If you’re new to the RKBA world, visiting a shooters’ site or forum might look like we’re speaking some strange new language at times. It’s English, more or less, but like any technical field, we have special terminology for concise yet accurate exchanges. It’s much the same as dropping in on an electronics hobbyist forum and encountering pot, cap, PN junction, NAND, NOR, 555, Arduino, PLC and such.
Here’s a quick introduction to common references, abbreviations, and definitions. This will get you started, and you’ll find links to things you may need to research in depth. But I’ll be nice and leave out most of the really specialized terms specific to narrower interests (i.e.- 3-gun, practical pistol, et cetera).
2A: The Second Amendment to the US Constitution: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Defends, not grants, individual right. (also see Court Decisions, Federalist Papers)
The Federalist Papers were written during the public debates over what would become the US Constitution. In paper number 46 (written by James Madison): “The governments of Europe are afraid to trust the people with arms. If they did, the people would certainly shake off the yoke of tyranny, as America did.” This is a specific argument for possession of arms for use against government, by one of the drafters of the document.
Recent Court Decisions
Heller is a case heard by the US Supreme Court that, while allowing for some unspecified restrictions on RKBA, did formally find that the Second Amendment does protect an individual right.
McDonald is a case heard by the Supreme Court that clarified that Second Amendment individual rights must be respected in the states as well as the District of Columbia. This is the case that forced Chicago to grudgingly (very grudgingly) and slowly begin to recognize the Second Amendment.
Other Notable Court Decisions:
Miller is U.S. vs. Miller, 1939: the US Supreme Court ruled that short-barreled shotguns were not protected items because they are not commonly used by the military. Those called up for militia service are “expected to appear bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time.” This case established that the Second Amendment is not about sporting arms or duck hunting. Otherwise, it’s most notable as a display of defense counsel incompetence and prosecutorial lying (they claimed the military never uses short-barreled shotguns, which would have surprised a great many WW1 trench war veterans).
Bowers vs. DeVito, U.S. Court of Appeals, 7th Circuit, 686F.2d 616 (1982) ruled that “there is no constitutional right to be protected by the state against being murdered by criminals or madmen.” The police are not required to protect you.
Perpich vs. Department of Defense, 1990: The US Supreme Court ruled that the National Guard is not an independent state militia, but is totally subject to the will of the federal government. This legal opinion negates the common victim-disarmer claim that the militia referred to in the Second Amendment refers to the National Guard. (Two state governors objected to their Guard units being deployed overseas against their will; they lost, the federal government won.)
Lamont v. Postmaster General (1965) :US Supreme Court case finding that the First Amendment prevents the government from registering purchasers of magazines and newspapers. It is unconstitutional to impose on persons an affirmative obligation which amounts to an unconstitutional limitation of his rights under the First Amendment. Oddly enough, no such restriction on Second Amendment rights is so generally recognized.
Federal Laws and Terminology
ATF: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives is a collection of law enforcement incompetents tasked with regulating those items. It started as a tax revenue organization under the Treasury. The FBI fended off several attempts to transfer the ATF to them, and it finally ended up in the Department of Homeland Security. The ATF is noted for misclassifying and reclassifying firearms, losing NFA registrations, stomping kittens, attacking chuches, and n—-r hunting licenses. More recently they were responsible for the “Fast & Furious” gunwalker program in which they deliberately allowed illegal straw purchases and funneled firearms to criminals in the US and Mexico resulting in the deaths of hundreds of Mexican civilians, several Mexican LEOs, and a US Border Patrol agent, and series of incompetent gun shop stings which resulted in failed prosecutions and lost weapons.
AWB: The ’94 federal “Assault Weapons Ban” is misnomer, as the real title was “The Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act of 1994,” and which was not a ban on the devices. It defined “assault weapons” by features such as a pistol-style grip, detachable magazine, barrel shroud, or folding stock. The definition was so vague that it could include handguns and long guns, yet required a specific list of nearly identical firearms that somehow were not “assault weapons”. The ban expired in 2004 when it could not be shown to have any measurable effect on crime because such weapons are statistically insignificant in criminal use. There is no longer any federal definition of designation for “assault weapon”. At the time of passage, the FBI Uniform Crime Report showed that those weapons with features classed as assault weapons were used in less than one-half of 1% of firearms crime nationally.
C&R: Curios & Relics are a class that old firearms for which some restrictions are slightly relaxed at the federal level; think antiques. These may be transferred interstate by C&R licensees (typically collectors) without the same FFL dealer restrictions, although state restrictions, as always, may apply.
FFL: A Federal Firearms Licensee is the holder of a license to engage in the business of firearms trade in some fashion. Different types of licenses exist: manufacturing, sales of “regular” firearms, sales of NFA firearms, and others. [As of 1/6/2016, a seller is only in the business of selling firearms if he conducts regular transactions for profit; individuals occasionally selling a firearm are not dealers.]
PUBLIC LAW 104–208 (Dickey Amendment): Frequently referenced by “gun control” advocates as forbidding federal funding of research into “gun violence. In fact, the law was passed in response to CDC personnel using federal funds for anti-gun political advocacy instead of research. The law forbids such political advocacy using federal funds (which is a likely Hatch Act violation anyway), and authorized redirecting funds that had been spent on advocacy to actual research. The applicable portion of the law reads:
“That none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control: Provided further , That the Director may redirect the total amount made available under authority of Public Law 101–502, section 3, dated November 3, 1990, to activities the Director may so designate:”
The federal government does fund gun violence research. And a pending bill in the 115th (2017) Congress, H.R.4142 – Safer Communities Act of 2017, specifically authorizes the NIH to do so, and would provide funds specifically for that purposes, while also forbidding the “advocacy and promotion” of gun control which was so troublesome at the CDC.
FOPA: The Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 (occasionally referred to as the GCA 1986) bans the transfer of any machine gun manufactured or imported after 1986 to a civilian. It was intended to rein in some ATF abuses.
GCA’68: The Gun Control Act of 1968 among other things restricted interstate transfers of firearms to FFLs. This is why you generally cannot mail order a gun and have it sent to you directly, despite claims of “Internet sales” by victim disarmers. GCA’68 appears to have been modeled on Nazi-era gun control law by Connecticut Senator Thomas J. Dodd, who sponsored the bill after receiving translations from the German orginal.
Lautenberg Amendment: The Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban is an illegal ex post facto law that created a huge new class of prohibited persons. Despite being a clear violation of specific constitutional language, courts have upheld it. I personally know of someone who died as a result of this law, and wish I believed in Hell so I’d know Senator Lautenberg was roasting forever for his complicity in murder.
Militia: A military element referenced in the Second Amendment and further described in the US Code.
- Title 10, U.S. Code, Section 311: specifies that the militia consists of two classes: one is the organized militia, made up of the National Guard and Naval Militia; the unorganized militia is everyone else- the reserve and unorganized militias. Also, states that the militia consists of all abled-bodied males 17 to 45 years of age who are citizens or who have declare their intent to become citizens. In display of political correctness, some states have legislated that females are also part of their state unorganized militia.
- 10 USC §312: Exempts active duty military members and certain government officials from militia service.
- 10 USC §313: Extends militia membership of military veterans below age 64.
NICS is the National Instant Criminal Background Check System through which FFLs are required to run background checks on individuals wishing to purchase a firearm. As a result of the check, the purchaser may be approved, a delay issued while the agency investigates further, or a denial. In the case of a denial, it means the buyer is a prohibited person and his attempt to obtain a firearm was a felony. A delay may last up to three days, after which the FFL may transfer the gun if he has not heard from the ATF.
In reality, approximately 94% of denials turn out to be false positives. Worse, taking 2009 as an example, after the 94% false positives were weeded out, 2,291 cases proved to be actual felonious attempts by a prohibited person. Of those, only 77 case were referred for prosecution.
NFA: The National Firearms Act of 1934 was theoretically a tax act on the manufacture and possession of certain devices. These include machine guns, short-barreled rifles and shotguns, silencers/suppressors, and any other weapon (AOW – which means in practice anything that isn’t really covered but that they feel like ought to be).
Prohibited person: Someone who is disqualified from purchasing or owning a firearm under 18 USC 922(g). Most generally, this is considered to include convicted felons, addicts of illegal drugs, or people under court orders of protection. In actuality, it includes a number of convictions considered misdemeanors, and specifically includes anyone ever convicted of “domestic violence”, even retroactively. Several other disqualifying conditions exist.
Universal background checks: A system of preemptively proving your innocence before being allowed to purchase a firearm from anyone, FFL or not. Very popular with victim disarmers. Notably, while they call for universal background checks, NICS is not available for use by private, non-FFL citizens, creating a Catch-22 that prevents one from buying a gun at all. Pro-victim disarmers commonly cite surveys showing that 90% of Americans favor UBC; however, in Washington state, where similar survey results were claimed, only 60% actually voted for UBC. A survey conducted by the extreme left-leaning University of New Hampshire (often called the University of North Massachusetts by locals) claimed a whopping 94% in favor of UBC, but I was unable to verify a single person surveyed, pro or con, and UNH refused to release their raw data.
Types of firearms:
- Handgun: General term for a firearm designed to be supported and operated with the hand(s).
- Pistol: In modern terms, a semi-automatic, magazine-fed handgun.
- Revolver: A handgun in which the cartridges are manually loaded into individual chambers in an integral rotating cylinder.
- Derringers, single shots, and oddballs: Other handguns, neither pistols nor revolvers. derringers typically have two separate chambers and barrels. The famous Dardick combined a magazine with a revolving cylinder (not to mention trochoidal/triangular cartridges, rather than round). There are specialty single-shot guns designed for physically impaired people who would find it difficult or impossible to operate a convention handgun.
- Long guns: These are generally designed to be held and operated by both hands while stabilized against the shoulder.
- Rifle: Long gun designed to fire a cartridge, usually with a single projectile, through a rifled barrel which induces a stabilizing spin on the bullet.
- Carbine: A comparatively short and lightweight rifle.
- Shotgun: A long gun with a smooth-bore barrel, typically firing a cartridge containing multiple projectiles, but sometimes a single large slug.
- Assault rifle: Assault rifles are short, compact, select-fire (i.e. both semi-automatic and full-automatic) weapons that fire a cartridge intermediate in power between submachinegun and rifle cartridges.
- Assault weapon: There is no standard, universal definition. The term came to media prominence in the early ’90s as a way of deliberately confusing uninformed people into thinking that new laws would get dangerous “military weapons” off the streets, based on surface cosmetic features rather than functional features. Some states, notably California, have their own laws and definitions on “assault weapons”. Despite this, intentional confusion remains. The rifles purchased and used in the San Bernardino terrorist attack are routinely called assault rifles or assault weapons in the media and by politicians; but those rifles (at least when purchased) were not even “assault weapons” under California’s over-extending laws.
- Military grade weapon: Along with variants “military,” “military-style,” and “weapons of war,” the term is abused by gun control advocates to describe semiautomatic rifles and pistols with the intent of confusing the uninformed into believing that firearms such as the WASR-10 or AR-pattern rifles are the same as AK-47s and M-16/M4-series assault rifles. Having spent some time researching this, I can find no nation which uses a semiautomatic rifle as its stand issue for its regular troops. Some nations with leftovers still issue some SKS-type semiautomatics to reserves when they run short of more modern assault rifles, and some nations have bolt-actions or semiautomatics for ceremonial display. Certain specialists (designated snipers, for instance) may be issued bolt-action or semiautomatic weapons, but most nations phased out semiautomatics in favor of selective-fire assault rifles for general issue in the 1950s and 1960s, with a few holdouts until the 1990s. Aside from a few special purposes, semiautomatic weapons have not been considered acceptable for military combat for more than half a century.
- Smart gun: A firearm equipped such it can only be operated by a specific, authorized user(s). Proposed systems include RFID, magnetic, and biometric sensors. One of the better known “smart guns” recently marketed is the Armatix iP1, a commercial flop due to being available only in .22 LR and insanely expensive and failing to operate at least once every magazine, and a failure rate as high as 20%.
- Bump-Fire: A technique for rapidly pulling the trigger on a semi-automatic rifle. One grips the stock with the off-hand slightly pulling the rifle away from the shooter’s shoulder. When the rifle is fired with the trigger hand, recoil drives the rifle into the shoulder. The tensioned off-hand acts as a spring to pull the rifle forward again which causes the trigger to move against the trigger finger, firing the rifle once again. Because the rifle is not well stabilized the technique results in very inaccurate fire, and secondary (and tertiary, etc) trigger engagement with the trigger finger can be haphazard. Bump-fire or slide-fire stocks attempt to improve the stability of the rifle somewhat, but are still less accurate than conventional rifle operating technique, and trigger engagement requires practice. Bump-fire is considered a non-serious, but fun, way of legally simulating fully automatic operation. Because of accuracy issues, bump-fire is forbidden at many shooting ranges. Like baseball bats, jump ropes, and other items meant for fun, bump-fire/slide-fire stocks can be misused.
- Machine Gun: A firearm that, when activated by a single pull of the trigger, initiates an automatic firing cycle that continues until the finger is released or the ammunition supply is exhausted.” Machine guns manufactured and registered prior to the the effective date of FOPA ’86 are legal under federal law. They are NFA items whose possession requires background checks, local law enforcement approval, ATF approval, and a tax stamp. The process of transferring a machine gun can take as much as a year and a half, depending on backlog. Transferrable machine guns typically cost several thousand dollar when available. A few states ban the possession of machine guns by private citizens.
- Silencer: An obsolete term for a device attached to the muzzle of a firearm to moderate flash and the sound of a gun shot. The term came from a noise moderating device patented by Hiram Maxim. Because “silence” suggests the sound of a firearm operating is completely… silenced, the term fell out of favor with people who know what they are talking about. Silencers are NFA items requiring registration and a tax stamp.
- Suppressor: A sound moderating device which attaches to the muzzle of a firearm. It reduces the muzzle blast noise to bearable levels, but does not silence (in a test, a suppressed AR-15 firing .223 Remington is clearly audible at 500 yards). How much a suppressor can reduce noise depends on the suppressor design and the round fired, among other factor. A suppressor does not reduce the sound of the supersonic shockwave or the mechanical action the firearm. Suppressors are NFA items. Shooters who can afford suppressors because they protect their hearing without needing the same level of ear protection sans suppressor; this enhances hunter safety through improved situational awareness (ear muffs muffle all sounds like another hunter yelling, “Hey, Stop shooting! I’m over here!”). Many countries encourage, and even require, shooters to use suppressors.
Carry: In firearms speak, refers to bearing a firearm; physically carrying it.
- Open carry (OC): Carrying a firearm, whether a long gun or holstered handgun, visibly.
Among pro-RKBA people, open carry is sometimes considered unnecessarily provocative, while others view it as normalizing (that is, it simply gets people accustomed to seeing arms carried peaceably). Anti-rights advocates typically decry open carry as terrifying.
- Concealed carry (CCW): The firearm is carried in a fashion that normally renders it unseen unless drawn in an emergency.
In pro-RKBA circles, this is usually the preferred method, but some consider it pandering to panicky anti-gun people who are horrified by the sight of a gun. Anti-gunners decry concealed carry as terrifying because “How do we know who has a gun?” while oblivious to the fact that they are also terrified of knowing who has a gun.
- Vermont Carry: Not a carry technique. It refers to the fact that Vermont (and now other states) recognizes the right of individuals to carry a gun however they see fit ― concealed or open ― without a license.
- Constitutional Carry: As more states have adopted unlicensed carry, “Constitutional Carry” is coming into vogue, to recognize that this is correct in more areas than only Vermont.
- Reciprocal Carry: Also not a carry technique, it refers to the practice of two states agreeing to recognize carry licenses of each other. This is in contrast to the constitutionally mandated process of full faith and credit which requires all states to recognize all other states drivers licenses.
Common sense gun laws: Code language for gun control, used by victim disarmers once they realized most people were on to them. The goal, a helpless populace, remains the same, but it is marketed as “public safety” while avoiding mention of how facing violent offenders without protection enhances one’s safety.
Gun Control: The premise that the Second Amendment-protected rights of all must be infringed for the sake of protecting the public from a the relatively few violent criminals who misuse firearms (few as opposed to the estimated 60-120 million American gun owners). Pro-RKBA people often refer to this as victim disarmament.
Only Ones: A term coined by David Codrea, in reference to Lee Paige, the DEA agent who, while giving a gun safety lecture to children, declared that he was the “only one” professional enough to handle a “Glock Foaty” and then proceeded to shoot himself in front of the horrified children; this refers disparagingly to the concept that only police and military should be trusted with firearms. On November 14, 1993, Newsweek reported that “only 2 percent of civilian shootings involved an innocent person mistakenly identified as a criminal. The ‘error rate’ for the police, however, was 11 percent, more than five times as high.”
RKBA: The Right to Keep and Bear Arms, in reference to the Second Amendment.
Victim Disarmament: The practice of restricting rights of honest people to defense against criminals who do not obey laws. It is designed to provide a safe working place for violent criminals who need not fear disarmed targets. Anti-gunners refer to this as a good thing.
Victim disarmers have invented or misidentified many items (see “assault weapon”) in attempts to terrify voters and politicians into supporting their pro-criminal goals.
- 30 Caliber Clip: We really don’t know. Neither does CA state Senator Kevin De Leon.
- Automatic Rounds: According to CBS these are apparently cartridges that turn any gun into a machine gun. In the real world of physics these don’t exist.
- Double-Single Action 1911: Invented by The University Daily Kansan, this photoshopped monstrosity includes an extra double action trigger because it’s “more dramatic” that way, and propels complete 9mm cartridges.
- Ghost Gun: Compliments of California’s De Leon, inventor of the Caliber Clip(tm), it is either a nonexistent gun made entirely of plastic, a homemade non-serialized gun, or a factory stock gun whose serial number has been obliterated. We suspect the variant depends on what De Leon has been smoking, but that hasn’t been confirmed.
- Ghost Bullets: Sacramento City Councilmember Sandy Sheedy revealed these mysterious bullets fired from unloaded guns. Ballistic tracing must be fun.
- Heat-Seeking Bullets: Other than the fictional rounds in the Sellek movie Runaway, these exist only in Assemblywoman Patricia Eddington’s fevered incendiary imagination.
- Shoulder Thing That Goes Up: Former NY Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy introduced a bill to ban “assault weapons” based on cosmetic features. One feature she found particularly objectionable was the barrel shroud. A reporter asked her what is a barrel shroud; McCarthy cluelessly explained that it’s the shoulder thing that goes up.
Pro-RKBA People and Groups
CCRKBA: Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. Nominal pro-gun group run by Alan Gottlieb. Notable for endorsing state and national gun control legislation, sending fundraising letters, and issuing press releases. Not much else in recent years.
DRGO: Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership is a group of pro-RKBA doctors founded in 1994, and since acquired by Gottlieb, after which it has done little other than an occasional blog post. Activity does appear to be picking up more recently.
GOA: Gun Owners of America is viewed as a more consistently pro-RKBA group than the NRA by many people. Its candidate rating system is usually a more accurate depiction of politicians’ actions than the NRA’s ratings.
Gottlieb: Alan Gottlieb is a professional mass direct marketer. He also runs several nominally pro-RKBA groups under his umbrella (CCRKBA, SAF, DRGO, JPFO, KABA). Notable for compromising away individual rights, buying up groups for their membership lists and largely abandoning them. He alienated many gun owners when he announced that he helped write the hated Manchin-Toomey Amendment.
JPFO: Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership is a non-profit RKBA educational organization founded by the late Aaron Zelman. It is notable for the “Gandpa Jack” series of comics on protecting individual rights, and several high quality documentaries, which include “No Guns for Negroes” detailing the largely racist origins of gun control in America. After Zelman’s death, JPFO experienced funding problems, and the group was sold to Alan Gottlieb over the protests of members and workers. Many people associated with JPFO left in protest, as Zelman had never approved of Gottlieb’s compromising on rights.
KABA: Keep and Bear Arms is a RKBA-related news site; primarily an aggregator, but with some original material. Once a very active site for RKBA activists, it was acquired by Gottlieb and devolved into somnolent mediocrity very quickly.
NRA: The National Rifle Association bills itself as the oldest and largest pro-RKBA group in America, and enjoys that reputation in the media. In recent decades, many pro-RKBA people and groups have noted that the NRA appears to be encouraging gun control legislation in order to have something to claim to be fighting while fundraising. Notably, the NRA helped write an “assault weapon” ban in Columbus, OH, and torpedoed a New Hampshire bill recognizing Constitutional Carry. The NRA frequently endorses “pro-gun” candidates with weak or bad records on Second Amendment issues, or who adopt such anti-RKBA positions once in office. The NRA does run excellent firearms and hunting training.
SAF: The Second Amendment Foundation is an RKBA group that focuses on legal action. Notable for many successful challenges to gun control laws all the way up to US the Supreme Court, including Heller and McDonald. A Gottlieb group, it is unusually effective, though it has stumbled in endorsing universal background checks and bump-fire regulation.
TZP: The Zelman Partisans is a newer pro-RKBA group created by prior associates of Aaron Zelman and JPFO. It adheres to Zelman’s uncompromising ideals, which it knew would not be supported by the JPFO under the ownership of the man who wrote gun control bills at the state and national levels.
The are many more pro-RKBA groups.
Anti-RKBA People and Groups
Bloomberg: Michael Bloomberg is a multi-billionaire former mayor of NYC, best known for founding and funding victim disarmament movements, while accusing others of funding pro-RKBA groups.
Brady: refers to former Reagan press secretary James Brady who advocated victim disarmament after suffering extensive brain damage, and to the organization in assorted incarnations named for him. Can also refer to Brady’s wife Sarah. The Bradys pushed for the “Brady Bill” background checks and waiting periods named for him.
CSGV: The Campaign to Stop Gun Violence is vocal advocate for a disarmed citizenry. Frequently mocked as the “Campaign to Instigate Gun Violence” (CIGV) or “Campaign to Protect Violent Criminals” (CPVC). Among other things, they have urged their followers to “SWAT” anyone spotted legally carrying a gun, thus attempting to provoke police into violently attacking innocent citizens.
Everytown: Everytown for Gun Safety is Bloomberg’s umbrella group for funding MAIG, MDA,
Kelly: Giffords husband, ex-astronaut Mark Kelly, who attempted an illegal straw purchase to promote victim disarmament. Scurrilous claims that astronaut Kelly has suffered brain damage from hypoxia during a space mission are currently unsupported.
MAIG: Mayors Against Illegal Guns purports to be a group of American mayors advocating for “safety” in the form of victim disarmament. Founded and funded by Bloomberg. Noted for the high ratio of members who have been accused and convicted of crimes themselves. Some listed as members quit, or claimed they never even joined despite being listed as members.
MDA: Moms Demand Action is a supposed “grassroots” organization for gun safety. Actually funded by Bloomberg and run by a professional press relations manager. Noted for “protests” attended by a handful of bussed-in activists, but claiming hundreds or thousands in attendance. Often mocked as “Moms I Love to Mock” (MILM).
Watts: Shannon Watts is the post-Sandy Hook founder of MDA. Claiming to be a mere “grassroots” stay-at-home mom concerned about “gun violence”, she was revealed to be a professional media relations manager paid by Bloomberg. Notable for frequently sticking her foot in her mouth through sheer ignorance of firearms.
There are many other such groups.