When it comes to firearms knowledge, the New York Times editorial board, or at least the copy editors, might need a refresher course, as the reaction from gun owners over a weekend goof suggests.
Social media erupted over the weekend when the Times editorialized about “America’s Toxic Gun Culture” using a photo of shotgun shells to refer to semiautomatic rifles.
Fox News quickly seized on the goof, but so did hundreds of people on Twitter, and sarcasm was rampant.
According to the Times editorial, “The AR-15 has also become a potent talisman for right-wing politicians and many of their voters. That’s a particularly disturbing trend at a time when violent political rhetoric and actual political violence in the United States are rising.”
Some of the criticisms came from some notable people in media, the Fox News report detailed.
“In 2020, Democrat candidate Beto O’Rourke openly pitched confiscation while the other candidates on the debate stage stood quietly in agreement,” tweeted Ranjit Singh, a writer at BearingArms.com. “The Democrat debate audience wildly cheered at the proposal. And you wonder why GOP candidates pose with ARs in campaign ads?”
There were stinging observations from other users. One man wrote, “The word AR-15 and a picture of shotgun shells really don’t look good on the front of the article. Totally two different class firearms.”
Another commented, “Why are you showing a picture like this when the article is clearly about something else… As usual the Times has no idea what they are promoting. it’s not news at the Times .. not sure what it is … but it has nothing to do with truth IMO…not fit to wrap fish in.”
Others were simply matter-of-fact, with remarks such as this one: “Every time you post a story or opinion piece about guns and mess up the graphics or pictures because you don’t understand guns, your credibility drops. One would think you’d hit rock bottom eventually, but maybe not.”
Still, sarcasm was evident: “AR15 shoots shotgun shells! Who knew! Does anyone at the NY Times have any idea what they are talking about?”
This is hardly the only time a general circulation newspaper has made a glaring error when reporting about firearms. A few years ago, a newspaper in Seattle published a lengthy article about a police shooting in which the suspect had been armed with a handgun. A photo of the revolver was used in the story, and it was identified as a Ruger. In reality, it was an old Smith & Wesson, which was clearly marked on the side of the barrel.
Perhaps the paragraph in the editorial which ignited much of the criticism was this one: “A growing number of American civilians have an unhealthy obsession with ‘tactical culture’ and rifles like the AR-15. It’s a fringe movement among the 81 million American gun owners, but it is one of several alarming trends that have coincided with the increase in political violence in this country, along with the spread of far-right extremist groups, an explosion of anti-government sentiment and the embrace of deranged conspiracy theories by many Republican politicians.”
The AR-15 is the most popular rifle in the United States today, and estimates of the number of gun owners range much larger than the Times suggested, with some estimates nearing 100 million. They may own more than 25 million modern semi-auto rifles.