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I tried to fire a TEC-9, but it took control

Firearms including Tec-9's other assault weapons are displayed by police after gun buyback program Los Angeles 2009.  |

Firearms including Tec-9's and other assault weapons are displayed by police after a gun buyback program in Los Angeles in 2009. | AFP/Getty file photo

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Updated: September 6, 2012 6:20AM

In 1989, I came close — we’ll never know how close — to shooting a producer and cameraman with a TEC-9 assault weapon.

We were at a suburban gun range with a law-enforcement agent doing a story on how semiautomatic weapons can be illegally modified into automatic weapons, making them deadlier still.

The gun I was given to fire was a fully automatic TEC-9 pistol with a magazine of bullets. The target was straight ahead. My crew was far off to the right and safely — or so we all thought — out of the way.

But with one trigger pull, the weapon took control. My right arm jolted in an arc upward and to the right.

My crew, with lightning speed, dropped to the ground. The whole thing took just seconds.


We all were.

You could argue that’s what happens when an inexperienced person handles an assault weapon.

Tom Ahern, senior special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Chicago and an expert marksman, would tell you otherwise.

“I’ve been shooting for 32 years,” he said by phone Thursday. “If I fired a fully automatic TEC-9 one-handed, it could jump up or down, right or left . . . the gun could flutter . . . and you could dump a 50-round clip in under five seconds. It’s going to spray all over the place.”

And holding it with both hands, he said, won’t significantly improve accuracy.

Why are we talking about this?

Because on the streets of Chicago, there are all kinds of guns — legal and illegal. And all kinds of people getting shot — intended victims plus people who end up as the collateral damage of a barrage of bullets.

Even legal, semiautomatic assault weapons aren’t precision instruments. Though each bullet fired requires a separate squeeze of the trigger (unlike fully automatic weapons), after the first round is fired, the trigger loosens for subsequent rounds. It still takes only seconds to dump a high-capacity magazine.

That’s what happened in the theater massacre in Aurora, Colo. That’s what happens out on our streets.

Both Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg want to revive the ban on assault weapons in this country, a ban that expired in 2004.

In the campaign of 2008, Barack Obama was for that too, but in the campaign of 2012, neither Obama nor Republican Mitt Romney talk much about guns.

That discussion is often led by victims of gun violence. Mothers such as Deetreena Perteet, whose 14-year-old son, Ondelee, was shot in the face in 2009. A bullet hit his chin, neck and spinal cord.

“He is able to walk a little,” she said on Friday. But Mrs. Perteet had to quit her job to care for her son. They struggle financially and medically every day.

No gun was recovered, so we don’t know if it was an assault weapon that blew a hole in their lives. But what we do know is that, as a category of gun, assault weapons serve neither sporting nor marksmanship purposes.

Assault weapons just spray death.

You’d think more politicians would want to talk about that.

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