Taking its cue from that, the Associated Press Stylebook defines assault weapons as “firearms that feature two or more accessories such as a detachable magazine, folding or telescopic stock, silencer, pistol grip, bayonet mount or a device to suppress the flash emitted while shooting in the dark.”
This is basically the definition of “assault weapon” that was dreamed up by President Clinton in 1994. Many have noted the dishonesty of that definition, since the word is used precisely because of it sounds dangerous, but the actual definition is essentially cosmetic. (ASIDE: Merriam-Webster’s dictionary has a fairly useful definition for “assault rifle”, but sees “assault weapon” as a largely meaningless word.)
On closer look, the Plain Dealer’s definition is not only dishonest, but nonsensical. According to that definition, isn’t nearly any semiautomatic pistol an “assault weapon”? Firearm? Check. Detachable magazine? Check. Pistol grip? Of course! Language clarifying that a pistol’s grip doesn’t count as a “pistol grip”? Apparently not.
So it sure seems like the Plain Dealer and the AP are being profoundly stupid here. But here’s the interesting part, according to Ask the Editor at APStylebook.com (search on “assault weapon”), it’s not true:
What is AP style books definition of an Assault Weapon? And how can a firearm be defined now? Since the Assault Weapons ban sunsetted how can we decribe scary black guns? – from Denver, Co on Mon, May 15, 2006
An assault-style weapon is defined as any semiautomatic pistol, rifle or shotgun originally designed for military or police use with a large ammunition capacity. (See the “weapons” entry in the AP Stylebook.)
This is fairly close to the Merriam-Webster definition of assault rifle, and bears no resemblance to the definition claimed by the Plain Dealer’s ombudsman. Assuming APStylebook.com can be trusted, it looks like two counts of foolishness for the Plain Dealer, and the AP is off the hook.