(Edited for better readability.)
This is a transcript of a slickly produced NRA “news report” covering CNN’s, shall we say, deliberate misrepresentation of fact.
The piece opens with the NRA’s talking head who fails to introduce herself. Transcript begins:
NRA: “Welcome back to NRA Live. You’ve heard all about media bias. Well, what we’re about to show you is clearly media manipulation of the truth.
“On CNN Thursday night, Miami bureau cheif John Zarella did a story on the controversy brewing over the renewal of the assault weapons ban.”
The picture then switches to the CNN story. At the bottom of the screen the story title bar reads in large letters:
Assault Weapons Ban
and beneath that in smaller text:
LAW BANS 19 TYPES OF SEMI-AUTOMATIC WEAPONS.
Remember that. SEMI-automatic weapons. Narration continues while we see some men on what is clearly a firing range.
NRA: “On a live shot of the Broward County Sheriff’s office firearms training range, he and Sheriff Ken Jenne did a demonstration first with a semiautomatic firearm that is on the banned list and it had 30 rounds in the magazine. And here’s what they showed:”
During the introduction, someone, presumably an officer, is seen handling an AK-47 type weapon. When the demonstration begins, two men are standing on the range, seen from behind, with a human silhouette shown down range past them. The CNN report is now heard in a voice-over by Sheriff Jenne.
Jenne: “First the Deputy is going to demonstrate a AK-47, uh, the Chinese version which is the pre-ban version”
Zarella: “It’s currently banned…”
Jenne: (talking over Zarella) “It’s currently banned, absolutely.”
Zarella: “OK. OK, well let the detective show us.”
The Deputy shoulders the AK-47 and aims it downrange. The 30-round magazine is clearly visible. He begins shooting. After the first or second round, the image shifts to a stack of cinderblocks set up like a small wall, showing clearly the impacts of the rounds. The deputy fires FOUR (4) rounds, doing obvious damage to the blocks. The fire is two rounds fairly quickly, followed two rounds, fired more carefully. All four rounds are fired in about 3 seconds. Flying dust and one cinderblock is holed.
Zarella: “That’s into a cinderblock.”
Jenne: “That’s into a cinderblock.”
Zarella: “And now into a bullet-proof vest.”
Jenne: “And this is a vest similar to the ones that, uh, our deputies have worn. It’s a used one but one that’s similar.”
The image switches to a torso mannequin wearing a bullet resistant vest. Here’s the first misrepresentation. There’s no such thing as a “bullet-proof” vest. They are designed with certain “threat levels” for different useages. The threat levels are established by the National Institute of Justice The vests commonly worn by police officers are Threat Level II (capable of stopping up to a .357 Magnum handgun round) or Threat Level IIIA (capable of stopping up to a .44 Magnum handgun round). Neither of these vests is capable of stopping ANY centerfire rifle round, whether it’s fired from an “assault weapon” or a deer rifle. There are Threat Levels III and IV that are designed to stop a .308 (7.62NATO) rifle bullet and an armor piercing .308 respectively, but no cop on the beat would wear one because they have heavy steel or ceramic plates in them. Level IIIA and lower vests are at least a little flexible, lighter, and can be worn under a duty blouse. Level III and IV vests are the type you saw embedded reporters wearing during the war in Iraq. Remember the funky looking semicircular chest shields there to protect their faces from bullet spatter? But you’re not supposed to know that. You’re supposed to think a “bullet-proof vest” will stop ANY bullet. Right?
And remember this: Even a Level IV vest won’t stop more than one round in the same spot. The second one will probably get through.
The deputy fires THREE (3) carefully aimed rounds to the center of the mannequin’s chest.
Zarella: “Now that bullet’s clearly fired right through there…”
Jenne: “Right through, and there’s panelling on the front and on the back.”
The NRA’s talking head reappears.
NRA: “Then, CNN showed Deputy Chris Worth (sp?) shooting the very same cinderblocks with a semiautomatic that had not been banned.”
The scene switches back to the CNN story, with Jenne trading weapons with Deputy Worth.
NRA: “Only this time, as the Sheriff pointed out, there were only ten rounds in the magazine.”
Zarella: “Now this weapon, now, is legal under the current law.”
Jenne: “A -absolutely. This is an AK-47 also, but it’s a civilian model. It has some differences, and right now this only has a clip of ten, uh, in the magazine er, magazin..uh ten round in the magazine. So this is is a big difference than the thirty rounds in the previous magazine.”
Really? Why? The deputy in the previous demonstration fired SEVEN ROUNDS, not 30. Is there something the NRA didn’t show us? The really interesting thing here, is that when the deputy shoulders the rifle, it doesn’t have a TEN ROUND magazine in it, it’s got a THIRTY ROUND magazine in it! That’s right, boys and girls! Thirty round magazines FIT IN POST BAN WEAPONS – and they’re NOT ILLEGAL! I’ve got several for my POST-BAN AR-15.
At any rate, the deputy shoulders the weapon and aims downrange. Remember now, the first gun was an AK-47 which chambers the 7.62×39 Russian cartridge, and the second gun is ALSO an AK-47 which chambers exactly the same round. The deputy begins firing. He fires SIX (6) shots. On the third shot the image switches to that same stack of cinderblocks. AND THERE ISN’T A SINGLE HIT. What, are the sights off? No dust flying, no concrete shattering, nada. The image switches back to the NRA talking head:
NRA: “Surprised? Not one shot went into the cinderblocks. No smoke, no dust, no bullet holes. Well, you’re probably asking the very same questions we are: How could that happen? Was the deputy firing blanks? Or was he just a bad shot? Either way, CNN’s John Zarella should have told the viewers, because we both know both guns were semi-automatics. And even though one had thirty rounds and the other one had ten, that makes no difference in the way they perform.”
Especially when you fire FOUR rounds out of the rifle with 30 and SIX rounds out of the one holding ten.
NRA: “A semi-auto is a semi-auto is a semi-auto. And they all fire the very same cartridge, and have the same firing power.”
Not exactly. An AK-47 is not an AR-15 is not an M1A. They don’t fire the same cartridge and have the same power, but that’s beside the point for this demonstration.
NRA: “Right? Well not according to CNN and the Sheriff. The whole message, in fact, behind their story was to drive home the point to viewers, whether by misfiring or staging it, that somehow the semi-automatics on the banned list have more firepower than those that are not banned.”
Seems pretty obvious to me. But then I’m a gun nut and know better already.
NRA: “Just listen to this conversation that CNN had with the Sheriff.”
The image switches back to the stack of cinderblocks.
Zarella: “So what makes the big difference here is the amount of, of firepower then.”
Jenne: “Absolutely. When, when deputies and people are on the street, or people are subjected to drive-by shootings, uh, these weapons are not that particularly, uh, accurate to begin with. When the more rounds you have, the more firepower you have…”
He’s interrupted by the NRA talking head. And remember – in the demonstration of the LEGAL AK-47, it had a 30 round magazine in it!
NRA: “But, as if that was not enough to mislead the public with absolute fabrication, CNN shows another demonstration on another show later that night. And although Sheriff Jenne claims his deputy is shooting with a semi-automatic firearm, that is banned, that’s not the case at all. The deputy is actually using a fully automatic firearm. Take a listen.”
The image switches back to the deputy on the firing range. The banner at the bottom of the screen now reads:
BAN ON 19 ASSAULT WEAPONS
EXPIRES IN SEPTEMBER 2004
Jenne: “So you can see the destructive force. It’s got a thirty, uh, rounds in it’s magazine, uh, and it will be firing it now.”
(Hey, I just transcribe this stuff. It’s what I heard.)
The deputy shoulders the weapon and aims it downrange. He fires three rounds at the stack of cinderblocks (apparently there was more than one take done, as this stack is shorter, and untouched.) He fires three more rounds. Dust & broken cinderblock, just as you’d expect.
Zarella: “Now that was semi-automatic…” (He’s a bit garbled as Jenne speaks) “Now your (garbled) switch’er to automatic…”
The deputy is seen manipulating the weapon as they speak, and as Jenne speaks,
Jenne: “This is automatic…”
The deputy begins firing FULLY AUTO, and the cinderblocks are, of course, busted all to hell.
Zarella: “Wow. That obliterated those blocks.”
Jenne: “Those blocks are gone.”
Zarella: “Absolutely obliterated them.”
Jenne: “And, and you can tell the difference.”
Zarella: “Clearly, Anderson (?), a-an example of the firepower that these weapons possess, and why, at least here in Broward County, the Broward Sheriff’s office and Sheriff Ken Jenne want to see that ban remain in place.”
Except the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban didn’t affect fully automatic weapons – those are regulated under the 1934 National Firearms Act. Remember the blurb?
The NRA talking head reappears.
NRA: “Again, what CNN and the Sheriff don’t tell you is that no guns on the banned list are fully automatic. Those guns were severely restricted in 1934. So why did they do this? Why did they concoct a story that the Sheriff should have known was not true? Well, I tried to call Sheriff Jenne to talk with him about the demonstration. He wasn’t available. But I did get to speak with the director of media relations.”
The image shifts to the talking head sitting at a microphone. A phone ring tone is heard. Someone picks up.
Cheryl Stopnick (how appropriate): “Media relations. Cheryl Stopnick.”
NRA: “Yeah, this is Jenny Cimone (spelling is as close as I can figure, as they never put her name up) calling from Washington, D.C.”
Stopnick: “And who are you with?”
NRA: “I’m with a company called the Mercury Group. Out of Washington.”
Stopnick: “Uh-huh, and what is your group?”
NRA: “And we provide investigative services to the NRA.”
NRA: “And we wanted to talk to him about the demonstration he did on CNN yesterday.”
Stopnick: “Uh-huh. Well, I’ll take your number and pass your message along.”
NRA: “OK. Um, when do you think you could get back to us?”
Stopnick: “I don’t know.”
NRA: “Let me ask you this: I know that, um, there was a deputy involved, in, in..Chris Worth?”
NRA: “Is he available to talk?”
NRA: “He’s not.”
NRA: “OK. Alright, well we’ll just wait to hear from him.”
Stopnick: “Thank you.”
NRA: “Thanks.” (End of conversation.) “Well as you can imagine, we still haven’t heard back from Sheriff Jenne or from CNN’s John Zarella who we also called.”
And then she goes into the NRA speil.
What you’re seeing here is the Violence Policy Center’s tactics in action:
“Assault weapons-just like armor-piercing bullets, machine guns, and plastic firearms – are a new topic. The weapons’ menacing looks, coupled with the public’s confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons – anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun – can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons. In addition, few people can envision a practical use for these weapons.”
Show the rubes a machine gun and tell ’em it’s an evil banned “assault weapon” and they’ll believe you. Don’t tell them that the only thing that makes an “assault weapon” according to the law is the name of the weapon, or whether or not it has a flash-hider or a bayonet lug, and they’ll think the law did something good.
SHOW THEM THAT THE “GOOD” GUNS CAN’T HURT A CINDERBLOCK AND THEY’LL BUY ANYTHING.
I am OUTRAGED.
(Updated. I’m reliably informed that the NRA talking head is Ginny Simone (last name pronounced Sim-o-nee))