Kevin D Williamson Makes Bet Challenging Slate’s Bump Stock Claims

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AP Photo/Allen Breed, File

Conservative writer Kevin D. Williamson is apparently one of those people who, like myself, can’t stand people who don’t get things right. Even if I can’t stand the person being misrepresented, I still try to correct the misrepresentation, which Williamson does too.

I get it.

But in a recent piece over at The Dispatch, Williamson really has to take Slate to task for a recent piece on bump stocks.

Much of it is basically the anti-gun hysteria of how a bump stock turns a stock AR-15 into a machine gun. Williamson addresses Slate much like how I addressed Vox recently on the topic.

But there’s a particular part that I happen to think is truly glorious. You see, Williamson is offering up a bit of a wager for Slate involving their claims.

So, the wager: Among the other claims, Stern in his Slate article claims that an AR-15-style rifle fitted with a bump stock can fire 800 rounds of ammunition in 60 seconds. This is, of course, horses—t, as I have explained to the folks over at Slate in one of my usual exasperated emails. Before I get to the firearms-specific stuff, I should note the basic statistical error there, i.e., the conflation of rate and total. A cheetah can run 80 miles per hour, but that doesn’t mean that it can run 80 miles (say, from the Staten Island ferry terminal to the Rocky steps in Philadelphia) in an hour. A cheetah can run 80 miles per hour—in short bursts, not for an hour. Even assuming a rate of fire of 800 rounds per minute, that does not mean that we would see, as Stern writes, “innocent civilians … torn apart by 800 bullets in a minute” as “800 rounds spray out of the barrel in 60 seconds.” 
SlateI read, had its best financial year ever in 2023—congratulations!—and its parent company rejoices in about $4 billion a year in revenue. I don’t do $4 billion a year. I do have an extensive and fairly valuable collection of firearms, and Slate has a pile of money, so I’ll bet my entire gun collection against $5 million from Slate that it cannot produce a shooter who can get 800 rounds out of a commercially available AR-style rifle fitted with a bump stock in 60 seconds. (Let’s specify: any AR-style 5.56mm semiautomatic rifle you can buy from Riflegear, Grab-a-Gun, or Scheels, along with any number of magazines of whatever capacity you can buy from any retailer, 800 rounds of Winchester 55 Grain FMJ M193 ammunition, and any bump stock model legally sold in the United States prior to the current ban. I think those are straightforward enough terms.) I’ll provide the rifles and ammunition or buy new gear if Slate prefers. I’ll provide the shooting range. And I’ll add to the pot: If Slate wins the bet, I will trade in my beloved truck for a Prius, throw in $100,000 to the gun-control advocates of Slate’s choice, and get the Everytown for Gun Safety founder Mike Bloomberg’s face tattooed on my ass. 
Because, contrary to what Slate claims, ain’t nobody going to put 800 rounds through that rifle in 60 seconds. 
Hillary Frey is Slate’s editor-in-chief. What do you say, Hillary Frey? Do you believe what you publish in Slate, or don’t you?

Now, it seems pretty clear that Williamson isn’t expecting anyone at Slate to take him up on the wager. He figures they know their claim is utter BS and they’re just telling their readers what they want to hear.

I figure he’s probably right on this, but holy crap, it would be glorious to see literally anyone at Slate try to accept the challenge.

As Williamson notes, the “800 rounds a minute” doesn’t mean the rifle will shoot 800 rounds in a single minute. There’s absolutely no way to keep it loaded for a full minute without any interrruptions so it could shoot 800 rounds. He likens it to saying a cheetah can run 80 miles per hour. They can, but they’re not going to run 80 miles in an hour. They’re capable of that for short bursts.

Much like the rate of fire from a bump stock.

And honestly, I think most people understand that. It’s the people that don’t, however, that represent a problem. It seems Slate’s writer claimed a bump stock could be used to kill hundreds of people in a single minute when, really, that’s unlikely.

Take the horrific events of the Route 91 massacre. The killer had dozens of AR-style rifles equipped with bump stocks. He was firing from an elevated position into a crowd that was fairly tightly packed. 

He killed 61 people, which is a lot, but it wasn’t the hundreds Slate claims is possible, yet the killer had just about every advantage a homicidal maniac could hope for. Why didn’t he?

Because Slate, like most anti-gun rags, aren’t as worried about the reality of these things as they are in providing a perception that they’re capable of mowing down legions of innocent people in the blink of an eye.

Williamson can offer his wager with confidence because literally no one at Slate has the testicular fortitude to try and take him up on it. Like he said, I figure they know they’re pushing BS. They just don’t figure their regular readers are interested in challenging them on it.

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