It is no secret that journalists contribute to the culture of fear in America in order to draw their audience’s looking balls, and by doing so to make money.
So it is not surprising that in the wake of the Orlando massacre several journalists got the same great idea of going out to buy a rifle to see how long it would take them. One in Philadelphia took just 7 minutes!! One in Orlando took 38 minutes!! Neil Steinberg of the Chicago Sun-Times tried to buy one but was subsequently turned down by the gun shop which had uncovered his alcoholism and prior charges of domestic battery and interfering with the reporting of a domestic battery. (Note: As he was never convicted of the charges, he did not lie on the ATF form 4473 and probably passed his FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System [NICS] background check. The gun store canceled the sale for their own reasons.)
I’m not going to post the links to these stories and support their efforts, but you probably heard about them.
The journalist who most caught my attention, however, was Gersh Kuntzman of the New York Daily News. As has been reported by others, like John Richardson, after Orlando Kuntzman hurried out to a gun store with a writer and videographer in tow to experience shooting an AR-15.
This is an entirely valid activity, and as Rachael Larimore wrote in Slate recently, something that more journalists who cover guns should do to familiarize themselves with that which they will be attacking. Er, I mean, reporting on. (Note that even in her story Larimore refers to those who favor gun rights as journalists’ “opponents.”)
But Kuntzman’s column, oh, his column. So dramatic.
The operative passages:
I’ve shot pistols before, but never something like an AR-15. Squeeze lightly on the trigger and the resulting explosion of firepower is humbling and deafening (even with ear protection).
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 was rightfully taken to task for demeaning the experience of those who actually have PTSD, and in an update to his column he apologizes for this:
UPDATE: Many people have objected to my use of the term “PTSD” in the above story. The use of this term was in no way meant to conflate my very temporary anxiety with the very real condition experienced by many of our brave men and women in uniform. I regret the inarticulate use of the term to describe my in-the-moment impression of the gun’s firepower, and apologize for it.
Kuntzman also rightfully questions those who tried to shame him by comparing him to a woman/girl/part of the female anatomy. At a time when (at least parts of) gun culture is trying to become more inclusive of women, this type of misogyny is still too common in gun culture (though of course Kuntzman had already forfeited his ability to criticize it in a credible way).
But all this notwithstanding, what continues to bring me back to Kuntzman is the absolutely hilarious collection of memes that have sprouted up on the World Wide Web mocking his overly dramatic response to firing an AR. Not the implicitly anti-woman ones or the blatantly homophobic ones, but other funny ones like the following.
Thanks to those who created these memes. I am happy to give credit where credit is due. Please let me know.