Remedial Journalism 100

Lesson 1: Sausage-Making

Lesson 2: The Constitution. You may have heard that word.

Lesson 3: Let’s Party!

Lesson 4: “A Hunting We Will go”

Lesson 5: “Voting for Dummies Democrats”

Lesson 6: Supplementary Reading: Remedial Journalism 100


Remedial Journalism 100

Today, class, we are going to explore why it’s necessary for journalists/reporters to get facts right. I’ll also address some very simple techniques for accomplishing that.

Let’s start with a bad example of student journalism, and see if we can improve it a little.

COLUMN: Columbine should’ve changed everything
With the 20th anniversary of the Columbine shooting coming up on Saturday, it is time to reflect on how far our nation has and has not come with gun reform.

First, this column did something right: it is properly labeled as “opinion,” not news.

[After GCA ’68] Only three others laws were passed that influenced the gun reform movement before Columbine.

And there’s the first hard error. I’ll work up to that.

Firearm Owners Protection Act in 1986 which prohibited a national registry of deal records.

Dealer records; specifically ATF form 4473. That was needed because, without any Congressional authorization, the ATF was collecting those records. However, Hilycord misses other important provisions. FOPA also “guaranteed” safe passage for honest gun owners when transporting firearm through other states. New and New Jersey still routinely violate that.

The other biggie was the ban on civilian possession of machineguns imported or manufactured after May 1986. Since such are pretty much never used in crime (I can document 3 cases of lawfully possessed machineguns used in crimes since 1934), it had no effect on crime, but instantly drove the prices of transferables through the roof.

Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993, which was signed by then-President Bill Clinton, required background checks of manufacturers, importers or dealers before the purchase of a gun.

No, it didn’t. Manufacturers et al get their background checks when they apply for FFLs. The Brady law required background checks on retail customers. It also included a waiting period until NICS was ready.

Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act, or the assault weapons ban, on Sept. 13, 1994, which “prohibited the manufacture for civilian use of semi-automatic firearms and large-capacity ammunition magazines.”

No. Some semiautomatic firearms, based on cosmetic features having nothing to do with function, and standard capacity magazines, and other arbitrary items. It flopped in reducing crime, because such were rarely used in crime before or after the law.

Despite Clinton enacting this law, the school shooting still took place.

Yes, it did. If Hilycord had properly researched her subject, she would have discovered that the murdering scum bypassed restrictions on purchasing by obtaining their firearms through unlawful straw purchases and black market transactions.

“The “assault weapon ban” didn’t stop them because they didn’t use firearms classified as “assault weapons” in the ’94 law, except for a DC-9 grandfathered under the law.

It’s also worth noting that the National Firearms Act of 1934, which heavily regulates short-barrel shotguns, didn’t prevent the killer using an illegal short-barrel shotgun.

Their improvised explosive and incendiary devices were similarly regulated under ignored law.

Although the assault weapons ban was approved by Presidents Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, and was planned to last 10 years, it was not renewed in 2004.

1994 to 2004 is 10 years. It was not renewed because it was a useless violation of rights. It didn’t help reduce crime.

Basically, because Hilycord neglected to do research, she misunderstood what the laws were intended to do. The laws of which she was aware. She thinks there were only three between the GCA and Columbine. Let’s look at what she missed

The Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988: passed in reaction to an imaginary movie gun with no real world counterpart, its sole effect has been to hamper technological developments,

Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990: ruled unconstitutional.

Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994: “fixed” the constitutional flaws called out by the Supreme Court. Hilycord should have noticed that this one failed to erect a gun-repelling force field around the high school at Columbine. Or Parkland, Santa Fe…

Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban of 1997: retroactively made anyone convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence a prohibited person. An ex post facto law.

Even President Trump signed a Bump Stock Ban, which officially began March 26…

Details matter, Hilycord. Trump did not sign the ban. AG Barr did (“ratifying” after the legally dubious signing by acting AG Whitaker). That matters, because they bypassed Congress to rewrite law.

…that addressed the scrutiny after it was notably used by the shooter in the Las Vegas mass shooting in 2017.

A point raised in federal court, which went uncontested by DOJ lawyers, was that no investigative report says that bump-fire stocks were used. Only present. And the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and the ATF even disagree on how many were present.

As it happens, Hilycord missed some more laws.

The reminder that 20 years have passed since Columbine, and nothing has been done to prevent the growing number of needless deaths, is astounding.

Specifically, the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007, which was a reaction to the Virginia Tech shooter obtaining guns because, although he was a prohibited person, the state hadn’t bothered to report him to NICS. Thus he got away with lying on his 4473 and “passed” a background check.

Hilycord bemoans the lack of gun control, and wants “something” done. But her failure to study the subject before opining means she lacks the data to analyze the effectiveness of any particular policy or law. Thus…

Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh; Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida; a music festival held in Las Vegas; Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida; Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina; Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut; and earlier on, Virginia Tech.

The laws didn’t stop the Tree of Life shooter, because his record was clean.

Parkland: Despite a history of violence and destruction and death threats, 40+ encounters with law enforcement, and multiple specific reports to local law enforcement and the FBI no one ever arrested or Baker Acted him.

Pulse: The shooter had been under federal investigation for possible terrorist ties, but the FBI abruptly closed it, leaving him on the street.

Emanuel AME: the shooter “passed” his background check despite being a prohibited person. The authorities didn’t notice until weeks after the killings.

Sandy Hook: Killer bypassed checks (which he would have passed, having a clean record) by killing his mother and using her guns.

Virginia Tech: See above, prohibited person who “passed” NICS through the state’s inaction.

You cannot analyze the effectiveness of current laws, if you don’t know what they are.

You cannot propose effective laws if you don’t know how well laws work. Or don’t.

You cannot solve the problem of “gun violence” (as if no other sort exists) if your laws are directed at the wrong target. Approximately 96% of firearms used in crime are obtained through unlawful channels that evade background checks, waiting periods, age limits, prohibited person restrictions (about 60% of murderers using firearms are prior convicted felons, more prohibited for other reasons); more restrictions on lawful channels ignore the black market sources.

Now that I’ve critiqued Hilycord, what could she have done to improve her column?

1. Research: A few simple web searches would have informed her on the subject. Useful search terms include “current gun laws,” “US Code,” “prohibited person,” “gun control,” “common-sense gun laws,” “bump-fire,” “NICS,” “NFA.”

I recommend foregoing the use of Google, as it has some odd search biases (and serious privacy problems). DuckDuckGo is more effective.

One should be wary of relying only one class of advocacy group for information. If you only use Everytown for a source, you may never learn that much of their data is questionable. Their school shooting list alone runs 30-70% wrong, including incidents that don’t meet their own expansive definition, incidents that were not shootings, and at least one “incident” that seemingly never occurred at all. As they do not provide source links, you have to manually search for incidents in the news to confirm or deny their version.

2. Contacts: Get to know people who know something about topics you may someday address. I have an obscure/antique weapons expert on tap, lawyers specializing in firearms law, an expert on NFA, and other subjects. If I don’t know something, or I need to check my understanding, my contacts are a phone call or email away.

3. Logic: This is hard for many people whose education was focused on social justice rather than facts. You have to set aside your personal opinions and preconceptions long enough to evaluate data as is.

Did a police spokesman say a perp had a submachinegun? Where are the charges (including NFA) for that violation?

If told that an AR-15 is a military weapon of war, ask what country generally issues semi-automatic rifles to its regular troops (none, for decades).

If you hear that US temperatures are higher than ever before, ask what happened to the Dust Bowl period.

When evaluating any proposed law, ask how it will work, how it will be implemented. Don’t settle for “We’ll ban this.” Ask how they’ll successfully impose the ban.

If you hear that 90+% of Americans want universal background checks, ask why — in any state that has put it to a general vote — it usually fails, and even the states that passed it never did so by more than 61%. Ask where the other third of “supporters” went.

Always apply cost/benefit analysis to any proposal. If waiting periods save some lives, what about people like Carol Bowne, who was killed while awaiting her defensive firearm?

If you see a gun control survey indicating that a majority of 14 million NRA members want background checks, ask why the NRA says they only have 5 million members.

Logic. Learn to spot and question contradictions, and shortcomings.

Then you may learn to be a journalist or reporter, and not merely a biased activist inspiring laughter at your ridiculously wrong “facts.”

Investigative Reporter Discovers No One Enforced Law; Demands More Laws

Andy Pierotti, investigative reporter has discovered that Georgia doesn’t have a law to disarm felons and domestic violence offenders. And thinks it’s important.

Man accused of killing pregnant girlfriend shouldn’t have had a gun
Federal law prohibits convicted abusers from possessing guns, but Georgia doesn’t have a mechanism to confiscate those firearms.

No prob, Andy. Bucket O’ Chum was a convicted felon. He was released in 1995, after the Brady Bill was in effect. If laws actually stopped criminals from getting guns, he wouldn’t have had one to confiscate.

But, no. 93% of firearms used in crimes are obtained through unlawful channels that bypass laws: theft, black market, and straw purchases are the biggies.

So chumboy got a gun. Because background checks don’t really work (for instance, the ATF reports that over 3,000 prohibited persons per year managed to pass a NICS check).

And if somehow it was discovered that chumbucket had a gun and they confiscated it… lather, rinse, repeat. He’d just get another like he got the first one. When he got out of prison.

The fact that Georgia doesn’t have a specific law to confiscate felons’ guns (not simply domestic violence, you know) means exactly zip. If they don’t know the felon has a gun, they can’t confiscate it. If they do know, they can arrest him — felon in possession is a crime, you know… right? — and confiscate it.

Even a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction makes one a prohibited person. So — again — it’s a felony for an offender to have a gun; has been for decades. If they knew, they could have arrested him. And confiscated the gun.

So, Andy, the problem isn’t that they lacked a law to disarm the asshole. The problem is that they didn’t use existing laws to disarm him and toss his useless butt back into prison.

Do we really need yet another law to not enforce?

Destiny’d for Mediocrity

Tracking incompetence at Jacksonville’s WJXT News4Jax has become something of a hobby. In between errands and analyzing the latest judicial attack on America, I’ve been looking into this.

Former military man arrested after SWAT situation in Oakleaf
ORANGE PARK, Fla. – A former military man was arrested…
[…]
News4Jax learned that Ransford is former military, so deputies said they came in with knowledge of that and they approached the situation knowing Ransford had more training with weapons than the average citizen.

I wondered about the emphasis on “former military,” especially since the article makes no mention of the guy possessing or using weapons, nor any other red flag beyond the alleged crimes. So I asked WJXT’s Destiny McKeiver. Her response?

No emphasis. Just a mention that came from the sheriff’s office, which is fair to include.

“No emphasis.” Just headline, first sentence, and further expansion.

13.5% of Florida’s population is “former military,” veterans. Given the usual gender ratios, that’s probably at least 1 in 4 Florida men who are veterans. It isn’t exactly uncommon. And yet, for no other reason given — and that’s what I was asking for; some reason that his veteran status was pertinent — the Clay County Sheriff’s Office felt their SWAT team had to be extra careful. Is the CCSO going to automatically roll SWAT any time they expect a veteran? For no other reason than that?

McKeiver doesn’t know, doesn’t care.

You have to ask @ccsofl.

I sort of thought that since she’s being paid to cover the story, and has the CCSO contact, she might be interested in following up on a troubling point. Since she isn’t — doing more than transcribing press releases being beyond her skillset — I’ll just shuffle off and do her job for her.

I’ll update this post if I get an answer.

Reporters

News4Jax in Florida is “reporting” that the Jacksonville Fire Department bought Level IIIA ballistic vests, with soft panels, that weigh…

139 POUNDS. 155 pounds with hard inserts.

This is the same station which reported that Senators “Crickets” Isakson and Perdue represent Florida (hint: nope).

That the sun would set earlier than usual.

That misplaced an active tornado by nearly ten miles. (That one worried me, because their track would have had it about a mile from me, and headed directly at me. Too bad about the folks who though they were safe… until they heard the freight train roar.)

And so much more.

NZ Manifesto

It took a while to find (most links were dead by the time I got to them), But I finally located the manifesto of the New Zealand asshole.

It’s a disjointed mess. Taken at face value, he’s a neo-nazi, Green, socialist isolationist.

If you heard he’s a Trump supporter, you can’t prove it by this document.

As a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose? Sure. As a policy maker and leader? Dear god no

In some ways, apart from the eco-socialist stuff, it’s as though he was checking off all the boxes to be a stereotype of how Antifa views anyone left of Lenin, particularly anyone they think is a Trump supporter. It reads like something Occasional-Cortex would produce if she was faking a “right-wing” manifesto of a person out to save the White Race from those terrible brown invaders.

Again, taken at face value, this could be the work of a greenweenie who finally snapped when he could no longer rationalize issues with uncontrolled immigration from shithole countries.

Or not.

Then there’s weird stuff like this, stuck right in the middle of his attempts to explain himself and what he wants:

I’ll have you know I graduated top of my class in the Navy Seals, and I’ve been involved in numerous secret raids on Al-Quaeda, and I have over 300 confirmed kills. I am trained in gorilla warfare and I’m the top sniper in the entire US armed forces. You are nothing to me but just another target. I will wipe you the fuck out with precision the likes of which has never been seen before on this Earth, mark my fucking words.

According all the reports I’ve seen, he’s Australian. No indication that he’s been to America, much less been a SEAl. I suspect he slipped that in just to see if anyone reads his little rant.

As best I can tell, chumbucket is just a racist fuck who decided he wanted to be famous (which he carefully and repeatedly says he doesn’t want. A lot.), and chose a place where they won’t execute his ass for mass murder.

Stop New Yorking my rights

This was particularly amusing to me, from a personal experience.

Hundreds turn out for hearing on Vt. gun control bill
Opponents, many dressed in the bright orange T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “Stop New Yorking my Vermont Gun Rights!” said a waiting period requirement would block people who have an immediate need of self-defense from an opportunity to quickly purchase a firearm.

Some years back in New Hampshire, during one of the periods of Dimwitr control of the State House, a Dim entered a bill which would have banned possession of a firearm on any publicly controlled (not just owned) property. Buildings, parks, streets, sidewalks…

Yeah, that bad.

Come the day of the hearing, eight or nine hundred people showed up to voice their objection to the bill. I was one.

When it came time for statements from the public, one of the first (might have been the first) was the bill’s sponsor. Now, remember: this was New Hampshire, the “Live Free Or Die State.”

I shit you not, this damnfool woman stood at the mic and explained that we needed this law “to be more like New York,” where she came from.

Holy crap, I thought the Dimwit committee chairwoman was gonna break her gavel and destroy her vocal cords trying to silence the laughter, and travel recommendations.

Victim-disarmament aside, you’d think anyone with a vague recollection of history would know that getting New Hampshire to be New York ain’t happening.