There’s an infamous moment in Die Hard 2 when hero cop John McClane is getting grilled by the police captain at Washington Dulles International Airport. The elder officer is furious at McClane for getting into a shootout with a baggage thief; McClane is incredulous that the captain is blind to a much bigger case.
“Luggage? That punk pulled a Glock 7 on me. You know what that is? It’s a porcelain gun made in Germany,” McClane spits. “It doesn’t show up on your airport X-ray machines here, and it costs more than what you make in a month!”
For 17-year-old Mengo, the much-mocked absurdity of the scene became his newest digital muse. On February 7th, he logged onto Twitter under a new account and sent the following correction into the world:
And just like that, @GunsAintRight was up and running with the mission to point out inaccuracies in how the media portrays firearms. More than 18,000 followers have flowed in over the course of the last month, and in a turn of expectations, the fandom doesn’t fit the stereotypes of American gun nuts (dudebro in a tactical vest, “Don’t Tread on Me” flag, NRA retweets, etc.).
In fact, neither do Mengo, Nico and Cooper, the three teens who run the @GunsAintRight account together. The three don’t even own guns, given that they’re under the legal age. They’re just extremely online people who have found joy in nerding out about the weapons they see in the games, film and TV they consume.
Their corrections range from the basic, like pointing out Gaston firing three musket shots without a reload in Beauty and the Beast…
…to geeky, like noting the incorrect reload mechanism of a historical LeMat pistol…
…to merely appreciative, as with this shoutout for insane accuracy in the war shooter Rising Storm 2: Vietnam.
Mengo (who asked to use a pseudonym, like the other two teens) says that the Twitter account is a natural extension of a gun obsession that unfolded through his gaming habits. He never cared for guns until a mix of playing the detailed stealth game Metal Gear Solid V and various first-person shooters got him intrigued with how weapons differ from one another.
“The turning point was when I wanted to make a survival horror game, and I deeply researched guns and wanted them to be really realistic in their portrayal,” the young game modder and developer says. “Ironically, I’ve only ever shot one gun, which was a lever-action 12-gauge shotgun. I was about 9, in Boy Scouts. I might be wrong about the age. Other than that, nothing.”
It’s more or less the same story with Nico, who lives in Poland but has known Mengo, a North Carolina native, for years (“Me and Nico go WAAAY back, we used to use Google+ when it was still up”). Cooper, who’s in Colorado, joined not long after the start of the account, as an early fan looking to assist @GunsAintRight as an admin. They have a lot more work than expected, thanks to a tsunami of post ideas and corrections flooding in from fans.
How did they get so much attention within a month? Nico and Mengo think things picked up when they corrected a Simpsons scene in which somebody loads a magazine into a revolver. That’s nonsense, given that you have to load individual bullets into the rotating cylinder of a revolver, not slide a magazine into the grip. But somehow, a mob of Simpsons fans noticed, replying en masse that that’s the joke. Some 41,000 likes and 471 replies later, Mengo jokes it was a “traumatic experience” that was worth it for the rise in popularity.
As for the point of running an account dedicated to fixing gun errors in a media market that’s saturated with dumb topical errors all the time, whether the subject is guns or fishing or smoking pot? The trio doesn’t have some manifesto to deliver. It’s a lot of material that borders on shitposts, with an esoteric streak that makes it especially fun for anyone who gets the vocabulary, whether you learned it at the shooting range or at the gaming PC. Mengo notes they take the actual information seriously — “as a sort of documentation, [educating] people about how guns work, and doing it in a way that’s much more entertaining than, say, searching Wikipedia.”
There’s a lot of educating to do. A staggering proportion of firearms owners do not receive formal training, and the average non-gun-owner seems even more clueless about what differentiates guns and why some are regulated differently. The media is perpetually making clumsy, embarrassing errors about how guns work, with writers throwing around vaguely incorrect language (like “machine gun” and “automatic rifle”) to communicate how scary it is to shoot an AR-15. Inaccuracies in the way everyone talks about guns leads to instances of pure, uncut word-vomit from people in positions of power, as with the famously bad testimony California State Senator Kevin de León gave in support of his gun-regulation bill in 2014.
Examples like that spread like wildfire and give fuel for right-wing outlets like the Daily Caller to call bullshit and, perhaps rightfully, claim that the people writing laws don’t know the basic details about the issue at hand. In the same vein, Cooper tells me that it’s concerning to think about politicians making decisions with incorrect biases steering their votes. That said, GunsAintRight doesn’t advocate a political position. Mengo and Cooper (who has never shot a gun) both say that they’re supportive of gun regulation in the U.S.; Nico, meanwhile, notes that “it SUCKS” how hard it is to acquire and afford a gun, permits and all, in Poland. Mostly, the Twitter page is a place to crack wise and laugh over the inanities of life. “It’s just kind of fun, especially when people are wrong so I have a false sense of superiority,” Nico concludes.
Maybe, in the future, their content on GunsAintRight will morph into something else. Nico floats the idea of a YouTube channel, though Mengo says he’s only thinking as far as Twitter. Or maybe they’ll hit buying age and start fussing over the real-world versions of the guns they love: a Heckler and Koch Mk.23 pistol for Mengo; a vintage lever-action rifle for Cooper; and a classic 22LR Ruger for Nico.
But, for now, the mission is simple. People don’t know enough about guns. They consume guns almost entirely through the media. The media gets it wrong. So the three online friends are going to publicly shame that media, one tweet at a time. There are too many inaccuracies to count. Mengo does have a favorite, though: “Probably the SPAS-12 shotgun from Half-Life, which is capable in-game of firing both barrels on a single barrel weapon,” he says. “That’s physically impossible.”