Gun Control

The New York Times Admits 'Assault Weapons' Are Not 'High-Powered'

But not for long, I bet.


Connecticut State Police

In a brief, illustrated history of the AK-47 and the AR-15, New York Times reporter C.J. Chivers twice notes that they are "medium-powered" rifles, meaning they fire cartridges of intermediate size. So do semiautomatic versions of those guns, dubbed "modern sporting rifles" by people trying to sell them and "assault weapons" by people trying to ban them. Yet Chivers' colleagues at the Times, including fellow reporters as well as members of the editorial board, routinely claim these guns are "high-powered," which sounds scarier and makes it seem as if politicians focus on these weapons for rational reasons. Some examples from the last few years, beginning with the push for new gun controls that followed the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut:

Broad Gun Control Efforts Introduced in Wake of Shooting (news story, December 18, 2012)

"A private equity company announced that it would sell off the company that made the high-powered assault rifle used in the Newtown shootings last week."

When the Mentally Ill Own Guns (editorial, December 28, 2013)

"The common denominator in gun violence…is not deranged individuals; it is the easy access to assault rifles and other high-powered weapons afforded all Americans."

A Deadline for Grandfathered Weapons (editorial, April 15, 2014)

"Failure to register one of these high-powered weapons [covered by New York's expanded "assault weapon" ban] would, in most cases, make it an illegal firearm."

How an Effort to Close Loopholes in California's Assault Weapons Law Was Thwarted (news story, December 7, 2015)

"It is primarily concern about high-powered weapons that flares after mass attacks like those in the last two weeks, in San Bernardino and in Colorado Springs."

The Shock of Ordinary Gun Violence (editorial, May 26, 2016)

"A timid Congress cowed by the gun lobby fails to enact stronger gun-control laws for a nation increasingly flooded with high-powered weapons."

Orlando Shooting Reignites Gun Control Debate in Congress (news story, June 14, 2016)

"The nonprofit Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence renewed its call to impose tougher restrictions on the sales of high-powered rifles and other firearms."

"The fact that Mr. Mateen [the perpetrator of the Orlando massacre] had come to the attention of the authorities and was still permitted to buy high-powered weapons presented a remarkably different set of circumstances from previous attacks by lone gunmen previously unknown to the police."

Specter of 1994 Assault Weapons Ban Lingers Over New Gun Control Push (news story, June 20, 2016)

"Many types of high-powered weapons fell outside the ban, including knockoffs, older versions and altered rifles that filled the void."

There are other examples, going back to the period when California enacted the first "assault weapon" ban in the late 1980s. The incorrect terminology is not some minor technical error, because it goes directly to the question of whether bans on so-called assault weapons make any kind of sense. Every time a reporter or editorialist says such laws are aimed at "high-powered" guns, he falsely implies that the rounds fired by "assault weapons" are especially large or have especially high muzzle energy (partly a function of caliber), making them especially deadly. But that is not true, and the definitions of "assault weapon" written by legislators do not refer to caliber or muzzle energy at all. The New York Times has been committing this "error" for decades, and at a certain point you have to wonder whether that's the correct term for it.

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  1. Of course, whether they are “high-powered” is totally irrelevant to the right to own one.

    1. And also pretty irrelevant to their utility in killing a bunch of people are fairly close range.

      Rifles of any kind are rarely used in murders, mass or otherwise, and in most cases aren’t any more effective than a handgun or shotgun would be (or a truck, for that matter).

      1. Trucks are proving remarkably effective… and they works in or out of gear, depending on what you put in them.

        But no, let’s freak out about your cousin’s AR-15 instead.

  2. I… I… *faints*

  3. Aren’t all these labels arbitrary? An AR15 is low powered compared to a 50 BMG rifle, but high powered compared to a 9mm handgun.

    1. Not arbitrary, relative. When you call it a “high powered rifle” you are comparing it to other rifles. And it’s definitely in the middle of the range there.

    2. No really. It’s like say a pick up is a car compared to a dump truck.

    3. Aren’t all these labels arbitrary?

      In isolation, mostly yes. Lacking a stated/explicit formal or informal definition, then relative comparisons must be made in order for the term high-power to mean anything. The only other possibility is if the term is applied in such a grossly erroneous manner as to be universally identified as wrong de facto. A rimfire .22 lr is not a high powered rifle (and again, carries little connotation about efficacy re: mass murder).

      IMO, this is distinct from ‘assault weapon’ where relative comparisons don’t really clarify the term and definitions, official or otherwise, (can/do) carry an inherent bias of the person doing the defining.

    4. The M885 5.56×45 has a muzzle energy of 1,767J. A .30-06 can have over 4,000J, the 50 BMG has over 18,000J.

      1. A 12 gauge rifled slug from a shotgun has about 3,400 J.

      2. Cut the Joules out. These things are measured in foot pounds.

    5. If anything, I think a .223 and a 5.56 x 45 are on the low end for rifles. I don’t think there’s many rifle rounds less powerful, and a whole bunch that are more powerful.

      1. It is on the low end of the scale but there are more than just a few below it, they just aren’t common. I have 218 Bee, 22 Hornet, 204 Ruger, 5.7 x 28, and a 219 Zipper.

      2. The .22 BB has about 30J. It uses the primer as the propellant.

        1. When I was about 10 years old I made a gun that shot .177 BB’s using shotgun primers. It was scary strong, would easily penetrate 3/4″ plywood.

  4. You mean high power assault weapons are only medium power? WOW THEY LIED TO US!!!!! BURN THE WITCHES!!!!!

  5. I’ve got a medium-powered rifle for you right here.

    1. I can’t believe they told us those automatics were high power. They are only medium power. In that case, I retract my objection. Sorry for wasting everyone’s time.

      1. It’s true that it is mostly irrelevant to the story, but it’s been repeated so many times, and corrected, that it’s hard not to see it as deliberately misleading.

        Another bit of willful ignorance on the part of many reporters is confusing “automatic” with “semi-automatic”.



          1. You should feel dirty, constantly providing cover for shitweasels that have a (D) after their name.

            There’s no need for a conspiracy. It’s patently obvious to anyone with a functioning brain that there is a bias though.

            1. He is a shitweasel Democrat.

          2. Yes, the ignorant do conspire to take away our right to bear arms.

    2. Geez, I dunno if I have the ammo capacity

  6. Everyone knows that it’s not the cartridge that makes a weapon high powered. It’s the bayonet lug, and the shoulder thingy that goes up.

    1. Don’t forget about the collapsible stock. And black, everyone knows making a gun black makes it more powerful.

      1. RACIST !

      2. Is this why my pink rifle makes smaller holes?

    2. Will you support any law to stop the epidemic of drive-by bayonet attacks?

  7. “High powered” sounds so scary! They should call it “low digit exertion”.

  8. “High power”? “Medium power”? Bah, what’s their joule rating so we know whether to ban them or not.

    1. Foot-pounds.

    2. Foot-pounds.

      1. You can pound your feet as many times as you want.

    3. Joules? Foot Pounds dammit!

    4. Ok ok foot-pounds it is for that metric.

    5. You’re all wrong, Joules and foot-pounds are energy units.

      For power, you could go with Newton-meters, watts, foot-pounds per minute, or even horsepower.

      I would enjoy having a chance to ask gun controllers what exactly the horsepower difference between a high-powered and low-powered rifle is.

      Alternately, at what wattage does a rifle become dangerous?

      1. Newton-meters are units of torque. Muzzle energies are given in J or ft-lb.

  9. The media choose words for effect, not technical accuracy. Politicians, too.

    Their world is one of subjective preferences and feels. “We should ban high-powered weapons!” translates to “Some rifles scare the shit out of me! Make them go away! Please!”

    People who feel the same nod in agreement.

    Really, they don’t consider it expected to know what they’re really talking about, but to only sound like it.

  10. high velocity =/= high power

    A sub-sonic hollow point will stop someone exponentially better than a supersonic FMJ.

    1. A sub-sonic hollow point will stop someone exponentially better than a supersonic FMJ.

      This has far more to do with accuracy and terminal ballistics than it does with explicit velocity/power. An ice pick to the brainstem will stop someone exponentially better than a full magazine of 9mm rounds to the hands and feet.

      Otherwise, shorter; KE=.5mv^2.

      1. While you are not incorrect terminal ballistics matter in terms of what the round is going to do. A 5.56 round moving slower from a higher twist barrel will do more damage because it will tumble at certain ranges (until velocity drops).

        There are plenty of blogs, articles, ballistic gel pics of AR pistols with different twist and rounds to highlight this. The pistol does a good job in this illustration because barrel size factors into this equation in an AR also.

  11. Chivers did author The Gun so he’s light-years ahead of everyone else at the NYT. The section in that book on Colt’s foray into Vietnam was fascinating/depressing.

    Also, I like having my proggy media dipshit ignorant on the subject matter otherwise they’ll know how to hit us where it hurts such as an increase in the NFA tax stamp. And it’s fun to laugh at them when they say stupid shit caught on youtube.

    1. That’s a good point. They are so willfully ignorant on the subject that they really don’t know about a lot of things that could really be a lot more troublesome to gun owners/users.

  12. AR style weapons are rarely the best choice in any situation, except for maybe varmint removal.

    A jack of all trades, and master of none. The only reason sociopaths like them is because they think often of how they will ‘look’ when they go on their rampage, and there is no denying it, ARs really do look cool as hell.

    Even if you play the gun grabbers game, banning ARs could make things a whole lot worse. Take those away and these sociopaths are forced to focus on optimizing damage instead of thinking what they’ll look like. Suddenly fertilizer and rifles with twice the muzzle velocity as an AR while covered from a distance look like good, sexy options to them and body counts will be higher.

    1. I can’t remember the show, but they did a side by side m16 vs ak47 clearing a house. The ak was clearly better in CQB. They were shooting human analogs filled with paint. It was pretty cool.

    2. I think it was lock n load with Lee emrey

  13. I regret having to study the technical jargon of killing machines. But I will if I have to.

    1. you will AND YOU’LL LIKE IT

    2. The NY Times and the Democratic leadership don’t think they have to, and they’ve been getting along fine.

    3. Here is a crazy idea. If you are in the information business, have correct information. If you’re in the regulation business, know what it is that you’re trying to regulate.

      1. And if you’re a thinking human being, try not to clarify or define things with blather and buzzwords.

    4. Stop trying to ban them and you won’t have to have any knowledge of them, AM.

    5. I know the difference between fully automatic and semi-automatic.

      I know the difference between a pistol, a rifle, and a shotgun. I know the difference between an AR and an AK.

      I don’t really know the intricate details of stopping power across all forms of ammunition, mainly because I don’t want to spend tmuch time and resources optimizing myself for a situation that will probably never happen. In that sense, I’m a ignorant as the media.

      The main difference between me and the media is that I allow my self-knowledge of my ignorance to prevent me from explaining exactly which guns are “good” or “bad” at hurting people, while most of the media feels no such inclination.

      1. “I know the difference between fully automatic and semi automatic.”

        Then you already know more than 90 percent of the journalists in America.

    6. You don’t like trucks now? Stay on topic

  14. If you work for the Times, anything more lethal than a nerf gun is a “high powered” instrument of mass terror and murderous destruction.

  15. The New York Times has been committing this “error” for decades, and at a certain point you have to wonder whether that’s the correct term for it.

    “Blatant lie” would be a better term. Or “load of horseshit/ bullshit,” take your pick.

    1. They’ve been told innumerable times, so its not an error, its a lie.

  16. The assault weapon bans as proposed and implemented are the equivalant of banning “high powered race cars” from public roads by banning every car with number or sponser stickers on them or having rollbars. Anyone supporting them should be embarrassed by their own stupidity.

    1. Anyone supporting them should be embarrassed by their own stupidity.

      Instead they wear their stupidity like a badge of honor.

    2. Actually my favorite analogy I’ve seen in regards to the cosmetic features they’re trying to ban. I may have to borrow this one in the future.

  17. The Time’s lies and propaganda about drugs and terrorism are far more destructive than pecadillos about rifle power.

  18. If only Trump wasn’t taking our attention away from this issue…

  19. The first Times link isn’t as terrible as I thought it would be. It misses the link between the Sturmgewehr 44 and Kalashnikov. I also wouldn’t call the AK-47 “light” even by WWII standards.

    1. The standard issue rifles for the US in WWII were mostly .30.06, more powerful than an AK by a fair amount.

      Other countries, couldn’t say off the top of my head.

      1. Was it the Garrand or the Carbine, cause I thought the carbine was by far the more common weapon handed out. Especially near the end of the war. And that shoots a .30 carbine…110grain, 1600fps. The 30-06 was the garrand (or.308 later). 150+ grain. 2700 or so fps.

        I am going to look up which was issued in greater numbers during wwii

        1. Yup, about 20% more Carbines than Garands. 6.6 million carbines and only about 5.5 Garands.

          1. Did not know that. I had just assumed there were Garands.

          2. A whole lot of those carbines were issued to guys who would never need to use them, though. That why the M1 carbine waz developed in the first place – as a lighter, less expensive weapon for REMFs. Truck drivers and supply clerks were issued carbines. Infantry companies were issued Garands. Now, there were occasional exceptions – some paratroopers carried carbines with folding stocks because they were less unwieldy in the air, and they were popular with soldiers and Marines fighting in the jungles of the Pacific because of the extreme physical demands of the environment.

            9 times of 10, though, the men who did the shooting carried Garands.

            1. No argument here.

      2. Most countries issued rifles in the 30-06 range. 7.7 Japanese, 8×57 Mauser, 303 British, 7.62 x 54…those were the major ones.

        If you are interested in ballistics this is a really good read, probably the most informative work on the subject;

        Fuck this, it won’t let me copy paste the link. Google ‘Hatcher’s notebook PDF’ and you can download for free.

          1. Thank you.

      3. I meant “light” as in weight. The old AK-47 with a wooden stock is not a light weapon. Unloaded, it is the same as an M1 Garand (9.5 lbs).

    2. A common misconception. The AK 47 only superficially resembles the Sturmgewehr, but functionally it’s more similar to the Garand. It is quite possible that they copied the style of the StG 44, but there are only so many ways to design an assault rifle. There are those who believe that Kalashniko was just a convenient person to name as the designer of AK and it was actually an unknown design committee who came up with it and stole the operating functions from the Garand and M1 carbine.

  20. read the article. they are not admitting any failure, they are trying a new angle. for their narrative, they have to talk a lot about how these guns are used by children. they can’t exactly dig in on the horrors of children fighting in war, if they call the weapons “high powered.” a child would have trouble shooting a high powered gun.

    also, from early on in the article:
    “How did the Kalashnikov ? a disruptive technology that flooded the world almost three generations ago and still retains an outsize role in organized violence ? become such a ready amplifier of evil and rage? ”

    they are trying to define how and why the gun creates violence. not really any positive development in them publishing this garbage.

  21. Seems like a fitting OT: FBI agent egged on “Draw Muhammad” attack, affidavit alleges.

    Days before an ISIS sympathizer attacked a cartoon contest in Garland, Texas, he received a text from an undercover FBI agent.

    “Tear up Texas,” the agent messaged Elton Simpson days before he opened fire at the Draw Muhammad event, according to an affidavit (pdf) filed in federal court Thursday.

    “U know what happened in Paris,” Simpson responded. “So that goes without saying? No need to be direct.”


    Hendricks’s arrest means that every major U.S. attack was linked to FBI investigation before it happened, Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, told The Daily Beast.

  22. Hendricks’s arrest means that every major U.S. attack was linked to FBI investigation before it happened

    Holee. Fuck. I hadn’t realized it was every single one. Jeebus. And I bet the FBI is proud of its counterterror record.

    1. I wonder if these attacks coincide with any need by the administration to distract from particular news items? Might be interesting to research.

      *adjusts tinfoil hat*

      1. *adjusts tinfoil hat*


        It’s like Ayn Rand novels where politically opposed detractors describe her characters and the plight their up against as absurd and one-dimensional and then proceed to do be just as, if not more, absurd and one-dimensional.

    2. I wouldn’t mind the FBI egging on these guys if they were in any position to intercept them before any havoc could be wrought. Posing undercover as a fellow traveler means using the language and rhetoric of the target, but FFS, maybe keep your finger a little better on the pulse.

  23. The New York Times has been committing this “error” for decades, and at a certain point you have to wonder whether that’s the correct term for it.

    I’m going to go with “ignorance and/or not caring if the scary-sounding adjective is factually correct”.

    1. They’re ignorant because they care. They care so much.

  24. “The New York Times has been committing this “error” for decades, and at a certain point you have to wonder whether that’s the correct term for it.”

    It isnt just the NYT. Sullum, every goddamned argument gun grabbers make is a deliberate, calculated lie. Every single one.

    1. Not really. My uber-liberal GF didn’t understand any of these fine distinctions about the difference between full-auto and semi-auto, or high-powered versus scary looking but not high-powered. To her credit, she seems to have grasped the basics once I explained them, though still wanting to amend the Constitution to limit everyone including cops to muskets.

      It’s all about an emotional response rather than an intellectual consideration of whether some proposed law will do what is desired.

      1. I meant gun grabbers, not the rubes that cheer them on.

    2. even them calling it medium powered here, is deliberate. they are calling it medium powered, just so they can talk about the children who are using them in third world countries.

  25. You know what else was high-powered?

    1. Hihn’s, Tony’s, Shriek’s, Amsoc’s, & various sockpuppet’s medication?

    2. America, before the global warming nuts plunged us in to darkness?

      -person writing from 2045

    1. And Im basically Channing Tatum. We’re both human beings, we’re both white males with brown hair, we both breathe oxygen. Why quibble over minute differences when we have SO much in common?

    2. “Stop using assault logic! It hurts my feelings!”

  26. I still love this Popehat article about talking productively about guns and especially the analogy.

    Me: I don’t want to take away dog owners’ rights. But we need to do something about Rottweilers.
    You: So what do you propose?
    Me: I just think that there should be some sort of training or restrictions on owning an attack dog.
    You: Wait. What’s an “attack dog?”
    Me: You know what I mean. Like military dogs.
    You: Huh? Rottweilers aren’t military dogs. In fact “military dogs” isn’t a thing. You mean like German Shepherds?
    Me: Don’t be ridiculous. Nobody’s trying to take away your German Shepherds. But civilians shouldn’t own fighting dogs.
    You: I have no idea what dogs you’re talking about now.
    Me: You’re being both picky and obtuse. You know I mean hounds.
    You: What the fuck.
    Me: OK, maybe not actually ::air quotes:: hounds ::air quotes::. Maybe I have the terminology wrong. I’m not obsessed with vicious dogs like you. But we can identify kinds of dogs that civilians just don’t need to own.
    You: Can we?

    Because I’m just talking out of my ass, the impression I convey is that I want to ban some arbitrary, uninformed category of dogs that I can’t articulate. Are you comfortable that my rule is going to be drawn in a principled, informed, narrow way?

  27. Reason needs to go after the politicians making claims that an AR-15 fires 700 rounds a minute, or another claim 30 rounds in one second. They are attempting to influence legislation with lies.

  28. Someone should invent a “low powered”, fully-automatic rifle just to fuck these reporters up.

    1. I’ve seen full auto .22 LR.

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