The L.A. Police Department had big news on December 27. They had seized a pair of rocket launchers! This, of course, would have been shocking news if only they really had found "rocket launchers" in the City of Angels.
As the LAPD's "gun buyback program" came to a close, Chief Charlie Beck had frightening news for his city. A pair of "rocket launchers" had been turned in.
Chief Beck proudly paraded the pair of launcher tubes at a press conference and gravely told those assembled, "Those are weapons of war, weapons of death. These are not hunting guns. These are not target guns...they have no place in our great city."
The media, of course, dutifully ran to press with the "news" of the dangerous weapons of war found on the streets of L.A.
Such outlets as NBC News pounced on the story. Unsurprisingly, so did the L.A. Times. Wire service UPI did, too. So did the New York Daily News.
L.A. Weekly was really in high dudgeon with writer Dennis Romero expressing his outrage.
"Cops picked up two--count 'em two--rocket launchers (!) (and not one, as other outlets are reporting), an LAPD official with close knowledge of the program told us. Holy hell why do people on our streets have military grade rocket launchers?"
That might seem like a good question.
Only one problem. The story is pure puffery. These so-called “rocket launchers” the LAPD recovered weren't a danger to anyone. In fact, at least one of them was never a danger to anyone.
It turns out both were one-use, AT-4 grenade launchers used by the U.S. Army in anti-tank operations. Yes they are grenade launchers (not really "rocket" launchers proper) but these tubes are pre-packaged weapons that can be fired only one time and cannot be reloaded. They are one-shot only weapons. So, yes, that means the tubes the police had were completely and permanently harmless.
But even more absurdly, at least one of the tubes was a training piece and never fired a grenade and never could have. It was a device used only for showing young soldiers what such a weapon looks like. It is a hands-on training tool that is 100% inert, un-fireable, safe as a plastic kid's toy gun.
As Paul Szoldra explains, "It is, quite literally, a long, green fiberglass tube that does nothing."
Further, these hunks of plastic can be bought at many military surplus stores and have even turned up on on eBay in the past.
What we really have here is the LAPD making a big story out of nothing and a gaggle of Old Media lapdogs lapping up the fake story because they haven't a clue about the topic.
Instead of the media giving us scary stories of rocket launchers infesting the streets of L.A., this story should have been reported as the LAPD trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the citizenry and the media alike.