Sometimes I check in on this April 4, 2005 piece to see if the Times has gotten around to correcting it. As of today, they have not! Sometimes I hope they never will.Two:
But crozier mistakes are understandable. Less understandable? Saying Jesus is buried in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, that Easter marks Jesus’ “resurrection into heaven,” that St. Patrick is known for banishing slaves from Ireland, or that William Butler Yeats is the author of the Book of Hebrews.
The mainstream media lobbies hard for gun control, but it is very, very bad at gun journalism. It might be impossible ever to bridge the divide between the gun-control and gun-rights movements. But it’s impossible to start a dialogue when you don’t know what the hell you are talking about.
Media stories in the wake of mass shootings typically feature a laundry list of mistakes that reflect their writers’ inexperience with guns and gun culture. Some of them are small but telling: conflating automatic and semi-automatic weapons, assault rifle and assault weapon, caliber and gauge—all demonstrating a general lack of familiarity with firearms. Some of them are bigger. Like calling for “common-sense gun control” and “universal background checks” after instances in which a shooter purchased a gun legally and passed background checks. Or focusing on mass shootings involving assault weapons—and thereby ignoring statistics that show that far more people die from handguns.
Considering that a quick online search should provide all the information journalists need to get this right, it’s amazing that journalists don’t know the difference between an assault rifle and an assault weapon. An assault rifle is a fully automatic weapon that can fire multiple rounds with a single pull of the trigger, up to 950 rounds per minute. An assault weapon is a semi-automatic gun that can accept detachable magazines and has a pistol grip and foldable stock (to increase the gun’s length). The term assault weapon itself, of disputed origin, is a thorn in the side of gun enthusiasts, who point out that the differences between “assault weapons” and other semi-automatics are largely cosmetic and don’t increase the gun’s lethality.