Having done a ton of reporting on gun control in the past month, I’ve noticed an increase in the amount of mail I get from readers – some thoughtful and constructive, but mostly angry rants.
So where better to address some of it than here?
First, let me dispel a few myths. Many people have angrily urged me to “get my facts straight” and stop reporting that Adam Lanza used a Bushmaster .223-caliber semi-automatic rifle to kill 20 children and seven adults in Newtown, Conn. The fact is: It’s true.
Yes, I’ve seen the video clip from NBC’s Today show which reported that Lanza had taken four handguns into the school but left the rifle in his car. That video is wrong; it was based on unnamed sources and aired Dec. 15, the day after the shooting, before authorities had briefed the media on what weapons were actually used. The correct information was released later that day. But this video clip has been reposted so many times since – with or without the knowledge that it’s dead wrong – that Connecticut State Police felt compelled to re-issue the correct information a few weeks ago.
Also, a few people have e-mailed me suggesting that Lanza, or Lanza alone, wasn’t responsible for the shooting. I’ve seen no credible evidence anywhere to suggest otherwise, and I have no patience for unsubstantiated conspiracy theories.
Now, on to some specifics. In response to my article in today’s editions about background checks, one reader noted that I “failed to mention that the government only prosecutes a small fraction of the people denied firearm purchases because of background checks. …We need to enforce the laws we have already.”
Actually, it’s not a federal crime for your background check to result in a denial – it’s a federal crime to lie about the information you submit for the background check, and Vice President Joe Biden did say the government lacks resources to go after those who do, even though it’s punishable by up to 10 years behind bars.
I agree that more efforts to punish those who are caught lying would be great, and that’s a very good topic for a future story; this story, however, was first and foremost about background checks keeping guns out of the hands of people who are legally prohibited from owning them. If they were caught lying, they didn’t get the guns and so the system worked at least that much.
I’ll dissect one of the more radical rants I’ve received, after the jump….
Here’s one of my very favorite reader e-mails, also in response to today’s article, from Gary B—-, 70, of El Cerrito:
You could be the poster boy for hoplophobia. I believe this leads you to being such an anti-gun radical. Your statement in the WCT times article on Thursday where you state “background checks have stopped about a dozen felons, mentally ill people and others from buying guns.” I find this premise typical of you and the left when attempting to make a questionable static into a major case for additional anti-gun laws.
Over time I have discovered that your writing is politically liberal and you would do anything to support Democrat politicians. Too bad you did not get the memo that nearly every one of the mass shootings was conducted by liberals or democrats who had a bone to pick with somebody or something. I could simply propose that we simply ban guns from democrats and liberals and the country would be a whole lot safer. How come the highest crime rates exist in areas where liberals and democrats run everything? Just a coincidence? NOT!
I hope you enjoy being a member of the equivalent of a Pravda and Izvestia media that flourished in the Soviet Union!
First of all… the Soviet Union? Really? It’s 2013, Gary. If you’re going to call me a communist, at least call me a Cuban or something a little more timely.
Second, background checks HAVE stopped an average of about a dozen felons, mentally ill people and others from buying guns each day under California’s law from 1991 through 2011. That’s 93,632 denials divided by 21 years divided by 365 days, for 12.2 denials per day.
Third, Gary says “nearly every one of the mass shootings was conducted by liberals or democrats who had a bone to pick with somebody or something.”
Huh? Maybe he’s talking about the Breitbart report that Aurora, Colo., movie theater massacre gunman James Holmes was a Democrat – later amended to say he’s not even registered to vote. (If you base all your arguments on Breitbart, you deserve what you get, although at least they corrected this report.) As for Adam Lanza, he was raised by Republicans just like Gary from El Cerrito. And I’m not aware anyone has determined a political motive for Jared Lee Loughner’s attempt to assassinate Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords – not that it would make any difference in any of these cases or most others. The common thread is that all three had documented mental health issues and never should’ve been allowed to pick up a gun.
Fourth, Gary says, “How come the highest crime rates exist in areas where liberals and democrats run everything? Just a coincidence? NOT!”
NOT true, actually. Take Louisiana, for example: Republicans hold the governor’s office, both houses of the state legislature, five of six House seats and one of two U.S. Senate seats, yet the state in 2011 had the second-highest firearm murder rate in the nation and from 1999-2010 had the second highest rate of firearms deaths (including accidents, suicides, homicides and unknown intent).
Furthermore, a key point of our national debate is that state laws can accomplish little when other states remain lax. And a 2008 report by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, based on ATF trace data, found that “on the basis of population, ten states – West Virginia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Kentucky, Alabama, Virginia, Georgia, Indiana, Nevada, and North Carolina – supply interstate crime guns at a rate two and a half times the national average.” Those don’t look like reliably blue states to me.
So feel free to write to me again when you have some idea what you’re talking about, Gary. But if it’s going to be another baseless rant, save it for someone more gullible.