Poor Journalism, Inaccurate Police Report Make For Fake News
By Larry Keane, National Shooting Sports Foundation
To read a recent Washington Post article, “In the District, illegal guns range from the ordinary to the exotic,’ the reader could conclude that District residents should fear for their safety.
But wait. The article is replete with factual errors regarding the make, model and classification of various firearms. Even more alarming, the report upon which the article is based was released by the Washington Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and contains the same mistakes.
The MPD report details the firearms seized in the District, January 19-23. The biggest inaccuracy: the description of a “black .45 caliber Umarex HDG handgun recovered from the 3200 block of Minnesota Avenue, Southeast.” As readers of this blog already know, Umarex makes and sells air-powered guns that fire a variety of non-lethal BBs or pellets depending on the model. The airgun is not only listed incorrectly as a firearm, but is additionally reported to be chambered in .45 caliber, an impossibility. Further, Umarex doesn’t sell an “HDG” model.
So, either MPD is unable to distinguish a firearm from an airgun, or it is a purposeful misclassification to inflate the record in a way that a firearm–ignorant city newspaper reporter would never recognize, but that many readers quickly spotted.
Oh, but there’s more. “The list of confiscated pistols includes an array of weaponry of makes that include Cougar and Desert Eagle, High Point and Llama.” However, with the exception of Llama and the misspelled Hi-Point, both Cougar and Desert Eagle are firearm models, not “makes.” “H&E” is described as another pistol brand. Ever heard of “H&E”? Neither have we.
In the mainstream news media where ignorance of firearms tends to be more celebrated than criticized, you might hear that such factual inaccuracies are insignificant. We disagree and there is no excuse for the laziness and lack of fact-checking we have grown used to seeing. News organizations, gun-control groups and politicians who advocate for more laws have a long history of seeming not to care about their lack of basic of knowledge, or the mistakes they make. They routinely spread misinformation as a result that has a way of re-appearing later. It is our job to point out these factual inaccuracies when they arise and hold those who misinform the public to account.
Larry Keane is the General Council to the National Shooting Sports Foundation