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Boston Media Deceived by  
"Stop Handgun Violence" Lobby 

By Eric Darbe 
Staff Writer 

April 26--At a press conference by "Stop Handgun Violence" in Newton the media received a list of school shootings that occurred in 1997-98. But the media weren't told that two of these shootings were stopped by law-abiding citizens using guns long before the police arrived on the scene. 

     An assistant principal in Mississippi, for example, used his own handgun to stop a student from shooting other students. The principal then, with his gun, held the shooter to the ground for five minutes until the police arrived. 
     The Newton-based "Stop Handgun Violence" didn't mention those facts at its April 21 press conference following the school shooting in Colorado. The gun-control group also didn’t mention that a law-abiding citizen, using a handgun, had stopped another student-shooter in 1998 in Pennsylvania. In that case, the citizen restrained the shooter for 11 minutes—then the police arrived. 
     When later asked by Massachusetts News whether the assistant principal in Mississippi used his handgun properly to stop a student-shooter, John Rosenthal, co-founder of "Stop Handgun Violence," said: "I don’t know the details of the situation. I don’t know if the assistant principal was licensed." 

     Rosenthal released a statement at the press conference that mentioned the Mississippi and Pennsylvania cases. But it left out the facts about the law-abiding citizens who used handguns to stop the shooters. Rosenthal spent most of the conference calling for more national gun-control laws similar to Massachusetts’ laws. 
     "Massachusetts is the model for the country," he said. "Congress has blood on its hands. … We need national laws to restrict access to deadly weapons." 
     But Boston University's Austin B. Fletcher Professor of  Law Randy Barnett, who’s written extensively about gun rights, says it’s not that simple. "They say the same thing every time," Barnett told Massachusetts News

     "It’s impossible to push a button and make firearms disappear in this country," he said. "Furthermore, so far as we are aware, this crime was committed mainly with long-guns—not handguns—and home-made explosives [pipe-bombs] that no gun law can eliminate. ... We could eliminate all automobile accidents by getting rid of all automobiles." 

Federal Gun Laws Help Criminals 

     Part of the problem with national gun laws is that they usually aid criminals and hinder law-abiding citizens, John Lott, Jr., an economist who teaches criminal deterrence and law at the University of Chicago, told Massachusetts News
     The 1995 law that makes it a crime to carry a gun within 1,000 feet of a school contributes to violence, said Lott. "The bad people don’t obey these laws," he said, as the Colorado and other cases proved. "It’s the law-abiding people who obey these laws. … The ’95 law has created school safe-zones for people intent on harming our children." 
     In the Mississippi case, for example, the assistant principal had to run more than 1,000 feet to his car to get his gun because of the 1995 law. He then ran back and stopped the student from killing more people. (The student had already killed his mother and shot nine students, two of whom died.) 
     When asked whether that assistant principal saved lives by using his gun, Rosenthal said: "Maybe so, maybe not. Who knows? I don’t know enough about the details. Are you saying that I think people should be armed in order to stop other armed people? No." 

More Guns Equal Less Crime 

     Lott is the author of the 1998 book, More Guns, Less Crime (University of Chicago Press). It’s been praised as one of the best research books on concealed-carry gun laws and their effect on reducing crime. "[Lott’s research] will—or should—cause those who almost reflexively support the limitation of guns in the name of reducing crime to rethink their positions," said Steve Shavell, professor of law at Harvard Law School. 

     Some of Lott’s findings include: 

  • States with the largest increases in gun ownership also have the largest decreases in violent crime.
  • High crime, urban areas have the greatest reductions in violent crime when law-abiding citizens are allowed to carry concealed handguns.
  • The federal Brady Law has not resulted in a reduction in crime rates. Nor have waiting periods in terms of state laws. 
  • Adopting laws that let people carry concealed handguns cuts the death rate from public, multiple shootings—such as the 1993 shooting of six people on the Long Island Railroad—by 69%.
  • Children 5 to 14 years of age are 14.5 times more likely to die from car accidents, five times more likely to die from drowning or fire and burns, and three times more likely to die from bicycle accidents than they are to die from gun accidents.
     W. Kip Viscusi, Cogan professor of law and director of the Program on Empirical Legal Studies at Harvard Law School, said of Lott’s book: "Perhaps most disturbing is Lott’s documentation of the role of the media and academic commentators in distorting research findings that they regard as politically incorrect." 

Media Ignore Law-Abiding Gun Users 

     The only thing that limits damage in mass-shootings, as happened in Colorado, said Lott, is the passage of right-to-carry laws. "Those states that pass these laws have about an 82% drop in the rate at which these multiple shootings occur—and a 90% drop in the rate from which people die from those shootings," he said. 

     There are many cases where citizens have stopped multiple shootings and public bombings by using their legally-concealed handguns, said Lott.  "But this hardly ever gets mentioned by the media," he said.  "It’s amazing. One news story said that a passerby persuaded a shooter to drop his gun--as if he talked him out of it. The newspaper report didn’t mention that the passerby used a gun to talk the shooter into putting his gun down." 

     Rosenthal spoke to the media from his group's headquarters in Newton's Meredith Building. Reporters from the Boston Herald, CBS Channel 4, NBC Channel 7, New England Cable News, and Massachusetts News covered the event. (In its April 22 story, the Boston Herald didn’t mention that law-abiding citizens used handguns to stop student-shooters in the Mississippi and Pennsylvania cases.) 

National Gun Controls? 

     "We know steps we can take nationally to prevent this from happening," said the gun-control group’s press release.  "Yet legislators still struggle to pass reasonable legislation to stop concealed-weapon carry, unlocked guns in the home, gun trafficking, and gun shows." 

     Michael Yacino, president of the Northborough-based Gun Owners Action League, told Massachusetts News that he has no intention of responding to Rosenthal’s blood-on-their-hands remark. But the gun-control lobby "thrives on tragedy," said Yacino. "Their cause is to take away people’s ability to make their own choices."