More Media Misinformation: Machine guns used by criminals and arms smuggling from the United States

Oct 6, 2022 | Media Bias

As the Crime Prevention Research Center has pointed out many times, television crime shows seem to think criminals are constantly using machine guns to commit crime. In real life, criminals generally use machine guns so rarely that a 2016 survey of prison inmates only broke down the numbers for uses in crime of handguns (11.2%), rifles (0.8%), and shotguns (1.1%). There are few rifles, and the survey did not even mention fully automatic weapons. A similar finding is available from the FBI UCR report where 2.6% of all murders involve rifles of any type and 0.3% of all murders involve unspecified “other guns.” There is a reason for that. Since 1934, there was only one possible known use ever of a civilian using a machine gun in a murder. And even before 1934, they were very rare.

However, this episode of CBS’ FBI International is about Europe (specifically France), and, despite even semi-automatic guns being banned there, France has experienced many recent cases where many people have been murdered with machine guns (e.g., four mass public shootings in 2015 resulted in 150 murders and 532 casualties).

There is no evidence that any of these machine guns came from the United States. Even the Washington Post admitted that these machine guns are coming from within Europe a few years ago. The claim that high-tech weapons are being smuggled out of the US to these other countries is even more absurd.

This is a similar myth to the claim that Mexico’s crime guns are coming from the United States, though that is at least a little more believable. The claim that the United States is the source of Mexico’s crime guns is based on a misunderstanding of the data. According to data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, 70% of all criminally owned guns in Mexico come from the U.S., but these figures are based only on the limited number of guns Mexican authorities have seized, traced and submitted to the agency for checking. That’s a small subset of guns. For instance, Mexico submitted 11,000 guns to the ATF in 2007-08, though it seized 29,000 guns during that time. Of those, 6,000 were successfully traced and 90% of those traceable weapons came from the U.S. Thus by one estimate only about 17.6% of the firearms Mexico collected in total could be traced back to America.

“These kinds of guns—the auto versions of these guns—they are not coming from El Paso,” Ed Head, a firearms instructor in Arizona who spent 24 years as a U.S. Border Patrol agent, told Fox News. “They are coming from other sources. They are brought in from Guatemala. They are brought in from places like China. They are being diverted from the military. But you don’t get these guns from the U.S.”

Between 2005 and 2014, more than 13,000 grenades were seized by the Mexican government, and these simply can’t be bought in the U.S.. Are people going to claim that these grenades come from the US? If not, why don’t they understand these guns, particularly machine guns, are also not coming from the US.

Examples of similar television shows can be found here.

CBS’ FBI International 09202022 Season 2 Episode 1 US arms shipments Machine Guns

Here is a video on Hollywood’s bias against guns.

Shows from last season.

Amazon’s new “Reacher” Season 1, Episode 8 (February 3, 2022)

NBC’s Chicago PD (Season 9): E3, October 6, 2021

NBC’s The Blacklist (Season 9): Episode 10, January 10, 2022

NBC’s Endgame (Season 1): Episode 1, February 21, 2022.

NBC’s Law & Order SVU (Season 23): Episode 8 (November 11, 2021).

CBS’ The Equalizer (Season 2): E1, Oct 10, 2021E14 (April 10, 2022).

CBS’s “FBI: Most Wanted” (Season 3) E1 September 28th, 2021 & E2 September 28th, 2021Episode 12, February 1, 2022

CBS’ Magnum PI (Season 4): E18 (April 8, 2022).

CBS’s S.W.A.T. (Season 5) E1 October 1, 2021E2, Oct 08, 2021E7, December 3, 2021E10, January 10, 2022S5 E16 (April 10, 2022)

CBS’ FBI (Season 4): E17 (April 12, 2022)

CBS’s “FBI: International” (Season 1) E2, September 28th, 2021. In another “FBI: International” (S1 E1) criminals were shown carrying machine guns but not using them. E5, November 2,  2021E18 (April 26, 2022)

From past seasons, here are some of the shows with criminals using machine guns (this is not meant to be a complete list):

ABC’s The Rookie (Season 3): Episode 11 April 18, 2021; Episode 12 April 25, 2021; Episode 14 May 9, 2021Episode 3, January 17, 2021

NBC’s Law & Order: Organized Crime (Season 1): Episodes 1 & 2, April 1 and 8, 2021

CBS’s Bull (Season 5): E6, January 18 2021

CBS’s FBI Most Wanted (Season 2): E4 January 19, 2021E5 January 26, 2021.

CBS’ Coyote (Season 1): E2 January 7, 2021 and E5 January 7, 2021

CBS’ SWAT (Season 4): E7 Jan 13, 2021E8 January 27, 2021E9 Feb 17 2021

CBS’s Blue Bloods (Season 11): Episode 16, May 14, 2021

CBS’ Magnum PI (Season 3): E3 Dec 11 2020Episode 7, February 5, 2021

CBS’ The FBI (Season 3): E1 Nov 17 2020E4 Jan 24, 2021

CBS’s NCIS LA (Season 12): Episode 8, January 10, 2021

NBC’s Law & Order: Organized Crime (Season 1): Episodes 1 & 2, April 1 and 8, 2021

NBC’s The Blacklist (Season 8): Episode 1, November 13, 2020

NBC’s Chicago PD (Season 8): Episode 7, February 17, 2021

In last years’ season (2019-2020), we haven’t been keeping close track, but other recent examples include:

CBS’ SWAT (Season 3): E11 January 15, 2020; E21 May 20, 2020

In last years’ season (2019-2020), we haven’t been keeping close track, but other recent examples include:

CBS’ SWAT (Season 3): E11 January 15, 2020; E21 May 20, 2020

CBS’ FBI (Season 2): E12 January 14, 2020; Episode 18, March 24, 2020

Fox’s Deputy (Season 1): E1 January 2, 2020

FBI: Most Wanted (Season 1): Episode 4, January 28, 2020; Episode 6, February 18, 2020, Episode 9, March 24, 2020

Chicago PD (Season 7): Episode 10 January 8, 2020; Episode 16, March 4, 2020; Season 7, Episode 17, March 18, 2020; Episode 20, April 15 2020

Hawaii Five-O, Season 10, Episode 18, February 28, 2020; Episode 20, March 13, 2020; Episode 21, March 27, 2020

Magnum PI, Season 2, Episode 18, May 1, 2020

Blue Bloods, Season 10, Episode 19, May 1, 2020

The Blacklist, Season 7, Episode 18, May 8, 2020

Here is a list of shows from the 2018-19 television season that showed criminals using machine guns.

The Rookie (Season1): E2, E4, E9, E17, E20

Magnum PI (Season 1): E1, E15

Chicago P.D. (Season 6): E14