April 27, 2007

Liar, Liar I

It's pretty sad when you see one of the few journalistic outfits you usually respect get basic facts wrong This Economist editorial does it twice.

Cho killed his victims with two guns, one of them a Glock 9mm semi-automatic pistol, a rapid-fire weapon that is available only to police in virtually every other country, but which can legally be bought over the counter in thousands of gun-shops in America.

Over the counter purchases do not have any controls whatsoever beyond an ability to pay. Every state has an instant background check for all firearms purchases, requires you to fill out a government form under pain of perjury, and regularly turns away purchasers who fail the checks. This cannot be reasonably called over the counter purchases whether or not you agree that the system is tight enough.

The assault-weapons ban should be renewed, with its egregious loopholes removed. No civilian needs an AK-47 for a legitimate purpose, but you can buy one online for $379.99.

No doubt they meant legal sales of scary looking semi-automatic rifles like this that look like military weapons but fire as fast and with the same effects as any hunting style rifle (I don't think that they're protesting the bayonet's extra killing ability). While it bears the label, it certainly is not the killing weapon issued to so many armed forces around the world. It is certainly less deadly than the weapon issued to every adult male in Switzerland's army that they take home with them as part of their effective universal service system.

The proportion of crimes committed with legally acquired (as opposed to illegally acquired) guns is rather small. Cho fell through the cracks not as a flaw of the gun control system but as a flaw in the US system for registering mentally dangerous individuals, a situation that has many ill effects both for the mentally ill themselves as well as the public at large. America has a serious reform problem on its hands but european editorials that misstate the issues aren't helpful.

Posted by TMLutas at April 27, 2007 07:39 AM