Wash. Post's Parker Revises Mass Shooting History To Attack Stronger Gun Laws
Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON
Kathleen Parker, a conservative opinion writer, argued against bans on high-capacity magazines by claiming that "several small magazines" were used in the Columbine High School and Virginia Tech massacres -- even though high-capacity magazines were used in both shootings -- and also falsely suggested that banning assault weapons would necessitate banning all semi-automatic firearms.
In an April 9 column in The Washington Post, Parker falsely suggested that the shooters in those incidents did not use high-capacity magazines:
Limiting the size of magazines also seems like a common-sense solution. Then again, maybe a killer simply would carry several small magazines and swap them out, as Eric Harris did at Columbine High School in 1999 and Seung-Hui Cho did at Virginia Tech in 2007. Harris was armed with a Hi-Point 995 carbine with 13 magazines of 10 rounds each. His partner, Dylan Klebold, carried a semi-automatic handgun and a short-barrel shotgun, which, gun experts will tell you, is the most effective close-range weapon of all. And Cho used two handguns that are not considered "assault weapons."
But like assault weapons, some handguns accept high-capacity magazines. In the 1999 Columbine massacre, where two gunmen killed 13 and injured 21, Dylan Klebold attacked his classmates with an Intratec TEC-9 assault pistol and was found to have brought 52-, 32- and 28-round magazines into the school. Of the 67 rounds fired by Klebold, 55 were fired by the TEC-9, which Klebold was observed carrying -- equipped with a high-capacity magazine -- in an infamous security camera still taken during the shooting. On April 17, 2007 Seung-Hui Cho used two handguns to kill 32 and injure 17 at Virginia Tech. During the shooting, Cho fired 174 rounds from 10- and 15-round magazines. A ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) would ban any ammunition feeding device that is capable of accepting more than 10 rounds, the same limit contained in the previous assault weapons ban which expired in 2004.
Parents of some of the children killed in the December 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School have advocated for a ban on high-capacity magazines after being told by authorities that a number of children were able to escape the shooter when he paused to reload. At a press conference in support of a Connecticut proposal to ban high-capacity magazines in that state, Mark Barden, whose son was killed in the mass shooting, explained, "The more times you have to reload the more opportunities there are to escape and to stop the shooting. In the amount of time -- it was somewhere around four minutes -- he was able to fire 154 rounds. I think that speaks volumes about reducing the size [of magazines]."
In her column, Parker also pushed the myth that banning assault weapons would necessitate banning all semi-automatic weapons:
Banning assault weapons and large magazines is appealing. But what, exactly, is an assault weapon, anyway? Most think of assault weapons as machine guns, but many popular firearms, from ranch rifles to handguns, are, like the AR-15 used at Newtown, semi-automatic. This means that they fire only one round each time the trigger is pulled and the gun automatically reloads. Do we ban all semi-automatic weapons?
In fact, Feinstein's assault weapons ban -- which will reportedly be voted on as an amendment to the Senate gun violence prevention package -- singles out assault weapons from all semi-automatic firearms by only banning military-style rifles and pistols that can accept a detachable magazine. The legislation bans 157 assault weapons by name and contains a military characteristic test to restrict other similar weapons. More than 2,000 weapons are specifically excluded from the ban, which also does not cover any weapon that is not semi-automatic.
Research has indicated that both high-capacity magazines and assault weapons pose a special danger to the public and law enforcement. A 2004 report from the National Institute of Justice found high-capacity magazines were present in a disproportionate number of law enforcement and public mass shooting incidents.
A study of mass shooting incidents between 2009 and 2013 conducted by Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that "assault weapons or high-capacity magazines were used in at least 13 of the  incidents" and that these incidents "resulted in an average of 14.8 total people shot -- 135% more people shot than in other incidents (6.8) -- and 8.0 deaths -- 57% more deaths." According to a Mother Jones study of the 143 weapons used in 62 mass shootings between 1982 and 2012, 48 would have been outlawed by Feinstein's assault weapons ban proposal.
[Mother Jones, accessed 4/10/13]
Both of these studies are in line with earlier research that found that mass shootings involving assault weapons typically resulted in higher numbers of victims.
Assault weapons are also used to disproportionately kill law enforcement officers. According to FBI data, almost 18 percent of police officers killed by gunfire in 2009 died of wounds received from assault weapons. An analysis by the Violence Policy Center reached a similar conclusion, finding at least 41 of 211 law enforcement officers killed with firearms between 1998 and 2001 were killed by assault weapons.
The goal of Parker's column is to argue that no proposals have been put forward to address mass shootings like the one in Newtown, Connecticut, but her mischaracterization of past mass shooting incidents and current legislative proposals to reduce gun violence leaves her argument wanting.