The New York Times tries to explain: Is anyone in the nation more faux than our own Lawrence O’Donnell?
We don’t know how to answer your question. That said, the Newtown killings seem destined to produce a debate about various gun control measures.
In theory, that’s good—but will we the people have any idea what we’re talking about? This morning’s New York Times made us wonder.
In our hard-copy Times, exactly half of page A26 is devoted to a graphic which asks a very good question: “What Makes An Assault Weapon?”
“What Makes An Assault Weapon!” That’s what the headline asks on this morning’s graphic. The graphic runs from the top of page A26 all the way to the bottom. But uh-oh:
But because it doesn’t appear on-line, we can’t link you to it!
On-line, the Times has replaced the graphic in our hard-copy paper with this different graphic. Go figure! They do this all the time.
That said, the graphic at which we’re currently staring appears in our hard-copy Times. It tries to explain what an “assault weapon” is.
It tries, and in our view it fails. But then, what else is new?
The New York Times graphic features a large photo of a “Colt AR-15-type rifle”—a rifle which “is similar to the one used by Adam Lanza.” According to the Times, “It would have been an illegal assault weapon in the United States from 1994 to 2004, but it now can be purchased legally.”
That last sentence is a bit misleadingly written. But let's move right along.
At this point, the Times tries to explain what makes a rifle a (potentially illegal) “assault weapon.” We were glad to see this large graphic, because we’ve been trying to figure that out, based in part upon confused TV discussions.
Alas! This is the start of the New York Times’ explanation:
NEW YORK TIMES (12/18/12): Under Connecticut law and the national ban that lapsed in 2004, an assault weapon is a semi-automatic rifle with a removable magazine that also has two other military-style features.The New York Times does it again!
But omitting enough if these military-style features—pictured in GRAY below—renders this weapon legal.
The [pictured] rifle is SEMI-AUTOMATIC, which means it automatically chambers a new round after a shot but will not fire until the trigger is pulled again. Some variants of the military’s M-16, which this weapon resembles, allow you to fire continuously as long as the trigger is held down. Such AUTOMATIC weapons are illegal.
According to this explanation, an assault weapon must be semi-automatic. We’re then told what semi-automatic means: It means the rifle “automatically chambers a new round after a shot but will not fire until the trigger is pulled again.”
Here at THE HOWLER, we have no clear idea what that means. We asked a focus group at the bagel joint.
Our focus group didn’t know either.
Here’s the problem: What sort of gun doesn’t “automatically chamber a new round after a shot but will not fire until the trigger is pulled again?” We don’t exactly know, and neither did our focus group.
One wag began to pantomime a Hollywood-style flintlock rifle, with Mel Gibson pushing a ball down into the barrel with a very long stick. But no one knew what kind of gun does not behave in the manner described, although for ourselves we could pretty much guess. (We're saying this hours later.)
Presumably, some Times readers do know what that explanation means. But explanations are generally meant for readers who don't know. And by the way:
On TV, pundits often bat this question around. As a general matter, it’s abundantly clear that they have no idea either.
Based upon our focus group, the Times, as usual, faltered or failed. This is the way our public discourse has worked for a great many years.
Final point about semi-automatics: In the graphic which now appears on-line, the Times doesn’t even try to explain what “semi-automatic” means.
Given the skills of this famous great paper, it may be better that way.