Here’s Miriam Webster:
ar·se·nal /ˈärs(ə)-nl/ Noun 1. A collection of weapons and military equipment stored by a country, person, or group: “Britain’s nuclear arsenal”. 2. A place where weapons and military equipment are stored or made.
Here’s the media reporting on the contents of Adam Lanza’s home:
Authorities found at least nine knives, three Samurai swords, two rifles, 1,600 rounds of ammunition and a 7-foot, wood-handled pole with a blade on one side and a spear on the other.
I will grant that that is a hefty chunk of ammunition, but would not be uncommon amongst those who engage in regular target practice. I will also grant that 9 knives and two guns and some other bladed weapons constitute a “collection” of weapons stored by a “person”. But the use of the word in this context cheapens what it means to have an arsenal. With the exception of the samurai sword and the halberd thingy, most hunters have at least this many weapons, if not always that much ammunition in their homes. Most hunters will own at least one of each of the following:
- A .22 caliber rifle (for small game and target practice)
- A large caliber rifle (for large game, e.g., deer)
- A shotgun (for birds, mostly ducks, pheasant, etc.)
- A handgun (for bear protection, general paranoia or one likes guns)
- Ammo for all of the above. .22 ammo in particular comes in “bricks” containing between 50 and 250 rounds. This ammo is cheap, and people interested in hitting what they are aiming for will buy lots of it.
- A variety of hunting knives. Some knives are better for skinning large game, some for field dressing birds, some for filleting fish, a second knife or two in the large game category because dressing out a large animal can dull a blade quickly and taking out a second knife is faster than sharpening one.
- Dozens of knives in their kitchens.
I’ve also known tons of adolescent boys who develop a fascination with samurai swords (which are usually laughably cheap and structurally unsound knockoffs) and other blades, none of whom have gone on to shoot up a school.
I think there is a reasonable basis for arguing that we need to do a better job of controlling the use of firearms in this country, for addressing the poor state of the nation’s mental health system (thanks Reagan!), and for reducing the (worth noting, historically low) level of violence in our society. I think the truly scary think about the Lanza case is that his home is honestly pretty hard to distinguish from the homes of millions of responsible gun owners and recreational hunters in particular. I think misusing words like “arsenal” which connote significantly larger numbers of weapons than appeared in the Lanza home, or trying to stigmatize such comparatively small collections as this as being somehow unusually large does a disservice to the debate and reduces the likelihood of getting those hunters and recreational shooters to be part of the solution as opposed to part of the opposition.