The Top 5 Media Misrepresentations of Gun Ownership (That are Actually Totally Normal)

posted on April 30, 2016

Many people who are familiar with Second Amendment issues have come to adopt a certain bemused resignation when it comes to the way gun ownership is reported in the media. It’s very common to see the media portray aspects of gun ownership as if they were unusual, when in fact they’re very simply par for the course for the majority of gun owners. Here are our top five such canards—and how you can counter them.

1.      The misrepresentation: “Nobody needs thousands of rounds of ammunition in their home.”

What many non-gun-owners don’t understand: It’s perfectly normal for even a casual gun owner to have “thousands” of rounds, because “thousands” are really not that much. A thousand rounds of .22 cartridges, the most common ammunition for casual plinkers and target shooters, would fit neatly in a breadbox. An afternoon at the range with a couple of friends can easily make 500 rounds disappear.

Also, as with almost any consumer good, buying in bulk results in cheaper per-unit pricing. Additionally, ammunition availability can fluctuate depending on a variety of factors, so gun owners frequently stock up when their favorite caliber is on the shelves. It’s the same impulse that drives you to buy several boxes of Girl Scout cookies when it’s that time of year.

2.      The misrepresentation: “Nobody needs armor-piercing bullets.”

What many non-gun-owners don’t understand: There are multiple levels of body armor on the market, from Level I (least protection) to Level IV (most protection). Some of the lower levels of body armor don’t protect against many common centerfire pistol calibers. Many higher levels of body armor don’t protect against centerfire rifle calibers. That means that the most common centerfire cartridges—both for handguns and long guns—that are used for self-defense and hunting could be considered to be “armor-piercing,” depending on what kind of armor we’re talking about. What’s more, this is not a new or modern situation. The first centerfire cartridge was patented in 1857.

3.      The misrepresentation: “Nobody needs a stockpile of guns.”

What many non-gun-owners don’t understand: Although there are firearms out there that can serve multiple purposes, most people prefer to have specialized guns for different tasks. A rimfire pistol for target shooting, a small centerfire for concealed carry, a larger centerfire for hiking in bear country, a survival rifle, a shotgun for home defense, a shotgun for skeet, a big-game hunting rifle…it’s similar to the way many women “stockpile” multiple pairs of shoes for different color schemes, temperatures and levels of formality.

There’s also a category of gun owners who collect guns for their aesthetic and historical value in much the same way other folks collect artwork or classic cars—and some particularly desirable firearms are worth as much or more than those cars. Properly maintained and stored, firearms are extremely durable goods and can be passed down as family heirlooms for many generations. 

4.      The misrepresentation: “Nobody needs assault weapons.”


What many non-gun-owners don’t understand: There is a perception that the term "assault weapons" refers to" machine guns."  The truth is, most civilians don’t own “machine guns” at all. A "machine gun," also known as “full automatic” or “Class III” gun is capable of firing more than one projectile per trigger pull. Firearms like these have been tightly regulated for civilian possession by the National Firearms Act of 1934, the Gun Control Act of 1968 and the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act of 1986. Although it is currently technically possible for a civilian to own a Class III firearm, the process to obtain a license is time-consuming and the guns themselves prohibitively expensive.

There are, however, civilian-legal semi-automatic versions of these firearms that are only capable of firing one projectile per trigger pull. They may look very similar to their military and law-enforcement cousins, but they are semi-automatic. There is nothing about these, or the cartridges they fire, that make them any more “powerful” than any other semi-automatic centerfire rifle. (Here you can watch a video of NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre pointing out the media's false conflation of these two very different types of firearms.) The most popular of these, the AR-15, is commonly used for shooting competitions and target shooting.  

5.      Last, but not least, the ultimate misrepresentation: “Nobody needs…”

What many non-gun-owners don’t understand: The phrasing “nobody needs” is a logical fallacy known as “begging the question.” Begging the question is a statement in which the premises assume that the conclusion is true, and in this case, it isn’t. The false premise here is the word “need,” which is actually irrelevant to the discussion. The Bill of Rights does not enumerate a list of needs. It’s a list of inherent rights with which we are born, and which the government is charged to protect. The Second Amendment doesn’t give us the Right to Keep and Bear Arms; it merely guarantees it.

What are your “pet peeves” about the way gun ownership in the media? Let us know in the comments!

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