This morning, William Coleman, a 20-year veteran deputy of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, was killed in a shootout with a burglary suspect. While this loss of a deputy is certainly tragic news, especially for his loved ones, I wouldn’t normally find myself feeling the need to write a blog about it.
Today, however, I found myself a little tweaked by the following statement made by Sheriff Joe Arpaio during an interview on the shooting:
“The suspect carried a semiautomatic rifle,” Arpaio said. “Coleman wore a vest, but such vests are no match for such weaponry,” he said.
In my opinion, what the Sheriff said is, at best, a flub. At worst, it is irresponsible. I’m just not sure which. I certainly hope it was just a poor choice of words.
All that “semiautomatic” means is that a shooter has to pull the trigger once for each round fired, with the firing action clearing and reloading the chamber. It doesn’t mean “machine gun” (i.e., automatic) or “select-fire” (i.e., has the option for auto or semi-auto). It doesn’t mean “big scary gun that randomly sprays bullets at nuns and orphans.” Nor does it mean “shoots through schools.” In this instance, it seems to me that calling a rifle “semiautomatic” is really no more responsible or accurate than calling it an “assault” rifle (which really only means “really scary-looking” to the public).
I hope that the Sheriff is not using “semiautomatic” in the way that the media often uses it (i.e., as a multi-syllabic buzzword designed to scare the shit out of an already hoplophobic public). I don’t imagine a lot of burglars are using bolt-action rifles or muzzle-loaded Revolutionary War relics these days.
HackerHaus’ Rule of Thumb: The more syllables used to describe a firearm, the more afraid you are supposed to be. Which sounds scarier? “Pistol” or “Semiautomatic Hand-Cannon?”
Is the Sheriff actually suggesting that such vests are useless against pretty much all rifles? Or was this just a slip of the tongue? Was he actually referring to the high-powered or penetrating qualities of the ammunition used?
A gun being “semiautomatic” has nothing to do with the penetrating power of the ammunition, nor do scary looks equal “dangerous.” I really hope the Sheriff a) knows this and b) isn’t trying to use inflamed rhetoric to scare the citizens of Maricopa county.