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David Hines [userpic]

Dear WASHINGTON POST: no.

April 19th, 2009 (03:13 pm)
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The latest big push for anti-gun legislation is in the form of a bunch of news articles blaming the United States for Mexican crime. It's been going on for a couple of years now, in various forms. At first they mentioned the Barrett .50 BMG rifle and the FN Five-seveN (the Five-seveN is never mentioned by name, only as "a handgun capable of defeating body armor," with no mention that to pull off that little stunt you need to be using ammunition that, um, *isn't available on the civilian market*). Most gun nuts figured that the ATF was promoting this line; the scarier guns are, the bigger ATF's budget gets. More recently, the press started running articles about seizures in Mexico of crime guns that originated in the United States; the problem with these articles is that they would invariably list stuff recovered along with the guns, like, oh, say, *grenades.* Here is an exercise, folks; walk into a gun shop and ask to buy some grenades, and when they are done laughing at you they will probably tell you to sit down while they call the ATF.

The WASHINGTON POST has just taken media gun illiteracy to new heights, and I'll tell you about it later in this post.

The latest item the media has been parroting is what gun nuts have started referring to as "the Mexican Gun Canard." This is the false statistic that 90% of all crime guns in Mexico come from the United States. It was invariably unsourced and dropped into news articles. I tried to find out where the stat had come from; no dice. But Congresscritters used it; so has President Obama; so has the president of Mexico. Turns out it's from an ATF guy's Congressional testimony, and what he said was that 90% of guns *that the Mexicans gave to the ATF to trace* turned out to be from the United States, not of the number of guns the Mexicans recovered. So the 90% claim is not only false, but rather egregiously false. Fox News actually dug up the numbers, and came up with a figure of 17% of Mexican crime guns being from the United States. FactCheck.org disagreed with Fox's figures, but they agreed that the 90% claim was bullshit; the figure they came up with was 36%. Here's the best part: until gun nuts complained, loud and long, no reporter had ever thought to see if the figure that newspapers and politicians were citing was, y'know, *right;* they just saw it in each other's articles, and ran with it. Way to go, guys.

Which brings me to this little beauty. The WASHINGTON POST decided to do a Mexican gun-trafficking story, and went to a gun show as part of this report. They were interested in private sales at gun shows, what the anti-gun folks call "the gun show loophole." It's not, of course; a private sale that's legal at a gun show would be perfectly legal anywhere else. There's nothing magic about the location; it's just that you're more likely to sell your gun where people are looking to buy.

So the POST is writing about "the gun show loophole," and one of their reporters talked to a family, the Allerds:

The Allerd family explained how as "private collectors," they can sell guns without filling out federal forms or running the criminal background checks required of licensed dealers.

"No paperwork, nothing," said Jacob Allerd. "Just an Arizona license. And proof you're over 21."

And neither U.S. nor Arizona law limit the number of guns one can buy, even from dealers.

"Fifteen?" Allerd said. "We can get it for you. Most people just want two or three at the most."


Here is how bad the media is when it comes to guns: a Washington Post reporter writing a piece on gun policy literally *does not recognize a felony when it is committed in front of him.* The Allerd family had better hire a dang good attorney, PDQ.

For the uninitiated: your typical private sale at a gun show is by a guy looking to sell the one gun he brought to the show -- say, one of the kids needs braces, so he sells his Colt Python to another guy who's taking in the show. That's perfectly legal; it's like selling the gun to your pal Fred, except at the gun show you're likely to get a better price.

Another kind of private sale at gun shows is the collector. Here's the difference between these guys and the Allerds: typically, the legitimate collector with a table who's selling a boatload of firearms is *liquidating.* Odds are really good he's an old man who's built up a great collection over the decades, and is selling it off as he's entering his twilight years. That's okay, too.

The Allerds? Hoo-boy, are they ever playing a different game. When Jacob Allerd says, "We can get it for you," he has just committed a felony. Buying to resell in response to an order? That, my friends, is being a gun dealer, and if you don't have a Federal Firearms License you are headed straight to PMITA prison, right along with Jacob Allerd when every ATF agent in the DC area opens their copy of the Sunday Washington Post.

Comments

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: mymatedave (mymatedave)
Posted at: April 19th, 2009 10:08 pm (UTC)

Journalism today is terrible. I recently read a book called Flat Earth News by Nick Davies, where he talks about the laziness and echo chamber nature of newspaper offices across the political spectrum. You should check it out.

Posted by: LiamStLiam (liamstliam)
Posted at: April 19th, 2009 11:15 pm (UTC)

Go over to NPR.com to hear a really good story that says those numbers are all screwed up.

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