OK, now THIS is gun ignorance

Pay attention: a "shotgun" is a GUN that fires SHOT...

Pay attention: a “shotgun” is a GUN that fires SHOT…

This was in The Washington Post this morning:

On an icy Monday morning in February 2004, Jon Romano was hunched in a bathroom stall on the third floor of his high school outside of Albany, N.Y., tapping out a text message to his few friends.

“I’m in school with shot gun,” he wrote, the New York Times would later report. “Get out.”

Clad in a long black leather coat, the 16-year-old then washed his hands, picked up a brand-new Winchester 12-gauge pump-action shotgun, and stepped into a hallway at Columbia High School. He fired two blasts before Assistant Principal John Sawchuk tackled the 6-foot-2, 230-pound teenager. As the two struggled, a third shot ripped from the gun, hitting the legs of a special-education teacher named Michael Bennett. Although bullets came close enough to graze a student’s baseball cap, no one else was hit. There were no fatalities….

Whoa! Where did “bullets” come from? I can save you the trouble — nowhere in the story is there a mention of any weapon that fires them. He just had a shotgun.

Some of my gun-hip friends like to complain about gun-control advocates not knowing the difference between a “clip” and a “magazine.” But when they get that pedantic, they lose me. My whole life, I’ve heard magazines — particularly the little ones used with semiautomatic pistols — referred to as “clips.” And what do most people call the thing you use with an AK-47? I don’t recall hearing it referred to as a “banana magazine.” So you should give people some wiggle-room on that one. “Clip” may usually be wrong, but it’s not that embarrassingly wrong. So lighten up, Francis.

Kyle Swenson

Kyle Swenson

But this? This seems to be willful ignorance. It’s painful. It’s the ultimate. It shows a complete lack of a clue as to what a shotgun is (hint for those who actually don’t know: It’s a gun that fires shot, in most, but not all, circumstances). I had to look up the reporter who wrote that, Kyle Swenson. His bio says that before joining the Post just last year, “he covered South Florida for the New Times Broward-Palm Beach.”

South Florida must have gotten a lot more peaceful since the “Miami Vice” days, for someone to cover it without learning anything about firearms.

And where was his editor?

40 thoughts on “OK, now THIS is gun ignorance

    1. Bryan Caskey

      That’s pretty good.

      I’m pedantic about firearms in the context of a gun-control proposal because I think it’s reasonable for someone who is purporting to legally regulate firearms to know something about them. I wouldn’t try to argue about nuclear power regulation without educating myself about it, and I wouldn’t fuss at a nuclear engineer for being “pedantic” about nuclear power if I got things wrong.

      But yeah, if you’re sitting around and just chatting, sure as long as I get your meaning, that’s fine. But if you’re going to start proposing actual laws and regulations, I’m going to require a bit more specificity and a bit more understanding than you see get tossed around by someone who’s never even held a gun, much less understands how they operate.

  1. Bryan Caskey

    Some of my favorite lines from anti-gun folks are:

    1. “If you ban them in the future, the number of these high-capacity magazines is going to decrease dramatically over time because the bullets will have been shot and there won’t be any more available.”
    -Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colorado)

    I love this one. She actually thinks that somehow the magazine itself is used up by the act of firing the rounds inside the magazine. Or maybe she thinks that you can only load a magazine once…or something. That’s….not how it works at all. And I find myself also a bit baffled that I’m supposed to have “a national conversation” with people like this in office.

    2. I also get a chuckle when folks tell me the “AR” in AR-15 stands for “assault rifle”. Spoiler alert: it’s not.

    The thing is, most anti-gun people are proudly ignorant of guns and almost always resist any offer I make to educate them on the fundamentals. It’s like they’re scared of even understanding guns…for reasons beyond my comprehension.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            And I’m still not sure (without looking) what the “A” in AK-47 stands for. I’m assuming the “K” is for Kalashnikov. And I think 1947 was when it was first developed…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I think it’s just that they hate them so. They don’t even want to hear about guns ever again, much less learn more about them. They think of gun expertise as something for gun lovers, which they don’t ever want to be.

      I guess it’s kind of like me being ignorant on the subject of reality TV, and preferring to stay that way. Only, if anything, their hostility and revulsion is even greater…

      1. Bryan Caskey

        And that’s cool. If you don’t like reality television, that’s cool. However, I think you ought to be fundamentally conversant in reality television before you propose laws regulating it. I feel like that’s a pretty reasonable request.

            1. Mark Stewart

              – Universal background checks w/ 14 day waiting period on all sales
              – Broader restriction on certain gun “parts” (silencers, bump stocks, “assault style” modifications)
              – Magazine limit of 10 rounds; for handguns, long guns and shot guns
              – Rights to flag an individual for inclusion on the background check system / require firearm removal by an immediate family member signing a sworn affidavit (with due process for the flagged person to recover right to firearm(s))

              That’s it. If it was a duck under the NFA, it ought to be considered, and regulated as a duck today – and into the future.

              1. Doug Ross

                All of those are reasonable… but probably ineffective in changing the desire of people who want to kill from obtaining whatever weapons they desire.

                Can we add barring sales to anyone on certain classes of prescription medications?

                1. Mark Stewart

                  There are no silver bullets. I’m not looking for any.

                  The “solution” is going to have to come from the aggregation of many small efforts across a broad range of factors. And even then, just like with traffic fatalities, there will be no perfect solution that does not result in senseless death. However, that does not mean that we should not try – nor that we cannot stop making things worse for society and its individuals. Before the second amendment grants the right to bear firearms, we ALL have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness under the Constitution.

                  Actually, I would add one more to my list:

                  – There should be NO restrictions on firearms research and analysis – by any governmental entity or private party.

    2. bud

      i would maintain that a deep understanding of gun terminology is irrelevant to addressing gun regulation. Instead I propose a thorough understanding of the statistical relationships between general gun types and both the harm and benefits that accrue to the population. If guns do in fact deter crimes or protect people from harm then demonstrate that benefit. Likewise if a particular category of firearm is statistically linked to harm that is the important to the discussion. Likewise with laws like background checks, age limits, gun registration etc. Far too much of the discussion on this issue is couched in pationate terms, mostly on the guns “rights” folks. If we are safer without a particular type of firearm without a countervailing loss of safety or other pertenate consideration then isn’t it reasonable to ban such a weapon?

  2. bud

    Gun issues and traffic safety should be approached the same way. Safety belts were once regarded as an infringement of the rights of citizens. Yet the statistical evidence was clear that safety belts almost never caused deaths that would otherwise have not occurred. Yet they certainly save lives. Eventually resistance to belt laws was overcome and no bonafide rights were trampled. And 10s of thousands of lives have been saved.

      1. Mr. Smith

        The Constitution does not state or imply that we are bound to form a suicide pact when one faction takes an extremist position on guns, forcing us to disregard the public safety concerns associated with guns. This is where the “well-regulated” part kicks in – or should,

            1. Bryan Caskey

              It’s a “well-regulated militia”. Let’s break it down. First the “militia”:

              In 1939, the Supreme Court explained that “the Militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense.” That definition comports with founding-era sources. See, e.g., Webster (“The militia of a country are the able bodied men organized into companies, regiments and brigades … and required by law to attend military exercises on certain days only, but at other times left to pursue their usual occupations”); The Federalist No. 46, pp. 329, 334 (B. Wright ed. 1961) (J. Madison) (“near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands”); Letter to Destutt de Tracy (Jan. 26, 1811), in The Portable Thomas Jefferson 520, 524 (M. Peterson ed. 1975) (“[T]he militia of the State, that is to say, of every man in it able to bear arms”).

              So that’s the body of people we’re dealing with. It’s basically everyone who is able bodied, and clearly, not limited to the Army or the National guard. It’s the citizenry of the United States.

              Unlike armies and navies, which Congress is given the power to create (“to raise … Armies”; “to provide … a Navy,” Art. I, §8, cls. 12–13), the militia is assumed by Article I to already to be in existence. Congress is given the power to “provide for calling forth the militia,” §8, cl. 15; and the power not to create, but to “organiz[e]” it—and not to organize “a” militia, which is what one would expect if the militia were to be a federal creation, but to organize “the” militia, connoting a body already in existence, ibid., cl. 16. This is fully consistent with the ordinary definition of the militia as all able-bodied men.

              Pretty straightforward so far, right?

              On to “well-regulated”:

              The adjective “well-regulated” implies nothing more than the imposition of proper discipline and training. See Johnson 1619 (“Regulate”: “To adjust by rule or method”); Rawle 121–122; cf. Va. Declaration of Rights §13 (1776), in 7 Thorpe 3812, 3814 (referring to “a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms”). The idea is that the citizenry should not be denied the individual right to have and be able to operate a firearm in order to be useful in the militia.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                So… how come people who are NOT subjected to “proper discipline and training” get to have guns, too?

                But let’s not go down that rathole. I have another point to raise.

                In that generation, a lot of smart people — especially among the ones who would become Democratic-Republicans — were still laboring under the delusion that the United States had no need of a standing army. (Or, even more preposterously, no need for a navy. Harrumph.) They believed that any threat to national security could be dealt with by all the yeomen farmers running back to the farmhouse to grab their muskets on the spur of the moment.

                Our miserable performance in the War of 1812 should have disabused us of that notion, although it did not fully do so. At least, I don’t think so. I’m sort of weak on the history between that point and 1860…

                1. Bryan Caskey

                  “In that generation, a lot of smart people — especially among the ones who would become Democratic-Republicans — were still laboring under the delusion that the United States had no need of a standing army.”

                  Eh, I sort of think of it in a different way. I think a lot of smart people had recently experienced a large standing army in their midst under the orders of the Crown. They were afraid of standing armies in a way that we aren’t now. As tensions increased between the colonies and England towards the end of the 1700’s many Bostonians became convinced that the standing army quartered among them in time of peace was designed to overwhelm them with military force. With nearly four thousand redcoats in a town of fifteen thousand civilians, it was only a matter of time before an incident occurred. When some nervous British soldiers fired upon a hostile crowd and killed five civilians, resulting in what the colonists called the Boston Massacre, it further inflamed the situation. In response to Boston’s further rebellion, England authorized forced quartering of soldiers even if the homeowner did not consent.

                  You can see it in the Declaration of Independence of 1776; among many accusations Congress leveled against the Crown were his keeping “among us, in Times of Peace, Standing Armies, without the Consent or our Legislatures,” and his “quartering large Bodies of Armed Troops among us.”

                  So, I think there was not so much a delusion that they didn’t need a standing army, but rather a hostile attitude towards a standing army, because they had recently had a bad relationship with the standing army forced upon them. Our nation really didn’t have much of a standing army until after WWII, when we didn’t shrink the army back down like we normally do following a conflict.

                2. Brad Warthen Post author

                  “I think there was not so much a delusion that they didn’t need a standing army, but rather a hostile attitude towards a standing army.”

                  Why don’t you think both were true? I think both were…

                3. Norm Ivey

                  Thanks for your response.

                  So it sounds like the purpose of the 2nd Amendment was to provide for the common defense, a need which has been supplanted by our standing military. And the definitions you’ve provided bear no resemblance to the reality we are living in in this country in 2018. It’s about as useful as the 3rd amendment.

                  I’ve no real hope that anything will be done, but I believe the Constitution should be amended to reflect our current reality–protecting an individual’s right to keep and bear arms for sport, hunting and defense of self and home while limiting the types of arms an individual can own.

                4. Mark Stewart

                  This is where we are headed; no one needs to be able to kill scores of people in seconds – with a handgun or a long gun.

              2. Brad Warthen Post author

                The Second Amendment debate — like many others — is one of those where my communitarian tendencies make it hard for me to have a meeting of the minds with people of libertarian tendencies (in this case, gun libertarians), who outnumber people like me greatly.

                I tend to think that, if we’re going to let people have guns with practically no restrictions — a very radical thing to do, if you step back and regard it from a timeless, universal perspective — there has to be a very good REASON why that benefits society as a whole.

                People who are more about rights than responsibilities are appalled at such a notion. They tend to think we should have access to guns just because. Because they’re our “rats,” as the Confederate prisoner in “Gettysburg” put it, to the perplexity of Lt. Thomas Chamberlain.

                In the case of the 2nd Amendment, that reason I’m looking for is offered in the form of the well-regulated militia. Of course, what that would seem to me to plainly mean — membership in what we today call the National Guard — is not universally held to be the case, even by (as you point out) our courts.

                I don’t see how we’re going to reconcile that, except the way we must for the moment — accepting the judgments of courts.

                Of course, the real political battle over guns doesn’t lie in the place where we quibble over the meaning of “well-regulated militia.” It’s between more extreme positions. On the one hand, you have people who believe God means them to have guns, and that no government on Earth should ever stand in the way of that divine right. On the other, you have people who think of guns and gun ownership to be utter barbarity, including some people who in their heart of hearts would probably like to see them disappear from the hands of soldiers and police as well.

                It’s the Kulturkampf. Without that, the rest of us could probably find a way to work through this… Maybe…

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Well, it means something. They didn’t just throw it in for fun.

            Despite the bizarre punctuation, it seems the most reasonable assumption is that the Framers felt a need to explain why on Earth they would include such a right in the Constitution.

            There seems little doubt it was there for a reason, a reason important to understanding their intention — however much we may argue over what that reason was…

            1. Norm Ivey

              Could it be in the sense of “regular army,” like a standing army? That a regular militia was necessary in place of a standing army, and therefore they needed weapons at the ready?

          2. Mr. Smith

            “In 1939, the Supreme Court explained … [and so forth and so on].

            In other words, it don’t mean a thing — on the contemporary context.

            Put another way: We don’t use militias anymore – not in the original sense. (The National Guard isn’t one.) Just like we don’t have an Electoral College that works as originally intended.

            So what we need to do, in Lincoln’s words, is “disenthrall ourselves” from (some folks’ interpretations of) 18th century notions and begin to “think anew, and act anew,” to deal with the environment and problems we have today. Some would enshrine absolutism above practicality, but I think we know how that turns out. Fetishizing distorted concepts is the recipe for losing the country the Constitution was intended to create and protect.

            Or as someone once said:

        1. Barry

          We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. ‘Miller’ said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those ‘in common use at the time.’ 307 U.S., at 179, 59 S.Ct. 816. We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons.’” Antonin Scalia


      2. bud

        We have aleady established that arms can be well regulated. Those words are in the Constitution. Therefore there is not an absolute right to own any particular type of arms. What the debate should be about is the best way to “well regulate”.

          1. Bryan Caskey

            He did. He said it here:

            The traditional militia was formed from a pool of men bringing arms “in common use at the time” for lawful purposes like self-defense. “In the colonial and revolutionary war era, [small-arms] weapons used by militiamen and weapons used in defense of person and home were one and the same.” State v. Kessler, 289 Ore. 359, 368, 614 P. 2d 94, 98 (1980) (citing G. Neumann, Swords and Blades of the American Revolution 6–15, 252–254 (1973)).

            Indeed, that is precisely the way in which the Second Amendment’s operative clause furthers the purpose announced in its preface. We therefore…say only that the Second Amendment does not protect those weapons not typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes…. That accords with the historical understanding of the scope of the right,

  3. Burl Burlingame

    I had an argument with an editor over a crime story that referred to a victim who was “bullet-riddled” who was shot once. I lost the argument, because I was not the editor.


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