The Morning Jolt

National Security & Defense

We Need an Accurate National Conversation About Guns

Display at the 2013 NRA convention in Houston, Texas. (Reuters photo: Adrees Latif)

From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

We Need an Accurate National Conversation About Guns

Thank you, Washington Post, for stepping up to the plate and correcting a widely-cited and shared piece of misinformation in the aftermath of the Florida shooting. There have not been 18 school shootings in the United States so far this year.

The figure originated with Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit group, co-founded by Michael Bloomberg, that works to prevent gun violence and is most famous for its running tally of school shootings…

It is a horrifying statistic. And it is wrong.

Everytown has long inflated its total by including incidents of gunfire that are not really school shootings. Take, for example, what it counted as the year’s first: On the afternoon of Jan. 3, a 31-year-old man who had parked outside a Michigan elementary school called police to say he was armed and suicidal. Several hours later, he killed himself. The school, however, had been closed for seven months. There were no teachers. There were no students.

Also listed on the organization’s site is an incident from Jan. 20, when at 1 a.m. a man was shot at a sorority event on the campus of Wake Forest University. A week later, as a basketball game was being played at a Michigan high school, someone fired several rounds from a gun in the parking lot. No one was injured, and it was past 8 p.m., well after classes had ended for the day, but Everytown still labeled it a school shooting.

We keep hearing, “we need to have a national conversation about guns,” and then we keep hearing statements from those same voices that are simply not true. If we’re going to have that national conversation, I want the other side to do its homework first.

I don’t want to hear CNN lamenting that Florida doesn’t require a concealed carry permit for an AR-15 or shotgun. (They are too large to conceal.) I don’t want to hear people referring to the AR-15 as an “automatic assault weapon” and I want them to learn the difference between automatic and semiautomatic, and which kind is already illegal. I don’t want to hear about “the gun show loophole” unless the shooter purchased his gun at a gun show. (To the best of my knowledge, not a single mass-shooter has done so.) I want former presidents to stop asserting that it’s easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than buy a computer or a book.

If someone wants to ban AR-15s, I want them to say so. I also want to know what they want to do about the 5 million to 10 million AR-15s already in private hands. I want them to realize that if they don’t grandfather in the already-owned ones, they will instantly turn millions of law-abiding Americans, who have never fired a shot in anger, into criminals. If a gun control advocate proposes a buyback program like Australia’s, I want that person to recognize that the compliance rate down under was about 20 percent and it created a violent black market for guns. If a gun control advocate calls for law enforcement to confiscate AR-15s from private homes, I want that person to realize that they’re calling for violent chaos. And I want them to know that as long as groups advocate ideas like this, the line “no one wants to take away your guns” is a disingenuous lie.

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