Quick: What weapon did Aaron Alexis use to kill 12 people at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.?
If you answered "an AR-15 assault rifle," you clearly have been reading news stories about the massacre.
But you're wrong. Alexis used the pump-action shotgun he took into the Navy Yard and possibly a pistol he took from a guard.
For about 24 hours after the shooting, media outlets were reporting Alexis used an AR-15. That made sense, of course. Don't all mass murderers use "assault rifles"?
Perhaps that's why no one questioned the initial reports, even though the sound of a shotgun going off is substantially different than a small-caliber rifle.
But Alexis chose a far more lethal weapon for close-range killing - a shotgun like millions of hunters own and use.
Immediately after the slaughter, there were renewed calls for limits on ownership of "assault rifles" and large-capacity magazines for them. The Navy Yard killings were more proof of the need for such regulations, we were assured.
Except they weren't.
For one reason or another, some anti-gun zealots absolutely hate anything that resembles military weapons such as the M-16 rifle. And yes, some survivalist-types love the firearm - perhaps also because the M-16/AR-15 clones resemble military rifles.
But the speed at which reports Alexis used an AR-15 circulated and the eagerness with which the anti-gun types seized upon the misinformation once again illustrates our problem with violence: We're still certain eliminating certain types of guns - even if we could - will solve the problem. It won't. People will simply choose other weapons, as Alexis did, perhaps in order to maximize his lethality.
The question we ought to be asking is how Alexis was able to buy any firearm and shells for it. The man was crazy, and I don't use that term lightly. He had a grudge against the Navy.
And he had no trouble buying a gun. In all likelihood, it would have been more difficult for him to renew his driver's license.
It really is true: Guns don't kill people. Other people do. Until we stop thinking of inanimate objects as murderers and find ways to keep any gun (or bomb) out of the hands of those bent on homicide, the massacres will continue.
Myer can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.