Mimesis Law
27 May 2022

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.


Figure 1. SKS rifle with 10-round stripper clip

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),[1] 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[2] 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.

Red State ran an article on it. At the Free Republic, one of the board members suggested banning “assault scopes.” It goes downhill from there.

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.[3]

Barringer utterly failed at that goal.

[1] 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.

[2] As far as I can tell, Barringer is currently suspended from the practice of law by New Jersey.

[3] 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.

15 Comments on this post.

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  • DaveL
    12 July 2016 at 12:49 pm - Reply

    Later reports indicate the shooter used an AK-74 variant, not an SKS.

    she started to talk about being able to buy an adaptor that would turn a hunting rifle into an assault rifle

    Pederson device?

    • Greg Prickett
      12 July 2016 at 2:15 pm - Reply

      At the time I wrote this, there was a total of one source that claimed it was an Izhmash-Saiga, every other source stated that it was an SKS.

      I don’t know, but I went the SKS, qualifying it with “most media reports.” An AK would be more useful than the SKS in my opinion, but a decently trained soldier can use a stripper clip to reload with no problem. In any event, the point of the post was not so much what Johnson used, but the complete lack of knowledge of firearms by Barringer.

      I doubt that any of the people on the news show would have any clue what a Pederson device was, especially from 100 years ago. They may have been talking about the bumpfire stock for either the AR or the AK, but there was no indication that this was the case. They certainly did not know what anything else was, so I’m kind of doubtful that they would know that, either.

      • maz
        12 July 2016 at 6:17 pm - Reply

        Anyone skimming the internet following the Orlando shooting had a good chance of seeing headlines to earlier articles on the bump stock;[1] if one didn’t bother to read the actual post — or if one read it without understanding it — it would be easy to come away from the surfing session believing there was some sort of magical yet legal ‘adaptor’ on the market that converted a semi-automatic to fully automatic firing. For instance, searching Google for “ar-15 rate of fire” returns on the first page of results:[2]

        “These Barely Legal Bump Fire Gadgets Can Make an AR-15 Fire …”
        “600 rounds per minute semi-auto AR15 – SlideFire stock (2nd firing …”
        “Slide Fire: This simple, legal add-on lets an AR-15 fire 900 rounds per …”
        “Shoot your AR-15 faster than ever with a Slide Fire Stock – Shooting …”

        along with a half-dozen or so hits from bump/slide stock vendors. Also in that first batch of results are a couple reviews of specialized trigger mechanisms — including one that converts the AR-15 into, ahem, a “double-shot” weapon by firing on trigger pull *and* on trigger release — that promise 600 rpm rates of fire.[3]

        Given one would have had to read the entry on the Franklin Armory “Binary Firing System” trigger to be able to characterize it as a ‘double-shot’ modification, in conjunction with the ‘expert’s’ other almost-but-not-quite-entirely-wrong assertions, has me favoring ‘read but not understood’ as the explanation.


        1. I know this because I was one of those people looking for information on AR-15 rates of fire a day or two following the Orlando shooting and, as a result, first learned of the existence of bump/slide fire stocks — which in turn resulted in my considering, for the first time ever and to the surprise and/or horror of virtually everyone to whom I’ve mentioned it, the purchase of an AR-15.

        2. Well, on *my* first page, at least, which I have configured to display the top 50 results.

        3. IIRC, immediately after Orlando, the bump fire and trigger posts were ranked even higher than they are today, as much of the first page is taken up with posts (a) mocking Alan Grayson’s claim the AR-15 fires 700 rounds per minute or (b) pointing out the AR-15 isn’t, technically speaking, an assault rifle.

        • Greg Prickett
          12 July 2016 at 6:26 pm - Reply

          I had heard about the Franklin system and had dismissed it as being a technical solution in search of a problem to fix. I will admit that I had never considered it to be a “double-shot” device, but could see where Barringer may have done so. It would fit with the rest of her knowledge, or rather lack of knowledge on the subject.

  • Natalie
    12 July 2016 at 2:58 pm - Reply

    Greg –

    Thanks for this outstanding deconstruction. Very instructive and entertaining.

  • MJR
    12 July 2016 at 3:13 pm - Reply
  • Jay
    12 July 2016 at 8:53 pm - Reply

    Please, an assault *rifle* is a selective fire rifle. An assault *weapon* is a term made up by politicians and the media to scare that part of the public who don’t know any better.

    • maz
      13 July 2016 at 9:49 am - Reply

      Pointless pedantry, unless you’re writing laws or issuing RFPs for the DoD. As I tried (and failed) to explain to another columnist here, in the real world things are more often classified based upon function than they are according to what they ‘officially’ are. We look for tomatoes in the ‘vegetable’ section of a produce stand, because for most people a tomato behaves more like a vegetable than the fruit it actually is; similarly, we don’t freak out to find strawberries and blackberries displayed alongside blueberries, even though only the last is actually a berry.

      Along the same line, it’s, ahem, a fruitless and condescending exercise to tell the general, non-gun-familiar public that a weapon designed to fire a round a second — let alone, modded, 300 or more rpm — *isn’t* an assault weapon. There are essentially two possible reasons for so high a rate of fire: One, it’s a hell of a lot of fun, or, two, to provide overwhelming firepower, either as part of an offensive attack or as suppressive, covering fire in support of offensive *or* defensive actions. That’s it. A hunter doesn’t bag a hundred turkeys or deer each minute, and outside of paranoid wet dreams and “Banshee,” virtually no one has ever *really* needed the ability to empty a 30-round magazine in under half a minute as a fundamental part of basic home and personal defense.

      A firearm designed expressly to empower or repel an assaulting force is, tautologically, an assault weapon; to argue otherwise simply because it may not check all four — or five, or six — boxes on whichever canonical definition of assault rifle one’s particular ballistic denomination believes divine is, at best, an utterly pointless and irrelevant exercise and, at worst, an arbitrary and intellectually lazy rationalization for ignoring opposing viewpoints. Yet, any time the topic of military-style weaponry capable of sustained high rates of fire comes up, inevitably there’s someone who pops up to say, you know, despite what these liberal idiots believe, the AR-15 *isn’t* an assault rifle — so obviously the rest of their concerns and issues are bullshit, as well.

      And don’t get me started on the critiques of ‘assault weapon’ — which, despite having been codified in a number of statutes, evidently is actually a meaningless term. Why? Well, because legislators simply strung together a handful of arbitrary characteristics and dubbed the resulting firearm an “assault weapon,” an expression equal parts blasphemy and litmus test. True believers, on the other hand, know the only meaningful phrase is “assault rifle,” a term of art encompassing a group of weapons that, um, share a *different* handful of arbitrary characteristics.

      Again, I have no issue demanding precision when precision is needed: If your goal is to write the next assault weapons ban or to ensure a certain class of firearms is exempt from the ban, then you damn well better be able to define precisely which ones you do or do not mean. At the same time, though, when you’re talking to the vast majority of U.S. citizens, the ones who neither own nor use a firearm, I would think a wise man would forego doctrinal purity in favor of meaningful communication — e.g., understanding what an assault weapon *is*, rather than what it is supposed to be….

      But still there are those who loudly insist the rest of the world should ignore the

      For all intents and purposes, whether semi- or fully automatic or selective fire, with rifled barrel or not, regardless of caliber or range, any firearm capable of sustaining so overwhelming a barrage *is* an assault weapon

      • shg
        13 July 2016 at 10:07 am - Reply

        That’s a lot of words to say you want to be Humpty Dumpty. Was it really worth murdering all those words to argue your right to believe what you want to believe?

        • David Meyer Lindenberg
          13 July 2016 at 2:20 pm - Reply

          I played this game with Maz a couple of weeks back. Poor words. They died for nothing.

      • DaveL
        13 July 2016 at 1:53 pm - Reply

        A firearm designed expressly to empower or repel an assaulting force is, tautologically, an assault weapon;

        See, I told you they were coming for our spears.

      • Greg Prickett
        13 July 2016 at 3:33 pm - Reply

        Maz, TL;DR, although I will admit I skimmed it.

        As far as I’m concerned, assault rifle = assault weapon, and both are Class III firearms.

        Of course, since I believe that the general public should be able to own fully automatic assault rifles, machine guns, cannons, etc., the way I use words here probably doesn’t fit your agenda. You see, my view is pretty much the same as the founders of both the U.S. and Texas. Neither wanted the tyrannical government that they were under to take away their cannons, in either Concord or Gonzalez. I think they were right.

        Are you saying that you don’t?

  • Jim Salling
    13 July 2016 at 7:15 pm - Reply

    This woman should be banned from public speaking, especially anything that has to do with firearms. She is an absolute disgrace to her profession….whatever that might be.

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