Mass Shootings

Nicholas Kristof Perfects His Mass Shooting Bait and Switch

The New York Times columnist's irrelevant gun control proposals are now accompanied by snazzy graphics.

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Jerry Lara/ZUMA Press/Newscom

This week New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who used the October 1 mass shooting in Las Vegas as an excuse to tout a list of admittedly irrelevant gun control proposals, used Sunday's attack at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, as an excuse to tout a nearly identical list. This time Kristof has the help of Bill Marsh, graphics editor for the Sunday Review section, so his essay is accompanied by snazzy illustrations, and he presents his ideas as part of a "public health" approach to gun violence that treats firearms the way the government treats cars.

"The left sometimes focuses on 'gun control,' which scares off gun owners and leads to more gun sales," Kristof writes. "A better framing is 'gun safety' or 'reducing gun violence,' and using auto safety as a model—constant efforts to make the products safer and to limit access by people who are most likely to misuse them." But neither the framing nor the graphics can conceal the fact that Kristof is still engaging in the classic gun control—excuse me, gun safetybait and switch, using outrage at mass shootings to promote policies that have little or nothing to do with them.

Last month Kristof and his editors handled that awkward disjunction awkwardly. The headline promised policies aimed at "Preventing Mass Shootings Like the Vegas Strip Attack," and that is the way he framed the first 14 paragraphs. But in the 15th paragraph Kristof conceded that "it's too soon to know what, if anything, might have prevented the shooting in Las Vegas, and it may be that nothing could have prevented it." Three days later, he tried to make his column seem like less of a non sequitur by adding "ban bump stocks" to his list of solutions. That idea at least had something to do with the Las Vegas massacre, although its effectiveness is more than a little doubtful.

In the revised version of Kristof's October 2 column, a bump stock ban got second billing, right after "universal background checks," which remained in first place even though the Las Vegas shooter underwent background checks and repeatedly passed them because he had no disqualifying criminal or psychiatric record (as is usually true of mass shooters). In this week's column, background checks (you know, like the kind you have to undergo when you buy a car) are still Kristof's top suggestion, despite the fact that the Texas shooter also passed them (although he shouldn't have).

The headline over the new essay, "How to Reduce Shootings," is more ambiguous than the previous headline, since "shootings" could refer to ordinary gun violence as well as the more dramatic examples that grab the headlines. Yet Kristof still presents the piece as a response to mass shootings, saying he wants to "learn lessons from these tragedies, so that there can be fewer of them."

Once again those lessons include, in addition to the wisdom of requiring background checks for all gun transfers and banning bump stocks, the need to prohibit gun purchases by people younger than 21, crack down on straw purchasers, research "smart gun" technology, require safe storage of firearms, and forbid gun possession by people subject to domestic violence restraining orders. Background checks for ammunition purchases have replaced "microstamping of cartridges," and letting people sue gun manufacturers and dealers for the criminal misuse of the products they sell has replaced funding for research on gun violence.

What all these ideas have in common is that, with the partial and dubious exception of a bump stock ban, they are completely disconnected from the details of the crimes to which Kristof is supposedly responding. Nor can any of them reasonably be expected to have a noticeable impact on the frequency or lethality of mass shootings. Kristof eventually concedes as much:

Critics will say that the kind of measures I cite wouldn't prevent many shootings. The Las Vegas carnage, for example, might not have been prevented by any of the suggestions I make.

That's true, and there's no magic wand available. Yet remember that although it is mass shootings that get our attention, they are not the main cause of loss of life. Much more typical is a friend who shoots another, a husband who kills his wife—or, most common of all, a man who kills himself.

So readers who thought Kristof was talking about mass shootings, because that's what he said he was talking about, discover about halfway through the article that he is actually more interested in preventing suicide. Kristof, who promises "the blunt, damning truth" about guns in America, falls short of that goal by presenting his argument in such a misleading way.

Kristof is also telling something less than the blunt truth when he discusses armed self-defense as if the only examples that count are ones in which the attacker is killed. That definition omits the vast majority of such cases, including the armed neighbor who may have prevented more deaths in Texas by injuring (but not killing) the perpetrator after he emerged from the church—the very case that prompted Kristof's regurgitation of familiar gun control proposals.

To his credit, Kristof refrains from endorsing one hoary gun control idea: reviving the federal ban on so-called assault weapons. "The 10-year ban on assault weapons accomplished little," he says, "partly because definitions were about cosmetic features like bayonet mounts (and partly because even before the ban, such guns were used in only 2 percent of crimes)." Kristof's colleagues on the New York Times editorial board, by contrast, are still arguing that "assault weapon bans…would do something to thwart mass shootings."

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41 responses to “Nicholas Kristof Perfects His Mass Shooting Bait and Switch

  1. “…he presents his ideas as part of a “public health” approach to gun violence…”

    Hey, he’s a lefty! Lies are just as good as the truth if it’s a ‘feel good’ issue!

    1. Why am I getting ads for underwear all of a sudden?

    2. Regulations are a canard. Like cigarettes, public health wants to get rid of guns entirely.

      1. Like cigarettes, public health wants to get rid of guns entirely.

  2. Between the Kristoff article and the slop takes linked in the Rand article below, I’m starting to get the impression that the professional qualifications for writing political commentary are not that rigorous, Where do I apply?

    1. No need to apply, you’re currently in a volunteer position right here in comment-land. Opine away.

      1. Yeah but there’s getting paid for writing articles about how Rand Paul needs to drink more milk. That sounds way less stressful and difficult than my current gig.

        1. People like Ezra Klein managed to do it. It can’t be that hard. Do you completely lack any sense of shame or intellectual integrity? If so, a career in political punditry may be for you.

        2. Yeah, but they get paid mostly in Groupons and Living Social deals.

    2. You have a better path to a middle-class existence getting an education degree than you do going into journalism. That means journalists are as a general rule, the liberal arts majors who were not bright enough to get and an education degree. Let that sink in for a moment.

      1. Holy shit. I had classes with football players in college who’d make fun of the “cupcake” classes of Education majors.

        And it wasn’t like “Hospitality” was all that grueling. Or that they were awake very often.

  3. letting people sue gun manufacturers and dealers for the criminal misuse of the products they sell

    Evil

    1. I don’t know. That would dry up weapons sales to police departments pretty quickly.

  4. Can I sue whoever manufactured the computer that allowed Kristoff to type this drek?

    1. Lawyer approved

  5. They have their set of solutions (which are really steps to a logical end solution) and they’ll tout them regardless of the specifics of the individual problems they’re addressing. Personally, I don’t know why we’re not enforcing a no fly zone over shootings and, if that doesn’t work, arm the Kurds to deal with gun violence.

    1. I would support a common sense ban on murder.

    2. Liberal “logic” is like that of small children: “I skinned my knee, can I have a cookie?” It’s not that the cookie will do anything, but if they’ve been made to feel bad, the world owes them some good feeling, even if it’s unrelated.

      Example: Racist mouthbreather Dylan Roof shoots up a black church. Well, then OBVIOUSLY we have to start tearing down Confederate monuments everywhere. A man with a bunch of legally-purchased guns shoots up a Las Vegas concert; we MUST enact universal background checks. The Air Force b lows off reporting a domestic violence conviction to the FBI, which would have prevented the Texas shooter from buying his rifles, and we MUST ban “assault rifles.”

      It’s not that any of the demanded reactions are more than tangentially connected to the triggering events, or that they would have prevented them. It’s just “make me feel better” legislation. “We feel bad, so you owe us this.”

  6. At least he is not Jeff Flake who plans to stop shootings by enacting the Lautenberg Amendment twice just to make sure those evil wife beating mass murderers understand we mean it this time.

    1. LIBERTARIAN MOMENT!!!

      Geez, Flake is a fucking moron.

      1. He is just embarrassing.

  7. We do not have a gun problem. We have a mass murderer problem. What do you do to solve that? Nothing that will be easy or without unintended consequences or won’t be hard and distasteful such that supporting it will allow people like Kristof to virtue signal by supporting it. In other words, there are no solutions Kristof would be interested in supporting since for people like him life is about virtue signaling their moral superiority. If an action doesn’t allow that, people like Kristof are not interested in it.

    1. There is getting to be so many mass shootings that individual mass shooters are forgotten more quickly now. Maybe that will take away some of the notoriety they are seeking and deter some.

      1. I hadn’t thought of that. That might be true, for the ordinary nutbags like the guy in Texas. It won’t help us with the Muslim crazies but it might with your garden variety freaks.

  8. This week New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who used the October 1 mass shooting in Las Vegas as an excuse to tout a list of admittedly irrelevant gun control proposals, used Sunday’s attack at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, as an excuse to tout a nearly identical list.

    I’m starting to see a pattern here…

  9. Isn’t it time we finally have the political courage to stand up to the First Amendment Absolutist Lobby and start a national dialogue on common-sense Pundit Control?

    I call for a ban on Assault Pundits (scary-looking pundits who have been published in five or more magazines), a five-day waiting period before publishing opinion pieces, and the placement of pundits with psychological conditions on a national “no-publish” list.

    1. How about a common-sense ban on pundits who take money from foreign sources? I am looking at you, Friedman.

      1. You mean ? there is foreign interference in our opinion-making? Collusion with foreign sources to spread potentially fake news and exploit our political divisions?? Our punditry has been hacked???

        OUR DEMOCRACY IS IN PERIL!

  10. If cars were treated as the public health menace they are, the max speed limit would be 40 mph.

    1. Ron Bailey is working on getting cars declared a public health menace. You need to step away from the wheel and let a government approved computer program driving a fleet owned car drive you for the good of the children just like you need to give up your guns.

    2. Ron Bailey is working on getting cars declared a public health menace. You need to step away from the wheel and let a government approved computer program driving a fleet owned car drive you for the good of the children just like you need to give up your guns.

    3. Nobody needs to go 40 miles.

  11. “”he presents his ideas as part of a “public health” approach to gun violence that treats firearms the way the government treats cars.””

    I don’t think that’s what’s really being done. For example, when people misuse a car, you don’t hear call to limit who gets a car.

    Government treats cars to make them more safer for the owner. Guns are already pretty safe for the owner.

  12. Yet remember that although it is mass shootings that get our attention, they are not the main cause of loss of life. Much more typical is a friend who shoots another, a husband who kills his wife?or, most common of all, a man who kills himself.

    And none of your proposed ‘common sense’ proposals would have any affect on that, either.

    1. Amen to this! It may be a bait-and-switch, but it’s like saying “We’re all out of the $40 red bicycles that are in the window, but why don’t you consider this $500 blue bicycle, which we’ve also completely sold out?”

  13. Equally heinous was this piece from “The Interpreter” (Max Fisher) at NYT http://nyti.ms/2m6nhVk Of course, interpret does not necessarily mean faithfully translate, although the Times would like you to think that. The basic premise is patent: more guns = more mass shootings but Fisher ignores that they also mean more legal and desirable defense of self, property, and others by gun owners.

    Fisher asserts a single correlation and ignores other potential correlative factors, e.g. he frames the mental health aspect of the issue in terms of money spent by various nations on intervention. However, the current debate is focusing on mental health interventions (medications) being a factor in the lives of those who carry out mass shootings.

  14. Mr. Kristof ignores, intentionally in my opinion, the fact that if you exclude cities such as Chicago, Memphis, Detroit, and New York; the US has one of the lowest crime rates in the world, lower than Belgium and Luxembourg.

    The upshot is that his protected groups are committing most of the gun crime, so we’re not going to permit his wild schemes of Christian disarmament to occur.

  15. I am old enough to remember when the “gun violence” crisis was in the inner city, with kids getting killed just for the shoes that they wear. Gun control proponents cited the suppression of inner city violence as the reason for gun control.

    But now inner city violence is being completely ignored. And I suspect this is the reason why.

    http://www.politifact.com/trut…..ing-recor/

    1. Well almost all kinds of crime are down big time over the last couple decades, BUT the overwhelming majority of gun related crime is very much still a black/hispanic gang related inner city problem. The fact is that white rednecks in small town Alabama just don’t shoot people that often. It happens, but not at anywhere near the levels.

      I blame the entire mass shooter thing on the media. Most of these mental case losers never would have done this shit if they didn’t know they’d be the biggest story in the country for XX period of time after the shooting. They mostly probably would have killed themselves at home, but with the media circus they feel it’s better to go out in a blaze of glory.

  16. Stop thinking “mass shootings”.

    See “Gun Control and Mass Killers”
    https://relevantmatters.wordpress.com/

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