In an editorial published the day after the shooting that killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday, The New York Times erroneously claimed that so-called assault weapons like the Colt AR-15 rifle used in that attack are distinguished by their "high capacity." In a news story posted yesterday, Times reporter Richard A. Oppel Jr. suggests that AR-15-style rifles are especially "powerful," which also is not true.
Unlike, say, Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, Oppel acknowledges that an AR-15, like any other semi-automatic, "fires one bullet at a time." Still, he says, "it is a powerful weapon: light, easy to hold and to fire, with limited recoil, its bullets shooting out of the muzzle more than twice as fast as most handgun rounds." The only part of that description that is related to "power" is the part about muzzle velocity, and here Oppel pulls the time-honored trick of comparing the rifles Dianne Feinstein hates with handguns instead of other rifles. Bullets fired from rifles generally move faster than bullets fired from pistols, mainly because a longer barrel gives them more room to accelerate. But that tells us nothing about the difference between the rifles Feinstein wants to ban—which are distinguished by features such as folding stocks, pistol grips, and barrel shrouds—and the ones she is willing to leave on the market.