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Chief mum on ‘submachinegun’ clarification inquiry

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Police in the northern California community of Richmond arrested a teenager on suspicion of having a “loaded submachinegun,” Contra Costa Times reported Thursday.

“Officers swarmed the home and after a standoff the teen was taken into custody,” the report states.

“A 15-year-old Northern California boy … allegedly pulled a loaded Uzi submachine gun from his waistband,” The Los Angeles Times corroborated.

NBC Bay Area repeated the claim. As did CBS San Francisco.

“Uzis taken from 15yr/m in Central dist. of Richmond this afternoon,” Richmond Police Department Chief Chris Magnus confirmed via Twitter, posting a photo of the seized weapon. “Officers utilized great tactics for safe outcome.”

“For the record: Is it a semi-auto or select fire?” this correspondent asked Chief Magnus, concerned that none of the “legitimate media/real reporters” evidently had.

The reason for the question is obvious to gun rights advocates. “Authorized Journalists” are continually conflating select fire weapons capable of automatic fire with semi-automatic firearms that, while they may appear similar to those who don’t know any better, only fire one shot per squeeze of the trigger. And that is just what those who wish to ban such weapons are counting on.

“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,” Violence Policy Center Executive Director Josh Sugarmann wrote back in 1988, and journalists who don’t know the difference, or know but have an interest in perpetuating the confusion, have been adding to it ever since.

That’s in spite of extensive and authoritative resources being available to answer firearms-related questions in any number of fields of specialized subject matter expertise.

Not only have repeated instances of promulgating this misinformation been documented many times in this column, but instances of law enforcement executives doing the same have also been exposed. In 2003, Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne was caught faking a televised demonstration with CNN to perpetuate public confusion over semi autos and full-auto capable firearms (Jenne was since sentenced to a year and a day on federal corruption charges, which is a sentence resulting in “prohibited person” status from owning a firearm, per United States Code).

With this type of history, concerns on the part of gun rights advocates that stories be accurately reported are understandable, particularly those that receive widespread coverage that can be used to further sway public opinion on "gun control." What’s not understandable is why Chief Magnus has not responded to a legitimate question of public interest that he could easily clear up.

Looking at the photo Magnus posted, a technical source contacted by this correspondent believed the firearm with collapsible stock appears to be a semi-automatic, “as there is no marking ... for ‘A’ position" -- however, he advised, that’s not to say some sort of conversion has not been made that’s not apparent without physical inspection. Curiously, the source added, unless the barrel is a dummy, it appears to be a "Short Barreled Rifle" under the National Firearms Act, as “the barrel length shown in the photo looks short by about 6 inches.”

Gun Rights Examiner will send a link to this report to Chief Magnus repeating the request for clarification, and will update this column if further information is received.

See update: Chief dismisses ‘silly debate’ over media machine gun conflation.

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