Search Results for: assault rifle


More Guidance On Describing The Weapon Used In Florida #

We can say it was an “AR-15 style” rifle. Or “a version of the AR-15.” But it was, specifically, a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 .223. Referring to it simply as an AR-15 is kind of like calling a Pontiac Firebird a Camaro because it looks so much like that Chevy. We can certainly also say he had a semi-automatic, assault-style rifle. Or just a semi-automatic rifle. Or just an assault-style rifle.

It’s problematic to refer to the weapon as “high-powered.” The cartridge used is too small to clearly fit that definition, which is generally applied to larger (.30 and above) ammunition. The AR-15-style weapon does so much damage because of the “high velocity” the bullets it fires can reach. That’s a label that can be useful.

It’s also problematic to refer to the magazines he was carrying as “high-capacity.” It’s unclear what size magazines he had, but referring to the standard 30-round magazine for an AR-15 as “high capacity” could be seen as taking a position on a debatable issue.

(“Memmos;” March 1, 2018)


Thank You, And A Few Things To Keep In Mind About The Las Vegas Mass Shooting #

The language we’ve been using about the mass shooting in Las Vegas has been precise and carefully attributed. Thank you.

Please continue to:

- Attribute the death toll and number of injured to police or other credible authorities. As you know, the numbers are expected to change. We need to keep reminding the audience where the figures are coming from and that we will be updating as needed.

- Characterize this as apparently the worst mass shooting in “modern” or “recent” U.S. history. As we’ve unfortunately been reminded in recent years, there were some horrible mass killings in the 1800s:

- Be careful about describing the weapon or weapons. As Steve Inskeep noted this morning, the gunshots sounded as if they came more rapidly than one person could pull a trigger. That could mean it was an automatic weapon or a rifle that was modified to be automatic. But as we’ve also noted before, the weapons used in mass shootings are almost always “semi-automatic.” We should get our guidance from the police and other investigators. Keep in mind, though, that even the authorities sometimes make mistakes in the early hours of investigations.

We should also keep in mind that the guns used in such shootings are sometimes “assault-style,” but almost never “assault” weapons. There’s more guidance about how to describe weapons here:

The AP Stylebook has a substantial entry for “weapons” that has good guidance. If you’re on our intranet, you can get to the Stylebook here:


- Here’s An Effective Way To Talk About The Deaths And Injuries

It’s possible that many of the people injured in Las Vegas were hurt not by gunshots, but during the rush to escape the scene. It’s also possible some people died from such injuries. The Two-Way has done a good job describing what is known at this hour and its approach can be adapted for other platforms. It wrote that the gunman:

“Fired down upon thousands of people attending a music festival Sunday night, in a brutal attack blamed for at least 58 deaths, police say. In the mass shooting and panic that ensued, some 515 people were injured.”

- On ‘Automatic’ Weapons

While we should NOT say whether the weapons used in Las Vegas were or were not “automatic” because that information has not surfaced yet, we also should be careful NOT to flatly say that automatic weapons are illegal. Their availability is severely restricted, but there are legal ways to obtain such weapons, including in Nevada. Here’s more on that:

(“Memmos;” Oct. 2, 2017)


Guidance: Specifics About Weapons #

There has been a lot of great work this week about another disturbing news event; the mass shooting in Orlando. Thank you.

As much as we hope “this is the last one,” we have to think about things we’ve learned in case they come up again.

This brings us to weapons.

Posts after earlier mass shootings have discussed why we need to be very careful when describing them.

We’ve said that:

“Until we have solid information from the authorities, we need to be careful about descriptions of those weapons. Words to avoid unless we are sure of them include: ‘automatic,’ ‘semi-automatic,’ ‘assault’ and ‘assault-style.’ They are often misused.”

We’ve cautioned that:

“To many in the audience, ‘assault rifles’ are fully automatic weapons that cannot be legally purchased. At this point, it’s better to refer to the rifles used in San Bernardino as ‘assault-style.’”

Everyone’s done a good job applying that thinking. Thank you. Here’s what we’re adding to the guidance:

Until there are on-the-record statements from officials in charge of an investigation, or until we have heard from multiple, reliable sources with direct knowledge and the reporting has been vetted with senior editors, do not go into specifics about the types of weapons or their manufacturers. It will often be enough to say, for example, that the gunman had a “rifle and handgun.” As more details come in, “assault-style” may be important to add. Or, perhaps “semi-automatic” if we’re absolutely sure that’s correct.

When we eventually get into specifics, attribution is essential – “said Police Chief John Doe” or “said three law enforcement officials with directly knowledge of the investigation.”

The message here is simple. The details about the weapons will emerge. But in the early hours and perhaps days after a mass shooting, the exact make and model and manufacturer are not at the top of the list of things we need to nail down. And, frankly, if we try to be too precise before all the facts are in, we run the risk of being wrong.

Think of it this way: If the story is that someone with a rifle killed or injured dozens of people in a matter of minutes, it’s clear a powerful weapon that could be rapidly fired was used. Whether it was made by one company or another and exactly which model it was doesn’t immediately change the story or add substantially to the audience’s understanding of what happened.

Again, thanks for the hard work and for applying previous guidance notes.

(“Memmos;” June 17, 2016)


Here’s A Way To Stop Me From Nagging You #

Because some words and phrases come up often, because there are new folks on most desks and shows, because some people have shifted jobs in recent months and because many of us have lousy memories, a reminder is in order.

We have guidance on a wide variety of words and phrases that need to be handled carefully. The guidance should be used.

For instance:

– Do we say “abortion clinics?” No. We refer to “clinics that perform abortions.” Read more.

– “Illegal immigrants?” “Undocumented immigrants?” No and no. We prefer action phrases such as “people in the country illegally.” Read more.

– “Assault rifle?” Probably not. In most cases it’s “assault-style.” Read more.

– “Migrants” or “refugees?” They aren’t interchangeable. Read more.

– “Gay marriage?” No. “Same-sex marriage” is the phrase to use. Read more.

– “Islamic terrorists?” No. The word to use is “Islamist.” Read more.

There are several places to go to find such guidance. We all should read through them occasionally to see what’s there, refresh our memories and head off annoying notes from editors. The resources include two that are open to the public:

The Ethics Handbook.

The “Memmos.”

More is posted on our radio and digital style guides – which remain, for now at least, inside our Intranet. It’s not that hard to get to them. They’re just a couple clicks away. Go to the Intranet, click on the little “link” icon in the top left corner and a dropdown box will appear. Then click on “Wiki.” Note: There are “radio” and “digital” guides mostly because some things need to be spelled out or expressed slightly differently depending on the platform.

You’ll find our link to the AP Style Guide is there as well.

If you’re outside our Intranet, the RAD team or I can see if there’s guidance on your issue.

Other suggestions:

- Walk over and look at the white wall by Newscast. There’s quite a bit of information on it.

- Talk to the journalists here who have already thought through the issue you’ve got. The Science Desk, for example, comes to mind on subjects such as climate change and abortion.

(“Memmos;” Feb. 19, 2016)


A Thanks And Two Reminders On Describing Weapons And Adding Sources To ‘Reportable’ Notes #

Many thanks to everyone for the care that’s been taken with the information coming in from San Bernardino. Our language has been precise, we’ve added important context and we’ve been clear about what’s known and what isn’t.

The “reportable” and “guidance” notes from editors and reporters have been extremely helpful. One thing: Please remember to include language about the sources of that information. It’s very important that we be able to tell listeners and readers where we’re getting our information.

Also, please continue to be careful about descriptions of the weapons. To many in the audience, “assault rifles” are fully automatic weapons that cannot be legally purchased. At this point, it’s better to refer to the rifles used in San Bernardino as “assault-style.”

But again, thanks. We’ve gotten many messages such as this one posted on Facebook:

“Thank you for reporting only the facts while others in the media build a frenzy just to be the first with ‘new information’, credible or not.”

From October:Take Care When Describing Weapons.”

(“Memmos;” Dec. 3, 2015)


Take Care When Describing Weapons #

As we cover news about the mass shooting in Oregon, we will get reports and see reports about the weapons that were used.

Until we have solid information from the authorities, we need to be careful about descriptions of those weapons. Words to avoid unless we are sure of them include: “automatic,” “semi-automatic,” “assault” and “assault-style.” They are often misused.

Obviously, the shooter had “guns.” It is being reported that he had both “handguns” and a “rifle.” Those are good words because of their breadth. It is best to stick to such words until authorities release details.

The AP Stylebook has a substantial entry for “weapons” that has good guidance. If you’re on our intranet, you can get to the Stylebook here:

We also have hard copies of the Stylebook. There’s one with The Two-Way team and others with copy editors Susan Vavrick, Amy Morgan and Pam Webster.

(Memmos; Oct. 2, 2015)