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When it comes to slinging mud, Paul Helmke is not afraid to get his hands dirty. The President of the The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Huffington Post hero’s recent polemic NRA Sides With Mass Killers Over ATF is a perfect case in point. As usual, Helmke resorts to scare tactics and half-truths to get his point across. Which is total civilian disarmament or, as The Brady Campaign now calls it, “common sense gun control.” Helmke writes . . .

There the NRA goes again — siding with the common gang member and drug dealer who wants to use a semi-automatic weapon to wreak havoc in our communities.

Guilt by association. Right off the bat, Paul wants the reader to associate the NRA with criminals by saying they side with gang members and drug dealers. Notice he uses the word “again.” This suggests that the NRA does this all the time. That is, side with gang members and drug dealers. The implication here is: the NRA should be lumped in the same definition as the criminal.

Helmke follows this opening paragraph with this photograph

Notice: this photograph immediately follows the sentence phrase “use a semi-automatic weapon to wreak havoc in our communities.” The idea here: give a visual to the term “semi-automatic weapon.” As they say, a picture’s worth a thousand words.

The visual is further reinforced with the caption identifying this object as a “military-style assault weapon.” Also in that caption is the scare tactic: “these guns are back” and “on our streets.” Close proximity to the opening paragraph starts the reader thinking and associating this way: NRA = gang members = drug dealers = semi-automatic weapon = military-style assault rifle = on our streets.

A mental red flag goes up. And Paul waves that red flag with the next paragraph:

Too bad about the bloody, injured, paralyzed, and door-knob-dead bodies. Too bad about the little children who can’t play outdoors, or the innocent teens who can’t walk their streets alone, for fear of being shot by stray bullets from gang-bangers wielding assault weapons. Too bad about the mamas and the papas who can’t afford to live in neighborhoods that aren’t flooded with illegal guns, like those the NRA bosses inhabit. Too bad about the schoolchildren, teachers, and workers who are victims of the mentally unstable who easily can get their rapid-fire killing machines from so-called private sellers at gun shows.

Helmke wrote the paragraph to evoke emotion. Tug at the heart strings. It’s designed to work in the exact same way as those commercials selling remote adoption. They show you pictures of children with sad, unkempt faces living in deplorable poverty, flies and gnats swarming around them.”How horrible!” you think. I should do something!

Blood and death caused by guns. Note the images. “bloody, injured, paralyzed, door-knob-dead bodies” “little children” and “innocent teens.” “Fear of being shot by stray bullets,” “illegal guns” and “rapid-fire killing machines.”

Also notice the associations within that paragraph: “gang-bangers” with “assault weapons.” “Illegal guns” with “NRA bosses.” “Rapid-fire killing machines” with “private sellers at gun shows.” Helmke wants you to connect illegal guns with the NRA, and “rapid-fire killing machines” with gun shows.

Helmke wants to you to be afraid. He wants you to be VERY afraid. Follow the flow of associations: NRA = gang members = drug dealers = semi-automatic weapon = military-style assault weapon = on the streets = blood and death. It’s a re-branding exercise, attempting to link the “NRA” and “blood and death.”

And the hits keep happening! In the next paragraph, Paul makes more negative associations:

Thou shalt not interfere with the Second Amendment rights of “law-abiding” citizens who want AK-47s only to protect hearth and home. (Wink. Wink.)

The “Thou shalt not” attempts to mimic the language of the Second Amendment. Note that “law-abiding” is in quotes in a sentence that ends with a condescending, conspiratorial Monty Python-esque verbal gesture. The implication: anyone who owns an AK-47 only thinks they’re a law-abiding citizen. Or knows they’re not law-abiding and lies about it. Or is too stupid to know that they’re not law-abiding. But “we” know better, because we’re WAY smarter than these “law-abiding” gun owners.

Helmke invokes the AK-47 which immediately brings to evoke pop culture images of muslim extremists and gang-bangers. Helmke wants you to associate the “law abiding” citizen with the gang-banger (both want AK-47s) and paint the Second Amendment as the primary excuse for having such a weapon.

Here is Paul’s central point:

Apparently the gun guys are upset that [ATF Director Andrew] Traver did a TV interview where he helped demonstrate the lethality of an AK-47, while explaining, “Pull the trigger and you can mow down people.” Then Traver added that, “the growing frequency of gang members and drug dealers using heavy caliber military-type weapons” is a problem we should be concerned about . . .

…the NRA bosses are all tied up in knots because Traver didn’t make it clear enough to the TV audience that a fully automatic weapon (like the one the reporter apparently blasted) can get a few rounds out more quickly than a semi-automatic and is not as readily available to the general public (although they would like it to be).

It’s a misleading alf-truth. Yes, a criminal armed with an AK-47 can “mow down people.” As they could with any gun the holds more than one bullet, when operated by someone who knows how to use is. But the specific danger described here refers to the capabilities of a fully-automatic AK-47 assault rifle.

A “true” assault rifle is a military weapon capable of selective-fire. There’s a little knob you turn that lets you switch from semi-automatic fire (one pull of the trigger = one shot) to fully automatic fire (one pull of the trigger = many shots). In general, the general public is strictly prohibited from purchasing a fully-automatic AK-47, or converting a AK to fully automatic function.

If the police find a criminal (or an otherwise “law-abiding” citizen) with a fully-automatic AK-47, they come down on them like a ton of bricks. It’s also a federal beef. All of which means that fully-automatic AK-47s are not common amongst criminals. [ED: setting aside the fact that less than five percent of all gun crimes involve a long gun.] Traver’s statement make it seem like fully automatic AK-47s are easily available to criminals. They aren’t.

From earlier in the entry:

Thou shalt not interfere with the Second Amendment rights of “law-abiding” citizens who want AK-47s only to protect hearth and home. (Wink. Wink.)

Since a fully automatic AK-47—and therefore a true assault rifle—is not readily available for sale to the general public, a civilian (or semi-automatic) version should logically be available. This (the semi-automatic version) is what most folks would have.

Again, Paul is trying to confuse you with the semi-auto/full auto terminology. He wants you to think that the AK-47 your next door neighbor owns (the semi-automatic version) is the same as the fully automatic AK-47 a soldier (or, in Paul’s view of the world, a gang member) would have.

Semi-automatics are only a little less deadly than fully automatics. They can blast 106 rounds in less than two minutes. One of these weapons was used by Patrick Purdy in Stockton, California, helped him kill five children and wound 29 others.

Helmke never tells readers what he means by “a little less deadly.” Notice that he uses the terms “semi-automatics” and “fully automatics” interchangeably when describing the weapons used by Purdy, Huberty, and the Columbine killers. This supports his attempts to confuse the two types of weapons in order to paint the legal gun as just as dangerous as the illegal version.

The “106 rounds in less than two minutes” is a reference to the reports that Purdy fired at least 100+ rounds in the three minute shooting that took place that day in 1989. Also according to those reports, Purdy used a semi-automatic AK-47 rifle.

I did an experiment. Given that a typical AK-47 carries 30 rounds in its magazine, I took a stopwatch and NERF gun that shoots foam darts and timed myself pulling the trigger 30 times (equal to shooting 30 rounds) as fast as I could. It came out to between 8 and 11 seconds. I then estimated at least 5 seconds to eject the spent magazine, pull a new one from some pocket or holder, insert it into the weapon, and be ready to fire again.

Doing the math, I estimated that 120 rounds can be expended from a semi-automatic weapon in roughly 47 – 59 seconds, with 3 reloads.

Now, an AK-47 has a rate of fire of 600 rounds per minute or 10 rounds per second. If it were fired at fully automatic using a 30-round magazine, it would take 3 seconds to expend a full magazine. Let’s again say it takes 5 seconds to reload. Doing the math gives us 180 rounds expended in 59 seconds, with five reloads.

So which is deadlier: semi-automatic or fully automatic?

The NRA bosses know full well that the semi-automatic military-style Uzi assault pistol used by James Huberty killed 21 people and wounded 19 others at the McDonald’s in San Ysidro, CA. And that the TEC-9 assault pistol used by the Columbine killers murdered 12 of their classmates and a teacher.

Yes, Virginia, if you believe in Santa Claus you’ll believe there is a significant difference worth between the killing efficiency of a fully automatic assault weapon and a semi-automatic assault weapon.

Any debate about the distinction between a semi-automatic weapon that’s not used by over 95 percent of criminal and an automatic version of the same weapon that’s used in a fraction of a fraction of all American gun crimes needs to define what “deadlier” means. Are we talking about number of rounds fired? Or are we talking about number of people killed? If so, then the weapon Purdy used isn’t very deadly; five victims died in the heinous attack. Huberty’s Uzi assault pistol was far deadlier, with 21 people killed.

The average American is not a firearms enthusiast. They don’t know the [for them] subtle difference between rifles. Helmke’s disarmament mission depends on increasing their concern about “assault rifles” while maintaining or increasing their ignorance about the guns’ relative unimportance and technical capabilities.

The truth has nothing to do with it. Which is why Helmke relies on scare tactics, half-truths, and misdirection. If you ever managed to pin Helmke down on the specifics of his gun control arguments, I’m sure he’d claim that it doesn’t matter. The ends justify the means. Except when they don’t.

[Abner Sineres published the blog]

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  1. Lot of work for not much benefit as Helmke has been a counfounder of fact with fiction, an obfuscator, and a known liar for a long time.

    When in fact the 2nd Amendment (that pesky “milita” part in fact) PROTECTS automatic assault rifles just as clearly as it protects hunting shotguns, if not more so.

    At the very least, all of the firearms and weapons similar to those issued to the individual infantryman or (para-military) police officer are protected by the Constitution.

    Time to stop making apologies for “assault rifles” when ASSAULT MEANS PORTABLE to the military — an ‘assault machine gun’ is one that can be CARRIED and FIRED while on the move, e.g., while assaulting an enemy held position. This distinguishing them from “fixed”, “emplaced”, “mounted” and “crew served” machine guns.

    And while we are at it: There are practically NO AK-47s in civilian hands — those are almost all AK -pattern rifles, and most are probably AK-74 or AKM (pattern), not 47s. Just forcing the media to straighten out the terminology would go a long way towards de-demonizing the things. Problem for us is that AK-47 sounds so much worse than “a Kalashinikov type rifle”.

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