Los Angeles Police Department via AP
The media, by and large, doesn’t understand firearms very well. We all know this and see it every time they write a story about guns and get various technical aspects wrong. I’m not talking about being so hilariously wrong we mock them for years later (I’m looking at you, USA Today and your chainsaw bayonets), but the little piddling details like round capacity, rate of fire, things like that.
However, there’s a deeper one that gets mocked regularly by the gun community, but also illustrates a real problem in American journalism, at least when it comes to reporting about firearms.
Take this story here.
A Long Island plastic surgeon was caught with an enormous cache of weapons in his car — that included five fully loaded assault rifles, body armor and more than 1,600 rounds of ammunition, police said Wednesday.
When they searched his BMW SUV, they found a staggering arms collection.
Inside the backseat and trunk were the assault rifles loaded with high-capacity magazines as well as: three handguns, 29 more high-capacity loaded magazines, a stun gun, handcuffs, full face masks, multiple military-style knives, four brass knuckles, pepper spray, scopes, binoculars and other paraphernalia, cops said.
Now, I’m not going to write about whether the stop was warranted or anything because, well, I don’t want to.
Instead, I want to talk about the alarmism from the story in general. The mention of an “enormous cache of weapons” and “staggering arms collection” is certainly evocative, something a writer generally tries to strive for, but it’s also problematic in a very real way.
After all, how many of us have five or more firearms that many consider “assault rifles?” How many have that many plus at least three handguns? What about a collection of knives as well?
Honestly, almost everything in that list is probably sitting in a lot of Bearing Arms readers’ homes.
The language used to describe it is troubling because it suggests that this is an abnormal amount of weapons for someone to possess, especially in their car. While this particular case is slightly different, readers don’t make that determination. They don’t look at it and think, “Well, that’s different because he’s suspected of this hinky behavior in conjunction with all these guns.”
Instead, they assume five “assault rifles” and three handguns is a massive amount of weaponry for a single person to own.
The problem is that it’s not that unusual. Not among gun owners. That’s low.
Further, a lot of those gun owners who don’t have such a collection are in such a position because of finances. They want that many, they just can’t afford it.
So why does this happen? Well, the easy answer is media bias, of course. The media is routinely biased against guns and gun owners, so of course, they’ll misrepresent something like this.
However, I don’t think that’s always the case. Another case is that a lot of journalists don’t know any better.
I recently watched a Twitter exchange between several gun journalists, including our own Cam Edwards, where they talked about their fellow journalists and how they should reach out to talk to someone such as themselves about firearm details so they can get them right.
This is good, of course.
What I would add, though, is that there are cultural aspects to guns that they’re missing as well. This “enormous cache of weapons” is someone’s light day at the range. This isn’t unusual among gun owners, and it would be great if the rank and file journalists could learn that gun people don’t find it all that odd. The context may make it troubling, mind you, but not odd in and of itself. Not with a crowd that holds gun ownership as the highest example of our freedom.