Early Sunday morning, a gunman who had pledged his loyalty to ISIS killed 49 people in an Orlando nightclub. By the time the day was through, prominent politicians and journalists took to the airwaves and reacted by calling for banning a gun that didn’t exist, banning guns that are already banned, and spreading laughably false information.
Legendary journalist Tom Brokaw got things rolling on NBC’s Meet the Press by calling for a ban on AR-14 rifles, if it turned out the shooter used one in the attack.
But let’s say it’s a domestic shooting. We’ve got to do something about that. You know, I’m a gun owner, I’ve been saying this for months now. It’s time for people to come together and say, “Enough.” If he had an assault weapon, if it was an AR-14, Stan McChrystal has said not to be in civilian hands. It’s designed to do one thing, to kill people.
All indications are that the gunman did not use an AR-14, given that the AR-14 is not a gun that exists.
Brokaw is of course thinking of the AR-15, the single most popular rifle in America. It’s a small error but a telling one, and an odd one for a gun owner to make. It’d be rather like someone claiming to be a gamer and then ranting about the deficiencies of the Nintendo 54.
He was then one-upped later in the program by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
Oh, it’s horrific, it’s unthinkable. And just hopes go out to all those who were shot that they can recover. And I’ve got to tell you, 25 years ago, I believe that in this country, we should not be selling automatic weapons which are designed to kill people. We have got to do everything that we can on top of that to make sure that guns do not fall into the hands of people who should not have them, criminals, people who are mentally ill. So that struggles continues.
Sanders wasn’t alone in calling for a ban on automatic weapons. He was joined by celebrities Seth McFarlane and Susan Sarandon.
These shootings are a regular occurrence. You don’t get to be “shocked” anymore unless you take action to stop them. Ban automatic weapons.
— Seth MacFarlane (@SethMacFarlane) June 12, 2016
Prayers are not enough. Time for a ban on automatic weapons. There is only one reason they exist and that is to kill our fellow man.
— Susan Sarandon (@SusanSarandon) June 12, 2016
Well, I’ve got great news for Sanders et al.; automatic weapons have been banned for over eighty years.
Sanders and friends make a common mistake here, conflating “assault weapon” with “automatic weapon” (an easy mistake, considering “assault weapon” is an invented political term used exclusively by politicians and activists).It’s semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15 that are legal, but they require the user to manually pull the trigger every time they want to fire a shot. It’s possible Sanders meant to say that he wants to ban all semi-auto weapons, but that would include virtually all non-revolver handguns on the market and would be an unpopular proposal even among most Democrats.
Last and certainly least came Florida Democratic Representative Alan Grayson with a shocking fact about the AR-15. “If [the shooter] was who he was, and he was not able to buy a weapon that shoots off 700 rounds in a minute, a lot of those people would still be alive,” he said solemnly on CNN.
Just… no. Absolutely not.
This is a common assertion from those who, again, have only a limited knowledge of guns and misunderstand common terms. The cyclic rate of fire from an AR-15 is indeed around 700 rounds a minute, but that’s just how quickly the mechanics of the gun move the next bullet into place and allow it to be fired. Again, semi-automatic guns still require you to pull the trigger with each shot.
One conservative on Twitter offered Grayson $500,000 if he could fire an AR-15 700 times a minute, but don’t expect him to collect. You would need to pull the trigger more than ten times a second just to fire off that many shots. And that’s assuming you have a magical, non-existent 700-round magazine rather than the standard 30.
No doubt there are some gun control activists who actually know their facts and understand the complicated issues that underlie the debate. But all too often, outspoken activists seem to not understand the very weapons they are so certain must be banned.
[Image via screengrab]
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This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.