home > archive > 2002 > this article
Exploiting mass murder
By Dr. Michael S. Brown
October 2002 gave the battered anti-gun lobby what it desperately needed, a high-profile mass murderer who used a firearm. It has been over three years since their last big public relations victory at Columbine, but time has not changed the way these rare incidents are covered and exploited.
There is an old saying that journalists know nothing about guns and don't want to learn. This was reaffirmed by last week's saturation coverage from the Washington suburbs that was loaded with firearms myths and misinformation.
I used to enjoy a derisive laugh at reporters like the CNN anchor who used the nonsense term "high-powered assault hunting-type weapon," but now I just feel embarrassed for them and quickly change the channel.
Many news outlets exposed their anti-gun roots when their initial slant on the story focused on the type of rifle and ammunition used by the killer. In their rush to instill fear in the audience, they implied that the rifle was some kind of super weapon, when in reality it is much less powerful than most common hunting rifles. Close ups and graphics invariably left viewers with the impression that the .223 cartridges are much larger than they actually are. A real sniper would not be interested in such an anemic cartridge.
Some news organizations blindly echoed inflammatory press releases from anti-gun organizations like the unashamedly biased fringe group, the Violence Policy Center. The VPC attributed the killings to an imaginary, but sinister, "sniper subculture." A bizarre editorial in the Philadelphia Daily News even blamed the NRA for the murders.
The inbred cultural bias of the large news organizations has also resulted in a tendency to minimize the likelihood that the crimes are the work of an organized terrorist cell. The elite media wants to believe in a single killer, preferably a deranged gun nut hopped up on video games and propaganda from the evil NRA.
Anti-gun politicians and lobbyists moved quickly to exploit the killings, labeling ordinary firearms as "sniper weapons" that must be registered or banned. They also proposed legislation they claim will magically prevent similar crimes by creating a "national ballistic database" to record data about every new gun sold in America.
The idea is to collect a fired bullet to show the rifling marks and an expended brass cartridge case to show marks from the extractor and firing pin. This kind of forensic evidence has sometimes been helpful in cases where a gun is recovered immediately after a crime is committed, but is useless as a way of permanently tagging new guns. The distinctive marks are not like human fingerprints that remain unchanged. They change as a gun is used and they can easily be modified in many ways.
It is important to note that shotguns do not have rifled barrels and many guns don't eject a spent case. There is also no way to test the 230 million guns that already exist. It is unlikely that a single criminal would ever be caught.
Balance this against a very high cost, partly due to the need for secure storage to preserve the legal chain of evidence. Defense attorneys would exploit the smallest errors to discredit the entire system.
In short, the whole idea of a ballistic database is bogus and simply highlights the ignorance or duplicity of those who support it.
But facts don't matter to the anti-gun lobby. They know their ideological movement will die if they don't find a way to regain their lost political momentum. They have no choice but to tell big lies as they dance in the blood of innocent victims.
The anti-gun nuts are well aware that a ballistic database won't reduce crime, but they take comfort in the thought that it might reduce gun ownership by increasing the expense and the delays associated with gun purchases. Fewer gun owners, obviously, means less opposition to the gun ban agenda.
Political analysts say there is no chance Congress will pass any new anti-gun legislation, so perhaps this debate is meaningless and will pass as quickly as the fear-mongering media coverage.
Unfortunately a more permanent kind of damage has been done to a special and important group of Americans, the police and military snipers who risk their lives to protect us. These men use their skill, and real sniper rifles, to save countless lives by shooting individual hostage takers or enemy combatants without any collateral damage.
By awarding the title of sniper to whoever is committing these shocking crimes, the media has damaged the reputations of brave men in an honorable profession. Calling him a killer or mass murderer would surely be adequate and probably more accurate.
Other related stories: (open in a new window)
Get weekly updates about new issues of ESR!
© 1996-2021, Enter Stage Right and/or its creators. All rights reserved.