Guns in America: Glossary of Terms

Thursday, January 03, 2013 - 03:11 PM

Every week, we'll add terms and definitions used in the gun control debate to this glossary. We'll add more terms each Thursday this month with Paul Barrett, assistant managing editor of Bloomberg Businessweek and author of Glock: The Rise of America's Gun.

Semi-automatic:  A shooter has to pull the trigger each time to fire a shot. "The term refers to the method by which the ammunition is loaded into the firing chamber," Barrett says. "In any semi-automatic gun (and a pistol or handgun can be called semi-automatic) what happens is that the operation of the firing mechanism first ejects the spent casing and then automatically pulls a new round up and places it into the firing chamber so it's ready to go for the next pull of the trigger." A glock, for example, is a semi-automatic weapon. 

Fully automatic: A shooter can keep firing bullets as long as the trigger is kept down. The mechanism which pulls a new round up and places it into the firing chamber is automatic. 

Magazine: Stores ammunition. 

Magazine capacity: How many rounds can the shooter fire without having to reload.

Clip: Fits inside the magazine, and stores multiple rounds together at once. 

Permit/License: Some states and municipalities require anyone wishing to possess a firearm to obtain a license prior to purchase, usually issued through the police department. Background checks and fees pertain. For example, the NYPD issues five types of handgun licenses (premises, carry business, limited carry business, special carry, and carry guard) and also requires a license for rifles and shotguns.

Registration: Ownership of some individual firearms is registered in various national, state and local databases. A national database of gun registrations would allow tracking of all gun purchases in one nationwide database (a "radioactive" gun safety option according to guest Paul Barrett)

Confiscation/Mandatory Buy-Back: New restrictions on gun ownership bring up the question of what to do with existing, legally manufactured and purchased weapons. For example, the U.S. 1994 assault weapons ban grandfathered in all guns manufactured before the law went into effect, while Australia instituted a mandatory buy-back program when they passed their assault weapons ban in 1996.



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Comments [19]

francesco devargo

@RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey - "Really?? You just go up and vote whereever you like without registering, do you?"

Um...I said CONSTITUTIONAL rights. Which amendment protects the right to vote? Where is the right to vote mentioned in the Constitution?

@alistair from Manhattan

"Guns extremist are un nuanced thinking people who seem to believe it's perfectly legal to shout fire in a crowded theatre because you have a 'right to free speech'."

Oh, so it's not legal to shout "fire" in a crowded theater? So then, Alistair, when you go to the theater, do you wear the ball gag, or the duct tape, or, do you go the whole nine yards and have your larnyx removed?

Because if it is illegal to shout fire in a crowded theater, then the answer to people abusing their rights should be to DENY people the ability to exercise that right, correct?

Because that's what "reasonable" people advocate for guns, correct? That sounds "resonable" to me. After all, no one NEEDS vocal chords to communicate, and that does NOT infringe on your right to speak freely. You could do just fine with sign language, and people couldn't shout "fire" in a crowded theater.

Problem solved.

Mar. 25 2013 03:19 PM
Jo ann franchino from NYC

Please watch the DAily Show from January 16, 2013 to see why
1. The 20,000 gun laws on the books are not enforced
2. The ATF is not a big presence in this issue
3. The ATF has had notepad for, I believe, 6 yrs.
And Monroe
Thank you

My dad, brother and many of my cousins happily hunted together for many yrs. some of them still do.
Thank you. Love your show

Feb. 08 2013 10:32 AM
RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

@francesco devargo

" well as those who understand that any law requiring that one register before enjoying a Constitutional right is illegitimate"

Really?? You just go up and vote whereever you like without registering, do you? I doubt it. However, you can continue to type and convince yourself you know it all.

Feb. 07 2013 10:43 AM

That guy was a mouth piece. I wonder why every other industrialized nation including Canada have far lower death by gun rates. Why? because they are responsible in who they sell to and dont have to deal with states like AZ that have a huge business in straw dealers and gun runners.

Its the perpetuated statement that somehow a gun will keep you safe when its more likely to be used in a domestic assault, a moment of rage, suicide, or when you want to follow a black kid who you think is doing wrong...

All that person said was that his right to have fun at a shooting range is more important then children. I hear zero solutions offered by him other then, "its not for me to say".

Feb. 06 2013 05:56 PM
Tina from Queens

Thomas King is TWISTED and BIASED.
I have a few semiautomatics I will send as birhtday gifts to his children, so they have some toys to play with! Then, let's start the stopwatch and see how many minutes until they liquidate each other.
He is full of crap. He lies and he knows it. You can tell by the tone of his voice. He goes to the range and shoots? How about going to public service instead and helping those in need?
"The right to bear arms" was written when Americans were up against the British empire and their organized army, AND they had muskets that shot once, and then they had to be reloaded. It was written as a means of protection against an oppresive power, and unfortunately, as a mean of protection against the attacks from the original population (american "indians") that had their backs up the wall when their land start being taken from them.
The founding fathers, IF they were as wise as it is claimed, they would have never approved the right to bear semiautomatic machines, concealed hand guns, or anything of the kind.
My personal point of view - the civil population has NO business owing fire arms. If NOBODY had weapons, NOBODY INCLUDING THE CRIMINALS would have weapons. They serve no need whatsoever.

Feb. 06 2013 11:08 AM
alistair from Manhattan

Guns extremist are un nuanced thinking people who seem to believe it's perfectly legal to shout fire in a crowded theatre because you have a 'right to free speech'.


Feb. 06 2013 10:52 AM

What about financially attacking the glorification of gun violence much like cigaretts are taxed. Why not adopt the:

"Five Dollar Sir Charge"

This new slogan refers to the growing effort to lessen gun violence by reducing the glorification of gun violence in movies and video games. Pressure must be put on the government to place a five dollar sir charge on all movie tickets and video games featuring gun violence.. The revenues collected would serve to fund research into mental health.

As President Obama has said: if even one life is saved it is worth it. Ask your representatives to demand the five dollar sir charge on all movies and video games glorifying gun violence.

Of course it won't happen. But if a person is interested in the truth of the matter, the reason why it won't happen is very revealing.

Jan. 31 2013 09:13 PM
Douglas Bailey from Florida

In your show today on guns, you stated that Alabama does not have a straw purchase law.

They don't need one, as a straw purchase is illegal federally.

I am including a media release from that National Shooting Sports Federation on that subject. It is illegal in the US to purchase a gun for someone else. The US doesn't need MORE laws, just enforce the ones on the books.


NEWTOWN, Conn. -- As part of an ongoing national effort to help prevent illegal "straw" purchases of firearms, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association for the firearms industry, is reminding the public along the Southern border in Texas and Arizona that stiff penalties are in place for individuals convicted of such purchases.

Radio and billboard advertisements for the Don't Lie for the Other Guy program are being aired by NSSF in English and Spanish in the El Paso, McAllen/Brownsville and Laredo, Texas markets, as well as in the Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona area. The message: "Buy a gun for someone who can't and buy yourself 10 years in jail. Whatever you do . . . Don't Lie for the Other Guy . . ."

More than 130 million media impressions will be delivered from January through March through the public-education program, which is being funded by the firearms industry.

"Don't Lie" is a cooperative program between the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and NSSF, the trade association for the firearms and ammunition industry. The effort was developed over a decade ago to raise public awareness about the seriousness of the crime of purchasing a firearm for someone who cannot legally do so. The program also helps ATF educate firearms dealers so they can be better prepared to deter potential straw purchases.

The public campaign drives home the message that anyone attempting an illegal firearm purchase faces a stiff federal felony penalty of up to 10 years in jail or up to $250,000 in fines.

To legally purchase a firearm, a person must be able to pass an FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check and fully comply with state and local laws. When a criminal knows he cannot pass this check, he may try to induce a friend or acquaintance to make the purchase on his behalf, which is known as a straw purchase and is a felony.

"Our goal is to raise awareness among residents of Texas and Arizona that there are serious consequences for illegally straw purchasing a firearm," said Stephen L. Sanetti, NSSF president and CEO. "This warning can help deter an illegal purchase long before a person steps into a licensed retail store."

This public awareness campaign constitutes only part of the Don't Lie for the Other Guy outreach effort. The full Don't Lie for the Other Guy program, which also involves educating firearms retailers to better detect and prevent straw purchases, has been rolled out in major cities throughout the country and has run before along the U.S.-Mexican border.

Jan. 31 2013 06:32 PM
francesco devargo

Permit/License - Not a gun term, a legal term, since it can be applied to other activities without changing the meaning, such as automobiles. In many places, no permit or license is necessary to own or operate a firearm.

Registration - Not a gun term, a legal term, since it can also be applied to other activities without changing the meaning, such as automobiles. In many places, no permit or license is necessary to own or operate a firearm.

National database - A record of who owns each gun. An accurate national database is an impossibliity, since criminals, by definition, disobey laws, and law which requires registration will be summarily ignored by the criminal element, as well as those who understand that any law requiring that one register before enjoying a Constitutional right is illegitimate. With over 200 million guns in America, even widespread compliance will still mean millions of unregistered guns. A national database would cost millions of taxpayer dollars with limited to no effect.

Confiscation/Mandatory Buy-Back - A government sanctioned disregard of the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits seizure of property without cause. The Fourth Amendment states that warrants for seizures shall not be issued without probable cause that a crime has been committed. Making ownership of a legally purchased gun illegal after the fact is an ex post facto law, which is illegal according to Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution.

jcohenmsw said, "I am sure that what you claim to be significant points are of no consequence to the victims of gun violence or their families."

Many are advocating that the government send people to arrest or kill me if I possess objects or engage in activities that I now enjoy as a matter of routine. Let that sink in a minute. In the name of ending violence, people are advocating using the government to create more violence against people like me, who have received no more than a parking ticket for my entire life, just because I want to continue to harm NO ONE and do what I love to do.

You can damn well bet that I'm going to take every opportunity to point out the fallacies, falsehoods, inaccuracies, lies, and outright deceptions of those in the media who advocate such things, but are too cowardly to carry it out themselves.

Facts will always be facts, no matter what you think of them.

See ya next Thursday.

Jan. 17 2013 03:18 PM
Single Mom from New Jersey

Thank you so much for this glossary. Very helpful for those of us trying to learn gunspeak and understand the issues. Enjoyed segment with Paul Barrett this morning.

Jan. 17 2013 12:17 PM
Danny from ny

Firstly I am against guns.
but I don't take the approach of laws. Laws only stop the citizens that follow them. Criminals and disturb individuals don't follow the LAW. Example: New york city, Chicago and Newark Nj. Three cities with tough guns laws but they lead in gun crime.
Basically you have a big populations without guns being vitimized by vandals. The police department told grocery store owners to buy bullet proof vests. awe should as congress to require guns to have a Gps chips in all of them. If somebody reports their gun lost the police can find it asap. also put finger print readers on them . In that way only the righful owner can use the gun. Guns kill more more people than rifles, therefore reducing rifles won't help to reduced killings.

Jan. 14 2013 06:51 PM
Fred Philibert from New Jersey

What Gun Show loophole?

What no one seems to understand is, the so-called 'Gun Show Loophole' is more myth than reality. A dealer at a Gun Show has to fill out the same forms, and do the same background checks that he needs to do at his regular place of business.

Only if a sale is between private citizens is there no way to do a background check. The private seller still needs to follow all State and Federal laws, which in most cases, means that he needs to be certain that the person he is selling to is a lawful buyer; e.g., at a minimum, he can't sell a handgun to someone from out-of-state, or to a felon. Here in New Jersey, even in a private sale, the buyer would have to have obtained a handgun purchase permit, a process that involves fingerprinting and background checks, and takes from two to six MONTHS.

Jan. 14 2013 06:50 PM
Nureen Murphy from New York City

It would seem to me to make more sense to go straight to the horse's mouth.

Pass a law prohibiting the MANUFACTURERS to sell anything even vaguely resembling assault weapons to any person, institute or group unless they are connected to the military or the police.

As so many experts, military and police and recreational hunters, have commented about, there is no reason why the general public should be able to walk into a Walgrens or their local hardware store and buy a weapon capable of killing 20 people in a matter of minutes.

In addition it would be a lot easier and more effective to monitor manufacturers than to ride herd on all the people who are emotionally and mentally defective. Not to mention labeling bullets (????) or spending time researching what records might exist on who in the general public owns guns and then posting their names for public viewing.

Jan. 14 2013 05:15 PM
Howard Austin from Milwaukee,WI

How arrogant of a journalist to"stand by his misinformed statement on the interchangeability
of automatic and semi-automatic no knowledgeable gun owner does this.By the way a clip is
constantly misused in the manner he stated when magazine is the accurate word.Your glossary
errs in defining clip . It is a loading aid in some guns and goes in the magazine well of the gun
and is extracted upon loading or ejected when empty ie:M-1 Rifle WWII.

Jan. 13 2013 01:17 PM
RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

This is kind of a sideshow, in my opinion. Some gun rights advocates like to repel valid concerns over gun safety by dismissing anyone who can't talk about guns with the right vocabulary. That's not rational. You get a ticket for speeding regardless of whether you know how your car works. Some air rifles produce enough muzzle velocity to penetrate flesh. Some districts require a permit for a BB gun. Too many districts, too many rules.

The Second Amendment needs to be repealed and re-written to allow gun ownership only to those who have passed a gun safety course.

Jan. 10 2013 11:00 AM
rmaziarski from LI

Well done Francesco. Excellent explanation.

You know, I just cannot believe the incorrect terminology used to describe the parts of firearms or types of firearms by the media and by some of our elected officials.

The word “clip” most always used wrong to describe a detachable magazine.

However, some of my Vietnam friends said that they would “jungle clip” two mags – tape together two mags for quick reload.

And for some of you out there that are six decades old or older like me, do you remember the problems the Army had with the 16? The initial design got many guys killed or wounded. Ammo and bore cleaners were another problem.

When firearms with detachable magazines are banned, are we going to go after lever actions next?

I think the old Confederate saying concerning Federal mounted troops with lever actions was that he could load it on Monday and shoot all the way to Sunday.

Jan. 08 2013 07:51 PM

to Mr Devargo: I am sure that what you claim to be significant points are of no consequence to the victims of gun violence or their families.

Jan. 08 2013 06:11 PM
Jeff C from old Brooklyn

Bypass the 2nd amendment issues: Federal and state governments must regulate and license the ownership and purchase of, as well as all traffic in magazines and clips for automatic and semi-automatic weapons.

Jan. 04 2013 10:42 AM
francesco devargo

Some significant points, since you are trying to inform people:

Fully automatic, or "full auto" guns have been heavily regulated since 1934, and prohibited from manufacture since 1985 for civilian use. The ones that are in civilian hands are all registered and prohibitively expensive. No school shooting has ever been committed with a registered full auto gun in the United States, and the total crimes committed with these firearms is in the single digits. I guess it is good to know what one is, but they are irrelevent to discussions about school shootings and crime in general.

The Glock is a pistol designed by Gaston Glock, and produced by the company that bears his name. A proper noun, it should always be capitalized.

A magazine doesn't store is a spring loaded box that feeds ammunition into a firearm. Sometimes, storing ammunition in the magazine can over-compress the spring and result in a malfunction, therefore, in most cases, magazines, or "mags" should be stored unloaded.

Magazine capacity is not defined as how many shots a shooter can fire without is the number of rounds that fit in a magazine. A revolver can fire 5 or 6 or even more shots without reloading depending on the caliber and it doesn't even have a magazine.

A clip does not fit inside a magazine. A clip fits at the top of either an internal or external magazine and guides the rounds into the magazine for easier loading. The rounds are shoved down the length of the clip and into the magazine. In most cases, once the magazine is loaded, the clip is removed, and in some cases, disposed of. An exception is the M1 Garand, in which 8 rounds are "clipped" together using an en block device, which is placed into the gun. After the last round is fired, the clip is ejected and the bolt is held open, ready to accept another clip of 8 rounds. It is called a clip, but is designed in such a way that it almost acts like a magazine, with a double stack arrangement, feed lips, and the ability to remain in the gun while firing.

Jan. 03 2013 11:37 PM

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