Denver Post Publishes Misleading “Assault Weapons” Story

Note: Commentary originally preceding the article below now appears in a separate post, “Entering the Gun Debate.”

Dear Ms. Sherry,

Readers of the Denver Post are well aware of your newspaper’s political agenda to pass more restrictive gun laws.

However, I would hope that the news pages would refrain from editorializing, offer relevant context, and seek to inform rather than mislead the reader.

I read with interest your article of today (December 18), “Perlmutter to lead assault-weapons ban effort in the House in next Congress.” Congressman Ed Perlmutter represents my district, so I am keen to hear what he is up to.

Unfortunately, your article was misleading in two important ways, and biased in an additional way.

First, although you discuss “assault weapons,” you give no indication of what that means. Traditionally, the term “assault weapon” applied to fully-automatic guns. Now advocates of restrictive gun laws use that term to refer to semi-automatic guns with arbitrarily defined cosmetic features that are irrelevant to the gun’s basic operation. A rifle arbitrarily categorized as an “assault” rifle functions the same basic way as any semi-automatic rifle. It is unfortunate that your article gave no indication of this context.

Second, although you mention Perlmutter’s proposed “assault-weapons ban,” you offer no direct indication that what he has in mind is a ban on the sale and importation, rather than the possession, of so-called “assault” guns. You indicate this only by referencing the expired “assault weapons ban” that banned sale and importation, but many readers are unaware of what that expired law covered. As should be obvious, there is an enormous difference between banning the sale and importation of “assault” guns, and banning their possession. The latter involves the confiscation by police agents (probably themselves armed with “assault weapons”) of people’s guns.

Third, you use biased language with respect to Representative Diana DeGette’s proposed “ban on high capacity ammunition clips.” (This is aside from the fact that that what you actually mean to refer to here is a “magazine,” which is very different from a “clip.”) What Ms. DeGette regards as a “high capacity” magazine, I usually regard as a “normal capacity” magazine. For example, many semi-automatic handguns owned for self-defense readily and naturally (due to their size) accept a magazine that holds more than ten rounds (which is the arbitrary cut-off I presume DeGette has in mind). The appropriate term for a magazine that fits naturally and easily into a given gun is “normal capacity.” I suggest that, rather than use the evaluative terms “high” or “normal” with respect to the size of gun magazines,¬†you simply report what the law in question proposes.

Thank you for your consideration.


Ari Armstrong