Journalists covering gun issues brought their profession into further disrepute following Sunday’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, filling broadcasts and websites with false claims and irrelevant commentary.
Two examples from Wednesday illustrate the profound ignorance that many reporters for legacy outlets, who are paid to know something about the subjects they cover, display in their reporting on firearms.
First up was USA Today reporter Heidi Przybyla, who appeared on MSNBC and endorsed Hillary Clinton’s unverifiable and desultory claim that the Las Vegas massacre would have been even deadlier had the shooter used a silencer.
“Imagine how much worse that would have made the situation there, Stephanie, if the officials, the people in the hotel, couldn’t tell where that gunfire was coming from, and to quickly apprehend that man and stop him from slaughtering even more people,” she told MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle.
As anyone who has shot a gun outfitted with a silencer — more properly called a “suppressor”– would have known, the controversial accessory doesn’t actually “silence” gunfire, especially when it is coming from a long gun. Silencers merely reduce the volume of a gunshot to the point where it will not inflict hearing damage on a shooter who isn’t wearing external hearing protection. The supersonic report of an AR-style rifle, even with a suppressor, is typically around 130 decibels, the same intensity as a commercial jet engine during takeoff. (RELATED: ‘Not Silent At All’: Firearm Suppressor Makers Reject Hollywood Depictions)
Przybylas’ inane commentary was further undermined by the previously reported fact that Las Vegas police were able to pinpoint the shooter’s location the the Mandalay Bay hotel because gun smoke activated the fire alarm in the room. In this case, the volume of the shooter’s weapons had literally nothing to do with the reason for his detection by police.
None of that mattered to Przybyla and her equally oblivious interlocutor. Both were content to parrot irrelevant talking points in order to slam Republicans for their support of a bill that would loosen restrictions on silencers, a proposal that has no bearing whatsoever on the Las Vegas attack.
“Think about what was happening right before this massacre took place. We have a Congress here in Washington, D.C., that was moving in the exact opposite direction,” Przybyla said. “They were preparing to loosen gun regulations, to allow people to use these silencers, to make them more available.”
Not to be outdone, CBS News published a story on Wednesday that said the Las Vegas shooter’s rifles fired “automatic rounds” — a type of ammunition that cannot be purchased in stores because it doesn’t exist.
“Machine guns — weapons that fire multiple shot with one pull of the trigger — have been technically illegal since the mid-1980s,” CBS reporter Ed Leefeldt began a story about the shooter’s weapons modifications. “Yet while the guns that Stephen Paddock used to shoot more than 500 people in Las Vegas fired automatic rounds, they were perfectly legal, according to rules established by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).”
Leeefeldt was likely trying to explain that the guns “mimicked full-auto fire” or “fired like machine guns.” And to his credit, the rest of the story offered an informative rundown of the types of legally available accessories that can be used to make a semi-automatic rifle shoot like a full-auto model.
But articles that misuse, distort or fabricate terms about firearms only serve to strengthen the widespread belief among gun owners that journalists are out of their depth when they report on firearms.
It was a humorous running commentary on the sad state of reporting on guns.
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