Firearms laws are pretty complicated, and I'm just talking about the federal ones. Many, if not most, Federal Firearms Licensees don't know half of them. Here's an example: Most gun nuts know the combination of "evil features" that transform a wholesome imported semiautomatic rifle into the dreaded "assault weapon", but how many know the proscribed features for pistols? Self-loading shotguns?
Being the bookish sort and not much liking institutional food, I always read the booklets and circulars that the BATFEIEIO sent out to dealers, but I suspect that many use them to level the legs of wobbly tables. They're so busy staying on top of the big important legalities that the triviata slips by unnoticed; is it any wonder that their default setting so often is "Sorry, can't do that. It's 'gainst th' law"? If people who do this for a living are so often unclear on the arcana, one can imagine the fuzzy notions held by people on the outside.
This is what makes the latest "study" from Professor Wintemute, MD, MPH, especially hilarious: It seems that it consists of going "undercover" to gun shows and taking note of anything that "looks illegal". I'm sure it will be as packed with factual knowledge and sound research as his last effort.
Doc Wintemute has inspired me, however. I'm going to do a study on improper surgical procedures in the operating theaters of America. I'm just going to grab a mask and gown and go hang out in OR's, and note when stuff just looks wrong to me. I'm not a surgeon or anything, mind you, but I've prepared by watching a lot of House and ER, and reading a bunch of stuff. Plus, I'm very concerned about the issue, which should count for a lot.
It sounds like Wintemute has a bad case of what a physician acquaintance referred to as "doctoritis"; the feeling that, once one is awarded that MD (or PhD, or JD,) one is now an expert on everything. As a friend put it on the eve of her PhD: "This time tomorrow, I'll be twice as smart as I am right now!"
(H/T to Unc.)