When I hear that something is “exactly right,” I expect mathematical precision. Verifiable, quantifiable, measurably accurate truth. Not approximations. Not exaggerations. And certainly not hilariously logic-defying misinformation.
And yet, that “exactly” what I got from several on-camera talking-heads in the aftermath of yesterday’s horrifying bloodbath in The City Beautiful. One person in particular, Congressman Alan Grayson of Florida, started off with this:
“… [W]e’re limited by the Constitution. There’s no preventive detention here in the United States. You can’t lock people up for their thoughts or what you think they might do. We also can’t discriminate on the basis of race, religion, or any other issue other than your actions.”
Kudos! Nailed it. Good job, Congressman. As inconvenient as that little tenet of the Constitution might be under present circumstances, it’s there nonetheless, and I for one am glad it is. Had the good Congressman ended on that note, I’d be with him. But as his interview was ending, he practically hijacked a reporter’s microphone to inject this additional unsolicited bit of sophistry about the Orlando gunman:
…[I]f … he was not able to buy a weapon that shoots off 700 rounds in a minute, a lot of those people would still be alive. That’s exactly right. If somebody like him had nothing worse to deal with than a Glock pistol, … he might have killed 3 or 4 people, and not 50.
Really? That’s “exactly right,” you say? Yes. 700 rounds. And if you don’t believe he actually gargled and hacked up this hogwash on live TV, here’s a bit of evidence that I wasn’t hallucinating:
I saw this a few hours after chatting with Tom Givens about the all-too-frequent and unhelpful misuse of the phrase “assault rifle” (which deserves its own post), and Tom mentioned that folks were spouting this garbage about the AR-15 ammo output. I laughed at Tom then, (a) because almost everything Tom says is drenched with biting hilarity, and (b) because I was a wee tad incredulous that anyone would actually say that. But then I heard it with my own ears in the news coverage. Some were even saying this rifle spews 900 rounds a minute. I’m not much of a rifle gal, but hell, even I know that’s plain ridic.
But the more I thought about it, the less funny it became. I started thinking back to the days when I didn’t know a damn thing about guns. Back then, a line like that would have seemed perfectly plausible to me — especially coming from a congressman or a pundit or an “expert” or anyone else who someone surely must have vetted and deemed to be credible enough to plaster all over prime time cable news. Right? “Exactly right”?
The more I heard this, the more I felt like poison was being surreptitiously poured into the ears of unsuspecting media consumers, including many of my most beloved friends and family members. That prompted me to post this on Facebook:
To my friends who are not gun people: Please remember that even in the wake of unspeakable tragedy, we have a responsibility to use our heads. Several times today, I’ve heard politicians and commentators say that an AR-15 shoots 700 or 800 or 900 rounds per minute. Even if you’ve never fired a gun in your life, let’s just pause and think about that. For any semi-automatic firearm to shoot 900 rounds in a minute, the person firing it would have to press the trigger 15 times per second. Now, as you sit there in the privacy of your home with no one watching, hold up your index finger and try to move it back and forth 15 times in one second. Can you do it? I’m guessing not. So by all means, grieve. Mourn. Hell, get mad if you have to. But don’t ever suspend logic. That doesn’t help anyone.
To my pro-gun friends, please don’t reply to this post if you’re just going to insult my non-gun friends. They are my friends too.
I was actually quite surprised at the response I got. One dear friend of mine replied, “For us who don’t know about guns, how many rounds can it shoot per minute?” Then I invited comments from a real expert, Chuck Haggard (who also knows how to talk to non-gun people without demeaning them or being condescending). The person who posted that question has been a mentor of mine since high school (she’s like a big sister, although technically she’s younger than I am). She was that girl in school who always had her sh*t together, and to this day she’s one of the most impressive people I know. She can do anything and never lets anyone get in her way. Growing up with her, I thought she was simply infallible, invincible, and unshakable. But in response to my post, she confessed that she was “scared of about two things on this earth. Firearms and fire.” She thanked everyone for the tidbits of basic information and the several myths my firearms buddies had dispelled in the thread, and I invited her to ask me whatever questions she wanted, any time.
A family member also posted that she “HATE[S] GUNS” (yes, in all caps, and I happen to know it’s because of a traumatic fatality from her childhood). But she also added that she respects me and for that reason she was at least willing to listen. But I have to say, the highlight of the thread was one post from one woman. Out of nowhere, somewhere in the discussion about magazines versus clips, she posted, “I’m enjoying this! Very informative discussion. Thanks Tiff and friends!” That post brought me to tears (if you haven’t noticed, I’m quite the weepy type). She’s one of several mother figures in my life. I’ve known her since middle school. If she needed me to slice off my own arm for some reason, I would do it right now without a second thought. And remember when I said my best friend in the whole world was murdered in a home invasion? Well, she’s his mother. And she was perhaps the very last person on earth that I ever expected to chime in on that thread.
No one had made any references to “sheeple” or “stupid lefties” or anything like that (and I had my trigger finger on the delete button waiting for anyone who dared). And that’s why non-gun people, anti-gun people, and even victims of gun violence were able to listen, ask questions, and actually enjoy a conversation about guns. Even if they all continue to opt against being gun owners themselves, I count that thread as a win.