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Journalists’ guide to guns

There’s the snarky gag version here and it pretty accurately reflects how the press deals with guns. I was asked by someone in the press who is familiar with guns if there was a journalists’ guide to firearms since. This person noted your average reporter likely didn’t have much knowledge of guns. Could be a good resource, if done right.

So, let’s create one. I’d say topics could include types of firearm actions, assault weapons, gun shows, etc. This really wouldn’t be difficult since we gunbloggers have already written this stuff and likely just need to compile it. For instance, here’s info on the assault weapons ban.

So, who’s in? Keep it factual, brief, and not particularly political.

Update: here’s a decent start.

20 Responses to “Journalists’ guide to guns”

  1. karrde Says:

    Could start with some material from this Glossary…link courtesy of Kim duToit.

    Though it occasionally measures moderately high on sarcasm, such as its entry for “Magnum”.

  2. Robb Allen Says:

    I tried this a while back, but was attacked immediately by a bad case of “Lazy”.

    I’ll start it back up, though. It’s a worth chance.

    It’s going to be very hard not to be political since politics are the main reason most people are confused on guns. Well, that and Hollywood.

    I’ll do what I can.

  3. nk Says:

    A bolt action is one in which a piston-like cylinder with a handle containing a spring-loaded striker or firing pin (the bolt) is manually pulled back and pushed forward in a cylindrical channel (the receiver) to load a cartridge to the rear of the barrel (the chamber). The movement also places the striker under spring tension (cocks it). The cartridge may be dropped into the path of the bolt one at a time by hand or it can be stripped from a magazine attached to the receiver which uses a spring to push a cartridge into the path of the bolt. When the gun is fired, the bolt will remain in place. To fire again, it is necessary to pull the bolt back, ejecting the spent cartridge casing, and manually repeat the loading cycle.

    A bolt action rifle is the strongest and most versatile of rifle actions. It can be chambered in light calibers for target shooting to heavy loads for elephant hunting. It is also the most accurate. It is almost invariably the action used in serious target competition. In .22 caliber it can group (place all shots) in a 1/4 inch dot at 50 yards. In .30 caliber it can group inside a ten-inch circle at a thousand yards.

    Although it first came out during the blackpowder era in mid 1800’s, its strength and simplicity made if perfect for the new high-velocity smokeless ammunition and it had been adopted as the military rifle of every major nation by the beginning of the Twentieth century. World War I was fought with it and largely WWII as well. The United States Army was the only one to be uniformly equipped with a full-power semi-automatic rifle, the M1 Garand in .30-06, but the U.S. Marines still used the bolt action Springfield 1903 in the same caliber.

    The most famous and successful bolt action was the Mauser 98 and most modern bolt action rifles are either modifications of it or have adopted many of its features.

    [Reasonable enough? Corrections welcome.]

  4. Chris Byrne Says:

    I have written a series of “so you want to write about guns” and “firearms mythbusting” articles on my site.

  5. emdfl Says:

    Won’t work. Anything that doesn’t fit the template of their agenda is considered spam and automatically consigned to the delete-file in their brain.

    Besides, you are making the groundless assumption that these idiots can read/comprehend words longer then two syllables.

  6. Cactus Jack Says:

    It’s a good idea but it’ll only work if so called journalists acually use it or any other factual source of information on firearms. And past articles posted by those culls have shown us how likely that is.

  7. Jim W Says:

    They could easily learn this stuff with 5 minutes spent on wikipedia. They are writing to support an agenda, not to report the truth.

    The vast majority of murders and other crimes go entirely unreported. Unless someone famous committed the crime, there is typically no reason to report on a crime that the police are already aware of, especially if the only suspect died at the scene.

    They report heavily on mass shootings because mass shootings are great fodder for the gun control movement, or at least have been in the past.

  8. anon Says:

    Someone gave it a go:
    “www.guncite.com”

  9. Jim W Says:

    A SMALL AND SIMPLE primer on avoiding the worst offenders would be far better than a comprehensive encyclopedia of gun terms misused by the media.

    For example:
    assault weapon- no such thing, a legal term created in the late 80s for the purposes of banning various semiautomatic firearms on the basis of menacing appearance. Distinguish from “assault rifle,” a type of intermediate caliber machine gun used by the military. Semiautomatic weapons don’t spray, aren’t fired from the hip, can’t fire 600 rounds per minute without reloading, etc.

    machine gun- a gun that fires more than one bullet when you pull the trigger. These are very rare in real life. There is a 99.9999 percent chance that the gun you are describing isn’t a machine gun and doesn’t fire any quicker than a hunting rifle.

    armor piercing bullet- only properly used to describe ultra-hard rifle bullets meant for piercing light vehicle armor. Bullet design has almost no effect on ability to penetrate bulletproof vests worn by police- vests which are rated by velocity rather than projectile design. “Cop killer bullets” have never existed in the real world. Teflon is a lubricating grease, it has no special characteristics that enhance penetration of armor.

    plastic anything- the terms plastic handgun/plastic rifle refer to the places where the shooter holds the gun, not to the working mechanism or barrel, which are always made of hardened steel. The undetectable handgun idea was from Die Hard 2 and is fictional.

    sniper- 99.99 percent chance you are misusing the term so don’t use it. Sniping requires intent to conceal one’s position. This is the purpose of distance in sniping- making the sniper more difficult to find. Similarly, there is no such thing as a “sniper rifle”- 75 percent of hunting rifles would qualify.

    AK-47- used to refer to
    a) the russian military arm, an assault rifle. It can fire semiauto and full auto. There are very few of these in the country since importation was banned during the vietnam war and very few were registered before the 86 ban.
    b) semiautomatic rifles made in the US that look like them.
    Be very careful confusing the two. If you are describing events in other countries, especially military conflicts, you are almost certainly describing (a) the military arm. If you are describing any US crime, there is a 99.9999 percent chance that it is (b) an ordinary semiautomatic gun

    This logic applies to ALL named military guns. There are typically full auto versions available overseas with similar appearing domestic versions.

    assault weapons ban- Banned a short list of cosmetic features that were deleted from all new guns immediately after the law passed. There was literally zero interruption in the availability of guns or magazines. The billions of magazines made during the cold war continued to remain legal and available for under 10 dollars apiece. The law did nothing but anger gun owners.

  10. Jim W Says:

    Ack, that is already way too long. Yeah, I think using guncite and rebutting mistruths as they are presented is probably the best way to train journalists to tell the truth.

  11. Robert Says:

    It’s already been created. It’s called the freaking internet. They could use it for MANY things, if they just would.

    I keep asking myself: How dumb are these people? And how much is intentional dumbness?

  12. Cactus Jack Says:

    Robert Says:

    December 10th, 2007 at 12:39 pm
    Itís already been created. Itís called the freaking internet. They could use it for MANY things, if they just would.

    I keep asking myself: How dumb are these people? And how much is intentional dumbness?

    It’s not dumbness. As you stated information is readily available on the internet and we all know that the media does have access to it. And since the media has access to volumnes of information on anything and everything, including firearms, their lack of facts when the subject is firearms can be explained only one way, WILLFUL LYING!

  13. karrde Says:

    The real downside of the one that I linked is that is occasionally shows a you’re stupid attitude towards the uninitiated.

    Admittedly, it’s hard to correct fallacies in the minds of the unconvinced without also bad-mouthing the ill-willed…but I think the above Glossary could be improved by removing some of the stupid vibe.

    It’s a small thing, though–the Glossary is, by and large, pretty good.

  14. Rob K Says:

    And since the media has access to volumes of information on anything and everything, including firearms, their lack of facts when the subject is firearms can be explained only one way, WILLFUL LYING!

    I’m actually going to strongly disagree with this. I don’t think it’s true. “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.” Sun Tzu said “If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.” We must know our foe. We cannot lump the disinterested in with the malicious, even when their effects are the same.

    When a reporter misreports some firearm fact, we have to understand why – was it plain ignorance, was it ideologically motivated, or was it malice? When a reporter makes a mistake because he’s not very interested in the subject matter, telling him that he’s willfully lying does nothing to get him to change his ways. It just pisses him off.

    I think that a lot of the mis-reporting of these things is based on ignorance and misinformation born of plain disinterest in the subject. They don’t see and don’t care about the distinctions or how they matter. They don’t think the distinctions matter at all. They don’t know that their beliefs on the topic are wrong, so they have no impetus to go research it and find out the truth. They don’t actively care about the difference between full and semi-automatic guns. How many of their readers really care? What’s the real functional distinction between an AK-47 and a WASR-10? They don’t care. It doesn’t affect them in their day-to-day lives and in most of the reporting they do. They don’t care anymore about that than they care about the difference between a Chevy 1500 and a Ford F-350. Both are just pick-up trucks to them. To focus on another domain, do you know the distinction between Bourbon and Tennessee whiskey? Did you know that Jack Daniel’s isn’t a Bourbon? Do you care? How many of you reading this care about the distinction between martinis and cocktails? How many of you know what the distinction is? Just as the word martini has been expanded to include all cocktails by those who don’t care about using correct terms, so has “AK-47” been expanded to to include anything and everything that looks like an AK, and largely for the same reasons. They don’t know or care that there’s a distinction.

    Again, we cannot lump the disinterested in with the malicious, even when their effects are the same. Two diseases can have the very similar symptoms, but entirely different cures.

  15. Homer Says:

    I think Rob K makes a valid point. I make my living with some of the more complex software on the planet, and the users absolutely do not care about that or what I have to do to make it all work – all they’re interested in is “when I click X then Y should happen.” They’re not stupid, lazy or malicious, they just want their jobs to be easy. Which makes mine hard, but that was what I signed up for, and I’ve never refused to cash a check for what I do.

    Welcome to shooting and guns.

    The media wants their job to be easy, so we have to make it as easy as we can if we want positive coverage. Most of the media is liberal, so anti-gun is their default position. If we can – very politely – suggest that their readers/viewers/listeners are hungry for more information, and that we’d like to help them reach a wider audience, they’ll listen. It’s our job to get them to want to learn more, not call them ignorant.

    I realize that it’s tough to separate the truly interested media member from those who just want some bloody footage to prove their anti-gun point, but a little education can go a long way. They live and die by ratings and circulation numbers; link gun knowledge and accuracy to those and they’ll be interested. If a local club or range has the resources, a media-only day – if it’s well run, and presents the right attitude – can be beneficial.

    Uncle, I think, has the right idea to support all this. Some sort of easy-to-use reference material – and the internet is chock full of it – can be extremely helpful, especially the firearm cycling animations. A CD of the animations, plus something like Kim’s glossary, and a safety video or two, would make a nice handout. Just remember when shooting the video to look at it from the anti-gun point of view: what in the video can be used against gun owners. Perhaps a pro-gun outfit with the resources (hello, NRA…?) could produce a set of tightly scripted, brief, short safety videos and make them available without fee.

  16. Lyle Says:

    I think the key word that explains the anti/journalist is “bigotry”.

    If Joe didn’t come up with this, he was the first person I heard make that point:
    http://blog.joehuffman.org/

    Anything positive, or even neutral, on guns must have been written by one of “those people” (those gun-happy nuts who want to “give guns to kids at school” and such). Since any ďinformationĒ on guns that does not treat guns as a plague, must have been written by one of us “crazies”, it can be safely dismissed out of hand and without further consideration.

    Why would they read your ďinformationĒ when you are one of the enemyóthe enemy that got many of them into journalism in the first place? Understand that these people are on a mission; hence anything that threatens the mission must by necessity be put down.

    Our best bet, I submit, is to expose them to anyone who hasnít yet bough into their religion. Converting them, while Iíll admit is possible in some miniscule percentage of cases, is largely a waste of time. Discrediting them, along with reminding people of the Foundersí intent and how it relates to the modern world, is far easier and more efficient.

  17. Rob K Says:

    Lyle says: “Converting them, while Iíll admit is possible in some minuscule percentage of cases, is largely a waste of time.”

    I agree. BUT, attacking them outright in a full frontal assault will not help our cause, especially when they could have been converted and it drives off the otherwise convertible by-standers. You’ll never convince a man he’s a jerk by telling him he’s a jerk. And really, is your goal to convince him that he’s a jerk, or to get him to stop being a jerk? Or is it to just show everyone else that he’s a jerk? Or is it to prove yourself right?

    They only way to convert people is to show them that it’s in their best interest to be converted, and it’s best if you can make them think that the idea was theirs in the first place. When we write letters to news outlets that cover some gun related story, well, I know my tendency is to preach at them with logic and statistics and to say “Ha! You were wrong!”.

    I don’t think we should have been so accusatory toward the big media about calling the Omaha gun an AK-47. I wish instead I’d have emailed CNN and said to them, “I heard the gun was an AK-47, but I also heard in a lot of places that it was an SKS, and in others that it was a WASR-10. Which was it and what’s the difference? Was it really full auto? Or was it a completely legal semi-auto clone. I heard it was banned by the `94 AWB. Was it really?” Somehow, we have to pique their interest and make them think there’s a story that the public wants to hear, so that they’ll educate themselves to educate the public. Maybe we write to CNN and say “I heard some guy really used an AK-47 to hunt a deer. Is that legal?” and then point them to the blog posts. We have to raise questions that they have to do some real research to answer.

  18. Steve Says:

    Somewhat related, Professor Volokh created a page for Journalists to be able to reference various scholars on the 2nd Amendment & gun rights.

    http://www.gunscholar.org/

  19. markm Says:

    Rob K: At the very best, it is willful ignorance – in people whose job is to find out the facts and report them.

    And it doesn’t just affect their reporting on guns. Remember the reporters who were taken in by the old Iraqi woman showing two unfired cartridges and claiming they were “bullets” that had hit her house. It astounds me that a war reporter could remain so ignorant of the basic tools of the infantryman as to be unaware that the copper part gets left behind when the “bullet” is fired…

  20. Cactus Jack Says:

    “When a reporter misreports some firearm fact, we have to understand why – was it plain ignorance, was it ideologically motivated, or was it malice? When a reporter makes a mistake because heís not very interested in the subject matter, telling him that heís willfully lying does nothing to get him to change his ways. It just pisses him off.”

    There were many things about my job, a Fireman, that I didnt like either but I did them and did them right because it was expected of me and rightfully so. And the same goes for a reporter, that’s his JOB! He’s getting paid to present the facts whether he’s interested in the subject or not. There’s no more defense for being lazy that there is for being malicious. And I dont care if a so called journalist gets pissed off when he’s told that he’s wrong or a liar. Maybe it’ll motivate him to clean up his act though I strongly doubt it.

    “I think that a lot of the mis-reporting of these things is based on ignorance and misinformation born of plain disinterest in the subject. They donít see and donít care about the distinctions or how they matter. They donít think the distinctions matter at all. They donít know that their beliefs on the topic are wrong, so they have no impetus to go research it and find out the truth. They donít actively care about the difference between full and semi-automatic guns. How many of their readers really care? Whatís the real functional distinction between an AK-47 and a WASR-10? They donít care. It doesnít affect them in their day-to-day lives and in most of the reporting they do. They donít care anymore about that than they care about the difference between a Chevy 1500 and a Ford F-350. Both are just pick-up trucks to them. To focus on another domain, do you know the distinction between Bourbon and Tennessee whiskey? Did you know that Jack Danielís isnít a Bourbon? Do you care? How many of you reading this care about the distinction between martinis and cocktails? How many of you know what the distinction is? Just as the word martini has been expanded to include all cocktails by those who donít care about using correct terms, so has ďAK-47″ been expanded to to include anything and everything that looks like an AK, and largely for the same reasons. They donít know or care that thereís a distinction.”

    Once again, it’s the media’s job to present the facts. Just because some people cant tell one type of cocktail, pickup truck, or firearm from another is no excuse for misrepresenting what was acually used.

    Rob K, not being interested in a subject is no excuse for doing a piss poor job, no matter what the job is.

    I still, and always will, believe the following since nothing’s happened to change my mind and I doubt anything ever will;
    “And since the media has access to volumes of information on anything and everything, including firearms, their lack of facts when the subject is firearms can be explained only one way, WILLFUL LYING!”

    There it is!