August 31, 2005

AK-47s in the Hands of N.O. Looters? Not Likely

Let's go ahead and nip this one in the bud.

Shepard Smith is on Fox News right now telling us that looters are roaming the streets of New Orleans armed with AK-47s. Let's nip this rumour in the bud right now.

This is an AK-47. An AK-47 is a fully-automatic weapon that has a rate of fire of 600 rounds/minute. It is highly regulated under federal law, and almost impossible to obtain in the United States without extremely restrictive background checks and full registration.

This is a WASR-10. A WASR-10 is a semi-automatic rifle that has a rate of fire restricted by how fast the shooter can pull the trigger, effectively 60-100 rounds/minute. It is one of a thousand AK-47 look-a-likes available in the United States, but it is not a machine gun.

Hey, aren't these the same picture? How can you tell the two apart?

My point exactly. The fact of the matter is that untrained people, and this includes most police officers, and almost all journalists, cannot tell the two apart even, when close enough to touch them.

Don't let the media hysteria make this event any worse than it already is. They've done enough of that already.

Update: Bill O'Reilly is spreading the same ignorance.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at August 31, 2005 08:11 PM | TrackBack

I'd been hearing this for a few hours, it didn't even occur to me how that would be interpreted. When I hear a newsman say "AK-47" I immediately think semi-auto look alike. Now that I thought about it, you're exactly right, that isn't what most people hear.

Posted by: Tony B at August 31, 2005 08:45 PM

I have a feeling that they weren't even the WASR-10. Probably someone with a beat up rifle. The only way we will ever know is if the cops pull some slugs out and have them tested, which, while I am certain they will want to do that, probably won't be for a long, long time.

Posted by: William Teach at August 31, 2005 08:59 PM

Well, the AK-47 isn't a machine gun, either; it's an assualt rifle. And certainly, there are many, many AK-47s out there from the days before current laws went into effect. They've been around several decades, after all.

Still, I tend to agree that there is a lot of hype and ignorance on the topic of guns.

Posted by: James Joyner at August 31, 2005 09:27 PM

James, even that is false. Assault weapons are generally considered to have selective actions which permit full automatic fire. Genuine AK-47s have never been legal for the public at large.

Posted by: Tony B at August 31, 2005 09:29 PM

James, the National Firearms Act of 1934 severely restricted automatic weapons, imposing a $200 trasfer tax and strict registration requirements for anyone wanting to buy or sell a machine gun, and also created the legal definition of a machinegun, which is, in part, "any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger."

According to law, an AK-47 is a machine gun; an assault weapon (the first of which was the German STG-44 in 1944, 10 years after the NFA) is merely a kind of machine gun.

GAA 1968 killed the importation of machine guns completely, and prohits adding new machine guns to the market from then.

Legitimate AK-47s are less common in the United Stares than Bengal Tigers.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at August 31, 2005 10:01 PM

The news media with all their "fact checkers" can't tell the difference between a TANK and an Armored Personnel Carrier.

Posted by: KurtP at August 31, 2005 11:25 PM

The news media with all their "fact checkers" can't tell the difference between a TANK and an Armored Personnel Carrier.

An oxygen tank, or an Abrams? I'd say its about 50/50 either way...

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at September 1, 2005 12:26 AM

I wish I remember where I saw it: there was a photo captioned "Store owner guards his merchandise and family armed with a high capacity AK47 machine gun." from Mississippi. The rifle the guy was carrying was a standard Ruger Mini14 Ranch rifle with a 20 round mag.

They can't even differentiate between different classes of weapons in completely different configurations but that doesn't stop the "ooga booga scary guns!" news.

Posted by: Josh at September 1, 2005 12:20 PM

After reading your discriptions of the two guns, this is definitely not like comparing apples to oranges. Based on your information it is more like comparing green apples to red apples. 600 rounds compared to 100 rounds? That weapon can still kill a number of officers as well as innocents. The use of the title AK-47 is a mistake but reporters are probably just repeating what they're told by officers in the field. However the difference between the two weapons wouldn't change their effect on volunteers or officials trying to rescue innocents in the midst of a turbulent disaster. Any weapon carried by thugs or angry mobs are only going to add to the complications involved.

Posted by: Greg at September 1, 2005 09:46 PM

this ignorance is the same reason why clinton's "assault weapons" ban passed. it is also the reason why californians today still cannot have military-style rifles, regardless of the fact that they are semi auto just like many other rifles that ARE legal.

Posted by: eric at September 24, 2005 07:39 PM