We Need an Accurate National Conversation About Guns

by Jim Geraghty

Thank you, Washington Post, for stepping up to the plate and correcting a widely cited and shared piece of misinformation in the aftermath of the Florida shooting. There have not been 18 school shootings in the United States so far this year.

The figure originated with Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit group, co-founded by Michael Bloomberg, that works to prevent gun violence and is most famous for its running tally of school shootings. . .

It is a horrifying statistic. And it is wrong.

Everytown has long inflated its total by including incidents of gunfire that are not really school shootings. Take, for example, what it counted as the year’s first: On the afternoon of Jan. 3, a 31-year-old man who had parked outside a Michigan elementary school called police to say he was armed and suicidal. Several hours later, he killed himself. The school, however, had been closed for seven months. There were no teachers. There were no students.

Also listed on the organization’s site is an incident from Jan. 20, when at 1 a.m. a man was shot at a sorority event on the campus of Wake Forest University. A week later, as a basketball game was being played at a Michigan high school, someone fired several rounds from a gun in the parking lot. No one was injured, and it was past 8 p.m., well after classes had ended for the day, but Everytown still labeled it a school shooting.

We keep hearing, “we need to have a national conversation about guns,” and then we keep hearing statements from those same voices that are simply not true. If we’re going to have that national conversation, I want the other side to do its homework first.

I don’t want to hear CNN lamenting that Florida doesn’t require a concealed carry permit for an AR-15 or shotgun. (They are too large to conceal.) I don’t want to hear people referring to the AR-15 as an “automatic assault weapon” and I want them to learn the difference between automatic and semiautomatic, and which kind is already illegal. I don’t want to hear about “the gun show loophole” unless the shooter purchased his gun at a gun show. (To the best of my knowledge, not a single mass-shooter has done so.) I want former presidents to stop asserting that it’s easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than buy a computer or a book.

If someone wants to ban AR-15s, I want them to say so. I also want to know what they want to do about the 5 million to 10 million AR-15s already in private hands. I want them to realize that if they don’t grandfather in the already-owned ones, they will instantly turn millions of law-abiding Americans, who have never fired a shot in anger, into criminals. If a gun control advocate proposes a buyback program like Australia’s, I want that person to recognize that the compliance rate down under was about 20 percent and it created a violent black market for guns. If a gun control advocate calls for law enforcement to confiscate AR-15s from private homes, I want that person to realize that they’re calling for violent chaos. And I want them to know that as long as groups advocate ideas like this, the line “no one wants to take away your guns” is a disingenuous lie.

Welcome to the Senate, Mitt. Er, I Meant, Welcome to the Senate Race.

This morning, Mitt Romney made it official. And while he and his team would insist they’re taking nothing for granted . . . let’s face it, he’s practically a Senator-elect already.

The 2012 Republican presidential candidate plans to bid for the seat being vacated by retiring seven-term Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch. Already, he’s the instant front-runner and presumptive nominee.

Romney has a strong base in Utah, where he’s popular among Mormons and won his highest vote margin – nearly 50 points – over President Barack Obama. He made the state his official residence in 2013 and currently lives in Holladay.

A Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute of Politics poll from January showed he would handily win a Senate election here. Some 64 percent of those surveyed said they’d back Romney while 19 percent chose Democrat Jenny Wilson.

Mitt Romney is not the future of the Republican party, but it will be nice to have another smart, analytical, principled, respectful, and upstanding elder statesman in the U.S. Senate.

The Predictable Mess That Is Donald Trump’s Life Behind Closed Doors

Ronan Farrow returns to the pages of The New Yorker, this time with the account of Karen McDougal, a former Playboy Playmate of the Year, and her story of an affair with Donald Trump in 2006 — shortly after his son Barron was born. Farrow writes, “her account provides a detailed look at how Trump and his allies used clandestine hotel-room meetings, payoffs, and complex legal agreements to keep affairs — sometimes multiple affairs he carried out simultaneously — out of the press.”

I yawn from the story’s predictability, not out of approval. If you grew up in the New York City area in the late 1980s, you heard all about the messy divorce with Ivana and Marla Maples and all the salacious tales that came with that sordid mess. There’s ample evidence that Trump is a lecherous creep, serial adulterer, abysmal husband, and all around runaway libido, largely sheltered by the consequences of his actions by his enormous fortune and the army of lawyers that a fortune like his can purchase.

For as long as there have been men, women, and power, powerful men have used their resources and power to exempt themselves from a societal expectation of monogamy. It used to come in the form of sultans and harems and kings and concubines; now it comes in the form of nondisclosure agreements and payoffs.

It’s understandable that many women (and many men!) would find these arrangements immoral and repulsive. Many people would suspect that a man who lives with arrangements like these cannot really respect women; to him they’re as interchangeable as luxury cars, expensive objects that he takes out for a joyful ride every now and then.

There is a way for women to stop rich and powerful men from enjoying these shamelessly licentious lifestyles, but so far it has proven almost impossible to implement. First, women would have to stop marrying these men. They would have to stop seeing these sorts of marriages as an acceptable compromise, where they get to live a luxurious lifestyle, and know that their children will someday inherit a fortune, in exchange for averting their eyes from their husbands’ relentless philandering.

Second, other women would have to stop agreeing to be paramours to rich and powerful men. McDougal tells the tale of meeting Trump at the Playboy mansion, and that he kept telling her how beautiful she was. It is hard to imagine there would be much confusion about his intentions. She describes giving him her number, a few phone conversations, and then a first date where she had sex with Trump. She says she turned down his offer of money afterwards, and he told her, “you are special.”

If a young woman chooses to believe that, I don’t think there’s much that can be done. There are none so blind as those who will not see. Trump may objectify women, but there is apparently no shortage of women who are happy to be objectified if the man is rich, famous, or powerful enough.

The American electorate knew what they were getting with this guy. That’s one of the reasons some of us argued against him.

ADDENDA: Jay Cost notices that MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, currently an impassioned advocate for gun control measures, voted to repeal the Assault Weapons Ban back and voted against background checks at gun shows when he was in Congress.

“Why won’t Congress do something?” asks the guy who was in Congress and voted against the exact proposals he’s demanding now.

The Morning Jolt

By Jim Geraghty