I’ve taught English composition since 1998. Each student who wakes up to the subtleties and power of the language is a victory, but there are many days that make me feel that I’m at war with entropy—rarely more so when confronting the writing of gun control advocates. And I’m not talking here about such relatively minor faux pas as calling a magazine a clip or confusing the definitions of cartridge and bullet. Nor do I mean the serious error of labeling something an “assault weapon.” (At some point in the future, I’ll discuss the tissue of failure involved in that.) Today, I wish to focus on two assemblages of consonants and vowels that give such pleasure to the abusers of our tongue: Second Amendmented and ammosexual. Both are illustrated in this piece, but a search of Google or Twitter will provide the reader with an abundance of examples.
We live in an age in which the conjugation of nouns has become standard, at least in regard to missives typed by thumb. “Texted” has established itself, though I fail to see why we can’t use a verb from the days of the telegraph: send. But words in English are slippery, given the relative lack of endings required to fill a grammatical function, and some people can’t be bothered to take the time to look up a better choice. Such people will defend themselves by saying that Shakespeare also did whatever they are doing, to which I reply that when they function at his level, they may commit all the errors they find enjoyable. Until then, it’s best to know and follow the rules.
But the less motivated among us surely don’t have the energy for a six-syllable effort. That takes the urge to mock. Thus we’re offered cases of gun owners who “Second Amendmented” either themselves or others. As far as I can gather, this refers not to intentional acts, but to accidental deaths. That’s an important distinction that I’ll return to in a moment.
Let’s note, though, that the rate of accidental gun deaths has been declining steadily for some time now, as shown by data from the CDC. Any death through misadventure is sad, though in a nation of many millions of gun owners, fewer than 600 such deaths per annum indicates that we’re doing a lot right. Yet to take the kind of pleasure illustrated in the article cited above over the accidental death of another human being to me betrays exactly the kind of disregard for life and morality that we gun owners are all too often accused of.
And the term used to express such emotion is also a betrayal of good reasoning. If there is an action—a verb—expressed by the rights protected in the Second Amendment, that is precisely the opposite of an accident. The exercise of a right is an intentional act. I’ve argued elsewhere that the origin of rights is in our ability to make choices, and I reassert that here. If I refrain from opening my entire life to the world, if I speak my mind, or if I carry a gun, I am making choices. I don’t stumble into those things. Referring to an accident as someone “Second Amendmenting” himself or herself implies that the right protected in the Constitution is a right of disaster, not of decision. That is, of course, exactly the frame that gun control advocates wish to place on our thinking (see “Framing the question on gun violence”) and exactly the reason we must counter such poor reasoning. We are defending our right to decide for ourselves to be armed or not. Blunders with firearms are not an expression of the right, any more than a slip of the tongue is a usage of our right to speak freely.
The other term to consider is “ammosexual.” This one has its own entry in Urban Dictionary and shows up in so many attempts to be derisive of gun owners and rights advocates. For whatever reason, the subject of sex enters into discussions about guns with ridiculous regularity. References to male anatomy even have their own classification: Markley’s law. Indeed, we may have some measure of blame here, since so many on our side of the debate love to quote Freud, saying “A fear of weapons is a sign of retarded sexual and emotional maturity.” Except no one seems able to find where exactly Freud said any such thing, putting that saying on the same level as Abraham Lincoln’s assertion that “you can fool all the people all the time on the Internet.” Or did he actually say the telegraph?
At any rate, the sneering claim that we who enjoy firearms or who defend gun rights are “ammosexuals” is mere buffoonery, compared to “Second Amendmented.” It’s an attack meant to anger us, and rather than chanting a line about sticks and stones, we can blunt the force of the gibe by following the advice I gave in a previous article. If we welcome in good people, regardless of politics, sexual orientation, race, or sex, we show ourselves to be carrying out exactly the kind of celebration of diversity that our opponents often claim for themselves but fail to live up to. Add to this an off-handed remark that puerile jokes are appropriate for grade school, and perhaps that’s enough said about the term in question.
Whatever you do, please make this English teacher happy. Don’t let the language be torn down by those who would sacrifice everything in their goal to violate gun rights. Good use of language shows good thinking, and the good thoughts are on our side.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.