The Starting Line – Shooting Down False Arguments About Gun Control, Starting With the UT-San Diego Editorial Board


By Doug Porter

Clearly these guys at UT-San Diego can’t read. The local daily runs an editorial on gun laws and can’t even get their facts straight. Why? Because they obviously can’t comprehend a simple press release.

And they can’t count either. As one reader pointed out: This editorial begins with the president “surrounding himself with children,” but there were only FOUR children who were among many who wrote letters concerning gun violence. The spin begins with the first sentence….

Here’s what the UT-San Diego said, trying to shore up their gun control arguments with numbers:

While a new Gallup poll shows support for tougher gun laws has increased to 38 percent, the same poll shows 48 percent of Americans like laws as they are or want them loosened.

Except that’s NOT what the Gallup poll said.  The number that the UT-SD editorial board cites is drawn from a subset of answers to a subsequent question. Here’s the real data, the data they had to look past to find their numbers.

gallup chart

So 38% of those who were dissatisfied with current legislation said they’d like stricter laws. 58% of all the people asked said they’d like stricter laws.

I tried to point this out to the UT-SD gang in the comments section, but it was ignored. I can’t say as I blame them for not reading the comments, though, given the amount of uniformed drivel that gets posted.

APGFK_GUN_POLLSpeaking of numbers, let’s turn to Juan Williams over at Fox News. Surely the UT-SD editorial board can’t quibble with Fox, right?

 According to Pew, 85% of Americans, a roughly equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans, favor universal background checks on gun buyers including at gun shows. The survey also found that preventing people with mental illness from buying guns is backed by 80% of Americans, including 86% of Republicans and 78% of Democrats.

In opposing these common-sense gun safety measures under consideration by President Obama, the NRA is not only at odds with the general public, it is also at odds with its own membership.

After the shooting in AuroraColorado this summer, Republican pollster Frank Luntz conducted a nationwide survey of gun owners who are members of the NRA. Luntz found that 74 percent of NRA members and 87 percent of non-NRA gun owners support background checks on every gun sale. The poll also found that 79 percent of NRA members and 80 percent of non-NRA gun owners support requiring gun retailers to perform background checks on all employees.

But if They’d Only Enforce the Existing Laws…

That’s my favorite misleading statement promulgated by the pro-gun lobby types. And the absolute answer to that question is: because the gun lobby’s made it impossible for gun laws to be enforced. Let’s look at some facts, courtesy of the Daily Show (here’s the video if you’d prefer watching it with an audience)…

Let’s start with things on the Federal level. The law enforcement agency tasked with most gun related enforcement is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). That agency hasn’t had a director for six years now, because the US Senate refuses to confirm any nominee for the job. This isn’t just an anti-Obama thing; Bush had the same problem, too.

ATF-SensenbrennerSenate confirmation for the ATF director, even though it’s not a cabinet position, is required, because Congressman James Sensenbrenner inserted that provision into the PATRIOT Act in 2006. The Wisconsin representative was rewarded for his efforts by the National Rifle Association that very same year when they presented him with the Defender of Freedom award.

The 100,000 gun dealers in the United States are policed by about 2500 ATF agents (a number that hasn’t changed in four decades). A 1995 study found that 57% of guns used in crimes could be traced back to just 1% of licensed gun dealers.  From the Washington Post:

The Clinton administration seized on the findings to encourage police to request a trace on every gun they confiscated. In 2000, Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers, who oversaw the ATF, announced “intensive inspections” of the 1 percent – 1,012 gun stores.

The inspections detected serious problems. Nearly half of the dealers could not account for all of their guns, for a total of 13,271 missing firearms. More than half were out of compliance with record-keeping. And they had made nearly 700 sales to potential traffickers or prohibited people. More than 450 dealers were sanctioned, and 20 were referred for license revocation.

The ATF proposed tougher rules, such as requiring dealers to conduct regular inventories to detect lost or stolen guns. The gun industry opposed the rule, calling it a step toward a national registry of gun ownership

Guess who won that battle? From the New York Times:

…under current laws the bureau is prohibited from creating a federal registry of gun transactions. So while detectives on television tap a serial number into a computer and instantly identify the buyer of a firearm, the reality could not be more different.

Even if the ATF had enough agents, the agency isn’t allowed to inspect dealers for inventory discrepancies more than once a year.  So the current reality is dealers face scrutiny once every 17 years. Additionally, law enforcement is even barred from asking for self-reported inventories.

What all this means, according to a 2010 study done by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, is that an average of 56 firearms each daygo missing; that’s roughly 20,000 a year.

Thanks to an amendment inserted into a federal spending bill by now ex-Congressman Todd Tiahrt the ATF’s capability for enforcing existing gun laws is severely restricted.

Gun dealers can simply ignore police requests for assistance. Congress can no longer access formerly public crime gun data.  Oversight of used firearm sales is non-existent. Even the background record checks that are allowed must, by law, be destroyed within 24 hours.

ammo-united-states-flagAll this stuff was vetted (and more likely drafted) by the NRA. From the Washington Post:

Rep. Todd Tiahrt (Kan.) surprised many of his fellow Republicans last week when he offered a lengthy amendment, blessed by the National Rifle Association, to the 2004 funding bill for the Commerce, Justice and State departments.

Tiahrt’s eight-point amendment, which targets the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and was drafted with the NRA’s help, would prohibit the use of federal funds for several bureau activities. It would prevent the bureau from requiring firearms dealers to conduct a physical inventory, from denying licenses to dealers whose sales fall below a certain level, and from demanding that certain dealers provide documentation for all used guns sold in a specific period.

Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), who chairs the appropriations subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and State, objected to the amendment, saying he had not had time to review it. “They may all have been good amendments, they may not,” Wolf said. “I just didn’t have an opportunity to go through and look at them. I could not accept an amendment without knowing what all the provisions do.”

Tiahrt refused to withdraw the amendment and won passage on a 31 to 30 vote. Before the vote, Tiahrt assured colleagues the NRA had reviewed the language, which won over some Democrats as well as several Republicans. “I wanted to make sure I was fulfilling the needs of my friends who are firearms dealers,” Tiahrt said. NRA officials “were helpful in making sure I had my bases covered.”

After getting his way with the ATF, then Congressman Tiahrt had the balls to lecture local officials about why they shouldn’t be in the business of enforcing gun laws:

And when crimes are committed, or when there’s a dealer selling guns illegally, we have an organization that goes after them, 24/7, every day.  It’s called the ATF, and they have officers completely assigned to do this. (7/11/2007)

Do Something about Guns & Mental Illness? We Tried!

gun factsAnother argument being pitched by the NRA-types is that mental illness needs to be dealt with. There are several variants on this theme, but I’ll keep it general for now.

Haven’t we been down this road before? From the Los Angeles Times:

Swept along by the tide of outrage and sorrow after the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, Congress passed a law to try to prevent future tragedies by keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.

The measure, signed by President George W. Bush, promised to strengthen the 14-year-old National Instant Criminal Background Check System by establishing incentives and penalties to prod states to submit records of people legally barred under federal law from buying guns — including those who had been committed to mental institutions.

But today, that promise remains unfulfilled. More than half the states haven’t provided mental health records to the federal database that gun dealers use to check on buyers. And the gap in dealing with the mentally ill is just one of myriad problems that have hampered background checks.

In case you haven’t guessed by now why nothing has changed:

Gun rights organizations, including the National Rifle Assn., have fought expansion of those checks. Though the NRA says it supports making sure the names of “violent schizophrenics” are in the database, the group also made it tougher for states to comply — by successfully lobbying for a provision in the 2007 law that requires an appeals process so the mentally ill can seek to have their gun rights restored. States must set that up before they can receive federal grants to help collect records.

As many as 2 million mental health records are not in the system, the National Center for State Courts has found. Gun control advocates say plugging holes like that could be one of the most effective ways to stem gun violence.

gun_aircraftOne Final Note to the Lunatic Fringe Out There

Not one of the proposals that President Obama talked about for regulating firearms involves taking away firearms from law biding citizens. Deal with it.



On This Day1944 – The first jazz concert was held at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. The performers were Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Artie Shaw, Roy Eldridge and Jack Teagarden.  1993 – The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday was observed in all 50 U.S. states for the first time.  2012 – Wikipedia began a 24-hour “blackout” in protest against proposed anti-piracy legislation (S. 968 and H.R. 3261) known as the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House. Many websites, including Reddit, Google, Facebook, Amazon and others, contended would make it challenging if not impossible for them to operate.

Eat Fresh! Today’s Farmers’ Markets: Fallbrook (102 S. Main, at Alvarado) 10 am – 2 pm, Imperial Beach  (Seacoast Dr. at Pier Plaza) 2 – 7:30 pm, Kearny Mesa (No. Island Credit Union pkg lot  5898 Copley) 10:30 am – 1:30 pm, La Mesa Village  (Corner of Spring St. and University) 2 – 6 pm, Rancho Bernardo (Bernardo Winery parking lot 13330 Paseo del Verano Norte) 9 am – noon, Southeast San Diego(4981 Market St. West of Euclid Ave. Trolley Station) 2 – 6 pm

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Doug Porter

Doug Porter was active in the early days of the alternative press in San Diego, contributing to the OB Liberator, the print version of the OB Rag, the San Diego Door, and the San Diego Street Journal. He went on to have a 35 year career in the Hospitality business and decided to go back into raising hell when he retired. He's won awards for 'Daily Reporting and Writing: Opinion/Editorial' from the Society of Professional Journalists in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Doug is a cancer survivor (sans vocal chords) and lives in North Park.
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  1. avatarbob dorn says

    I’ve archived this column in my “Gun Control” folder. The intricate manipulation of people and politicians by the NRA made visible in this piece of work can tell us that we don’t need to waste time trying to convert the NRA or its cult followers; we have to shun them like all other cultists and correct the government that abets them. There is no end to the arguments of gun freaks, save for the gunshot that settles them. Implicit in all the impossible paradoxes they raise (guns don’t kill people; armed citizen militias are required by the Constitution) is the defiance of reason and the intimidation of reasonable people. The NRA is not a posse, is not even a militia; it is a cult.