“Assault weapon” and “assault rifles” are malleable terms often used in public discourse to scare people. After all, all guns are designed to “assault” something. The usual proper use of this term is to describe fully automatic machine-gun-style weapons, which in the United States have been banned from civilian use for years. Notice that the Merriam-Webster change stretches this definition to include anything that looks like such a gun regardless of whether it shoots like one.

Yet media and politicians often use this term inaccurately, as doing so furthers their desire of getting Americans to support gun-control policies. As Sean Davis pointed out on our pages last year, when the United States had a federal “assault weapons” ban, lawmakers defined the term cosmetically instead of by function and, contra Merriam-Webster, had nothing to do with a military-esque design (whatever that means)…