Was This Intended Or Unintended?

Where you place paragraphs in a story makes a difference and can lead to different interpretations of your argument. Today’s Wall Street Journal provides an excellent example of it in a story on the flaws of the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The story is in the Southeast paper edition of the Journal but does not appear online. The only thing online is an infographic on the failures of the system.

Consider this paragraph.

And then there are private sales. Background checks aren’t always required when sales are made by private sellers, those people who make only occasional guns sales from private collections.

It was immediately followed by this paragraph.

Several mass-shooters have purchased guns they shouldn’t have been able to buy. 

The story by Ashby Jones then goes on to give examples of how both the Virginia Tech mass-murderer and the Sutherland Spring First Baptist mass-murderer were able to obtain their weapons, though prohibited persons, after passing a FBI NICS check. The story does detail how the Virginia court and the US Air Force had failed to submit the records for inclusion in the FBI’s databases.

By placing the second paragraph immediately after the paragraph on private sales, the reader is at first led to believe that the mass-murderers obtained their firearms from a private seller which we know was not the case.

If that second paragraph had added “due to the failure to submit disqualifying records to the NICS database” or “even though they passed background checks”, then it would be understood that the killers obtained their firearms due to a failure of the system and not due to the negligence or greed of a private seller.

Is this a case of unintended juxtaposition? Is it a case of tight editing for brevity in the second paragraph? Or is it, more problematically, a case of using the structure of the story to convey an argument for so-called universal background checks.

I don’t know but I do know that the wrong impression is initially given by the structure of the story.

If this came from the New York Times or the Washington Post I would say it was intended to mislead. Since the Wall Street Journal tends to be more neutral on firearms issues, I could go either way. Nonetheless, this is a case of the mainstream media, intentionally or unintentionally, pushing the narrative for universal background checks which is wrong.

Guns, Politics, And Freedom Radio

I was a guest yesterday on Episode 24 of the Guns, Freedom, and Politics radio show with Paul Valone. We discussed the failures of law enforcement at Marjory Stoneman Douglas H.S., President Trump’s gun control proposals, the media narrative of events, and what would have worked.

Paul suggested everyone call the White House comment line at 202-456-1111 to let him know where you stand on his proposals regarding bump fire stocks, raising the age to purchase a long arm, and universal background checks. The key thing regarding bump fire stocks is not the stocks themselves but rather if it is interpreted to include anything that might accelerate the rate of fire such as a trigger job, Geissele or Timney triggers, or a different buffer weight.

Paul has made the recording available as a YouTube video. You may want to subscribe to his page so you don’t miss future shows.

Deconstructing An “Appalling” New York Times Editorial

The New York Times ran an editorial yesterday castigating the Republican presidential candidates for not talking about gun control in their recent debate. They titled it “An Appalling Silence on Gun Control”. After reading the editorial, the best thing about it is that they don’t hide their intentions behind the “gun safety” euphemism.

Now to deconstructing the editorial:

It was remarkable that the Republican presidential candidates’ debate this week, supposedly focused on keeping Americans safe, was devoid of questions and comments about the public health issue of gun violence.

First off, gun violence is an inaccuracy. The gun is a tool and an inanimate object. The gun itself cannot jump up and shoot someone. The gun doesn’t pull the trigger; a human finger pulls that trigger. The gun cannot commit violence.

Second, it is not a public health issue. Violence committed by urban gangs in turf battles, violence committed during the commission of a home invasion or burglary, and violence committed by minorities on fellow minorities is not a public health issue. It is a crime issue. No amount of research by pet academics at Harvard or Johns Hopkins can change this fact.

That would have complicated their pitch, and more important, would mean thinking about gun violence in ways that would displease the gun industry and its political lobby. Those forces demand unquestioning allegiance from politicians fearful for their careers — outspoken candidates who retreat into shameful timidity when serious ideas on gun safety are needed. Strangely, the debate moderators didn’t care to touch the gun issue either, thereby burying a public health challenge that is a lethal, daily threat.

It is not the firearms industry nor the NRA that is calling the shots here. It is the voters. Specifically, it is the single issue gun rights voter that is demanding no more gun control. The Times is so used to top-down organizations and astroturfing that they can’t recognize real grassroots movements when they see it at work. The gun industry dances to the tune of the consumer and not the other way around when it comes to gun rights. That is why Ruger is pledging to donate up to $2 million to the NRA-ILA and why Smith & Wesson almost went under as a result of an agreement with the Clinton Administration.

The majority of Americans have said that they don’t want what the Times considers serious ideas. The most recent polls say that people reject assault weapons (sic) bans and actually think carrying a firearm is a better way to fight terrorism than “gun safety”.

As Jeff Knox always points out, we are the gun lobby.

It’s easier for these candidates to engage in eerie discussions of whether the next president should be free to bomb civilians in Syria or shoot down Russian bombers in a no-fly zone. They are experts at stoking fears about terrorism and great at wringing their hands about the unfounded bomb scare that shut down the Los Angeles school district on Tuesday, but actually facing up to gun violence — which kills more than 33,000 Americans a year — is beyond their capacity or courage. Far from offering any ideas, their statements on the campaign trail are a national embarrassment.

According to official CDC mortality statistics for 2013, 11,208 people died as a result of homicides involving firearms. An additional 516 people died as a result of “legal intervention”. This is a far cry from the 33,000 that the Times claims die as a result of “gun violence”.

The larger number comes from aggregating the number of suicides involving the discharge of a firearm with homicides. However, only little more than half of the 41,149 suicides in 2013 involved a firearm. The Times ignores the other 19,974 Americans who died as a result of suicide.

Suicide is a mental health issue. When a person feels so desperate that they feel taking their own life is the only course of action left to them, it is a tragedy as well as a profoundly sad event. However the Times and their allies do not call it razor blade violence when someone slits their wrists nor Tylenol violence when someone swallows a whole bottle of pills and kills their liver. They don’t demand politicians close the “razor blade loophole” or demand “universal background checks” for those purchasing Tylenol.

The Times and their readers would consider the following statistics on homicides either racist or a microaggression. Either way, it needs to be said. 73% of the homicide victims in 2013 were either black or Hispanic. To put this into perspective the combined percentage of the United States population that were either black or Hispanic was 30.6%. Moreover, these homicide victims were overwhelmingly male – 90% male for black victims and 83% male for Hispanic victims.

“I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away,” Dr. Ben Carson declared in October.

Dr. Carson is right. Taking away the right of self defense is more horrible and devastating.

You get rid of the bad guys by using our guns,” Senator Ted Cruz passionately declared early this month. He likes to make light of the issue, too: “We define gun control real simple — that’s hitting what you aim at.”

Ted is correct. People do protect themselves and often kill the bad guys when they use their own firearms in defensive gun uses. This is a regular feature of The Polite Society Podcast. Clayton Cramer has resumed his postings on Civilian Gun Self-Defense as well.

“Gun laws fail everywhere they’re tried,” Senator Marco Rubio flatly insisted last month. That claim is plain wrong, contradicted by major studies as well as experience in other countries where politicians have enacted sensible controls that helped to reduce rates of gun deaths.

No, the Times is plain wrong. France had all the “sensible controls” you would want.

Donald Trump favored an assault weapons ban in 2000, but this year he pledged to veto gun controls, making the death toll from firearms sound like the inescapable result of fate: “You’re going to have these things happen and it’s a horrible thing to behold.”

The Donald is correct. They are horrible to behold and, yes, they are going to happen. Homicides have trended down as gun sales and possession have increased. If the Times wants to blame anything for mass shootings, I suggest that they look at the increase in radical Muslims and the de-institutionalization of mental patients.

Jeb Bush may be trying to run as a moderate against Mr. Trump, but he concedes nothing when it comes to pure fatalism about guns. “Look, stuff happens,” Mr. Bush said in October, bizarrely trying to make the case that the impulse to do something constructive may not be the right course after mass shootings. He could have been speaking for any of his current rivals when he addressed the National Rifle Association convention in 2003 and exuberantly declared, “The sound of our guns is the sound of freedom!” This week, the sound of the guns from San Bernardino, Colorado Springs and a dozen earlier scenes of American carnage never penetrated the debate.

The impulse is always to “do something”. I don’t support Jeb and wish he’d drop out of the race but in this case he is correct. It isn’t bizarre that Jeb said that following impulses to do something may not be the right course of action. What the Times forgets to add here is that the murderers in Tucson, Aurora, and many other places all did pass a background check. Banning magazines or firearms of “distasteful cosmetics” would not have stopped these killings. What might, and I’ll only say might, have stopped some of these murders would have been for people close to the murderers to have intervened before they went over the deep end. That is hindsight and mental illness is hard for a layperson to recognize.

Really the only thing appalling is not the Republican candidates’ silence but the narrative put out by the Times. They may think they know better than thee and me but they are mistaken.

Quote Of The Day

The quote of the day comes from Sebastian at Shall Not Be Questioned. He notes the narrative continues despite all indications from recent reports that the Stand Your Ground law has no real bearing on the Trayvon Martin case anymore.

This stopped being about Trayvon Martin days ago. The media is now in a full court press to blame the laws, despite the current witness testimony that essentially reveal that Martin was on top of Zimmerman before the shooting occurred. Duty to retreat is not at issue here. It can’t be at issue. Zimmerman had no means of retreat. The entire question, as I have said since the beginning, will hinge on whether Zimmerman is faultless.