It seems to be hugely important to gun rights supporters that people understand the difference between fully automatic and semiautomatic weapons. And it appears to greatly irritate them when they hear people fail to accurately distinguish between the two. Now, at the risk of irritating them further, I am going to make an assertion.
I don’t remember a mass shooting incident in this country where fully automatic weapons were used. I haven’t studied them all, and maybe there have been some examples of people using fully automatic weapons to murder people. But certainly the most recent and notorious examples in this country have involved semiautomatic weapons. My understanding is that Adam Lanza used a Bushmaster M4 Type Carbine, which is basically a AR-15 semiautomatic. James Eagan Holmes used a Smith & Wesson M&P15, which is also basically an AR-15 semiautomatic. Jared Lee Loughner used a “9mm Glock 19 semiautomatic pistol with a 33-round magazine.” Eliott Rodger owned two SIG Sauer P226 pistols and a Glock 34, all semiautomatic pistols. Nidal Malik Hasan used a FN Five-seven semiautomatic pistol. Ivan Lopez used a Smith & Wesson M&P semiautomatic pistol. And so on.
What this ought to teach us is that semiautomatic pistols are just as lethal as semiautomatic rifles. What Charles C.W. Cooke of the National Review wants us to learn, however, is that semiautomatic weapons are nowhere near as lethal as fully automatic weapons.
The question then becomes, “Who gives a fuck?”
And that’s basically what CNN correspondent Don Lemon meant to say, in a more polite way, when he said, “For me, that’s an automatic weapon.”
Because most of us can’t imagine Adam Lanza doing any more damage with a fully automatic weapon than he managed to do with a semiautomatic one.
The first call to 911 was around 9:35 am. Newtown 911 police dispatch first broadcast that there was a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary (SHES) at 9:36 am, about thirty seconds after they received the first call. Connecticut State Police (CSP) were dispatched at 9:37 am. Newtown police arrived at the school street at 9:39 am, approximately four and a half minutes after the 911 call and Connecticut State Police arrived at the school street at 9:46 am. Newtown police first entered the school at 9:45 am, approximately ten minutes after the first 911 call and approximately fourteen minutes after the shooting had started. This was approximately five minutes after the last shot was heard.
The first police officer arrived at the Sandy Hook Elementary School a mere four minutes after the first 911 call. And everything was already over. Twenty-six people were dead, including 20 first graders. As the police arrived, Lanza made it twenty-seven when he took his own life. Are you going to tell me that things could have been substantially worse if he had had a fully automatic M-16?
Of course not.
Perhaps gun control advocates spend too much time worrying about “assault rifles” when you can buy a 33-round cartridge for your semiautomatic pistol, but the reason that they don’t give a shit about the difference between automatic and semiautomatic is because it’s a distinction without a practical difference if you are on the wrong end of the gun.
Gun control advocates don’t do themselves any favors when they demonstrate their ignorance about the nomenclature of guns, but their failure to understand the finer points of firearms doesn’t diminish the legitimacy of their desire to see ownership of semiautomatic weapons better regulated.