weapon did the terrorist actually use? More specifically, when the NY Times says "assault rifle"do they actually mean a military style weapon with full automatic or burst capability? Or do they hope to create the same blurred line with their readership that I expect is present in many (but not all!) Times reporters and editors, not to mention their progressive readership.
Even PolitFact acknowledged a difference between "weapon of war" and the civilian version thereof. In the context of the US national weapons debate, "assault weapons" were defined by legislation in 1994, as the Times well knows. They have also noted that the "assault weapon" debate in this country is, well, mostly BS. The have even run a cool graphic noting that the Sandy Hook shooter used a legal "non-assault rifle"; CT adopted as state law the Federal 1994 ban and never repealed it.
On the other hand, the failing NY Times rarely passes on an opportunity to promote their views. On the third hand, terrorists in Europe seem to have easy access to full automatic weapons. So what happened here?
The Washington Post quite sensibly did not lead with a description of the weapon but eventually got to this, in paragraph eleven:
PARIS — A gunman opened fire on French police Thursday on Paris’s best-known boulevard, killing one officer and wounding two others before being fatally shot himself in an incident that raised the specter of renewed terrorism just three days before voters go to the polls to elect a new president.
According to Christophe Crépin, a spokesman for the UNSA Police Union, the gunman opened fire on the police with an AK-47 assault rifle, targeting officers who were near a Marks and Spencer store on the corner of the busy avenue.
The AK-47 may be the most widely used gun in the world and is (or ought to be) easily recognized as a true weapon of war.
The LA Times led with "gunman" and got to the unambiguous "automatic weapon" in paragraph three.
So of these three, only the Times went with the ambiguous "assault rifle". Truth is their defense but ambiguity and politicization are probably their goal.
ERRATA: An example of the conflation and confusion of assault weapon is at Fox News (say what?!?) in Baltimore (ahh!!) on the 'known wolf' problem:
From France to the U.S. terrorists 'known to authorities' carry out deadly attacks
WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) — In recent years, a troubling pattern has emerged in the wake of terrorist attacks, reports that national intelligence or security forces had the suspected terrorist under surveillance, or in some cases in custody, but let that individual go, only to find that person commit a horrible atrocity.
That is a challenge not only facing French authorities, but Americans as well. In just the past year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) came under tough public scrutiny when it failed to prevent three high-profile terrorist attacks despite previous knowledge of the suspects.
The attacker at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Omar Mateen was probed for possible terror ties, but still allowed to purchase an assault weapon which he used in the deadly June 2016 attack.
The Orlando weapon was a Sig Sauer MCX semiautomatic that might well meet the definition of "assault weapon" under the old Federal law or current state ones. Whatever.