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Reid’s Fort Hood reaction: ‘Let’s revisit expanded background checks’

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UPDATED 4/4: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today fell back on the gun control lobby’s current Holy Grail solution to mass shootings in reaction to yesterday’s Fort Hood attack, telling the Washington Post that Congress should once again discuss expanding the federal background check.

But then he was quoted in The Hill, saying just the opposite. Just where is Harry's head?

What Reid failed to point out is that the gunman in yesterday’s attack had passed a background check because, as this column reported earlier, he bought the pistol from a federally-licensed retailer. Various news agencies are reporting that Ivan Lopez bought his Smith & Wesson M&P .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol from the same Killeen, Tex., gun shop that sold Major Nidal Hasan his guns prior to the 2009 Fort Hood attack.

Reid erroneously said that Lopez “bought his gun a day or two before he killed these people,” but CBS News is reporting that the purchase was actually made back on March 1.

The aging Nevada senator also lamented, according to the Washington Post, “Couldn’t we at least have background checks so that people who are ill mentally, or who are felons, shouldn’t be able to buy guns?”

But then in The Hill, one sees this: “Reid has no plans to bring the issue, which could pose a political problem for vulnerable red-state Democrats such as Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), to the Senate floor.”

So, which is it?

Sen. Reid apparently has overlooked Brady Campaign rhetoric about how well the existing background check system has worked. The law may have prevented some retail sales, but there is no evidence that it stopped the wrong people from getting guns through illegal channels, or prevented them from committing crimes.

There is no indication that Lopez was a felon, and there is some confusion about his mental health. He was, according to some reports, being treated for mental health issues, but the military had also apparently not completed its evaluation for a complete diagnosis. Therefore, nothing would have flagged in the background check because no such information was available.

Yesterday’s shooting could let the wind out of the gun control lobby’s sails on more than one level. Depending upon the specific model, the S&W M&P pistol in .45 ACP is delivered with two magazines, carrying either eight or ten rounds. A check on the Smith & Wesson website shows there is an accessory 14-round magazine available, but they are currently out of stock, and it is not clear if Lopez’ gun was an eight-round compact or full-size ten-rounder.

This means he would have had time to change magazines during the shooting spree, and probably even pause to reload one if it was empty.

Lopez reportedly killed himself when confronted by a female military police officer who drew her sidearm as he reached for the .45 from under his jacket.

Fort Hood is essentially a gun-free zone, but yesterday’s incident may cause the military to take a hard look at that failed policy, which apparently started under the Nixon administration. However, Wednesday’s shooting once again serves as a reminder that gun-free zones can be risk-free environments for people who ignore the “no guns allowed” signs.

From all indications so far, yesterday’s Fort Hood incident is turning into a monument for the total failure of various policies endorsed by the gun ban lobby. The “gun-free” environment didn’t work. The background check didn’t prevent the crime. There was no “assault weapon” involved and the gunman used a legally-purchased pistol obtained through existing legal channels, and until it is otherwise revealed, it appears he used standard-capacity magazines for that firearm that only held eight or ten rounds.

Examiner will update as new information becomes available.

Also read:

Fort Hood: Another gun-free zone shooting

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