Tuesday, November 07, 2017


So this happened today.
SEOUL — President Trump on Tuesday asserted that tougher gun laws would not have stopped the mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, last weekend and in fact “hundreds more” would have died had another man not been able to “neutralize” the alleged killer with a gun of his own.

Asked during a news conference here whether he would entertain “extreme vetting” on guns, Trump appeared irritated by the question and suggested it was not appropriate to talk about “in the heart of South Korea.”

He then answered by saying “if we did what you are suggesting it would have made no difference three days ago.” Devin Patrick Kelley opened fire with an assault rifle killing 26 people in a church. Another man, Stephen Willeford, later grabbed his own gun and exchanged fire with Kelley outside the church. Police found Kelley dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound but authorities said Willeford helped stop Kelley and called him a “hero."

Trump referred to Willeford as a “brave man” and said “if he had not had a gun, instead of having 26 dead, you would have had hundreds more dead... It’s not going to help.”
On the subject of Trump's irritation: Remember that he's the president of the United States. Presidents routinely talk about important domestic news stories when they're on overseas trips, especially traumatic events that take multiple lives. Would he have been irritated if there'd been an attack in America by a jihadist over the weekend and he was asked about it?

But here's the illogic of his main argument: He's suggesting that if we had extreme vetting of gun purchasers, Devin Patrick Kelley would have been approved for gun purchases -- and Stephen Willeford wouldn't have. Is that really what he believes? That Kelley, who spent a year in military confinement for assaulting his wife and infant stepson, cracking the child's skull, would have passed the extreme check, but Willeford -- who, as far as we know is completely law-abiding -- wouldn't have?

Therefore, by Trump's logic, extreme vetting is a process potentially riddled with error? Or a process meant to reject everyone, even the deserving?

Or perhaps he believes that Willeford would have failed the check and gone without guns, while Kelley would have failed and gone to the black market. But what evidence do we have that Kelley would have bought guns illegally? He had a bad conduct discharge from the military after being found guilty of domestic violence. He had reason to believe he might fail at least his first background check -- yet he bought four weapons over the past four years from licensed dealers who subjected him to checks.

No one is proposing a background check system that everyone fails. But it's not hard to imagine a system that catching Kelley and doesn't catch Willeford. By American standards, that would be extreme.


On the subject of the Air Force's failure to enter Kelley's domestic violence conviction into the federal database used for background checks, David Frum tweets:

He's right. McClatchy reported on this in 2013:
Even as lawmakers look for ways to curb gun violence, the federal government and various states haven’t sent millions of mental-health and drug abuse records to the database that’s designed to keep firearms from people who are barred from owning them, according to recent studies....

Seung Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech senior behind the worst school shooting in the nation’s history, was able to purchase a pair of semi-automatic pistols that he used to kill 32 people on campus in April 2007 because he passed a federal background check. That’s because the state of Virginia didn’t submit a crucial piece of information: that a court had earlier ordered Cho to seek treatment for mental illness.

Virginia quickly passed a law requiring that type of data to be sent. The federal government can’t mandate that states submit records to the background check database.... as of October 2011, 23 states and the District of Columbia each had sent fewer than 100 mental health records to the database, according to a report by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition of more than 900 mayors co-chaired by New York’s Michael Bloomberg, a leading gun-control advocate.

Fifty-two out of 61 federal agencies, which are required to send the information, did not, the report says....

At the time of the Virginia Tech shooting, only four states had required agencies to send mental health records to the database, according to a November 2011 report from Bloomberg’s group. After the shooting, 18 states required it. And four states that hadn’t permitted the information to be sent began to allow it.
What else isn't being reported? And in a country largely controlled by Republicans, where would the pressure come from to ensure that reporting is more rigorous?

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