Whether American citizens should be able to purchase firearms in private transactions is a legitimate matter for a debate on personal property rights, personal responsibility, and Second Amendment rights (this is a personal view that will no doubt bother some of my colleagues). The fact that criminals do use private sales to skirt laws preventing them from owning firearms does bother me; I could not personally sell a firearm to someone whom I suspected could not pass a criminal background check.
That allowed, the new NBC News investigative segment “Rossen Reports” began with a story on private gun sales that was purposefully inflammatory. In several instances, it simply made things up.
Per the report:
To find out what kind of dangerous weapons we could buy, we went online and responded to gun ads in Phoenix, AZ, one of the many states where such sales are legal. Within minutes we had a meeting set up. Our gun buyers were two Arizona security experts we hired posing as husband and wife.
We were watching from nearby vans as our buyers paid cash for a tactical assault rifle modified to use bullets for an AK-47, along with an easy-to-conceal pistol — no questions asked.
Let’s stop right there. If you watch the video version of the report, you’ll see that the “tactical assault rifle modified to use bullets for an AK-47” is a completely false statement.
The firearm in question is not an assault rifle but an SKS — a World War II-era carbine. Furthermore, the SKS has always been chambered for the 7.62×39 cartridge, a rifle cartridge similar in performance to the .30/30 favored in so many lever-action rifles. The rifle was not “modified to use bullets for an AK-47” in any way, shape, or form.
The AK, in fact, was created after the SKS had already been introduced as one of the first firearms using this intermediate power round that is much weaker and has shorter range than the then-standard 7.62x54R rifle cartridge.
In short: the report lied about what the weapon was, and then dishonestly portrayed it as being modified into something supposedly designed for explicitly criminal behavior.
This level of purposeful deception by a journalist is on par with fabricating quotes or plagiarism. It is an offense that should lead to a suspension or termination. And we’re just getting started with the first segment of the first “Rossen Reports.”
The next purchase from the segment:
For our next meeting, we bought a Glock-23 with hollow-point bullets, made to inflict serious internal damage, even telling the seller point-blank that we probably couldn’t pass a background check.
Again, Rossen is purposefully duplicitous. Hollow-point bullets are designed with a dual purpose in mind. Upon impact with a target, a hollow in the front of the bullet is designed to cause the outer part of the bullet to expand outward, “mushrooming” into a larger diameter. Part of the reason for this — as Rossen arguably seeks to indicate — is to cause a larger wound channel and to increase the likelihood of immediate incapacitation. But Rossen purposefully miscasts the bullet’s design in a negative light, and completely overlooks the reason that the overwhelming majority of law enforcement agencies also choose hollow-points.
By increasing the incapacitation potential of a single round, people using hollow-points may notice faster incapacitation of their target, meaning they may be able to fire fewer rounds. Hollow-points significantly reduce the risk to innocent bystanders downrange, a legal liability that all police officers and civilians schooled in concealed carry know very, very well.
Another safety benefit: hollow-points also increase the energy transferred to the target and help arrest its forward momentum, meaning that there is a significant reduction in the risk of over-penetration. Almost every useful defensive handgun caliber — including the .40 Smith & Wesson-caliber round chambered in the Glock 23 in question — would greatly over-penetrate a human target using round-rosed lead or FMJ ammunition. This also puts anyone downrange at much greater risk of becoming collateral damage.
If Rossen were interested in truth, he would report that hollow-point and frangible ammunition is the most responsible option available to shooters concerned about stopping threats with the least amount of shots fired and with a reduction in danger to innocents downrange as a result of over-penetration.
But Jeff Rossen seems more intent on crafting a narrative.
Now, note the second part of that sentence:
… even telling the seller point-blank that we probably couldn’t pass a background check.
I invite the reader to watch the video. NBC’s straw purchaser delivers his line while laughing in an unmistakably jovial manner.
Communication is not just verbal, it is non-verbal. The way you act imparts clues about your motives as clearly as the words you chose. Nothing in the NBC straw purchaser’s manner, shown on video, would give anyone pause that he was involved in criminal behavior. Remember: the sale took place in full public view, in a public parking lot with people all around. This is not the setting or action we would associate with criminals or criminal activity (a point we’ll come back to later).
In addition to the non-verbal queues — where the buy was set up and the straw purchaser’s behavior — we have to take into account the connotation. The straw purchaser, having arranged a sale in a public space, having acted consistent with a legal purchaser with nothing to hide (which indeed, he was), delivered a line denoting camaraderie with a laugh.
Was the straw purchaser instructed by NBC to be jovial, or was that determination made on his own? Either way, it’s deceptive journalism.
The next sentence of the report:
Another seller showed up with a tactical shotgun, an assault rifle, and his 7-year-old son. Remember, our buyers could have been dangerous felons!
As mentioned earlier, all sales took place in full public view with people all around. This is not the setting or action we would associate with criminals or criminal activity. If Rossen were truly interested in the safety of children who could have been exposed to “dangerous felons” because of internet sales, his report would not have focused on firearms. Perhaps he would investigate sales from Craigslist and other sites where people have strangers meet them in their own homes to buy merchandise. Unlike Rossen’s faux concern for the boy, Craigslist-type encounters have led to actual robberies, rapes, and murders.
One more point: a 30-pound, five-foot long, single-shot rifle — like the .50 BMG target rifle purchased in the segment — has never been used in a crime in American history. You read that right. It’s simply not useful for criminals.
Making it difficult for criminals to acquire firearms is an issue that the vast majority of American gun owners are willing to discuss, as long as the resulting ideas impose on criminals and not law-abiding citizens. Jeff Rossen does NBC and his audience no favors by purposefully deceiving them. As a journalist, he is committing what should properly be seen as a firing offense.