National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent relied on a false and outdated report frequently promoted by conspiracy theorists to claim that no assault weapons were used in the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. In fact, Connecticut authorities have stated that all of the Newtown victims were shot with a Bushmaster AR-15 assault weapon, with some victims receiving up to 11 gunshot wounds.
In a February 13 column for birther website WND, Nugent wrote, “No so-called assault weapon was used in the grisly murders of the children and teachers in Newton,” and instead suggested that four handguns were used to kill 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School. CNN recently promoted Nugent as having a “very firm grasp of the facts” about gun violence.
From Nugent's column:
Newsflash for he the sheeple Redcoat Piers: No so-called assault weapon was used in the grisly murders of the children and teachers in Newton, Conn. NBC has reported the butcher used four handguns, and though we can all agree that anything reported by the networks and so much of the media should be disbelieved out of hand, even if the Bushmaster modern sporting rifle were used in the demonic slaughter of innocents, semi-automatics are not “assault weapons.” Period.
On December 15, one day after the Newtown shooting, NBC incorrectly reported that only handguns had been recovered from Sandy Hook Elementary. By that evening NBC Nightly News noted that “most of the shots fired inside the school came from an assault-style rifle” and on the December 16 edition of Today Show, NBC correspondent Pete Williams reported that “The medical examiner in Newtown says the children were each shot several times, all with an assault-style rifle.” All other major news outlets have likewise reported that the shooter used a Bushmaster assault weapon.
Lt. J. Paul Vance, who is the spokesperson for the Connecticut State Police, has addressed rumors that the Newtown shooter had used handguns and not an assault rifle, stating, “It's all these conspiracy theorists that are trying to mucky up the waters”:
Lt. J. Paul Vance, the face of an ongoing Connecticut State Police investigation into worst grade-school shooting in U.S. history, Thursday debunked media and Internet reports that Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza killed his victims with handguns and not the Bushmaster XM-15 E2S rifle that has been a focus of a proposed federal assault-weapons ban.
All 26 of Lanza's victims were shot with the .223-caliber semi-automatic rifle, said Vance, who bristled at claims to the contrary during an interview with Hearst Connecticut Newspapers.
“It's all these conspiracy theorists that are trying to mucky up the waters,” said Vance, the longtime state police spokesman.
Multiple Second Amendment and gun-owner websites have attempted to cast doubt on whether the Bushmaster XM-15, a type of AR-15 rifle that is currently legal, was used in the Dec. 14 carnage done by Lanza.
Indeed, the NBC News segment Nugent cited has been used to stoke such conspiracies.
Nugent's argument that firearms like the Bushmaster “are not 'assault weapons'” is also false. Before the gun industry attempted to rebrand assault weapons as “modern sporting rifles” in 2009, gun manufacturers, firearms enthusiasts and advocates for an assault weapons ban all used the term “assault weapon” to specifically refer to military-style semi-automatic rifles, like the one used in the Newtown massacre.
In his column, Nugent also claimed, “The AR-15 has more in common with a common .22 semi-automatic squirrel rifle than a military assault weapon.” This statement is highly misleading as the AR-15 was directly derived from the military standard issue M16 rifle. As one 1985 advertisement for a Colt AR-15 put it, “The AR-15A2 Sporter II is the civilian version of the battle proven and recently improved U.S. military M-16A1.” Furthermore, while the .223 caliber ammunition commonly used in AR-15 rifles and the 5.56mm ammunition used by M16 rifle are quite similar, the ammunition used by a .22 caliber hunting rifle is quite different and has a much lower velocity and penetrating ability.