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NSSF offers facts, mainstream press plays dumb but people listen

The White House press briefing room is named for the late James Brady.
The White House press briefing room is named for the late James Brady.
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

In an analysis offered yesterday by Larry Keane, vice president and general counsel to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the lie was once again put to Colorado’s so-called “universal background check” law passed last year, showing that the much-demonized “private transfers” claim that gun prohibitionists use to bamboozle low-information voters aren’t really a problem after all.

According to Keane, only 13,600 of the predicted 420,000 additional background checks materialized; about seven percent. He also shared this observation: “And let’s remind those that think more control laws are always the answer: Criminals don’t obey the law. The law-abiding obey the law – and we’re not the problem. Expanding background checks have accomplished little in Colorado – even if some anti-gun activists are now speaking less expansively of their panacea-like ability.”

Is the press interested? For the past week, editorial writers and columnists have devoted most of their attention to the passing of James Brady, the former Ronald Reagan press secretary seriously wounded in the 1981 assassination attempt against the president. In the process, readers were once again reminded why the “mainstream” press doesn’t seem so mainstream after all.

In a story datelined tomorrow, the Economist laments, “Congress has passed laws that make it impossible to know for sure how many Americans own guns, but polling data suggest that the number who do has decreased since Mr. Brady was shot.” Where does it say Congress, or anyone else, should know how many Americans own guns, Second Amendment activists wonder.

Much as reporters and editors like to protect the identities of confidential news sources under a First Amendment umbrella, many activists think it is just as important to protect the identities of gun owners. As for the polling data that suggests there are fewer gun owners these days, pollsters evidently don’t understand that gun owners don’t think it is anyone's business if they own guns. Gun and ammunition sales, soaring concealed carry permit numbers and background check data over the past five years suggest a different conclusion than pollsters presume.

The New Haven Register observed that “Brady and his wife, Sarah, had found their calling. They became ardent and outspoken crusaders for any legislation that they deemed would better restrict access to guns.” Many, if not most, gun owners and Second Amendment activists seem to wonder – in public comment sections – if campaigning to restrict the exercise a constitutionally-protected, fundamental civil right is really that productive an undertaking.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel wrote Wednesday, “There is no way to tell how many lives have been saved by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, but the number has to be huge.” Since speculation appears to be acceptable grounds for supporting one point of view, the newspaper should also note that there is no way to tell how many lives have been saved because an intended victim had a gun, but that number has to be huge, also, despite efforts of the gun prohibition lobby to disarm as many people as possible.

To balance the rhetoric of both newspapers, efforts of the firearms community to pass “Three Strikes” and “Hard Time for Armed Crime” laws have certainly made streets as safe, or safer, by cracking down on criminals instead of law-abiding citizens, one might argue. Those accolades would go to the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, and the National Rifle Association.

Jim Brady’s personal tragedy and triumph should stand separately from his organization’s public efforts that stigmatized millions of Americans for simply exercising a civil right. While gun owners have as much compassion for crime victims – for that is what Brady was – as anyone else, those same gun owners are justifiably offended when they are penalized for crimes they didn’t commit, and essentially treated as second-class citizens in the process.

Keane’s column reminded readers that “We have long known that the argument of gun control activists that 40 percent of gun sales in this country occur without a background check was bogus. Even the Washington Post zinged President Obama in 2013 for his frequent use of that ersatz stat, awarding three of four possible Pinocchio’s.” A "Pinocchio" casts doubt on information, and three of them translate to incredulity.

On Wednesday, Politico published a reminiscence about Jim Brady by Dennis Henigan, formerly a spokesman for the Brady Campaign. It was a thoughtful piece emphasizing Brady’s warmth and spirit as a person. But somebody at Politico added a sub-head that did not seem to fit with the story.

Headlined “The Jim Brady Effect,” the subhead wondered, “Gun control advocates were winning, once. What happened?” The answer is easy. People were given the facts, and they wised up.

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