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The Media’s Dishonest Reporting on Firearms

by Kevin D. Williamson |  |  Published on January 3, 2017

If you ever have had any dealings with the Associated Press, you know it to be a placid, slow-moving bureaucracy. But it can spur itself into action, as when it revises its style book (the standard for newspaper editors) which it often does along ideological lines, e.g., barring the phrase “illegal immigrants” to describe illegal immigrants, or its recent insistence that services such as Uber and Lyft cannot be described as “ride-sharing” arrangements. (The Left has decided it dislikes the phrase “sharing economy.”) Some suggestions have not made it into recent editions, e.g., “A ‘burro’ is an ass; a ‘burrow’ is a hole in the ground. A good editor knows the difference.”

There is a change that I would like to see the AP and the New York Times and the rest of them make, one that might be a little more useful than splitting ideological hairs about what we call Uber: correcting how we describe firearms.

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.

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