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Chuck Pinkey

July 31, 2012

Most in media should brush up on firearm knowledge

Recently, there was a tragic shooting at a theater in Aurora, Colo., and before the blood had dried, the air waves were bombarded by politicians and pundits screaming about gun control and the ready availability of ammo, bazookas and heavy weaponry.

Bazookas and heavy weaponry? It has always amazed me how little these pundits know about firearms.

Let us avoid the usual discourse of the left reveling in a gun tragedy for political gains and the canned talking points about the right "wanting everyone to own machine guns."

Let us also ignore the Second Amendment, and our belief that if a legally armed patron had been in the theater, the killer would have lasted about 15 seconds and lives would have been saved. Instead, we will focus on the media myths surrounding firearms and ammunition.

First, according to the Huffington Post, the killer had purchased 6,000 rounds of ammunition online. Although that sounds like a lot, it's not. Any self-respecting redneck, myself included, probably has a few thousand rounds on hand at any given time.

Heck, just four bricks of Winchester Wildcat 22LR will total 2,000 rounds. Add to that the ammo for your handguns and fodder for your favorite deer rifle and shotgun, not to mention that heavy-barrel varmint rifle, and you can imagine the total.

Secondly, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly was ranting about AK-47s, the "heavy weaponry," and the 60,000 rounds of ammunition that the killer possessed. (60,000 rounds! Take a deep breath, O'Reilly.) First of all, he used an AR, not an AK, and neither would be categorized as "heavy weaponry."

An AR is a semi-automatic rifle usually chambered in 5.56 NATO, which is known in the civilian world as the .223 Remington. It is a 22 caliber round weighing 55 grains and the vast majority of hunters believe it to be inadequate for deer-sized game. A high powered rifle, it is not!

An AK-47 is also a selective-fire rifle chambered in 7.62x39 Russian. It fires a .30-caliber, 124-grain round at a mundane speed of 2,200 feet per second, and many hunters feel this too is marginal for deer-sized game.

Interestingly, that old .30-30 Winchester 94 lever gun that your granddad used to hunt deer fires a more powerful round than a garden-variety AR or AK and near as fast, with better accuracy.

After listening to O'Reilly, who is usually better informed, one would think the killer was armed with 60,000 rounds of ammo and mortars, flamethrowers, bazookas, grenade-launchers and anti-tank weapons, aka "heavy weaponry." He was not.

In reality, the killer carried a Glock chambered in .40 Smith & Wesson. It is a common handgun, and powerwise it falls between a 9mm and a .357 Magnum. In a darkened theater, this would be his most ineffective "heavy weaponry."

Handguns and their cartridges shed power rapidly, and by nature are less accurate. Contrary to movies, but in a real-life panic situation, if one manages to run more than 40-50 yards from a handgun shooter, your chances of being hit or seriously wounded fall to almost nil.

Surprisingly to O'Reilly and many others, his most lethal "heavy weaponry" was the Remington 870 shotgun. Loaded with double ought (00) buck in close quarters, a shotgun is only surpassed by a hand grenade. However, "heavy weaponry" it ain't.

Thirdly, the usual political-ambulance-chasers rant on about fully automatic weapons, aka machine guns, and the ease with which these and other firearms can be legally obtained. Baloney.

There are 39 states that will allow the purchase of fully automatic weapons, but you must be registered and licensed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, pay the fees, and meet the individual state's requirements. Mother Teresa would probably be denied.

Every single purchase from any gun shop, gun auction, or gun show goes through NICS, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. If you have no criminal record or mental health issues, you are allowed to buy that firearm. If you've had a problem, you are denied.

In almost all the states, all legal handguns are registered, and an individual with a pistol permit can legally sell his registered handgun only to another person with a pistol permit. If either were criminals or had issues with mental health, their permits would have been revoked. So what's the problem?

We, private citizens, can legally transfer or sell a long gun (rifle or shotgun) to another individual. Usually this involves a gift from family members or a trade among friends. However, if you knowingly sell or give a firearm to a felon, you are breaking the law, and depending on the circumstances, it could be a felony.

It is a tragedy when shootings happen like Aurora, Columbine or Fort Hood. There are evil people and sadly, there will always be. We have more freedom in America than anywhere else on Earth. That freedom sometimes has a cost. It will be abused by some, threatened by others, and protected to death by most. Freedom is not free.

Chuck Pinkey is the owner of River Valley New Holland Inc. in Otego. He can be reached at chuck.rvnewholland@gmail.com. The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of The Daily Star and its editorial board.

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