Politics & Policy

Let’s Wait for the Facts, and Get Them Right

Regarding Las Vegas, we know very little about the shooter’s motivations, the gun he used in his massacre, and how he acquired said gun, but that hasn’t stopped Hillary Clinton from plowing forward with gun-control talking points. For example:

See, none of this would have happened if Republicans hadn’t let Clinton’s gun ban expire.

Except that the 1994 law had nothing to do with fully automatic weapons, which fire continuously when the trigger is held. It pertained to semiautomatic weapons (one shot per trigger pull) with certain tactical features such as folding stocks.

Fully automatic weapons are regulated much more strictly; it is illegal to sell a new one. Those owned before 1986 are still in circulation, but they are incredibly expensive owing to limited supply, and the rules for owning them are incredibly strict. They almost never turned up in crimes until now. It’s not clear at this point whether the shooter had one of those pre-1986 guns or achieved automatic fire through some other means, such as by modifying a semiautomatic weapon, which is difficult and illegal, or employing a “bump stock,” which, unwisely in my opinion, is legal.

Soon enough, Newsweek followed up by reporting that this was actually the 274th “mass shooting” in the U.S. this year. At least this time they provided the needed background information: This is a tally from the Gun Violence Archive, which includes any incident where “four or more [are] shot and/or killed in a single event, at the same general time and location not including the shooter.” This is an overly broad definition that even Mother Jones has taken issue with: It “suggests that a 1 a.m. gang fight in a Sacramento restaurant, in which two were killed and two injured, is the same kind of event as a deranged man walking into a community college classroom and massacring nine and injuring nine others.”

There may be lessons for gun policy when all is said and done here. But can’t we hold off on advancing our political agendas until then?

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