Featured image courtesy of Alex Brandon (AP)
In the wake of the Orlando shooting, many news outlets have now begun to focus on firearms in the United States, specifically, the AR-15. Many allege that the AR-15, which has a visual similarity to the Sig Sauer MPX Rifle which was used in the Orlando attack, allows shooters to fire at unreasonably fast speeds.
Gersh Kuntzman, the Deputy Managing Editor for the New York Daily News, set out to try the AR-15 rifle at Frank’s Gun Shop Double Tap Shooting Range in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In the article Kuntzman would later write, “What is it like to fire an AR-15? It’s horrifying, menacing and very very loud”, he claims that the owner, Frank Stelmach, doesn’t approve of American firearms laws.
“Stelmach is not like many gun lovers. He admires his weaponry, yes, and has difficulty explaining why law-abiding citizens need a gun that can empty a 40-round magazine in a few seconds. But he also hates the idea that “bad people” get a hold of a gun like this and use it to kill without difficulty.”
Stelmach himself refutes these claims, claiming on his Facebook page: “To our knowledge we did not know that Mr. Kuntzman would completely turn things around and make our establishment look like one of anti-gun advocates.” Unlike the claim in the article, Stelmach says he does not support mental health screenings for firearms similar to European firearm purchases, and claims that his words were twisted in a way to make them appear anti-gun and “blemish the face of all gun owners”. Frank Stelmach is currently attempting to take the article down, and his business is currently suffering due to quotations that he claims were twisted to fit the agenda of the New York Daily News.
Beyond the claims of cherry-picked quotations and inaccurate reporting, the report by Kuntzman about firing the AR-15 is what has drawn him the most criticism. “The recoil bruised my shoulder, which can happen if you don’t know what you’re doing. The brass shell casings disoriented me as they flew past my face. The smell of sulfur and destruction made me sick. The explosions — loud like a bomb — gave me a temporary form of PTSD. For at least an hour after firing the gun just a few times, I was anxious and irritable.”
Kuntzman’s claim that the recoil bruised his shoulder was a source of mockery online. The recoil energy of the .223 Remington or 5.56 x 45 NATO round ranges from 2.6 to 3.9 foot-pounds of energy, given a rifle weight ranging from 7 to 8.5 pounds, which is well within the average for an AR-15 rifle. To put foot-pounds of energy into perspective, Professor Tom Steiger of the University of Washington estimates a karate punch to have about 150 Joules of energy, or about 110 foot-pounds (the boxer Rocky Marciano reportedly had a 925 foot-pound punch for his overhand right punch when tested in 1955). Therefore, at its maximum, the rifle recoil would be, at most, 27.5 times lighter than a karate punch, 20 times lighter than an average punch from a male adult (estimated 80 foot-pounds), or 231.25 times lighter than a punch from the boxer Rocky Marciano.
Kuntzman’s claim that the bullet casings flew by his face would be illogical, as the ejection port (where the casings come out) on the AR-15 he was using appeared to be on the opposite side of his face. His claim that there was a smell of sulfur is unlikely, as modern smokeless powder (used in bullets) rarely use sulfur as a bullet propellant. Sulfur used to be common in gunpowder during the prior to the 20th century, where the formulation for black powder (a form of gunpowder) could be made with around 100 parts saltpeter + 18 parts coal + 16 parts sulfur, but could be made without sulfur with around 100 parts saltpeter + 24 parts coal.
As for the claim that the gun was “as loud as a bomb”, the sound level of an AR-15 rifle with an 18 inch barrel is estimated at 155 decibels. A one-pound bomb or grenade at the blast epicenter is estimated at 191 decibels. However, most prominent was his use of the term “PTSD”, which refers to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, the disorder that at least 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have. To use the term is wrong, disgraceful, and shameful, and Kuntzman later apologized for the use of the term.
Kuntzman later criticized those who criticized him for his article in, “To gun lovers, you can’t even have an opinion on assault rifles — unless it’s theirs. Here’s the proof”. To the credit of Kuntzman, many did liken him to a female, due to his complaints firing the AR-15. However, many of the comments Kuntzman would later make in that article drew criticism as well.
“At one time, “being a man” meant standing up for what you believe in — and against injustice. By that definition, we need more real men in power taking on bullies like the NRA, which seeks to bolster the Second Amendment by shutting down opponents’ right to the First. We can’t even debate guns in this country, thanks to the gun lobby.”
However, he neglects the fact that major media outlets have run articles on the gun debate, including: The New York Times, The International Business Times, Business Insider, The Economist, ABC, NBC, CNN, PBS Newshour, NPR Radio, NPR Online, Reuters, USA Today, CBS, Fox News, The New York Post, TIME, and others. The only evidence that firearms rights organizations were attempting to “[shut] down opponents’ right to the First” was when they were lobbying not to discuss firearms with doctors, not to eliminate the First Amendment in general.
Some contend that his most ignorant statement in the article was this: “But what if a weapons manufacturer could fashion a handgun that would fire a nuclear blast — an atomic version of an AR-15, if you will. It would look like a gun, but it could kill thousands instead of dozens. Like a rifle, it’s one of many arms that we are allowed to keep and bear. But would we really stand idly by as people buy a nuclear gun in the name of the Second Amendment?”
Under 18 U.S. Code § 841, nuclear weapons fall under the category of explosives, which are highly regulated. Under 18 U.S. Code Chapter 40, there are strict laws regarding explosives, including: permits, governments, regulatory requirements, registration, background checks, and punishments. The ability to fire a nuclear blast from a handgun would largely be illegal under 18 U.S. Code Chapter 40, fail testing under the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE), and likely the manufacturer would be raided by the United States government before work on the weapon would ever be completed. As well, the nuclear supply for the United States is tightly regulated and stored in government facilities under the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Energy.
Also, under the U.S. Supreme Court Case District of Columbia v. Heller, “Miller’s holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those “in common use at the time” finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons.” Miller refers to the U.S. Supreme Court Case United States v. Miller, where it was found that the only weapons protected under the Second Amendment were those “in common use at the time”.
Gersh Kuntzman attempted to publish an article on his experience firing an AR-15 rifle. This article contained inconsistencies, and the quotations used within are claimed to be taken out of context. The gunshop and firearms range owner he took the quotations from is also attempting to take the article down because of the inaccuracies he claims is harming his business. While the response to that article did use language that did have gender connotations, the comparisons in his article and the arguments and legal basis in his articles also are highly questionable.
Given this, it’s not difficult to see how some would feel that this article was worthy of contempt and disrespect, especially coming from a Deputy Managing Editor from a major syndicated news source.