Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) got a lot of attention last week when he tweeted that Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) “stopped by today and we got a photo with my AR-15.” Buck included a photo that showed him and Gowdy holding an MSR that was painted red, white, and blue. The photo shows them standing in Buck’s Capitol Hill office in Washington, D.C.
The Tweet, which was widely covered by the news media, prompted the New York Daily News to report that Buck was “brandishing an assault rifle,” which is erroneous in two ways:
First, “brandishing” is a term used to describe someone who is displaying an object in a provocative and possibly threatening way. Buck was hardly doing that.
Second, an MSR is not an “assault rifle.” The term “assault rifle” is a military term for a handheld and fully automatic weapon—a machine gun. An MSR is a semiautomatic rifle—meaning the trigger has to be pulled for each and every shot.
The New York Daily News correctly reported that Buck didn’t break any laws, as Congress carved itself a legal exception to the gun ban and other restrictions in the District of Columbia. Additionally, according to Buck, the rifle is inoperable, and Capitol police granted him permission to keep it in his office.
Buck is not the only Congressman to like or keep guns in office. I learned this first-hand in 2000 when I was in Washington researching a story for Outdoor Life and interviewed Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) on Capitol Hill. When I entered his office, Peterson handed me a muzzleloader as he hefted his favorite deer rifle. He was very proud of his guns. “I had a reloader (to reload spent shotgun shells) in here once, too,” said Peterson, “but the Sergeant of Arms busted in and confiscated it. You see, the President was due to give a speech next door, so they brought in the bomb-sniffing dogs. And it being just a few days till pheasant season, I was loading some shells. When the dogs smelled the gunpowder, they went nuts. So that was the end of my reloader.”