Recently I came across an article on MSN.com about how easy it is to purchase firearms through private sellers (here). I read the article with interest and growing anger as yet another reporter sensationalized firearms to get a good headline. Firearms regulation and second amendment rights are a very controversial topic. Almost everyone has an opinion about what should and should not be allowed concerning firearms. I believe that as a hopeful future law enforcement officer and citizen that I have a vested interest in seeing that second amendment rights are protected. The thing that irritates me the most is when authority figures spout off information about firearms that is flat out wrong in order to bias others against firearms.
I remember back in my days as a sophomore at Normal Community High School that my history teacher made a comment one day about how stupid it was to use an AR-15/M16 (above) to hunt deer because “there would be nothing left of the deer”, seemed rational to me at the time. However, now I know that the AR-15 family of rifles fires the 5.56mm NATO/.223 Remington cartridge. That .223 refers to the diameter of the bullet, which is the same diameter as the 22 long rifle cartridge, just about the smallest diameter bullet that is available. In fact, recently the use of the M16 and the 5.56mm cartridge by our armed forces has come under fire from the military because the 5.56mm cartridge is often not powerful enough to put down an enemy combatant with one shot. There have been numerous reports of insurgents being shot three or four times and still continuing to fight. So the two images of a common assault rifle do not match up, the civilian history teacher believes it is so powerful that one shot will obliterate its intended target, the military professional that is intimately familiar with the rifle is asker for a more powerful replacement. I would personally trust the guys from the military, since I’m a former marine myself and can attest personally for the crappy performance of the 5.56mm round.
So where does the history teacher get his inflammatory information about firearms? I would posit that it was probably the result of sensationalized reports on firearms and assault rifles by the national media. The Rossen report above detailed how the author purchased a rifle capable of “taking down a helicopter” and firing “armor piercing” ammunition with absolutely no background check. The problem I have with this reporting is that I’m not sure why he chose to use the example of taking down a helicopter with a rifle. There has not been a single reported incident of a helicopter being downed by rifle fire in the United States, but the author seems to think it’s been happening regularly enough that we should worry about it. He also is very worried about armor piercing ammunition, even though most hunting bullets can be considered “armor piercing” under the definitions of U.S law found here. The author also mentions that he bought a “police grade” pistol. Police grade is not an actual type of firearm. The author used inflammatory and misleading terms to describe firearms in an effort to make his report more sensationalized.
Dr. John Lott is the author of a book called “The Bias Against Guns” that clearly demonstrates that this is not an isolated incident. The media has constantly portrayed weapons in misleading terms, stirring up negative reactions from the public based on myths. Probably the greatest culmination of this was the useless “assault weapons ban” of 1994. This beautiful piece of legislation banned purely cosmetic features of rifles (such as pistol grips and muzzle brakes) that would make a rifle an “assault weapon” Basically the weapons looked scary, so they banned them. The law did not impact the action of the weapons, I.E. bolt-action, single shot, or semi-automatic. Basically, they had no meaningful impact on the type of weapon a citizen could buy. I do not think that just anyone should be able to buy a weapon. Certain reasonable measures should be taken so that the untrained, criminal, or mentally ill cannot be given access to a firearm. However, I do think that having more trained gun owners in the public would have an impact on crime. Firearms are not the big bad wolf, all I ask is for a little journalistic responsibility where firearms are concerned.