A couple of years ago, I squared off against Massachusetts real estate developer and civilian disarmament proponent John Rosenthal on local TV. Mr. Rosenthal was positioned in another part of the studio. When the exchange ended, I asked to meet him. He hightailed it out of there. Rosenthal’s abject unwillingness to engage in a proper conversation about guns typifies the antis. So when I saw his HuffPpo polemic Another Day, Another Mass Shooting and 86 Dead From Gun Violence in America, I decided to issue him a challenge: refute my fisk on the following paragraph . . .
After every high profile mass shooting, the NRA and its supporters in Congress and on the presidential campaign trail, blame mental illness versus asking the appropriate question — how did the mentally ill person or criminal access firearms without a thorough background check or detection? The answer is simple: thanks to Congress, federal gun policy allows unrestricted gun access without a criminal background check or detection in over 30 states from private gun dealers at gun shows, online and out of car trunks and backpacks. Only federally licensed gun dealers are required to run a background check on gun purchasers, however criminals and the dangerously mentally ill know all too well, if you can’t pass a background check, no worries, buy from a private gun dealer-no questions asked.
The NRA and its supporters don’t always blame mental illness after “every” mass shooting. In many headline examples (e.g. the first Fort Hood massacre), the NRA and its supporters blame terrorists. Because, you know, terrorism. In some cases of mass murder (e.g. the Aurora massacre), the NRA and its supporters blame the person who pulled the trigger. They may call the perp evil or criminal but they reject the assertion that the trigger man was mentally ill. (As did the court in the James Holmes trial.)
Yes, in some cases (e.g. the Newtown massacre), the NRA and its supporters blame mental illness. Well, not mental illness per se. They blame the dangerously mentally ill person who committed the crime. So both in specific and generally, Rosenthal is wrong when he says the NRA and its supporters blame mental illness after “every” high profile mass shooting. A small point? Hardly. Rosenthal is portraying the NRA and its supporters as deluded at best, deliberately misleading at worst. Ironically enough.
Rosenthal goes on to assert that the mentally ill people carrying out these high profile shootings get their firearms at “gun shows, online and out of car trunks and backpacks.” With a rare exception – the Columbine killers – that’s simply not true. The killer that inspired Rosenthal’s rant (whose actions don’t qualify as a mass shooting) bought his gun at a gun store after passing a background check. As did the Virginia Tech murderer. And the Isla Vista shooter. The Newtown shooter shot and killed his mother to obtain his firearms. And so on.
It’s also worth noting that “private gun dealers at gun shows” have to perform a background check on purchasers. Private gun sellers – not dealers – do not. (In most states.) Again, words matter. As for Rosenthal’s claim that criminals get guns from “gun shows” the facts don’t support him. Nick’s post Study: Criminals Don’t Use the “Gun Show Loophole” to Get Their Guns highlighted a recent study that concluded that “criminals aren’t buying their guns from gun shows or legal sources.” Not to mention an older DOJ study that reached the same conclusion.
Rosenthal’s reference to guns sold out of car trunks and backpacks (?) intentionally misdirects the reader. No matter where they occur, selling a gun to a felon is a crime. So even if Congress answered Rosenthal’s call to enact federal legislation requiring background checks on all private sales – already in place in eight states – what are the odds that the law would stop criminal sales to criminals? Exactly zero. Just like the odds that the real estate developer will answer any of these points in public. Still, John, the door is open.