Rumours and misinformation quoted as fact in the name of “counter terrorism”. How one store fell prey to media spin and the ATF

Before even mentioning the quite obviously overhyped media spin that’s apparently called news on King5 (as found here and also reported here) which concerned an incident with Airsoft Outlet NW, it was appropriate to wait for the affected retailer to post up their thoughts on what’s gone on.

First here’s the original article that was posted on King5:

by KING5.com
Posted on February 24, 2010 at 1:46 PM
******

TACOMA, Wash. – U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seized a shipment of 30 machine guns that arrived in an ocean container at the Tacoma Seaport last October.

Officials say the shipment of M-4 automatic rifles, manifested only as "Toys and Parts," was valued at nearly $10,000 and was shipped from a manufacturer in Taiwan.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms found that the rifles were tooled to shoot plastic balls, but replacement of internal components with original machine gun components would render the rifles capable of firing live ammunition.

"These rifles could have had far-reaching and potentially devastating ramifications if they had gotten into the hands of individuals who wanted to do harm in the American population," said Customs and Border Protection Area Port Director, Rolando Suliveras, Jr. "This was a good interception by our officers."

The guns will be destroyed. (KING5.com)

To the skim reader that might sound like a good bit of news, after all terrorists were stopped importing illegal firearms, weren’t they?

Sadly this story is not about real firearms, but a shipment of airsoft WE M4 GBB replicas. From that single point of misinformation the author has then hypothesised what might happen should ne’er-do-gooders get hold of the believed killing machines that were being imported. It does somewhat remind me of a poor scientific hypothesis based on two points of collected data on a graph.

Complex import laws and the ATF’s seemingly irregular implementation of such legislation provides the perfect springboard for media channels to promote doom and gloom for their latest terrorist related story.

The victim of this media spin is Airsoft Outlet NW, a home grown store trading legally within the US. There’s now been a response from Airsoft Outlet NW. As you’d expect it is a well written article and explains a bit more about what was going on in the background:

We had 30 WE TTI M4 GBBR’s seized by the Port of Tacoma customs because they thought they were "machine guns". This is our response.

You can read their full response after the break and on their website here.

Here’s the story covered in their local TV channel:

There’s also a discussion about this in the news forum here.

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