MSNBC thinks you’re stupid. I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt here--that they just didn’t know any better--but the deception involved, including arbitrary graphics juxtaposition and barely-under-the-breath caveats to their “data”, shows their hand all too clearly. They want you to believe pistols can’t stop rifles, and they’re hoping you’re stupid.
Monday, MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle journosplained (for any overzealous teachers watching, I assume) exactly how a handgun compares to an AR-15. It...did not go well. At least, not to anyone paying attention (that is to say, the sleight-of-hand was less Copperfield and more Gob Bluth).
Leave aside for the moment such fudgings as giving 9mm rounds a velocity of 700-1100 ft/sec (even though 700 is really low and 1100 is actually average, not top); the really egregious stuff is, for once, NOT in the details. It’s conveniently in bold fonts and right in your face. With graphics.
The segment kicks off with a simple and clear chart titled “AR-15-Style Rifle vs. Handgun”; one might be forgiven for experiencing a twinge of surprise when noticing the chart itself then unexpectedly compares an AR-15 with a revolver (labeled as such). Now, a revolver is indeed a type of handgun, but when the whole argumentative purpose of this hastily-fabricated PowerPoint slide is to show how much faster an AR-15 can fire another round compared to a handgun, it might behoove a televised reporter to mention that the vast majority of handguns purchased in the US are just as semi-automatic as the AR-15, with comparable fire rates. The revolver was specifically chosen for this moment on screen to falsely conflate “handgun” with “revolver” and obscure the inconvenient data point of Americans' overwhelming preference and ownership of pistols that can easily hold their own against an AR-15 in terms of the time it takes to chamber and fire another round (hence VA Tech—high count, no long guns). Given the choice of what to show under “handgun”, MSNBC deliberately chose the revolver, i.e., the exception. To be fair, Ruhle rounded off this particular hollow bullet point with the parenthetical segue, “Handguns can also be semi-automatic, but some, like revolvers, they’re not.”
“Can”. “Some”. On to next topic. See how that works?
Later, when comparing magazine capacity and bullet velocity, MSNBC takes the liberty of unceremoniously replacing the revolver on our helpful chart (presumably because few viewers would fall for any attempted claim that “handguns”, in general, can only fire six shots), and the AR is suddenly facing off with a 9mm. Here, we’re informed a “typical AR-15 magazine holds 30 bullets”. Fact check: Mostly true. 30 is the most popular at present, but 20’s and 10’s are also common. But the handgun? “A 9mm handgun holds 15.” Um. No “typical” this time? No mention of common higher-capacity mags? 17’s are widely used, as are other capacities up to and beyond 30 (see Tucson shooter). If the ammo gap is likely to be the determining factor for a “good guy”/teacher with a gun vs. a school shooter (Narrator Voice: “It’s not.”), the fine print buried under MSNBC’s claim of a 9mm’s limits pretty much makes the argument moot. The gap is narrow, if there, and it has been overcome in countless cases over the years. Pistols stop long guns all the time. The report, of course, did once again offer a throw-away caveat line before changing subjects: “Magazines that hold more are available for each firearm.” Indeed.
Perhaps the most ludicrous tack in this hard-hitting trainwreck-xposé was the cringe-worthy repeating of Lawrence O’Donnell’s argument from last week that any pistol-armed hero/heroine choosing to face the rifle-toting killer would be at a severe disadvantage because the long gun’s bullets are much faster. Mind you, we’re not talking about comparative fire rates (discussed above), just the basic fact that there’s an approximate 3x velocity difference between an AR-15 and most handgun fire.
At this point, I’m flummoxed. What, exactly, are they proving? Tell me, anybody, which caliber of bullet is sufficiently slow for human dodging of said bullet?? What’s that? Yes. To our sense experience, all gunfire is the same. If you’re in range, and you aim directly at me, I get shot. But what if we’re both armed, and your bullet is faster? Well, movie duels at noon notwithstanding, this really never comes into play since we’re never going to fire simultaneously. If the “good guy”, having the element of surprise, gets the drop on Generic Psychopath du Jour, he/she gets to pull the trigger first--and his/her “slow bullet” wins. BUT. Let’s for kicks and whatnot posit the unthinkable cosmic scenario in which both parties fire at exactly the same moment, and both are perfectly on target. What happens? Both. Still. Get. Shot. In this worst-case scenario, the brave interventionist dies saving the children. In no scenario does a reporter ever get to announce, “Alas, the would-be hero’s bullets were too slow.”
You want to ban guns? Repeal the 2nd Amendment? Just pass “sensible” gun legislation? I get it. Party on. But don’t just air nonsense. With graphics.