Our friend Michelle Malkin has been blogging deliciously about the Chinese assault rifle that our anti-assault rifle presidential candidate John F. Kerry recently told Outdoor Life magazine he owned. Although Kerry adamantly supported the recently expired ban on assault weapons, he was apparently eager to demonstrate to the hunter’s bible Outdoor Life (which bristles with ads for firearms) that he was a regular guy after all. So he told Outdoor Life:

“My favorite gun is the M-16 that saved my life and that of my crew in Vietnam. I don’t own one of those now, but one of my reminders of my service is a Communist Chinese assault rifle.”

Oops! The New York Times promptly caught wind of the interview, and Times reporter Jodi Wilgoren phoned the National Rifle Association, which gives Kerry an “F” rating for his aggressive stance on gun control. NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam gave Wilgoren an earful::

“‘It’s O.K. for John Kerry to own these kinds of firearms, but it’s not O.K. for John Q. Public?’ Mr. Arulanandam said, noting that if Mr. Kerry brought the gun home from the war as a souvenir he could be subject to court-martial. “He certainly owes people an explanation as to why there’s a double standard.'”

Then Stephen P. Halbrook, a gun rights lawyer who has argued several cases before the Supreme Court, chimed in. Wrote Wilgoren:

“[Halbrook] said the most common Chinese assault rifles, known as SKS clones, were not among the 19 models banned under the [just expired] 1994 law. But some SKS’s have magazines holding more than 10 rounds, which violates a Massachusetts law against large-capacity weapons, Mr. Halbrook said. If the gun is fully automatic, Mr. Halbrook said, it is illegal in Massachusetts and would require a federal permit if Mr. Kerry kept it at one of his homes in Pennsylvania and Idaho.”

Yesterday, however, the Times reported that Kerry’s campaign folks now say that their man didn’t own that Chinese assault rifle after all. The campaign people blamed the flap on aides who had filled out a questionnaire from Outdoor Life for Kerry. Probably the same aides who sent off Teresa’s recipe for pumpkin spice cookies to Family Circle magazine.

Apparently, although the Outdoor Life article purported to derive from an “exclusive interview” with Kerry, whose responses contained many first-person pronouns, those responses were entirely written by Kerry’s staff–and presumably Kerry never read them. The Times’s Wilgoren wrote:

“Michael Meehan, a spokesman for the campaign, said Mr. Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, owns two guns, a double-barreled 12-gauge shotgun and the rifle, which Mr. Meehan said Mr. Kerry ‘keeps as a relic’ and had never fired. Mr. Meehan said the gun had no make or model markings on it and that Mr. Kerry ‘got it from a friend years ago,’ adding that such rifles were first manufactured in Russia more than 100 years ago and were used by the North Koreans and the Vietcong.”

Michelle, who’s got loads of comments from other bloggers on her site, thinks the whole thing is “pathetically funny.” I’ve got to agree.