‘Facts First’ CNN Spreads Fake News About AR-15s

Chris Reeves
Posted: Feb 28, 2018 5:30 PM
‘Facts First’ CNN Spreads Fake News About AR-15s

CNN just can’t seem to stop spreading anti-gun propaganda lately. In the aftermath of last week’s abysmally biased pro-gun control “town hall,” CNN National Correspondent Gary Tuchman aired a segment on Monday evening’s broadcast of “Anderson Cooper 360°” that contained a litany of errors and misleading statements about the AR-15 and its variants.

Tuchman opened the fake news segment with a hilarious clip of him firing an AR-15 at a gun range while either heavily squinting or closing his eyes (not a great idea) before introducing General Mark Hertling to CNN’s audience:

GARY TUCHMAN: [narrating] This is what an AR-15 sounds like.

[TUCHMAN shooting the AR-15]

General Mark Hertling served in the U.S. Army for 37 years, so he knows what the AR-15, which used to be weapon of war, can do.

And he has strong feelings about the semi-automatic assault style rifle, which is the precursor to a weapon currently used by the military, the M4.

Hold up! We’re barely 20 seconds in and there are already a couple of problems.

First, the term “AR-15” is generally used to refer to civilian semi-automatic variants of the rifle that are produced and sold today. While it can also refer to the original fully automatic assault rifle invented by ArmaLite in the 1950s, this is usually done in historical discussions about the rifle (few people now own original AR-15 assault rifles). Thus, it’s a bit misleading to refer to the AR-15 as a “weapon of war” without clarifying what you’re talking about, as millions of Americans own AR-15s that are not and would not be used by active military personnel.

Furthermore, contrary to what Tuchman said in his intro, the semi-automatic version of the AR-15 is not the “precursor” to any weapon used by the American military, let alone the M4 carbine, which was developed from the M16A2 assault rifle. This is a pretty basic fact to get wrong, and is indicative of the general sloppiness of Tuchman’s report.

Back to the segment:

MARK HERTLING: The truth of the matter is, they look almost exactly the same.

TUCHMAN: [pointing to the guns] So this is the M4 military rifle.


TUCHMAN: This is the AR-15.

HERTLING: Right. […] A lot of people will buy this just because it’s cool and they want to appear like soldiers. […] If you’re a gun collector or a gun aficionado, and you want an AR-15, you can certainly buy one, and you should be able to buy one. The problem is when it gets in the hands of the wrong people.

So there’s nothing objectionable here, and the general obviously has a right to his own opinions about who should be able to legally own an AR-15. However, Tuchman had to cut back in again and start misinforming his audience:

TUCHMAN: [narrating] Originally built for the battlefield, a defining characteristic of the AR-15 is the speed and power of the bullet.

Tuchman didn’t bother to try to support his claim here with any evidence, so he’s probably repeating widespread Democratic talking points about the AR-15 being a uniquely powerful weapon. This propaganda is extremely ridiculous, to say the least. Anyone with even a basic level of firearms or ballistic knowledge knows that AR-15 type rifles and their military cousins fire either .223 or 5.56x45mm caliber rounds, which are some of the least powerful rifle cartridges around.

There are literally dozens of rifle calibers that are just as or significantly more powerful, including some pretty common ones for hunting, sporting, and self-defense guns, like .243 or .270 Win., 30-06 Springfield, 300 Win. Mag., 8mm Mauser, 7.62×54mmR, and 45-70 Government. Some of these rounds have been in use for a hundred years or more and are available in semi-automatic rifles that are functionally identical to civilian AR-15s (one shot per trigger pull).

And that doesn’t even get into insanely devastating rifle rounds that are much faster and more powerful than the .223 or 5.56x45, like the .50 BMG rounds, which can have over seven times the amount of force behind them after travelling 300 meters than 5.56 rounds do coming right out of the barrel of an AR-15.

(See either Hornady’s or Remington’s ballistic charts for the velocity and power of their ammunition if you want more detailed information.)

In short, CNN’s Tuchman has no idea what he’s talking about. 

But we haven’t even come to the best part yet, when General Hertling messed up and referred to the semi-automatic AR-15 as being able to fire in “full semi-automatic” (which is not a real thing):

[HERTLING firing slow, single shots]

HERTLING: Now those are single shots. If I wanted to fire this on full semi-automatic, all I do is keep firing. Now, I won’t probably hit the target when I do this, when we look at the target later on, but I’m going to fire about 5 shots.

[HERTLING fires 5 times rapidly]

TUCHMAN: [narrating] It’s a weapon designed to inflict maximum damage.

Oh no, not this again.

HERTLING: I’ve seen soldiers who have been hit by this weapon and enemies who have been hit by this weapon where it will literally tear out the inside of the body. I saw one soldier who was hit in a fratricide incident in the shoulder and the round came out his ass.

Anybody hit by a rifle bullet can be torn apart. Guns are dangerous when you shoot people with them. Hertling’s personal story sounds terrible, but it doesn’t prove anything about AR-15s being especially deadly.

Tuchman concluded the segment by setting up the general as somebody who was pro-Second Amendment, but wanted to see so-called “reasonable restrictions” on guns to prevent “dangerous” people or those without “a whole lot of training” from getting them easily:

TUCHMAN: [narrating] The general shares the prevailing opinion of this Tampa gun shop we’re visiting, the Shooting Sports Firearms Range, that the Second Amendment is sacred. But there is also agreement this weapon is definitely not for every gun owner.

HERTLING: In my personal opinion, you have to receive a whole lot of training to use this weapon. And this weapon in the wrong hands can be more dangerous than most weapons because of its capability to do a lot of damage in a short period of time and be irreversible.

Helpful note to CNN viewers: Getting shot with anything is irreversible, and expensive.

Hertling did later admit to his flub about the civilian AR-15 being “full semi-automatic” on Twitter, but tried to downplay it: