Apparently the response to Mr. Vitello’s Newsday piece drew a lot of fire, metaphorically speaking. Enough that Mr. Vitello felt a need to comment:
Readers’ lock-n-load response
Are you lonely? Do you crave attention from passionate and devoted respondents? Would you like to receive letters, e-mails and phone calls by the hundreds, so many that you pine for that lonely old life you used to know?
Well, here’s the answer: Write something favorable about gun control. Lament how easy it still is to buy semi-automatic assault weapons such as the one used in the Washington, D.C., sniper case by John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo. Get your hand-wringing piece published in the newspaper.
For good measure, throw in some improper gun terminology – get your AR-15s mixed up with your AK-47s – just to show how little time you have spent in your life killing little leaf-eating mammals. Then, feel the heat as gun enthusiasts from all over the country devote their passionate attention to your once-lonesome self.
“If I hit someone in the head with a hammer, who’s fault is it, mine or the hammer’s?” wrote one such enthusiast, responding to a column I wrote last week about efforts in Congress to end existing restrictions on the sale and manufacture of assault weapons. The NRA has made ending the assault ban one of its top priorities.
“Personally, I think you are a dumb –, but as long as you are fighting against the freedoms of all Americans, I wouldn’t have you any other way.”
The letters and e-mails were angry and contemptuous and, I regret to say, too well-written for my taste. All pointed out some errors of fact by me:
The Bushmaster XM-15 assault rifle, used by Muhammad and Malvo to kill 10 people in the Washington, D.C., area in 2002, is not a civilian version of the AK-47 rifle, as I stated, but a semi-automatic version of the automatic AR-15 rifle used by the U.S. military. Excuse me.
It is also, apparently, not killer enough to be termed a “sniper rifle” in the military sense. As one respondent explained: “just because a sniper uses a rifle doesn’t make that gun a ‘sniper rifle.'” I erred again.
“I once heard that it is better to remain quiet and seem a fool than speak and remove all doubt. Never have those words been more accurate,” wrote a Mr. Manos of Springdale, Ariz.
But by far the most serious complaint was about my implication that all a buyer needed to buy an assault weapon is a driver’s license and money.
“When you only tell half a story it’s the same as lying,” wrote L.C. of Woodmere.
Here is the rest of the story, as best I can tell. A federal law was adopted in 1998 requiring a background check for anyone purchasing a handgun or long gun. If you go to a gun store to buy a gun, after asking for your money and your license, they will run your name through the FBI’s National Crime Information Center, or NCIC system.known as NCIS.
Gun control advocates and members of Congress have complained since the implementation of the 1998 law that the NCIC is a sieve, however. More than 30 million criminal records are missing from it.
The NCIC depends heavily on information provided by states; and too many states have failed to computerize and update their records. Two cases in point: John Allen Muhammad was able to buy his Bushmaster despite a court order-of-protection pending against him for having threatened his ex-wife, a disqualifier not in the NCIC system. And Peter Troy, despite a long history of mental illness, was able to buy a rifle in 2002 and kill two people at Our Lady of Christ Church, Lynbrook. He wasn’t in the system either.
THE LYING MOTHER%*^%&# DOES IT AGAIN!
Malvo has confessed that he stole the Bushmaster. They’ve already gotten another man for doing a straw-purchase of a Remington 700 bolt-action rifle for Muhammed from the same store! But this sorry bastard claims that Muhammed bought the Bushmaster, and slipped through the NICS check! Peter Troy bought a .22 caliber rifle – not an assault weapon – another case of bait-and-switch. Surely with just a bit of research he could have turned up an incident where a nutcase bought an AK and mowed down a crowd? No? Further, Peter Troy had no criminal record. He had a history of mental illness – a record protected by the doctor-patient relationship. I don’t know if Mr. Troy had ever been involuntarily placed in custodial care, which would have disqualified him, but that’s the difference between me and Mr. Vitello – I tell you when I don’t know – he just goes and makes up “facts” to fit his agenda.
The e-mails have slowed down since yesterday. But I had to stop picking up the phone on Friday because of the many calls from shooters who were earnest or angry or both, and wanting big chunks of my ear.
I heard them. They have their case to make, and they made it.
I do not know why there are any objections, though, to laws protecting citizens from nuts and criminals – and terrorists – who want to buy assault rifles at any sporting goods store in America.
Mr. Vitello, I’d be more than happy to debate this topic with you. You drop me a line. I’ll set it up.
The gun lobby is intensely well-organized to fight every single one of these laws, however, and to make each one as ineffective as possible.
That’s because we believe “shall not be infringed” means what it says.
That includes deluging with complaints and letters people who argue in any way against their culture of weapons.
I am not lonely, to tell you the truth; and I actually don’t like being buried in angry communications. But better that than to be buried at the hands of the next Peter Troy.
There is no Constitutional guarantee of safety, Mr. Vitello. Our Founders understood that.