Denver Post Pushes Agenda of Anti-Gun Lobby

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Denver Post Pushes Agenda of Anti-Gun Lobby

by Ari Armstrong, May 12, 2003

Of course there is nothing wrong with a newspaper promoting political views. It is a problem, though, when this promotion is done on news pages that profess to be balanced and through the suppression of the facts.

Jim Spencer wrote a May 12 column advocating the passage of a gun storage law in Colorado. He said the "gun lobby killed" legislation he likes. Which lobby, then, is the Denver Post promoting, if not the "anti-gun lobby?" I replied:

Mr. Spencer,

As you know, I have appreciated other columns you've written.

But today you missed the boat.

Colorado Statute 18-6-401 already specifies, "A person commits child abuse if such person causes an injury to a child's life or health, or permits a child to be unreasonably placed in a situation that poses a threat of injury to the child's life or health..."

Thus, prosecutors already have the ability to pursue criminal charges against those who give irresponsible children access to their guns.

Your failure to report this basic fact compromised the integrity of your piece.

You should have included a couple other points to produce a fair, well-rounded article. (You write editorials for the news section, which is a bit strange, I understand.)

As I've reported (http://www.freecolorado.com/2003/04/tragic.html), other items are much, much more dangerous for children. In 2000, here is the number of unintentional deaths for several categories for children ages 0-14:

Transportation: 2,787
Drowning: 943
Fire-related: 593
Poisoning: 91
Firearms: 86
Falls: 81

As I have argued, by stressing one type of danger and ignoring others, you give your readers a false sense of life's dangers.

Finally, you write, "Unload your guns, lock them up, take the firing pins out, and don't ever store the ammunition where you store the gun."

But your advice is potentially deadly.

People without irresponsible children around need not take such precautions. Obviously, what constitutes safe storage depends on one's own context.

What you completely ignore is the defensive use of guns, yet guns cannot be used defensively when stored as you suggest.

If you're going to write about firearms, you have a basic responsibility to become informed about their use. Two books discuss the defensive use of firearms in detail: Armed, by Kleck and Kates; and The Bias Against Guns, by Lott.

Jayson Blair fabricated information. But is it really that much better to misrepresent the truth through omission, as you have done?

You're a talented writer, and I'm sure today's column will be the exception to prove that rule.

I want to emphasize the point again that one excellent way to keep a gun secure from irresponsible persons is to carry it concealed.

(In 2001, I wrote an article critical of a storage law under consideration by the legislature.)

Before I published The Tragic Death of Sahil Ahmed, I offered a considerably shorter version of it to the Denver Post. Nobody from the paper replied about my offer. Later, when writers for the newspaper made additional mistakes, I submitted a short letter on the matter, but again the Post refused to print it. That letter follows.

Shootings Not "Accidents"

Re: "Teen toying with gun shoots pal in the face," May 2, 2003

Denver Post writers have developed an annoying habit of calling completely avoidable tragedies "accidents."

If you point a loaded gun at your friend's face and pull the trigger, as has happened twice in Colorado in recent weeks, the outcome is entirely predictable. These shootings were unintentional, but they were not accidents.

But by emphasizing deaths involving firearms, the Denver Post is giving its readership a skewed notion of life's dangers. In 2000, 776 of the 97,900 unintentional deaths in the U.S. involved a firearm, or 0.8% of the total. Cars, poison, water, and fire are involved in far more deaths. Every tool invented by man has been misused, and the use of any tool demands personal responsibility.

The Post's silence on these matters is deafening. How else can the paper's complete dismissal of these crucial points be interpreted as anything other than an attempt by the news department (and editorial board) to use its pages to promote a political agenda? If the Post didn't want to print material written by me, its editors easily could have found somebody else to make similar points.

* * * * *

At least when a Denver Post editorial promoted the mis-named "assault-weapons ban" on April 29, it printed a letter of reply by Bill Dietrick of the Firearms Coalition. His May 2 letter argues:

The Clinton administration's "assault-weapons" bill is purely a feel-good placebo with no real effect. If you truly believe firearms such as the AK-47, AR-15, etc., have been banned, you're living in a fool's paradise. True, Colt is no longer manufacturing civilian AR-15s, as it has confined production to fully automatic rifles for military and police, but semi-auto AR-15s are made by any number of manufacturers and arguably are the most popular center-fire target rifles in existence... And high-capacity magazine bans? There are so many million pre-ban magazines around, all the guns will wear out before we run out of them... As far as "firepower" is concerned, most guns this bill calls "assault weapons" use weak-sister cartridges compared to typical hunting rifles. because of their low recoil and the low price of the ammunition. Finally, the TECs are no longer made (the manufacturer is out of business) but they are no loss to me... The "assault weapons" ban has never deterred a single criminal. Why continue a law that has no effect, but costs tons to administer?

Unfortunately, Dietrick's letter offers no principled defense of the right to make, own, and trade semi-automatic guns and normal-capacity magazines. Anybody who disapproves of gun ownership and who reads Dietrick's letter will simply take it as evidence even more severe laws are needed. Semi-autos and normal-capacity magazines, though, are useful for self-defense, and that's the key point. At the same time, even the most severe gun bans would fail to reduce crime and would arguably increase it by creating new black markets. In addition, the ban is a misuse of political power.

The Post refused to print a much better letter submitted by Bruce Tiemann. (Why is that?) Tiemann's letter follows:

Re: The "assault weapons" ban.

A free society based on individual liberty is incompatible with either the creation of a higher caste of people with superior powers (police and military), or with the Marxist concept of needs-based legislation.

But imagine this alternative reality: Imagine that the right to keep and bear arms was merely a recently-articulated "emanation and penumbral" right, while the Second Amendment stated:

"Wanted Children in loving families, being necessary to the preservation of a healthy society, the right of women to obtain abortions, shall not be infringed."

Imagine also: That despite this Amendment, there were 20,000 laws restricting abortions. That people claimed the "loving families" clause indicates the right only covers married mothers with other children, and not single nor childless women. That minors were prohibited from abortions unless performed by their parents. That, except for the "back-alley loophole," federal family checks were necessary to obtain them. That some states had two week waiting periods, while others sold annual "abortion IDs" that mandated fingerprints, photographs, and police interviews to obtain them legally.

Imagine further that only doctors licensed to perform partial-birth abortions prior to 1994, the "pre-ban" doctors, were eligible to continue performing them - but that this particular law would sunset in 2004.

I wonder if, in that world, the Denver Post would say:

"Let's be reasonable. A partial-birth abortion ban is not an attack on the right to choose. It's a reasonable abortion-control measure that deserves renewal because there is no good reason for the average citizen to ever need one."

* * * * *

May 13 update: Spencer wrote back to me arguing the law against child abuse is "rarely invoked," so he wants "specific guidance" with respect to gun storage. Following is my reply.

Is there any form of child abuse, then, for which you would NOT want to provide "specific guidance?" I don't think you've thought through the implications of your position. The legal principle you presume implies an infinitely long list of statutes.

Given guns are involved in a tiny proportion of unintentional deaths and a minuscule proportion of child-abuse cases, I can think of only one reason why you single out gun owners for "specific guidance," and that is the same reason other groups have also been so targeted throughout history for "specific guidance."

Is the fact that a given law is "rarely invoked" proof the law itself is badly written? Or is it instead proof the prosecutor in question is failing in his or her duties? [Of course, another possibility is juries are more likely to take into account the defensive use of guns.] The point is, you wrote as if the law doesn't even exist, and that was wrong of you.

And Spencer replied:

Thanks for your thoughts,

Jim Spencer
Metro Columnist
The Denver Post

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