Jennifer Barringer: New Jersey Forensics Firearm “Expert”
July 12, 2016 (Fault Lines) — The news media will find experts wherever they can, and tend to use some of the same people over and over again. That is the case with Fox News, who sought out Jennifer Barringer, as a supposed “forensics expert” to explain about the weapon that was used in the shooting of police officers at a Black Lives Matter protest.
On Thursday evening, July 7, 2016, the breaking story of the ambush and murder of Police officers in downtown Dallas was broadcast on the major TV channels in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Five police officers were killed and seven others wounded by Micah Johnson, a U.S. Army Reserve veteran who wanted to kill white police officers.
Johnson used an SKS rifle to do the killings according to most media reports. This is a rifle invented by the Russians at the end of World War II. It is a gas-operated semi-automatic rifle firing an intermediate powered cartridge, the 7.62×39 mm round, and is classified as a curio or relic by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The original SKS has a fixed ten-round magazine and is reloaded using stripper clips. Some more modern variants have 30 round detachable magazines.
So almost immediately, there were calls for banning assault weapons, after the shooting. The problem is that even if these were assault weapons (they are not), the SKS is not an assault weapon. It has more in common with the old U.S. M1 Garand than modern “assault weapons.”
But the networks needed to get someone on the air, quickly, to educate the public on the type of weapon used. So Fox News called upon Jennifer Barringer to appear as their expert. Barringer is a lawyer out of New Jersey who was on the defense team for both of Phil Spector’s murder trials and who consulted on the Casey Anthony defense team. In addition to being a lawyer, Barringer had been a news anchor in Germany for three years, so she did well on the small screen.
Sounds like a good idea, right? The network gets someone who will look good on camera, is an attorney who can explain the law, and is an expert on firearms.
Well, two out of three ain’t bad.
Barringer quickly proved that she knew nothing about either firearms or Texas. Fox News wanted to know what type of weapons were used in Dallas, and where someone could buy them. So Barringer pointed out that the sniper(s) could have used a hunting rifle, and that the only difference between a hunting rifle and an assault rifle was the scope. This is entirely incorrect, as if you were to read something like this article into How Thermal Scopes are working on today’s weapons, you can see that a scope can be integrated onto many different weapon types, and not just rifles or snipers.
That was the first mistake. Most hunting rifles are bolt action instead of semi-automatic and use a high powered cartridge instead of an intermediate powered one. Another thing is that some hunting rifles don’t need a scope, and some use an Aimpoint to assist, and they can just point and shoot, no aiming needed. Nevertheless, she was still incorrect. She then said that it could have been done very easily, so long as it was a “double-shot” weapon. It could have easily been done with a weapon that you can purchase at a grocery store.
“Double-shot” weapon? What the hell is that? I’ve been a police firearms instructor since 2000, and been involved with firearms training in the military since 1979. I’ve obviously heard of well-known terms like co witness sights, but I’ve never heard the term “double-shot” weapon, and a check with other firearms instructors showed that they had never heard of it either. And I’ve never seen a grocery store where you could buy a hunting rifle, with the possible exception of Wal-Mart (which is really much more than a grocery store, it sells everything from televisions to BBQ sets). For the most part, if you want a hunting rifle or something on par with what the snipers used the only good outlet is a licensed firearms store. Even airsoft guns which many use for outdoor sports can be seldom found outside of a licensed store like Fox. (Fox is a Colorado airsoft store, not the Fox News Network of course, unlike them I take steps to clarify important matters like these.)
Of course, the Fox anchor didn’t have a clue either, when she started to talk about being able to buy an adaptor that would turn a hunting rifle into an assault rifle. Barringer picked up on that and ran with it, saying that the anchor was right (she wasn’t) and that it would allow the rifle to shoot faster. Then she added that as long as your rifle has a clip and the bullet doesn’t have to be ejected in between shots, you can shoot rather quickly.
I ran out of hands to face palm.
You know, if you don’t know something about firearms, a law degree is not going to make you learn it by osmosis. All Barringer did is prove that she is a media whore, who is more interested on appearing on TV than on making sure that she didn’t mislead or confuse someone with bad information.
Of course, the internet went nuts over it.
And now, I’m going to have a double-shot of single malt scotch, to see if it will help get rid of this headache.
You see, my editor has this idea that when we lawyers write, or get on TV and talk, or whatever, we have an obligation to the public. That obligation is that we don’t make people stupider than they already are.
Barringer utterly failed at that goal.
 An assault weapon is a selective-fire rifle or carbine firing an intermediate powered round. It normally has a detachable magazine, a pistol grip, a flash suppressor. Since an assault weapon is capable of fully automatic fire, it is regulated as a machine gun in the United States.
 That’s not the only place Scott says that, it’s pretty much a consistent thread in his posts. But you’ll have to peruse his blawg on your own to find other examples.