After Texas shooting, New York Times publishes another inaccurate piece on semiautomatic firearms

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A guest essay published in The New York Times on Wednesday included a number of inaccurate claims about semiautomatic firearms, marking at least the second opinion piece the paper has published in a little more than a week containing misinformation pertaining to firearms.

In the piece railing against "semiautomatic weapons that terrorize us," former Obama assistant Attorney General Mary McCord wrongly conflated the term "semiautomatic" with "assault" when describing various firearms, and used other inaccurate language to describe semiautomatic firearms while appearing to narrow the definition of such weapons.

"Permissive gun laws and easy access to firearms make the United States a prime target for firearms-based terrorist attacks like the one in Buffalo. They subject the population to the constant threat of mass shootings like the one in Uvalde, where 19 children and two teachers were fatally shot," McCord wrote.

"Whether that shooting ultimately meets the statutory definition of terrorism or not, it certainly has terrified people nationwide, raising fears yet again that children are at risk, even in their schools, from a violence abetted by the ready availability of semiautomatic weapons," she added.

Gun wall rack with rifles.

Gun wall rack with rifles. (iStock)

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McCord wrote that the U.S. "must treat the easy access to semiautomatic weapons as the national security threat it is."

Her use of the term "semiautomatic weapons" appeared to drastically narrow the definition of what a semiautomatic firearm actually is, despite them making up the vast majority of firearms purchased and sold in the U.S., showing a fundamental misunderstanding of the term.

According to The Reload's Stephen Gutowski, a semiautomatic firearm is "capable of firing a round and reloading itself from a magazine during each pull of its trigger." This includes most rifles, pistols and shotguns and is in contrast to a fully automatic firearm, like a machine gun or AK-47, which are highly restricted.

 AR-15 rifles are displayed for sale at the Guntoberfest gun show in Oaks, Pennsylvania, U.S., October 6, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: AR-15 rifles are displayed for sale at the Guntoberfest gun show in Oaks, Pennsylvania, U.S., October 6, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

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McCord inaccurately used the term "military-style weapons" interchangeably with "semiautomatic firearms." Semiautomatics expand far beyond firearms with a similar visual appearance to U.S. military standard-issue rifles without the full capabilities.

She wrote that the San Bernardino terrorists "committed their carnage using semiautomatic firearms," which could include anything from a pistol to an AR-15, then immediately followed up by saying, "As the recent attacks make clear, these types of military-style weapons are not used only by those who commit mass shootings in the name of foreign terrorist groups," equating "semiautomatic firearms" with "military-style weapons." 

McCord then shifted her description of semiautomatic firearms again, referring to the rifle used by the Buffalo shooter as a "semiautomatic assault-style rifle," giving an incorrect depiction of what a semiautomatic rifle actually is.

An attendee views Smith & Wesson Corp. pistols at the company's booth during the National Rifle Association (NRA) annual meeting of members in Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S., on Saturday, April 27, 2019. 

An attendee views Smith & Wesson Corp. pistols at the company's booth during the National Rifle Association (NRA) annual meeting of members in Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S., on Saturday, April 27, 2019.  ( Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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"The semiautomatic assault-style rifle, reportedly purchased at a small gun store for less than $1,000, was all that was needed to commit the massacre," she said.

Gutowski explained that the term "assault rifle" refers to "a rifle chambered for an intermediate-sized cartridge that is capable of both semiautomatic fire and automatic fire," which is not legal for civilian use. Hence the weasel word "style" tacked on as a modifier to paper over a big distinction. 

Throughout the rest of the piece, McCord continued to use inaccurate descriptions of the firearms to further her argument that stricter gun control regulations are needed.

She, again, referred to semiautomatic firearms as "military-style weapons," and added in terms like "assault-style rifles," and "assault weapon."

In this Aug. 15, 2012 file photo, three variations of the AR-15 rifle are displayed at the California Department of Justice in Sacramento, Calif. 

In this Aug. 15, 2012 file photo, three variations of the AR-15 rifle are displayed at the California Department of Justice in Sacramento, Calif.  (Associated Press)

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McCord's piece followed a similar piece full of misinformation by New York Times columnist Gail Collins headlined, ""Sick of Massacres? Get Rid of the Guns."

In her piece, Collins made numerous inaccurate claims about firearms, getting the basic terminology describing them, the process in purchasing them, and the history of the legislation regulating them wrong. 

Fox News reached out to The New York Times for comment but didn't receive a response by the time of publication.

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