Yesterday, a reporter from NBC attempted to sandbag President Trump on gun control. Ali Vitali asked President Trump if he was in favor of “extreme vetting” for gun buyers after the Sutherland Springs slaughter. The CIC said the following:
If you did what you’re suggesting, there would have been no difference three days ago, and you might not have had that very brave person who happened to have a gun or a rifle in his truck go out and shoot him, and hit him and neutralize him. And I can only say this: If he didn’t have a gun, instead of having 26 dead, you would have had hundreds more dead. So that’s the way I feel about it. Not going to help.
Needless to say, that was a pro-gun, anti-gun control statement up with which The Washington Post could not put.
So the WaPo commissioned one of their ace propagandists at “the Fix” to fix it so that the President looks like an idiot. The result: a piece written by Aaron Blake (above) entitled Trump’s highly dubious claim that more gun control could have left ‘hundreds more dead’ in Texas.
With this claim, Trump takes a plausible premise and stretches it beyond recognition, as he so often does. The president’s penchant for hyperbole and ignoring inconvenient facts are very much present here.
First, Trump’s claim that hundreds more would have died if those two civilians who warded him off didn’t have guns is highly suspect. The largest mass shooting in U.S. history — which took place in Las Vegas last month — left 58 dead. Trump is essentially arguing that the Texas shooting would have been at least eight times more deadly and four times worse than Las Vegas, which is very speculative at best and implausible at worst.
And the fact that a U.S. president is so openly speculative about the scope of such tragedy is remarkable. Trump, mind you, isn’t suggesting this could have happened; he’s saying it would have.
I gotta say it: I agree. President Trump has shown a remarkable inability to master the facts underlying issues in general, and gun rights in specific (e.g. his erroneous and unrealized claim that he could eliminate Bush the Elder’s Gun Free School Zone Act on day one of his presidency).
Alternatively, you could call the President’s ill-informed/off-the-cuff pronouncements masterful PR for low information voters. Because who really cares if the Sutherland Springs killer could have — or would have — gone on to kill one more person or “hundreds” more? Putting the bad guy down, preventing any further loss of life, was Job One.
A job accomplished by an American with an AR-15 (who didn’t “happen to have it in his truck”).
The suggestion that federal background checks would have — sorry, could have — inhibited the Sutherland Springs hero from engaging the killer with sufficient firepower is a direct threat to the Post’s pro-background check position. Mr. Blake mounts the following rear guard action.
There is no real reason to believe the increased background checks would have prevented the armed civilians, Johnnie Langendorff and Stephen Willeford, from obtaining their own firearms that they used to engage Kelley. Background checks, after all, don’t mean no one gets guns; they just mean it’s perhaps a little more difficult to get guns — that there is more of a process involved.
Speaking of facts, it seems Mr. Blake shares President Trump’s lack of precision; only Mr. Willeford was armed. And while we’re attempting to keep in touch what’s sometimes called reality, federal background checks may make it “a little more difficult to get guns” for some people, but they make it impossible for others.
Such as Americans convicted of nonviolent felonies. prisonpolicy.org reports that “almost half a million people are locked up because of a drug offense.” Thanks to the federal background check system, millions of ex-cons convicted of nonviolent crimes can’t legally purchase or indeed keep and bear a firearm. Ever.
And don’t forget that President Trump was all for adding tens of thousands Americans on the FBI’s super-secret, unaccountable Terrorist Watch List to the federal background check’s prohibited persons list — highlighting the system’s potential for abuse.
What if Uncle Sam suddenly decided that all Americans who take anti-depressants — one in nine Americans of all ages — should be prohibited persons? One thing’s for sure: the FBI’s federal background system still wouldn’t prevent psycho killers from running amok. With guns. An idea that gun control advocates can’t seem to grasp, despite their [non-existent] best efforts.
So you can perhaps make an argument that the background checks that were already in place failed, and it’s more a matter of enforcing existing laws rather than adding new ones. But Trump takes it much further than that, suggesting such background checks might have prevented the two men from obtaining their guns in the first place, resulting in an increased death toll at the Texas church.
But he won’t concede that shored-up background checks might have impeded the gunman, for reasons that aren’t clear.
Reasonable people can disagree, but Trump is making a quite unreasonable argument here.
As I’ve pointed out above, the claim that background checks are a form of gun control is not so unreasonable — if you look at the facts. But then facts tend to confuse and anger gun control advocates. Which is why they’re dishonest at best, evil at worst.