“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” — Winston Churchill
For those of you who didn’t follow it, an amendment to a bill in the US Senate was defeated this week, on a 58-aye, 39 nay vote. (Yeah, I know that sound strange; another time, okay?) You’ll find a remarkably typical MSM take on it here, and, honest, I’d love to discuss all the issues involved, but let’s save that for another time; that’s not this story.
Part of the fight against passing this was the notoriously anti-gun advocacy group, the “Violence Policy Center,” headed by Josh “Sugar Daddy” Sugarman*, and, as you’d expect, they were slaughtering trees, right and left, to turn out their agitprop, foremost among it, a “study” (actually, a collection of unreliable anecdotes, including at least one just plain lie) that
purports to show that shouts that “Concealed Handgun Permit Holders Kill 7 Police, 44 Private Citizens Over Two-Year Period”, which is, presumably, a bad thing and, putatively, some sort of reason that a law-abiding citizen who has been issued a carry permit in Minnesota can’t be trusted to, say, carry a handgun in New York.
(Pinky swear, since right about now I know that a bunch of you are reaching for your keyboards: yes, there’s a whole lot of other issues, around Federalism, states rights, carry permit laws, full faith and credit and all that stuff. Not now, okay?)
Enter John Lott. Dr. Lott first came to public attention with the Lott/Mustard study that shows — pretty clearly, I think; others disagree — that among the effects of modern, mainstream, “shall issue” permit laws are to drive violent crime down slightly (when controlling for other factors), drive property crime up, also slightly. By profession an economist, he’s kind of been dragged, kicking and screaming only a little, into the national gun debate, and like anybody else who has been around for awhile, noticed that the antigun folks need to spend a whole lot of money on Nomex undies, what with their pants bursting into flame from lying a lot.
He noticed an unlikely anecdote on page 17:
# Concealed Handgun Permit Holder: Michael C. Iheme
Date: July 24, 2008
People Killed: 1
Circumstances: On July 24, 2008, Michael C. Iheme shot and killed his wife after she left
her job at an assisted living center. Court records show that she had an active harassment
restraining order against him and suggest a history of domestic abuse, including threats to kill her. After the shooting, Iheme called 911 and said, “I have killed the woman that mess my life up….” Iheme, who had a concealed handgun permit, was found guilty of second degree murder.
Source: “911 call: ‘I have killed the woman that mess my life up,” Minneapolis Star-Tribune, July 26, 2008;
“Man found guilty of killing estranged wife in St. Louis Park,” Minneapolis Star-Tribune, February 6, 2009.
Yeah. That does look strange, and unlikely, if you know anything about the subject. The subject of a domestic OFP having a carry permit? Unlikely. Somebody with a history of domestic abuse being issued one? It’s not impossible, but it’s not the way to bet. Know a bit more, and it gets more unlikely — Sheriff Stanek’s office screwing up by issuing a permit to a domestic abuser with an OFP out on him? Nah.
But “nah” isn’t a debunking.
Lott dropped an email to Andrew Rothman, a local Minnesota activist — he’s a friend of mine, and also the Executive Director of MADFI — asking him to check it out, and Andrew got busy, sending one flunky off to see if there was some wisdom on the subject (check, but the flunky knew that) and interest in helping out on the part of David Gross (one of the few essential people in Minnesota Second Amendment activism, David’s also an attorney, who knows the laws around this stuff backwards and forwards, having been involved in the writing of some and the practice of a lot of them for decades), and dispatching another — John Pierce, second year law student at Hamline — to the courthouse to look for the documentation that would have existed if Iheme had been a carry permit holder arrested on suspicion of murder.
Gross struck paydirt — Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, who would have been the issuing sheriff, took a quick look at both the relevant laws, regulations, and facts, and went on the record that Iheme not only had not had a carry permit, but had never even applied for one.
Yup. Stanek didn’t say it — I am — but the VPC was lying. What they said just ain’t so.
And Pierce, looking for the nonexistent orders around the carry permit, stumbled across the smoking gun: the police report that showed that what had been seized was Iheme’s purchase permit. Iheme had a permit to purchase a firearm, not one to carry. But that fact had been carefully left out of the Star Tribune’s reporting with the Strib’s reckless disregard for the truth, and picked up and repeated by the folks at the VPC, who — having endlessly picked at all of the states’ carry laws — had every reason to believe that the Strib had gotten it wrong, but just passed off the lie to their easily-gulled audience.
How easy? Well, the next morning, on the Senate floor, Robert Menendez of New Jersey quoted the VPC “study”, as though it proved something — only to be shot down (metaphorically, honest) by the sponsor of the amendment, John Thune, who had been informed that there were provable lies in it, this among them.
What can we learn from this?
Well, we can’t learn, alas, that 58 yes votes is enough to get something through the Senate; it wasn’t, the other day. We can’t learn that the Star Tribune, in knowing and reckless disregard for the truth, will carefully leave out the word “purchase”, when talking about a “gun purchase permit” held by a murderer — we already knew that. That’s just how they roll.
We can’t learn that the anti-gun folks like the VPC simply don’t care about truth — we already knew that, too.
We can learn, though, that networked grassroots activism can do things that the highly-paid lobbyists — from the VPC or anywhere else — just plain can’t do.
That’s worth learning, again.