The National Rifle Association has tweeted a gun gaffe, which, by the rules of gun debate set out by the NRA itself, means the organization has disqualified itself from talking about guns, forever. The gun rights crowd -- including the NRA's Wayne LaPierre -- have repeatedly insisted that people who don't know basic gun trivia shouldn't get to talk about guns. "The media calls semi-automatic weapons a 'machine gun,'" LaPierre sneered in his post-Newtown shooting press event. (Machine guns are fully automatic.) While interviewing former NRA president Marion Hammer, NRA News host Ginny Simone* scoffed at the gun-grabbers' ignorance: "And they even admit this is about banning the ugliest guns; it’s about cosmetics and it has nothing to do about how a firearm works...." By those standards, they need to shut down their Twitter account, or just stick to talking about what they're having for lunch and watching on TV because on Wednesday they tweeted something which displayed fundamental ignorance of the basic definition of a gun.
"The worst mass murders in this country’s history have been committed with things other than firearms #StopFeinstein," the NRA account tweeted Wednesday morning. Whoa, what could the NRA be talking about? Was this an Oliver Stone-esque reference to nuking Hiroshima? A long-forgotten ax murder case? No. During Sen. Diane Feinstein's hearing on adopting a new assault weapon ban, the NRA account has been returning to the point that regular old handguns, and not big assault weapons, have been used in mass shootings. (The argument is not that handguns are massively deadly but rather banning assault weapons won't prevent mass shootings.) A few minutes after the firearms tweet, the NRA tweeted, "The worst mass shooting in our history was at VA Tech & it was done with a 10-rd handgun & 15-rd handgun - no assault weapons or 100-rd mags."
Wait a minute, guys. This is a basic nomenclature error. A handgun is a firearm. "A firearm is a portable gun that launches one projectile or more at high velocity through the confined burning of a propellant," says Wikipedia, which uses a photo of a Glock 17 pistol to illustrate the concept. Merriam-Webster defines a firearm as "a weapon from which a shot is discharged by gunpowder —usually used of small arms."
Look, we didn't set the rules of the gun debate. The NRA did. And by its own rules, the NRA is not qualified to discuss guns. No more testimony before Congress, no more Sunday show appearances. Sorry guys. It's a tough game you play.
*Correction: This post originally attributed a quote to NRA President Marion Hammer that was actually said by Ginny Simone, who was interviewing Hammer for an NRA-produced radio show.