In a “Weapon Types” category on the quiz show, an answer was “BOLT ACTION; AR, ALSO CALLED MODERN SPORTING,” to which a contestant buzzed in and said, “What is an assault rifle?”
“Yes,” said host Alex Trebek. The thing is, this simply is not correct. Though Jeopardy! will retroactively correct answers routinely, this response stood for the duration of the game.
The correct response should simply have been, “What is a rifle?” Other category responses included knife, bow and club. That Jeopardy! accepted “assault rifle” is troubling, and perpetuates the myth that commonly, and lawfully, owned rifles are what anti-gun extremists mischaracterize as “assault” weapons.
Let’s break this answer down, piece by piece. An assault rifle, by U.S. Army definition, is a selective-fire rifle chambered for a cartridge of intermediate power. “If applied to any semi-automatic firearm regardless of its cosmetic similarity to a true assault rifle, the term is incorrect,” reported the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (ILA).
These military rifles are capable of semi-automatic and full-automatic fire, where the action will reload itself automatically. What differentiates the firing modes is whether or not you have to release the trigger to fire the second shot. In the semi-automatic mode, when the trigger is pulled, the firearm will discharge a round, eject the spent cartridge, and load a new round; but only one round will fire for every pull of the trigger. In the full-automatic mode, the rifle will continually fire, chamber a new round, and fire until the magazine is empty or the trigger is released.
None of the rifle types mentioned in the answer—bolt action, AR, or modern sporting—have a full-automatic function.
A bolt-action rifle is a gun mechanism activated by manual operation of the breechblock that resembles a common door bolt. In other words, bolt-action rifles are not capable of reloading themselves. They require manual effort to extract a spent cartridge and load a new round—this is a rather large distinction from how both semi-automatic and full-automatic rifles function.
AR, as we know, does not stand for “assault rifle.” It stands for ArmaLite Rifle, the original manufacturer of the AR-15, which was developed in the 1950s. Today, they are some of the most commonly owned firearms by Americans across the country. Though they may have cosmetic similarities to military rifles, these rifles can only function in a semi-automatic firing mode.
And, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF): “The term ‘modern sporting rifle’ was coined to describe today’s very popular semiautomatic rifle designs, including the AR-15 and its offspring."
Jeopardy!’s failure to correct this response was likely due to an unintentional oversight, but the response is still incorrect. The mislabeling of these commonly owned firearms is troubling. This oversight perpetuates the myth that “assault rifles” are commonly owned and easily sold in the United States, which is simply not true.
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris want to ban countless semi-automatic rifles (as well as handguns and shotguns)—which are rarely used in crimes—and now Jeopardy! has improperly equated these to military weapons. This misrepresents the firearms owned and used by the millions of Americans who lawfully own these rifles.