New York Times
Recognizes Ten Years of Errors

But issues no retraction in a revealing story.



For a decade, while the so-called “Clinton-Gore Assault Weapons Ban” was in effect, The New York Times and its comrade newspapers nationally praised the law, making glowing and unsubstantiated claims of its effectiveness. Such reporting helped get the law enacted in the first place.

People knowledgable about the law and its effects however knew that the law was a fraud, with virtually no effect on crime or important social issues. It was not, as often claimed, a ban, and it had no effect on criminals, who didn’t use the bulky, heavy guns. Cosmetic features favored by collectors, such as bayonet-mounting lugs, were a complete non-issue, except to legislators who didn’t know better and enacted the "feel-good" law.

When the law expired, more wild claims of blood in the streets, terrorist assaults, sales rushes and other silliness appeared unchallenged in mainstream media nationwide, as a simple Google search readily reveals.

Then, shockingly, the Times reported (without admitting any wrongdoing, errors or bias), that all those prior stories were flat wrong. They didn’t retract a decade of bogus reporting, but it was as close as they have ever come to recognizing that their reporting on gun issues, in this case at least, was pure nonsense.

As an aside to the bias issue, note that every source quoted or used by the Times in the first half of the article, is from the blatantly anti-rights camp, such as the Violence Policy Center, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and political police leadership.

“The duty of the journalist is ... seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues.” (from the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics). The Times earns an “F” on that one. Some gun makers are quoted toward the end, and no pro-gun-rights groups or individuals are quoted at all.

My summary of what this law actually did accomplish (mainly related to manipulation of prices for existing firearms and supplies), appears at the end of thir report. A typical bias story is also presented for illustration, from the San Francisco Chronicle.

No reports I have ever seen point out that
assault is a type of behavior, not a type of hardware.

 

Stats show no rise in sales or crime since end of gun ban

April 24, 2005
By DEBORAH SONTAG
The New York Times

[Presented here for fair-use, non-profit, educational purposes only,
as part of an examination of blatant high-profile news-media bias.]

Despite dire predictions that the streets would be awash in military-style guns, the expiration of the decade-long assault weapons ban last September has not set off a sustained surge in the weapons' sales, gun makers and sellers say. It also has not caused any noticeable increase in gun crime in the past seven months, according to several metropolitan police departments.

The uneventful expiration of the assault weapons ban did not surprise gun owners, nor did it surprise some advocates of gun control. Rather, it underscored what many of them had said all along: that the ban was porous -- so porous that assault weapons remained widely available throughout their prohibition.

"The whole time that the American public thought there was an assault weapons ban, there never really was one," said Kristen Rand, legislative director of the Violence Policy Center, a gun-control group.

What's more, law-enforcement officials say that military-style weapons, which were never used in many gun crimes but did enjoy some vogue in the years before the ban took effect, seem to have gone out of style in criminal circles.

"Back in the early 90s, criminals wanted those Rambo-type weapons they could brandish," said Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police. "Today they are much happier with a 9-millimeter handgun they can stick in their belt."

When the ban took effect in 1994, it exempted more than 1.5 million assault weapons already in private hands. Over the next 10 years, at least 1.17 million more assault weapons were produced -- legitimately -- by manufacturers that availed themselves of loopholes in the law, according to an analysis of firearms production data by the Violence Policy Center.

Throughout the decade-long ban, for instance, the gun manufacturer DPMS/Panther Arms of Minnesota continued selling assault rifles to civilians by the tens of thousands. In compliance with the ban, the firearms manufacturer "sporterized" the military-style weapons, sawing off bayonet lugs, securing stocks so they were not collapsible and adding muzzle brakes.

But the changes did not alter the guns' essence; they were still semiautomatic rifles with pistol grips.

After the ban expired in September, DPMS reintroduced its full-featured weapons to the civilian market and enjoyed a slight spike in sales. That increase was short-lived, however, and predictably so, said Randy E. Luth, the company's owner.

"I never thought the sunset of the ban would be that big a deal," Luth said.

No gun production data are yet available for the seven months since the ban expired. And some gun-control advocates say they don't trust the self-reporting of gun industry representatives, who may want to play down the volume of their sales to ward off a revival of the ban.

Indeed, a replica of the ban is again before the Senate.

"In my view, the assault weapons legislation was working," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a chief sponsor of the new bill. "It was drying up supply and driving up prices. The number of those guns used in crimes dropped because they were less available."

Assault weapons account for a small fraction of gun crimes: about 2 percent, according to most studies, and no more than 8 percent. But they have been used in many high-profile shooting sprees. The snipers in the 2002 Washington-area shootings, for instance, used semiautomatic assault rifles that were copycat versions of banned carbines.

Gun crime has plummeted since the early 1990s. But a study for the National Institute of Justice said that it could not "clearly credit the ban with any of the nation's recent drop in gun violence."

Research for the study in several cities did show a significant decline in the criminal use of assault weapons during the ban. According to the study, however, that decline was offset by the "steady or rising use" of other guns equipped with high-capacity magazines -- ammunition-feeding devices that hold more than 10 rounds.

While the 1994 ban prohibited the manufacture and sale of such magazines, it did not outlaw an estimated 25 million of them already in circulation, nor did it stop the importation of millions more into the country.

Feinstein said she wished she could outlaw the "flood of big clips" from abroad, calling that the "one big loophole" in the ban. But that would require amending the bill, and such Republicans as Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia and Sen. Mike DeWine of Ohio are willing to back it only without amendments, she said.

Some gun-control advocates say it is pointless to reintroduce the 1994 ban without amending it to include large magazines and a wider range of guns. They see more promise in enacting or strengthening state or local bans. Seven states -- California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey and New York -- already have bans, most based on the federal one. The model ban, gun-control advocates say, is a comprehensive one in California (referred to as "Commiefornia" on some gun enthusiast Web sites).

The Fraternal Order of Police has not made a new federal ban a legislative priority, either. Pasco, the organization's director, said he could not recall a single "inquiry from the field about the reauthorization of the ban -- and we have 330,000 members who are very vocal."

"In 1994, I was the principal administration lobbyist on this ban," said Pasco, who then worked for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. "But here we are 10 years later, and these weapons do not appear to pose any more significant threat to law enforcement officers than other weapons of similar caliber and capability."

The ban made it illegal to possess or sell a semiautomatic weapon manufactured after September 1994 if the weapon accepted a detachable magazine and contained at least two features from a list that included protruding pistol grips and threaded muzzles. The ban outlawed 19 weapons by name, among them some foreign semiautomatics already banned under the 1989 firearms importation law, which still stands.

But gun manufacturers increased production of assault weapons while the ban was being debated. Then, by making minor changes in design, they were able to produce, as they called them, "post-ban" assault weapons that were the functional equivalent of the originals.

Colt came out with a "sporterized" version of its popular AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, leaving off some military features that were "meaningless as far as its lethality," said Carlton S. Chen, vice president and general counsel for Colt.

"People might think it looks less evil," Chen said, "but it's the same weapon. It was a hoax, a congressional hoax, to ban all these different features."

Pasco of the police organization disagreed. "We knew exactly what we were doing by trying to ban guns with certain features," he said. "While it didn't affect their function or capability, those features, at that point in time, seemed to make those weapons more attractive to those who wanted to commit crimes."

Gun-control advocates say military-style semiautomatics do not belong in civilian hands. "They are weapons of war," Feinstein said, "and you don't need these assault weapons to hunt."

Gun makers, however, say the weapons do have sporting uses, in hunting and in target shooting. "People buy these rifles because they're fun to shoot and they perform well," Luth of DPMS said. "They also like them because you can jazz them up like you can your car. You can custom-paint them, put on a multitude of handguards or buttstocks."

Some collectors simply admire certain guns. Charles Cuzalina, a gun dealer in Oklahoma who specializes in banned weapons, is taken with the Colt AR-15.

"I just like the look of the weapon," Cuzalina said. "When I bought my first, I went out on the farm shooting at a pie plate, and I realized how accurate it makes you. You think you're the world's best shot."

Mark Westrom, owner of ArmaLite Inc., a gun maker in Illinois, said prey hunters and target shooters did not miss bayonet lugs and other features that disappeared with the post-ban rifles. Collectors looking for an exact civilian replica of a military rifle, however, consider the removal of a bayonet lug "a matter of design defacement," Westrom said.

Several manufacturers are offering factory conversions or selling kits so gun owners can retrofit their post-ban weapons. They are also increasing their production of pre-ban weapons and decreasing production of post-ban weapons.

Many gun-store owners say that sales of assault weapons spiked briefly in September and October. Gun dealers sought to capitalize on the ban's sunset and, during the presidential campaign, to raise the specter of a tougher ban if John Kerry won.

"We view this time as a 'pause' and urge you to take advantage of the opportunity to exercise your Second Amendment rights," Tapco, a shooting and military gear company, said on its Web site last fall. "Anti-gun politicians learned much over the past ten years. They will surely not leave as many loopholes in future legislation."

After President Bush was re-elected and the novelty of the ban's expiration waned, sales leveled off at many gun shops. But Mike Mathews, the owner of Gunworld in Del City, Okla., said sales had been holding steady at a higher level.

Norm Giguere of Norm's Gun & Ammo in Biddeford, Maine, on the other hand, said that he had not sold any military-style semiautomatic rifles since right after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and that the gun business in general was "going down the tubes."

Luth of DPMS, however, said that his sales had been increasing for years, to the law enforcement community, the civilian market and an unexpected new clientele. "We've picked up new customers with the troops returning from Iraq," he said, "who had never shot an AR-15 before and now want one."

The war in Iraq has had another unintended consequence for the marketplace. Colt, one of the biggest manufacturers, has decided against putting its AR-15 back on the civilian market because the company is backlogged with military orders.

Unlike assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, which are used with many guns, have been selling briskly since the ban ended because prices have dropped considerably.

"The only thing Clinton ever did for us was drive up the price of magazines," said a weapons specialist named Stuart at TargetMaster, a shooting range and gun shop in Garland, Texas (he declined to give his last name.) "A 17-round Glock magazine crept up to $150 during the ban. It's $75 now."

Since September, the Web site of Taurus International Manufacturing Inc., a major maker of small arms, has celebrated the demise of the prohibition on magazines, flashing in red letters, "10 years of 10 rounds are over!"

----------------------------------------------------

Just how bad was the reporting?

The ferociously anti-gun biased San Francisco Chronicle had earlier attacked the upcoming ban expiration, with only the slightest pretense of covering more than its anti-rights side of the story. The NRA is mentioned in a few late paragraphs, in a style designed to make anti-rights advocates bristle against what the paper characterizes as, “The NRA and other elements of the powerful gun lobby.“

This is a 100% "guns-are-bad-and-should-be-banned" story, in a major city daily paper, a representative example of the typical and routine behavior of these media giants. You can almost hear the reporter and editor saying, "Well it's true -- guns are bad and should be banned," in justification of this highly unethical approach. The truths revealed by the Times are nowhere to be found. The Chronicle earns itself an ”F” on ethical reporting:

“Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.”

“Examine your own cultural values and avoid imposing those values on others.”

“Support the open exchange of views, even views you find repugnant.”

“Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting.”

From the “Journalism Code of Ethics
of the Society of Professional JournalistsSan Francisco Chronicle


June 28, 2004
NRA clout is outgunning Feinstein
Assault weapons ban renewal in doubt

Edward Epstein,
Chronicle Washington Bureau
Monday, June 28, 2004

[Presented here for fair-use, non-profit, educational purposes only,
as part of an examination of blatant high-profile news-media bias.]

Washington -- Sen. Dianne Feinstein knows the odds are increasingly daunting as she tries to win congressional renewal of her 10-year-old assault weapons ban before it expires Sept. 13, and she warns that if the law lapses "you can expect the market to become flooded'' with such guns as AK-47s and Uzis.

The California Democrat will be home in San Francisco on Tuesday to join her colleague Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom in marking the 11th anniversary week of the 101 California St. shootings that killed eight people and left six others wounded. The shootings helped persuade Congress to pass the assault weapons ban a decade ago. A frustrated Feinstein is looking toward November's elections to produce a president and a House leadership more supportive of gun control.

"I really believe passionately in this,'' Feinstein said in an interview about her bid for the renewal. "I'm not going to give up.''

Feinstein won a momentary victory on March 2 when the Senate voted 52-47 to adopt the renewal as an amendment to a gun manufacturers' liability shield legislation backed by the National Rifle Association. But the NRA scuttled the entire bill when it told its supporters that it didn't want the liability shield, which was the industry's main legislative goal for the year, to pass with Feinstein's assault ban amendment.

Feinstein is searching for another piece of legislation to serve as a vehicle for her amendment, which bans the manufacture and sale of 19 types of semiautomatic weapons and ammunition clips of more than 10 rounds. But there are only about 20 legislative days left in Congress before Sept. 13, and even if the bill passes the Senate, the House Republican leadership has said it won't allow the renewal to come up for a floor vote.

The NRA and other elements of the powerful gun lobby say the Feinstein's assault weapons ban has been ineffective and violates what they consider Americans' Second Amendment rights to own guns. The groups have lobbied vehemently to keep the legislation from reaching the floor.

On its legislative action Web site, the NRA tells its members it is girded for action. "The stage is now set for a showdown, and you can be sure we're in for a sustained political battle over the next three months,'' it said.

During his 2000 campaign, President Bush pledged to sign a renewal of the assault weapons law, a pledge repeated since then many times by Bush spokesmen. But Feinstein and her allies blast the president for not lobbying Congress to pass the bill.

"The president has done nothing,'' Feinstein said. "His party is in control and is controlled by the gun industry.

"We need a president who doesn't want assault weapons on our streets,'' added Feinstein, who warned that after the ban ends, "you can expect more incidents'' such as the July 1, 1993, shootings at 101 California in which a gunman used two TEC-9 semiautomatic weapons on a rampage through the office tower. The guns were among those banned under the law passed narrowly the next year.

Feinstein said the percentage of assault weapons used in crimes has fallen by two-thirds since the legislation took effect. Opponents, using a separate set of statistics, say such weapons were used in 2 percent of violent crimes before 1994, a figure that has remained constant.

Robert Spitzer of the State University of New York at Cortland, who has studied gun legislation, said Feinstein can claim some success. "There is truth in that the assault weapons ban put a partial brake on guns and that effect will be gone after Sept. 13,'' he said.

Even with the law in effect, semiautomatic weapons have been readily available since 1994 through the largely cosmetic changes manufacturers have been allowed to make to keep their guns on the market. Hundreds of types of semiautomatics remained legal.

Also, as Feinstein points out in response to critics who say she is out to seize their weapons, all pre-1994 guns are still legal.

None of the arguments matter to the rifle association. The group's executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, told the NRA annual convention in Pittsburgh in April that once Sept. 13 comes, Feinstein's law will be history.

"I'm here to promise you that's the end of it. It's over,'' he said. "On Sept. 14, the sun will rise and it will never see the light of day again as long as we stay strong.''

On the NRA's new radio program, host Cam Edwards has told listeners that he expected Feinstein and her supporters to claim that the law's demise would mean a flood of guns, a claim he described as false. "What you are going to hear in the media is the line that there'll be Uzis in the hands of terrorists. ... There will be an effort to paint it as an antiterrorism bill,'' he said on Thursday's program.

For Bush, the fading chances that the ban renewal will reach his desk is good news, said Richard Feldman, a lobbyist for gun manufacturers. "It would be close to his political death if he signed it before the election,'' he said, because gun rights supporters would take it out on him at the polls, probably by staying away rather than voting for Bush's Democratic opponent, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, who voted for the ban's renewal.

"Come January, it's a different story. Then, if he's re-elected, he'd be forced to sign the bill, if he gets a clean one that just contains an extension of the existing law,'' Feldman said.

Feinstein and her allies are trying to stir up public interest in the debate, but it's hard in a political climate where the war in Iraq, the battle against terrorism and economic concerns are at center stage. "Those three issues loom large and will dwarf any others,'' Spitzer said. In such a climate, the rifle association and other gun lobbies gain political traction because their adherents tend to be single-issue voters who can punish those in Congress who support the assault weapons ban or other gun control measures.

That's one reason that even Feinstein admitted that some House members are breathing a sigh of relief that they won't have to vote on her legislation this year, going into tough races in some closely divided districts. But she insists she will persist.

"Right is on our side. Public opinion is on our side. It's only the sheer power of the gun lobby that stands in the way,'' Feinstein said.

E-mail Edward Epstein at eepstein@sfchronicle.com.

------------------------------------------------------------------

What did this law actually do?

Often called the "assault-weapon ban" or the" Clinton Crime Bill of 1994,"
it was actually "The Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act."

From Gun Laws of America:

"Many new federal gun laws are placed in Title 18, and contrary to popular reports, are typically minor, especially when compared to the National Firearms Act of 1934, or the Gun Control Act of 1968. A typical example is the so-called assault-weapons ban, part of the 1994 Crime Bill, codified as 18-922(v) and (w). Nothing was actually banned—Americans could still buy, own, sell, trade, have and use any of the millions of affected firearms and accessories.

"What the law did was to prohibit manufacturers and importers from selling newly made goods of that type to the public (and it was a crime for the public to get them). Maybe that is a ban, but not in the sense that’s been popularized. Contrary to news reports, the law did nothing about the very real problem of getting armed criminals off the street.

"The net effect of the law was to motivate manufacturers to create stockpiles before the ban took affect, then to introduce new products that were not affected, by making minor cosmetic changes, and to step up marketing efforts overseas for affected products. In addition, demand and prices skyrocketed for the then fixed supply of goods domestically, and then adjusted downward when it became obvious that supplies were still available. None of this applies now since the law expired in 2004. No effect on criminal activity has been detected by any observers. If this is all news to you, it’s time to question your source of news."

 

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