Americans might be divided on the issue of gun control, but CNN Town Hall on Wednesday night only featured questioners who supported gun control. Even worse, CNN is accused of trying to rewrite one student’s question so that it was supportive of gun control, though the network has told me that they strongly deny this. The only speaker representing the right self-defense, Dana Loesch, was continually identified as an NRA spokesman.
The only law enforcement official clearly supported gun control, spoke and answered questions. Apparently CNN couldn’t find Florida police to speak about how guns can stop mass public shootings. Yet, in 2013, PoliceOne, an organization 380,000 active law enforcement and 70,000 retired officers, surveyed its members and found 80 percent believe that letting legally-armed citizens, including staff and teachers, would reduce the number of casualties in mass public shootings.
The invited politicians, the single law enforcement officer, and all audience members who spoke clearly expressed disagreement with President Donald Trump’s comments about letting some teachers or staff carry guns at school. The one person who would have supported Mr. Trump’s comments was the one person who was never asked.
The two laws that gun control advocates kept pushing during the program — background checks on the private transfer of guns and an assault weapon ban — wouldn’t have done anything to stop either the Florida high school attack or any mass public shootings in a very long time — at least not any this century.
The Florida high school shooter passed a background check. The assault weapon ban that we had from 1994 to 2004 didn’t affect any type of crime, including mass public shootings. No one should expect that banning guns based on how they look and not how they function should have any effect.
The lack of balance at the forum meant that there was no fact-checking. In pushing for these universal background checks on private transfers, Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida Democrat, claimed that an “intrusive” check would have “stopped Omar Mateen,” who killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Mateen passed a background check.
But whatever Mr. Nelson meant by “intrusive,” the proposed law that keeps on being pushed wouldn’t have worked. Presumably, Mr. Nelson was referring to intensive psychological screening for gun purchases. But it wouldn’t have prevented the nightclub shooting. Over the last decade, 60 percent of mass public shooters were seeing mental health care professionals and none of them were identified as a danger to themselves or others.
No fact checking occurred when Rep. Ted Deutch, Florida Democrat, claimed: “mass shootings went up 200 percent in the decade after the assault weapon ban expired.” School shootings actually fell in the decade after the assault weapon ban ended in 2004 and rose only slightly for all other types of attacks.
Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, called for Extreme Risk Protective Orders, where close relatives could get someone’s gun taken away. Mr. Rubio said that this would apply, “if you really believe that someone is a danger to themselves or others.” But if you “really” believe that someone is a danger, saying that they can’t legally buy a gun isn’t very useful. With 300 million guns in the U.S. and the people who sell illegal drugs also selling illegal guns, if someone is a threat, you need to lock them up as long as they are a danger and that kind of makes taking away a gun superfluous.
When arming some selected teachers or staff at a school was mentioned, Mr. Rubio dismissed it because when a SWAT team arrives at the school, they may accidentally shoot the permit holder by mistake. If there had been some balance in the discussion, someone might have mentioned that there are dozens of mass public shootings that have been stopped by permit holders in recent years and not once has that fear occurred or has a permit holder accidentally shot the wrong person.
Before Ms. Loesch finally appeared at the Town Hall, the NRA was the evening’s main target. Mr. Deutch, in response to a question, said: “When any organization [referring to the NRA] spends tens of millions of dollars to influence what happens in our elections, then ‘yes’ our democracy is a little broken.”
But if money and not the NRA’s 5 million dues-paying member were what was important, a few comparison facts would have been useful here. The NRA doesn’t have the resources that Michael Bloomberg has to push his gun control efforts. From 2013 to 2016, Mr. Bloomberg, with a net worth of over $52 billion, donated a total of $48 million to candidates running for federal office.
The NRA contributed a measly $2.1 million. He has massively outspent opponents supporting ballot initiatives on universal background checks by margins of 3-to-1, 6-to-1, and even 50-to-1. Still despite these massive expenditures he hasn’t always won. Mr. Bloomberg gives $50 million a year to Everytown for Gun Safety to push for regulations — 2 1/2 times the amount spent by the National Rifle Association on political activities. And he also spends hundreds of millions of dollars on research to support his views.
CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, ABC, CBS, and NBC virtually always seem to only have one side to this debate. A well-informed citizenry is what is lost.
• John Lott is president of the Crime Prevention Research Center.