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Friday, April 21, 2006

Dr. Strangegun or: how I learned to stop worrying and love the fisking

What's the first sign a newspaper article - that's article, not column or op-ed - isn't going to be fair or balanced? Here's one possible answer: If you're reading the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Check out the first two grafs of an article by John Caniglia, headed "Gun shows in the crossfire" (Hat tip to one of my new favorite blogs, No Quarters):
It's easy to build an illegal machine gun. Or to get the recipe for exploding gelatin.

Everything you need is available at hundreds of gun shows held across the country this time of year.

I wonder what direction the "reporter" is going in. Let's find out, shall we?

While gun businesses must be federally licensed, gun shows enable private individuals to sell scores of weapons each weekend with little, if any, oversight.

Little, if any, oversight! For a Nanny State aficionado, these are the four scariest words in the English language. "Private individuals" (are there any other kind?) conducting mutually beneficial transactions with other private individuals: how is this allowed to happen? This can't be legal!

And the shows are flourishing. In the past two months alone, promoters have hosted 20 gun shows in Ohio, including one April 9 in Niles.

That's where Gerald Nunziato, a retired agent of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, walked the aisles of the 500-table show with a reporter, looking at some of the world's most popular guns, including 9mm Glocks, an Austrian weapon used by many U.S. police departments, Beretta semiautomatic pistols and .38-calibers from Smith & Wesson, one of America's leading gun makers.

He pointed out:

A .50-caliber rifle with bullets that can pierce steel. Price: $4,000.

The parts needed to turn a 9mm handgun into an illegal machine gun. They were scattered at several tables, but a knowledgeable buyer could collect what he needed.

Let's see: a retired ATFE agent, which apparently is what passes for an objective source at the Bum Dealer, walked around a gun show "with a reporter." Not "with me," because that would inject the hard boiled "just the facts, ma'am" reporter into the story and maybe make it seem as though he had an agenda. So let's enter a fantasy world in which one reporter walked through the gun show with the agent, and another one wrote the story. No wonder newspapers are bleeding money.

And what does our objective tour guide see?

First we have the 9mm Glock, which is an "Austrian weapon." Austria...Hitler was from Austria, wasn't he? So by saying Austrian weapon I can subtly make the gun show seem evil. Then it's off to "Beretta semiautomatic pistols." That sounds scary, unless of course you know that semiautomatic means you still have to squeeze the trigger each time you want to fire a round. Also, the Glock is a semiautomatic, too, but I guess once you've called it an Austrian weapon you've done your job as a reporter.

Moving right past the Smith & Wesson, we next come to the steel-piercing, $4000 .50 cal. Okay, I'll admit that the .50 is the only weapon I've ever fired that scared the hell out of me, mainly because I'm apparently too much of a wuss to control it. So I'll skip that one and saunter over to the parts that will magically turn a 9mm handgun into a "machine gun." I was taught that a machine gun is just a fully automatic weapon capable of rapid firing: is this what Caniglia means? If so, why not just say "the parts needed to convert a semiautomatic handgun into a fully automatic one"? It couldn't be because "machine gun" sounds scarier, could it? And note that these parts were "scattered at several tables," but that a "knowledgeable buyer" could get everything he needed. In otherwords, several different people were legally selling different parts that, when combined, could be used for this conversion. Hell, I could walk into a supermarket and buy several different products on several different shelves that I could then combine to make Molotov cocktails. Should supermarkets be banned?

But let's move on to the next items our trusty retired ATFE agent found:
A series of books that included "The Black Book of Arson," "How to Build Undetectable Hand Grenades" and "The Anarchist's Cook Book," manuals that detail a variety of ways to maim people from the simple to the complex.

The authors say the books are for educational purposes only. The "Turner Diaries" also is there.

The white-supremacist book describes the fictional overthrow of minority-backed U.S. government. It helped influence Timothy McVeigh to blow up the federal building in Oklahoma City.

I've read the Turner Diaries, and it's one of the worst books ever written. Any good point the author makes (and there are some, mainly about the tendency of governments to abuse their power) is drowned in a sea of racist and/or anti-Semitic rhetoric that is so overblown you almost want to laugh, until you realize that he's serious. So one point for Caniglia. The others, while not my cup of tea, are the kind of books read by people who believe they may have to one day defend themselves against an out-of-control American government that lies to them, tramples on their civil liberties, and arrogates to itself more and more power until it resembles a fascist dictatorship. Since this is exactly what the left keeps telling us is happening right now, I'm not clear as to why Caniglia uses them as examples of naughty goings on.

Gun enthusiasts contend that the shows are simply meeting places for like-minded hobbyists. Critics say they are a place where criminals can get guns quickly and cheaply.

Now there'll be a quote from both sides, right? Wrong.

"Everything a criminal needs is right there," Nunziato said, standing outside the Niles show, 15 minutes from Youngstown. "Believe me, I'm not anti-gun. I just think there needs to be a little more regulation."

I guess the gun enthusiast's quote got Rosemaried.

Now let me subtly change Nunziato's quote. See if you can even spot the difference.

"Everything a dissident needs is right there," Nunziato said, standing outside the book show, 15 minutes from Youngstown. "Believe me, I'm not anti-free speech. I just think there needs to be a little more regulation."

Didn't catch it, did you.

Christopher Crobaugh, a defense attorney in Elyria, has attended gun shows for years.

"Let's put it this way: Cars kill a lot more people than guns do. Should we outlaw car shows?" Crobaugh asked.

"Every now and again, I'll see someone at a show, and I'll think, Oh boy, I don't want that guy with a gun.' Then I kick myself and say, What's wrong with you, you elitist?

Finally a pro-gun show point of view. But of course he sees people at the shows whom he at first thinks shouldn't be allowed to own a gun. You see? Even gun nuts are scared by what goes on at these shows!

The debate comes when the ranks of licensed gun dealers have shrunk dramatically. From 1990 to 2005, the number of licensed dealers in the United States dropped by 78 percent, and in Ohio, by 73 percent, according to the ATF.

Licensed dealers disappeared after the ATF began to scrutinize their records more closely and required them to sell from storefronts instead of their basements, federal authorities say. The price of a three-year license also jumped from $30 to $200.

Rosemary must be at it again, because here's another quote that seems to be missing: "The drop in the number of licensed dealers came about because it became harder and harder for honest businessmen to deal with all the red tape and harassment levelled on them by federal authorities such as ATF agent Gerald Nunziato, former gun dealers say."

During the same 15 years, the number of gun shows annually grew to more than 5,000 across the United States. The exact numbers are difficult to determine because no state or federal records are required. But advertising in the Big Show Journal, a magazine that promotes gun, knife and outdoor shows, is an indication.

The magazine's show advertisements doubled to 84 pages from 1998 to this year. Each show draws 2,000 to 4,000 people. Collectors shows bring in more than 20,000 people.

The shows quietly began to take off 20 years ago, when Congress ordered people to obtain federal licenses if they "engaged in the business" of selling guns. A licensed dealer had to do a background check on a buyer before selling the weapon.

But Congress allowed other sellers, like many of those at gun shows, to continue to peddle weapons from their personal collections, as long as they didn't make their living from the sales.

Just step up and buy.

Who would've ever thought that when the government made it harder to do something one way, another, easier way of doing it would become more popular? Surely this is unheard of in the annals of human events. Damn that pesky free market anyway!

At the Niles show, a 20-something man browsed the aisles with his bored girlfriend. He looked at the table of a licensed dealer, who had to do a background check on the buyer before selling one of the 24 handguns he had. A few feet away, at another table, three men displayed more than 30 weapons from their own collections, including an old, palm-size gun for $45 -- for sale, no questions asked.

The girlfriend is bored because while men use guns as proxies for their undersized penises women know what's truly important in life and if only women ruled the world there would be no more war and hey see how sensitive I am will you go out with me?

With all the deals going on, only one police officer was apparent, sitting at the door.

I can't believe that with all these rednecks scary guns here this place isn't swarming with cops yeah I've never heard of anything really dangerous happening at a gun show but that's not the point is it the point is I don't feel safe around these people God I need a nice zinfandel I can't wait to get out of here and take a shower.

John Lott of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C., cited U.S. Justice Department statistics indicating that only about 1 percent of all guns in crimes have been traced to shows.

"Law enforcement would get more bang for its buck if it looked for crime in other places," Lott said.

Nunziato, the retired ATF agent, said it is impossible to know whether the Justice Department statistics are accurate because so little paperwork is required of gun shows.

Yes, you can't trust DOJ statistics. Unless, of course, they show how evil guns and gun shows are. And since we don't know if the stats are accurate, let's assume that gun shows are guilty until proven otherwise. Who could have a problem with that?

The ATF investigates about 2 percent of the shows each year, according to congressional testimony. The agency says it does not unfairly target gun shows, that agents investigate illegal gun sales wherever they occur.

But even gun-rights advocates acknowledge that the shows can turn criminal. Last year, an online forum at Gunshows discussed the theft of weapons at shows in the South.

"More guns are being stolen all the time," a Tennessee gun dealer lamented.

One group, the Ohio Gun Collectors Association, allows only its members and their guests into its shows.

"We don't want felons coming to our shows," said Joseph Pittenger, the group's president. "We try to keep people of that nature out."

People like Nigel Bostic.

He and his girlfriend bought 238 guns at gun shows in Dayton in 2000. They bought the 9mm handguns for $89 each. Bostic sold them on the street in Buffalo for three times that, according to court records.

Bostic was sentenced to 87 months in prison in 2004. The parents of a teenager who was shot by mistake have sued Bostic, the Dayton gun dealer and the gun's manufacturer.

Since even "gun-rights advocates" admit that gun shows aren't perfect, we probably should shut them all down, don't you think? And in case you're not convinced, here's one real example. If there's one, there must be thousands, maybe tens of thousands more just like it, wouldn't you agree?

At the Niles show, Nunziato spent nearly 15 minutes talking with David Tomes, the owner of Pop's Place in La Grange, in Lorain County. When Nunziato appeared to be inter ested in a Hi-Point 9mm handgun, the dealer grabbed his phone to check out the former agent through the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Tomes said he faces growing competition from sellers with personal collections who attend show after show. At a recent show, the FBI's background check system shut down, cutting off the licensed dealers' ability to sell weapons.

Sellers with personal collections "don't have paperwork. They don't collect sales taxes. They don't care whom they are selling guns to," Tomes said.

Yeah, it sucks when someone can do the same thing as you, only cheaper, faster and easier. There oughta be a law!

After nearly two hours at the show, Nunziato headed out, with one question.

"Why can't all of the dealers be like him?" Nunziato said, referring to Tomes. "I'm not saying ban gun shows. I'm saying make all the people there like Pop's. There would at least be some paperwork."

Paperwork: the weapon of choice for Big Brothers everywhere.TM

As he left, a man with a shotgun stood outside the show, smoking a cigarette. He was looking for a sale.

In conclusion, the moral of the story is: Guns don't kill people. Gun shows do.

And so we come to the end of my first official fisking. Too long? Just right? Let me know, but remember: you report, I decide.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful review!

Blogger Dr. StrangeGun said...

Nice fisking :)

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You forget that 30 years ago an ffl was $30 and there were lots of "dealers" selling as few as a handful of guns per year. At gun shows these "dealers" had to do the paper work on the guns they sold by virtue of the ffl.

In an effort to make it harder for the law abiding to get guns the grabbers lobbied to reduce ffl "dealers". They got their way and now belly ache that non "dealers" needn't do the paper work they were doing when they had an ffl.

Unintended consequences are a terrible thing to undure particularly when self inflicted.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suppose, depending on what type of parts being talked about, those 9 mm "machine gun parts" could have been bought without background check from almost anywhere (either a gun store or the internet).

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everyone should remember this. Ther plans for full automatic 9MM sub-guns are available in a public library.

Also, ANYONE that has had to completely disassemble a Colt 1911 knows that it is easily changed from semi-auto to auto.

Most semi-autos are that way. Pistol, rifle, or shotguns....doesn't matter.

And the local library will tell you how. Anyone think that a criminal can't figure this out????


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