Tragedy in Massachusetts
by Ari Armstrong, December 27, 2000
For more analysis of the shooting, see David Codrea's article at
On December 26, Michael McDermott allegedly killed seven people in Wakefield, Massachusetts, apparently because he was disgruntled with his place of work. This is a horrible tragedy, particularly given the time of year.
In a pattern that has unfortunately become familiar, the anti-gun lobby immediately began calling for more disarmament laws. Civil arms activists immediately began defending the right of gun ownership (e.g., the present article).
The media is by now trained to give top billing to these sorts of massacres and to automatically tie in the gun debate. That's understandable, even if the practice encourages distorted perceptions of the problem. Any mass murder is likely to get national attention, and one committed with a firearm will certainly get national or global press. What don't get covered are all the single or double murders committed on the same day, many gang related, many committed with a knife or car or fist.
The media also fails to cover the positive side of gun ownership. On the same day McDermott murdered seven people, more than a thousand Americans used a gun to defend themselves against criminals. Probably several thousand. When papers have to choose between "Blood Runs in the Streets" and "Woman Not Harmed by Attacker" for headlines, the former will win out every time. Unfortunately, most defensive uses of firearms aren't even reported, often because police would harass the gun owner oppressively.
Of course, the fact that McDermott already broke the law in owning his guns barely registered with the popular press. In the Associated Press article ran by both the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News, the only hint of the gun violations was in the line: "[Middlesex District Attorney Martha] Coakley said McDermott did not have a permit for any of the weapons he was carrying," which implies a permit was necessary. (Angel Shamaya of KeepAndBearArms.com confirms McDermott "broke ownership and carry laws" of his area.)
But because the existing anti-gun laws didn't prevent the crime, we need more anti-gun laws, or so says the disarmament lobby. The embarrassment of that position is why the disarmament lobby and its apologists in the media don't like to focus on the massive failures of America's gun control laws. They like to make-believe that if we only pass additional laws, nobody will ever hurt another person with a gun.
I was shocked to read the December 26 story on the front page of the anti-gun Denver Post: "Virgin, Utah: Where every household must have a gun," by Susan Greene (http://denverpost.com/news/news1226g.htm). But in today's Post the reason for the prominent billing of that story was made clear: it was merely a hook for the Post's continued crusade against gun owners. In its December 27 editorial, the Post refers to the city's statute as "bizarre," "strange," "scary," and "eccentric." The editorial takes the arguments of the city's lone dissenter virtually line-by-line from the original story. (I do not approve of the law because individuals should be free to disarm themselves, but the Post does not bother to consider such arguments about individual rights.)
The Post managed to include not one but two anti-gun editorials in its December 27 edition. In the more expansive one, the paper's editorial board calls for mandating storage of firearms (so that they are useless for self-defense), denying lawful adults ages 18-20 their right to purchase a firearm, and confiscating so-called "assault" weapons, which of course the writers don't attempt to define.
Ironically, media outlets like the Denver Post are more responsible for the Wakefield deaths than are the owners of "assault weapons." It should be obvious by now that mass murderers thrive on the global publicity they get for their crimes. American mass murders have followed two basic types: the "disgruntled office worker" and the "school massacre." Does anyone really doubt that these are "copy-cat" crimes? The fact that anti-gun lobbyists and their friends in the popular media make such a big deal out of the nasty guns used in the crimes only assures that the next such crime will involve similar guns. Sarah Brady must be pleased that this time the killer used all three categories of gun: shotgun, semi-automatic rifle ("assault rifle") and semi-automatic pistol ("assault pistol"). She couldn't have scripted a better fundraiser.
Yet where is the hew and cry for more press control? The Post's editorial writers have repeatedly claimed they don't want total disarmament, they only want "reasonable, common-sense" gun laws. They seem completely incapable of drawing an analogy to "reasonable, common-sense" press laws.
What's striking by its absence is any discussion about how these "reasonable" gun laws would reduce crime. McDermott's "assault rifle" was already illegal. So why would broader bans keep latent criminals like him from getting them? But the fact is that "assault rifles" are hardly ever used by criminals, which is why Brady's Handgun Control, Inc. makes such an effort to obsfuscate that term until it applies to practically every gun.
The Post notes: "It was Colorado voters who decided something had to be done, so they passed Amendment 22, an initiative... requiring background checks at gun shows..." It is precisely this spirit of "something has to be done" that will lead to more stupid laws. McDermott, by the way, didn't have a felony record and so would not have been stopped by a background check, even on the legal market. And what of the illegal market? Disarmament activists never leave their imaginary world long enough to consider such problems, despite the extensive networks of drug gangs in the country.
The fact remains that only one type of gun law is proven to reduce any kind of crime: liberalized concealed carry. Concealed carry laws are proven to substantially decrease the numbers of mass murders. Unfortunately, Massachusetts does not permit most citizens to carry concealed (unless you are a politician or a celebrity). Disarmament laws only empower the likes of McDermott. Armed citizens stop such thugs. The most realistic way to prevent the tragedy would not have been the passage of more laws, but to have had two or three employees in the building with a pistol. Preferably, a "high capacity assault" pistol. If McDermott had known of such a potential force, he might have stayed in bed that day.
For additional information, see the following links:
I include the links to the London Times because I wrote a letter to the paper which reads as follows:
Dear Times of London,
December 28 addition
Dial 911 and Die
The Wakefield shooting provides yet another example of how the police cannot respond to an emergency in time to prevent it. The (alleged) killer fired 37 rounds from his rifle and shotgun (none from the pistol) to kill seven victims. Each victim was shot multiple times. After the killer was finished, he set his guns aside, sat down in the lobby, and waited for the police to show up and arrest him.
[Middlesex County District Attorney Martha] Coakley says the shootings took five to 10 minutes... McDermott was arrested shortly after the shootings and subdued by SWAT teams... "He was sitting in the lobby when (Wakefield police) arrived, heavily armed," Middlesex County Assistant District Attorney John McEvoy said. http://www.thebostonchannel.com/bos/news/stories/news-20001226-184657.html
As with Columbine, the police saved exactly zero lives.
The most disturbing detail to come out is that McDermott was apparently on psychiatric drugs. According to Reuters, McDermott's attorney Kevin Reddington "said his client had been under psychiatric care and was taking medication" (http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20001227/ts/crime_shooting_dc_17.html).
Ignorant Journalists Talk Guns
The Reuters article listed above is by Tim McLaughlin and is entitled, "Prosecutors Give Massacre Details at Arraignment ." The bit about the psychiatric drugs is confirmed by other sources. However, one has to wonder just how erroneous some of these stories are. Consider McLaughlin's following line:
"Shotgun shells and ammunition for the semiautomatic revolver were also found in the bag."
Obviously, the Reuters writer doesn't know anything about guns. A "semiautomatic" is a gun with a magazine. A "revolver" is a gun with a cylinder of rounds. No revolver is a semiautomatic. (Actually, I've heard that such a thing has existed, but they are not in use anywhere to my knowledge.)
Because some journalists are ignorant about the subject matter of their stories, they easily swallow government propaganda. We readers should remember that when we read stories from the national news chains.