Saying CNN may have deliberately misled viewers about the legality of various weapons, a leader in the gun-rights movement is lashing out at the network for incorrectly reporting that fully automatic weapons are banned under a 1994 law set to expire next year.
“Either it was a deliberate attempt to fake the story, or the reporter had a complete ignorance of the story he’s covering,” Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, told the Washington Times.
In two broadcasts last Thursday, CNN incorrectly reported that fully automatic weapons are currently banned under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. The CNN broadcasts included firing demonstrations by the Broward County, Fla., Sheriff’s Department that implied currently banned weapons are much more powerful than similar but legal ones, when in fact that is not the case.
As reported by the Washington Times, during one of the demonstrations Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne introduced a detective who fired an old Chinese AK-47.
“That is one of the 19 currently banned weapons,” said John Zarella, CNN’s Miami bureau chief. In fact, that firearm was not one of those banned under the 1994 act. The detective fired six shots, after which Zarella said, “OK. Now that was semiautomatic.”
Jenne then responded, “Now this is automatic.”
The detective fired a burst at a cinder-block target, after which Zarella declared: “Wow! That obliterated those blocks. … Absolutely obliterated it. And you can tell the difference,” according to the Times report.
Machine guns, AK-47s and other fully automatic weapons are regulated by the National Firearms Act of 1934. The 1994 law banned some semiautomatic, military-style rifles and will expire in September 2004 if Congress does not renew it. Semiautomatic guns fire one shot each time the trigger is pulled.
The NRA and other gun-rights groups say the news media have consistently confused semiautomatics with fully automatic firearms and that the banned guns are only “cosmetically” different from many legal types of weapons.
“This whole ban was lied into law 10 years ago, and it seems to me we can do better than lying again,” LaPierre told the Times.
Yesterday, CNN clarified which firearms are banned under the 1994 law and told viewers the ban is based on external features such as whether the weapon has a pistol grip or a flash suppressor.
A CNN anchor introduced yesterday’s broadcast by saying: “On this program on Thursday, we aired a live demonstration CNN set up with law-enforcement officials of a banned semiautomatic rifle and its legal counterpart. We reviewed that demonstration … and decided that a more detailed report would better explain this complex issue.”
“We caught them red-handed, in the act. Now they’re backpedaling,” LaPierre said after yesterday’s segment.
On Thursday, the camera showed bullets hitting a cinder-block target as the Broward County detective fired an AK-47 in semiautomatic mode. When the detective fired a legal semiautomatic firearm, the camera showed an undamaged cinder-block target.
On Friday, CNN admitted the detective had not been firing at the cinder block.
“In fact, if you fire the same caliber and type bullets from the two guns, you get the same impact,” Zarella said in yesterday’s broadcast.
According to the Times report, some law-enforcement officers called the NRA after viewing the CNN demonstrations saying they were “horrified that a law-enforcement official would mislead the public this way,” said “NRA Live” host Ginny Simone.
The Times reports Jenne is a former Democratic state legislator who supported an unsuccessful bill in the Florida Legislature in 2000 that sought to ban “assault rifles” using a broad definition that would have prohibited several types of rifles and many handguns.
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Wayne LaPierre is the author of “Guns, Freedom, and Terrorism,” published by WND Books and available at ShopNetDaily.