Newsweek reporter: Almost everyone I've ever heard of who owns an AR-15 is a mass murderer

It’s been a banner weekend for gun-grabbers on the ol’ Twitter dot com.

There were many replies to that to sift through but this one’s my favorite:

What she said is a smear (a highly paranoid one too, ironically) but in her case it’s probably the truth. She’s a professional journalist who lives in New York City. She writes on feminism, Washington politics, and the Middle East. How many people could she possibly know who own an AR-15? The only time she’s apt to run across one is on the printed newspaper page, in stories about lunatics living out their revenge fantasies by reaching for something powerful that resembles an M-16.

Which is to say, this is a modern-day version of the famous story about Pauline Kael and Nixon voters — except this one is true. The Kael quote has been distorted over the years; Kael, an NYT legend, knew she was in a bubble and was poking fun at herself in admitting that she knew only one Nixon voter. Burleigh seems completely in earnest.

She must know the statistics, no?

Production of AR-style guns has soared since the federal ban expired. In 2004, 107,000 were made. In 2015, the number was 1.2 million, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), an industry trade association. The organization does not provide sales data, nor does it have 2016 production estimates, but says that year’s activity likely broke all records.

Today, one of out of every five firearms purchased in this country is an AR-style rifle, according to a NSSF estimate. Americans now own an estimated 15 million AR-15s, gun groups say.

That’s a lot of people to lump in the “mass murderer and/or scary paranoiac” group. She’s right that the small number of mass killers do favor the weapon, making it overrepresented in horrendous attacks, but AR-15s don’t surface very often in the stream of gun crimes that police deal with. From a post a few weeks ago:

As for the threat posed by AR-15s to less vulnerable communities, it’s small. In 2016 it was used in just two percent of gun deaths, and that two percent included the mass murder at the Pulse nightclub. The same year rifles as an entire class of weapons were responsible for a fraction of the deaths caused by knives. The reasons for that should be obvious: Most killers or would-be killers are trying their best not to get caught. They don’t want to carry around something that’s unwieldy and likely to be seen by witnesses when they could get the job done with a smaller, easily disposable weapon. The only type of murderer who insists on using a semiautomatic rifle is the psycho who’s looking to rack up a body count and wants the world to know that it’s his.

It’d be hard to quantify whether you have “less to fear” from the average handgun owner or the average AR-15 owner but there’s no obvious reason to assume that it’s the former. It also seems plausible (although I can’t find numbers in this case) that the average AR-15 owner is less prone to fatal accidents than the average handgun owner is. Not just because it’s easier to absentmindedly point a handgun at yourself when you’re cleaning it, say, but because AR-15 owners tend to be gun enthusiasts who know their way around weapons and take their interest seriously. Someone who buys a handgun for home defense might be new to firearms, might not secure the weapon properly, might not follow basic rules of gun safety, might not understand the mechanics, etc. Whereas the average person who buys an AR-15, I’d guess, has already owned handguns and is more knowledgeable generally about weapons. Half the fun of owning it seems to be the fact that it’s so customizable. If you have strong opinions about how you want your rifle customized, chances are it’s due to experience.

And of course AR-15s are lousy suicide weapons because of their size, and suicides are the great majority of gun deaths. An interesting hypothetical for gun owners to consider, to counter the left’s fixation on the AR-15: Would there be more or less gun violence in America if the AR-15 was the only weapon available for purchase? No more handguns. If you want something to protect your home, you’re stuck with a semiautomatic rifle. How many fewer suicides and accidents would there be? How many petty criminals would pass on committing certain crimes for fear that there’d be no easy way to conceal the weapon before and after?

One other point, an ironic one under the circumstances. Per this CNN piece about the history of the AR-15, for years gun enthusiasts viewed the weapon coolly. One fact that helped develop interest, though, was … the 1994 assault weapons ban, which barred sales of AR-15s if they included particular cosmetic features, like bayonet mounts. Standard AR-15s could still be manufactured and sold, though, and the new taboo around the weapon piqued people’s curiosity. Sales took off and never looked back, particularly during the Obama years when Democrats briefly enjoyed the numbers in Congress to pass another ban (and never did, for all their dire rhetoric about the problems of gun violence). The more anti-gun advocates obsess about a particular weapon, the more gun aficionados want what they might not soon be able to have.

By the way, if Burleigh’s name rings a bell, it’s because the tweet above isn’t close to being the most dubious thing she’s ever said about a political matter. Exit quotation via Twitter pal JammieWF: “Almost every single Newsweek writer [I know] has wanted to perform fellatio on Bill Clinton.”