I try to keep up with the criminal use of machine guns in the United States. To date, I have documented five cases of an actual machine gun that was used in a crime (as opposed to the crime only being possession or transfer of a machine gun) since passage of the National Firearms Act of 1934.
Last month, a little girl, Nikolette Rivera, was killed in Philadelphia. The weapon used was identified as an “AK-47.” I see a lot of that, when the firearm is actually a semi-automatic variant like the WASR-10. But some specifics caught my eye.
Politician ‘stunned’ by shootings of 2-year-old, 11-month-old looks to combat Philadelphia violence
A gunman had fired an automatic rifle through the front of the house, leaving six bullet holes, said police.
AK-47 that killed 2-year-old may have been supplied by man who allegedly shot 11-month-old: Police
Nikolette Rivera was in her mother’s arms in her North Philadelphia home Sunday afternoon when bullets from an assault rifle ripped through her house, fatally shooting her in the head, according to Philadelphia police.
“We believe that Francisco Ortiz supplied the AK-47 that was used to commit the homicide” at Nikolette’s home, police said Friday.
Several other media outlets emphasized “automatic rifle,” as opposed to the usual mistakenly interchangeable “assault rifle” or “assault weapon.” Thinking that I may have discovered a sixth criminal use (in 86 years), I reached out to the first reporter to clarify that the Philadelphia Police Department had actually said it was an automatic weapon.
I tried some others. No response.
I attempted to contact the Philadelphia Police Department. After weeks of repeated emails and tweets, they responded.
Thanks for reaching out to us, unfortunately we are unable to accommodate your request, thank you.
The Philadelphia Police Department told other reporters that the weapon was an automatic rifle. They held a press conference and told the world it was an AK-47. But when I asked if they were sure it was an AK-47, and not a semi-automatic variant… “we are unable to accommodate your request.”
Another point noted in omission in these “automatic rifle” reports was any mention of the ATF. Since they have authority over NFA firearms, you might expect them to have been involved if the weapon was a machine gun. I contacted the ATF’s Philadelphia Field Division, to ask if they knew of the use of an actual machine gun in the Rivera shooting.
But that may mean nothing since they are generally slow to reply to inquiries.
I have a niggling suspicion why the Philly PD doesn’t want to talk about this anymore.
Some years back, federal prosecutors held a press conference in New Hampshire to announce indictments. The charges included possession of an un-registered submachine gun equipped with an equally un-registered silencer. And they put the firearm on display. A reporter got a nice photo of it.
It was a KRISS Vector CRB semi-auto, with a barrel shroud. The lack of the SMG’s fire selector was a giveaway.
I left a comment on the story to the effect that, unless the gun was modified, that was simply a semi-automatic carbine, not a sub gun. And I blogged about it.
Suddenly the reported prosecution dropped out of the news. I never heard about it again.
Did the Philadelphia Police make a similar, embarrassing error? What are the odds?