March 29, 2013

Layers Of Fact Checking

I was talking with a friend a few months ago. She's in her early 20's, very bright, but new to the whole gun thing (I've been meaning to do a write up as her introduction to shooting makes for a good story & some useful insights - plus parts are just downright funny). The conversation went like this:

Pub: Well, the Mainstream Media is usually likes government control of most things (except the Mainstream Media of course) so look for them to help in the big push for gun control that's coming.
Scarlett: I have noticed there are a lot more stories about shootings lately.
Pub: What you haven't noticed yet is how often those stories get things wrong

I meant to go into detail about just what the political and mass media situation in regards to the gun culture was, but I really didn't have enough Maker's Mark for me to go through how bad things were, let alone explain the politics to a newbie.

But blog fodder need not be gentle nor ease into things, so let's take a look at a few examples of how thorough and strident journalists of today are in reporting firearm related facts:

Firstly, we'll use this story and start off with why the mainstream medie think all this is a big deal:

"We now know that he left the lower capacity magazines at home,' Malloy said in a statement. 'This is exactly why we need to ban high capacity magazines and why we need to tighten our assault weapons ban."

An AR-15 sold commercially today will come from the factory with a thrity round magazine, hence they're standard capacity, or factory capacity, or perhaps even normal capacity, typical capacity, common capacity or usual capacity, not high capacity. So of course magazines that held less would be left at home, seeing as there likely weren't any for the AR-15. If the story mentioned there were X number of 10 round AR mags that held 10 or 20 rounds then it may have been closer to contextual. Without more information I have to assume that the magazines that held less than 30 rounds were likely for different firearms and not compatible with an AR.

But you see why this kind of thing is important - the mainstream media, as well as politicians, will want to shock and scare low information voters into supporting a ban of some sort.

"The court papers said police searching the Lanza home found an Enfield bolt-action rifle, a Savage Mark II rifle, a revolver, three samurai-style swords with blades measuring up to 28 inches and a 6-foot, 10-inch wood-handled pole with a blade on one side and a spear on the other."

This will be important: an "Enfield bolt-action rifle" is likely a Lee-Enfield, and probably an SMLE, This was a bolt action rifle, chambered in the .303 British cartridge, fed by a 10 round magazine and capable of firing 30 aimed shots per minute (depending on the skill of the user, I've heard reports of up to 38 rounds per minute). The magazine was detachable, but in practice it was left in the rifle and the rifle was loaded with 10 round stripper clips.

The Savage Mk II is a bolt action rifle chambered for either .22LR or .17 HM2 - both rimfire rounds. It has a 10 round detachable box magazine in either chambering.

Because they're so common, I'm assuming the "samurai-style swords with blades measuring up to 28 inches" were more akin to sword like objects rather than real swords. To explain it briefly, most "samurai" swords, and other types of swords for that matter, are made of stainless steel. While great for pocket knives it's not a good material for anything over say 10 or 12 inches. Stainless steel is just too brittle to hold up to any serious use. But stainless is cheaper and looks better hanging on a wall. There are several companies that make real swords, and perhaps one day I'll write about that, but having 3 Japanese style swords doesn't seem a big deal, as you can find deals on sets (a matched daisho along with a tanto runs under $40 here for example - though I wouldn't recommend buying any sword at such a low price unless you just want something for decorative purposes).

This next part though is all kind of confusing: "10-inch wood-handled pole with a blade on one side and a spear on the other".

The closest thing I can think of is a Cold Steel Spike Hawk or Trench Hawk or Vietnam Tomahawk. The latter has a handle of just under 14 inches but none of them have a "spear" on the back end. And using the word "pole" make me think that 10 inches would be inaccurate, as poles are generally thought of to be lengthier than say the handle of a tennis racket. So until someone shows a picture of the item in question I have no idea what the hell they're referring to.

That particular story (and I'm sure many others just like it) started off with this paragraph:

"The gunman who killed 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school fired 154 rounds in less than 5 minutes, selecting high capacity magazines from a home arsenal stocked with swords, knives and a cache of guns, officials said."

154 rounds in less than 5 minutes. You won't have to remember that - the press, politicians and other ne'er-do-wells will be shouting that from the rooftops. But if my math is right, that comes to 30.8 rounds per minute. Remember that section above about the Lee-Enfield? That bolt action rifle with a 10 round magazine from WW1? It can fire that many rounds a minute at a target 300 yards distant (assuming the user knows how to use the rifle of course).

So if firing 30.8 rounds a second is an unacceptable capability for a citizen to have, then they'd not just have to ban AR-15's and similar rifles, but bolt action rifles from the first decade of the 20th century.

Moving on to another article which mentions "cache of weapons" right in the title and the first sentence, we find the following:

"A cache of weapons including guns, more than a thousand rounds of ammunition, a bayonet and several swords was found in the home of the gunman who carried out the Newtown school shooting, according to search warrants released Thursday."

A thousand rounds of ammo? The only way a thousand rounds of ammo would be newsworthy is if it was sitting on a shelf at a gun store and that's only because of the ammo drought. Otherwise it's not a big deal to anyone who knows anything about firearms. But the low/no information voter is going to be scared.

So far I've seen nothing to indicate any alarm at the sizable "weapons cache" being reported in all the articles I've read. Most folks int he gun culture have more than one firearm, and having a thousand rounds of ammunition is (or was until the current ammo drought) not a big deal. A thousand rounds of .22LR, for example, takes up less space than a 5 pound bag of sugar.

And let no one speak ill of the bayonet.

"The arsenal seized from Lanza's home..."

Arsenal? That's probably a stretch, but then so is "weapons cache". There's no real definition of either so they use those terms whenever they want to plant the suggestion that an amount of arms is excessive. Most folks in the gun culture though wouldn't consider this anything out of the ordinary. 1 AR, 1 shotgun, a few bolt action rifles (one in rimfire), a revolver, 2 pistols, over a thousand rounds of ammo, some presumably decorative swords and possibly a tomahawk. Not really newsworthy as an "arsenal" or "weapons cache" except to folks with an agenda.

Now I was actually impressed with this next part:

"A loaded 12-gauge Saiga shotgun was found in the Honda Civic Lanza drove to the school and the warrants said there were two magazines containing a total of 70 shotgun rounds. The warrant does not offer further explanation, and authorities did not respond to questions, but some Saiga shotguns can be fitted with magazines that hold up to 30 rounds."

Someone actually googled!

A Saiga does have a detachable magazine set up, but I've only seen one 30 round drum in 12 gauge. (20 round drums are a bit more common and reliable from what I've read so far.) 70 rounds in 2 magazines would be 35 rounds a piece. I know of no shotgun magazine that holds 35 rounds. I'd assume that there were 2 30 round AR magazines and a 10 round shotgun magazine. That'd make the math work at least. Or there could have been two 30 round drum magazines and one 10 round magazine, but that'd be 3 mags, not 2 as the warrant mentioned.

Moving on, one of the other items found was:

"...a metal bayonet."

Which is much more useful than a chocolate bayonet, though not nearly as tasty.

"The guns found at the home included a .323-caliber Enfield Albian[sic] bolt-action rifle, a .22-caliber Savage Mark II rifle, a BB gun and a .22-caliber Volcanic starter pistol."

a .323 would be roughly 8.2mm. I'm very doubtful that any Enfields were made in 8x64mm S Brenneke, but we don't have to even explore that. Albion Motors made some Enfield revolvers during World War Two, specifically the Enfield No 2 Mk I*. It was chambered for the .38/200 cartridge which was a variant of the .38 S&W cartridge. Likely they confused some sort of Lee-Enfield bolt action rifle with an Enfield revolver made by Albion. (And that'd be "Albion" with an "O".)

Again we have a glimpse into why such stories are much anticipated by our enemies:

"Senate President Donald E. Williams Jr. said this week that legislative leaders are eager to review the search warrant documents before finishing work on a bipartisan bill that addresses gun control and other issues related to the massacre."

That's at the Connecticut state level. This article, which focuses on Obama's push for more gun owner control, puts these types of stories into a national context:

"The gunman in Newtown, Adam Lanza, fired 154 rounds in less than 5 minutes, selecting high capacity magazines from a home arsenal stocked with swords, knives and a cache of guns, officials said Thursday.

Despite events like this, a grassroots organizing effort by Obama supporters and a high-profile advertising campaign funded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to keep up the pressure, gun legislation has been stalled on Capitol Hill in recent weeks."

"Despite events like" what? What was found in the home of a murdering little punk was no more unusual than what you'd find in most homes of people in the gun culture - the overwhelming majority of whom have had such "arsenals" for years or decades without causing harm to anyone.

But these folks know little about firearms, or the firearms culture, and they're counting on most folks who listen to them to know as little or less than they do.

This article with the uber-dramatic title offers some contradictory information which may clear up the pole weapon issue from earlier:

"When police raided the home that Adam Lanza shared with his mother, they found 'a veritable arsenal,' says NBC News. 'Authorities found at least nine knives, three Samurai swords, two rifles, 1,600 rounds of ammunition, and a 7-foot, wood-handled pole with a blade on one side and a spear on the other." (links and emphasis in original)

7 foot sounds more plausible when used with the word "pole"and it was probably some variant of a pole axe or halberd, possible even a bec de corbin or guisarme. a "spear on the other" side likely refers to some form of hook or spike, not a spearhead.

From the NBC article linked in that last quoted paragraph:

"Police recovered 10 30-round magazines for the Bushmaster that Lanza took to the school. Three of the magazines had a full 30 rounds still in them."

That's about the only useful thing I've seen so far as having relevance to the crime is concerned. He had 300 rounds, fired slightly more than half, and only used 7 magazines. That means out of 7 magazines which held 210 rounds he only fired 154. It confirms other reports I've heard that claimed he was reloading before a magazine was depleted. That would indicate he was reloading when convenient for him, such as when walking to another classroom, rather than switching mags because he was empty.

That goes against the rationale for magazine limits; someone can rush him when he's reloading. Most attackers in mass shootings plan things out a bit so they only reload when they are a safe distance away from any potential threat. Not every mass shooter does this consciously, but when all the victims are disarmed (usually by law) backing up a few steps while a reload is performed is a low risk venture. 10 rounds or 7 rounds wouldn't have changed that in this case or in most others.

"Among the items found were paper targets, gun manuals, earplugs, holsters, almost 40 types of ammunition, nine types of magazines, a bayonet, knives with blades as long as a foot and Samurai swords with blades as long as 2 feet 4 inches."

Nine types of magazines and near 40 types of ammunition. Again this leads me to think the standard capacity magazines for the AR were the only ones for the AR and why they were chosen instead of ones that held less rounds.

"All those weapons were legally owned by the mother, authorities have said. Enough public blame and anger has been directed at her that she was left out of many of the memorials and shrines to the Newtown victims."

I bring that up just to highlight how sad and vindictive some folks are. His mother was shot in the face by her own son. I know of very few women, or men for that matter, who could view their child as a mortal threat even is he/she actually was. Folks in the gun culture raise their children around firearms and it's not unusual or particularly dangerous, in fact it usually has some positive side effects (increase in confidence, self esteem, encourages a more developed sense of responsibility, etc).

For all we know her son murdered her and then took the keys to the gun safe, or stole the key and then murdered her. But some folks want to reject her because they can't accept that having firearms is a normal activity, and it's easier to blame her than blame the twisted little monster that committed these foul crimes.

Here's a list (from that last article by NBC) of the murderer's "arsenal".

"1 Saiga 12 shotgun with two magazines containing 70 rounds"

The two magazines containing 70 rounds is questionable. See above.

"6 30-round magazines, three of them emptied"

including the magazine they listed with the AR, that leaves a 3 magazine discrepancy with other reports (that were discussed above). But that means 3 empty magazines likely account for 90 of the shots fired. 64 came from the remaining 4 magazines. 2 of which, if I recall had 15 rounds or so, which means the remaining two magazines were used to fire 17 rounds a piece. Again, see the discussion above concerning his reloading habits.

"1 Enfield bolt-action .323 rifle"

Probably a .303 instead of a .323.

"1 Savage Mark II .22 caliber rifle with magazine, 3 live rounds, 1 spent cartridge"

That's likely what he used to kill his mother.

I won't go through quoting the section on ammo, but it lists various makes of 12 gauge shells, as well as .22LR, 9mm, .40 S&W, 10mm, .45 ACP, .223 Remington and .303 British ammo.

It does not mention any .38 S&W rounds, nor any .38/200 cartridges but since there are few commercial sources for such pistol feed it could be that there was an Enfield revolver made by Albion there as a collector's piece rather than a shooter. I only speculate that far because of the inclusion of "Albion" in a previous mention of an Enfield, and since Albion only made revolvers I can't see how else they'd have known about that unless an example was present.

The magazine section lists two brands of 20 round drum magazine for the Saiga. It lists 3 AGP Arms mags for the Saiga, but does not mention any capacity for them. From a quick search it seems AGP Arms only makes box mags, in 6,8,or 10 shell capacities respectively. The other AGP Arms mags mentioned hold 10 rounds a piece. No mention of the alleged 35 round drum magazines.

Going back to the ammo list, you'll note that sometimes "9mm Luger" is used and at others simply "9mm". This could be important because the nice folks over at Shall Not Be Questioned noticed another oddity in the firearms reporting of this situation:

"What the hell is a C183? Iíve never heard of a firearm by this model. It is a 14 megapixel camera. Did some ignorant journalist see C183 and just assume it was a gun? Who determined a C183 is a gun? Iíve never heard of any gun by this model name, and itís possible there is one I donít know about, but it is definitely also a point and shoot made by Kodak.

Thanks to WR2A for the story.

UPDATE: It occurs to me if you misinterpreted a Z as a 1, it could be a CZ83." (Links in original)

The CZ 83 is a variant (for export) of the CZ 82 and it was chambered in 9mm Makarov. The unqualified 9mm ammo could have been for the CZ83 and thus may clear up the question of a C183. Unless of course it was in fact a dreaded automatic (focus) assault camera.

It's confusing as hell when they get a model number wrong, but I'll let the press slide on a typo, especially since they've been trying so hard as of late.

From the article that Shall Not Be Questioned linked to that mentioned the "C183" (which CNN has stealthily removed mention of):

"When police found Lanza's body -- killed by a single, self-inflicted shot from a Glock 10 mm handgun -- they also discovered that the Bushmaster rifle was loaded with 14 bullets in its 30-round capacity magazine, plus one round in a chamber.

This was one of 10 of this firearm's 30-round capacity magazines at the scene, Sedensky explained. More ammunition for the Glock and a Sig Sauer P226 9 mm handgun was also found. Three such magazines still contained 30 rounds. There were six more magazines nearby -- three of them were empty, while the others had 10, 11 or 13 live rounds in them."

As a reader mentioned over at Shall Not Be Questioned, those numbers would total to 161 rounds fired. either the numbers are wrong for the rounds left in each magazine, the empty cartridge cases weren't all found or were miscounted or not all magazines were loaded with 30 rounds each. 29 rounds loaded in each magazine that was used would come up to 154 given what was cited as remaining in the magazines that were used. It seems odd to load 3 mags with 30 and the remainder with 29 though.

In any event it reinforces the idea that reloads weren't done out of necessity but rather out of strategy, and would make it harder to "just wait til he reloads then rush him" which a lot of folks use as an argument for limiting magazine capacity.

While I'm discussing lax reporting on firearms, this comes from a local story about a man accused of shooting his girlfriend:

"Investigators say Ogaz-Montoya was drunk last October when he loaded a Colt .45, disengaged the three safeties and pulled the trigger, hitting Harris as she sat on the coupleís bed."

Three? A typical 1911 has a grip safety and a safety lever on the side of the frame. All other safeties (i.e. a firing pin block) are passive and couldn't be disengaged before pulling the trigger.

There was another story I saved a few weeks back. I don't recall any of the details except that it was reported someone had a ".40 S&W .357 revolver". But alas, either I simply can't find it or the likely suspects have been quietly redacted to remove such an error.

In searching for the above I did stumble across this livejournal post that has screencaps of a Chicago Tribune article mentioning a 25mm pistol and a 357mm revolver! The article has, without acknowledgment corrected its error.

Some of these errors belong to the respective journalists alone, while others seem to be due to law enforcement not knowing what they're talking about. Especially the latter should not be forgotten the next time some police chief or other form of LEO claims expertise whilst testifying for some gun owner control law.

In a way it's futile to point things like this out. It's true that most of the press, and most politicians really don't know much about the mechanical workings of firearms. Or people for that matter. But correcting them won't make a difference. Most of them don't understand our culture nor do they want to understand our culture. They just want us to go away. Correcting errors of fact should lead to different conclusions about what gun owner control laws actually are reasonable (hint: none based upon prior restraint). But the gun owner laws they champion aren't to reduce "gun violence". They champion them to reduce gun owners. They see guns as a totem of our culture, and reason that if the guns disappear, so will our culture. We'll either just go away or we'll assimilate into their culture.

Education about firearms won't change that. They'll just fabricate another seemingly "reasonable" excuse to ban a certain type of firearm, or accoutrement, or place yet another restriction on folks who've done no harm to anyone.

Still, correcting them when they're wrong serves a very valuable purpose: it points out how wrong the anti-gun owners are on factual matters, therefore their conclusions must be suspect. That will help sway folks not only to our side of the issue, but perhaps even to become part of our culture.

Posted by Publicola at March 29, 2013 04:55 AM | TrackBack

I'll bet that they just didn't understand a very common importer's mark - "CAI St. Albans VT" - and then misspelled it as well.

Posted by: Ray at March 30, 2013 09:50 AM

I'll bet that they just didn't understand a very common importer's mark - "CAI St. Albans VT" - and then misspelled it Albian as well.

Posted by: Ray at March 30, 2013 09:51 AM

I think Ray has figured out the Enfield mystery. Oh, and your Garand's sling is on inside-out..:-)

Posted by: Hartley at April 2, 2013 09:26 AM

That could be - I've also read rumors that Albion Motors made some stamping used in SMLE production & that somehow that was the source for the Albion Enfield. Either way it was either sloppy police work or sloppy journalism

Regarding inside-out, with the 1907 sling there's the right way & the Marine way. ;)

Posted by: Publicola at April 2, 2013 11:16 PM
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