Sloppy Mainstream Reporting on Basic Gun Facts Points to Pervasive Failure

Anti Gun Media
Sloppy Mainstream Reporting on Basic Gun Facts Points to Pervasive Failure

USA –-( Police seized some guns in Nashua, NH, writer Carl Bussjaeger noted over the weekend on Bear’s Blog.

“At least two papers and a TV station are carrying the story on their web sites,” he explained. “Notice that I used the singular form of ‘story’ despite multiple venues.  All three ‘reports’ look to be slightly paraphrased re-issues of the same law enforcement press release.”

Why was Bussjaeger concerned, and why should we be?

“What originally caught my eye in this story was the claim that three ‘AK-47 assault rifles’ and a submachine gun (UnionUseless Leader says ‘Tec 9 machine pistol”’, Nashua Typographical Error reports ‘a submachine gun’, and WMUR has it as a ‘Tec-9 sub-machine gun’),” he writes, not even trying to mask his disregard for their journalistic standards.

Why does Bussjaeger have an issue with their reporting?

“I have a sneaking suspicion those ‘AK-47 assault rifles’ were no such thing. If I had money to bet, I’d say they were semi-auto-only variants that look kinda like AK-47s to the ignorant and most cops,” he argues.

And why would he make that assumption?

“The TEC-9 is a blow-back operated semi-automatic-only firearm,” he informs us.  And he also informed them, resulting in an exchange with one of the “Authorized Journalists” involved, Patrick Meighan, who emailed back this excuse:

I’m not an expert on firearms. In this case, I trusted the police to be, and “assault rifle” was the term police used in describing the weapons. The same goes for “submachine gun,” which another reader also pointed out was inaccurate. In describing firearms seized during a raid or arrest, I’m uncomfortable departing from police descriptions.

That’s what the police claim, alright. And while my call to their press release contact has not been returned at this writing [see “Update” at end of column], I did speak with Charles Keefe, a Nashua attorney representing Vincent Lenza, the man from whom the firearms were confiscated.

“It is our understanding that law enforcement did not seize any automatic weapons from Mr. Lenza as he did not possess any automatic weapons,” Mr. Keefe told me.

Reporters do not have to be subject matter experts on everything. That said, they have a responsibility to their readers to get the basics right, and to know that in cases like this, there are those who are counting on their ignorance.  They have a responsibility to those arrested, like Mr. Lenza, who is presumed innocent until proven guilty, not to put out unverified information that will prejudice the public. One must wonder which other authorities such reporters will just be “comfortable” parroting, instead of doing their own legwork to validate what they’re being told. That hardly speaks well for a “watchdog press” being a guardian of liberty.

This column has discussed before—many times—an old,  strategic bit of deception promulgated by the Violence Policy Center to confuse the public into thinking semi-automatic firearms are the same as “machine guns,” relying on reporters who don’t know any better—and who refuse to educate themselves—to help spread a calculated meme:

The weapons’ menacing looks, coupled with the public’s confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons—anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun—can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons.

The ignorance on the part of mainstream reporters enters the realm of absurd on occasion, such as happened the other day on 19 Action News, in a report I caught by chance. The son of a local cop apparently got into a fight with some other guys, reportedly over a girl. He allegedly brought one of his father’s guns to the confrontation, described in the report as “a a 22-calibur [sic] revolver.”

The only problem, besides the sloppy ignorance of the transcriber and an evident lack of any editorial oversight?  The video showed the handgun lying on the ground, and it was clearly a semi-automatic. Veteran reporter Paul Orlousky apparently does not know the difference, and lets us know later in his report that the gun left at the scene was not the officer’s “service revolver.”

It literally took under five minutes on my part, via a telephone call to the Grand River Police Department, and an email to the Eastlake PD, to determine the gun left at the scene was a Kel-Tec .380 (and that it was not loaded and did not contain a magazine), and that the standard-issue sidearm for Eastlake police is the Heckler and Koch .45—semiautos both, not “revolvers”.

This is important and hardly splitting hairs.  For many in the television audience, the talking heads do so with apparent authority, so if the professionals don’t know enough to provide accurate reporting, how can we reasonably expect their viewers to know the difference? And if the reporters are this clueless about such basic and easily verifiable information, how can we expect they will be versed enough to report on any aspect of the gun issue, including about rights and laws, and not expect the same sloppy results?

“Liberal” bias and agenda-driven manipulation on the part of the perfectly cognizant aside, is it any wonder why we see such talking point-parroting on “Stand Your Ground,” and such lack of mainstream substance on Fast and Furious?

It’s not like there aren’t comprehensive resources that include lists of experts by specialty. And it’s not like reporters shouldn’t be expected to develop their own reliable “go-to” sources as part of the job.  But that would require curiosity, initiative and, above all else, a drive to accurately share the truth.

UPDATE: I just heard back from the Nashua PD press release contact and asked him if the weapons seized were machine guns or semi-automatics.  He told me the FBI is now handling this case and did not know.

About David Codrea

David Codrea is a long-time gun rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament. He is a field editor for GUNS Magazine, and a blogger at The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance. Read more at

David Codrea