Low-Powered 'Assault Weapons'


Today's New York Times includes a rare acknowledgement that so-called assault weapons generally are not "high-powered," although media outlets (including the Times) frequently describe them that way. In a sidebar to a story about a shooting spree in Wisconsin, Fox Butterfield reports that the suspect, who ostensibly was hunting deer at the time, was carrying

an SKS 7.62-millimeter semiautomatic assault weapon not normally used in hunting animals.

"This is not a gun you go deer hunting with," said Lawrence Keane, senior vice president and general counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the gun industry trade association.

The reason the SKS is not used by hunters, Mr. Keane said, is that it is designed for combat soldiers and is therefore underpowered for killing an animal like a deer with a single shot, the goal of good hunters.

"The ethics of hunting are you don't want the animal to suffer needlessly," Mr. Keane said.

Mr. Keane said he suspected that the man accused of the Wisconsin killings was not a trained hunter, since with the SKS he was carrying, he would have had to shoot a deer several times to kill it.

If reporters need a new adjective to replace high-powered, how about scary-looking? It's not only more accurate but more reflective of the criteria embodied in "assault weapon" bans.