Slate Publishes Gun-Control Fiction

Mark Warner shows a bump stock installed on an AR-15 rifle at Blue Ridge Arsenal in Chantilly, Virgina, on October 6, 2017. (Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

Lots of gun-policy wonkery to follow—but first, a confession and a wager. 

Confession: I am that guy who has to fight the urge to edit the entire Internet. Wikipedia articles on obscure off-Broadway shows I reviewed for The New Criterion a decade ago? I’m still correcting them. (No, the famous actor Morgan Freeman was not in Triassic Parq; “Morgan Freeman” was a character in the show, a narrator who later turned out to be a dinosaur in disguise. It made sense in the context of the show, which was a musical version of Jurassic Park told from the dinosaurs’ point of view. It was really good.) When Slate published a made-up quotation erroneously attributed to Donald Trump a few weeks ago, I bugged them about it, and they corrected it. My contempt for Donald Trump is bottomless, but I can’t abide a made-up quotation. I’m a writer and an editor. That’s my thing. Yes, I am an obsessive pedant, but, deep down—in places you don’t talk about at New York Times editorial meetings—you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.

I bring up the Slate example because I know from experience that Slate will correct an error—sometimes. And sometimes not. And—as much as it pains me to admit the fact!—this matters. Slate is sometimes sloppy and consistently biased (which is not the same thing as having a point of view), but when it comes to Mark Joseph Stern and the firearms beat, Slate is intellectually dishonest.* It publishes, and stands by, falsehoods. His recent column about the bump-stock case in front of the Supreme Court is full of made-up nonsense, and his editors at Slate know this. I know they know this because, me being me, I have explained it to them. I’ll get to the details—more details than you’ll probably want—below. 

But, first, I’d like to offer Slate and Stern a wager, one in a series of similar wagers I’ve offered over the years to people who make wild, ignorant, and factually false claims about the capabilities of certain firearms. Often, these assertions take the form of claims that a certain gun is capable of firing x number of rounds in y seconds. The first of these to trigger a wager offer from me came from a Pennsylvania state senator named Connie Williams; I offered the contents of my bank accounts vs. the contents of hers that she could not find a shooter walking the Earth—Olympic competitor, Philly mob guy, trigger-happy San Francisco police officer, whoever—who could actually make a certain gun do what she said it did. I was at the time the editor of a small-town newspaper, and Williams is the daughter of oil magnate Leon Hess, so, yeah, the pot was a little lopsided. But either you believe what’s coming out of your own mouth or you don’t. (Williams’ most recent role in public life was being nominated to the National Endowment for the Arts advisory board by Joe Biden.) Either facts matter or they don’t. 

And I think facts matter. What does Slate think?

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