It’s bad enough when a newspaper like the Washington Post publishes fake news, but it’s even worse when its own reporters double down on their ignorance and refuse to correct the record when blatant journalistic errors are brought to their attention.
Washington Post reporter Mike Rosenwald published a lengthy attack on efforts to remove suppressors–mufflers for firearms that can reduce the report of a gunshot by approximately 30 decibels–from the list of highly regulated items covered by the National Firearms Act of 1934. Although actual firearms can be purchased easily following an instant background check, the process of legally purchasing a suppressor, which is not a firearm and is incapable of shooting any projectiles, can take more than a year and cost hundreds of dollars above and beyond the price of the actual suppressor. Hearing protection advocates say the suppressor regulations not only make little sense, but they also lead to the infliction of needless hearing damage on those who regularly use firearms.
Instead of providing an accurate reflection of the suppressor debate and the facts surrounding it, Mike Rosenwald chose to glibly dismiss the legitimate claims and concerns of those who actually understand how firearms and suppressors work while elevating the specious claims of gun controllers who oppose any efforts to make it easier for law-abiding citizens to purchase and use suppressors for hearing protection. The most shocking assertion by Rosenwald, and one which cast significant doubt on the rest of his reporting, was that a .22 LR rifle–far and away the smallest and weakest readily available rifle caliber on the market–was actually a “high-powered rifle”:
But gun-control activists say silencers are getting quieter, particularly in combination with subsonic ammunition, which is less lethal but still damaging. They point to videos on YouTube in which silencers make high-powered rifles have “no more sound than a pellet gun,” according to one demonstrator showing off a silenced semiautomatic .22LR.
Firearms experts reacted with shock that a reporter for the Washington Post would make such an outrageous and obviously absurd claim, and that the claim would somehow survive editorial scrutiny:
— Cam Edwards (@CamEdwards) January 9, 2017
The .22 LR caliber is so weak that it’s considered cruel and inhumane to hunt anything but varmints with it. Just to give you some perspective, in the picture below showing dozens of different rifle cartridges side by side, the .22 LR round is the tiny one at the very far left of the top row:
International gun control advocates don’t even go so far as to claim that .22 LR is “high-powered.” GunPolicy.org, a global gun control outfit that was run by the University of Sydney, says the term “high-powered rifle” is “used to differentiate larger-calibre (centrefire), factory-made repeating long guns from single-shot shotguns, .22 calibre rimfire rifles, and home-made firearms.”
Rather than being a “high-powered” round, .22 LR is so low-powered that it’s what many parents and instructors use when teaching young children how to shoot. That doesn’t mean it’s harmless, but there is simply no planet on which .22 LR comes even close to resembling a “high-powered” rifle cartridge. It is a nonsensical claim that instantly discredits anyone who makes it. But rather than admit error and issue a correction, Mike Rosenwald doubled down. And he doubled down in the most absurd way possible: by mocking anyone who corrected him, and then by refusing to provide any source or data to back up his absurd claim:
your piece carefully avoids interesting facts. Go do your homework on what armed forces shooting 22lr and read a few firearms mags
— Mike Rosenwald (@mikerosenwald) January 10, 2017
google is high powered
— Mike Rosenwald (@mikerosenwald) January 10, 2017
Nothing says journalistic integrity and trustworthy reporting like making an absurd claim, mocking everyone who called it absurd, refusing to provide any source information to back up the claim, and then telling everyone else to do the reporter’s research for him.
Unfortunately for Rosenwald, it appears that Google is actually too “high-powered” for him to use and fully understand. By his own veiled admission, Rosenwald apparently based his claim that .22 LR is a “high-powered rifle” on the fact that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) sometimes utilize the caliber in limited circumstances (there’s no evidence of any other modern military on the planet issuing .22 LR rifles for any purpose beyond varmint control or plinking). Had Rosenwald followed his own advice to use Google to verify simple facts, he would’ve learned that IDF sometimes issues .22 LR rifles in extremely limited circumstances not for combat purposes, but to kill small animals and injure violent protesters. The only reason the IDF turned to the .22 LR in the first place was because it wanted something less lethal than the standard military-issue 5.56mm round and which could be deployed at greater distances than non-lethal rubber bullets. Nothing says “high-powered” like a rifle that’s only used to injure protesters, amirite?
I'm the editor of one of the largest firearms sites on the planet.
You're an idiot.
— Bob Owens (@bob_owens) January 10, 2017
So to review: Washington Post reporter Mike Rosenwald made an outrageous claim with no basis in reality, mocked everyone who pointed out that his claim was absurd, doubled down on his ignorance, made another outrageous claim to support his original outrageous claim, and then promptly stepped on a rake because he was too lazy to do the simple research he snidely demanded that everyone else do on his behalf.
Earlier this week, Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan wrote a long article demanding that conservatives stop using the term “fake news” to criticize coverage from outlets like the Washington Post. I’ve got a better idea: we’ll stop using the term “fake news,” especially fake news about guns, when the Washington Post stops publishing it.