August 29, 2013

Julia Baird’s Aug. 25 op-ed, on the murder of Christopher Lane in Oklahoma [“Die by the gun”], was revealing. Ms. Baird reported that Australians are shocked by the death and that one of their politicians blames the National Rifle Association for blocking background checks at gun shows. She also cited a few studies that claim Australian gun legislation has reduced firearms murders but none that claim the opposite. Essentially, she reduced an atrocity to another tired debate on gun control. Let’s look at the facts.

Background checks at gun shows? The alleged shooter in Oklahoma was 15 years old; his accomplices were 16 and 17. No state permits the sale of firearms to minors. The alleged killers, self-identified thugs, took pictures of themselves with a hunting rifle and a semiautomatic pistol. “Assault” weapons? Not involved. High-capacity magazines? No. Apparently the crime was committed with a .22 revolver. Revolvers do not use magazines, and their capacity typically runs from five or six cartridges to as many as nine for smaller-caliber weapons such as a .22.

In short, none of the favored nostrums of the anti-gun crowd was relevant to this crime. Thugs of any age can obtain and use firearms despite gun- control legislation. It may come as news to some advocates, but lawbreakers break laws, including those covering guns.

J.L. Smith, Bethesda

Australian Julia Baird explained that restrictions placed on semiautomatic weapons in her homeland, prompted by a 1996 massacre of 35 people, have led to a gun homicide rate in Australia that is about 3 percent of our own. The Australian experience, she suggested, amply justifies the bewilderment Down Under over why more is not done here to stop horrendous shootings, such as that of her countryman Christopher Lane.

Ms. Baird was preaching to two audiences: One is the choir, a majority of the populace that needs no convincing that Newtown, Conn., and similar incidents go hand-in-hand with the proliferation of semiautomatic weapons; the other, as post-Newtown discourse makes clear, is a minority whose wishes and economic interests are protected and insulated from change by elected officials driven by electoral fear and utterly deaf to rational consideration of the lesson Ms. Baird thoughtfully detailed for us.

David W. Brown, Alexandria