The Washington Post ignores its own fact checker

  • 6 June 2017
  • NormanL
The Washington Post ignores its own fact checker

Back in March, the Washington Post's fact checkers gave a "three Pinocchio" rating to statements from New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and the gun control group, Americans for Responsible Solutions, over gun suppressors. The Post wrote:

We can understand the irritation of gun-control advocates about legislation with a benign-sounding name such as the Hearing Protection Act. Clearly the main impact of the measure would be to loosen restrictions on the purchase of suppressors that have been in place for decades. It would be better called the Paperwork Reduction Act, especially because the use of suppressors does not mitigate the need for hearing protection.

But that title does not give opponents the liberty to stretch the facts.

It’s debatable that ear plugs protect ears better than a suppressor — and meanwhile, no self-respecting gun owner would use an AR-15 rifle without ear protection, even if he or she had a suppressor. Certainly the two in combination would provide better ear protection than one type alone, especially because the NRR of earplugs in regular use is probably overstated. So ARS’s tweet is rather misleading.

In the meantime, although the popular name of this accessory is a silencer, foes of the law such as Gillibrand should not use misleading terms such as “quiet” to describe the sound made by a high-powered weapon with a suppressor attached. We wavered between Two and Three Pinocchios, but finally tipped to Three. There is little that’s quiet about a firearm with a silencer, unless one also thinks a jackhammer is quiet.

Okay, we're with the Post so far. But then, as we learn from the NRA, the Washington Post editorial board went ahead and adopted the same talking points its own fact checker had rated as false. The NRA responded:

After the fact check was published – shooting down, as it were, the main argument against the HPA (that gunshots would become undetectable) – the Washington Post did a 180 degree turn and editorialized against the bill. The HPA, it claimed, would repeal “one of the oldest and most effective firearms controls on the books.”

Effective how, exactly? Well, according to the Post, “Silencers are almost never used in murders and other crimes under the current restrictive law, but certainly they would be used in more crimes if there were more of them in circulation.”

But in fact suppressor use in crime hasn’t perceptibly increased at all, even as the number of suppressors legally owned in America has nearly doubled in the last three years (the Post itself put the current number at “about 900,000,” while CNN reported it was 571,750 in March 2014). Figure in the mountain of unprocessed applications, as ATF struggles with a months-long backlog, and the actual number legally in circulation would already be considerably higher.

And if the HPA were to become law, retail sales of suppressors would still have to be processed by federally licensed dealers, with the buyer undergoing a background check and filling out the associated paperwork that would allow for tracing of the device if it were recovered at the scene of a crime.

The Post insists that “Congress should tell the NRA to go away and not come back unless and until it has waged a serious campaign to get recreational shooters to take precautions ….”

Really, Washington Post? We invited you, along with other news outlets, to come out to our headquarters – maybe a 30 minute drive from your own – to see exactly how suppressors work and exactly what sort of safety precautions we teach people who use firearms.

We have long known that the Post is no friend of gun owners, nor are they keen on the Second Amendment. That they would ignore their own fact checker's findings on the gun suppressor issue, however, shows us they either:

1. Don't know they have a fact checker.

2. Don't care, because facts get in the way of the anti-2A narrative.

Either way, the editorial board looks bad. But they probably don't care about that fact, either.