On the Contrary

The article about handguns by Tom Bartel is an interesting piece to find in a magazine that claims on its website to favor “contrarian” viewpoints. Bartel acts as a marketing mouthpiece for the nine-billion-dollar firearms and ammunition industry—hardly a contrarian thing to do. I might have found it more contrarian if Bartel had investigated whether the gun shops in the area actually would refuse to make a sale to an obvious “straw” buyer (illegal), or if they would sell fifty or one hundred handguns to a single customer (legal but unethical). It is these types of purchases that are key to the supply of illegal guns on our streets.
Bartel makes it look attractive to buy a handgun, but that’s because he didn’t talk to anyone who might have given him some facts. Like the fact that the single most important risk factor for being killed by a gun is owning one. Or the fact that on average, one gun is reported stolen every day in Hennepin County. Or the fact that the handgun that killed a Minnetonka man downtown in March was stolen from someone carrying it for protection. Or the fact that an American is nearly seven times likelier to be struck by lightning than to kill someone justifiably with a handgun.
Bartel notes that Bill’s Gun Shop and Range in Robbinsdale was identified by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as the source of 373 guns linked to crimes between 1996 and 2000, but “no data has been compiled since then.” That’s not quite right. The data is there—it’s the ATF’s job to compile it. The news is that Congress, at the insistence of the gun lobby, has forbidden the ATF to release the data. The firearms and ammunition industry depends on the criminal market for its profits, so it lobbies to protect dishonest dealers. Which local gun dealers are the suppliers of the street guns used to kill in our neighborhoods? That’s one of the “Secrets of the City.”

–Heather Martens,