Gail Collins | Who Sold That Gun? Nobody’s Telling. – The New York Times

“. . .  It’s very possible he acquired the gun in a street deal, or borrowed it from a friend. But we’re not going to learn anything about who originally purchased it, or where. That’s because — bet you didn’t know this, people — it’s illegal for the authorities who track this stuff to let the public know.

Yes! This is thanks to the Tiahrt amendment, first passed in 2003, which prohibits the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from sharing information with … almost anybody. It also limits the F.B.I.’s ability to hang onto gun background check data, requiring its quick destruction. All in all, the idea is to give gun dealers approximately as much right to privacy as cloistered nuns.

Todd Tiahrt, a former congressman from Kansas, has been out of office since his political career crashed in 2010 because of an unfortunate attempt to move up to the Senate. But his amendment lives on and on and on. As a result, it’s pretty much impossible for the public to know if there are one or two particular gun dealers in their town who’ve sold a whopping number of weapons that were later used in crimes.

“The A.T.F. has a tremendous amount of data,” said Josh Scharff, legal counsel for Brady, the gun-safety advocacy organization. Five percent of gun dealers, Scharff said, are responsible for selling 90 percent of the guns used in crimes.   . . .   “

Gail Collins | Our Firearms Problems Just Keep Piling Up – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…George Frey/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

” “Lock them up. There are things that you can do,” a Houston assistant police chief said last week after a 3-year-old boy fatally shot his 8-month-old baby brother in the family home.

The assistant chief was talking about guns, not the 3-year-old. Obviously. Although in some parts of the country, the idea of putting kids in prison seems to elicit more enthusiasm than the idea of locking away the weapons.

This kind of disaster happens way, way, way too much. Last year at least 371 children stumbled across a loaded gun and fired, causing 143 deaths and 243 injuries. In one case, a 3-year-old shot himself to death with a pistol that had fallen out of the pocket of a member of his family — apparently while the adults were playing cards.

None of this has led to any significant change in the national attitude toward deadly weapons. Many Americans like to arm themselves to the teeth as protection from crime — and bleep over the danger that comes with all that hardware, especially in the hands of people who aren’t really equipped to use it.  . . . . . “

Charles M. Blow | Rage Is the Only Language I Have Left – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Josh Galemore/Arizona Daily Star, via Associated Press

“One of the first times I wrote about the police killing of an unarmed Black man was when Michael Brown was gunned down in the summer of 2014 in Ferguson, Mo. Brown was a Black teenager accused of an infraction in a convenience store just before his life was taken. Last summer, six years on, I wrote about George Floyd, a large Black man accused of an infraction in a convenience store, this time in Minneapolis.

Both men were killed in the street in broad daylight. Brown was shot. An officer knelt on Floyd’s neck. In both cases there were multiple community witnesses to the killings. In both cases there was a massive outcry. In both cases the men were accused of contributing to, or causing, their own deaths, in part because they had illegal drugs in their systems.

Between those two killings there has been a depressing number of others. In January of 2015, The Washington Post began maintaining a database of all known fatal shootings by the police in America. Every year, the police shot and killed roughly 1,000 people. But, as The Post points out, Black Americans are killed at a much higher rate than white Americans, and the data revealed that unarmed Black people account for about 40 percent of the unarmed Americans killed by the police, despite making up only about 13 percent of the American population.

Something is horrifyingly wrong. And yet, the killings keep happening. Brown and Floyd are not even the bookends. There were many before them, and there will be many after.   . . . “

Nicholas Kristof | How to Reduce Shootings – (regulate gun like cars) -The New York Times

“America has been shaken by new mass shootings, in Georgia and Colorado, with at least 18 people killed. This essay originally ran in 2017, after a shooter killed 26 people in a Texas church, but the issue is still tragically relevant — and will remain so until America tightens its gun safety policies.

America has more guns than any other country

The first step is to understand the scale of the challenge America faces: The U.S. has more than 300 million guns — roughly one for every citizen — and stands out as well for its gun death rates. At the other extreme, Japan has less than one gun per 100 people, and typically fewer than 10 gun deaths a year in the entire country.”

Opinion | When the Filibuster Turns Deadly – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

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Credit…Samuel Corum for The New York Times

“You may have heard that the House just passed a couple of very, very moderate gun safety bills. They now go to the Senate, where Republicans are hoping to let them molder forever in a closet somewhere.

But hey, maybe not. The mood in Washington is different these days. Spring is in the air! A $1.9 trillion relief program is on the books! If the Senate Democrats overcome a filibuster to tighten our gun laws — even the tiniest bit — we can tell ourselves that nothing is impossible.

The gun bills are part of the Democrats’ post-coronavirus agenda, and the debate began the way most such arguments begin, with opponents claiming that making it more difficult to purchase deadly weapons will lead to more crime. Because, see, you need a weapon in your house to scare off murderous intruders.” . . .

Smith & Wesson Fights a Case in New Jersey. Gun Control Could Be the Winner. – The New York Times

“She places her gun in a red leather handbag and gets into her car. The gun, in her bag, sits in the front seat of the vehicle as she drives to work. She then brings the gun, still in the bag, to a meeting with colleagues at the office. She then takes the gun, in her bag, to lunch, where she sits at an outdoor cafe. After that, she goes to the gym — and the gun comes with her. Finally, she goes to a shooting range, where she takes the gun out and fires it at a target. “Nice pistol,” says the man next to her.

That’s the plot of a television commercial for Smith & Wesson.

However, almost everything in the ad would be illegal in at least 35 states if the woman did not have a concealed carry permit, which the ad ignores.

A largely overlooked lawsuit is playing out in New Jersey about the way Smith & Wesson advertises its wares, but the truth is the case is about much more than advertising. The outcome could have profound implications for the gun industry.

In business and policy circles, and within the gun industry itself, the case is seen as the country’s most consequential legal battle over the future of gun control.”

U.N.C. Charlotte Student Couldn’t Run So He Tackled the Gunman – The New York Times

By David Perlmutt and Julie Turkewitz

“CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In an alert that flashed across computer and phone screens all over campus, the instructions were spare but urgent: “Run, Hide, Fight. Secure yourself immediately.”

But Riley Howell could neither run nor hide. The gunman was in his classroom. So, the authorities said, he charged at the gunman, who had already fired several rounds, and pinned him down until police officers arrived.”

Gun Smoke and Mirrors – by Andrew Rosenthal – NYT

“As I watched President Trump blathering to a group of governors on Monday about

throwing people who have not committed a crime into mental hospitals to prevent mass shootings at schools, I recalled a country where I once lived in which the government had that power — the Soviet Union.

From the mid-1960s until the fall of Soviet Communism, the Kremlin employed the notion of “sluggish schizophrenia” — dreamed up by the Mengele-like psychiatrist Andrei Snezhnevsky — to imprison people on the ground that they were on their way to becoming insane.

Rejected by most civilized nations as a transparent fraud, sluggish schizophrenia was used against dissidents and other citizens who simply dared to seek exit visas. When I worked in Moscow as a reporter in the mid-1980s, I knew an Estonian man who was committed twice for refusing to enter the Red Army during the war in Afghanistan, an act of sanity. It was a literal Catch-22.

Now comes Trump, urging the nation’s governors to return to a time when he said the states could “nab” people and throw them in a padded room because “something was off.”

In fact, the law has required court-ratified findings of actual mental illness for involuntary commitment since around 1881, said Dr. Paul Appelbaum, a professor at Columbia University’s medical school. “It was never the case that people could be involuntary committed for being a little odd, or even for that matter thought to be dangerous to other people unless they had evidence of mental illness,” he said.”

via Gun Smoke and Mirrors – The New York Times

Opinion | How to Reduce Shootings – by Nicholas Kristof – NYT

Inevitably, predictably, fatefully, another mass shooting breaks our hearts. This time, it was a school shooting in Florida on Wednesday that left at least 17 dead at the hands of 19-year-old gunman and his AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.

But what is perhaps most heartbreaking of all is that they shouldn’t be shocking. People all over the world become furious and try to harm others, but only in the United States do we suffer such mass shootings so regularly; only in the United States do we lose one person every 15 minutes to gun violence.

So let’s not just mourn the dead, let’s not just lower flags and make somber speeches. Let’s also learn lessons from these tragedies, so that there can be fewer of them. In particular, I suggest that we try a new approach to reducing gun violence — a public health strategy. These graphics and much of this text are from a visual essay I did in November after a church shooting in Texas; sadly, the material will continue to be relevant until we not only grieve but also act.

via Opinion | How to Reduce Shootings – The New York Times

The Truth About the Florida School Shooting – by David Leonhardt – NYT

It’s hard to imagine a worse distinction for a country to hold. A recent study in the journal Health Affairs concluded that the United States has become “the most dangerous of wealthy nations for a child to be born into.”

via The Truth About the Florida School Shooting – The New York Times