Large-caliber guns, high-caliber weapons.

Unfortunately, news being what it is, I have often said that all reporters and copy editors — and editorial writers — should have completed at least basic training in the armed forces. That way they would know a bit about weapons and the military. What brings this up is an editorial in The Boston Globe, Sept. 5, 2017, headlined “Trump order will militarize police and sow fear.” I’m not arguing with the conclusions of the editorial, but it would have been more powerful if the writer knew what he or she was talking about when it came to guns.

It says, about Trump: ” An executive order lifts restrictions on surplus military gear, such as armored vehicles and large-caliber guns, provided to local police departments.” And later, about the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014: “Few images were as indelible as those with scores of the city’s law enforcement officers clad in body armor and camouflage, carrying high-caliber weapons, and flanked by armored vehicles.”

I bet that the editorial writer has absolutely no idea what would constitute a “large-caliber gun” or “high-caliber weapons.”

As far as I have ever seen, no police officer or SWAT team has has ever carried any rifle larger than a standard NATO 5.56 mm automatic rifle. That’s means a bullet a tiny bit larger than what would be .22 caliber, which people use for plinking tin cans or target shooting or rabbit hunting. OK, the standard police pistol is a larger caliber, but I’m sure the Globe accepts that. A larger caliber automatic might be a .50 caliber machine gun, but you’d have to search long and hard to find a police officer “carrying” one.

I’ve seen British cops patrolling Heathrow Airport terminals carrying familiar automatic rifles. And I’ve seen two Homeland Security officers, picking up take-out at a Boston lobster shack, and — I’m not making this up — each packing two standard police automatic pistols, one on each hip, like Hollywood western gunslingers. But they weren’t carrying anything that could be described accurately as “large-caliber guns” or “high-caliber weapons.”

File under: Don’t let imaginary weaponry ruin an editorial.

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