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How Wrong Can a Five-Sentence AP Story About Guns Be?

The AP reports:

Semiautomatic rifles and shotguns are used in a crime in Maryland on average once every two days, according to a study released Wednesday by gun control advocates.

The study is based on an analysis of crime statistics for 1998 through 2001. It said at least 789 semiautomatic long guns that can legally be sold in Maryland were traced to a crime in Maryland during that period.

Delegate Neil Quinter, D-Howard, and CeaseFire Maryland, a gun control organization, said the study shows that Maryland needs to expand the 1994 law that bans the sale of semiautomatic pistols to include rifles and shotguns.

Opponents have defeated bills that would expand the law, arguing that the ban would infringe on the rights of lawful gun owners and would do nothing to reduce crime because such guns are seldom used to commit crimes.

Except:

1. Maryland law doesn't "ban[] the sale of semiautomatic pistols"; it bans the sale of a subset of semiautomatic pistols that it labels "assault pistols". I generally doubt that such "assault weapons" bans make much sense, but they clearly don't ban semiautomatic pistols generally.

2. The study, which seems to be this one here, likewise doesn't discuss semiautomatic rifles generally, but only "assault rifles." Again, I doubt that such a focus on "assault rifles" is sensible, but it's clear that the study is discussing only those rifles, not semiautomatic rifles generally.

3. The study claims to report on traces of certain kinds of rifles, without including traces of any kind of shotguns.

4. The study reports on the number of assault rifles traced back to a crime, not the number used in a crime -- a gun that was used but never recovered would never get traced back.

The study's title, by the way, is "Every 48 Hours: An Analysis Of Assault Rifles Traced To Crime In Maryland" -- not used, but traced; semiautomatics, not rifles or shotguns, not long guns, but assault rifles. I'm not sure whether the story's author misunderstands the definitions of rifle, shotgun, and semiautomatic, whether the author simply misread the study, or whether the author was misled by someone who was characterizing the study. All I can say is that the story is pretty badly busted.

Incidentally, I am not suggesting that these errors betray anti-gun bias on the reporter's part. The errors likely understate the magnitude of crime using long guns -- since "assault rifles" are only a subset of "semiautomatic rifles and shotguns," then if the study's data is accurate, the relevant crime count for semiautomatic rifles and shotguns should be considerably more than 789; likewise, since the study measures only guns that were recovered and traced back to the crime, the actual number of guns used in crime is likely to be considerably greater. The errors also overstate the breadth of CeaseFire Maryland's gun control proposal, making it seem broader and thus more radical than it really is (again, whether or not you think that the proposal is sound).

Freddy Hill (mail):
The article also implicitly assumes that banning a particular type of weapon reduces violent crime by an amount commesurate to the prevalence of the weapon in society. That is, if X% of violent crimes are committed by weapon class "W", then banning "W" will reduce crime by approximately X%. It does not take into consideration the fact that if A wants to kill B, then A will quite often find a way.
9.9.2006 5:03am
Freddy Hill (mail):
The article also implicitly assumes that banning a particular type of weapon reduces violent crime by an amount commesurate to the prevalence of the weapon in society. That is, if X% of violent crimes are committed by weapon class "W", then banning "W" will reduce crime by approximately X%. It does not take into consideration the fact that if A wants to kill B, then A will quite often find a way.
9.9.2006 5:03am
dcf:
What does "traced to a crime" mean? If I use a semiautomatic firearm in lawful self defense at the scene of a crime, is it counted (traced) to the crime as well?
9.9.2006 5:26am
Shivering Timbers (mail) (www):
Not to be too much of a nitpicker, but as I read it, the errors are in the CeaseFire study, not the AP article. The AP article merely quotes the study, and each claim is attached to a qualifying phrase like "according to a study released by gun control advocates."

As I read it, the AP article makes it very clear that the source of the information is biased, and that the reporter is not, himself, making the claim.

So the AP article is perfectly factual (contrary to the implication of your headline), and the errors are in the CeaseFire study, which the reporter (correctly) identifies as a source with a political agenda.
9.9.2006 9:40am
Henry Schaffer (mail):
My understanding is that "traced to a crime" includes stolen firearms which are recovered and then traced back to the original owner.
9.9.2006 9:45am
Brooks Lyman (mail):
Eugene -
The sort of legislation that is being referred to is more concerned with disarming the people in any way possible than it is with the realities of crime and law enforcement. Two points:

1) Most firearm that are "traced" are not guns that have been used in a crime, but guns that were confiscated - often temporarily - at the scene of some crime, which might be the home of someone growing some marijuana in his windowbox or a domestic altercation. They are not "crime guns" but guns that were found at the scene of a crime - possibly hunting or defense or collector's guns owned by someone who got crosswise with the police for some reason or other. There are two main reasons for asking BATFE to perform a trace: Are the guns in question stolen? Have they ever been used in a crime? The first is easy to check, the second is mainly whistling in the wind. Some police departments have a policy of tracing (through the BATFE and the Manufacturer's and Dealer's records, which by law are open to law enforcement - with some reasonable restrictions) every firearm that comes into their hands. While this policy is generally unnecessary and wasteful of Police and BATFE resources, not all police departments are sensible on the gun issue.

2) Long guns - rifles and shotguns, whether semiauto or whatever - are rarely used in crime, except for such crimes and sniper-murders, etc. The reason is simple: Criminals have to move about in society going to and from the scene of the crime (most "gun crime" being armed robbery) and carrying a rifle or shotgun concealed - even under the stereotypical black overcoat - is difficult compared to a handgun.


So I have serious doubts that 789 crimes were committed with those guns. Read the very artful way the article is written. I think that this AP piece is very carefully written to present relatively innocuous information in the worst light, for the benefit of those people who want to ban firearms ownership. By demonizing a particular class of guns, they can ban or restrict those guns, and then move on to the next class of guns, until the law abiding citizen is hard pressed to own an air rifle, let alone something that he can use to defend himself and his family without resorting to using the gun as a club (and in Britain, even that would be illegal). In the meantime, the criminals, being by definition not law abiding, have no compunction against obtaining firearms from any source, legal or illegal and using them in the commission of crimes (as the British police are discovering to their chagrin and concern).

Now, the above paragraph is obvious to anyone who has kept an open and aware mind on the sbject of guns and crime, and who has a modicum of common sense (at least the amount that God gave a goose), and of course the NRA repeats the lesson with mind-dulling regularity. Unfortunately, the people who want to disarm the citizens of the United States (which list seems to include the United Nations) are not letting up on their propaganda barrage, and so the people who own guns, and their representative organizations, have to do the same, in order to try to persuade their fellow citizens and their legislators that the possession of firearms by the citizenry is more positive than negative - nobody's denying that guns are used in crime and that people are being murdered; the point is that if the citizenry is disarmed, the situation will get worse, not better.
9.9.2006 10:30am
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
Shivering Timbers: Can you point to parts of the study that support your view? The second part of Eugene's post characterized the underlying study and argued that the AP story introduced several mistakes that weren't present in the study, like referring to "semiautomatic rifles," "shotguns," and "long guns," and the "trace"/"use" issue. I just skimmed the article (but didn't read the footnotes), and on this quick viewing Eugene seems right: Whatever the problems with the original study, the AP article introduced substantial errors of its own. But (given my cursory look) I'd be glad to reconsider if you can show me where the study itself made those errors first.
9.9.2006 11:14am
Truth Seeker:
Brooks is right, rifles can't possiblly have been USED in that many crimes. TRACED to a crime must mean that most of them were either stolen or seized incident to another crime. More leftist fraudulent news.
9.9.2006 11:23am
liberty (mail) (www):
As to your point #4, the mischaracterization was originated in the study you named.

Here is the mischaracterization in the "study":

According to an analysis of firearms tracing data from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) from January 2, 1998 to December 31, 2001—the last year data was publicly available2—reveals that on average, assault weapons are so frequently used in crime that one assault rifle is traced back to a Maryland crime every 48 hours.
(my emphasis)

So, in that opening sentence, the connection is made between use in a crime and tracing back to a crime. If tracing back only means that some pot dealer had a gun or someone stole a gun or some hunter was arrested for something else, then this mischaracterization is severe indeed.

Have you looked at the ATF data?
9.9.2006 11:31am
doc Russia (mail) (www):
The idea that an assault rifle is used at least every 48 against someone in Maryland sounds perposterous since at least 95% of firearms used by criminals are handguns. It would seem then, that the numbers are somehow inflated. That, or they consider every single type of rifle or shotgun an assault rifle.
I deal a lot with sniffing out bogus studies in medicine, and even without knowing the study itself, what I do know about firearms and the Maryland homicide rate makes the numbers highly suspicious to say the least.
9.9.2006 11:58am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
I heard one of the defense attorneys in a gun manufacturer suit remark that they'd gotten the data employed in some tracing studies and found that under 10% of traced guns were traced to actual criminal use.

ATFE encourages police to trace *any* guns that come into their custody, for any reason. As a result, they trace stolen guns that they recover, lost guns that are found, guns seized after a domestic restraining order is issued, etc., etc. Those far outnumber guns actually seized as involved in commission of a violent crime.
9.9.2006 12:09pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Liberty: The study's relationship between used and traced is actually logically quite defensible: They use tracebacks as a lower bound to crime use ("so frequently used in crime that one assault rifle is traced back to a Maryland crime every 48 hours"). One could hypothesize reasons why this might not be so (for instance, if many of the tracebacks were of guns stolen from innocent victims, rather than of crime guns), but on balance I suspect that the assumption is right and is at least defensible.

The AP report, on the other hand, errs in treating uses as equal to tracebacks, as opposed to tracebacks being a lower bound on uses. It's a subtler mischaracterization of the study than the others, but it seems to me still a mischaracterization.
9.9.2006 12:11pm
Jay (mail):
From the Ceasefire press release:

According to the tracing data, the most common assault rifles traced to crime by make and model include: 21 Colt AR-15s; 46 USA Military Surplus M1 Carbines; 55 Ruger Mini14s; 92 HiPoint 9mm carbines; and 294 North China Industries SKS variants.

Note the inclusion of “Ruger Mini14s” as “assault rifles.”
Yet these rifles were specicifically exempted from the 1994 assault weapon ban as “Hunting and Sporting Firearms.”

Senator Feinstein, the author of the 1994 Assault Weapon Ban, says on her web site:

Hunting Guns and Other Recreational Weapons Exempted in the Legislation:

Ruger Mini-14 Autoloading Rifle (w/o folding stock)

The Brady Campaign says on their web site:

The amendment specifically lists 650 sporting rifles that would not be affected by the ban.

Then-President Clinton said in “An Open Letter to Hunters and Sportsmen” on April 29, 1994:

“High-paid lobbyists argue that the assault weapons ban will infringe on our right, as hunters and sportsmen, to own guns. But what they don’t tell you is that the proposal I support specifically safeguards hunter’s rights. It explicitly protects more than 650 hunting and recreational rifles from the ban.”

So why is Ceasefire describing as “assault rifles” guns that were described as “hunting,” “sporting,” and “recreational” rifles by Senator Feinstein, the Brady Campaign, and President Clinton?
9.9.2006 12:17pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
The so-called “study” starts right off with an error in the first paragraph:

… greater DC Metropolitan area were terrorized by snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo armed with a Bushmaster XM15 assault rifle.

From Wikipedia:

Assault rifle is a term describing a type of automatic rifle generally defined as a selective fire rifle or carbine, chambering intermediate-powered ammunition.

Semi-automatic rifles, including some versions of the AR-15, are often incorrectly labeled as 'assault rifles.’

Muhammad and Malvo could also have used a hunting rifle with a bigger cartridge for greater lethality. Or better yet used an actual sniper rifle.

From Wikipedia:

Among the three best-known sniper rifles in the English speaking world are the U.S. Army's M24 SWS, the U.S. Marine Corps' M40 and the British Accuracy International L96 and AWM. The M24 and M40 are precision rifles built based on the civilian Remington 700 bolt action rifle, the best selling bolt-action in North America and dating back to 1962.

Yes you can still buy a Remington 700:

So if the Bushmaster XM15 was not available they might have used something like the Remington 700 and killed even more people (not everyone they shot died). I guess we should be grateful the MSM constantly puts out misinformation about guns.

Since one can get the definition of an assault rife very quickly (it took less than one second to bring up the Wikipedia article), I conclude that the AP reporter must be indifferent to the accuracy of what he writes about guns.
9.9.2006 12:31pm
big dirigible (mail) (www):
Dearie dear. Misplaced faith in our paperwork institutions never dies.

The notion that the trace system makes it "easy" to tell if a gun has ever been stolen is somewhat overoptimistic. At best, the trail ends when the gun is sold at retail. No subsequent transaction, even a perfectly legal one, can be followed by a trace. Even if a gun in civilian hands ends up back at a licensed dealer's, there is no way to connect the new trail to the original one from the manufacturer or importer.

But in practice, the trail tends to end long before the retail sale, or never even starts. It is a peculiar fact that people (including police officers) simply can't get gun serial numbers right. Checking through the paperwork on my own guns, the error rates are astonishing (no police involvement there, but errors by importers, wholesalers, and retailers). A single-digit error anywhere in the paper records destroys the trail. As does misidentification of a gun manufacturer or importer, misidentification of a gun model, or failure to recognize prefix letters as parts of a serial number. An error, once made, can never be corrected - or at least I've never been able to get officialdom to recognize documentable errors.

Funny, though, these things never seem to be factors on TV - which, for far too many US citizens and legislators, seems to be the sole source for information about the practical, technical, and historical aspects of the gun business.
9.9.2006 12:36pm
Peter Wimsey:
I agree that conflating - or at least not explaining - "traced" with "used" makes the article very misleading. I can speak from my own criminal justice experience that, as many other commenters have noted, long guns are infrequently *used* in crimes - at least in my state, maybe 5% of crimes involving firearms involve long guns.

Admittedly, some of those crimes are particularly noteworthy, but the absolute number of long gun crimes remains relatively low.

There is kind of a clue to this in CeaseFire's report, which, in describing particularly bad crimes involving assault-type weapons, does not include any crimes that occurred in Maryland. You would think that if these weapons were used every 48 hours in MD over a several year period that there would be some in-state examples that they could find.
9.9.2006 12:55pm
liberty (mail) (www):
EV: "The study's relationship between used and traced is actually logically quite defensible: They use tracebacks as a lower bound to crime use"

How is that logical and defensible? If most tracebacks are not connecting a gun to actual use in a crime, the traceback should not indicate a lower bound to use in crimes. As many point out, most (maybe 80-95%) of tracebacks connect a gun to a crime that was not committed by using that gun. There is broad evidence for this.

Yet the sentence "so frequently used in crime that one assault rifle is traced back to a Maryland crime every 48 hours" indicates that crime involving assault rifles must be so frequent that even the faulty tracing system can find one (using a trace back) every 48 hours, which would imply that not only are all traces connected to an actual use of the gun in a crime, but also this underestimates use of the guns in crime because not all usage can be traced.

The editorial writer probably skimmed the "study" and then based their description of tracing on that sentence. But the study was wrong on this. I think this was the most important error made by the study and the article, if not necessary the most blatant.
9.9.2006 1:10pm
30yearProf:
In a 1990 review of Minneapolis trace data by going to the police property room, reading the property receipts, and comparing police reports, it was discovered that [b]ALL[/b] long guns were recovered stolen property. That is, the long guns (irrespective of subcatagories) were the "victims" of these crimes.
9.9.2006 1:18pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Speaking of errors: I represented a gun dealer here; ATF had seized his 300 gun inventory and had to give it back. They said they couldn't give six back, because NCIC records showed they were stolen. I asked for the printout.

4 of the six had been reported stolen, in various states far away, months AFTER ATF had seized the guns and put them in it storage locker.

1 more was a handgun converted to full auto, and registered to my guy since 1985.

The last was a gun that in fact didn't match the serial no. of the reportedly stolen gun -- it was off by one digit -- but matched the description. It'd been reported 30+ years ago, the owner was dead and hence there was no further data. We let them keep it.

So the NCIC battering average was -- zero for six. Five clearly weren't stolen, if the last one was the wrong serial no. had been listed.
9.9.2006 1:35pm
Waldensian (mail):

Assault rifle is a term describing a type of automatic rifle generally defined as a selective fire rifle or carbine, chambering intermediate-powered ammunition.
Semi-automatic rifles, including some versions of the AR-15, are often incorrectly labeled as 'assault rifles.’

While it is true that an AR-15 is not an "assault rifle" under this Wikipedia definition, it is also important to realize that "selective fire" means "full auto or semi-auto." In other words, under the Wikipedia definition (which I think is as correct as it gets), the only thing that can be an "assault rifle" is a gun that in popular parlance would be labeled a "machine gun." Those are already pretty closely regulated in our country, although many people would be surprised at how easy it is to own a machine gun in many states.

In any event, gun-rights advocates rightly criticize gun control proponents for sloppy use of the phrase "assault rifle." Use of the phrase clearly is employed to stir up passions and muddy the debate in a way favorable to the gun control proponents.

With that said, however, it is at least understandable that Joe Public is worried about the fact that I can buy a powerful semi-automatic rifle with very large magazine capacity. And I do mean very large, like 100 rounds. Whatever the Founding Fathers may have thought about the right to keep and bear arms, it's not overwhelmingly clear to me that they wanted citizens to be able to blaze away with an AR-15, without the need to reload until round 100 exits. Certainly they didn't consider the issue. Individuals with rifles today are simply able to cause FAR more horrible mayhem than in 1789. Gun right advocates need to admit that fact, admit that the desire to regulate such weapons is not utterly unreasonable, and attack the issue head on, by demonstrating that the specific measures advanced are indeed unreasonable.

Incidentally, in my view the DC snipers did not choose a poor weapon for their horrible purpose. For all practical purposes, the AR-15 is the equivalent of the M-16/M4 in semi-automatic mode, and that is the weapon our government has given its soldiers for years to kill people with. With good reason. The rifle is extremely accurate, and certainly powerful enough for most homicidal maniacs. I'm not a homicidal maniac, but I've got one and have also found that it is very easy to teach people how to use. True, it is not THE ideal sniper rifle, and it does not use a full-power round (typical of what milsurp collectors like me call a "battle rifle," e.g. the Garand), but in the hands of Joe Average it is pretty effective. Somebody like Malvo, with his level of training, almost certainly would be more dangerous, in most situations, with an AR-15 than with a Remington 700.
9.9.2006 1:35pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Somebody like Malvo, with his level of training, almost certainly would be more dangerous, in most situations, with an AR-15 than with a Remington 700.

Malvo would have been better off using a bolt-action rifle than a semi-automatic because he could fire more accurately. Semi-autos are not your first choice for a sniper rifle. From Wikipedia on “sniper rifles.”

For a given cartridge, a bolt-action rifle has the following advantages:

* Cheaper to build and maintain
* More accurate, since there are fewer moving parts
* Manual case ejection and bolt operation, allowing for greater discretion
* Versatile fire-positioning, since there is no need for a large magazine
* Reliable, with fewer components that may fail or become jammed
* Lighter weight, once again due to fewer components


For semi-automatic actions, the following advantages are available:

* Cross-purpose use as both a battle rifle and a sniper rifle
* Greater volume of fire when needed in a suppressing support role
* Faster follow-up shots due to higher rate of fire

The military often has to make compromises for logistical reasons so the “cross purpose use” is an important consideration for them. But a civilian sniper wants to kill his target and he has no need for the semi-auto feature. If the civilian sniper were after a particular person, he might want to get off additional shots in case the first one missed. But a civilian sniper who simply wants to terrorize by killing random people (Malvo), he is best off firing accurately, and then fleeing the scene. Note that Oswald killed Kennedy with a bolt-action rifle. Oswald was a skilled marksman, and could also fire the bolt-action rifle multiple times quickly. It’s actually not that hard with a little practice.
9.9.2006 2:42pm
liberty (mail) (www):
As I understand it, you can't "blaze away" with a semi-automatic. You need to pull the trigger separately for every round. That is a pretty clunky "blaze away". My personal use of a semi-automatic convinced me that they are very convenient for target-shooting and would be useful for a sniper for military or criminal purposes (so long as the caliber was a good choice for a human target) or, for exactly the same reasons for self defense or for arming against the government or against an invasion (e.g. Red Dawn style).

The point is that it is a basic right to own a gun - semi-automatic just as much as a pump-action. Fully automatic are not very useful for hunting or self defense and are arguably more dangerous. There is nothing dangerous about a semi-automatic weapons.
9.9.2006 2:46pm
K-Romulus (mail):
re:CeasefireMD's "study"

Stats show that all long guns in MD account for a fraction of the murders on average per year among the hundreds and hundreds of MD murders. (e.g., 2004: )

In 2004 knives, "other weapons," and "hands, fists, feet, etc." were each used to murder Marylanders twice as often, or more, than all shotguns and rifles COMBINED.


re:DC Snipers

Actually, when Muhammed and Malvo had a choice, they had a straw purchaser buy them a .308 Remington 700. They didn't steal the Bushmaster until after they lost that Rem700 when they were scared off during an apparent "stalk" in Seattle.

D.C. Snipers: Gun-law enforcement

and



Workman, a firearms expert, and law enforcement agree that the Remington would have been a perfect tool in the snipers' strategy of firing through a small opening in the trunk of their car. It would have been accurate at more than twice the range; its impact more destructive to its human targets, and the silencer would have allowed the snipers to fire more shots from each location with less risk of being detected.
9.9.2006 2:49pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Here is why the CeaseFire report classified the AR-15 as an “assault” weapon. If you go to their gun facts page at their web site they say:

Maryland State Police List of Banned Assault Weapons

Maryland Criminal Laws, Article 27, Crimes and Punishments Regulated Firearms. 441(d) Assault weapon.- "Assault weapon" means any of the following specific firearms or their copies regardless of which company produced and manufactured that firearm:


and the list includes the Bushmaster semi-auto rifle. So evidently Maryland Criminal Code defines assault weapons by enumeration. However Article 27 441(d) was repealed, and I can’t easily find the new law (if any). Can someone help here?

Of course Maryland doesn’t use the commonly accepted definition of an assault weapon.
9.9.2006 2:56pm
K-Romulus (mail):
I don't know what happened to my links, but Google will get you the Snipers/Rem700 story, and FBI.gov will get you the uniform crime reports for 2004.
9.9.2006 2:56pm
K-Romulus (mail):
New MD codification of the regulated firearms list is now under:

PUBLIC SAFETY : TITLE 5. FIREARMS : SUBTITLE 1. REGULATED FIREARMS : § 5-101. Definitions (p)(2)

(p) Regulated firearm.- "Regulated firearm" means:

(1) a handgun; or

(2) a firearm that is any of the following specific assault weapons or their copies, regardless of which company produced and manufactured that assault weapon:


Being on the list of Regulated Firearms means that the transfer must be registered with the State Police, and there also is a seven business-day waiting period before the state police give the green light to transfer ownership.
9.9.2006 3:05pm
K-Romulus (mail):
Sorry to keep posting, but the only "banned" firearms in MD are the ones on the "assault pistol" list (TEC-9, Uzi, etc.)

You can buy a brand new Bushmaster or AK-47 clone today, if you wish.
9.9.2006 3:07pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
“Whatever the Founding Fathers may have thought about the right to keep and bear arms, it's not overwhelmingly clear to me that they wanted citizens to be able to blaze away with an AR-15, without the need to reload until round 100 exits.”

As pointed out by a prior poster you don’t “blaze away” with a semi-auto. As for reloading, you can do that very quickly with multiple magazines. I don’t think we make the public much safer by regulating the size of magazines.

It’s important not to confuse the various uses for firearms. Generally (but not always) the military would rather wound than kill an enemy soldier under typical battlefield conditions. A wounded soldier uses up scarce resources. An assassin, who is after a particular person, does not necessarily care if his target dies immediately. He is best off using a low caliber cartridge that he can fire accurately and as quietly as possible. The defensive use of firearms, where immediate stopping power is paramount, requires a higher caliber cartridge, a hollow point bullet and the capacity to fire 5 or 6 rounds rapidly. A terrorist wants to kill, wound or scare as many people as possible, and his weapon of choice is a high caliber rapid fire large magazine gun like the old Thompson Machine Gun as was used for the St. Valentines Day Massacre. Of course the military has multiple uses, where cost, reliability and maintainability are important considerations.
9.9.2006 3:45pm
mvargus (mail):
If you ever try playing an arcade game that has realistic recoil in its firearms you will very quickly discover that "blazing away" is the stupidist trick to use when you need to hit a specific target. Its great for surpression, but the average recoil on any large caliber pistol or rifle will jerk the barrel upwards and cause you to miss unless you are very strong and skilled.

The truth is that even the military uses "assault" weapons mostly for surpression with troops told to use semi-automatic or 3-shot burst fire when they need accuracy. that actually was the reason the Thompson Submachine Gun was not used by the US military much. It was very effective at short range and against clusters, but was useless when you needed precession. Watch any of the gangster movies. You'll notice that mostly they empties their tommy guns and left tons of bullet holes, but didn't know if they hit their target or not. precession rifles and handguns were used for most of the murders. the Tommy gun was a terror weapon, to intimidate rather than kill.

As for the article. Its typical reporter garbage. they seem to have no idea of the danger inherent in taking guns away from law abiding people and leaving the criminals with all the weapons. But that seems to be a disease of the "elites" They all refuse to accept the fact that some people only are civilized because of the threat of punishment, and that if you remove the deterent, you will invite anarchy.
9.9.2006 4:40pm
tim deters (mail):
I wonder if their definition of used in a crime also includes hunting violations, like getting caught poaching, hunting out of season, hunting on another person's land without permission, etc.? That would increase the numbers of long rifles used in "crimes" for sure. Perhaps we should restrict the definition of "guns used in crimes" to "guns used in VIOLENT crimes."
9.9.2006 4:41pm
Henry Schaffer (mail):
"blaze away with an AR-15, without the need to reload until round 100 exits."
Others have commented that "blaze away" means "pull the trigger each time you want to shoot one round".

"reload" in this phrase makes it sound as if there is some major increase in danger or capability when a 100 round magazine is used instead of the common military or civilian 20 or 30 round magazines. The few seconds (single digits) it takes to change the common magazines can be further reduced by using a magazine coupler (holds two magazines upside down) to eliminate the need to pick up the 2nd magazine - giving 40-60 rounds.

There are specialized situations, especially in military operations, when the additional magazine capacity is desired, but it is misleading to project this to civilian situations as an increased danger.
9.9.2006 4:54pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
1. The Washington snipers are a poor example with which to attack semiautos, since they universally fired one shot and fled.

2. A *true* assault rifle is full auto. They derive from German WWII studies that indicated that most fighting was at under 200-300 yards. A full power military cartridge was too powerful to fire full auto, but if you cut its power roughly in half (from 2000 to 1000 foot pounds of energy), it could be fired full auto and still be effective out to 300 yards or so. So a semiauto assault rifle is simply a semiauto that has about half the power of a standard military semiauto rifle.

3. I always thought magazine size a strange issue. If we take ten rounds as a dividing line between small and large mags, then the complete elimination of all mags would only affect homicides that involved killing more than 5-10 people (allowing for a 50% miss rate on the first), or 5-10x the number of killers. These are extremely rare. And it would only affect those if the killer (a) forgot to bring a spare magazine or had someone in position and willing to jump him while he was reloading. Put the two together and we're talking a probability pretty close to zero.
9.9.2006 5:10pm
TomHynes (mail):
100 round magazines are for wimps. Go to
www.1919a4com and check out the Browning 1919A4's. Essentially, these are surplus WWII machine guns converted to semi-auto fire. You buy a kit and do the final machining and assembly yourself, so there is no background check or paperwork.

California law defines an assault weapon as having a removable magazine (or belt) and a pistol grip that extends under the receiver. The 1919A4 pistol grip is behind the receiver, so no problem mate.

I went to a "build party" to put mine together and had a great time until I saw the guys with the .50 caliber M2 conversions.
9.9.2006 6:52pm
1gewehr (mail):
To believe that the founders would object to the civilian ownership of real, full-auto, assault rifles is to reveal a lack of reading their words.
The founders wanted the CIVILIANS to tbe able to outgun the MILITARY. They wanted every man to own at least a musket (the M16 of it's day). Most cannon prior to the War between the States were privately owned. Most American merchant ships were well armed with cannon and small arms.

As far as this 'study' and the story on it, they are both absurd and have very little relation to reality. Law Enforcement routinely traces every firearm that they run across. The phrase 'traced to a crime' merely means that the firearm is in some way connected to a crime. It includes stolen firearms seized from a burglar, firearms seized from any search of a felon's residence, and is a much wider term than the AP's statement of 'used in a crime'.

As pointed out by others, the term 'assault rifle' refers to something that is legally a machine gun. Absurdly, a search of the few crimes involving machine guns reveals that most are merely possession by otherwise law-abiding folks. And THAT is something the founders would find absurd.
9.9.2006 7:02pm
glangston (mail):
A check of FBI Uniform Crime statistics doesn't show any support for a ban on so-called assault weapons. The CDC admitted as much recently.

http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5214a2.htm

To paraphrase their findings, either there was no evidence of the effectiveness of laws that attempted to reduce firearm violence (restrictions on acquisition, bans, waiting periods, registrations, shall issue permits, child access, or zero tolerance in schools) or the findings were inconsistent.

This is no surprise as most of the violence is related to drug and gang activities that don't put a premium on following the laws.

What the statistics from CeaseFire represent are unclear to a person looking for a reasonable argument. Their intent seems mostly to be misleading rather than making a clear, concise and strong argument.
9.9.2006 10:16pm
Henry Schaffer (mail):
EV writes:

The study's relationship between used and traced is actually logically quite defensible: They use tracebacks as a lower bound to crime use ("so frequently used in crime that one assault rifle is traced back to a Maryland crime every 48 hours").

If all of the traced guns were used in crime, then traces would be a lower bound - since we're sure that there are crime guns which aren't traced.

But, if some of the traced guns were not used in crime (e.g. were recovered stolen guns, etc.) then the best that can be said is that we have no idea whether or not this provides a lower bound. I.e. we would have to know how many guns used in crime were not traced, and also how many traced guns were not used in crime.

But, if we knew those numbers, we would have the exact answer and wouldn't need a lower bound.
9.9.2006 11:02pm
Alan Korwin (mail) (www):
Hello Eugene.

In my experience, the level of accuracy in AP stories about guns approaches zero, and your example here is actually a somewhat minor case, but typical of their ethics, level of care and willingness to print anything that attacks the RKBA.

Aside from obvious, often gross and frequently egregious errors they propagate, the biggest error may be their virtually 100% absence of stories that point out that guns save lives, guns stop crime, guns are products people buy and enjoy, and guns are why America is still free (such as it is).

The worst part of their coverage is that getting corrections is impossible. Journalists are aware of the problem and grin and bear it. Local syndicators claim it's not their problem, and AP won't even respond to formal requests.

They once said Congress hadn't passed a new gun law in 5 years, yet during that period, federal gun law increased 25%. I know, because we publish those laws (Gun Laws of America, unabridged). I couldn't even get a response, let alone a correction. They seem immune to the community, yet are relied upon by "news" media nationally as if they are Pravda.

I'm becoming convinced that one of the greatest threats to the American Dream is the lamestream media, and the level of misinformation the populace digests daily. I've joined Accuracy in Media as a speaker -- joining is free and I encourage people to look, http://www.aim.org, and I've started a news media watchblog myself, Page Nine, by The Uninvited Ombudsman http://www.pagenine.org

I'll be watching your blog here for similar gun news, since that has been my core focus as you know, and will try to find time to let you know when I find items worthy of your attention. How do you all find time to do this sort of thing? If I blogged as much as people do, I'd never write another book.

Alan Korwin.
9.10.2006 1:40am
Alan Korwin (mail) (www):
One final thought, about this notion of assault weapons. The left clobbers us with language, we step right into the trap, they win automatically, and here is a perfect example. Assault is a behavior, not a type of hardware. And we just blather on about these fearsome sounding arbitrarily singled out fine firearms, helping to make their case.

I have a whole host of such items listed and explained in the Politically Corrected Glossary, here: http://www.gunlaws.com/politicallycorrect.htm.

Gotta get to bed. I'm signing books at the gun show tomorrow.

Alan.
9.10.2006 1:54am
triticale (mail) (www):
Whatever the Founding Fathers may have thought about the right to keep and bear arms, it's not overwhelmingly clear to me that they wanted citizens to be able to blaze away with an AR-15, without the need to reload until round 100 exits. Certainly they didn't consider the issue.
I presume then that you would also hold that freedom of the press applies specifically to hand set type with the output distributed by horsedrawn vehicles?
9.10.2006 10:31pm
Waldensian (mail):
In case anyone is still reading this thread:

1. First, semantics. I can fire an AR-15 fast enough that most normal people would call it "blazing away." So could you. Of course it isn't a particularly effective way to shoot things, but that wasn't my point. I'm not going to apologize for using that phrase after hanging out at waaaaay too many public shooting ranges and seeing waaaaay too many people empty AR-15 mags at high speed.

2. I agree that magazine size isn't a huge issue in this debate, I was mainly trying to contrast the firepower of a modern AR-15 with, say, a muzzleloader circa 1789. It's quite a difference. A crazed gunwielding idiot in 1789 couldn't shoot everybody in the tavern. At least not very easily. A crazed gunwielding idiot in 1989 could kill everybody in the McDonald's. Pretty easily. That's just a fact.

3.

To believe that the founders would object to the civilian ownership of real, full-auto, assault rifles is to reveal a lack of reading their words. The founders wanted the CIVILIANS to tbe able to outgun the MILITARY. They wanted every man to own at least a musket (the M16 of it's day). Most cannon prior to the War between the States were privately owned. Most American merchant ships were well armed with cannon and small arms.


Now we're getting somewhere. This argument is fully defensible, in my view, because I think that is EXACTLY what the founders were getting at. The question is, how do we reconcile that with modern technology? I.e., do you REALLY want to live in a world where the "civilians can outgun the military"? This would require, at the very least, private ownership of substantial anti-aircraft weaponry.

The muzzleloader was not the M-16 of its day; the point is that there was no M-16 in 1789. The M-16 is lightyears ahead of a muzzleloader in destructive capability. That's why we give our soldiers M-16s instead of muzzleloaders. And of course most modern artillery is much more powerful than what existed in 1789. The list goes on and on.

My point is simply this: we have far more destructive technology now than in 1789, even if we limit the discussion to personal rifles ROUGHLY analogous to the weapons in use in 1789. Proponents of firearms rights, like myself, need to tackle that issue head on and figure out how to deal with it.

We aren't going to win the hearts and minds of many fence-sitters by telling them that an M-16 is like a muzzleloader, and that civilians should be able to "out-gun the military."

I don't want to live in a world where my neighbor owns a Stinger missile, and I doubt many other gun-rights advocates do either. As just one example, after watching the TV show "Cops" for several years, I'm glad the ownership of fully automatic weapons is reasonably restricted.

4.

I presume then that you would also hold that freedom of the press applies specifically to hand set type with the output distributed by horsedrawn vehicles?

Of course not, that's a silly strawman. Modern publication technology can, I think relatively easily, be fit into a constitutional framework designed for old publication technology. Modern weaponry, however, cannot in my mind easily be fit into a constitutional framework designed to accommodate old weaponry. If the point of the Second Amendment is that the civilians should be able to out-gun the military -- and frankly I think that is the point -- then we either need to allow them the weaponry to do so, or come up with some kind of new calculus. I don't know what that calculus is, but I feel like I'm at least asking the right question.

Finally, on the technical debate. I own a bunch of bolt action rifles in large calibers. They were designed to kill or grievously wound people at long range, and they certainly can do that effectively, on average more effectively than an AR-15.

But the AR-15 is far, far more accurate and effective at killing and wounding people than most armchair gun experts think. I believe the Marines qualify with its military equivalent at 500 yards. Again, it is not an ideal sniper rifle. But it is very, very effective if you want to kill people in a shooting spree. And in my limited experience, it is much easier to teach a kid to use it well, because it doesn't kick much. Nice combination.
9.11.2006 10:45pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
The reason for the M16 and its companions in other armies is that the soldier can carry far more of the lighter ammunition, and since the weapon weighs less, carry more of other stuff than if he had the full-size weapon, like the preceding Infantry weapon, the M14 which fired a round which was similar to the 30.06, and was only different in order to match NATO ammo.
The military frankly gave up long-range effectiveness and stopping power as a trade-off for the ability of soldiers operating in Viet Nam, where the ranges were short and resupply chancy, to carry sufficient ammo.
In Iraq, resupply is not an issue, and while the ranges in the cities are frequently short, they are frequently so short that the reduced stopping power is a problem.
It is correct that the DC snipers could have killed more people with a deer rifle, as could the moron who shot up a pre-school in California some years ago with the legendary, fearful and wonderful AK47 and killed exactly none of those tiny folk.
There are two issues here. One is all that goes into choosing an Infantry weapon and the other is what happens when that single bullet hits a human.
Deer rifles are more dangerous.
9.11.2006 11:08pm
Roland Garos (mail):
" I.e., do you REALLY want to live in a world where the "civilians can outgun the military"? "

It's a mistake to presume that that would be a bad thing with a government gone amok. Second, with the millions of arms in private ownership, the military would have an extremely hard time steamrolling its citizenry. How many soldiers (sworn to uphold the constitution) would be willing to carry out orders to kill friends, neighbors, &family members? The numbers of AWOLs would be through the roof. Not to mention the civilian industries that manufacture and supply the military deciding otherwise.
9.12.2006 3:20am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
"Do I REALLY want to live...?"

You damn' betcha.
9.12.2006 9:25am
Jay (mail):
Waldensian wrote:

2. I agree that magazine size isn't a huge issue in this debate, I was mainly trying to contrast the firepower of a modern AR-15 with, say, a muzzleloader circa 1789. It's quite a difference. A crazed gunwielding idiot in 1789 couldn't shoot everybody in the tavern. At least not very easily. A crazed gunwielding idiot in 1989 could kill everybody in the McDonald's. Pretty easily. That's just a fact.

An AR-15 is not required for that nor is a semi-auto. After a pump-action shotgun was used to kill 17 people in Germany, Germany followed Britain and Australia in banning and confiscating all pump hunting guns. If you think that US gun contol advocates won't get to that sooner or later, read this:

Why wait to tackle gun violence?

This column which originally appeared in the Detroit Free Press is by Donna Dees-Thomasas of the MMM and Brady Campaign, and also appeared on the Brady Campaign web site.

The slippery slope is all too real.
9.13.2006 6:22pm