If you got your firearms education from op-ed columnists, network anchors, or cable television talking heads, then all I can say is, “bless your heart.”
The simple fact of the matter is that most journalists are generalists, which is to say that they have no training or education beyond how to talk a certain way (if they are on television or radio) or how to write within Associated Press style guidelines (if in print or pixels). Their knowledge is generally limited to a bachelor’s degree in communications or journalism, which lends them roughly the same real-world, technical expertise of a theater arts degree.
Combine their ignorance with a prevailing bias that leads them to take their cues from anti-gun groups, propaganda outlets and slow-witted politicians that share their political views, and you will be fed a festering stew of stupidity that constantly regurgitates false talking points like these.
Ar-15s and M4s are “high-powered” firearms
NewsChannel5.com is just the most recent purveyor of this stupidity claiming that a M4 carbine lost or stolen from a Teneessee National Guard armory is “high-powered” because of the ammunition it shoots.
It is a claim repeated often by the media, leading to this sort of “understanding” from a dumbed-down public.
@bob_owens Had to explain to someone recently that pretty 300 Win Mag was more deadly than an AR. Constant eye roll.
— Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) December 5, 2013
The M4 shoots a 5.56mmx45mm cartridge, roughly analogous to the .223 Remington. The 5.56/.223 family is on the lower end of the centerfire rifle power scale, and are classified as intermediate-power cartridges. Your average 62-grain 5.56/.233 bullet generates roughly 1,300 ft/lbs of energy at the muzzle. This is more powerful than most common handguns, but is still weak enough that many state fish and game departments restrict its use for hunting deer-sized and larger game because it is too weak to ensure a clean kill in anything much larger than a groundhog or coyote. It has roughly half the power of the most common deer-hunting cartridges such as the .30-06 and the .270 Winchester.
By way of comparison, the .300 Winchester Magnum that got the “eyeroll” from Mr. Wilson’s media-educated friend in the tweet above fires a 180-grain bullet (that’s 3 times the weight) which has about 4,000 ft/lbs of muzzle energy ( more than 3 times the energy), and is commonly used in big game hunting and long distance precision shooting.
“Assault weapons” are “battlefield weapons”
Does putting an actor in a military uniform make then a Green Beret or a Navy SEAL? Of course it doesn’t. It’s merely a cosmetic enhancement.
The exact same facts are true in regards to a number of firearms that have cosmetic enhancements that make them “cool” to look at, but which doesn’t in any way affect their rate of fire (how fast they can be shot), their accuracy, or their power. This is the case with almost all firearms currently covered in various state “assault weapons” bans. They are not military-issue firearms, but become “assault weapons” because they are either specifically and arbitrarily named as such by politicians. They have a number of cosmetic features that make them look scary to the ignorant and uninformed.
Barrel shrouds, pistol grips, flash hiders and synthetic stocks do no make a firearm more dangerous, give it more range or power, or make it faster to shoot or reload.
How silly is the politician-created “assault weapon” classification?
Neither of the firearms above is issued to the military (and therefore is not a “battlefield weapon”). The Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle (top) and the AR-15 (bottom) fire the same intermediate-power .223 Remington/5.56 NATO ammunition to the same effective range, with the same rate of fire (one shot per trigger pull), and both use detachable magazines, but the Mini-14 is exempted from most state assault weapons ban that classify the Ar-15 as an “assault weapon” because of the pistol grip, telescope stock, and flash hider.
It’s all based on looks, not performance.
“Semi-automatic” or “military-style” or “assault weapon” means “machine gun”
One of the most common ignorant thoughts shared by the media is that a gun that looks like something the military might use is a machine gun. This is laughable false, and seems rooted in cosmetic appearance once again, not function.
When the trigger is pulled on a machine gun and is held down, the gun will fire as fast as it mechanically can until all the ammunition is expended or the shooter lets go of the trigger. Theoretically, this enables the shooter of a machine gun to fire hundreds of rounds a minute. Semi-automatic firearms fire one bullet each time the trigger is pulled, and are best described as “self-loading.” Here’s a brief video illustrating the difference.
The reality of the matter is that actual machine guns are legal under federal law, but have been highly regulated since 1934. Do you know how many murders have been committed with legally-purchased, legally-owned machine guns in the United States in those 79 years?
And one of those was committed by a corrupt cop using his department-issued submachine pistol.
__ number of guns or __ number of rounds of ammunition is an “arsenal”
It has been hilarious to watch the media abuse the term “arsenal” to describe just about any size collection of firearms and ammunition, almost always couched in terms to make the owner’s intent to sound nefarious, as if the owner has “too much.”
Historically, an arsenal was a dedicated facility, often on or near a military base, where arms and ammunition were made, stored, repaired, and maintained. Arsenals were maintained by military and paramilitary forces like militias or police forces, and while there was no specific number of guns or round count of ammunition that defined an arsenal, it was understood to be a significant quantity, generally enough to fill up rooms, entire buildings, or entire complexes of buildings and bunkers. Hundreds to thousands of firearms and hundreds of thousands to tens of millions of rounds of ammunition were found in such arsenals.
In recent years, the news media keeps redefining the term downward, asserting that there is criminal intent on having the amount they define as an “arsenal,” no matter how absurdly small that number may be.
Recently, a pudgy triracial former neighborhood watchman in Florida was told by a judge to hand over his firearms and ammunition because of domestic violence complaint filed against him. The media widely reported it when he turned over his “arsenal” of three handguns firearms, one rifle, and one shotgun, with just 127 rounds, or several boxes of ammunition.
Calling that small collection an arsenal with any sort of awareness of the historical scale of what an arsenal was, is absurd.
“High capacity” Magazines
My personal favorite pet peeve. What is a “high capacity magazine?” Why, it is whatever a politician says it is. “High capacity” is a completely arbitrary definition that is often below the standard capacity of most modern firearms.
In some states, “high capacity” means 20 rounds. In others, high capacity may mean 15, or 10, or 7 rounds, based entirely on what gun-hating politicians were able to ram down the throats of their constituents.
As a matter of design, the standard capacity of the most common rifle sold in the United States (the AR-15) is 30 rounds. Most modern double-column magazine pistols have a standard capacity ranges from 12-20 rounds. Calling a magazine that contains less than the standard capacity “high capacity” is absurd.
“Cop-killer” and “armor piercing” bullets
Another obtuse claim based upon journalistic incompetence is the abuse of the term “cop-killer” or “armor piercing” bullets. This isn’t currently in vogue as it once was, but it is still a howler.
Police in the United States generally wear soft body armor that is designed to stop common pistol bullets fired at average velocities. These vests are not designed to stop centerfire rifle ammunition of any bullet construction, including those made of the softest lead. While there is purpose-designed armor-piercing ammunition, such ammunition is already heavily regulated under existing federal laws, and ammunition so defined cannot be purchased by civilians.
So what can you trust in a media story about firearms?
Just about the only fact that you can take at face value from a media story about firearms is that a firearm of some type was probably used. Maybe.
Don’t count on the media being able to get the name, type, style, description, capacity, lethality, method of operation, or kind of ammunition for any firearm described correct for at least the first 24-48 hours. They’ve shown absolutely no interest in getting these details right in initial reports, and only retract or correct themselves begrudgingly if shamed into an admission that they are wrong.