Now Available: What Really Happened At Sandy Hook

1 Comment

Banner 02

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.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The ACLU figures out that carrying a gun isn’t a Constitutional ‘right.’

6 Comments

So the ACLU has drawn a line in the sand and decided in the wake of Charlottesville that ‘Constitutional carry’ will no longer be a behavior for which they will provide a legal defense. Their Executive Director, Anthony Romero, told the Wall Street Journal that if a group wants to march around carrying guns that are visible to the public ‘they can find someone else.’

shield             Talk about a collision of Constitutional principles – freedom of speech on the one hand, freedom to walk around with a gun on the other. And while the NRA has been keeping its organizational mouth buttoned up tight since the Charlottesville attack, sooner or later they’ll come out with a statement about how average, law-abiding and gun-loving Americans have the right to defend themselves with their guns when faced with the threat of violence from all those left-wing thugs.

Despite mutterings to the contrary in some liberal circles who believe there’s an insurrectionist hiding under every bed, Dana Loesch (who is no friend of mine) did not explicitly or even implicitly call for a violent response to what she says is violent behavior on the part of the Left. And if anyone wants to take Wayne-o’s rants seriously about how all those gun-owning, God-loving Americans will grab their guns and ‘fight’ against the scourge of leftist gun-control, I invite you to attend the next NRA national meeting, the most popular booth is where they rent those little electric chairs for people who are too fat to walk around the show.

Our friend Robert Spitzer posted an interesting perspective on the citizen militia movement the other day. He went back to an 1886 case, Presser v. Illinois, in which the SCOTUS unequivocally stated that the government, not some band of overweight, camo-clad dopes has total control over using militias to protect or keep the peace. But the problem, as Spitzer and others have pointed out, is that most localities which allow ‘open carry,’ or what Gun-nut Nation calls ‘constitutional carry’ of firearms do not regulate where or when such displays of childish, arrested development can occur. So why not yell ‘f*ck you’ at a bunch of leftist creeps with my AR in full view?

There is a difference, and the difference has to do with one simple fact: the so-called Constitutional ‘right’ which all these armed jerks invariably cite to justify behaving like assholes doesn’t exist. The only Constitutional gun ‘right’ protected by the 2nd Amendment is the ‘right’ to keep a loaded handgun in your home. That’s what the 2008 Heller decision says, and that’s all it says – period.  End of story.

What I really love are the gun-dopes who claim that not only do they have a Constitutional ‘right’ to own a gun, but also have a ‘God-given right’ to use their gun for self-defense. These happen to be the same folks who insist that we are engaged in a full-scale war against Islamic extremists who want to impose Sharia law throughout the United States. Islamic extremists, leftist extremists, what’s the difference? It’s time we took out our guns and defended our Constitution against threats both at home and abroad.

Wait a minute. Now I’m completely confused. I thought our legal system is based on the Constitution, not the word of God.  Maybe the best thing would be to go home, put the gun back in the closet, sit down, turn on the television and pop another top.

Funny, but those shields being lugged around at Charlottesville seem very much like the shields that sell on eBay and have become popular because of Batman video games. Obviously an AR-15 is a much greater threat to safety and peaceable assembly than any movie prop. But the idea that there’s this citizen’s militia out there just waiting for the signal to rise up in revolt against the Deep State has about as much reality behind it as the idea that I’m going on a diet and this time I’ll really shed those 20 extra pounds.

 

 

Why Did Sandy Hook Happen? Because He Had A Gun.

7 Comments

We are slightly more than four sad months away from the fifth anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook. The deaths of 20 young schoolchildren, 6 adults, plus the shooter and his mother unleashed a firestorm of emotion and controversy which persists today and shapes the attitudes and strategies of the two opposing sides in the gun debate. One side, led by national gun-control organizations Brady and Everytown keeps up a steady drumbeat to strengthen laws which promote keeping guns away from high-risk individuals; the other side, led by the NRA, wants it easier for individuals to arm themselves as well as abolishing gun-free zones.

sandy             There’s only one little problem with both arguments: neither would have prevented what happened at Sandy Hook. If you don’t believe me, read the thousand-plus pages produced by the State’s Attorney, the Office of Child Advocate and the Department of Emergency Services to try and learn why a 20-year old, part-time college student who was never considered a risk or a threat to himself or anyone else put four bullets into his mother, then shot 26 adults and children, then turned  a gun on himself. I’ll save you the trouble of reading and tell you that you won’t find out why Adam Lanza did what he did.

On December 20, 2012, six days after the shooting, a family therapist who gives advice to lovesick callers on her bi-weekly radio show wrote an article for Psychology Today: “Was Adam Lanza an Undiagnosed Schizophrenic?” This expert judged the event as a ‘failure of the mental health system’ because had the shooter been diagnosed properly, perhaps all those dead adults and children would still be alive. The author, Jamie Turndorf, also knew that his behavior represented ‘extreme acting out of pent up rage.” The fact that Dr. Turndorf had never seen Adam, was writing on the basis of a few pieces of informal gossip and was helping the hucksters at Psychology Today turn an unspeakable tragedy into a quick buck is, or course, besides the point.

In 1999 following Columbine, the government convened a team of experts drawn from relevant disciplines (mental health, law enforcement, education) to study mass shootings and create a ‘treat assessment’ tool which could be used to identify youngsters who might pose a significant risk to themselves and/or others in school.  Their report, which still guides emergency planning initiatives, was based on the study of 18 school shootings and concludes that the reasons why such events occur “remain elusive.”

At the same time, the experts also identified misinformation about such events which “is not necessarily complete, accurate, or balanced. News coverage magnifies a number of widespread but wrong or unverified impressions of school shooters.” And what is stated to be a major unverified explanation for mass school shootings? Ready? “Easy access to weapons is THE most significant risk factor.” [Their bold.]

Are these so-called experts serious? Do they have any idea what they are talking about? Unless I don’t know how to read English, what this blue-ribbon panel is saying, and this report was endorsed both by the Director of the FBI and the Attorney General of the United States, is that they don’t know the exact reason why young men commit acts of mass violence in schools, but they do know that it’s not because they get their hands on guns.

I am currently writing a book about Sandy Hook and one issue I am forced to examine is the Alex Jones-type of conspiracy theories still proliferating throughout the alt-right blogosphere, theories that take advantage of initial reportage from mainstream media which contained statements that were either bungled or wrong. But nobody, not even the looniest conspiracy hucksters have ever tried to claim that a mass shooting would be possible without access to a highly-lethal, hi-capacity gun.

You can play around with all the behavioral theories you want, but Adam Lanza killed 26 people inside two classrooms, standing in each room for two minutes or less.

What Can Happen If You Sell A Gun Legally And It Gets Into The ‘Wrong Hands.’

21 Comments

I have a friend named Dave LaGuercia who happens at the moment to be in a Boston hospital for a second round of surgery – let’s hope all goes well. I have known Dave since 2004 or 2005 when he opened a small gun shop in Connecticut just over the Massachusetts line. Dave had previously been in the car business as a broker, he had done quite well, but being a gun nut once he had some dough in his pocket he did what we all do, he bought some gun inventory and opened a shop.

mcx            One thing led to another and within three or four years Dave had moved to a much larger location and now had a gun shop that was maybe the second-largest store in the whole state. And since Connecticut is a fairly small state and Dave’s store was situated right off an exit of Interstate 91 (‘easy on – easy off’) he got customers from as far away as the Danbury area, one of whom was Nancy Lanza, who showed up some time in 2011 or 2012 with her young son, Adam, and purchased an AR-15.

Two days after the Sandy Hook massacre, as Dave was about to close for the night, a squad of helmeted ATF agents carrying rifles and wearing body armor drove up in two Humvees and charged into the shop. Oh yes, they were immediately followed into Dave’s store by some media folks who had been alerted by the ATF that something connected to the Sandy Hook mess was about to go down.

Let me interject one point here that needs to be understood. I heard about Sandy Hook while I was standing behind the counter of my gun shop; I closed the shop immediately and went home.  But later that night after the shooter was identified, I went back to the shop and pored through my records to find out whether or not I was the dealer who had sold the gun. Since it was a rifle, Nancy Lanza could have come into Massachusetts and bought the gun from me. I would have been required to ship the gun to a Connecticut dealer, so I was able to quickly check and I knew that the gun hadn’t come from me. I can guarantee you that every gun dealer in Connecticut and Massachusetts was looking through their books that same night in the hopes that the AR wasn’t sold by them.

The ATF spent the next several weeks examining every gun sale that Dave ever made. They also suspended his license which he never got back. Eventually they found a sale of a hunting rifle which was improperly made, but it was still a violation of 4473 law so they could now build a case. A year later, having absorbed the loss of his entire business, Dave took a misdemeanor plea for the sale of the hunting rifle and also agreed never to go back into the business of selling guns. All the result of a legal sale of an AR-15.

Back in 1995 my good friend in Fairfax, Wayne-o LaPierre, took a lot of flak for calling the ATF a bunch of ‘jack-booted thugs.’ Wayne-o has never been known to be as a master of the understatement, but when I think about how Dave LaGuercia was treated by the ATF, I have to say that Wayne-o was right. And by the way, every, single gun-shop owner throughout the Northeast knows what happened to Dave because every shop is visited on a regular basis by the sales reps for S&W, Ruger and Glock, so news gets around.

I’m not trying in any way to justify Sandy Hook or the lethal dangers of an AR-15. What I am saying is that there are reasons why people in the gun business don’t trust the government to regulate their industry in a proper and positive way. Something to think about the next time an advocate for gun violence prevention gets into a discussion with a gun nut about his guns.

Who Saved The Gun Industry? The Answer May Surprise.

3 Comments

 

The good news is that you don’t have to pass an IQ test to be a member of Congress. I wrote a column about one of the dumbest members of the House, Rob Bishop, who has introduced a bill that would strip the ATF of its authority to determine whether a gun can be imported into the U.S. based on whether it’s a ‘sporting’ weapon or not. And since the ATF has decided, lies from the gun industry notwithstanding, that AR and AK-style guns aren’t sporting weapons, those kinds of guns manufactured overseas can’t come in.

clinton             As you might imagine, the moment Bishop introduced his bill, Gun-nut Nation immediately began beating the drums to get the bill turned into law. But if Bishop’s an idiot, the NRA isn’t far behind, because if foreign gun makers can begin selling assault rifles and other ‘non-sporting’ guns in the U.S., you can kiss the domestic gun industry goodbye.

Back in 1989, George H. W. Bush issued an order which prohibited the import of Chinese assault-style rifles, in particular the SKS. The ban was temporary but was made permanent and expanded by Bill Clinton in 1993. The expansion of the ban meant that no gun of any design that had a grooved barrel could be sent from China over here.  Shotguns, yes. Rifles and handguns, no.

I owned one of those Chinese handguns. It was made by a Chinese company, Norinco, which employs more than 200,000 people and makes just about everything, including ammunition and small arms. The gun I owned was a copy of the Colt 1911 pistol in 45acp caliber, and when I say ‘copy,’ I don’t mean some cheap piece of junk.  I mean an exact copy, up to and including the traditional, Colt-style checkered grips.

Did the gun function as well as the original Colt?  Yes.  Did the gun sell for 30% less than the Colt? Yes. Can you still find the pre-ban Norinco 1911 floating around on gun auction sites here and there? And the good news is that if you need a part or another barrel, you can always pick it up from Colt.

I don’t think there’s a U.S. President who is hated more by Gun-nut Nation than Clinton because, as opposed to Obama, he actually got some gun-control legislation done. And he’s no arugula-eating elitist, Billy Boy’s just a good ol’ boy right out of a Southern trailer park, so he should have known better and just kept his mouth shut. But his 1994 assault-weapons ban didn’t just mean that gun makers had to change the AR design; it was also the first time that the government told the gun industry what kinds of products they could and couldn’t make. That’s not just regulating an industry – that’s telling an industry what it can and cannot do.

But the truth is that for all of Clinton’s attempts to hurt the gun industry, his ban on Chinese guns has probably done more to help the gun industry than any pro-gun effort being bandied about by the supporters of our current President, even though #45 may be on his way down the tubes. Because if Chinese gun manufacturers entered the U.S. gun market, by now they would be over here in force; building factories, producing ARs and polymer pistols and underselling every current brand.

Back in the 1980’s, another iconic American brand, Harley-Davidson, found itself unable to compete with Japanese bike makers and was only saved by a high tariff that Reagan slapped on imported Japanese bikes.  The company continues to limp along, its stock price climb since 1911 is about 30% less than similar-sized companies tracked by Standard and Poor’s. Trump loves to talk about how this tariff is a great example of protecting American jobs, but as usual he’s lying because the tariff didn’t ultimately help Harley at all. But at least the company’s still in business, which is more than what would have happened to S&W and Ruger if Billy Boy hadn’t stopped those Chinese guns from coming our way.

 

Maybe The Gun Industry Doesn’t Know The Difference Between An AR-15 And A Hunting Rifle, But PA Hunters Do.

14 Comments

Back in January, the state of Pennsylvania became the very last state to approve the use of semi-automatic rifles for hunting, a decision that was then revised when the final rules were published last week by the Board of Game Commissioners, who set all hunting rules and regulations within the Keystone State. The revision of the rule that was initially voted back in January and then put out for public review, has serious implications not just for the hunting community, but for the gun industry as well.

ceasefireThe initial regs allowed Pennsylvania hunters to use a semi-automatic rifle to hunt every type of game, which meant that hunters could tote any kind of semi-automatic (one trigger pull, one shot) rifle into the woods, including the newly-minted ‘modern sporting rifle,’ which is just an assault rifle by a different name. Now I’m not going to waste any reader’s time by going over that stupid ‘it’s not an assault rifle because it can’t be fired full-auto’ argument again. And if anyone wants to send me an email or a comment on my blog about how Mike the Gun Grabber doesn’t know anything about guns, you go right ahead. The bottom line is that the whole promotion of the ‘modern sporting rifle’ is a cynical attempt by the gun industry to create demand for a long-gun product which compensates for the fact that hunting just isn’t that popular any more.

When the rule that opened up all hunting to the AR was initially proposed back in January, the pro-gun bunch immediately began pushing the ‘modern sporting rifle’ nonsense, led of course by the NRA.  Here’s what the NRA said when the new rule was first announced: “Semi-automatic rifles simply give hunters a much greater ability to fire a timely and accurate follow-up shot, which can be the huge difference between wounding or quickly taking a game animal.”

Now that statement happens to be completely true, by the way, but what the NRA neglected to add was that the real issue involving the use of an AR to hunt game like deer, bear and elk is not the fact that a semi-automatic rifle can give the hunter a quick, second round, but that the usual AR caliber, 223 Remington or 5.56, throws a bullet which is simply not large enough to bring down a full-size game animal, even if you hit the animal with more than one shot.

Evidently, the Game Commissioners heard from enough folks to conduct a poll of 4,000 hunters, of whom a strong majority favored the use of semi-automatic rifles for hunting but did not want 22-caliber semi-autos to be approved for big-game hunting.  As a result of the public response, the January regulations were amended to allow 22-caliber, semi-auto rifles to be used only for small, fur-bearing game like woodchucks and other varmint types.

In other words, hunters in Pennsylvania clearly rejected the attempt by the gun industry to promote the idea that an AR-15 rifle is no different from any other type of ‘sporting’ gun and therefore should be approved equipment for any type of hunt. To the contrary, a majority of the folks who really know guns understand the difference between a real ‘sporting’ gun and what the industry is trying to pass off as an updated version of the gun that Grandpa used to take into the woods.

Leave it to the NRA, of course, to issue a statement about the decision of the Pennsylvania Game Commissioners which was totally, completely and almost laughably false: “Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Game Commission chose not to respect the rich hunting heritage of Pennsylvania gun owners,” said the NRA, “by rejecting the rule which would have allowed hunters to use semi-automatic rifles in some of the most popular seasons throughout the state.”

To the contrary, the Game Commission’s decision actually showed respect for Pennsylvania’s gun owners who evidently know the difference between a real sporting rifle and an assault rifle masquerading as a sporting gun.

What’s the difference between a modern sporting rifle and a weapon of war? A court decision, that’s what.

7 Comments

When it comes to court decisions, it hasn’t been a particularly good few days for my friend at the NRA or, for that matter, the NSSF.  It’s the latter group, after all, that has been promoting this marketing scam known as the ‘modern sporting rifle’ to make everyone believe that an AR-15 or AK-47 is just a modern version of the same, old semi-auto hunting rifle that Grandpa used to lug out into the woods.

AR2            I used to own one of these guns.  In my case it was a Remington Woodmaster 742 which had a magazine that held 4 rounds and was almost as accurate as my bolt-action Remington 700 – the best hunting rifle I ever owned.  The Woodmaster was a heavy old thing and it didn’t work so well with the lighter-weight 30-06 bullets, but put a 220-grain Federal Express cartridge up the pipe, aim the gun at Bambi standing 200 years downrange, and parts of Bambi ended up in the pressure cooker that night.

Folks – that Woodmaster was a ‘modern sporting rifle.’ My Colt AR H-Bar, which means it has a heavy barrel is not. And it’s not a sporting rifle because it’s a weapon of war. Yea, yea, I know that Colion Noir and all the other Gun-nut stinkheads like to post videos of themselves prancing around in some sandpit blasting away with their ARs at this Coke bottle or that tin can. And of course they’ll all repeat the NSSF nonsense about how their AR can’t be a military weapon because it only fires in semi-auto (one trigger pull, one shot) mode. But what these marketing warriors all fail to mention is that the standard rifle used by our troops in the field also can be set to fire one round at a time.  So if a trooper decides to set his battle rifle in semi-auto, is he now taking a modern sporting rifle into the field?

The good news is that the 4th Circuit Appeals Court understood this issue exactly when they upheld the new Maryland law on assault rifles which basically puts Maryland back to the situation that existed for ten years after the 1994 Clinton assault rifle ban.  The law defines an ‘assault rifle’ as any semi-auto rifle with a detachable magazine and other military-style attachments (handgun grip, etc.) and also bans magazines which hold more than ten rounds. The majority opinion says that such guns are ‘weapons of war’ and therefore do not fall under the 2nd-Amendment protections enumerated by the Heller decision handed down by the SCOTUS in 2008.

Last week another court case rocked Gun-nut Nation, in this case where the 11th Circuit tossed out the Florida law that criminalized the behavior of doctors who counsel their patients about guns.  In the 8-3 decision, which is about as definitive as you can get, the Court held that doctor-patient discussions are protected by the 1st Amendment’s protection of free speech because in order to fulfill their professional responsibilities, physicians must be able to talk about anything they please.  Of course such conversations are entirely confidential and, like any other counseling by a physician, the patient is always free to reject the doctor’s advice or refuse to discuss the issue at all.

Right now Gun-nut Nation is 0-2 on issues that have been at the forefront of the promotion of gun violence over the past twenty years.  And why do I say that this bunch is trying to promote gun violence instead of, as they claim, just protecting all our 2nd-Amendment rights?  Because the argument that 125,000 gun deaths and injuries each year are the price we have to pay to protect ourselves with guns is an argument with no basis in truth.

But let’s remember that we are in the Age of Trump where truth and evidence-based information have little relevance to the public debate on gun violence or anything else. At least the majority of two federal courts have chosen to disagree.

Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: