Sunday, January 9, 2011

Ballseye's Gun Shots 104 - The Media's Use of Expert Firearms Consultants (or should I say 'lack of use')

It baffles me that the media hires or contracts out for experts in almost every field so that they can consult with them while reporting on various types of news events yet, when it comes to firearms they seemingly never have an expert on firearms on hand.

Let me give some examples from the current news reports that have been dealing with the tragic shootings in Tucson, AZ yesterday. I saw news reports in which the reporters consulted with: Police experts on the investigation, political experts on the impact on politics and gun control, security experts on whether or not Congressmen and women are protected by security teams or should be provided security, One of the main things that has been talked about has been the medical condition of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Gifford's who was shot in her head. I have seen no fewer than a half a dozen doctors (medical experts) siting in a news broadcasts and talking about her chances of survival. They give information about her prognosis as well as giving folks and idea of the problems doctors are facing in trying to assure that not only she will survive but that she will still have most, if not all, of her cognitive brain function when she recovers. They have talked about the brain, bleeding, trauma, gunshot wounds, surgery and so on. At least two of them have also delved into the field of firearms and gave their not so expert opinions on guns, bullets, magazines and one even on how many shots the killer's gun could have possibly fired. This last doctor even stated that the killers gun only could hold 15 rounds of ammunition and since 19 people had been shot (some multiple times with one person shot at least 4 times) it meant that either the bullets had passed through others who were shot then striking other people or that there had been an accomplice who was also firing on the crowd. This all regardless of the fact that it has been reported that the shooter used a pistol with an extended magazine and that during the confusion he may have reloaded while people had their heads down (fear of being shot makes people do that sometimes - duck for cover). Even though he was not an expert on firearms, and apparently knew very little about them, this doctor was allowed to ramble on as if he indeed was a firearms expert and he then began to talk about a bullet trajectory and how it combined with how many bullets were fired would prove definitively if there had been only one shooter. I am almost willing to bet that he has read about the assassination of JFK and the theories involving multiple shooters that surround it.

Another consultant, a retired NY City police officer, an expert being consulted about the investigation that will or should take place, on a cable news program rambled on for minutes about how this country has to come to its senses and mandate that, before they be allowed to own guns, people be trained and tested in the use of firearms just as they are for a driver's license before they can legally drive a car. His premise was that this would prevent such shootings. He certainly seemed less than an expert on the subject matter of firearms or on firearms licensing. I doubt he has much knowledge about firearms beyond his carrying one as a police officer and his qualifying with it maybe twice a year. He almost certainly did have knowledge of how to play the media so as to act as a paid consultant on national news. Well maybe not really because a much better known and readily recognized retired police detective butted in to contradict what the first retired officer had just said. The truth be told, training in firearms would have little to do with preventing such a rampage by a quite possibly deranged individual. Training him would probably have only made him a better marksman. My bet would be that he actually had some training in marksmanship, especially if he was a lone shooter. You may think you could hit all those people, those panicked moving people, easily at close range but I can attest it was a feat of marksmanship or luck beyond the realm of probability. Yet I digress, my aim should be at the so called experts or at the medias lack of use of firearms experts when they report on firearms.

Yet another news report had a reporter give his apparent expert view on what happened. He was reporting on what had happened to Representative Gifford's, in particular the injury to her head caused by gunshot. He did not have an expert at hand with whom to consult so he played the part of the firearms expert himself. Now mind you, he was reporting on the BBC channel. The BBC is based in England where for the most part firearms are banned. Yet, this reporter said that one of the things that saved Representative Gifford's was that the bullet had passed through her skull and exited. (Good so far, I am pretty sure he was reporting on what doctors or representatives of the hospital had told him). Then, before going onto the next point, he looked as if the light bulb had gone on in his head, and he spouted out that another reason she had survived being shot in head was because the bullet had not exploded in her head. Do bullets normally explode? It seems this reporter might think so and that he would have us think so. No bullets do not normally explode. Yes you can place certain substances into a bullet to make them explode on impact but it is not the norm and no one had reported that the shooter used explosive bullets. (Yes I am expert enough, or a limited expert in legal terms, on firearms and ammunition to know this as fact.) Did the reporter mean that the bullet had not expanded in Representative Gifford's head? Maybe that is what he meant but bullet expansion and an explosion are two very different things. Then again, how would he have known if the bullet was of the type that normally expands upon impact? Has anyone in the media been privy to that information or have the police, as they usually would do this early on, withheld information as to the type of bullets used in the attack?

As just seen, the media can get it wrong with or without consultants when it comes to firearms. Another example, one of the most frequently heard and seen in news reports is that a shooter opened fire with an automatic weapon. This was in fact reported in this particular shooting incident. Amazingly enough, within a few hours of the shooting, reporters started to correct this inaccuracy and they started to report on information given to them by the police that the shooter had used a semi-automatic pistol. There is quite a difference between an automatic firearm and a semi-automatic firearm but the media would like us to believe that automatic firearms are the norm or so it seems to me.

The truth of the matter is that those in the media, the great majority of them, know little to nothing about firearms. Add to that the fact that the mud slinging media main stream media is or has been patently anti-gun and you can probably understand how it is that they consult with experts on such fields as medicine and then allow that same expert to ramble on about firearms, ammunition, investigative techniques (probably all just based on them watching shows like CSI) and other aspects of the issue with which they have no expertise. If however the media actually hired or contracted actual firearms experts they might actually get their reporting on firearms correct. Oh my gosh, did I just this moment 0812 AM, as I am typing, hear a CNN reporter say that police have said the suspect had a Glock 9mm pistol and at least 90 rounds of ammunition and that he had fired using a 90 round clip! Yes that is what she called it - a 30 round clip. It is not a clip, it is a magazine but there is a good chance that the police told her it was a clip. It just proves my point, they have no to little knowledge of firearms, nor do most of their consultants, so they ought to hire consultants who actually are at least knowledgeable of firearms and their nomenclature, if not actual firearms experts, who can guide them before they open their mouths and get it wrong over and over again. Imagine that though, the media speaking about firearms intelligently instead of solely with anti-gun bias and ignorance. Is it going to happen? I doubt it.

All the best,
Glenn B