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WaPo, NY Times Blame Gun That Orlando Killer Never Actually Used

AR-15Following the Orlando massacre Sunday, The Washington Post and The New York Times both wrote longform stories that centered on the Orlando terrorist’s use of a gun that he never actually used.

“The gun used in the Orlando shooting is becoming mass shooters’ weapon of choice,” wrote The Washington Post. “AR-15 Rifles Are Beloved, Reviled and a Common Element in Mass Shootings,” wrote The New York Times. Both served as profiles of the AR-15– America’s most popular rifle– and were premised on the fact that it was used in the Orlando shooting.

There’s only one problem: it wasn’t. Initial reports indicated that the killer used an “AR-15 type” of rifle, which both papers seemed to have assumed most have meant an AR-15. But the shooter actually used a Sig Sauer MCX, a semi-automatic rifle that outwardly resembles the AR-15 but otherwise has little in common.

The Washington Post has since updated its piece with a lengthy correction:

The headline in this story was changed to make it clear that the weapon involved in Sunday’s shooting in Orlando was not an AR-15. Orlando Police officials first classified the weapon used in the rampage as an “AR-15-type assault rifle.” On Monday, officials said the weapon used was a Sig Sauer MCX. While in many ways similar to the AR-15 family of rifles, the MCX relies on a different gas system to operate and cannot be fairly classified as an AR-15.

Unfortunately the new headline– “Assault rifles are becoming mass shooters’ weapon of choice”– is still false. Neither the AR-15 or Sig Sauer MCX or any of the guns highlighted in the piece are “assault rifles,” a very specific term reserved for military rifles like the AK-47 capable of switching to automatic fire. The body of the piece more accurately refers to these guns as “assault-style,” shaped and modeled after military-caliber guns but significantly less deadly.

The New York Times barely even tried to fix its piece. It issued a correction to be sure: “An earlier version of this article referred imprecisely to the SIG Sauer rifle used by [the shooter]. The gun has a different operating system from the AR-15, but retains some AR-15-style features.”

But examining the difference between the corrected version and the new one shows they only changed one word in the entire piece and called it a day. Here’s the original lede:

In recent years, the AR-15 has become, simultaneously, one of most beloved and most vilified rifles in the country.

It is no surprise why the gun is so reviled by gun control advocates… the gunman in the attack this weekend on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. used a version of the rifle produced by SIG Sauer to kill nearly 50 people.

Here’s the new version:

In recent years, the AR-15 has become, simultaneously, one of most beloved and most vilified rifles in the country.

It is no surprise why the gun is so reviled by gun control advocates… the gunman in the attack this weekend on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. used a spinoff of the rifle produced by SIG Sauer to kill nearly 50 people.

[Image via screengrab]
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This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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