Everytown Using Cop Killings To Push For More Background Checks

Matt Vespa
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Posted: May 27, 2015 3:55 PM
Everytown Using Cop Killings To Push For More Background Checks

The left has had their fair share of awful studies aimed at curbing our Second Amendment rights. According to the Department of Justice's crime statistics, violent crime has seen a drastic decline. Between 1993-2011, there was a 39 percent drop in firearm-related homicides; Pew Research noted a 49 percent drop between 1993-2010. Given these figures, anti-gun groups have resorted to lumping suicides into the gun violence category to boost the number of fatalities. Recently, the Center for American Progress* hypothesized that gun violence was “devastating” the Millennial generation. That’s not entirely accurate. The noted racial disparity in the CAP report is due to gang violence in urban areas, which isn’t news–and while tragic–doesn’t constitute a generational struggle.

Now, Everytown is trying to exploit police deaths to push for more background checks (yes, they’re still hung up on this issue), saying that it would save police officers’ lives:

In 2013, there were 25 incidents nationwide in which law enforcement officers were killed with guns that were not their own. An analysis of FBI data shows that at least thirteen of these incidents — 52 percent — were committed by individuals who were likely barred under state or federal law from either purchasing or possessing firearms.

To conduct the analysis, researchers obtained the FBI’s Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) database covering felonious deaths of law enforcement and updated it with additional incidents from press reports. For those incidents in which an officer was killed with a firearm that was not his or her own, the researchers identified the assailant and then examined state and federal criminal records as well as contemporaneous newspaper accounts to determine if the individual was prohibited by law from either purchasing or possessing firearms.

Gun violence is a persistent threat to law enforcement — and preliminary FBI data indicates that the number of officers killed feloniously with firearms rose 77 percent since 2013.1 While no single policy can completely ensure officers’ safety, strong gun laws that reduce the flow of guns to criminals can help save lives. Loopholes in our current laws make it all too easy for dangerous people who are prohibited from possessing guns to dodge a background check and buy a gun from an unlicensed seller. Expanding background checks to cover all gun sales — including those online — will protect cops. In states that require background checks for unlicensed sales of handguns, police are 48 percent less likely to be killed with handguns.

Everytown noted that felons cannot own a firearm, which is true, but they don’t say how these criminals who committed these police killings obtained their weapons. They assume that these criminals buy from an unlicensed seller; that’s not how the majority of criminals obtain firearms. They either steal them, which is a crime, or acquire them through straw purchasers, in which the person buying for the felon has also committed a felony. Another way felons get guns are from corrupt Federal Firearms Licensees (via PBS):

In fact, there are a number of sources that allow guns to fall into the wrong hands, with gun thefts at the bottom of the list. Wachtel says one of the most common ways criminals get guns is through straw purchase sales. A straw purchase occurs when someone who may not legally acquire a firearm, or who wants to do so anonymously, has a companion buy it on their behalf. According to a 1994 ATF study on "Sources of Crime Guns in Southern California," many straw purchases are conducted in an openly "suggestive" manner where two people walk into a gun store, one selects a firearm, and then the other uses identification for the purchase and pays for the gun. Or, several underage people walk into a store and an adult with them makes the purchases. Both of these are illegal activities.

The next biggest source of illegal gun transactions where criminals get guns are sales made by legally licensed but corrupt at-home and commercial gun dealers. Several recent reports back up Wachtel's own studies about this, and make the case that illegal activity by those licensed to sell guns, known as Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs), is a huge source of crime guns and greatly surpasses the sale of guns stolen from John Q. Citizen. Like bank robbers, who are interested in banks, gun traffickers are interested in FFLs because that's where the guns are. This is why FFLs are a large source of illegal guns for traffickers, who ultimately wind up selling the guns on the street.

According to a recent ATF report, there is a significant diversion to the illegal gun market from FFLs. The report states that "of the 120,370 crime guns that were traced to purchases from the FFLs then in business, 27.7 % of these firearms were seized by law enforcement in connection with a crime within two years of the original sale. This rapid `time to crime' of a gun purchased from an FFL is a strong indicator that the initial seller or purchaser may have been engaged in unlawful activity."

FFL dealers acting in accordance with the law have to conduct a background check on a potential buyer. Those who do not are breaking the law, and placing the public at risk. Yet, expanding background checks would have zero impact in curbing illegal gun transactions. It would not cut down on the number of illegal straw purchases. Criminals don’t follow laws, and time and again we see how more gun control leads to violence and bloodshed. Baltimore and Chicago are prime examples of this awful byproduct of gun control legislation in action. Then again, this is all speculation. It would be nice to learn from Everytown how the list of convicts who killed police officers in their report obtained their firearms. If it was through straw purchases, or some shady FFL dealer, then this whole study is rendered moot since no legislation would effectively cut down on this behavior. Moreover, if it makes liberals feel good; that's fine. I just don’t think we need to set the Constitution on fire to have a sense of political achievement.

The anti-gun crowd lost after the horrific shooting at Newtown. The courts, public opinion, and Congress are on our side. Yet, in June, Everytown is launching their news organization. It’s being staffed with former members of the New York Times and the New Republic. It’s reportedly going to be an operation in the vein of the Center for American Progress’ Think Progress.

Additionally, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy had a somewhat ambiguous answer to whether he would push gun control in an interview with NPR’s Scott Simon in April:

SIMON: Dr. Murthy, your confirmation was held up in Congress after you had tweeted - I believe this is a quote - "guns are a health care issue." What did you mean by that, more gun control laws, what?

MURTHY: Here's what I would say - and here's what I meant when I wrote that tweet - violence of all kinds is a public health issue. When you have large numbers of people dying from preventable causes, that's a health care issue. That's a public health issue. That's what I said. That's, in fact, what C. Everett Koop said when he was Surgeon General, and that's what the leading medical and nursing organizations have said for many years. I want to find a way that we can reduce violence in America. And I think you wouldn't be hard-pressed to find parents or families of victims or health care practitioners who would disagree.

SIMON: Do I properly note any significance to the fact that you don't seem to be calling for more gun control laws?

MURTHY: Well, what I'm calling for is for more common sense. We may see various issues around violence as highly politicized because of how they're covered or how they're spoken about in public settings. These problems that we face are not problems that one party or one sector can solve on their own. But it's going to take real partnership and working together across the community that will help us address the great health care challenges that our country is facing.

SIMON: Dr. Murthy, I've - C. Everett Koop, he was morally opposed to abortion. He was opposed to abortion as a physician. Arguably, in part, he was even appointed surgeon general because of his opposition to abortion. But he decided, as surgeon general, that had nothing with public health, and he operated in a different way. I wonder if you take any queue from that. That you can - as a public official, there's a difference between your private convictions and what your responsibilities are as a public official.

MURTHY: Well, the responsibility of the surgeon general is to make sure that the public has access to science and access to it in a way that is understandable and that is applicable to their everyday lives. That's the approach that C. Everett Koop took because he recognized that regardless of personal beliefs, that the job of surgeon general is to make sure that we are using the best possible scientific information to benefit the public. And that will be my approach as well.

He prevaricated equally when the Washington Post interviewed him around the same time last month:

Q. Will you be raising the issue of gun violence as a public health issue?

My focus is going to be on the issues that are costing us the most in America, in terms of lives lost, in terms of disability, in terms of dollars spent. And those are on obesity and chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It's on substance abuse and mental health.

While those will be my primary areas of focus, I fully recognize that issues come up all the time that are of great concern to the country, and I will be ready to address those when they do. Ebola was one example. Measles was another...And so I will continue to respond to issues as they come up, while keeping our focus on the issues that are driving the greatest suffering and the greatest health care cost for the country.

Q. So that sounded like a qualified yes. You will be raising it if there were an occasion to do so?

I'm not taking anything off of my agenda. If something is important to the country, and to the health of the people, that's the most important factor for me in determining whether to address it or not. The statements I've made in the past about gun violence being a public health issue, I stand by those comments because they're a fact. They're a fact that nearly every medical professional who's ever cared for a patient will attest to.

The truth is whenever large numbers of people are dying for preventable reasons, that's a public health issue. Whether that's because of automobile accidents, whether it's because of violence, whether it's because of toxicity from other causes.

And so my concern in this area has come from my experience as a doctor who's cared for many patients who've been the victims of all kinds of violence, and my hope is that we can come together as a country to find ways that we can reduce violence while respecting people's legal and constitutional rights. I don't think that's too much to ask for.

...I think the majority of the country recognizes that there is a middle road and the question is do we have the courage to find that road, and to walk down it.

Suffice to day we should err on the side of caution when it comes to Dr. Murthy, though we should be more worried about Everytown’s news wing. The best-case scenario is that it goes nowhere; it peddles the same weak, anti-gun talking points; and has an ineffectual impact given the level of scrutiny doled out by pro-Second Amendment advocates. Conservatives sometimes over estimate the threat, which was displayed when Scott Walker first reformed collective bargaining in Wisconsin; he survived. After Newtown, the anti-Second Amendment advocates sensed a shift in the political winds, and the NRA looked as if their clout would be severely curtailed; none of that turned out to be true.

At worst, the New York Times, NBC News, ABC News, CBS News, The Washington Post, and others pick up on some half-baked study, give it airtime, and we have to defend the citadel for a few cycles.

*CAP may be wrong on firearms, but they're doing some good work on justice reform.