In a December 5, 2015, front page editorial, the New York Times finally admitted what discerning readers had long understood – that the paper advocates the prohibition and confiscation of certain types of now-lawfully possessed firearms. Fittingly, the Old Grey Lady has come to rely on the work of one the few remaining gun control organizations willing to match its candor, the Violence Policy Center.
In the past two years, the Times’s editorial board has cited VPC’s long-running “Concealed Carry Killers” compilation on six different occasions as part of its ceaseless campaign against the Right-to-Carry. The ongoing VPC project is an attempt to portray Right-to-Carry permit holders, and any legislation that respects the Right-to-Carry, as a threat to public safety. VPC’s report consists of a list of anecdotes gleaned from news reports about violence perpetrated by individuals reported to have a Right-to-Carry permit.
Misleading its readers, the Times typically characterizes VPC as a “gun safety group.” In truth, VPC represents the fringe of the gun control movement. An express goal of VPC is the prohibition of the private ownership of handguns. Readers can still find a copy of the 1994 VPC report “Cease Fire” on the group’s website. The report contended, “Handguns should be banned from future sale except for military and law-enforcement personnel.”
In recent years, some gun control organizations have sought to temper their anti-gun rhetoric. Despite decades of failure in pursing their agenda, VPC has seen no need to moderate its message. The group specializes in sensationalism, calling commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms “Bullet Hoses,” and claiming NRA’s award-winning Eddie Eagle Gunsafe Program is an attempt to market guns to children using a “Joe Camel with Feathers.”
Honest researchers do not need to rely on a handful of anecdotes to measure the conduct of Right-to-Carry permit holders. Florida and Texas maintain state-level data on the revocation of Right-to-Carry permits. A recent analysis of this data found that permit holders are significantly more law-abiding than the general public.
Moreover, VPC and the Times’s use, of the “Concealed Carry Killers” compilation as a way argue against Right-to-Carry permits and respecting the Right-to-Carry in more places is intentionally misleading. VPC’s list of incidents includes various scenarios where an individual’s reported status as a permit holder was irrelevant to their actions.
A look at the cases on VPC’s list from January 1, 2016 onward reveals this problem. Of the 35 incidents during this time period, 15 occurred in private residences, and another five occurred in areas where a permit would not be required to possess a firearm. Two cases involved individuals whose permits were not honored by the state where the incident occurred. Purportedly a list of “killers,” of the 2016-17 incidents, eight were accidents. Though perhaps already convictions in the minds of gun control supporters, 19 of the 35 recent cases are listed as pending adjudication.
Some of the older cases in VPC’s compilation are even more ridiculous. VPC cites a 2008 case where a reported permit holder strangled an individual to death. The group also labels a reported permit holder who was shot to death after his firearm was wrestled away from him as a “killer.”
Even more egregiously, VPC also includes hundreds of those who have taken their own lives, without harming another individual, in its list of “Concealed Carry Killers.” Those capable of even the slightest compassion can understand the perversity of listing those who have committed suicide as “killers” alongside those who have actually harmed others. Worse, VPC’s - and by extension the Times’s - demeaning treatment of suicide in this way actually impairs suicide prevention efforts nationwide.
Mental health researchers have recognized that the stigma surrounding suicide can prevent at risk individuals from acquiring the help they need. This problem is sometimes reported as pertaining to service members and veterans; however, it can affect all segments of society.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recognized this problem. In explaining this issue in their materials, the CDC noted:
Many people are uncomfortable with the topic of suicide. Too often, victims are blamed and their families and friends are left stigmatized. As a result, people rarely communicate openly about suicide. Thus, an important public health problem is left hidden in secrecy, which hinders effective prevention.
Callously labelling those who have taken their own lives as “killers” only serves to further push the issue of suicide into the shadows and alienate those who are at risk.
“Concealed Carry Killers” is the sort of misleading and haphazard propaganda that VPC has trafficked in for nearly thirty years. That the Times’s editorial page would cite such disinformation without adequately informing readers of the nature of its source and its numerous flaws is a sad commentary on the “paper of record.” Such behavior no doubt contributes to the public’s record-low confidence in mass media.