Saturday, April 11, 2009

Commentary on 20/20's "Guns in America"

First, I'd like to apologize in advance because I forgot to set the VCR to tape 20/20 so I could see it later.

You see, like many Americans I have a life outside of network television schedules. I was just at a very sobering Good Friday church service, stayed later to help set up our church meeting hall for our annual Easter Pancake breakfast (to benefit The Voice of the Martyrs), and subsequently hung out with some of my friends afterwards.

However, I've been getting caught up on the episode. I've watched all of the clips on their website, but I haven't yet found a complete version of the episode.

  • The first segment: Can You Defend Yourself with a Gun?
Providing that I've seen the entire segment, this bit doesn't bring anything new to the table it just confirms what gun owners and concealed carry practitioners already know. The stress of a real encounter changes everything, and the best way to prepare is to TRAIN, TRAIN, TRAIN!

I'm not sure if the average non-gun owner would get the same out of the segment. Perhaps they would feel that since even 'experienced' gun 0wners didn't meet the standard and stop the attack, then why take the risk of allowing people to carry guns?

All in all, the segment wasn't very anti-gun. It was more pro-training. I'll give it a rating of 0. (-1 negative, +1 positive, +0 neutral).
  • The next segment: When Older Kids Find Guns
This segment was perhaps one of the most shocking. It starts with a child going with a father to shoot automatic weapons. (Which they fail to mention are severely restricted.)

They segue into a story about a child that was similarly shooting an UZI (under the 'supervision'-I say 'supervision' because if the child was truly supervised he wouldn't have lost control of the weapon and shot himself-of a Law Enforcement Officer IIRC) and ends up shooting himself. Accidents due to neglect are very common. I suspect that if 20/20 exercised their investigative prowess and did an exposé on power tools and child accidents, they'd find many more stories about children being injured and killed due to a lack of supervision and proper instruction than they would for guns. -1 for that.

They also show a lot of old footage they shot 10 years ago when they placed 'deactivated' handguns into a toy box at a day care or something and showed kids picking up the weapons and playing with them, like well like kids often do. Moral of the story, don't store your guns in your child's toy box and teach them proper gun safety (i.e. the four rules).

In the next segment, they set up a garage filled with junk and post an ad looking for older teens/college age people to pack up the garage for extra cash. They've hidden two guns (both 'deactivated') in a drawer and video tape the results. The first two people come across the guns and after first being shocked decide to just dump the contents of the drawer (guns and all) in a moving box. Honestly, it was kinda funny. The narrator says, "Afterwards, they were embarrased that that gun could've gone off." -1 for perpetuating the myth that guns routinely 'go off' without pulling the trigger. The truth is that yes, guns can go off if dropped or mishandled (even without pulling the trigger), but this is such a rare occurance that the firearm must either be malfunctioning; extremely old; or very unlucky. Modern firearms (certainly the Glock and S&W revolver) that they show wouldn't go off if dropped or mishandled without something being mechanically wrong with them. (Revolver Drop Test-Dept. of Justice)

Next, they show another two people who find the guns. They even comment "you just put your prints all over it...", and proceed to wipe off their fingerprints. This only proves the point that too many of today's youth 'know' more about firearms from television and movies (after all, why would your 'prints' matter if the gun was never used in a crime?) than from truthful instruction and proper safety training. The very fact that these two are concerned about their prints implies that they expect that the gun was or will be used in a crime, another common myth. -1 but +1 since 20/20 isn't fully responsible for this myth being perpetrated.

All in all,
20/20 reveals that of the 20 or so groups that had come to 'clean' the garage only 3 had contacted the owners and not handled the firearms. This is a sad revelation about today's youth and specifically their opinions and understaning of firearms. However, I feel this is more due to the constant vilification of firearms and lack of actual understanding of them. Ask yourself this: When did you receive proper instruction on firearm safety?

If you're one of the few that did then you can guess it probably wasn't in the public school; you probably have a friend or family member that's a gun owner that taught you about proper gun safety; and you didn't learn it from television, the movies, and certainly not the news.

  • The next segment: Damon Weaver's Plea to Obama

In the next segment, 20/20 talks with a Florida child (Damon Weaver) who lives in Pahokee and has first hand witnessed and experienced gang related violence. This is indeed a sad tale and a tale that is far too common in America. However, this story actually acts to further demonstrate that gun control is not the answer to stopping crime. Violent gangs, like the ones shown, often get guns via any number of illegal means, and are not stopped by the laws prohibiting them from aquiring; possessing; and using those guns to commit crimes. What manner of insanity makes one believe that further laws will stop crimes? +1 for showing the futility of gun control in preventing crime.

  • The next segment: 10 Guns in One Hour

This is perhaps meant to be the most damning attack on gun-related freedoms and deals heavily with the so called 'gun show loophole'. The 'gun show loophole' that is often referred to are regulations (or in some cases a lack of them) that allow individuals to sell guns privately (most often long guns such as rifles and shotguns) without requiring either party to undergo a federal NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) like one is required to undergo if one purchases a firearm from a Federally Licensed Firearm Dealer (FFL). I've never had a problem with the 'gun show loophole' after all, that's how I got my first shotgun. My dad transfered it to me. I still have it today, and it's never been used in the commission of a crime.

On a side note, I will say that the NRA recieves a -1 for their lack of action in setting the record straight regarding the 'gun show loophole.' After all, they consider themselves America's strongest gun rights organization, but when given the chance to defend why it's wrong for our government to put an end to the private sale of firearms between law-abiding individuals they didn't even take the chance to state the facts.

One very revealing thing from this segment is this little quote:
ATF Agent, "...There's nothing illegal about their transactions..."

While I've only ever sold one firearm privately, and transfered the firearm at a local gunshop (to be in compliance with Pennsylvania law since it was a pistol), I'd still recommend that anyone conducting a private sale without the aid of a FFL at least require both parties to fill out and sign a basic firearms bill of sale. You can create one on a word processor and print it at home for use on private sales, it might be good to add a line for a witness name/signature/birthdate though.

Just live by the rule that if the party you're selling to or buying from doesn't want to fill out and sign the form then you probably shouldn't be buying from or selling to the individual.

  • The next segment: Shooting Under Fire

This last segment is nothing less than an attack on concealed carry. 20/20 shows more footage of their 'experiment' they did giving 'students' a minimal amount of training (basically showing them how to fire and possibly even unholster); a holster; a Glock equipped to fire simunition training ammunition; and some protective gear and then putting them in a realistic 'school shooting' situation to see how they'd react.

Their 'experiment' is very much like magically dropping a 16 year old child (that just received his driver's license) behind the wheel of an Indy car moving at 200+ mph during the Indy 500 and then acting shocked when the child crashes his 900 horse power behemoth injuring himself and others in the process.

The results of this segment aren't shocking at all. It should be no surprise that novices without training won't react well in live fire realistic high stress situations. Shooting at a hanging target is not the same as dealing with a simulated life or death defense situation.

Putting bullets in an X ring is not the same as moving, drawing, making judgement calls, and putting shots center mass on a bad guy that's also moving and shooting.

What angered me was the fact that they never even attempted to allow someone that held a license to carry concealed firearms attempt the test (let alone a police officer or tactical officer to compare/contrast the outcomes).

There are a few interesting things that you learn about this 'experiment:
  • The (bad guy) shooter is a formally trained law enforcement firearms instructor (very well experienced).
  • All of the 'experimenters' are untrained (in defensive shooting tactics).
  • 20/20 also never attempted to show variations e.g. not formally trained bad guy, using a properly trained individual as a concealed carry 'experiment'
  • The good guy had no choice with where to sit, and one wonders if the 'bad guy' actually knew the location of the good guy before entering the room.
In conclusion, take what you see on 20/20 (or any news program) with a large dose of salt. Yes, it's obvious that untrained individuals aren't adequately prepared for realistic defensive situations. However, one thing that wasn't mentioned in the 'experiment' was that even the apparent presence of opposition has the ability to stop the attack.

This is one of the main reasons why the training wasn't realistic. The offender was a firearms instructor that had full knowledge of the training exercise; he knew that he wouldn't be injured or killed and therefore had no issues with 'opposition'. Real people in real situations aren't devoid of the most basic human inclination--Self-preservation.

Would the Va. Tech shooter or the Columbine shooters have committed their atrocious murders if they felt there was real possiblity of meeting opposition? Who knows, but it's safe to say that it definitely would've changed their mindset perhaps even their mind before they decided to commit those crimes.

There's a very good reason why you don't see these shooting sprees at police stations, and it's not because people don't harbor ill feelings toward police officers.

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