HOW POLICE PUT GUNS ON THE STREET AND CONGRESS HIDES WHAT HAPPENS TO THEM

via The Texas Standard

By Alain Stephens, Texas Standard , in partnership with 
Reveal from The Center For Investigative Reporting 
Photos and video by Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon
Web production by Wells Dunbar

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An investigation by Texas Standard and Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting has found that 21 of Texas’ 50 largest law enforcement agencies sell their used weapons to the public, effectively creating a pipeline of guns flowing right back into communities.
The guns are attractive to buyers. They’re well maintained, relatively new and often come at a nice discount. And they include caches of military-grade weapons. From the Garland Police Department to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, law enforcement agencies unloaded hundreds of shotguns and semi-automatic rifles, including models such as the Mini-14 and AR-15.
The Dallas Police Department sold a batch of Colt Commando assault rifles. Fort Worth police offloaded fully automatic German-made MP5 submachine guns. The Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office shopped around an Uzi among prospective buyers before selling it at the rock-bottom price of $250. It’s a model that could fetch over $3,000 at a public auction.
While some departments and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives destroy their weapons in the name of public safety, police officials at these departments say they sell guns to afford newer and better weapons for their officers.
“I think the public would agree they want their police officers to have the best equipment,” said Sgt. Marc Povero, a spokesman for the Fort Worth Police Department.
Jay Wachtel, a former ATF agent and lecturer at California State University, Fullerton, says departments that sell weapons are playing with fire.
“It’s bullshit. You know instinctively when you put guns out there that they are going to get misused,” Wachtel said. 
“Nobody that’s gone through a police academy would not consider that possibility.”
The public used to know when and how police guns turned up in crimes. However, those details now are shrouded in government secrecy, thanks to a 2003 law passed by Congress that prohibits the release of trace information.
“I fully recognize the fact that absolutely one of our guns could fall into the hands of a criminal,” said Lubbock Police Chief Greg Stevens. In 2014, his department traded in over 400 weapons to upgrade its arsenal. “That chance isn't enough for me to change what is, in essence, a business decision.”

What I Saw Treating the Victims From Parkland Should Change the Debate on Guns

They weren’t the first mass-shooting victims the Florida radiologist saw—but their wounds were radically different.

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via The Atlantic

As I opened the CT scan last week to read the next case, I was baffled. The history simply read “gunshot wound.” I have been a radiologist in one of the busiest trauma centers in the United States for 13 years, and have diagnosed thousands of handgun injuries to the brain, lung, liver, spleen, bowel, and other vital organs. I thought that I knew all that I needed to know about gunshot wounds, but the specific pattern of injury on my computer screen was one that I had seen only once before.

In a typical handgun injury, which I diagnose almost daily, a bullet leaves a laceration through an organ such as the liver. To a radiologist, it appears as a linear, thin, gray bullet track through the organ. There may be bleeding and some bullet fragments.

I was looking at a CT scan of one of the mass-shooting victims from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who had been brought to the trauma center during my call shift. The organ looked like an overripe melon smashed by a sledgehammer, and was bleeding extensively. How could a gunshot wound have caused this much damage?

The reaction in the emergency room was the same. One of the trauma surgeons opened a young victim in the operating room, and found only shreds of the organ that had been hit by a bullet from an AR-15, a semiautomatic rifle that delivers a devastatingly lethal, high-velocity bullet to the victim. Nothing was left to repair—and utterly, devastatingly, nothing could be done to fix the problem. The injury was fatal.

A year ago, when a gunman opened fire at the Fort Lauderdale airport with a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun, hitting 11 people in 90 seconds, I was also on call. It was not until I had diagnosed the third of the six victims who were transported to the trauma center that I realized something out of the ordinary must have happened. The gunshot wounds were the same low-velocity handgun injuries that I diagnose every day; only their rapid succession set them apart. And all six of the victims who arrived at the hospital that day survived.

Routine handgun injuries leave entry and exit wounds and linear tracks through the victim’s body that are roughly the size of the bullet. If the bullet does not directly hit something crucial like the heart or the aorta, and the victim does not bleed to death before being transported to our care at the trauma center, chances are that we can save him. The bullets fired by an AR-15 are different: They travel at a higher velocity and are far more lethal than routine bullets fired from a handgun. The damage they cause is a function of the energy they impart as they pass through the body. A typical AR-15 bullet leaves the barrel traveling almost three times faster than—and imparting more than three times the energy of—a typical 9mm bullet from a handgun. An AR-15 rifle outfitted with a magazine with 50 rounds allows many more lethal bullets to be delivered quickly without reloading.

I have seen a handful of AR-15 injuries in my career. Years ago I saw one from a man shot in the back by a swat team. The injury along the path of the bullet from an AR-15 is vastly different from a low-velocity handgun injury. The bullet from an AR-15 passes through the body like a cigarette boat traveling at maximum speed through a tiny canal. The tissue next to the bullet is elastic—moving away from the bullet like waves of water displaced by the boat—and then returns and settles back. This process is called cavitation; it leaves the displaced tissue damaged or killed. The high-velocity bullet causes a swath of tissue damage that extends several inches from its path. It does not have to actually hit an artery to damage it and cause catastrophic bleeding. Exit wounds can be the size of an orange.

With an AR-15, the shooter does not have to be particularly accurate. The victim does not have to be unlucky. If a victim takes a direct hit to the liver from an AR-15, the damage is far graver than that of a simple handgun-shot injury. Handgun injuries to the liver are generally survivable unless the bullet hits the main blood supply to the liver. An AR-15 bullet wound to the middle of the liver would cause so much bleeding that the patient would likely never make it to the trauma center to receive our care.

One of my ER colleagues was waiting nervously for his own children outside the school. While the shooting was still in progress, the first responders were gathering up victims whenever they could and carrying them outside the building. Even as a physician trained in trauma situations, there was nothing he could do at the scene to help save the victims who had been shot with the AR-15. Most of them died on the spot; they had no fighting chance at life.

As a doctor, I feel I have a duty to inform the public of what I have learned as I have observed these wounds and cared for these patients. It’s clear to me that AR-15 and other high-velocity weapons, especially when outfitted with a high-capacity magazine, have no place in a civilian’s gun cabinet. I have friends who own AR-15 rifles; they enjoy shooting them at target practice for sport and fervently defend their right to own them. But I cannot accept that their right to enjoy their hobby supersedes my right to send my own children to school, a movie theater, or a concert and to know that they are safe. Can the answer really be to subject our school children to active-shooter drills—to learn to hide under desks, turn off the lights, lock the door, and be silent—instead of addressing the root cause of the problem and passing legislation to take AR-15-style weapons out of the hands of civilians?

In the aftermath of this shooting, in the face of specific questioning, our government leaders did not want to discuss gun control even when asked directly about the issue. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida warned not to “jump to conclusions that there’s some law we could have passed that could have prevented it.” A reporter asked House Speaker Paul Ryan about gun control, and he replied, “As you know, mental health is often a big problem underlying these tragedies.” And on Tuesday, Florida’s state legislature voted against considering a ban on AR-15-type rifles, 71 to 36.

If politicians want to back comprehensive mental-health reform, I am all for it. As a medical doctor, I’ve witnessed firsthand the toll that mental-health issues take on families and on individuals themselves who have no access to satisfactory long-term mental-health care. But the president and Congress should not use this issue as an excuse to deliberately overlook the fact that the use of AR-15 rifles is the common denominator in many mass shootings.

A medical professor taught me about the dangers of drawing incorrect conclusions from data, using the example of gum chewing, smokers, and lung cancer. He said smokers may be more likely to chew gum to cover bad breath, but one cannot look at the data and decide that gum chewing causes lung cancer. It is the same type of erroneous logic that focuses on mental health after mass shootings, when banning the sale of semiautomatic rifles would be a far more effective means of preventing them.

Banning the AR-15 should not be a partisan issue. No consensus may exist on many questions of gun control, but there seems to be broad support for removing high-velocity, lethal weaponry and high-capacity magazines from the market, which would drastically reduce the incidence of mass murders. Every constitutionally guaranteed right that we are blessed to enjoy comes with responsibilities. Even our right to free speech is not limitless. Second Amendment gun rights must respect the same boundaries.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the appropriate agency to review the potential impact of banning AR-15-style rifles and high-capacity magazines on the incidence of mass shootings. The agency was effectively barredfrom studying gun violence as a public-health issue in 1996, by a statutory provision known as the Dickey Amendment. This provision needs to be repealed so that the CDC can study this issue and make sensible gun-policy recommendations to Congress.

The Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) of 1994 included language that prohibited semiautomatic rifles such the AR-15, and also large-capacity magazines with the ability to hold more than 10 rounds. The ban was allowed to expire on September 13, 2004, after 10 years. The mass murders that have followed the ban’s lapse make clear that it must be reinstated.

On Wednesday night, Rubio said at a town-hall event hosted by CNN that it is impossible to create effective gun regulations because there are too many “loopholes,” and that a “plastic grip” can make the difference between a gun that is legal and one that is illegal. But if we can see the different impacts of high- and low-velocity rounds clinically, then the government can also draw such distinctions.

As a radiologist, I have now seen high-velocity AR-15 gunshot wounds firsthand, an experience that most radiologists in our country will never have. I pray that these are the last such wounds I have to see, and that AR-15-style weapons and high-capacity magazines are banned for use by civilians in the United States, once and for all.

Evil Doesn't Kill People – Guns Kill People

Blaming massacres like Las Vegas on "evil" is just an excuse to do nothing about guns

 The aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting Sunday. Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting Sunday. Ethan Miller/Getty Images

via Rolling Stone

By Jesse Berney

It's easy to call acts of horror "evil." It's comforting to ascribe an external, unknowable motive to events so terrible we can't imagine a motivation.

The human mind is incapable of imagining what would drive a man to haul an arsenal of high-powered weapons into a hotel room, knock out a couple windows, murder dozens of people and injure hundreds more by spraying them with gunfire. So we call it evil. That settles that.

President Trump called the shooting in Las Vegas that left at least 59 dead and more than 500 injured "an act of pure evil," and who's to argue with him? If evil exists in this world, surely indiscriminately murdering faceless strangers from 300 yards away qualifies. Whatever drove Stephen Paddock to that hotel room that night would fall under any reasonable definition of evil.

But what if evil doesn't exist in this world?

Of course people do terrible things. Examples are easy to find, from our own regrets to the most unimaginable cruelties. Paddock murdered dozens of people. The government of Myanmar, led by a Nobel Peace Prize winner, is engaged in a brutal genocide against an ethnic minority. Every day children are exploited and abused. The world is an abattoir of violence and cruelty if you choose to do nothing but focus on the terror we visit on each other.

But evil? Evil as an independent reality, a thing-in-itself that urges people to action? "Evil" not as judgment of Paddock's actions but as an explanation of them? That's a fantasy, and it absolutely will lead to more shootings like these, more deaths.

When elected officials like Trump rely on "evil" to explain away mass shootings, they are following a deliberate strategy. Republicans know wall-to-wall coverage of these events are the best opportunity gun control advocates have to draw attention to the issue and save lives. But the GOP – beholden to the overhyped power of the National Rifle Association – have just one goal: pass zero bills restricting gun sales in any way. (In fact, the Republican leadership in the House is currently considering a bill that would make it easier to purchase both silencers and armor-piercing bullets.) They follow a few strategies like clockwork.

There are calls not to "politicize" these tragedies. They say it's too soon, that it dishonors the victims and their families to bring politics into the discussion.

They claim specific gun laws wouldn't have stopped this individual tragedy, because it's not the right gun, or the perpetrator would have passed a background check – as though stopping some future mass shootings isn't worthwhile if we can't stop them all.

They claim criminals intent on breaking the law will just ignore gun laws anyway, as though that doesn't apply to every law ever passed.

And they call these events "evil" to make them seem random and unpreventable. You can't fight evil, after all. It's invisible, incorporeal. It's the perfect foil for politicians who don't want to do anything. What are we going to do, pass a law to make evil illegal?

Trump isn't going to propose or support gun control legislation in the wake of the worst mass shooting in the nation's history. Calling what happened an act of evil is just one way to point the blame in another direction than the gun culture and lax laws that enable it. If Trump was too subtle about it, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin made it explicit:

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Bevin believes in regulating the "evils" of abortion and marijuana, but when it comes to guns, well, you just can't regulate evil. And he's right – you can't.

But the problem here isn't evil. It's not the devil. It's us: human beings. We have motivations and justifications and rationalizations and reasons for everything we do. We don't know why Stephen Paddock murdered those people. Maybe we never will. And maybe the sensible laws we could pass, like universal background checks and a ban on all assault weapons, wouldn't have stopped someone so wealthy and motivated to commit horror. But it could stop someone else. It would save lives.

Blaming evil is an excuse to do nothing in the face of tens of thousands of gun deaths a year. Only a fraction of those deaths are the result of mass shootings like in Las Vegas. We can and should work to reduce all gun deaths, from suicides to accidents to crime-related deaths to massacres like Sunday's. That means passing laws that keeps guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them. The only other option is to do nothing.

And that would be evil. 

States with right-to-carry concealed handgun laws experience increases in violent crime

Stanford Law School Professor John Donohue found that states that adopted right-to-carry laws have experienced a 13 to 15 percent increase in violent crime in the 10 years after enacting those laws.

 Right-to-carry laws are linked with higher violent crime rates according to research by Stanford Law School Professor John Donohue. (Image credit: Ron Bailey / Getty Images)

Right-to-carry laws are linked with higher violent crime rates according to research by Stanford Law School Professor John Donohue. (Image credit: Ron Bailey / Getty Images)

via Stanford.edu

BY MILENKO MARTINOVICH

States that have enacted right-to-carry (RTC) concealed handgun laws have experienced higher rates of violent crime than states that did not adopt those laws, according to a Stanford scholar.
Right-to-carry laws are linked with higher violent crime rates according to research by Stanford Law School Professor John Donohue. (Image credit: Ron Bailey / Getty Images)
Examining decades of crime data, Stanford Law Professor John Donohue’s analysis shows that violent crime in RTC states was estimated to be 13 to 15 percent higher – over a period of 10 years – than it would have been had the state not adopted the law.
The working paper, released this week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, challenges the effectiveness of RTC laws and could have a significant impact on pending litigation between the National Rifle Association and the state of California.

Making a ‘synthetic state’

Donohue’s paper builds on the National Academies’ National Research Council’s 2004 report investigating guns and violence.  While that report debunked claims that RTC laws had been shown to reduce crime, the 16 experts on the panel were not able to definitively conclude that carrying concealed weapons had an effect – positive or negative – on violent crime. Their uncertainty was rooted in the fragility of estimates that were derived from differing statistical models applied to panel data available at the time.

“The committee found that answers to some of the most pressing questions cannot be addressed with existing data and research methods, however well designed,” the report stated.

The most convincing comparison would take two otherwise identical states and observe violent crime when one of them adopts a RTC law. Donohue and his team employed a new statistical technique that creates a “synthetic control,” which attempts to find the best possible comparison for the RTC-adopting state drawn from among other states that had no RTC law at the time.

The synthetic control approach, a research method now widely applied in economics and political science, uses an algorithm that combines crime patterns from several non-RTC states – or during the time before states adopted RTC – to create an artificial or synthetic state.

Take Texas, which passed RTC laws in 1996. Donohue’s comparison for Texas came from combining data from California – a non-RTC state – and Nebraska and Wisconsin, which hadn’t pass RTC laws at that time. By weighting the violent crime data from these three states for the period from 1986 to 1996, he produced a synthetic crime rate similar to Texas’ crime rate in the 10 years prior to adopting RTC laws.

Donohue then projected the synthetic state’s crime rate for the next 10 years and compared it against Texas’ crime rate post-RTC passage. He performed the same analysis on the 33 states that enacted RTC laws over his data period and found a strikingly consistent picture.

On average, RTC states had aggregate violent crime rates around 7 percent higher than the synthetic states five years after RTC law passage. After 10 years, the gap increased to almost 15 percent.

“All this work is based on statistical models,” Donohue said. “When the models all generate similar estimates, it increases your confidence that you have captured the true effect.”

Donohue had further reasons for that confidence. Compared to the 2004 report, he was able to study an additional 14 years of crime data and include 11 additional states that adopted RTC laws. While the earlier panel data results were sensitive to changes in the explanatory variables (incarceration, population, poverty and unemployment rates among others) used in the statistical model, such changes had little effect on the synthetic controls estimates, which again increases confidence in the estimates, Donohue said.

RTC laws increase violent crime

Donohue applied the synthetic control approach using four previously published statistical data models that had generated conflicting panel data estimates of the impact of RTC laws on violent crime. In all four cases, the synthetic control estimates showed increases in overall violent crime of 13-15 percent.

“There is not even the slightest hint in the data that RTC laws reduce overall violent crime,” Donohue stated in the paper.

To put the significance of a 15-percent increase in violent crime in perspective, the paper notes that “the average RTC state would have to double its prison population to counteract the RTC-induced increase in violent crime.”

Donohue’s team engaged in an array of different tests to ensure that the findings were sound. For example, Donohue noticed that Hawaii was included as part of a synthetic control more than any other single state. So, he re-ran the entire synthetic controls analysis while excluding Hawaii to see if there were any major changes; there weren’t. He then did the same for every other state that contributed to the synthetic controls for any of the 33 adopting states, and the resulting estimates showed very little variation: in all cases RTC laws were linked with higher violent crime rates.

“That was a comfort,” he said.

Another comfort was the increased rates of incarceration and hiring of law enforcement personnel Donohue noticed among RTC states.

“This suggested that RTC states were not simply experiencing higher crime because they decided to lock up fewer criminals and hire fewer police,” Donohue said. “The relatively greater increases in incarceration and police in RTC states implies that, if anything, our synthetic controls estimates may be understating the increase in violent crime, which was pretty persuasive to me.”

Guns and value

The debate over RTC laws comes at a crucial time for the state of California, which in April was sued by the National Rifle Association, challenging state gun control laws.

Because the heart of the case is whether there is a constitutional right to carry a gun, which would make RTC laws moot, Donohue said there is a high likelihood the case will ultimately be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court. His paper has been included in the court filings in federal district court.

Having a gun can generate a benefit under certain circumstances and will impose costs in other circumstances, and sound policy must consider the overall magnitude of these conflicting effects, Donohue said.  RTC proponents often overlook how often gun-carrying leads to lost and stolen guns, which are then in the hands of criminals.

Moreover, one can incur all of the costs of buying and carrying a gun, only to find that a criminal attack is too sudden to effectively employ the gun defensively.  Donohue cites a 2013 report from the National Crime Victimization Survey that showed in 99.2 percent of the violent attacks in the United States, no gun is ever used defensively – despite the nearly 300 million guns in circulation in the country today.

For most Americans, said Donohue, carrying a gun to avoid a criminal attack is similar to thinking that having a weekly brain scan will save your life, without considering the potential hazardous effects.

“If we gave 300 million people a brain scan, we would save a certain number of lives,” Donohue said. “But you wouldn’t want to advocate that treatment without considering how many lives would be lost by exposing so many to radiation damage.  One needs to consider both the costs and benefits of any treatment or policy.  If the net effect of more gun carrying is that violent crime is elevated, then RTC laws seem much less appealing. This paper may have an impact in making people think differently about these issues.”

This work was supported by Stanford Law School. The paper’s co-authors are Abhay Aneja, a law student at Stanford and a graduate student in economics at the University of California, Berkeley, and Kyle Weber, a graduate student in economics at Columbia University.

Media Contacts

John Donohue, Stanford Law School: (650) 721-6339, donohue@law.stanford.edu

Milenko Martinovich, Stanford News Service: (650) 725-9281, mmartino@stanford.edu

Guy issues ‘master-class in trolling’ to Republicans pushing extreme gun bill

HEROES

As Minnesota Republicans try to bring the state back to a colonial mindset with their extreme gun bills, the House Public Safety and Security Policy and Finance Committee held a hearing and allowed citizens to speak out on the bills — one allowing “permitless carry” and another one proposing a version of the “stand your ground” law.

Local news outlet CityPages highlighted a citizen who showed up to speak on the bills. If you’re not paying close attention, man’s speech sounds like an onslaught of right-wing gibberish, but the man identified as “Steve Koon” actually delivered what CityPages’ Mike Mullin called a “master-class in trolling.

At the outset of his rant, Koon represented himself as someone in favor of the bill, saying he was there to speak on behalf of himself and his family.

“Americans have a long, proud history of lethal self-defense dating back through centuries of brave Americans defending what’s theirs,” he started out.

“Early on, lethal self-defense was a necessity when protecting the homestead against marauding savages claiming to own the land that was rightfully ours. For decades, brave Americans needed to carry lethal arms to defend ourselves against the possibility against a lawless uprising of our valuable workforce. Had it not been for liberal use of force, we would not have been able to control our sea of laborers in the fields. As our country evolved, we had to adopt more tactics to maintain the integrity of our society and our government. It was not lightly that we took to weapons, and the rope, to ensure the purity of our nation. Now, as we endure a murder rate that’s the highest it’s been in 47 years, as we face hordes of illegals, and so-called ‘refugees,’ it is of the utmost importance…”

“This is offensive,” committee member Rep. Jack Considine interrupted.

“Why?” Rep. Tony Cornish asked, who was also wearing an assault rifle pin on his leather vest.