Guns and the “Alternative Media,” Part II

The local alt.weekly‘s latest edition was dedicated to memorializing the first anniversary of the January 8 rampage shooting here in Tucson that left six dead and thirteen wounded, including Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords, the primary target of the attack. Surprisingly, there wasn’t a whole lot said about gun control other than in the context of keeping guns out of the hands of nutcases, but they couldn’t let the entire issue go out without at least one philippic on the topic.

It’s been a while.  Let us fisk:

Guns Galore: After Jan. 8, the firearms race didn’t miss a beat – by Tim Vanderpool

Scott Zike makes black holsters for pistols, assault rifles and any other manner of weapon in between. And he’s selling them with a vengeance on this gray December morning, his inventory dangling overhead like so many dead crows.

Someone makes holsters for assault rifles? Wouldn’t they be difficult on the draw?

His decidedly niche market became even more specialized over the past year. “One thing that happened was that people wanted my large magazine pouches because they wanted to use the 33-round mags,” he says. “So I was making the large pouches to fit over those extreme mags.”

Wow. How many people did Vanderpool have to interview before he came up with one who would call the 33-round Glock magazine “extreme”? Or did he? (I keep picturing exploding GM gas tanks and typeset Air National Guard memos….)

He links this blossoming demand directly to the Jan. 8 shootings. That mass carnage was due in no small part to the fact that alleged shooter Jared Lee Loughner fitted his Glock pistol with a high-capacity, 33-round magazine.

Yes, Loughner couldn’t possibly have killed and injured so many people with two seventeen round magazines. Or four ten round magazines.

Or a Ryder truck loaded with fertilizer and diesel fuel.

Rather than dampening gun sales, the Safeway shootings have apparently heightened paranoia that new gun restrictions would soon follow. For gun enthusiasts, the logical impulse is to buy what you can, while you can.

That perspective is not baseless. For instance, the oversized magazines that expedited Jared Loughner’s rampage and plumped up Scott Zike’s bottom line were outlawed as part of federal assault-weapons ban in 1994—although that prohibition was allowed to expire in 2004 under the watch of then-President George W. Bush.

Let’s examine this one, disregarding the fact that the law prohibited the manufacture of new magazines of more than 10-round capacity and had no effect (except in price) on existing stock.

The Democratic Party’s 2000 National Platform included this gun control plank:

Democrats passed the Brady Law and the Assault Weapons Ban. We increased federal, state, and local gun crime prosecution by 22 percent since 1992. Now gun crime is down by 35 percent. Now we must do even more. We need mandatory child safety locks. We should require a photo license I.D., a background check, and a gun safety test to buy a new handgun. We support more federal gun prosecutors and giving states and communities another 10,000 prosecutors to fight gun crime.

Their 2004 platform included this:

We will protect Americans’ Second Amendment right to own firearms, and we will keep guns out of the hands of criminals and terrorists by fighting gun crime, reauthorizing the assault weapons ban, and closing the gun show loophole, as President Bush proposed and failed to do.

The language was almost unchanged in the 2008 Platform.

Now from 1994 through 2005 the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress, but Democrats took back the House and Senate in 2006. Bush had promised to sign a renewal of the ban if it was presented to him. President Obama has also stated a desire to reinstate the ban.

The Democrat-controlled Congress failed to present either President with such legislation.

But it’s Bush’s fault.

Just wanted to make that clear.

“Anyone who wants a gun for any type of purpose can go to a gun show, knowing there will not even be the semblance of a gun check,” says Elliot Glicksman, a prominent Tucson attorney who specializes in representing crime victims.

Which is, of course, complete bullshit. Yes, you can do a private-party sale where there can be no background check, as individuals don’t have access to the system by law, but if you buy a gun from a licensed dealer, you go through the same background check as if you were in a gun shop.  And you can do a private party sale anywhere, not just at a gun show.

And he knows this.

He should also be aware of the fact that gun shows represent a tiny portion of the source of guns used in crime. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics:

Inmates serving time in state prisons during 1997 said they obtained their guns from the following sources in percentages:

Purchased from a retail store 8.3 percent
Purchased at a pawn shop 3.8
Purchased at a flea market 1.0
Purchased in a gun show 0.7
Obtained from friends or family 39.6
Got on the street/illegal source 39.2

The percentage of inmates who bought their guns from a retail store fell from 21 percent in 1991, when the last such survey was conducted to 14 percent in 1997. At the same time the percentage who obtained their firearms from family or friends rose from 34 percent in 1991 to 40 percent in 1997.

Less than one percent. I guess that “gun show loophole” really is a big problem. And the Tucson shooter got his Glock from a the gun department of a Sportsman’s Warehouse.  He underwent that background check, for all the good it did.

But facts don’t matter much when you’re talking about “gun control.”

Glicksman’s caseload is grim testimony to the extent of gun violence. “I deal with this stuff all the time,” he says, “and to me, it seems unbelievable that we live in a place where people really believe there should be no limit on who gets guns and what kind of guns they get.”

Yeah, we think everyone should be able to buy a belt-fed from a vending machine. In elementary school.  Hyperbole much?

Other reform advocates have personally felt the impacts of gun violence. It was 30 years ago that Susan Agrillo’s sister was gunned down in Chicago during a botched mugging. Now a prosecutor with the Tucson City Attorney’s Office, Agrillo spent years working toward even minimal firearms control.

She says her efforts were blocked at nearly every step by the National Rifle Association. “They have a lot of money, a lot of lobbyists, and they influence our legislators.”

Good. That’s what me and about four million other people pay them to do.

To Agrillo, the NRA’s clout overshadows public sentiment. “Most people want reasonable gun control,” she says, “and that’s been the case since I started doing this 30 years ago.”

Sure they do. Until you tell them what you have in mind, whereupon they respond “Not THAT!” because what you consider “reasonable” and what “most people” consider reasonable are not congruent. You’ll note that, 30 years on and after all the “reasonable gun control” the anti-gunners could ask for, Chicago is still one of the most dangerous cities for gun violence in the country. How’s that gun control working out for you, Ms. Agrillo?

Judging from the December Tucson gun show, that’s also likely to be the case for years to come. On this day, NRA volunteers are out in full force, renewing memberships and hustling raffle tickets for a $400, .40-caliber Taurus handgun.

Among those volunteers is Jim Coniglio, a retired electrical engineer, a weapons instructor and an NRA lifer. “When you have very strict gun controls such as in Washington, D.C., and New York City,” he says, “there’s more crime there with criminals having guns and people being defenseless.”

Chicago being a prime case.

From that perspective, growing gun sales since Jan. 8 should surprise no one. “I think on Black Friday after Thanksgiving, they even set a record with gun sales to women,” Coniglio says.

To him, the logic driving that trend is a no-brainer. “Would you prefer to call 911—and wait for an hour, and maybe a cop will show up—as your wife is being attacked by some guy?”

You’ll note that the author, Tim Vanderpool, didn’t bother to answer that question.

Sarah McKinley answered it for him on New Year’s Eve.

The massacre in the Safeway parking lot here in Tucson last year was a tragedy, no doubt about it. But the father of nine year-old victim Christina-Taylor Green was right when he said:

This shouldn’t happen in this country, or anywhere else, but in a free society we’re going to be subject to people like this. I prefer this to the alternative.

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