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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Media's Lazy and Dishonest Reporting on Firearms

That was the subject of Kevin Williamson's piece at National Review Online Monday night.  In the article, Williamson lays out how the media doesn't take the time get the story right in it's reporting.  For instance:
Newspaper accounts of firearms are almost always illiterate and inaccurate. If you see something described as an AK-47 being used in a crime in the United States, you can be almost certain that it is not an actual AK-47. (This is not helped by the fact that many different kinds of firearms are marketed under the name AK-47.) An AK-47 is a select-fire rifle, i.e., a rifle that can be fired in fully automatic or semiautomatic mode, chambered for the 7.62×39mm round. These are pretty rare beasts in the United States; what’s normally meant by “AK-47″ is a semiautomatic rifle styled like an AK-47 and/or operating with a similar mechanism, and this elides the fact that one of these things is a full-auto machine gun and one isn’t. Given the rather energetic efforts of the anti-gun lobby and the press to conflate automatic and semiautomatic weapons, one cannot help but think this is at least partly intentional. In any case, it is misleading and confusing, and therefore bad journalism.

Similar problems come up with other firearms. “Uzi” is a brand name for everything from submachine guns to wristwatches. Some Uzi firearms you can buy at your local gun shop, and some a private citizen cannot legally buy under practically any circumstance. A great many different firearms are sold under the “AR” designation as well. When Bushmaster rifles were the evil black gun of the moment, “Bushmaster” was similarly treated as though it were a particular kind of rifle rather than a brand name for many different rifles. There are many different kinds of Glocks. Beyond using evocative and inaccurate brand and model names, the usual media practice is to use qualitative descriptors, many of which are meaningless (“assault weapon”) or generally misleading (“high-powered rifle”). That’s obviously unsatisfactory, too.
It should not be too much to expect reporters to do a little journalism and provide accurate information about the topic on which they are writing. Every now and then you will see a report that corrects inaccurate information from politicians on the subject but for the most part, references to "automatic weapons" or "weapons of war" by the likes of Hillary Clinton or President Obama go unchallenged.

I was listening to a podcast of Gun for Hire Radio recently and the show is using what can only be described as stupid comments by politicians when returning from commercial breaks.  One was a clip of a female legislator talking about "...bullets that have incendiary devices.  You don't need that to shoot deer, and if you did you could cook it too."  Another audio clip featured was a California politician talking about a "30 caliber clip to disperse with 30 bullets within a half second.  A 30 magazine clip in half a second."  This is the kind of ignorance you rarely seen corrected by the media.

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