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Greenwood slaying: Some reality lessons for gun banners

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg has the unenviable task of prosecuting a teen for murder.
Dave Workman

By tomorrow, according to yesterday’s Seattle Times and an e-mail exchange between Examiner and the King County Prosecutor’s office, a decision will be made by King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg's office on charging the 17-year-old suspect in the Feb. 23 slaying of David L. Peterson, apparently over a cell phone.

This is not the kind of case anyone relishes, as the Times story, by veteran reporter Christine Clarridge, notes that there is lots of tragedy to go around.

This case could turn into a reality lesson for gun prohibitionists not only in Washington but across the country; the people who believe such things as so-called “universal background checks” and microstamping will prevent such crimes.

However, they will most likely shift blame from the suspect to the gun, blaming the lack of background checks and the “easy availability of guns” for the crime. That’s only because they can’t blame a “stand your ground” law, some cynics might suggest.

It’s the same delusional mentality, say gun advocates, that is behind gun registration laws passed last year in Connecticut that now have gun owners in that state challenging officials to either enforce the laws or repeal them all by May 7. As this column noted yesterday, gun owners in “The Constitution State” are fed up, and they’re ready to fight.

The Seattle Times, in its coverage of the Peterson case, reported that the teen suspect – a senior at Ballard High School and member of the football team – waived his right to appear yesterday in juvenile court. He will likely be charged as an adult, and Times readers are showing no sympathy here.

So, what are these lessons in reality that anti-gunners probably will not understand?

The gun used in Peterson’s murder has not been recovered. So much for those who insist that microstamping – a technology that theoretically would imprint the make, model and serial number of a gun on a spent cartridge case – could have prevented this crime. (Update: As a reader points out below, microstamping might, at best, help solve a crime. But remember, some people think magazines are discarded after they are empty, and others think a barrel shroud is that "shoulder thing" that goes up.) Larry Keane, senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, detailed why this technology is faulty at best in Sunday’s Sacramento Bee.

The alleged gunman here is a teenager who probably did not come by that handgun legally and certainly could not legally carry it concealed on the street, so there was no background check. Just as there were no such checks in two other cases recently detailed in this column, so-called “universal background checks” would not have prevented this crime because they would not have been conducted in the first place. The argument that checks would prevent other such crimes is so full of hot air that if launched, it might float into space, gun experts would argue.

There are other lingering questions about the teen suspect. He was arrested at SeaTac airport while preparing to board a flight to Atlanta. Where did a 17-year-old get the money for a plane trip to Atlanta? Where is the gun he allegedly used? What kind of gun is it, and where did it come from? Who does the suspect know in Atlanta?

Eighteen months ago, Satterberg proposed legislation that would have cracked down on teens with guns. That measure got immediate support from the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and Washington CeaseFire. But there was opposition in Olympia and the bill died in committee.

The wheels are already in motion for Satterberg’s office to crack down on one teen who allegedly illegally possessed a gun and apparently used it for the worst kind of offense. Perhaps there will be a lesson in this, too.


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