Since Flanagan Bought His Glock Legally, Why Have Background Checks At All?

In case you didn’t know it, there’s absolutely no reason to pass laws regulating guns. Want to know why?  Because criminals don’t obey laws.  And since the only people who use guns in ways they shouldn’t be used are criminals, what’s the point of passing more gun laws, right?

The idea that gun laws are a useless response to gun violence doesn’t come from me.  It doesn’t even come from the NRA.  It comes from the place that has tried to pass all kinds of gun laws the last few years, namely, the White House.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s today’s headline from the NRA-ILA website:  “White House concedes new gun laws wouldn’t have stopped Virginia gunman.” The headline links to a story in the Washington Times that quotes WH Press Secretary Josh Earnest that background checks wouldn’t (and didn’t) stop gunman Vester Flanagan from legally purchasing two Glocks and using one of them to fatally gun down Alison Parker and Adam Ward.

flanagan                Now the truth is that the ability of Vester Flanagan or anyone else to purchase a gun and use it to commit mayhem has absolutely nothing to do with whether guns should be regulated at all.  But the NRA and its self-appointed messaging minions like John Lott are out there busily selling the idea that the reason we don’t need gun laws is that they don’t work.  Lott got out there the same day as the Virginia shooting and proclaimed that “virtually all” NICS background checks were “false-positives,” meaning that not only did the background check law not work properly, but worse, it deprived law-abiding people from being able to protect themselves with guns.

So I went to Lott’s website to see whether this comment had even the slightest bearing on the facts, because according to Brady and other gun-control organizations, including the ATF, NICS denials over the years have kept several million guns out of the wrong hands.  And here is Lott’s ‘evidence’ that ‘virtually all’ NICS transaction denials should have been allowed to proceed.  According to our intrepid gun researcher, there were 71,010 initial denials, of which 4,681 were referred to ATF field offices for further investigation, and the remaining 66,329 “did not meet referral guidelines or were overturned after [further] review.”  Of the 4,681 referrals, the ATF reversed 572.  Lott doesn’t present a single bit of evidence for how many of the remaining 66,329 were reversed, but that doesn’t stop him from claiming that ‘virtually’ all NICS denials deprived law-abiding citizens from buying guns.

Further on, Lott makes brief mention about background checks conducted by what are called Point of Contact state agencies that utilize the NICS databases but conduct the background checks themselves.  In fact, the total number of POC background checks exceeds the number conducted by the FBI, which means that POC denials also probably exceed the denials that come from the FBI. If Lott is unaware of POC procedures, he shouldn‘t be writing about the regulatory system at all.  If he knows about what goes on in POC states and chooses to ignore it, then his claims about how NICS deprives ‘virtually all’ law-abiding citizens from getting guns is a conscious effort to state a case that isn’t true.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m no fan of the ATF and my book, Gun Trafficking in America, is a study of how the ATF has screwed up big time since it first got into the gun regulatory business thanks to GCA68.  But it seems to me that if gun violence is going to be addressed honestly, then laws and regulations are tools that need to be evaluated in clear, evidence-based terms.  Given what I have written about the ATF, I would be the last person to criticize John Lott if he could back up his pronouncements on the inadequacy of NICS with solid data that makes sense. Or is the attack on NICS really a way to divert attention from engaging in a serious discussion about gun violence itself?

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Let’s Stop Kidding Ourselves About Gun Violence.

What did Goebbels say?  Tell a lie enough times and people will believe it’s true.  The NRA has been saying again and again that good guys with guns protect us from bad guys.  And the latest polls indicate that a majority of Americans believe that your home is safer if you own a gun. There’s only one little problem.  It’s not true. It’s a big lie.  But it’s a lie being repeated again and again since the killings of Alison Parker and Adam Ward and it’s now been picked up and repeated by Donald Trump and every other red-meat politician who will do or say anything to coddle up to the pro-NRA vote.

I’m using the word ‘lie’ in a very objective way, namely, you know something to be true and you consciously decide to say something else.  The NRA has been collecting stories about armed citizens protecting us from crime since 1978. They have never published more than 100 such incidents in any given year. Do these 100 incidents, even if it’s 200 or 300, balance out 70,000 gun homicides and injuries each year?  Here’s how Trump added to the Big Lie: “He [Bryce Williams] snuck up on them, whether it was a gun or a knife, it would have been something. “  Hey Donald you moron.  Take a look at the video.  After the first shot you can see Alison Parker running away.  That’s how people protect themselves from someone with a knife.  Doesn’t work so well if the guy has a gun.

glock 23                John Lott did his best to add to the Big Lie last night with this comment made on CBS Nightly News: “Every country in the world, or place in the world, that has banned guns has seen an increase in murder rate,” he says, even though he knows that in Australia, for example, the effect of the buyback and destruction of 20% of the civilian arsenal in 1997-98 is difficult to understand because Australia had such a low rate of gun homicide even before the ban took effect.

Know what?  I’m getting tired of trying to dig up one study or another to persuade people that guns do more harm than good.  I’m also sick and tired of the endless veneration of the 2nd Amendment that pops out of the mouth of every person who wants to regulate firearms before they tell you how they want to regulate firearms.  The 1st Amendment doesn’t give anyone the right to yell ‘Fire’ in a crowded theater.  The 2nd Amendment doesn’t give anyone the right to use a gun to hurt someone else.  What’s the latest gun-nut phrase being tossed around?  SecondAmendment Absolutist.  It’s meaningless, it’s stupid and it’s just another attempt to make people believe that the so-called Constitutional protection of firearms means that we don’t have to talk about gun violence at all.

I don’t want to talk about gun violence either.  I want it to stop.  And it’s not going to stop until and unless the gun industry admits that what they are making and selling is a lethal product bar none.  Which doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be made and shouldn’t be sold.  After all, it’s estimated that more than 70,000 full-auto machine guns which fire upwards of 600 rounds per minute are in civilian hands. Know why I can count the number of machine gun homicides committed since 1950 using the fingers of one hand?  Because the sale of these guns is regulated and controlled the way the sale of all guns are regulated and controlled in countries like England whose gun violence rates are a fraction of ours.

I’m not saying take away the guns.  I’m saying that some guns that have no use other than to kill or injure someone else.  Bryce Williams didn’t buy that Glock to shoot a bird out of a tree.  He bought it to commit deadly harm.  And if you believe that he could have committed the same damage with a knife or a bolt-action rifle, you can start laying brick.

Why Did The Virginia Shooting Happen? It’s The Gun, Stupid. It’s the Gun.

Yesterday I wrote that it would probably take a day for the NRA noise machine to ramp up and begin announcing that the shooting of the WDBJ reporters wouldn’t have happened if more good guys were walking around with guns.  I was wrong.  By 7 P.M. last night, Mad Dog John Lott was already on a radio show telling the audience that “dozens of mass shootings” had been stopped by armed citizens and that calls for expanded background checks were wrong because “virtually all the NICS denials were false-positives” in which the particular individual should have been able to buy a gun.

I listened to a tape of Lott’s interview this morning and it occurred to me that we seem to have moved past the point where the debate about gun violence bears any relationship to the facts.  The only study that I know about who stopped mass shootings was done by the FBI that covered 160 incidents between 2000 and 2013.  Know how many of these shootings ended because a gun-carrying civilian intervened?  One.  Lott has published papers which claim to find some kind of statistical correlation between mass shootings and issuance of concealed-carry permits, but the correlation between two data trends proves nothing at all. As for his claim that the NICS background-check system operates only to keep guns out of the ‘right’ hands, I’m no fan of the ATF or the NICS system, but Lott’s statement has absolutely no basis in truth.  I’m being polite.

 

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I want to make some comments about the video of the shooting that may be hard to take, but I’m trying to make a point.  The shooter, Vester Flanagan, walked up to Parker and Ward, who were interviewing and filming a local government official named Vicki Gardner.  Flanagan stood between his three victims, pointed a Glock at Parker, put the gun down and backed off, then raised the Glock and began to shoot.  By the 3rd or 4th shot the camera being held by Flanagan was no longer picking up any details of what was going on.  But I heard at least 14 shots.  And there was a pause between the first string of 7-8 discharges and then a second, more deliberate string of shots. Which means that Flanagan had a hi-cap gun, and he may have taken his time after the initial barrage to make sure that, deliberately and carefully, he could finish his victims off.   The video actually shows Parker running away after the first round went off but when you have a hi-cap mag it doesn’t really matter if you miss a few shots.

I hate to say it, but I think there’s no longer any reason why gun violence should be discussed in rational, normal terms.  Of course we should have “common-sense” gun laws to quote the White House; of course we all agree with Hillary that we need to “balance legitimate 2nd-Amendment rights with preventive measures” to reduce gun violence. But when someone can film himself mowing down three people, then upload the video to YouTube for the world to see, we’re not talking about whether guns help us or hurt us, we’re talking about a celebration of violence that simply should not exist in a civilized state.

When I joined the NRA shooting club at the age of twelve and punched 22-caliber holes in paper targets at my brother’s junior high school range, we never thought that what we were doing had any connection to protecting ourselves or harming anyone else.  When I sat in my deer stand deep in the woods in Colleton County, SC, read a book and wait for Bambi to come by, it never occurred to me that the Remington 700 sitting on my lap could be used for anything other than to bring home some game. Owning and using guns has become an issue of human life and death because we talk about guns in that way.  And the bottom line is that guns are a root cause of violence, no matter what the NRA says.

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