The Media’s Hair-Trigger AR-15 Obsession

by Alec Torres

The news media seemed to seize on one particular aspect of Monday’s reprehensible shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.: reports that the shooter had used an AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle that’s supposedly the weapon of choice of mass killers. Several news stations mistakenly reported that Alexis had arrived at the Navy Yard with an AR-15, and that his body was found with a shotgun, a pistol, and that particular rifle. The FBI now says that he used a shotgun and two pistols, and no AR-15 at all. The lack of hard information didn’t stop the moral panic, and none of the below outlets have bothered to retract their claims.

The New York Daily News:  The paper featured the gun as the main story on its Tuesday cover.

One of the stories inside, by Mike Lupica, was entitled “AR-15 is the rifle for the ‘sport’ of hunting humans” and catalogued the various instances in which the AR-15 was used in mass shootings.

CNN: Piers Morgan repeatedly claimed that the AR-15 was used in the shooting, at times berating gun-rights activists who attempted to counter his arguments.

Morgan has not retracted his claims, though CNN has reported on the confusion.

MSNBC: On Tuesday, MSNBC contributor Joy-Ann Reid, commenting on the shooting, lamented the popularity of the AR-15.

An animated recreation of the attack shown by MSNBC on Tuesday afternoon depicted Alexis using an AR-15 with a grenade launcher attached. (No reports have indicated that a grenade launcher or anything like it were used.)

The Daily Mail: All the way over in the U.K., the Daily Mail wrote on Tuesday that Alexis “used three guns during the massace, one of them an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle – the same weapon used in the Sandy Hook and Aurora mass shootings.”