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25 Things You Should Know About Word Choice

10 Mar

25 Things You Should Know About Word Choice

Author: Chuck Wendig

Source: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/03/06/25-things-you-should-know-about-word-choice/

1. A Series Of Word Choices

Here’s why this matters: because both writing and storytelling comprise, at the most basic level, a series of word choices. Words are the building blocks of what we do. They are the atoms of our elements. They are the eggs in our omelets. They are the shots of liquor in our cocktails. Get it right? Serendipity. Get it wrong? The air turns to arsenic, that cocktail makes you puke, this omelet tastes like balls.

2. Words Define Reality

Words are like LEGO bricks: the more we add, the more we define the reality of our playset. “The dog fucked the chicken” tells us something. “The Great Dane fucked the chicken” tells us more. “The Great Dane fucked the bucket of fried chicken on the roof of Old Man Dongweather’s barn, barking with every thrust” goes the distance and defines reality in a host of ways (most of them rather unpleasant). You can over-define. Too many words spoil the soup. Find the balance between clarity, elegance, and evocation.

3. The “Hot And Cold” Game

You know that game — “Oh, you’re cold, colder, colder — oh! Now you’re getting hot! Hotter! Hotter still! Sizzling! Yay, you found the blueberry muffin I hid under the radiator two weeks ago!” –? Word choice is like a textual version of that game where you try to bring the reader closer to understanding the story you’re trying to tell. Strong, solid word choice allows us to strive for clarity (hotter) and avoid confusion (colder).

4. Most With Fewest

Think of it like a different game, perhaps: you’re trying to say as much as possible with as few words as you can muster. Big ideas put as briefly as you are able. Maximum clarity with minimum words.

 5. The Myth Of The Perfect Word

Finding the perfect word is as likely as finding a downy-soft unicorn with a pearlescent horn riding a skateboard made from the bones of your many enemies. Get shut of this notion. The perfect is the enemy of the good. For every sentence and every story you have a plethora of right words. Find a good word. Seek a strong word. But the hunt for a perfect word will drive you into a wide-eyed froth. Though, according to scholars, “nipplecookie” is in fact the perfect word. That’s why Chaucer used it so often. Truth.

6. No One Perfect Word, But A Chumbucket Of Shitty Ones

For every right word, you have an infinity of wrong ones.

7. Awkward, Like That Kid With The Headgear And The Polio Foot

You might use a word that either oversteps or fails to meet the idea you hope to present. A word in that instance would be considered awkward. “That dinner fornicated in his mouth” is certainly a statement, and while it’s perhaps not a technically incorrect metaphor, it’s just plain goofy (and uh, kinda gross). You mean that the flavors fornicated, or more likely that the flavors of the meal were sensual, or that they inspired lewd or libidinous thoughts. (To which I might suggest you stop French-kissing that forkful of short ribs, pervhouse.) To go with the food metaphor for a moment (“meat-a-phor?”), you ever take a bite of food and, after it’s already in your mouth, discover something in there that’s texturally off? Bit of gristle, stem, bone, eyeball, fingernail, whatever? The way you’re forced to pause the meal and decipher the texture with your mouth is the same problem a reader will have with awkward word choice. It obfuscates meaning and forces the reader to try to figure out just what the fuck you’re talking about.

8. Ambiguous, Like That Girl With That Thing Outside That Place

Remember how I said earlier that words are like LEGO, blah blah blah help define reality yadda yadda poop noise? Right. Ambiguous word choice means you’re not defining reality very well in your prose. “Bob ate lunch. It was good. Then he did something.” Lunch? Good? Something? Way to wow ‘em with your word choice, T.S. Eliot. To repeat: aim for words that are strong, confident, and above all else, clarifying.

9. Incorrect, Like That Guy Who Makes Up Shit When He’s Drunk

Incorrect word choice means you’re using the wrong damn word. As that character says in that movie, “I do not think it means what you think it means.” Affect, effect. Comprise, compose. Sensual, sensuous. Elicit, illicit. Eminent, immanent, imminent. Allude, elude. Must I continue? Related: if you write “loose” instead of “lose,” I cannot be held accountable if I kick you so hard in your butthole you choke on a hemorrhoid.

10. Step Sure-Footedly

Point of fact: the English language was invented by a time-traveling spam-bot who was trapped in a cave with a crazy monk. Example: The word “umbrage” means “offense,” so, to take umbrage means to take offense. Ah, but it also means the shade or protection afforded by trees. I used to take the second definition and assume it carried over to the people portion of that definition. Thus, to “take umbrage” meant in a way to “take shelter” with a person, as in, to both be under the same shadow of the same tree. I used the word incorrectly for years like some shithead. If you’re uncertain about the use of any word, it’s easy enough to either not use it or use Google to define it (“define: [word]” is the search you need). Do not trust that the English language makes sense or that your recollection of its madness is pristine. It will bite you every time.

11. The Barbaric Barf-Yawn That Is Your First Draft

This is not a hard or fast rule (hell, none of this is), but in my highly-esteemed opinion (translation: debatable bullshit mumbled by a guy who thinks “cock-waffle” should be a part of our collective daily vocabulary), you don’t need — or want! — to refine your word choice in the first draft. That initial draft is, for me, a screaming weeping blubberfest where I just want to cry all the words out without any care in the world how they get onto the page. Second and subsequent drafts, however, are a good time to zero in on problems big and small. Don’t spend your first draft scrutinizing word choice.

12. Verbs: Strong Like Bull

For every action you’ll find a dozen or more verb-flavors of that action. You can drink your coffee or you can gulp, sip, guzzle, or inhale it. You can run down the street or you can jog, bolt, sprint, dash, saunter, or hotfoot it. You can have sex with someone or you can fuck ‘em, hump ‘em, make love to ‘em, or ride ‘em like Seabiscuit in a gimp mask. (Do they make gimp masks for horses? To the Googlemobile!) Use a strong verb that clarifies the action and makes sense in the context of the scene. A hostage escaping his kidnappers isn’t going to scamper away — he’s going to barrel, hurtle, bolt, or if you’re a fan of not-fixing-what-ain’t-broke, he’ll run like a motherfucker. If the base-level verb gives you maximum potency and clarity, then use it.

13. “I Like Playing With My Cats!” John Ejaculated From His Mouth

Mmmyeah, one caveat to the “strong clarifying verb” thing — it doesn’t apply to dialogue tags. No, no. Don’t resist. Hold still. Stop trying to chew through the duct tape. I know you want to your characters to yelp, blurt, scream, gibber, shriek, murmur, mumble, babble, explain, exhort, plead, interrupt, erupt, exclaim, and ejaculate constantly, but don’t do it. Do. Not. Do. It. Rely on “say/said” 80-90% of the time. You can, when seeking variety and clarification of action, use another dialogue tag.

14. The Verb “To Be”

Am. Is. Was. To Be. Will Be. Whatever. I’m not one of those who will tell you to cut out every instance of the verb “to be” in all its simple-headed forms because sometimes, simplicity is best. And yet, overuse of that verb may weaken your writing. Look for instances where the verb can be replaced by a stronger one or where it adds needless roughage to a sentence. “Barry is playing with himself in the corner” is better as “Barry plays with himself in the corner.” If you say, “It is my opinion that Rush Limbaugh should be stuffed with dynamite and exploded like a beached whale,” you’d be better off with, “I believe Rush Limbaugh…” instead. Oh, and if a sentence starts with “there is” or “it was,” you should attack that sentence with lasers.

15. The Word “Specificity” Is Really Fun To Say

No, really. Try it, I’ll wait. … Are you done yet? Specificity. Specificity. Spehhh-siiiihh-fiiiihh-sihhhh-teeee. Anyway. Moving on. Words help us define reality — nouns doubly so. Creature? Animal? Mammal? Cat? Panther? Housecat? Tomcat? Russian Blue? The North Canadian Spangled Bobtail? There I charted specificity to the point where it became useful and then crossed over into absurd bullshit. If I tell the reader that the cat is a “housecat,” we all get it. But if I say that the cat is a “Lambkin dwarf cat,” only a handful of cat geeks are ever going to grok my lingo. Aim for specific, but realize you can get too specific.

16. The Strong Spice Of Adverb And Adjective

Sometimes, a verb or noun just doesn’t tell the whole tale. I can say “housecat,” but I mean, “calico kitty with a sprightly attitude and a penchant for meowing loudly.” Calico. Sprightly. Loudly. These all modify the verbs and nouns present in order to paint a picture. Adverbs and adjectives provide both a deeper sense of specificity while also providing flavor or color to the world. They’re a strong spice. Use when you need, not when you want. Say what you mean and no more.

17. Adverbs Are Not Your Mortal Foe

Writers often bandy about that old crunchy nugget of of penmonkey wisdom — NO ADVERBS — as if it is bulletproof. As if a gang of adverbs shanked that writer’s mother in the kidneys as she stooped over to water the hydrangeas. Adverbs are not birthed from the Devil’s hell-womb. They’re just words. Did you know that “never” is an adverb? As is “here?” And “tomorrow?” You can rely too heavily on adverbs (and amateurish writers do). You can also use adverbs that are unnecessary or that sound clunky when staple-gunned to the end of a sentence. And adverbs paired with dialogue tags will often chafe one’s taint, but that doesn’t mean you need to hunt down every last adverb with a spear-gun.

18. The Thesaurus Is Not Satan’s Own Demon Gospel

The thesaurus is not a bad book (or, these days, website). I love the thesaurus because I have a brain like a rust-eaten bucket — shit slips through all the time. I’m constantly snapping my fingers saying, “There’s a word that’s like this other word but not quite and OH SHITDAMNIT I CAN’T REMEMBER IT WHO AM I AND WHY AM I WEARING LADIES’ UNDERWEAR?” So, I turn to the thesaurus not to look for a better, fancier word but instead to find the word my feeble mouse-eaten brain cannot properly recall. It is not the thesaurus that is the root of all evil but rather the love of the thesaurus that urges writers to commit the sin of pompous word choice. It is not a crutch; do not lean upon it.

19. Big Words For Tiny Penises

Smaller words are nearly always better than big ones. Big words put distance between you and the reader. Each added syllable is a speed-bump. Don’t use word choice to sound smart. Don’t talk circles around the reader. Your job is communication. Is your story a bridge between you and the reader — or is it a wall?

20. The Jingly Jangle Of Jargon

Jargon is when you rely on technical or area-specific terminology to get across your point. Jargon uses a limited vocabulary to speak to a small circle of people, and this is true whether you’re talking about some aspect specific to knight’s armor, a scientific theory, or the manufacture of space-age dildo technology. The test is easy. Ask yourself, will most people know what the fuck I’m talking about? If yes, carry on. If no, either use plain-spoken language or take the time to explain that shit you just slung into my eyes.

21. The Plumber Versus The Aristocrat

Certainly you have some leeway in terms of choosing the correct words for your expected audience. If you’re writing a novel about baseball, nobody would fault you for using a metric crap-sack of baseball terminology. You’ll certainly write different prose if you expect your audience to comprise plumbers instead of an aristocrats. Still, you’ll find value in reading to be read widely, not just by a subset of potential readers.

22. Junk In The Trunk

I’ll admit it: I love junk words. They are the greasy hamburger of prose, delicious to me and plump with empty calories. Effectively! In theory! Very! Happen to! Point is! You know? They offer minimal — if any! — functionality. Hunt them down with merciless abandon. Stomp them with cleated shoe until they squeal.

23. From The Department Of Redundancy Department

The repetition of one or several words can have a potent effect — but what happens a lot of time is, you repeat words accidentally. “The day was hot and heat vapors rose off the ground. The heat sapped Quinn’s energy.” Hot, heat, heat. A reader will trip on such repetition. And then he’ll fall down some steps and break his coccyx. Man, “coccyx” sounds like some kind of dinosaur bird, doesn’t it? THE MIGHTY COCCYX SWOOPS TO FEAST ON THE BABY TURTLEBUGS. I dunno. Shut up. Don’t judge me.

24. The Sound Of Words Matter

Words play off other words. Together they form rhythm. Choose words that pair well together, like red wine and steak. Or Pabst Blue Ribbon and hipster shame. Or heroin and delicious urinal cakes. Shakespeare knew that rhythm mattered and so chose words that slotted into iambic pentameter. The way you hear the rhythm of the words is to read your work aloud. Do that and you’ll find the flow — or, more importantly, find what’s damming the flow so you can fix it with proper word choice and sentence construction.

25. You Will Be Judged On The Words You Choose

Consider word choice to be a test posited by the audience. Make errors (lose/loose), they will see you for the rube you are. Write by relying on big words, heavy jargon and purple prose and they will see you as sticking your literary nose in the air. The result is the same: they will close the book and then beat you to death with it. They are also likely to violate your pallid carcass with various kitchen implements.

Write to be read. Choose words that have flavor but do not overwhelm, that reach out instead of pushing back, that sound right to the ear and carry with them a kind of rhythm. Write with confidence, not with arrogance. Don’t be afraid to play with words. But be sure to let the reader play with you.


Empty Space

16 Nov

This whole space thing… it’s big… and it’s full of nothing at all.

I can’t actually put the code in this post, so you have to go to the link for the actual pic/scale


And you thought there was a lot of empty space in the solar system. Well, there’s even more nothing inside an atom. A hydrogen atom is only about a ten millionth of a millimeter in diameter, but the proton in the middle is a hundred thousand times smaller, and the electron whizzing around the outside is a thousand times smaller than THAT. The rest of the atom is empty. I tried to picture it, and I couldn’t. So I put together this page – and I still can’t picture it.

The page is scaled so that the smallest thing on it, the electron, is one pixel. That makes the proton, this big ball right next to us, a thousand pixels across, and the distance between them is… yep, fifty million pixels (not a hundred million, because we’re only showing the radius of the atom. ie: from the middle to the edge). If your monitor displays 72 pixels to the inch, then that works out to eleven miles – making this possibly the biggest page you’ve ever seen (I personally have seen one that was set up to be even bigger, though its exact size did not seem to represent anything specific).

I recommend trying to scroll from here to the right a screen at a time, just to see how long it takes the little thumb in the scrollbar to move visibly. True masochists can try to scroll through the whole eleven miles – but the scenery along the way is pretty bleak.

I used to think that things like rocks and buildings and my own skeleton were fairly solid. But they’re made up of atoms, and atoms, as you can see here, contain so little actual material that they can barely be said to exist.

We are all phantoms.

(Note: users of older versions of Internet Explorer may not be able to scroll manually all the way to the right edge. If you want to actually see the electron, you may need to click HERE. Oddly, for some other users, this link will not work. Hopefully there is no one for whom both are true.)

If you don’t want to actually scroll through it…

Here’s the proton.

Now… the electron is ONE PIXEL… 11 miles away.

Bonus points if you can name what that “proton” is actually a picture of.

From Discover mag…

20 Things You Didn’t Know about Nothing

1. There is vastly more nothing than something. Roughly 74 percent of the universe is “nothing,” or what physicists call dark energy; 22 percent is dark matter, particles we cannot see. Only 4 percent is baryonic matter, the stuff we call something.

2. And even something is mostly nothing. Atoms overwhelmingly consist of empty space. Matter’s solidity is an illusion caused by the electric fields created by subatomic particles.

3. There is more and more nothing every second. In 1998 astronomers measuring the expansion of the universe determined that dark energy is pushing apart the universe at an ever-accelerating speed. The discovery of nothing—and its ability to influence the fate of the cosmos—is considered the most important astronomical finding of the past decade.

4. But even nothing has a weight. The energy in dark matter is equivalent to a tiny mass; there is about one pound of dark energy in a cube of empty space 250,000 miles on each side.

5. In space, no one can hear you scream: Sound, a mechanical wave, cannot travel through a vacuum. Without matter to vibrate through, there is only silence.

6. So what if Kramer falls in a forest? Luckily, electromagnetic waves, including light and radio waves, need no medium to travel through, letting TV stations broadcast endless reruns of Seinfeld, the show about nothing.

7. Light can travel through a vacuum, but there is nothing to refract it. Alas for extraterrestrial romantics, stars do not twinkle in outer space.

8. Black holes are not holes or voids; they are the exact opposite of nothing, being the densest concentration of mass known in the universe.

9. “Zero” was first seen in cuneiform tablets written around 300 B.C. by Babylonians who used it as a placeholder (to distinguish 36 from 306 or 360, for example). The concept of zero in its mathematical sense was developed in India in the fifth century.

10. Any number divided by zero is . . . nothing, not even zero. The equation is mathematically impossible.

11. It is said that Abdülhamid II, sultan of the Ottoman Empire in the early 1900s, had censors expunge references to H2O from chemistry books because he was sure it stood for “Hamid the Second is nothing.”

12. Medieval art was mostly flat and two-dimensional until the 15th century, when the Florentine architect Filippo Brunelleschi conceived of the vanishing point, the place where parallel lines converge into nothingness. This allowed for the development of perspective in art.

13. Aristotle once wrote, “Nature abhors a vacuum,” and so did he. His complete rejection of vacuums and voids and his subsequent influence on centuries of learning prevented the adoption of the concept of zero in the Western world until around the 13th century, when Italian bankers found it to be extraordinarily useful in financial transactions.

14. Vacuums do not suck things. They create spaces into which the surrounding atmosphere pushes matter.

15. Creatio ex nihilo, the belief that the world was created out of nothing, is one of the most common themes in ancient myths and religions.

16. Current theories suggest that the universe was created out of a state of vacuum energy, that is, nothing.

17. But to a physicist there is no such thing as nothing. Empty space is instead filled with pairs of particles and antiparticles, called virtual particles, that quickly form and then, in accordance with the law of energy conservation, annihilate each other in about 10-25 second.

18. So Aristotle was right all along.

19. These virtual particles popping in and out of existence create energy. In fact, according to quantum mechanics, the energy contained in all the power plants and nuclear weapons in the world doesn’t equal the theoretical energy contained in the empty spaces between these words.

20. In other words, nothing could be the key to the theory of everything.

More food for thought re: scale of the universe

Award winning astrophotographer Thierry Legault wanted to image the Hubble Space Telescope and space shuttle Atlantis traveling together around Earth.
But how? The pair wouldn’t fly over his hometown in France during the ongoing servicing mission. To catch the rare meeting of spaceships, he decided to do some traveling of his own–all the way to Florida. Yesterday, from a location 100 kilometers south of the Kennedy Space Center, he pointed his telescope at the sun and there they were:

“I took this picture of Atlantis and HST transiting the sun on May 13th at 12:17 p.m. EDT. It was just before the shuttle reached out with its robotic arm to grapple Hubble,” says Legault. “The two spaceships were at an altitude of 600 km and they zipped across the sun in only 0.8 seconds.” He captured the split-second transit using a solar-filtered Takahashi 5-inch refracting telescope and a Canon 5D Mark II digital camera.

FACTS about firearms in America

23 Jun

It’s been a few years since I compiled this… I’ll update as I get time but for now here’s some light reading.

Pass it on.

FACTS About Firearms in America


Assault Weapons Ban

Assault Weapons” are RARELY ever used in crimes

Top 10 Most Frequently Traced Guns Used In Crimes In 1994 (BEFORE the ’94 Federal “Assault Weapon” Ban):

1. Lorcin P25 (pistol)
2. Davis Ind. P380 (pistol)
3. Raven Arms MP25 (pistol)
4. Lorcin L25 (pistol)
5. Mossberg 500 (shotgun)
6. Phoenix Arms Raven (pistol)
7. Jennings J22 (pistol)
8. Ruger P89 (pistol)
9. Glock 17 (pistol)
10. Bryco 38 (pistol)
Source: US Dept. Justice.

“Assault Weapons” are RARELY ever used to kill police officers

Calibers Most Often Used To Kill Police Officers In 1994 (BEFORE the ’94 Federal “Assault Weapon” Ban):
1. .38 caliber handgun – 25.2%
2. .357 magnum handgun – 12.1%
3. 9mm handgun – 9.5%
5. 12 gauge shotgun – 7.4%
6. .22 caliber handgun – 5.4%
7. .22 caliber rifle – 4.4%
Source: US Dept. Justice.

According to the most recent detailed report, Dept. of Justice; Firearm Use by Offender…

“Assault weapons” are RARELY possessed by criminals during commission of a crime

State and Federal prison inmates armed during the crime for which they are being incarcerated: (table 2)
* 9.9% of state and 7.3% of federal inmates possessed “single-shot” firearms.
* 7.9% of state and 7.7% of federal inmates possessed conventional semiautomatic firearm.
* 1.5% of state and 1.7% of federal inmates possessed military-style semi-auto or full-auto firearms.

“Assault weapons” are RARELY involved in ANY crimes

State and Federal prison inmates who have ever possessed firearms during ANY crime: (table 2)
* 14.2% of state and 10.6% of federal inmates possessed “single-shot” firearm during ANY crime.
* 10.9% of state and 9.8% of federal inmates possessed conventional semiautomatic firearm during ANY crime.
* 2.5% of state and 2.3% of federal inmates possessed military-style semi-auto or full-auto firearms during ANY crime.

Assault weapons” possessed by criminals during crimes are usually obtained ILLEGALLY

Of State prison inmates who possessed military-style semi-auto or full-auto firearms in crimes for which they are incarcerated: (table 10)
* 48.5% obtained them through illegal sources (theft, drug dealer, black market, etc.)
* 25.2% obtained them from family or friend.
* 19.3% obtained them from retail sale.
* 1.9% obtained them from gun shows. (so much for that supposed gun-show “loophole” being a major source of “assault weapons” used in crime)

“Assault weapons” that are possessed during a crime are the LEAST LIKELY type of firearm to be actually discharged during the crime.

“Assault weapons” that are possessed during a crime are the LEAST LIKELY type of firearm to be used to injure the victim.

“Assault weapons” that are possessed during a crime are the LEAST LIKELY type of firearm to be used to kill the victim.


The “Assault Weapon” Ban Did NOT Reduce The Number Of Officers Killed In The Line Of Duty

Six years prior to “Assault Weapon” Ban:
Year….Total LEOs Killed…By Handguns…By Other Guns…By Other Methods
1988………………78…………………..63. …………………13………………..2
1989………………66…………………..40. …………………17………………..9
1990………………66…………………..48. ………………….9………………..9
1991………………71…………………..50. …………………18………………..3
1992………………64…………………..44. …………………11………………..9
1993………………70…………………..50. …………………17………………..3
TOTALS………..415………………….295….. ……………..85……………….35

Six years after “Assault Weapon” Ban:
Year….Total LEOs Killed…By Handguns…By Other Guns…By Other Methods
1995………………74…………………..43. …………………19……………….12
1996………………61…………………..50. ………………….7………………..4
1997………………70…………………..49. …………………18………………..3
1998………………61…………………..40. …………………18………………..3
1999………………42…………………..25. …………………16………………..1
2000………………51…………………..33. …………………14………………..4
TOTALS………..355………………….240….. ……………..92……………….26

Source: US Dept. Justice, Law Enforcement Officers Feloniously Killed
* The number of police killed by non-handgun firearms (which includes “assault weapons”) has NOT decreased since the passing of the “assault weapon” ban in 1994 but in fact has INCREASED since the passage of the AWB. And this comes despite the decrease in the number of LEOs killed by all other means INCLUDING handguns.

Studies demonstrated that the “Assault Weapon” ban “FAILED” to reduce gun-murders:

From The 1997 “Impact Evaluation” of the “Assault Weapon” Ban

“We were unable to detect any reduction to date in two types of gun murders that are thought to be closely associated with assault weapons, those with multiple victims in a single incident and those producing multiple bullet wounds per victim. We did find a reduction in killings of police officers since mid-1995. However, the available data are partial and preliminary, and the trends may have been influenced by law enforcement agency policies regarding bullet-proof vests.”
5.2.3. Assault Weapons and Crime
“…assault weapons do not appear to be used disproportionately in violent crime relative to other guns”
“Overall, assault weapons accounted for about 1% of guns associated with homicides, aggravated assaults, and robberies” and “only 2% of guns associated with drug crimes were assault weapons.”

5.2.4. Unbanned Handguns Capable of Accepting Large-capacity Magazines
“The ban on large-capacity magazines does not seem to have discouraged the use of these guns.”

6.2.1. Trends in Multiple-Victim Gun Homicides
“[Studies] failed to produce any evidence that the ban reduced the number of victims per gun homicide incident.”

6.3.4. Conclusions
“[Studies] failed to produce evidence of a post-ban reduction in the average number of gunshot wounds per case or in the proportion of cases involving multiple wounds.”

6.4.2. Assault Weapons and Homicides of Police Officers
“In sum, police officers are rarely murdered with assault weapons.”

From The 1999 “Impacts of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban” Report To Congress

“the weapons [“assault weapons] banned by this legislation were used only rarely in gun crimes before the ban”

“The ban has failed to reduce the average number of victims per gun murder incident or multiple gunshot wound victims.”

“…the banned guns are used in only a small fraction of gun crimes; even before the ban, most of them rarely turned up in law enforcement agencies’ requests… to trace the sales histories of guns recovered in criminal investigations.”

“The ban’s short-term impact on gun violence has been uncertain”

From The FINAL June 2004 “Updated Assessment On The Federal Assault Weapon Ban” Report To Congress
“AWs [Assault weapons] were used in only a small fraction of gun crimes prior to the ban”

“…we cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence.”

“These analyses revealed no ban effects, thus failing to show confirming evidence of the mechanism through which the ban was hypothesized to affect the gun murder rate”

“…there has been no discernible reduction in the lethality and injuriousness of gun violence… as we might have expected had the ban reduced crimes committed with AWs (assault weapons) and LCMs (large-capacity magazines).”

“Thus, it is premature to make definitive assessments of the ban’s impact on gun violence.”


“Assault weapons” are NOT “machine guns”.

They are “semi-automatic” meaning one pull of the trigger=one bullet discharged while the next bullet is then chambered ready for the next trigger pull. “Assault weapons” are not full-auto firearms and they do NOT “spray” bullets with a single pull of the trigger.


The “Assault weapon” Ban had NOTHING to do with silencers.

One of the cosmetic features addressed by the “Assault Weapon” Ban included flash-suppressors which reduce the bright muzzle-glare ONLY in the eyes of the shooter in low-light conditions. Flash-suppressors do NOT “hide” the bright flash from any other observer and do NOT “silence” the very loud report of the gunshot sound.


The Columbine-Killers did not violate any provision of “Assault Weapon” ban.

The firearms used in Columbine included two sawed-off shotguns (already illegal), a pistol and a legally-produced TEC-9 “assault weapon”. The “assault weapon” ban did not stop those two UNDERAGE killers from illegally acquiring the guns, illegally modifying the shotguns, illegally bringing them to school or illegally murdering 13 people.


The 1994 Federal “Assault Weapon” Ban did NOT actually ban “assault weapons”.

The ban only prohibited the NEW PRODUCTION of certain firearms based on cosmetic features. There were hundreds of thousands of “assault weapons” legally owned, bought and sold BEFORE the ban was implemented and, DESPITE the overall drop in crime rates during the ban, there were STILL hundreds of thousands of “assault weapons” being legally, peacefully and safely owned, bought and sold during the 10 years of the ban’s existance.


The 2nd Amendment is NOT about “duck hunting”.

Military-style firearms (like “assault weapons”) are specifically protected by the 2nd Amendment according to the U.S. Supreme Court rulings in U.S. v. Miller (1939) and Lewis v. U.S. (1980).

* In the Miller decision the Supreme Court stated, “In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession of [a particular gun] has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument”.

* In the Lewis decision, the Supreme Court stated, “the Second Amendment guarantees no right to keep and bear a firearm that does not have ‘some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia'”.




**”A number of factors—including the fact that the banned weapons and magazines were rarely used to commit murders in this country…posed challenges in discerning the effects of the ban.”

**”…the banned guns are used in only a small fraction of gun crimes; even before the ban, most of them rarely turned up in law enforcement agencies’ requests to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) to trace the sales histories of guns recovered in criminal investigations.”

**There were several reasons to expect, at best, a modest ban effect on criminal gun injuries and deaths. First, studies before the ban generally found that between less than 1 and 8 percent of gun crimes involved assault weapons, depending on the specific definition and data source used.”

**”Given the limited use of the banned guns and magazines in gun crimes, even the maximum theoretically achievable preventive effect of the ban on outcomes such as the gun murder rate is almost certainly too small to detect statistically… National Institute of Justice report

Numbers from BEFORE the first AWB in 1994:

California. In 1990, “assault weapons” comprised thirty-six of the 963 firearms involved in homicide or aggravated assault and analyzed by police crime laboratories, according to a report prepared by the California Department of Justice, and based on data from police firearms laboratories throughout the state. The report concluded that “assault weapons play a very small role in assault and homicide firearm cases.” Of the 1,979 guns seized from California narcotics dealers in 1990, fifty-eight were “assault weapons.”

Chicago. From 1985 through 1989, only one homicide was perpetrated with a military caliber rifle. Of the 17,144 guns seized by the Chicago police in 1989, 175 were “military style weapons.”

Florida. Florida Department of Law Enforcement Uniform Crime Reports for 1989 indicate that rifles of all types accounted for 2.6% of the weapons used in Florida homicides. The Florida Assault Weapons Commission found that “assault weapons” were used in 17 of 7,500 gun crimes for the years 1986-1989.

Los Angeles. Of the more than 4,000 guns seized by police during one year, only about 3% were “assault weapons.”

Maryland. In 1989-90, there was only one death involving a “semiautomatic assault rifle” in all twenty-four counties of the State of Maryland.

Massachusetts. Of 161 fatal shootings in Massachusetts in 1988, three involved “semiautomatic assault rifles.” From 1985 to 1991, the guns were involved in 0.7% of all shootings.

Miami. The Miami police seized 18,702 firearms from January 1, 1989 to December 31, 1993. Of these, 3.13% were “assault weapons.”

New Jersey. According to the Deputy Chief Joseph Constance of the Trenton New Jersey Police Department, in 1989, there was not a single murder involving any rifle, much less a “semiautomatic assault rifle,” in the State of New Jersey. No person in New Jersey was killed with an “assault weapon” in 1988. Nevertheless, in 1990 the New Jersey legislature enacted an “assault weapon” ban that included low-power .22 rifles, and even BB guns. Based on the legislature’s broad definition of “assault weapons,” in 1991, such guns were used in five of 410 murders in New Jersey; in forty-seven of 22,728 armed robberies; and in twenty-three of 23,720 aggravated assaults committed in New Jersey.

New York City. Of 12,138 crime guns seized by New York City police in 1988, eighty were “assault-type” firearms.

New York State. Semiautomatic “assault rifles” were used in twenty of the 2,394 murders in New York State in 1992.

San Diego. Of the 3,000 firearms seized by the San Diego police in 1988-90, nine were “assault weapons” under the California definition.

San Francisco. Only 2.2% of the firearms confiscated in 1988 were military-style semiautomatics.

Virginia. Of the 1,171 weapons analyzed in state forensics laboratories in 1992, 3.3% were “assault weapons.”

National statistics. Less than four percent of all homicides in the United States involve any type of rifle. No more than .8% of homicides are perpetrated with rifles using military calibers. (And not all rifles using such calibers are usually considered “assault weapons.”) Overall, the number of persons killed with rifles of any type in 1990 was lower than the number in any year in the 1980s.

Police departments nationwide agree that criminals do not prefer these weapons:

** Police View: Over 100,000 police officers delivered a message to Congress in 1990 stating that only 2% to 3% of crimes are committed using a so-called “assault weapon.”

Congressional Record, 13 September 1990, p. E 2826, citing [Police Advertisement], Roll Call, 3 September 1990. Also, see Howard Schneider, “Gun Owners Take Shot at Schaefer Assault-Weapon Bill,” The Washington Post, February 15, 1991

** Florida study: In Florida, only 3.5% of the guns recovered by the police were guns that could loosely be defined as “assault weapons.”

State of Florida Commission on Assault Weapons, Report, 18 May 1990, pp. 34-41. State of Florida Commission on Assault Weapons, Report, 18 May 1990, pp. 34-41.


** California study: The California Department of Justice suppressed an official report showing that “assault weapons” comprised only 3.7% of the guns used in crime. While the report was eventually leaked to the media, it received little press coverage.

David Alan Coia, “Assault rifles said to play small role in violent crime,” The Washington Times, 27 June 92.


** Virginia task force: A special task force on assault weapons found that only 2.8 percent of the homicides involved “assault-type weapons” during 1992.

Mark Johnson, “Assault-type weapons rarely used,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, 4 August 1993.


** Knives more deadly: According to the FBI, people have a much greater chance of being killed by a knife or a blunt object than by any kind of rifle, including an “assault rifle.” In Chicago, the chance is 67 times greater. That is, a person is 67 times more likely to be stabbed or beaten to death in Chicago than to be murdered by an “assault rifle.”

FBI, “Crime in the United States,” 1994, p. 18. Matt L. Rodriguez, Superintendent of Police for the City of Chicago, 1993 Murder Analysis at 12, 13.

Brady Bill

Our analyses provide no evidence that implementation of the Brady Act was associated with a reduction in homicide rates. In particular, we find no differences in homicide or firearm homicide rates to adult victims in the 32 treatment states directly subject to the Brady Act provisions compared with the remaining control states.”

Journal of the American Medical Association (Vol. 284 No. 5, August 2, 2000)

Before Congress and President Clinton approved the Brady bill in 1993, laws delaying handgun purchases (imposed in 24 states) were known to have no effect on crime. During 1992, the most recent year of data available when the Brady bill was passed, California, the state with the most restrictive waiting period law (15 days on all firearm sales, retail and private) had total violent crime and murder rates 58% and 44% higher, respectively, than the rates for the rest of the country. (FBI) Anti-gun researcher David McDowell had concluded that “waiting periods have no influence on either gun homicides or gun suicides.”

(“Preventative Effects of Firearm Regulations on Injury Mortality,” prepared for the annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology, 1993)

In 1992 states delaying the purchase of handguns and D.C. had higher violent crime rates overall, than states that did not delay handgun purchases. Additionally, states that delayed handgun purchases were more likely to have violent crime and murder rates higher than the national rates. Of the 12 states (and D.C.) that had violent crime rates higher than the national rate, eight (and D.C.) delayed handgun purchases. Of the 16 states (and D.C.) that had murder rates higher than the national rate, nine (and D.C.) delayed handgun purchases

Crime: 34.6% higher in states with a purchase delay.
Homicide: 3.7% higher in states with a purchase delay.
Robbery: 76.9% higher in states with a purchase delay.
Assault: 21.6% higher in states with a purchase delay.

Data: FBI, “Crime in the United States, 1992”

Only 7% of armed career criminals obtain firearms from licensed gun shops.

(Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms “Protecting America: The Effectiveness of the Federal Armed Career Criminal Statute,” 1992, p. 28)

85% of police chiefs believe that the Brady Act has not stopped criminals from obtaining handguns.

(Membership poll, National Association of Chiefs of Police, May 1997)

Violent crime has declined nationwide during the 1990s, but in the first two years of the Brady Act (before additional states subject to the Act`s five-day waiting period became exempt) violent crime and murder rates declined less, overall, in states subject to the 5-day wait. The overall violent crime rate in states the Brady Act`s five-day waiting period was imposed upon declined six percent versus a decline of 9.4% in “Brady-exempt” states. The overall murder rate declined nine percent in Brady states, versus 16.9% in “Brady-exempt” states.

(Data: FBI)

The General Accounting Office reported that during the Act`s first year, 95.2% of handgun purchase applicants were approved without a hitch. Of the denials, nearly half were due to traffic tickets or administrative problems with application forms (including sending forms to the wrong law enforcement agency)

(“Implementation of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act,” Report to theCommittee on the Judiciary, U.S. Senate, and the Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. House of Representatives, GAO/GGD-96-22, Jan. 1996, pp. 64-66)

Persons denied for violent and nonviolent crime-related reasons accounted for 2.4% of applicants; denials due to administrative errors, 2%; and denials due to traffic tickets, 0.4%. Only four jurisdictions–Ohio; South Carolina; and Harris (Houston) and Tarrant (Fort Worth) Counties, Texas–had records identifying denials for violent crime reasons, and 0.2% of handgun purchase applications were so denied.

General Accounting Office study

The average time between the purchase of a gun and its use in murder is more than six years. (For robbery and assault, 5.6 years.)

(Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms gun tracing statistics)

far less than 21% of criminal gun users would be affected by a background check. The 21% who obtained their last crime handgun at a gun store included 5% who had obtained the gun by theft, rather than by purchase. Of the 16% who had obtained the gun by purchase, at least some likely did not have disqualifying criminal records at the time of purchase.
Further, not all of the guns acquired by criminals are acquired for crime. (Many criminals live in neighborhoods with other criminals, and hence own guns for defense.) The more likely a felon was to be a serious gun criminal, the less likely he was to have acquired a retail gun. For example, of the criminals who specialized in unarmed crime, 30% obtained their most recent handgun at a store (by purchase or by theft). Of the “handgun predators” who specialize in handgun crime, only 7% had gotten a handgun from a store. For criminals as a whole, of the guns that had been obtained “to use in a crime,” 12% came from a store.

Wright and Rossi National Institute of Justice study

Concealed Carry Laws

For each additional year that a concealed handgun law is in effect the murder rate declines by 3 percent, rape by 2 percent, and robberies by over 2 percent.John R. Lott, Jr., More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws. http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/493636.html

Florida adopted a right-to-carry law in 1987. Between 1987 and 1996, these changes occurred:

Homicide rate DOWN 36%
Firearm homicide rate: DOWN 37%
Handgun homicide rate: DOWN 41%

Homicide rate: DOWN 0.4%
Firearm homicide rate: UP 15%
Handgun homicide rate: UP 24% “1998 NRA Fact Card.”

221,443 concealed carry licenses were issued in Florida between October of 1987 and April of 1994. During that time, Florida recorded 18 crimes committed by licensees with firearms.

Lott, John R. Jr. and Mustard, David B. “Crime, Deterrence, and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handguns.” University of Chicago School of Law, 7/26/96.



Seven of every 10 violent crimes are not committed with firearms

29% of homicides, 90% of rapes, 59% of robberies, and 77% of aggravated assaults are committed with weapons other than firearms. Approximately 10,000 murders are committed each year with weapons other than handguns, most with weapons other than firearms.

(Homicides, robbery, and aggravated assault data, FBI; rape data, Nat`l Crime Victimization Surveys)


Despite over 200 million guns owned by between 76 to 85 million people, the children killed is much smaller than the number lost through bicycle accidents, drowning, and fires. Children are 14.5 times more likely to die from car accidents than from accidents involving guns.

John R. Lott, Jr., More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws. http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/493636.html


In 1982, a survey of imprisoned criminals found that 34% of them had been “scared off, shot at, wounded or captured by an armed victim.” Study: “Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense with a Gun.”

By Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (Northwestern University School of Law), 1995


Washington D.C. enacted a virtual ban on handguns in 1976. Between 1976 and 1991, Washington D.C.’s homicide rate rose 200%, while the U.S. rate rose 12%.

“TEN MYTHS ABOUT GUN CONTROL” January of 1999 – National Rifle Association

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