When it comes to public discourse surrounding firearms, reporters and politicians share responsibility for current negativity, as many of them continue to get basic gun facts and information wrong over and over.
When a significant portion of the public believes another portion is purposely distorting or misrepresenting facts, it encourages those who are familiar with firearms and support the Second Amendment to become reluctant to embrace new laws and to dig their feet in further.
Here are but a few of the facts pundits, politicians, and journalists continually fail to get right:
On automatic vs. semi-automatic firearms:
An automatic weapon continuously fires rounds as long as the trigger is pressed and there is ammunition. Automatic weapons are already highly regulated and only legal to possess after obtaining approval from the ATF.
Semi-automatic weapons are more freely available and fire one round with each trigger-pull. Most modern guns are semi-automatic.
The “AR” in “AR-15” stands for ArmaLite rifle, after the company that developed it, not for “assault rifle” or “automatic rifle.” AR-15s are semi-automatic, and they use a common ammo type (.223). Rifles contribute far less to gun deaths annually than handguns.
The term “gun show loophole” is misleading and should be taken out of the media’s vernacular:
What is frequently referred to as a “loophole” is, in fact, a private, intrastate sale. That sale can take place at a gun show, garage sale, or moving sale, and there is almost zero crime associated with such sales. However, any Federal Firearms License (FFL) dealer at a gun show who conducts a sale of a firearm must complete a background check at the gun show just as if he or she were selling the firearm in an ordinary storefront.
The NRA is not powerful because of its money; it is powerful because it is supported by millions of Americans and promotes an agenda that even millions more support.
According to the NRA, the organization has 5 million members.
Elected officials do not change their Second Amendment views or sell their votes because of the NRA; Conor Lamb is a Democrat running for office who does not support new gun control laws — because his district does not support gun control laws.
And pro-gun Republicans do not only hold such views because of the NRA; their beliefs are so strong that even after Republicans were shot at last summer while practicing for a baseball game, their opinions on gun control did not change. “We all want to do what’s right. We just have different philosophical viewpoints,” said Texas Representative Joe Barton — who was present at the shooting of the Republican baseball practice, as was his 11-year-son, who hid under a car during it.
The NRA did not “help fund” the training of the Douglas mass shooter. The NRA donated funds to the U.S. Army Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) program — whose members used the JROTC Kevlar sheets to shield students from gunfire and held the door open to let other students escape.
Bad reporting on guns should stop.
When politicians and members of the media repeatedly get such basic facts wrong in one direction or fail to acknowledge the realities of gun control, it is difficult for gun advocates to believe that they don’t have an agenda.
Every news organization should employ, or at least consult, a gun expert, such as Stephen Gutowski at the Washington Free Beacon or Lois Beckett at the Guardian, in an honest attempt to reduce the spread of such misinformation and to restore credibility. Gutowski even developed and maintained a Google doc as a firearms resource for reporters to use.
Such behavior by those with significant platforms will improve the discourse around guns and will help to bring America closer to civil discussions on how to reduce mass shootings, which is the standard goal shared by all.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.