When It Comes To Mass Shootings, The Media Gets It Wrong Every Time.

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When truckloads of media descended on Newtown, CT after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook, the rush to get something onto a television or print report overwhelmed any concern for getting the facts straight. Within a couple of hours after the rampage came to an end, the shooter had been incorrectly identified, another ‘credible’ report said the rampage had involved multiple shooters and it was these reports, among others, which gave the conspiracy nuts the opening they needed to begin yelling that the whole thing was a hoax.

LV            In the Las Vegas shooting the media seems determined again to repeat the same mistakes it made at Newtown, with the first reports concerning whether or not the shooter used a full-auto gun or not.  It’s clear from various audios of the incident that the gun or guns he used could not have fired so rapidly had they been standard, semi-auto guns which require the trigger to be pulled for every shot. On the other hand, if the gun could be fired in full-auto mode, this doesn’t mean that it was an ‘illegal’ weapon, because there are more than 11,000 machine guns owned and registered in Nevada, although we do not yet know whether Paddock was what is called a Class III of NFA licensee himself.

On the other hand, what we are being told is that Paddock brought a bunch of military-style, semi-automatic rifles into his hotel room, of which perhaps a dozen were legally modified to produce a rate of fire not unlike what is produced by a full-auto gun.  This modification, known as a ‘bump stock,’ uses the gun’s recoil to simulate a rapid rate of fire although the internal part of a gun which controls the firing mode, known as a ‘sear,’ is not changed in any way.

So here was yesterday’s headline from the Washington Post: “The Las Vegas shooter modified a dozen rifles to shoot like automatic weapons.”  And how did the Post learn this? The story quotes unnamed ‘law enforcement officials” who turn out to be a single ATF agent named Jill Snyder, who was quoted in an online story on the UK Telegraph website which also contained pictures of two of the shooter’s guns lying on the floor of his hotel room.

Were these two rifles actually fired during the assault? We don’t know. Were these two rifles actually fitted with the accessory ‘bump stock’ device which is what the Washington Post wants us to believe were used in the assault?  We also don’t know. But here’s what we do know. The existence of those two photographs means that one of the most important crime scenes in the recent history of the United States was contaminated by the time the investigation of this incident first began.  And I don’t see anyone in the media or elsewhere professing the slightest concern about this egregious collapse of law enforcement protocol, even though a spokesman for the Vegas Metro Police said that an ‘internal investigation’ was underway to identify the source of the leaked pics. When the cops use the phrase ‘internal investigation’ what they are really saying is that there won’t be any investigation at all.

Give the Democrats and their friends in the gun violence prevention (GVP) community one more day to ramp up the noise about how we need stronger gun laws; give Trump one more day to praise the ‘first responders’ for their valiant work; give the NRA one more day to keep their mouths shut until the can figure out which way the political winds will ultimately blow; and I guarantee that we’ll start to see a swarm of social media comments about how what happened in Vegas is just another attempt to create an atmosphere so the government can take away all the guns.

Think I’m kidding?  There are already Facebook pages accessed by thousands of viewers which claim that Stephen Paddock had links to Antifa, even though the government’s trying to hush it up.

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On Amazon.

John Lott Reviews Sandy Hook.

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The ugly truth behind Obama's war on the Second Amendment
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Sometimes, when the government abuses its tremendous power to scapegoat someone, even proponents of government power find it to be too much.

Mike Weisser is a liberal who writes frequently for the Huffington Post in favor of gun control. Indeed, I have been the target of some of his attacks. But in a new book, “Sandy Hook: A Man Sold A Gun,” Weisser tells the story of a friend of his, Dave Laguercia, whose life was destroyed by the Obama administration in its quest to be seen as proactive in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy. Weisser describes Laguercia as an honest, law-abiding, decent man.

The emotions at the time were understandable. Adam Lanza had just massacred 27 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Laguercia’s “offense” was that he had legally sold firearms to the shooter’s mother, Nancy Lanza. He sold a Bush Master AR-15 style “assault rifle” in 2011 and a Sig 226 semi-automatic handgun in 2010. All the paperwork was properly filled out, and Nancy Lanza had passed the background check. Laguercia did nothing wrong. 

Weisser sums it up nicely: “For selling a legal product to a consumer and selling it following exactly the rules and regulations which governed such sales, Dave lost his entire business and millions of dollars in sales, inventory and future profits, lost his reputation, spent thousands of dollars on legal fees and now sits at home still waiting for the legal aftermath of Sandy Hook to come to an end.”

Weisser describes a regulatory system where it is essentially impossible not to make tiny recording errors. Wanting to blame someone for the Sandy Hook shootings, the Obama administration was determined to go through Laguercia’s records until they found some violations. If they didn’t find enough dirt on Laguercia, they’d make up false charges.

The administration was not above constantly leaking false, damning stories of a “rogue” gun dealer with a “troubled history.” One story, leaked to the New York Post and other papers, blamed Laguercia for selling another gun in 2010 to another mass shooter. But he hadn’t sold that gun.

Another story described how Laguercia came under scrutiny by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for 33 guns that were stolen from his store. But Laguercia was the person who caught the thief and provided the videos that the government used to convict the miscreant, who was a part-time employee.

Laguercia cooperated fully with officials after the Sandy Hook attack. Nonetheless, on Dec. 20, 2012, the ATF pulled up to Laguercia’s shop in military Humvees, with 21 or 22 agents wearing tactical gear. Many agents were heavily armed. As though worried that Laguercia and his wife were about to engage in a shoot-out with agents, authorities patted his wife down and searched her purse for a gun. Even if the Laguercias hadn’t been told of the raid, advance word was leaked to the media so that TV trucks could line up outside the store.

Many of the ATF reporting requirements are nonsensical. A customer putting an abbreviation for a county name is considered a “serious” mistake, even though the address and zip code make that information redundant. An ATF inspection of “a good sized store” can span several weeks and essentially shut down sales during that period.

Weisser elucidates the ATF’s arbitrary, dictatorial powers. The agency, he says, “has a virtual carte blanche to decide for itself what it can and can’t do to the gun dealers whose business practices and behavior they regulate.”

President Obama claimed in 2016, “We flood communities with so many guns that it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book.” If you have any question about whether Obama was right, Weisser will clear it up. I can only wonder how unnecessarily expensive guns are because of the nutty, useless regulations that dealers face.

Still, Weisser’s liberal views prevent him from seeing some things clearly. He calls Obama’s “clinging to guns and religion” comment during the 2008 primary campaign a mere “verbal slip.” He doesn’t see Obama using Sandy Hook as an opportunity to push for the gun control regulations that he always wanted. Rather, he says, “The public reaction to Sandy Hook was so intense that Obama would be swept up in the wave of emotion.”

Weisser also claims that Obama’s “Fast & Furious” operation was simply an expansion of an operation launched under the Bush administration. While both operations involved guns being sold to Mexican drug gangs, the Bush administration tracked the guns and worked with the Mexican government. The Obama administration made no attempt at tracking them.

I would also have cut chapter 3, which included a discussion on the lethality of “assault weapons. Weisser suggests that Adam Lanza wouldn’t have been able to kill with his Sig P226 semi-automatic handgun, but needed the “assault weapon,” which was also a semi-automatic.

The truth is that 68 percent of mass public shootings during the Obama administration were perpetrated just with handguns. In another 16 percent, handguns were used in conjunction with other weapons.

Despite my quibbles with the book, Weisser helps show how government power can easily be abused. Civil libertarians will find this book a valuable addition to their libraries.

John Lott is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author most recently of “The War on Guns.”

Review in The Hill.

Why Own A Gun? Because It’s Fun.

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Back in 2006 one of GVP’s stellar researchers, Kristin Goss of Duke University, wrote a book in which she tried to explain why there was no mass movement for gun control in the United States. As opposed to mass movements which sought to end the Vietnam War, or reduce drunk driving, what she found after mass shootings like Columbine was the following pattern: “collective outrage, followed by a momentary flurry of unorganized calls and letters and donations from thousands of individuals, and then a quick return to the status quo.” Otherwise, the issue of gun violence would lie dormant between the random, high-profile shooting events.

gun-sales             Goss argues that the pro-gun folks were much more successful than the gun-control crowd in building a mass movement for two reasons: they were funded both by industry and private sources whose resources the gun-control groups couldn’t match; they took advantage of a fragmented, federalist political system which rewards political initiatives at the local level but frequently restricts the implementation of national policies even when such policies gain broad, popular support.

Is it time to revise Kristin’s argument about the lack of a mass movement for gun control given how the landscape appears to have changed in the ten years since she wrote her book? To some degree yes. Despite the sycophantic utterings by Forbes and various other pro-gun media outlets, the decision by Mike Bloomberg to pour 50 million bucks into gun-control initiatives each year isn’t chopped liver, and money like that always has an effect. There has also been a shift in the tactics of gun violence prevention (GVP) organizations towards a greater focus on state-level gun issues rather than only thinking and organizing in national terms; an example of this being the spread of laws which force persons served with a domestic abuse order to turn in their guns.

Of late there also appears to be some parity developing between the two sides on social media venues which have become an important, indeed necessary venue for how organizations connect with the folks they represent.  Right now on Facebook, the NRA page has 630,000 Likes, the Moms Demand page has 570K.  As for website traffic according to SimilarWeb, the NRA site registers around 300,000 visitors a month, visits to Everytown are around 200K every thirty days. How many years has the NRA been around? At least 150 years longer than Everytown or Moms – I would say that the numbers for those GVP sites are pretty substantial and pretty good.

On the other hand, over the last five days I received six email communications from the NRA, including three messages offering to sell me clothing, backpacks and all kinds of other consumer crap. During that same five-day period I received only three emails from the GVP, and every message consisted of asking me to donate money to the cause.  Several of the NRA emails were also straight out of the organization’s fundraising kit, but overall the NRA messaging did one thing that the GVP messaging didn’t do – it conveyed the idea that being involved with the NRA is not only important but also fun.

The idea that you can have a good time by being a member of America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ is an important aspect of the pro-gun messaging strategy that I’m not sure the GVP community understands. It certainly isn’t mentioned or analyzed in Kristin’s book. But later today I’m going to drive over to Marlborough where the semi-annual gun show is going on, and the reason I’m going to the show is the same reason that millions of people attend gun shows all over the country every weekend – the shows are fun. I can wander around, play with lots of guns, eat a hot dog and wash it down with a full-calorie drink and buy a Make America Great Again baseball cap for under five bucks.

Spending money on some useless junk may not be the preferred method for raising political awareness within the GVP, but it sure works for the NRA.

Do Guns Win Elections? Not So Far This Year.

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Earlier this year a special election to fill the Montana House seat vacated by Ryan Zinke created something of a dilemma for gun violence prevention (GVP) advocates because the Democratic candidate, Rob Quist, ran a series of television ads using a rifle to destroy a likeness of his Republican opponent, Greg Gianforte, who was running ads stating that Quist was ‘soft’ on gun ‘rights.’ No surprise, the NRA endorsed Gianforte for the seat which he comfortably won, and the fact that Quist had earlier made a foolish remark about backing a ‘national’ gun registry (actually he didn’t know what he was talking about) may have contributed a bit to the margin of Gianforte’s win.

strange2             Until the gun issue reared its ugly head, liberals both within and without Montana had no trouble supporting Quist.  He was in favor of universal health care and expanding social security, both of which are standard talking-points for politicians on the Left. But in Montana being in favor of universal health care is one thing, being ‘against’ guns is something else. Montana has only slightly more than 1 million residents but I’ll bet you there are at least a couple of million guns kicking around in the trucks, barns and ‘family’ rooms of the Big Sky state. Guns are so normal in Montana that the issue is never discussed at all and would have remained unmentioned in this election if Quist had just kept his mouth shut instead of blurting out something stupid about gun registration as he was walking away from a campaign event.

Last week guns got back into electoral politics in a big way when Luther Strange, running for the Republican line in the upcoming Senate election against Ray Moore in Alabama, yanked out a handgun at a campaign rally to prove that he was ‘pro-gun.’ He was responding to a series of attack ads which accused him of being against 2nd-Amendment ‘rights even though he had earned the coveted NRA endorsement, along with the endorsement of YKW. If you have been following my blog you know that YKW refers to the individual who currently occupies a certain executive position in Washington, D.C.  So ol’ Luther gets up on the stage Monday night and pulls out a gun.  At least he had the good sense to keep his finger off the trigger while he waved the piece around.

Incidentally, it should be pointed out that the gun ol’ Luther was carrying was either a Smith & Wesson Model 36 or a Charter Arms Undercover, both of which only hold 5 rounds. Those are hardly the guns of choice any more when you can buy a Glock or a Kahr pistol which is smaller and has a capacity of 8 rounds. On the other hand, there’s a good possibility that Alabama will become a ‘constitutional carry’ state next year, which means that no matter whether your handgun holds 5 rounds, or 10 rounds or even 20 rounds, you’ll be able to walk around with it in Alabama without going through any kind of permit process at all.

But back to the election which took place last night. Regardless of his stance on guns, Luther Strange was handily defeated by Ray Moore who continues to cast himself as America’s public official most dedicated to ‘one nation under God’ which means, of course, that he’s a good guy when it comes to the issue of 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ Guns in Alabama are like guns in Montana, everybody has one (or two or three) and the idea that gun ownership could become a deciding issue in any political election is simply too far-fetched to be believed.

On the other hand, we now have gone through two electoral contests in two gun-rich states and when it comes to using guns as a way to garner votes, the ‘I love guns’ strategy is zero for two. So much for the idea that cozying up to the ‘gun vote’ can help you win.

What’s The Difference Between Accidental And Non-Accidental Shootings? No Difference.

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When I entered graduate school in 1967, the very first book I purchased was a big, fat compendium known as the Chicago Manual of Style. It was published by The University of Chicago Press and was considered the non-plus-ultra guide to anything having to do with writing or editing scholarly and non-fiction articles and books. And since I was studying economic history, I was going to be writing lots of academic papers which needed to meet the standard for how to do footnotes, end notes, quotations, references and all that other bothersome stuff which writers of academic works need to pretend they understand.
kids and gunsOf course in 1967 there was no internet, for that matter there were no such things as word processors and I don’t recall even putting my fingers on the keyboard of an IBM Selectric typewriter until 1970 or 1971 (although I had actually seen one a few years prior to that date.) Because I come from the Stone Age in terms of communication technologies and skills, I don’t take for granted the degree to which so much of what I had to do by hand when I first started writing is now done online. And one of those online resources which helps me and countless other writers and bloggers get things done in an efficient and orderly way is the AP Stylebook which is an extremely useful reference work containing definitions, topics, themes and other information to be used when an event or an issue has to be quickly understood and described. I just clicked on the topic – hurricanes – and up came a whole list of definitions for every type of tropical storm, the name and address of various federal agencies that deal with hurricane relief, and so on.

The AP Stylebook stays up to date by giving users an opportunity to suggest either new topics and/or content which should be added or revised. In this way, writers who are covering topical events can feel confident that if they utilize a resource from the Stylebook it will reflect the most recent way in which that issue is described or understood. One of our good GVP friends, Ladd Everitt, has just initiated a campaign through his organization, One Pulse for America, to have the Stylebook revise its definition of an ‘accidental’ shooting because, as Ladd says, “’Accidental’ implies that nothing can be done to prevent such shootings, when nothing is further from the truth.” Most accidental shootings, as Ladd points out, occur either because of negligence (the gun was left unsecured) or the owner was acting like a dope. The AP Stylebook team responded by saying they would consider changing the description of ‘accidental shootings’ when a new edition appears next year.

There is no question that referring to unintentional injuries caused by guns as ‘accidents’ gives a misleading impression about whether or not anyone should be blamed when a gun goes off when it’s not supposed to go off. But I also think that making a clear distinction between accidental, as opposed to non-accidental gun injuries can create its own misleading impression for what gun violence is really all about.
Lester Adelson was the coroner for Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) nearly 40 years, during which time he saw thousands of individuals who were killed with guns. In 1992 he published a summary article on gun violence, “The gun and the sanctity of human life; or The bullet as pathogen” which for me, ranks as the single most incisive and profound work ever published on this issue, and you can download it here. Here’s what Adelson says is the most salient feature of gun violence: “With its particular lethality, a gun converts a spat into a slaying and a quarrel into a killing.”

Does it really matter if the gun is used intentionally or not? To quote the novelist Walter Mosley, “If you walk around with a gun it will go off sooner or later.”

Now Available: What Really Happened At Sandy Hook

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It is now almost five terrible years since a young man got into his car, drove five miles from his home to the elementary school he had once attended, shot his way through the locked front door, and then proceeded to murder twenty first-graders and six school staff, including the school principal, who happened to be the first adult to get killed. The death toll ended up at 28, because the shooter had already killed his mother before setting out for the school, and at the end of the rampage he shot himself.

Before writing this book I conducted an informal survey to get some sense of the effect of this event on Americans who lived both near and at a distance from Sandy Hook. Over a period of several days I randomly called about a dozen people, six of whom lived within the tri-state area surrounding Sandy Hook (CT, NY, MA) and six other people who lived in the Midwest or the West Coast. I asked them all to tell me what they remembered about the event, and with one exception, every one of them not only remembered where they were and what they were doing when they heard about the massacre, but they remembered details – the shooter’s name, his mother’s first name, the type of gun he used, and so forth.

Most of the individuals who took my brief ‘survey’ also remembered the fact that a week after the rampage, the ATF raided the gun shop where Nancy Lanza purchased the AR-15, which I found very interesting, because as much as I know about mass shootings, I couldn’t tell you the name of any shop which supplied the guns used at Columbine, or Virginia Tech, or Aurora, or any of the other mass shootings which seem to occur on a continuous basis within the United States.  Nevertheless, just about all the respondents with whom I talked mentioned the gun shop being closed down by the ATF, and several even remembered the name of the store -Riverview Sales.

I happen to know the owner of Riverview, Dave Laguercia, because my gun shop was located about twenty miles away from his shop and we both purchased inventory from the same wholesaler, so we would meet from time to time when we went to pick up guns, ammo and other stuff for reselling in our respective stores. I called Dave after I completed my little survey and asked him why he thought his shop was so prominent in what people remembered about Sandy Hook and he said, “Oh, that’s easy. Once the ATF raided my store, there were more stories about the fact that I sold the gun than there were stories about what happened at the school.”

It was Dave’s comment that persuaded to write a book about Sandy Hook from the perspective of what happened to him. But understand one thing: the book is not an apologia for the gun dealer, in no way is this book an attempt to shift the discussion about Sandy Hook and other gun violence events away from where the discussion needs to focus and remain, namely, the inability of the most advanced society in the contemporary world to prevent 125,000 gun deaths and injuries from occurring every year.

What this book attempts to explain is that the only difference between what happens when someone shoots someone else as opposed to someone shooting lots of people is a difference in degree, but certainly not in kind. And to the extent that mass shootings like Sandy Hook are considered by the experts to be unique events, this both distorts and obscures what gun violence – every type of gun violence – is really all about. The book goes into detail to explain this point of view.

The families and friends of the Sandy Hook victims will never overcome their loss. Neither will the families and friends of anyone else whose life is shattered by the irrational and unstoppable violence caused by guns.

Print edition.

Kindle edition.

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All The Way To D.C.

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nash

Yes!!!!!! He made it.  In DC on Monday for a press conference with Rep. John Lewis at 10 A.M. at the House Triangle and then to the White House.  

If you can be there – be there!

Go Demetri – Go!

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