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And there I was thinking that the Washington Post had spent all it ammo against gun dealers whose sales were tied to criminal activity. This morning the WaPo unleashed a fresh salvo, taking their smear campaign national—whilst taking another shot at their old friends Realco. In the second paragraph of Ohio store leads the U.S. in guns linked to crimes, we learn that “The Washington Post has obtained the names of the gun dealers nationwide with the most traces over the past four years.” Well FINALLY. A link to the raw data gathered by the Post during its year-long investigation into gun traces. Nope. It’s a renewed attack on Realco guns . . .

The chart above is from that link: a screen grab from a dynamic graphic called “The Hidden Life of Guns,” sub-headed “A Source of Crime Guns.” Despite the use of the indefinite article, Realco is the only dealer included in the graphic. The illustration’s default—“all” mode—would have you believe that Realco is the only source for guns used in homicide, assault & robbery and illegal guns in the D.C. area. Guilt by overlay.

Note: just because Realco is the closest gun dealer to a high crime areas doesn’t mean it supplies ALL the guns used in those crimes. Or that it sold a single gun illegally. The caption offers the Washington Post’s “smoking gun” against Realco.

Since 1992, more than 2,500 guns recovered by police and tied to crimes in the Washington area have been traced back to their original sale at Realco Guns in Forestville, Md. The total is four times that of the dealer with the next highest number of gun traces.

First, the stat covers an arbitrary amount of time, eighteen years, without a year-by-year breakdown. Although those 138 guns per year is “four times” larger than the “competition,” it’s impossible to analyze the numbers properly without the complete data. For example, relative to the crime rate at the time of the trace.

Second, “tied to crimes” is an entirely misleading statement. This figure indicates traces. That includes guns that were recovered without being used in a crime. The “crime” was that someone stole them.

The plain, unvarnished and complete gun trace data would be really helpful here. In fact, The Washington Post should put up or shut up. As I’ve said throughout this series, the paper should release the raw data upon which it’s based its report. Otherwise, one wonders if the editors are spinning the facts to suit an agenda. Perish the thought.

As for today’s main article, it’s more of the same: stats pulled for maximum guilt-by-association and innuendo It ends with a quote from the President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, re: the civil lawsuit filed against Badger Guns

“We need to send a powerful message to gun dealers like Badger Guns that they will be held accountable when they knowingly funnel guns into the criminal market,” said Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Center.

I guess the idea of enforcing existing laws against illegal sales just isn’t enough for those who would never consider applying common sense analysis to genuine statistical data. Or provide that data to the public, so that they can judge for themselves what, if anything, needs to be done.

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  1. With all due respect, I think you and others in the gun-right community are making a tactical mistake vilifying The Washington Post for this series, and, more generally, for attacking the ATF’s efforts to keep guns from going to Mexico. We who like guns have a problem: Those who don’t like guns think we’re irresponsible. For the most part, they’re wrong. But they’re continued belief that gun owners can’t be trusted is why we fight ceaseless, dreary battles over gun rights. I think we need to change our image. And part of that, I think, is being a forceful voice for responsible gun sales and not defending, out a knee-jerk dislike for the Post, dealers who are acting badly. This jumped out at me from the Post’s story: “If you’re a gun dealer and you see a 21- or 22-year-old young lady walk in and plop down $15,000 in cash to buy 20 AK-47s, you might want to ask yourself what she needs them for,” said Newell, the ATF special agent in charge in Phoenix. “If she says, ‘Christmas presents,’ technically the dealer doesn’t have to ask for more.” I know Newell. I’ve interviewed him. He’s a cop, not an anti-gun zealot. He’s on the side of the angels. And he’s right that someone buying 20 AKs should raise a red flag. There’s nothing antithetical to the Second Amendment to having gun owners and gun dealers behave responsibly, and a gun dealer who sells 20 AKs to a single buyer is not doing so. We dislike gun laws, but if we’re not going to behave like adults — locking up guns, reporting stolen guns, reporting suspicious purchases — we can expect the nanny state to come in and force us to straighten up. I think we’re better off policing ourselves than fighting gun-rights battles. If shady dealers are allowing straw purchases to fishy multiple sales to feed the violence in Mexico, we should be glad when they’re busted, not fly into an anti-ATF, anti-“liberal media” rage when it happens. One guy’s opinion, anyway.

  2. Dan, I think you’re having a knee-jerk reaction to a non-knee jerk reaction.

    Purely as a journalist, I find this series to be seriously lacking in credibility. As I’ve maintained from the git-go, the Post needs to publish the data upon which this series is based to establish the reliability of their assertions and conclusion. We’re not seeing the big picture here. Nor, for that matter, a trustworthy version of the small one.

    I’ve tried to show how the WaPo are manipulating stats to satisfy their editorial agenda. Which is: bad gun dealers are knowingly selling guns for criminal purposes, and the ATF can’t do anything about it because the “gun lobby” has emasculated them.

    In this country, a man (or a business) is innocent until proven guilty. If Realco or any gun dealer has broken the law re: gun sales, arrest those responsible. Otherwise do NOT impugn their character with allegations based on misleading stats removed from their proper context.

    Your anecdote is an excellent example of the Post’s hatchet job:

    “If you’re a gun dealer and you see a 21- or 22-year-old young lady walk in and plop down $15,000 in cash to buy 20 AK-47s, you might want to ask yourself what she needs them for,” said Newell, the ATF special agent in charge in Phoenix. “If she says, ‘Christmas presents,’ technically the dealer doesn’t have to ask for more.”

    It’s a hypothetical example, Dan. It paints a picture of a “don’t ask just take the money” ethos for which there is no substantive evidence. There are plenty of real cases—unreported here—where gun dealers DO give the ATF a heads-up. And work with the ATF in their investigations.

    As for the “iron river” of guns flowing South, I have evidence that A) it’s a trickle and B) the guns are going to civilians defending themselves against the cartels. And I’m just a guy sitting at a desk next to a couple of Schnauzers. Imagine what a paper with the WaPo’s resources could uncover.

    Like I said, it’s all about perspective. Professionalism. Real journalism. And when it comes to “shut up and let the feds do their job,” remember that there is no appeasing Uncle Sam. The only limits the government knows are the limits we the people place upon it. If we don’t keep them honest, who will? Not the Washington Post.


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