A recent story on WRAL in Raleigh caught my attention. The headline said "Assault Weapons." So I expected to see a story about some terrorist armed with a machine gun cranking off hundreds of rounds like the North Hollywood Shootout. Instead, what I found was a common mistake among reporters: mislabeling a semiautomatic rifle as an automatic.
While it may seem to be as trivial as comparing a Corvette with a Corvair (after all, they’re both cars), there is a difference between a real assault weapon and the civilian version. During the Clinton Administration, technology that was well over 75 years old was banned, not for the weapon’s cababilites but for their looks.
WRAL reporter Beau Minick needs some education with regards to firearms. The video footage of the story was shot in the evidence room of the Franklin County Sheriff’s office and showed several rifles that were purported to be the dreaded "assault weapon." The reality is 3 of those shown were russian SKS rifles that were designed during World War II and are comparible to the American M-1 Garand rifle that GI’s used in every theater of the war. It never was automatic and was originally designed with a 10 round magazine. It fires one round for every pull of the trigger and is not a machine gun and, as such, is not useful for modern military (i.e. assault) uses.
The Sheriff’s office also displayed an AK-47 type rifle. Here again, more explanation is required. While the original AK-47 was designed way back in 1947 as an automatic assault rifle, the civilain version has alway been a single round weapon. In fact, machine guns have been tightly regulated in the US since 1934.
Reporters need to learn the difference between what a gun does and what it looks like. By carelessly throwing around the term "assault weapon," the media mislead the easily mislead public into thinking any average citizen can waltz down to his gun store and by a machine gun.