Five Lies Bryant Gumbel Aired About The AR-15

posted on June 2, 2016
Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images

Some “mainstream” journalists think they can lie with impunity about guns and gun owners. Katie Couric recently did that as executive producer for a documentary film pushing for gun control. Couric once mocked Sarah Palin by airing a long pause Palin took before answering a question, and in her film, she tried the same tactic—this time a lie clearly edited in—when she asked gun-rights advocates about background checks.

The reaction to her lie has been swift and fierce. National Review put it best when they said: “Of course Yahoo News should fire Katie Couric. She committed an act of gross intellectual dishonesty—and if you don’t fire a journalist for dishonesty, what in hell do you fire one for?”

But for some reason no one is talking about the many lies HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” aired shortly afterward about the AR-15. “Real Sports” isn’t really a sports program, but rather a social commentary diatribe using sports as a smokescreen. In this instance, a naked anti-gun attack laced with lies and misinformation.

While speaking with his reporter, David Scott, Gumbel didn’t even attempt to journalistically appear unbiased and hide his contempt for gun owners when he said, “It seems the gun people keep mining new depths.” When Scott referred to restrictions that make things like “RPGs” illegal, Gumbel said they’re not legal “yet,” as if they might become legal if gun owners were to get their way. Gumbel then referred to gun owners as “scary.” His bias was openly displayed, but even unmitigated bias does not excuse the lies Gumbel included in his anti-gun hit piece.“… if you don’t fire a journalist for dishonesty, what in hell do you fire one for?”

1. Semi-Automatic Firearms Are “New”?

In the lead-in to this episode of “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel,” a voiceover said, “This was your father’s tool” while showing a bolt-action rifle. A moment later it showed an M16 being fired by a U.S. soldier in the Vietnam War. This and other portions of the episode were obviously pushing the narrative that civilians shouldn’t be allowed to own these particular semi-automatic rifles. All through the segment they kept insinuating that a semi-automatic firearm (they blur the distinction between a semi-automatic rifle and a fully automatic machine gun) is a dangerous and unusual arm that wasn’t popularized until America’s gun owners started buying millions of them a few decades ago.

Gun owners know that semi-automatics have been around for well over a century. But that fact does not help Gumbel’s narrative that these are “new” threats to safety. And it is clear they made sure to not include any information that interfered with their assumptions. Even a cursory Internet search could have quickly told them that the semi-automatic design was developed in the late 19th century and that it has been sold to U.S. citizens ever since. Perhaps the most popular semi-automatic firearm ever designed is the Model 1911 pistol, a gun first purchased by the U.S. military in 1911 that was soon also sold to private citizens. Of course, plenty of semi-automatic rifles and shotguns were also sold to civilians before the AR-15 was invented in the late 1950s—in fact, there are far too many examples of semi-automatic rifles and shotguns made before the AR-15 was invented to list here.

It certainly doesn’t take an investigative journalist (or even a fake one like Bryant Gumbel) to figure out that the semi-automatic design is by far the most popular type of firearm sold today. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association for firearm manufacturers, says more than 12 million modern sporting rifles have been sold to U.S. citizens since 1990.

2. Citizens Didn’t Have Access To The AR-15 For Years?

This episode of “Real Sports” said, “For years, the closest American consumers got to [the AR-15] was in the movies.” The truth is that the U.S. military’s first order for the fully automatic M16 came in 1963. That same year Colt Manufacturing Co. also began selling semi-automatic versions designated AR-15s to U.S. consumers. The November 1964 issue of American Rifleman reported, “A semi-automatic model of the Colt AR-15 cal. .223 (5.56 mm) automatic rifle is now offered by Colt’s.”

3. The AR-15 Has Been Falsely Marketed As A “Sporter”?

This “Real Sports” episode claimed that gun makers nefariously marketed the AR-15 to consumers as a “sporter” rifle. “Real Sports” called this a “ruse.”

Even a cursory Internet search could have quickly told them that the semi-automatic design was developed in the late 19th century and that it has been sold to U.S. citizens ever since.That same November 1964 issue of American Rifleman also said, “Designated Colt AR-15 Sporter, it is made for semi-automatic use only … and its bolt carrier assembly has a Parco-Lubrite finish.” The article further explained, “Design of this sporter is such that parts required for fully automatic fire cannot be installed, and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Div., Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Treasury Dept., does not consider the rifle a ‘Firearm’ in the machine gun category.”

Now, American citizens have always used firearms that are similar to, if not the same as, those used by the U.S. military. This goes for muskets, revolvers, bolt-action rifles, pump-action shotguns and, yes, semi-automatic designs. Also, firearm manufacturers have long used terminology such as “sporter” when they market a product for hunting or target shooting. This is hardly a “ruse.”

4. The AR-15 Is A Tool For Murderers?

One voiceover for this episode of HBO’s “Real Sports” said, “Mass murderers are drawn to them. … One massacre after another is being committed with America’s most popular rifle.”

Simply put, that is a gross distortion of reality. According to FBI crime statistics, murderers chose rifles as their weapons of choice only 2 percent of the time in 2014. AR-15-type rifles make up an unknown fraction of that percentage, as the FBI doesn’t break them out separately. For comparison, 248 murders were committed in the U.S. with rifles of any kind in 2014, while 1,567 people were murdered with “knives or cutting instruments.” 

Given that there are more than 12 million modern sporting rifles now in the hands of American citizens, these numbers clearly show that the AR-15 is not a problem.

5. The .223 Rem. Cartridge Is Especially Lethal?

The episode went on to advance the specious claim that AR-15s are more powerful than other firearms. Anyone who knows anything about guns knows this is nonsense. The round used in the AR, the .223 Rem. (or 5.56 mm), is smaller, lighter, and less powerful than most of the common hunting rounds used for over a century.Gun owners must be ever vigilant that the messages the media feeds to their non-gun owning friends and neighbors on a daily basis is at very best manipulated, and often is outright dishonesty.

Actually, when the U.S. military opted to arm soldiers with rifles chambered in this caliber, it was very controversial—being much less powerful than the .30 caliber rounds commonly used in military firearms (.308 Win. and .30-’06 Sprg.) up to that point. The decision to switch to the .223 Rem. is still controversial for this reason, and the military has considered changing to a heavier cartridge many times.

We’ll leave the debate over the pros and cons of the .223 Rem. for another day, but the claim that the .223 Rem. is far deadlier or more powerful than other cartridges is indisputably nonsense. This, like much of this episode, is nothing more than disingenuous fear-mongering from Gumbel’s “Real Sports.”

Anyone who has any actual knowledge of firearms knows this, but Gumbel and Scott ignore the truth to advance their anti-gun message.

And this is the most important takeaway from this propaganda. The anti-gun media will not be dissuaded from using lies and misinformation to advance their agenda. For them, there is no tactic that is out of bounds to achieve the goal of banning guns, period. Gun owners must be ever vigilant that the messages the media feeds to their non-gun owning friends and neighbors on a daily basis is at very best manipulated, and often is outright dishonesty.

As for Bryant Gumbel and this segment of “Real Sports,” there’s no “real” to be found, except perhaps the real lies that are plentiful throughout.


Frank Miniter
Frank Miniter

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