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What’s the Connection?
December 6 Proves to Be a Big Day
for Gun Control Fallacies

by Sean Oberle

December 7, 2001

The logical disconnects of gun control advocates drive me crazy sometimes. Those disconnects are one of the reasons I have drifted over the years from being mildly receptive to gun controls to rejecting them strongly enough that I am dedicated to exposing the fallacies and untruths behind them. December 6 was a very busy day for logical shenanigans over gun control. (See the third item for a bit of quick activism.)

The Goshen Shooting

Less than two hours after the shooting began in Goshen, Indiana, while the police still had not even entered the building, Violence Policy Center (VPC), had updated its web page with numerous items it apparently thought relative to the incident, including a link to a “Workplace Shooting” excerpt from Executive Director Josh Sugarman’s appeal-to-emotion book Every Handgun is Aimed at You: The Case for Banning Handguns

Why put up an attack on handguns in reaction to a crime committed with a shotgun? Here’s my theory: VPC uses whatever tenuous connection it can to trot out its pet initiatives. If VPC thinks it is appropriate to erect an emotional connection between crimes committed with box cutters and its goal of banning .50 caliber rifles, why shouldn’t it try to make an emotional connection between a crime committed with a shotgun and its goal of banning handguns? At least both sides of the emotional equation involve guns in the latter case — though it is an illogical emotional appeal nonetheless.

Ashcroft and NICS Records

In a Senate hearing, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft received and returned criticism for both pushing and not pushing the legal envelope on violating rights. Notably, Ashcroft got heat for his position against turning over records of approved National Instant Check System (NICS) background checks to the FBI to see if “suspected terrorists” have attempted to buy firearms (he is willing to turn over the records of the rejections). 

Each side correctly attacked the other for the duplicity of protecting certain rights but not others (what else is new?). But left lingering was the frightening implicit question: “If we are going to set aside these protections of rights, why not go farther and set aside these others?” Certainly variations on that question were explicit in the press release statements from the anti-gun lobbies, including those of The Brady Campaign’s honcho Sarah Brady and VPC Litigation Director and Legislative Counsel Mathew Nosanchuk.

Ascroft’s position is based on a clause in the Brady Law that prohibits using NICS records to “establish any system for the registration of firearms, firearm owners, or firearm transactions or dispositions” except in regards to those people prohibited from buying guns. Anti-gun lawyers reject that interpretation, notably VPC’s Nosanchuk, who is a former Clinton Justice Department official involved with that administration’s interpretation of the NICS rules.

But here is the logical disconnect behind the brouhaha: It is very unclear how using these records in the manner suggested is necessary to stop future terrorism. Yes, I’m aware of the “gunrunning” theory, but leaving aside the question of whether the terrorists are interested in using guns for terrorism, consider that these suspects and their associates are under high scrutiny, many of them detained. Establishing that illegal transfer of weapons occurred after the legal sales does not depend on confirmation that the straw purchasers passed background checks. 

As to the idea that these records will tip the FBI to sales they should investigate, by law, the government destroys records of NICS approvals after 90 days. As of the day of the hearing (nearly 90 days after September 11), these suspects — if not under legal detainment — had their activities under high FBI scrutiny for most of the time that any possible activity recorded in existing NICS records occurred. It is highly unlikely that NICS records will tip the FBI to a sale it does not already know of — and the bureau still would be left with the question of whether that sale was related to illegal activity or was the purchase of an innocent suspect intent on no harm to others. After all, these are approvals being withheld by Ashcroft.

Gun Industry Watch Targets Beretta

Meanwhile, across town, Gun Industry Watch, the supposed “grassroots student” front for the anti-gun group First Monday, criticized gun makers for ads that make connections between September 11 and buying guns. First Monday, itself, is part of the leftwing lobbying group Alliance for Justice. Anti-gun Senators Henry Waxman and Carolyn McCarthy and Georgetown University student Mary Gibson joined Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron in a press event attacking gun makers.

The logical problem is that Gun Industry Watch used the same old, long-discredited Kellerman statistics (his 22:1 stat rather than his earlier 43:1) to “prove” that increased gun sales are a dangerous turn of events. Gun Industry Watch’s entire position is premised the validity of Kellerman’s data, but those data are not valid.

Specifically, Gun Industry Watch is attempting to launch a phone campaign against Beretta for selling a limited-edition 9mm, with patriotic engraving. Horror of horrors, Beretta is giving some of the proceeds to WTC charities. Gun Industry Watch has circulated the phone number of Beretta’s Steve Parsick (301-283-2191 ext 1204) urging members to tell him how bad guns are.

Incidentally, guns sales are not up because Beretta issued this ad. Rather, it appears, Beretta is attempting to tap into a pre-existing sales spike for an act of corporate charity.

The best thing we can do is boost the spirits of Parsick and depress the spirits of Gun Industry Watch (a.k.a. First Monday). Therefore, I ask everyone who reads this to call Parsick and tell him you support his company in its charitable efforts. Then contact First Monday to let it know you called him: 202-882-6070 or firstmonday@afj.org. Be polite — remember that you are representing us all.

Here’s what I wrote in my email to First Monday:

“I called Mr. Parsick of Beretta and told him — via voicemail — that I fully support his company’s charitable efforts. Gun sales were up regardless of the ads by Beretta and others, and his company apparently has decided to tap into these increased sales to help those in need. Thanks for providing his phone number! I'll pass it along to others so that Mr. Parsick will be uplifted when the calls supporting his company’s charity far outpace the calls attacking it.

“By the way, if you want to attack a cynical and illogical misuse of September 11 for financial gain, contact The Brady Campaign, which sent out a fundraising email suggesting that contributions would help keep terrorist from acquiring materials for mass destruction. See: http://www.keepandbeararms.com/information/XcIBViewItem.asp?ID=2884.”

Sean Oberle is a Featured Writer and gun control analyst for KeepAndBearArms.com. He can be reached at Analysis@KeepAndBearArms.com. View other articles from him at http://www.KeepAndBearArms.com/Oberle.

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