Dec 12, 2009

The Times Square Machine Pistol

Reporter Colleen Long probably got at least two things wrong, and at least one editor let her get away with it.

1. The Mac 10 may or may not have been the "machine pistol" she called it, but the odds are extremely high that it was just the semiautomatic version of the gun. Coleen, "machine pistol" is a term reserved for fully automatic weapons, and they are not available to anyone who walks into a gun store in Virginia. If this one happened to be a true machine pistol, it was sold to the woman only after a special background check, registration, and a hefty excise tax.

2. Coleen tells us New York crooks go to southern gun shows "where there are no required background checks for people buying secondhand weapons."
This is, of course, flatly wrong. A licensed dealer requires the legal paper work and background checks for all firearms, new or used. Colleen is confused because transfers among private citizens do not require the federal records and background checks, and this is true whether the transactions happen in a gun show, a living room, or a a target range. The lesson here, and I am going to shout, is:


I know I'm preaching to the armed choir here, mostly in hope that these journalisticly inconvenient truths might catch the eye of a stray news person here and there.

And Coleen, a small hint from a veteran ink-stained wretch: When you're unsure about things -- like whether a firearm is or is not a "machine pistol" -- and the deadline pressure doesn't give you time to check, quote a cop or other "authority" on the matter. He may be just as wrong as you are, but the embarrassment for error is on his shoulders, not yours, and our once-honorable profession looks the better.

An idle aside: I wonder if j-schools have decided it's no longer necessary to mention the concept of attribution.

EDIT: It was the semi-auto version. Ain't no machine pistols 'round here, Boss.

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