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Mark Shields Lied on PBS about Automatic Weapons

I just absolutely have to call this what it is — a blatant lie by someone who is opportunistically trying to exploit a national tragedy to promote their agenda. Here’s what this guy said:

And the reality is that in the United States of America in 2012, it’s easier in many states to rent an automobile — to buy an automatic weapon than it is to rent an automobile. It’s more demanding.

Yep, complete and total lie. Here’s why.

First, let’s go over what you need in order to rent a car:

  • Driver’s license
  • Umm… Driver’s license
  • Maybe a credit card

And here’s the requirements to buy a fully automatic firearm:

  • Have around $10,000 in cash, more for “good” guns
  • Submit two sets of fingerprints to the ATF for a background check
  • Submit two passport photos to the ATF
  • Fill out a Form 4 and submit it to the ATF detailing why you want the gun
  • Pay a $200 tax to the government
  • Wait 6 months for the ATF to perform the background checks and approve the purchase

There’s the option in some states to use a trust instead as the legal instrument, which still typically requires $10,000+ in cash and a 6 month wait on the ATF’s approval.

Explain to me exactly how whipping out a driver’s license and a credit card is “more demanding” than paying thousands of dollars and waiting months on end? Especially for a class of firearm that has been used in exactly two crimes since the National Firearms Act was passed in 1934?

I’ll gladly listen to any argument in favor of more gun control. Once those in favor have their facts straight and stop exaggerating, that is.


  1. avatar Joke & Dagger says:

    You are arguing with the unarguable. Reminds me of the election and the fight over the fiscal cliff. Facts have no place in the gun grabber/MSM world. Look at the media defaming the shooter’s brother yesterday.

  2. avatar Cameron S. says:


  3. avatar Jeff W says:

    Mark is clearly trying to convince the uninformed masses that the typical AR-15 or AK-47 available for purchase are fully automatic. The scary part is its working.

    1. avatar Sammy says:

      When the discussion is controlled it has the same effect as voter suppression.
      Lies, Lies and more lies are what’s ahead. We can not influence people to our way of thinking of we can not be heard. If you think there was fraud connected with the passage of O care, wait till you get a sample of the b/s headed our way on guns.

  4. avatar BLAMMO says:

    I read newspapers and I watch news channels and it’s amazing how everybody who writes or talks about guns knows absolutely nothing about guns, the laws, how they’re used, why people own them or what they can and cannot do. None of them are gun owners, they don’t know any gun owners and they can’t seem to find anybody in the public who owns guns or can talk about them intelligently, let alone an actual expert.

    They’re not just uninitiated. You can excuse the uninitiated because nobody can be an expert on everything. They are ignorant. And at times, obtuse.

  5. avatar Greg Camp says:

    Of course, he meant a semiautomatic weapon, but the point remains. I don’t recall having to pass a background check to rent a car.

    1. avatar Nick Leghorn says:

      If he meant semi-auto he should have said semi-auto. He’s had enough time in his 75 years to spend three seconds looking up the definitions before spouting complete and total crap on the public airwaves.

      1. avatar Sammy says:

        He’s not spouting crap, he’s using Gerbil’s first rule of propaganda. Tell a big lie over and over and it will become perceived as the truth.

        1. avatar Jay Dunn says:

          It’s Goebbels but you got the pronunciation and the idea spot on.

          If you are going to tell a lie, make sure it’s a big one, stick to it, repeat it as often as possible.

      2. avatar Sanchanim says:

        Point taken Nick, then again he said it. Also he has not corrected his error, and for the masses it will mean standing behind what I believe will be an executive order.

  6. avatar glenn says:

    All this time I thought getting a assault rifle was hard! I didn’t know it was so easy. Guess I will get rid of my AR 15 and get an actual assault rifle.

  7. avatar GS650G says:

    It also seems pretty difficult to get mentally ill people in a place where they can’t harm themselves or others. I’d like to hear their plans for protecting us all individually as well as private firearms ownership does and letting us adults make the call on it. But instead we are going to be treated like children once again.

  8. avatar Matt in FL says:

    I have two comments:

    First, I clicked through, and the comments section underneath that video/transcript is absolutely FULL of people calling him on his bullshit.

    Second, for those, here and elsewhere, who say something along the lines of “Of course, he meant a semiautomatic weapon,” I offer the following, very next line to the one Nick quoted:

    “And I just — you know, one of the things about having been in the Marine Corps is that they teach you how to use guns. They teach you how to use rifles and handguns and automatic weapons. “

    In the very next sentence, he made a distinction between three different types of weapons, so clearly he knows the difference.

  9. avatar Ralph says:

    Mark Shields lies when he says “good morning.”

  10. avatar Tommy Knocker says:

    Nick can you clarify what you said about 2 crimes being committed? Are you saying of the registered full auto firearms only 2, or only 2 full auto period since 1934? I suspect the former, but would appreciate you making that one point clearer.

    1. avatar Nick Leghorn says:

      Ah. There are, to my knowledge, two crimes that have ever been committed using any legally owned machine gun following the passage of the National Firearms Act in the United States. One of them, IIRC, was a cop using his police issued M4.

      1. avatar Tommy Knocker says:

        Thank you nick. FYI tomorrow Sunday NBC is going to have a special Meet the Press on this issue. I assume it will be brutal against us.

  11. avatar DWE says:

    The “class of firearm” has committed exactly zero crime. Guns don’t commit crime.

    1. avatar Nick Leghorn says:

      There are days when I’m grateful that we don’t print this thing on dead trees. Modifying bits in a database is much easier…

  12. avatar Average_Casey says:

    I seriously have no respect for PBS. I lost it once they ran their special on the Mormon religion. I had just joined and knew a fair amount before joining and what was portrayed was the most irresponsible journalism I had ever seen. That station forms an opinion and then creates reports that fit their opinion. So this doesn’t surprise me.

    1. avatar Law2001 says:

      One of the many problems with the government is it is funding PBS. The government is violating our right to freedom of speech by forcing us to pay for the speech of PBS. This is wrong and needs to stop.

      1. avatar WLCE says:

        only five corporations in bed with the banks and Us government owning a overwhelming majority of the main stream media infringes upon our 1st amendment rights too.

    2. avatar fred says:

      +1. might as well stand for National PROPAGANDA Radio.

      What bothers me is a Shields misappropriates the honor of his USMC experience and promptly demeans it with his deliberate dishonesty.

      And we taxpayers have to subsidize it.

  13. avatar Steve says:

    I think you are conflating a touch of ignorance about specific technical particulars on the part of Mark Shields with deliberate lying. A conflation, which is itself deceptive.

    There is truth to what he said.

    No, you cannot buy a true “Automatic” weapon easier than you can rent a car. But it IS TRUE that in most states you can buy a semi-auto (or just about anything else except for a full-auto) without any oversight at all as long as you are talking Private sales.

    So, as long as we are being honest, we need to acknowledge that Mr. Shields has a point. You can buy semi-autos without a background check.

    Now, what you make of that point is up to you, but really, he’s only wrong on a technical point that many would find somewhat irrelevant. Semi-autos are damn near just as deadly as full autos if you happen to be on the receiving end.

    1. avatar Matt in FL says:

      I call bullshit on your entire premise, Steve. No matter how you look at it, Shields did it wrong. Either he’s knowledgeable enough to know the difference (which I think he is) and he used the word “automatic” because it sounded better, or he didn’t know the difference, in which case he should have done his research before opening his mouth, as befits a journalist of over 20 years’ experience.

      1. avatar Steve says:

        Well Matt, I ask you this. Do you ever call the device you use to load ammunition into your gun a “clip”. Technically it is not a clip, it is a “magazine”. But, if you go to a gun range you will undoubtedly hear lots of folks calling their magazines, “clips”.

        What do you call the device that powers your motorcycle? Maybe a “motor”. Well, its not a “motor”, its an “engine”. Engines turn chemical energy into heat and then into motion. “Motors” turn electrical current into motion. But try calling a motorcycle an “enginecycle” and everyone will look at you like you just started drooling.

        Mark Shields may have used the word “automatic” instead of Semi-automatic because it sounds worse. Or he might have said it because it is shorter to say. Or, maybe since he is a former Marine he recognizes that there isn’t a bit of difference between being shot at by a full auto M16 and a Semi auto AR15 and uses the two words interchangeably.

        The point is, the whole premise of Mr. Leghorn’s article is based on arguing semantics.

        Its a pretty big leap from a slip of the tongue to a deliberate lie. Especially when the larger point (about private sales being unregulated – thus one can get a gun with less hassle than you can rent a car) he was making was factually true.

        1. avatar Matt in FL says:

          “Do you ever call the device you use to load ammunition into your gun a ‘clip'”

          Not since I learned better.

          “…if you go to a gun range you will undoubtedly hear lots of folks calling their magazines, ‘clips’.”

          That’s because they’re ignorant and/or don’t care about being correct. They’re also not speaking to a national audience from a position of supposed knowledge.

          “…he recognizes that there isn’t a bit of difference between being shot at by a full auto M16 and a Semi auto AR15…”

          Having never been in combat, I can’t offer an opinion on this. Perhaps someone else who has can weigh in?

          “Especially when the larger point (about private sales being unregulated – thus one can get a gun with less hassle than you can rent a car) he was making was factually true.”

          This one, however, I can disagree with from a position of knowledge. I can think of 3-4 places I pass almost every day from which I can rent a car. On the other hand, I’ve looked around at every gun show I’ve ever been to for “private sales,” and at least at the shows I’ve been to, they’ve been quite rare (and frankly, when I have seen them, the guns they were offering have been crap). If you walked into a gun store or a pawn shop right now and told them you were looking for a gun, private sale only, no background check, I’d lay odds they’d give you a funny look and say, “Sorry, can’t help you.” I’ve actually seen that happen on more than one occasion. So, no, it’s not easier to get even a semi-automatic weapon, in my experience and observation, than it is to rent a car.

        2. avatar WLCE says:

          “Or, maybe since he is a former Marine he recognizes that there isn’t a bit of difference between being shot at by a full auto M16 and a Semi auto AR15 and uses the two words interchangeably.”

          there’s multiple things wrong with that assertion.

          US forces have very, very seldom been on the receiving end of a m16.

          As far as true assault rifles go, a trained military often leaves the weapon on semi-automatic unless they need to counter a ambush or CQB situations. In that case, the differences between 30 rounds in a couple of seconds versus 30 rounds in 10-15 seconds or more (optimistically) is a huge difference in firepower. shooting rapidly in semi-automatic also drastically increases shooter fatigue, which slows down rate of fire.

          of course, many times people refer to ARs as M16s and M16s/M4s as ARs. its common.

    2. avatar Law2001 says:

      I also call BS on Steve’s post because if that is what Mark meant that is what he should have said, instead Mark made a blanket statement.

    3. avatar a liberal who owns guns says:

      it IS TRUE that in most states you can buy a semi-auto (or just about anything else except for a full-auto) without any oversight at all as long as you are talking Private sales.

      Well, plenty of people buy – with cash, and no background check – cars that will be used to race in the chump car/lemons series. Those cars will probably never be licenced or checked by the government again.

      he’s only wrong on a technical point that many would find somewhat irrelevant.

      Public misconception doesn’t make the OP false

      1. avatar Jim says:

        This comment has nothing to do with the article at all. I just wanted to express my delight in finding a reference to lemons/chump cars. Also as a lemons race engineer (did I just say that?) I can assure you that lemons cars are much more dangerous then firearms.

  14. avatar gabba says:

    semantics. he’s just using “automatic weapons” as a blanket term for all autoloaders including semiautomatics. he says at 5:32 “we did ban machine guns in this country”. he’s wrong semantically but not a liar.

  15. I keep hearing the “NFA weapons have been used in two crimes…” thing.

    Does anyone have a source on this?

  16. avatar KDB says:

    When absolutely every gun has been permanently removed from absolutely every criminals hands, then, and only then, I will give up mine.

    1. avatar Rambeast says:

      Even then I will not.

  17. avatar Joe says:

    That’s just self-ignorance preying on the ignorance of others to perpetuate fear.

  18. avatar CanadaGoose says:

    Like most people, Mark Shields frequently makes small slips when speaking extemporaneously. Especially on an emotional topic. I suspect he would acknowledge that he misspoke re the technical point of automatic vs semi-auto. So I don’t think he’s in “deliberate lie” territory.

    Getting beyond this technicality… Shields is correct that you can buy just about any permitted weapon, at gun shows or privately, without a background check. It’s a loophole you can drive a bus through. Criminals, nuts, terrorists… can get a gun easily. As responsible gun owners, how do you propose to rein this in?

    1. avatar Will says:

      Just take a look further south: Mexico. Guns are outlawed for all but the military and police. Yet… it has done nothing to stop the violence against the citizens of Mexico, who are often caught in the middle and executed by a man with a gun. How do the cartels get their guns? Many ways… defecting police and military units, black market arms dealers, through crimes, and even governments with agendas.

      You cannot go into a gun store, sporting goods store, pawn shop, or retail giants that push for jobs to go to China in the name of profits for all companies involved without going through a background check. If you can, you’ve found one that is direct violation of the law and they can be shut down, fined, and lose their license. You cannot make a business of selling guns in the US, legally, without a license. Private sales are another matter, and there are far more legal retail sales than private. Here in the US you cannot buy a pistol in a state you do not reside in, and take it home. It has to be shipped to a licensed Firearms dealer for pickup, in which a background check is then performed.

      Face to face sales, well… you can make private sales illegal, but it won’t stop criminals from doing it.

      So, in short, there is NOTHING we can do to prevent criminals, crazies, and terrorists from obtaining guns, as they will continue to do so no matter how illegal it becomes.

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