Conservatives across the nation are gleefully pouncing on another Colorado Democrat who said something stupid during the debate over guns. In clearer terms than previous incidents, this latest gaffe from Rep. Diana DeGette, as we'll explain, could be the worst one yet from any Democrat. Huffington Post reports as charitably as can be:
Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) is feeling the heat from gun advocates after offering a confusing argument for a federal ban on high-capacity magazines that she has twice sponsored.
Speaking at a Denver Post forum on gun control Tuesday, DeGette pushed for legislation that would prohibit the future sale of ammunition-loading devices that hold more than 10 bullets. Noting that Colorado had recently passed a ban on magazines capable of holding more than 15 rounds, DeGette suggested existing devices that are grandfathered into the laws would lose functionality after being used.
"I will tell you these are ammunition, they’re bullets, so the people who have those now they’re going to shoot them, so if you ban them in the future, the number of these high-capacity magazines is going to decrease dramatically over time because the bullets will have been shot and there won’t be any more available,” she said, according to the Denver Post.
Alright, so, we can start by agreeing that this is one of the dumbest things we have heard in the debate over gun safety legislation from either party at any level. As anyone who has ever handled (or even seen a photo of) a magazine-fed firearm in their lives knows, they are very much reusable, not at all like "ammunition" which is expended, and though it's true that the point of the magazine limit is to reduce the availability of these magazines over time, it's not because "the bullets will have been shot." If you have even the most casual understanding of the issue, and you did not cringe when Rep. DeGette uttered these nonsensical words, you weren't paying attention.
And we're sorry to tell you, folks: it gets even worse.
Seeking clarification for DeGette's remarks from her office, Denver Post reporter Allison Sherry got this quote from spokesperson Juliet Johnson:
"The congresswoman has been working on a high-capacity assault magazine ban for years and has been deeply involved in the issue; she simply misspoke in referring to 'magazines' when she should have referred to 'clips,' which cannot be reused because they don't have a feeding mechanism," Johnson said.
Actually, clips in most guns can be reused as well…
That's right: in defense of Rep. DeGette's absurdly inaccurate statement about magazines, her staff doubled down on the absurdity. There's really no saving her from the criticism she's receiving at this point, and as the prime sponsor of federal legislation limiting magazine capacity, mangling this elementary point about the legislation in such detail can fairly be considered a major disaster for her credibility. Sugar-coating this fact helps no one.
Today, in addition to the Denver Post's blistering news story about DeGette's gaffe, an editorial rips her for hurting proponents of an issue that they at least nominally support. It reminds us distinctly of the editorial/news story combination punch state Sen. Evie Hudak received after her remarks about guns being statistically unhelpful to crime victims. In both cases, the Denver Post fact-checked these Democratic women with a vigor and thoroughness that, we'll be the first to say it, is admirable.
What's puzzling, though, is why only Democrats seem to be getting this treatment.
We and others have documented in this space repeated instances of Republicans saying things about proposed gun safety bills that are every bit as ludicrous as what DeGette said and more. There was the warning from numerous Republican Colorado legislators that requiring background checks would "criminalize the private transfer of firearms." That limiting magazine capacity would "ban all magazines." Sen. Kent Lambert claiming that Colorado's new laws have "effectively banned gun ownership," and that guns will be "confiscated or taken away here over the next couple of years." We could go on and on with examples of Republicans' wholesale lying about these bills. Nonsense on the same order of DeGette's at least, but we have yet to see it called out with the same rigor. Meanwhile, the newsroom and editorial board compete to scrutinize Democrats' every word?
Again we will say, as we did about Sen. Hudak's gaffe, that we support rigorous fact-checking. That's journalism at its best. The problem is, when you're only fact-checking one side, and letting the other side get away with brazenly lying with impunity, your "fact-checking" will unfairly build a case only against the one side.
And that's not "journalism" at all, folks.