In The USA, Fascism Is Called “The NRA”. I’m The NRA

blood is on the hands of the #NRA #Retweet,

A Simple Truth: The NRA Are Terrorists, Awash in The Blood of Innocents

american idol A Simple Truth: The NRA Are Terrorists, Awash in The Blood of InnocentsAshort, disturbing yet funny, anecdote to illustrate the point I’m about to make.

About a year ago, a friend who teaches at the University of Toronto and I met for an after-work drink at the rooftop bar at the Park Hyatt Regency Hotel. A Toronto landmark, the bar’s mahogany panels frame large windows looking south to the skyline of the financial district and Lake Ontario beyond.

As we sat enjoying single malt scotches, a trio of men wearing cowboy hats, string ties and western-style suits came in and sat near us. They’d just arrived by car from Montana and came to the bar for a drink while their wives went shopping. As their drinks arrived, one asked another, “Just wondering? Did you bring your gun? I did.”

My friend looked up to ask, “Did you say you brought handguns into Canada? Don’t you know they’re illegal up here?”

One gulped down his beer before replying with a sneer, “So what? I’m an American, mister, and I don’t go nowhere without my gun.”

Not wanting to tangle with three liquor-drinking, pistol-packing Pete’s, my pal let it drop. Moments later while waiting for the elevator, my friend used a pay phone to call the police. By the time we hit the street, three squad cars and the SWAT team were arriving. Our guess is that the Montanan’s spent the night in custody before being escorted to the border the next day.

Guns Killing People

The attitude of the Montanan’s is pervasive in the US even as Thursday marked the anniversary Virginia Tech massacre. As awful as the 32 deaths were, in the past month alone nearly 60 people – almost double the number of Virginia deaths – were killed in the US by gunfire and the count keeps rising. The total includes four police officers and, as a former San Francisco police chief once told me, “Somebody who’ll kill a cop will gun down anybody.”

But the death toll of 57 in America is swamped by the number of people – men, women, children, police, soldiers, gangsters and mostly innocents – killed over the same time in Mexico’s ugly drug wars. Many of the victims were murdered by handguns and assault rifles purchased in the US and smuggled across the border.

While in Mexico, President Obama told an audience that he recognizes the US is partially responsible for the killing fields to our south. Both our desire for dope and the ease with which anyone can sell murderous weapons like assault rifles and RPGs to total strangers are as much a part of the on-going massacre as is corruption in Mexico.

And yet the NRA and its apologists continue to blithely whistle “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” True – but without easy access guns-as-toys nobody would be killing anyone.

The fact is that the NRA is almost solely responsible for the ease with which weapons can be sold, bought and used in America. As a result, it is nothing less than a terrorist organization, enabling killings of innocent victims and whose very soul is awash in blood.

Self-De… What?

If I hadn’t heard it myself, I would not believe someone capable of muttering this nonsense on national television in the 21st century.

Robert Levy, chairman of the Cato Institute which is a conservative think tank filled with people who long for the 19th century, appeared Thursday on the PBS NewsHour defending so-called gun rights . In a discussion following a piece on the murder spree loose in the land, Levy told reporter Judy Woodruff that “… conspicuously missing from the reporting is all of the crimes that (are) deterred because the would-be assailants suspected that their would-be victims might be armed. Guns are used for self-defence.”

Being a curious sort, I decided to check Levy’s claim. He won’t like what I found.

According to FBI and Justice Dept. sources, in 2007 “self defense” claims were used by people charged with crimes involving a shooting in more than 5,000 cases nationwide, including murders and felony assault with a deadly weapon. Courts agreed the defendants – are you sitting down –acted in self-defense fewer than 250 times. In other words, of the known 5,000 cases, at least 4,750 shootings had nothing to do with self-defense. Only a terrorist organization would be as sanguine about rampant murder of innocent Americans as Levy and his cronies at the Cato Institute and NRA.

Mr. Levy’s ears are even larger than Barack Obama’s so I hope he doesn’t trip over them as he swings around to face reality – if facing reality is possible for people like Robert Levy.

This Side of the Pecos

Meanwhile, the gun lobby continues terrifying Congress so re-instating the ban on semi-automatic weapons is, excuse me, a dead issue.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am not a hunter or target shooter. I’ve never done that silly Olympic winter sport where you ski for a while and then shoot a rifle before skiing again. But I can understand why some individuals find target shooting an interesting pastime.

That said, I cannot understand any rationale for keeping a gun in the house. Even police warn that bringing out a gun during a crime is more likely to get the victim killed than the perp. But Clarence Thomas joined with four other extreme conservatives on the Supremes in striking down Washington D.C.’s handgun ban so we’re all free to buy a gun because he and his not-so-learned brethren conveniently ignored the archaic punctuation common in 1789 and based their entire ruling on where comma’s happened to fall. That twisted reasoning – and faulty grammar – is why they concluded the 2nd Amendment gives everyone the right to pack heat.

charley-james.jpg

But there are a couple of options:

  • First, ban the sale of ammunition except at gun clubs and licensed hunting facilities.
  • Second, require registration for all weapons with a 10 day cooling off period between making application for a gun permit and walking out the door.
  • Third, require all guns to be kept locked at licensed gun, target and shooting clubs.
  • And fourth, enact laws prohibiting any old goofball from selling any other old goofball a gun from the trunk of his car.

And every time you see an NRA member, remind them they belong to a terrorist organization that has the blood of tens of thousands of Americans and Mexicans on their hands.

Charley James

The Progressive Curmudgeon

I Buy Politicians That Roll Over For A Campaign Contribution. I’m The NRA

Charity Takes Gun Lobby Closer to Its Quarry

Guns and Congress: The Times’s Mike McIntire on the close relationship between members of Congress and a sportsmen’s charity pushing gun rights.

On a Monday evening in early February, two months into a national debate over gun violence after the massacre at a Connecticut elementary school, representatives of the firearms industry were wining and dining lawmakers in Washington.

The occasion was the “Changing of the Guard” reception and dinner for the incoming leadership of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, which counts more than 250 membersin the House and Senate. Hosting the gathering was a little-known but well-connected organization, theCongressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.

Despite its low profile, the foundation has close ties to members of Congress, allowing its donors, who give as much as $100,000 a year, to mix with lawmakers at shooting contests, banquets and wine tastings. The food and drink at last month’s gathering were paid for in part by the National Rifle Association and the trade group for the gun industry.

Over the past year, sportsmen’s caucus members have clinked glasses and puffed cigars at a “Wine, Wheels and Wildlife” fund-raiser at a North Carolina vineyard, a “Whiskies of the World” and cigar reception on Capitol Hill, and a “Stars and Stripes Shootout” in Tampa, Fla., where the top shooting awards went to a Republican congressman and a lobbyist for the N.R.A. Such events provide the firearms industry and other foundation donors with a tax-deductible means of lobbying the elected officials who shape policies important to their businesses.

A private charity not affiliated with the government, the foundation carries the cachet of its relationship with the sportsmen’s caucus in Congress, which it provides with research on policies affecting hunting and fishing. But while ostensibly focused on those outdoor pursuits, it also presses issues important mainly to the gun industry, which is one of its largest contributors.

The foundation opposes restrictions on high-capacity ammunition magazines, a ban on military-style AR-15 rifles and the imprinting of bullets with traceable serial numbers to help solve crimes. All of those proposals have surfaced in the current legislative debate, which is expected to continue Thursday when a Senate Judiciary Committee considers a bill to curb illegal gun trafficking.

The foundation says its positions fit naturally with its mission “to work with Congress, governors and state legislatures to protect and advance hunting, recreational angling, and shooting and trapping.”

“There is significant overlap between access to firearms and the ability to participate in hunting and recreational shooting activities,” it said in a statement.

Others see the linkage to hunting as part of a calculated effort by the firearms industry to advance policies that have little to do with outdoor sports. Representative Bill Pascrell Jr., a New Jersey Democrat who as a co-chairman of the law enforcement caucus has butted heads with the sportsmen’s caucus on gun issues, said pro-gun groups had stoked fear in Congress by portraying any limits on firearms as a threat to legitimate pastimes like hunting.

“They see this as if they give in on any one item, it will put them on a slippery slope to coming into your home and taking your guns away,” Mr. Pascrell said. “They’re creating hysteria.”

Lawmakers have long formed caucuses on specific subjects as varied as drug addiction and capital gains taxes. Special interests often press their cases with caucus members, sometimes through receptions, trips and fund-raisers. But most caucuses do not have foundations or institutes set up specifically for that purpose, and financed with private contributions.

Established in 1989 as the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus Foundation — the word “caucus” was dropped in 1994 — the foundation is a nonprofit charity under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, meaning it can accept unlimited, tax-deductible donations. Its charitable purpose, according to tax records, is to “provide scientific research, wildlife management, public education and conservation information.” It says it does this by giving nonpartisan “advice, support and information” to the sportsmen’s caucus and elected state officials.

Many of its programs focus on wildlife conservation, on open space and on hunting, including an annual report on its economic benefits. It has held briefings or issued policy statements on opening public lands and waterways for hunting and fishing, easing limits on imports of skins and other trophies from polar bear hunting and opposing regulation of the lead content in fishing-line sinkers. But it also backs gun-industry positions whose relevance to its historical focus on hunting and fishing is indirect at best.

The foundation president, Jeff Crane, declined to be interviewed. But in written responses to questions, the foundation said that “limiting the purchase of firearms and ammunition has a direct impact on state-based professional fish and wildlife management” because it would mean less revenue from federal excise taxes, which finance those programs. Many hunters and target shooters also use rifles that gun-control advocates would classify, wrongly, as assault weapons, it said.

“It has become increasingly important to ensure that the interests of recreational shooters are represented,” the foundation said.

The foundation’s board has included top executives of Freedom Group, the largest American maker of firearms, and ATK, the country’s biggest producer of ammunition. In 2010, the foundation disclosed that its most generous donor in its history was the gun industry’s trade association. (It said last week that another donor, which it would not identify, had since taken top honors.)

Contributions ballooned from $434,000 in 2001 to more than $2 million in 2011, with its top-tier donors including firearms makers and retailers like Remington, Winchester and Walmart. Other high-level donors include the N.R.A., outdoor groups like Safari Club International, and ExxonMobil, Amgen and Altria.

The foundation is blunt in its appeal to donors. Its Web site says that “no organization has access to so many elected officials,” adding that “we know how important it is to have an effective voice in the political arena looking out for your interests.”

“Our promise to you is to keep delivering big returns on your investment,” the foundation said in a message to donors.

In a 2004 update to donors, the foundation explained that it had decided to “increase the value” of one of its shooting events by moving it closer to Washington so industry executives could “interact with members of Congress.”

“For the 150 industry representatives that attended the 2004 events, the move was well worth it,” it said. “During the shootout, industry teams were paired with the members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus.”

The foundation has also branched out to provide a similar bridge between its financial supporters and state legislatures. It sponsors an annual gathering with legislators, held last year at a resort in Myrtle Beach, S.C., where activities included a wild hog hunt, surf fishing and the firing of guns with silencers provided by the American Silencer Association.

In its written responses to questions, the foundation said it is in touch with members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus on “an as-needed basis,” depending on pending legislation and the needs of “the sporting community.” Its “focus while interacting with members of the caucus is to provide them with information and to educate them on issues of importance to sportsmen,” it said.

As with most Congressional caucuses, members of the sportsmen’s caucus do not vote in lock step, and many do not take part in the foundation’s social events. There are also differences of opinion among caucus leaders on ways to address gun violence.

Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, a co-chairman of the caucus, is also a member of the House Democrats’ task force on preventing gun violence, supports a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and has an F rating from the N.R.A. — making him, he acknowledged, a “rare breed” in the caucus.

But as a lifelong hunter, Mr. Thompson said, he enjoys attending sportsmen foundation events and has no trouble spending time with representatives of the N.R.A. and other special interests that pay for them.

“They don’t have any influence over me,” he said. “I see them at social functions and gatherings. They’ve been very supportive of a lot of the issues the caucus is interested in, even if we don’t agree 100 percent on everything.”

In contrast to Mr. Thompson, the House Republican co-chairman of the sportsmen’s caucus, Representative Bob Latta of Ohio, has an A-plus N.R.A. rating and has expressed skepticism about any new gun restrictions. He declined to be interviewed.

The caucus is regularly used as a launching pad in Congress for pro-gun legislation. The sponsor and all 27 original co-sponsors of a 2005 bill that shielded the firearms industry from liability suits were caucus members. More than 100 members co-sponsored the Second Amendment Enforcement Act, which was aimed at rolling back gun control measures in Washington, D.C., but died in committee in 2011.

Also in 2011, caucus members wrote amendments that would have prevented gun dealers from having to report customers who make multiple purchases of certain weapons in states bordering Mexico, and would have rolled back restrictions on imports of shotguns with tactical features like extended magazine tubes. The N.R.A. issued a statement praising the amendments’ authors, Representatives Denny Rehberg of Montana and John Carter of Texas, both Republicans.

“Representative Carter, like Representative Rehberg, is a member of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, and believes that federal gun regulations often create burdens for law-abiding citizens,” the N.R.A. said. The N.R.A. declined to comment on its relationship with the caucus and foundation.

Senator Christopher S. Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut who has been highly critical of the gun industry’s influence in Washington, said the N.R.A.’s “association with the sportsmen’s caucus plays up this mythology that they speak for sportsmen when, increasingly they don’t.”

“They represent views that help gun manufacturers,” he said.

Last year, the N.R.A. was a “titanium” donor to the sportsmen’s foundation, giving at least $50,000. That was one level below the $100,000 “platinum” category.

The N.R.A. ranked higher in the foundation’s sport shooting competition with Congressional staff members: its chief lobbyist won a top honor for target shooting at the 2012 event, sharing that distinction with legislative aides to four House members and a senator.

I Make It Easy To Buy A Gun Without Background Checks. I’m The NRA

Seeking Gun or Selling One, Web Is a Land of Few Rules

 

Theresa O’Rourke talked about her friend Jitka Vesel, shown at right in photograph behind her. Ms. Vesel was killed by Dmitry Smirnov, who was stalking her and bought a gun online.

The want ads posted by the anonymous buyer on Armslist.com, a sprawling free classified ads Web site for guns, telegraphed urgency.

Feb. 20: “ Got 250 cash for a good handgun something.reliable.”

Feb. 27: “ I got 200 250 cashlooking for a good handgun please let me know what u got.

Feb. 28: “ Looking to buy some 9 mm ammo and not at a crazy price.

The intentions and background of the prospective buyer were hidden, as is customary on such sites. The person posting these ads, however, left a phone number, enabling The New York Times to trace them to their source: Omar Roman-Martinez, 29, of Colorado Springs, who has a pair of felony convictions for burglary and another for motor vehicle theft, as well as a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction — all of which bar him from having guns. Yet he was so determined he even offered to trade a tablet computer or a vintage Pepsi machine for firearms.

When questioned in a telephone interview, Mr. Roman-Martinez said he ultimately decided not to buy a weapon. He also insisted that  a 9-millimeter handgun he posted for sale on the Web site last month belonged to someone else.

“I’m a felon,” he said. “I can’t possess firearms.”

The mere fact that Mr. Roman-Martinez was seeking to buy and sell guns on Armslist underscores why extending background checks to the growing world of online sales has become a centerpiece of new gun legislation being taken up in the Senate this week. With no requirements for background  checks on most private transactions, a Times examination found, Armslist and similar sites function as unregulated bazaars, where the essential anonymity of the Internet allows unlicensed sellers to advertise scores of weapons and people legally barred from gun ownership to buy them.

The bipartisan Senate compromise under consideration would require that background checks be conducted through federally licensed dealers on all Internet and gun show sales. Gun control advocates argue that such checks might have prevented shootings like that of Zina Haughton, 42, who was killed in October with two other women by her husband, Radcliffe, even though arestraining order barred him from having guns. Mr. Haughton simply contacted a private seller on Armslist and handed over $500 in a McDonald’s parking lot for a .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol and three magazines.

Seeking a glimpse into the largely hidden online gun market, The Times assembled a database and analyzed several months of ads from Armslist, which has become the dominant player in the arena, and examined numerous smaller sites.

Colorado Springs Police Department

Omar Roman-Martinez, 29, of Colorado Springs, has a pair of felony convictions for burglary and another for motor vehicle theft. He nevertheless sought a weapon on a Web site and earlier posted one for sale.

Over the past three months, The Times identified more than 170,000 gun ads on Armslist. Some were for the same guns, making it difficult to calculate just how many guns were actually for sale. Even so, with more than 20,000 ads posted every week, the number is probably in the tens of thousands.

Notably, 94 percent of the ads were posted by “private parties,” who, unlike licensed dealers, are not required to conduct background checks.

Besides Mr. Roman-Martinez, the Times investigation led to Gerard Toolin, 46, of Walterboro, S.C., who is a fugitive from the Rhode Island police and has two outstanding felony warrants as well as a misdemeanor warrant. His legal status bars him from owning guns, but he was recently seeking to buy an AK-47 assault rifle on Armslist and was also  trying to trade a Marlin rifle. He posted photos to his Facebook account of an AK-47 he had already purchased, along with a variety of other guns.

There was also Martin Fee, who has a domestic battery conviction in Florida and other arrests and convictions in Florida and New Jersey, including for drug possession, burglary and larceny. He was selling a Chinese SKS rifle on the classified section of another Web site,BudsGunShop.com.

The examination of Armslist raised questions about whether many sellers are essentially functioning as unlicensed firearms dealers, in contravention of federal law. The law says that people who “engage in the business” of selling firearms need to obtain a license and conduct background checks on customers. While the definition of engaging in business is vague, The Times found that more than two dozen people had posted more than 20 different guns for sale in a several-month span.

Among them was Joshua Lovejoy, 32, who since November has advertised more than 100 guns on Armslist, mostly in Canton, Ohio, ranging from AR-15 assault rifles to Glock 19 semiautomatic pistols. He once  listed more than 20 guns in a single ad. He insisted in a telephone interview, however, that he had sold only a few.

Then there was Ron Metz, 49, who has advertised more than 80 guns from Anderson, S.C., since February. Mr. Metz said in an interview he had needed money, so he started selling some guns and trading for others. He also bought other guns, which he turned around and sold as well. He said he had no real idea how many he had sold, guessing that it was more than a dozen. He never keeps any records and does not do any background checks, explaining: “I can just sort of read people.”

East Providence Police Department

Gerard Toolin is a fugitive from the Rhode Island police and has two outstanding felony warrants, but has engaged in transactions on an online gun site. Background checks are not required for such sales.

“You think I broke a law?” he asked.

‘A Gun Show That Never Ends’

Armslist was the brainchild of Jonathan Gibbon and Brian Mancini, friends who attended the United States Air Force Academy and then transferred to the University of Pittsburgh.

Mr. Gibbon, who did not respond to requests for comment, said in a 2010 interview with Human Events, a conservative Web site, that he got the idea for Armslist during the summer of 2007 when he saw that the classifieds Web site Craigslist.com had decided to ban gun-related ads “because a few users cried out for it.” Mr. Gibbon, who went on to law school at the University of Oklahoma, where he founded the Second Amendment Club, said he had been inspired to “create a place for law-abiding gun owners to buy and sell online without all of the hassles of auctions and shipping.”

Mr. Mancini, who designed the site, recently left the company. Mr. Gibbon remains the site’s owner, while also practicing law in Pennsylvania, according to his profile on LinkedIn. Armslist LLC, registered with the Oklahoma secretary of state, lists an office suite in Pittsburgh as its business address.

When asked by Human Events to describe the site, Mr. Gibbon said: “Imagine a gun show that never ends.”

Gun shows have long been a source of concern for gun control advocates and law enforcement officials, because many allow unregulated sales without background checks. Web sites make such transactions far more widely available, with just a few clicks of a mouse.

A 2011 undercover investigation by the City of New York examined private party gun sellers on a range of Web sites, including Armslist, to see if they would sell guns to someone who said that they probably could not pass a background check. (Federal law bars sales to any person the seller has reason to believe is prohibited from purchasing firearms). Investigators found seventy-seven of 125 online sellers agreed to sell the weapons anyway.

Armslist posts a disclaimer on its home page, urging users to “comply with local, state, federal, and international law.” But it also makes clear that the site “does not become involved in transactions between parties.”

Jitka Vesel was killed by Dmitry Smirnov, who was stalking her and bought a gun online.

What the site does do is make it simple for anyone seeking to buy a gun without a background check, enabling users to filter gun ads in their state by ones being sold by private parties.

Federal law places one significant restriction on transactions among private parties, barring people from directly selling guns to people in other states who are not licensed firearms dealers. Licensed dealers must act as intermediaries in transactions across state lines and perform background checks. But an examination of ads on the Web site shows that illegal interstate transactions can occur.

An ad for a “new in box” Ruger rifle posted on April 1 in Indianapolis stated that if the buyer was out of state, the seller would ship to the buyer’s “front door,” “person to private person.”

A seller on another ad, posted April 2, in Brighton, Colo., vented about repeated no-shows in his previous attempts to sell the gun, so he made clear, “No more out of state.”

Many ads simply require the transactions occur “face to face.” Some even provide assurances: “no questions asked” and “no paperwork.”

Brookfield Police Dept., via Associated Press

 Radcliffe Haughton. A restraining order should have prevented Mr. Haughton from buying a gun.

The loose online atmosphere was evident in the case of an Arizona gun dealer, Walter Young, who pleaded guilty last week to a federal gun charge stemming from an investigation into his sale of a .50-caliber rifle, dozens of gun kits and thousands of rounds of ammunition to an anonymous buyer who contacted him on Gunbroker.com.

Mr. Young — a Tea Party activist who posted a YouTube video in February suggesting he was being persecuted for criticizing the government — told federal agents he shipped everything to an address in Texas near the Mexican border, without even knowing the identity of the recipient, according to court records. After initially lying to investigators, he admitted looking the other way in his online dealings, records show.

“Young stated there was a general ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy in the gun world when it came to wanting to know why a person was purchasing a particular item, and for that reason he did not question people he sold items to,” federal prosecutors said in a court filing.

Other cases have had deadly consequences.

In 2011, Dmitry Smirnov, a Canadian resident, contacted Benedict Ladera, from Kent, Wash., via Armslist, expressing interest in a Smith & Wesson .40-caliber pistol that Mr. Ladera had posted for sale.

Mr. Ladera, who had sold about 20 guns on Armslist over the previous year, agreed to meet at a casino but increased the price of the handgun to $600, from $400, because he was from out of state, according to court records. After buying the gun, Mr. Smirnov drove to Chicago, where he stalked Jitka Vesel, a woman he had briefly dated a few years earlier, and on April 13, 2011, shot and killed her. Mr. Smirnov turned himself into authorities and was later sentenced to life in prison.

Federal authorities also arrested Mr. Ladera, who pleaded guilty to making an illegal transfer of a firearm to a nonstate resident and was sentenced to one year in prison. Last year, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Armslist on behalf of Ms. Vesel’s family.

In the case of Radcliffe Haughton, the Wisconsin man who killed his wife, the person who sold him the gun on Armslist told federal investigators that he had checked Mr. Haughton’s driver’s license to make sure he was a Wisconsin resident. He also said he asked Mr. Haughton if he was prohibited from having firearms, but he indicated he was not.

Despite these cases, it appears that prosecutions of people who illegally buy and sell guns on the Internet are relatively unusual. A review of nearly 100 court cases in which federal authorities seized guns over the last year found that in very few instances were Internet transactions the focus of the investigations.

Anonymity Is the Rule

Identifying the people who buy and sell guns on these online forums is impossible in most cases because the sites protect the anonymity of their users.

On Armslist, potential buyers can contact sellers directly through the Web site, without making their contact information public. In some cases where people included phone numbers in their ads, The Times tried to trace them — a task made more difficult because most were unlisted cellphones — and determine if the people had criminal records or other firearms prohibitions.

Many numbers led nowhere. Among the ones that were traceable, most people examined had clean records, or had only misdemeanor convictions that did not disqualify them from having weapons. In some cases that raised questions, it was impossible to conclusively verify identities. But several people emerged who clearly should not be buying or selling guns.

Omar Roman-Martinez spent a little more than a year in prison, getting out in 2010, after pleading guilty to second-degree burglary for breaking into a car with some friends, taking a key and an address, and then going to the person’s house, where they made off with jewelry, a safe and electronics. He had prior felony convictions for burglarizing an auto-parts store and for stealing a car from a car dealership, and a misdemeanor assault conviction for biting and repeatedly using a telephone receiver to hit the woman he was living with, according to court and police records.

Mr. Roman-Martinez initially posted general inquiries on Armslist, looking to buy a handgun for cash and then ammunition. He also tried to sell a Jimenez Arms 9-millimeter handgun. In mid-March, he  offered to trade a tablet computer that “has the works” for a handgun or pistol grip shotgun. Later, he posted an ad offering a “working condition 1970s pepsi machine” for “nice firearms or one nice one.”

 He explained in the ad: “These machines are very wanted and most dont work mine does shot me an offer.”

When queried, Mr. Roman-Martinez initially acknowledged the ads but tried to sidestep, saying that he never acquired a gun and that the one he was trying to sell was not his. By the end of the conversation, however, he denied he had anything to do with the ads.

“I’ve heard of Armslist,” he said. “Of course, everybody has. I don’t have anything posted on there.”

The conversation unfolded similarly with Gerard Toolin, the man with outstanding felony warrants from Rhode Island who is now living in South Carolina. The charges against Mr. Toolin, which date to 2002, relate to allegations he defrauded people through his heating and cooling business. He skipped out on court appearances and fled the state, records show.

He posted  an ad on Armslist on April 9, in which he wrote, “I am looking to buy A ak-47.” Initially unaware of who was calling, Mr. Toolin eagerly explained to a reporter that he already had one and was looking to acquire a second.

After the reporter identified himself and asked about his warrants, Mr. Toolin said, “Who says I’m buying a weapon for myself?”

But Mr. Toolin had also posted several ads in March, seeking to trade a Marlin 336SC rifle for a 12-gauge tactical shotgun — a combat-style weapon. Pictures posted on Mr. Toolin’s Facebook page, in which he “likes” Armslist’s Facebook page, made clear that he possessed an array of weapons. He posted a picture of an AK-47 in mid-March, saying: “I would like everyone to welcome the newest member of my family … I adopted her yesterday.” Another photo posted in late November showed him loaded down with weapons, including an assault rifle and several pistols strapped to his body. He captioned the snapshot: “I don’t think I have enough maybe one or two more.”

When asked about the photographs, Mr. Toolin said: “You sure they’re real guns? How do you know they’re not reproductions?”

Minutes after the conversation, he took his Facebook account offline.

The Times also found Martin Fee, of Vero Beach, Fla., while examining  a listing for a Chinese SKS rifle on Budsgunshop.com. In the ad, Mr. Fee said he would not sell to anyone living in New York, New Jersey or “the People’s Republic of California.” A Twitter account belonging to “Marty Fee” of Vero Beach is filled with vitriolic postings about President Obama and liberals, including one that says the president and attorney general “should be chained n shot.”

Mr. Fee, 45, has an arrest record dating back decades, and it is difficult to verify which charges resulted in convictions. But a domestic battery conviction from 1999, resulting from a dispute between Mr. Fee and his then-wife that turned physical, appeared to disqualify him from possessing firearms.

Reached by phone last week, Mr. Fee said he had sold the gun and had it shipped to a licensed dealer. When a reporter asked him how he could own a gun with his domestic violence conviction, he backpedaled, insisting that the SKS rifle was not actually his, and that he “posted it up there for a friend of mine.”

“I never saw the weapon, I never touched the weapon,” he said, declining to identify the friend. He then ended the call. Shortly thereafter, his ad disappeared from the Web site.

When Is a ‘Seller’ a ‘Dealer’?

Under current law, the question of when a background check must occur depends on who is selling the gun. Federal regulations require licensed dealers to perform checks, but the legal definition of who must be licensed is blurry. Regulations define a dealer as a “person who devotes time, attention, and labor to dealing in firearms as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit.” People engaged in only “occasional sales” for their personal collections, or for a hobby, are exempted.

But precisely how many guns it takes for the “occasional” seller to become a dealer is not specified.

The design of the Armslist site makes it difficult to tie together all of the ads of individual sellers in order to identify the most active. Again, a phone number makes the task easier. Using phone numbers, as well as computer analysis, The Times connected all the ads for some sellers, including Mr. Lovejoy, who has advertised scores of guns for sale on Armslist over the last few months. One ad in January listed more than 20 guns, including several AR-15 assault rifles and an array of AMD-65s, a Hungarian variant of the AK-47.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Lovejoy, who is a paramedic and is studying to become a nurse, described his buying and selling of guns on Armslist and other sites as a “hobby.”

“A lot of times when I get rid of something that I have, I don’t make a penny on it,” he said.

Mr. Lovejoy said he always made sure to look at buyers’ driver’s licenses to check that they were Ohio residents and that he would occasionally record a bill of sale, with phone numbers, but no names and addresses. He said he supported proposals to require background checks on Internet sales.

“It would give me more peace of mind,” he said.

While Mr. Lovejoy was willing to discuss his ads with a reporter, other Armslist sellers reacted differently. Noel Lee Velarde, who has advertised more than 30 guns out of Flint, Mich., on Armslist dating back to late January, twice hung up on a reporter.

Bob Vivona, 69, who describes himself as an Army veteran and retired police detective sergeant, has advertised more than 20 guns on Armslist out of Missouri going back to February. Even though it is not required by law, he said, he takes it upon himself to look people’s names up in a statewide online court database. He said he was simply getting rid of guns he had bought but found he did not like, insisting there was nothing wrong with the number of guns he was selling.

“It’s not an issue,” he said. “It’s the Second Amendment.”

Sarah Cohen contributed reporting. Jack Styczynski and Jack Begg contributed research.

Putting Dangerous Assault Guns In The Hands Of Children. I’m The NRA

Selling a New Generation on Guns

A junior shooter receiving tips on a military rifle last fall from an Army marksmanship instructor at a clinic at Fort Benning, Ga. Youth shooting clinics and competitions often receive financial support or supplies from firearms-related businesses.

Threatened by long-term declining participation in shooting sports, the firearms industry has poured millions of dollars into a broad campaign to ensure its future by getting guns into the hands of more, and younger, children.

The industry’s strategies include giving firearms, ammunition and cash to youth groups; weakening state restrictions on hunting by young children; marketing an affordable military-style rifle for “junior shooters” and sponsoring semiautomatic-handgun competitions for youths; and developing a target-shooting video game that promotes brand-name weapons, with links to the Web sites of their makers.

The pages of Junior Shooters, an industry-supported magazine that seeks to get children involved in the recreational use of firearms, once featured a smiling 15-year-old girl clutching a semiautomatic rifle. At the end of an accompanying article that extolled target shooting with a Bushmaster AR-15 — an advertisement elsewhere in the magazine directed readers to a coupon for buying one — the author encouraged youngsters to share the article with a parent.

“Who knows?” it said. “Maybe you’ll find a Bushmaster AR-15 under your tree some frosty Christmas morning!”

The industry’s youth-marketing effort is backed by extensive social research and is carried out by an array of nonprofit groups financed by the gun industry, an examination by The New York Times found. The campaign picked up steam about five years ago with the completion of a major study that urged a stronger emphasis on the “recruitment and retention” of new hunters and target shooters.

The overall objective was summed up in another study, commissioned last year by the shooting sports industry, that suggested encouraging children experienced in firearms to recruit other young people. The report, which focused on children ages 8 to 17, said these “peer ambassadors” should help introduce wary youngsters to guns slowly, perhaps through paintball, archery or some other less intimidating activity.

A Utah gun show last year. The gun industry spends millions promoting recreational shooting for children.

“The point should be to get newcomers started shooting something, with the natural next step being a move toward actual firearms,” said the report, which was prepared for the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the Hunting Heritage Trust.

Firearms manufacturers and their two primary surrogates, the National Rifle Association of America and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, have long been associated with high-profile battles to fend off efforts at gun control and to widen access to firearms. The public debate over the mass shootings in Newtown, Conn., and elsewhere has focused largely on the availability of guns, along with mental illness and the influence of violent video games.

Little attention has been paid, though, to the industry’s youth-marketing initiatives. They stir passionate views, with proponents arguing that introducing children to guns can provide a safe and healthy pastime, and critics countering that it fosters a corrosive gun culture and is potentially dangerous.

The N.R.A. has for decades given grants for youth shooting programs, mostly to Boy Scout councils and 4-H groups, which traditionally involved single-shot rimfire rifles, BB guns and archery. Its $21 million in total grants in 2010 was nearly double what it gave out five years earlier.

The cover of a study exploring how to increase youth participation with guns.

Newer initiatives by other organizations go further, seeking to introduce children to high-powered rifles and handguns while invoking the same rationale of those older, more traditional programs: that firearms can teach “life skills” like responsibility, ethics and citizenship. And the gun industry points to injury statistics that it says show a greater likelihood of getting hurt cheerleading or playing softball than using firearms for fun and sport.

Still, some experts in child psychiatry say that encouraging youthful exposure to guns, even in a structured setting with an emphasis on safety, is asking for trouble. Dr. Jess P. Shatkin, the director of undergraduate studies in child and adolescent mental health at New York University, said that young people are naturally impulsive and that their brains “are engineered to take risks,” making them ill suited for handling guns.

“There are lots of ways to teach responsibility to a kid,” Dr. Shatkin said. “You don’t need a gun to do it.”

Steve Sanetti, the president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said it was better to instruct children in the safe use of a firearm through hunting and target shooting, and engage them in positive ways with the heritage of guns in America. His industry is well positioned for the task, he said, but faces an unusual challenge: introducing minors to activities that involve products they cannot legally buy and that require a high level of maturity.

Ultimately, Mr. Sanetti said, it should be left to parents, not the government, to decide if and when to introduce their children to shooting and what sort of firearms to use.

“It’s a very significant decision,” he said, “and it involves the personal responsibility of the parent and personal responsibility of the child.”

A discount coupon on a gun maker’s Web site.

An advertisement from the online Junior Shooters magazine.

A young boy firing a popular AR-15-style rifle at a shooting range. The gun is used in youth competitions.

Trying to Reverse a Trend

The shooting sports foundation, the tax-exempt trade association for the gun industry, is a driving force behind many of the newest youth initiatives. Its national headquarters is in Newtown, just a few miles from Sandy Hook Elementary School, where Adam Lanza, 20, used his mother’s Bushmaster AR-15 to kill 20 children and 6 adults last month.

The foundation’s $26 million budget is financed mostly by gun companies, associated businesses and the foundation’s SHOT Show, the industry’s annual trade show, according to its latest tax return.

Although shooting sports and gun sales have enjoyed a rebound recently, the long-term demographics are not favorable, as urbanization, the growth of indoor pursuits like video games and changing cultural mores erode consumer interest. Licensed hunters fell from 7 percent of the population in 1975 to fewer than 5 percent in 2005, according to federal data. Galvanized by the declining share, the industry redoubled its efforts to reverse the trend about five years ago.

The focus on young people has been accompanied by foundation-sponsored research examining popular attitudes toward hunting and shooting. Some of the studies used focus groups and telephone surveys of teenagers to explore their feelings about guns and people who use them, and offered strategies for generating a greater acceptance of firearms.

The Times reviewed more than a thousand pages of these studies, obtained from gun industry Web sites and online archives, some of them produced as recently as last year. Most were prepared by consultants retained by the foundation, and at least one was financed with a grant from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

In an interview, Mr. Sanetti said the youth-centered research was driven by the inevitable “tension” the industry faces, given that no one under 18 can buy a rifle or a shotgun from a licensed dealer or even possess a handgun under most circumstances. That means looking for creative and appropriate ways to introduce children to shooting sports.

“There’s nothing alarmist or sinister about it,” Mr. Sanetti said. “It’s realistic.”

Pointing to the need to “start them young,” one study concluded that “stakeholders such as managers and manufacturers should target programs toward youth 12 years old and younger.”

“This is the time that youth are being targeted with competing activities,” it said. “It is important to consider more hunting and target-shooting recruitment programs aimed at middle school level, or earlier.”

Aware that introducing firearms to young children could meet with resistance, several studies suggested methods for smoothing the way for target-shooting programs in schools. One cautioned, “When approaching school systems, it is important to frame the shooting sports only as a mechanism to teach other life skills, rather than an end to itself.”

In another report, the authors warned against using human silhouettes for targets when trying to recruit new shooters and encouraged using words and phrases like “sharing the experience,” “family” and “fun.” They also said children should be enlisted to prod parents to let them join shooting activities: “Such a program could be called ‘Take Me Hunting’ or ‘Take Me Shooting.’ ”

The industry recognized that state laws limiting hunting by children could pose a problem, according to a “Youth Hunting Report” prepared by the shooting sports foundation and two other groups. Declaring that “the need for aggressive recruitment is urgent,” the report said a primary objective should be to “eliminate or reduce age minimums.” Still another study recommended allowing children to get a provisional license to hunt with an adult, “perhaps even before requiring them to take hunter safety courses.”

The effort has succeeded in a number of states, including Wisconsin, which in 2009 lowered the minimum hunting age to 10 from 12, and Michigan, where in 2011 the age minimum for hunting small game was eliminated for children accompanied by an adult mentor. The foundation cited statistics suggesting that youth involvement in hunting, as well as target shooting, had picked up in recent years amid the renewed focus on recruitment.

Gun companies have spent millions of dollars to put their recruitment strategies into action, either directly or through the shooting sports foundation and other organizations. The support takes many forms.

The Scholastic Steel Challenge, started in 2009, introduces children as young as 12 to competitive handgun shooting using steel targets. Its “platinum” sponsors include the shooting sports foundation, Smith & Wesson and Glock, which donated 60 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistols, according to the group’s Web site.

The site features a quote from a gun company executive praising the youth initiative and saying that “anyone in the firearms industry that overlooks its potential is missing the boat.”

Larry Potterfield, the founder of MidwayUSA, one of the nation’s largest sellers of shooting supplies and a major sponsor of the Scholastic Steel Challenge, said he did not fire a handgun until he was 21, adding that they “are the most difficult guns to learn to shoot well.” But, he said, he sees nothing wrong with children using them.

“Kids need arm strength and good patience to learn to shoot a handgun well,” he said in an e-mail, “and I would think that would come in the 12-14 age group for most kids.”

Another organization, the nonprofit Youth Shooting Sports Alliance, which was created in 2007, has received close to $1 million in cash, guns and equipment from the shooting sports foundation and firearms-related companies, including ATK, Winchester and Sturm, Ruger & Company, its tax returns show. In 2011, the alliance awarded 58 grants. A typical grant: 23 rifles, 4 shotguns, 16 cases of ammunition and other materials, which went to a Michigan youth camp.

The foundation and gun companies also support Junior Shooters magazine, which is based in Idaho and was started in 2007. The publication is filled with catchy advertisements and articles about things like zombie targets, pink guns and, under the heading “Kids Gear,” tactical rifle components with military-style features like pistol grips and collapsible stocks.

Gun companies often send new models to the magazine for children to try out with adult supervision. Shortly after Sturm, Ruger announced in 2009 a new, lightweight semiautomatic rifle that had the “look and feel” of an AR-15 but used less expensive .22-caliber cartridges, Junior Shooters received one for review. The magazine had three boys ages 14 to 17 fire it and wrote that they “had an absolute ball!”

Junior Shooters’ editor, Andy Fink, acknowledged in an editorial that some of his magazine’s content stirred controversy.

“I have heard people say, even shooters that participate in some of the shotgun shooting sports, such things as, ‘Why do you need a semiautomatic gun for hunting?’ ” he wrote. But if the industry is to survive, he said, gun enthusiasts must embrace all youth shooting activities, including ones “using semiautomatic firearms with magazines holding 30-100 rounds.”

In an interview, Mr. Fink elaborated. Semiautomatic firearms are actually not weapons, he said, unless someone chooses to hurt another person with them, and their image has been unfairly tainted by the news media. There is no legitimate reason children should not learn to safely use an AR-15 for recreation, he said.

“They’re a tool, not any different than a car or a baseball bat,” Mr. Fink said. “It’s no different than a junior shooting a .22 or a shotgun. The difference is in the perception of the viewer.”

The Weapon of Choice

The AR-15, the civilian version of the military’s M-16 and M-4, has been aggressively marketed as a cool and powerful step up from more traditional target and hunting rifles. But its appearance in mass shootings — in addition to Newtown, the gun was also used last year in the movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colo., and the attack on firefighters in Webster, N.Y. — has prompted calls for tighter restrictions. The AR-15 is among the guns included in a proposed ban on a range of semiautomatic weapons that was introduced in the Senate last week.

Given the gun’s commercial popularity, it is perhaps unsurprising that AR-15-style firearms have worked their way into youth shooting programs. At a “Guns ’n Grillin” weekend last fall, teenagers at a Boy Scout council in Virginia got to shoot AR-15s. They are used in youth competitions held each year at a National Guard camp in Ohio, and in “junior clinics” taught by Army or Marine marksmanship instructors, some of them sponsored by gun companies or organizations they support.

ArmaLite, a successor company to the one that developed the AR-15, is offering a similar rifle, the AR-10, for the grand prize in a raffle benefiting the Illinois State Rifle Association’s “junior high-power” team, which uses AR-15s in its competitions. Bushmaster has offered on its Web site a coupon worth $350 off the price of an AR-15 “to support and encourage junior shooters.”

Military-style firearms are prevalent in a target-shooting video game and mobile app called Point of Impact, which was sponsored by the shooting sports foundation and Guns & Ammo magazine. The game — rated for ages 9 and up in the iTunes store — allows players to shoot brand-name AR-15 rifles and semiautomatic handguns at inanimate targets, and it provides links to gun makers’ Web sites as well as to the foundation’s “First Shots” program, intended to recruit new shooters.

Upon the game’s release in January 2011, foundation executives said in a news release that it was one of the industry’s “most unique marketing tools directed at a younger audience.” Mr. Sanetti of the shooting sports foundation said sponsorship of the game was an experiment intended to deliver safety tips to players, while potentially generating interest in real-life sports.

The confluence of high-powered weaponry and youth shooting programs does not sit well even with some proponents of those programs. Stephan Carlson, a University of Minnesota environmental science professor whose research on the positive effects of learning hunting and outdoor skills in 4-H classes has been cited by the gun industry, said he “wouldn’t necessarily go along” with introducing children to more powerful firearms that added nothing useful to their experience.

“I see why the industry would be pushing it, but I don’t see the value in it,” Mr. Carlson said. “I guess it goes back to the skill base we’re trying to instill in the kids. What are we preparing them for?”

For Mr. Potterfield of MidwayUSA, who said his own children started shooting “boys’ rifles” at age 4, getting young people engaged with firearms — provided they have the maturity and the physical ability to handle them — strengthens an endangered American tradition.

Mr. Potterfield and his wife, Brenda, have donated more than $5 million for youth shooting programs in recent years, a campaign that he said was motivated by philanthropy, not “return on investment.”

“Our gifting is pure benevolence,” he said. “We grew up and live in rural America and have owned guns, hunted and fished all of our lives. This is our community, and we hope to preserve it for future generations.”

I Senselessly Kill American Children. I’m The NRA

Bearing Arms: Children and Guns: The Hidden Toll

“It Was a Horrible, Horrible Accident”

Jodi Sandoval’s 14-year-old son, Noah McGuire, was accidentally shot and killed in Ohio last year by his friend Levi Reed.Photo: Michael F. McElroy; Video: Christopher Toothman for The New York Times

By  and 
SEPTEMBER 28, 2013 7 COMMENTS

The .45-caliber pistol that killed Lucas Heagren, 3, on Memorial Day last year at his Ohio home had been temporarily hidden under the couch by his father. But Lucas found it and shot himself through the right eye. “It’s bad,” his mother told the 911 dispatcher. “It’s really bad.”

A few days later in Georgia, Cassie Culpepper, 11, was riding in the back of a pickup with her 12-year-old brother and two other children. Her brother started playing with a pistol his father had lent him to scare coyotes. Believing he had removed all the bullets, he pointed the pistol at his sister and squeezed the trigger. It fired, and blood poured from Cassie’s mouth.

Just a few weeks earlier, in Houston, a group of youths found a Glock pistol in an apartment closet while searching for snack money. A 15-year-old boy was handling the gun when it went off. Alex Whitfield, who had just turned 11, was struck. A relative found the bullet in his ashes from the funeral home.

Cases like these are among the most gut-wrenching of gun deaths. Children shot accidentally — usually by other children — are collateral casualties of the accessibility of guns in America, their deaths all the more devastating for being eminently preventable.

They die in the households of police officers and drug dealers, in broken homes and close-knit families, on rural farms and in city apartments. Some adults whose guns were used had tried to store them safely; others were grossly negligent. Still others pulled the trigger themselves, accidentally fracturing their own families while cleaning a pistol or hunting.

And there are far more of these innocent victims than official records show.

A New York Times review of hundreds of child firearm deaths found that accidental shootings occurred roughly twice as often as the records indicate, because of idiosyncrasies in how such deaths are classified by the authorities. The killings of Lucas, Cassie and Alex, for instance, were not recorded as accidents. Nor were more than half of the 259 accidental firearm deaths of children under age 15 identified by The Times in eight states where records were available.

As a result, scores of accidental killings are not reflected in the official statistics that have framed the debate over how to protect children from guns.

The police investigation report in the Cassie Culpepper case indicates that her brother, Nicholas, shot her accidentally. But the state medical examiner classified her death as a homicide, a common practice for unintentional firearm deaths in which one person shoots another.

The National Rifle Association cited the lower official numbers this year in a fact sheet opposing “safe storage” laws, saying children were more likely to be killed by falls, poisoning or environmental factors — an incorrect assertion if the actual number of accidental firearm deaths is significantly higher.

In all, fewer than 20 states have enacted laws to hold adults criminally liable if they fail to store guns safely, enabling children to access them.

Legislative and other efforts to promote the development of childproof weapons using “smart gun” technology have similarly stalled. Technical issues have been an obstacle, but so have N.R.A. arguments that the problem is relatively insignificant and the technology unneeded.

Because of maneuvering in Congress by the gun lobby and its allies, firearms have also been exempted from regulation by the Consumer Product Safety Commission since its inception.

Even with a proper count, intentional shooting deaths of children — including gang shootings and murder-suicides by family members — far exceed accidental gun deaths. But accidents, more than the other firearm-related deaths, come with endless hypotheticals about what could have been done differently.

The rifle association’s lobbying arm recently posted on its Web site a claim that adult criminals who mishandle firearms — as opposed to law-abiding gun owners — are responsible for most fatal accidents involving children. But The Times’s review found that a vast majority of cases revolved around children’s access to firearms, with the shooting either self-inflicted or done by another child.

A common theme in the cases examined by The Times, in fact, was the almost magnetic attraction of firearms among boys. In all but a handful of instances, the shooter was male. Boys also accounted for more than 80 percent of the victims.

Time and again, boys could not resist handling a gun, disregarding repeated warnings by adults and, sometimes, their own sense that they were doing something wrong.

When Joshua Skorczewski, 11, took an unloaded 20-gauge shotgun out of the family gun cabinet in western Minnesota on July 28, 2008, it was because he was excited about going to a gun safety class that night and wanted to practice.

But for reasons that he later struggled to explain to the police, Joshua loaded a single shell into the gun and pulled the hammer back. He decided he should put the gun back, but his finger slipped. It fired, killing his 12-year-old sister, Natasha, who was standing in the kitchen with him. When his mother called from work to check on them, a shaken Joshua told her he had just called 911: “Mom, I shot Tasha.”

Alex Whitfield, 11, of Houston, was accidentally shot and killed by a 15-year-old friend with a gun they found in a closet in his father’s apartment. His mother, Christina Wenzel, is at right.Right: Michael Stravato for The New York Times

Christina Wenzel, the mother of Alex Whitfield, had tried to make sure he did not visit anyone’s house if guns were present. What she did not know, when Alex went to his father’s apartment last April, was that a family member had stored three loaded guns there.

“I always thought I had Alex protected from being killed by another child by a gun that was not secured,” Ms. Wenzel said. “Unfortunately, I was mistaken.”

Undercounting Deaths

Compiling a complete census of accidental gun deaths of children is difficult, because most states do not consider death certificate data a matter of public record. In a handful of states, however, the information is publicly available. Using these death records as a guide, along with hundreds of medical examiner and coroner reports and police investigative files, The Times sought to identify every accidental firearm death of a child age 14 and under in Georgia, Minnesota, North Carolina and Ohio dating to 1999, and in California to 2007. Records were also obtained from several county medical examiners’ offices in Florida, Illinois and Texas.

When children are killed in unintentional shootings, medical examiners and coroners classify many as homicides, or even suicides. A detailed examination by The New York Times of death records, available in just a handful of states, found that federal statistics appeared to understate the actual count.

The goal, in the end, was an in-depth portrait of accidental firearm deaths of children, one that would shed light on how such killings occur and might be prevented. In all, The Times cataloged 259 gun accidents that killed children ages 14 and younger. The youngest was just 9 months old, shot in his crib.

In four of the five states — California, Georgia, North Carolina and Ohio — The Times identified roughly twice as many accidental killings as were tallied in the corresponding federal data. In the fifth, Minnesota, there were 50 percent more accidental gun deaths. (The Times excluded some fatal shootings, like pellet gun accidents, that are normally included in the federal statistics.)

The undercount stems from the peculiarities by which medical examiners and coroners make their “manner of death” rulings. These pronouncements, along with other information entered on death certificates, are the basis for the nation’s mortality statistics, which are assembled by the National Center for Health Statistics, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Choosing among five options — homicide, accidental, suicide, natural or undetermined — most medical examiners and coroners simply call any death in which one person shoots another a homicide.

“A homicide just means they died at the hands of another,” said Dr. Randy L. Hanzlick, the chief medical examiner for Fulton County, Ga. “It doesn’t really connote there’s an intent to kill.”

These rulings can be wildly inconsistent.

In Bexar County, Tex., for example, the medical examiner’s office issued a finding of homicide in the death of William Reddick, a 9-month-old who was accidentally killed on May 17, 1999, when his 2-year-old brother opened a dresser drawer while in the crib with him, grabbed a pistol and pulled the trigger.

But the next year, when Kyle Bedford, 2, was killed by his 5-year-old brother, who had found a gun on a closet shelf, the same office classified the death as an accident.

The circumstances behind the accidental shooting deaths of Kyle Bedford and William Reddick were similar. But the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled one was a homicide and the other was an accident, highlighting just how inconsistent these pronouncements can be.

Even self-inflicted shootings that are clearly accidental, like that of Lucas Heagren in Ohio, can wind up classified as homicides.

Lucas’s father, Joshua Heagren, had tried to teach the 3-year-old to respect firearms. The boy had gotten a .22 rifle for Christmas, and his father showed him how to fire it. But he also warned him to handle it only when an adult was present.

“He never even attempted to touch guns when Josh wasn’t around,” Lucas’s mother, Kaitlin Campbell, testified at Mr. Heagren’s trial, where he was convicted of negligent homicide and endangering children. “He knew.”

On the day of the accident, Mr. Heagren had been planning to go out shooting, so he took his pistol from the bedroom, where he normally kept it in a holster between the mattress and the box spring, according to his court testimony. When Ms. Campbell and Lucas returned from buying an inflatable swimming pool, Mr. Heagren slid his gun under the couch before heading outside to set up the pool.

At some point, with his mother distracted by her phone a few steps away, Lucas discovered the gun, grabbed the butt and squeezed the trigger with his thumbs, according to the authorities.

“Our thought process was, parents have a duty to keep their child safe,” said Dr. Lisa Kohler, the Summit County medical examiner, whose office classified the case as a homicide. “Leaving a loaded weapon in an area where the child can easily access it is neglect in our mind. Therefore parents have failed to keep a child safe, and therefore it’s a homicide.”

Even cases in which children accidentally shoot themselves can wind up being classified as homicides, as shown in this Summit County Medical Examiner’s report on the death of Lucas Heagren.

Lucas Heagren with his father, Joshua, on Christmas 2011, holding a .22 rifle that was a present. The photograph was evidence in Mr. Heagren’s negligent homicide trial after Lucas shot himself.

Dr. Kohler said that because of the neglect issue, her office would almost never classify a firearm-related death as accidental, but added, “Different jurisdictions are going to handle things differently.”

Bob Anderson, the chief of the mortality statistics branch at the National Center for Health Statistics, explained that the federal data on firearm deaths are “only as good as the information that comes in.”

“I try to tell people when they look at the accidental data, particularly for children, you have to recognize it’s an underestimate,” he said.

A few public health researchers have noted the undercount in the past, based on their own academic studies. (One study found the opposite phenomenon — an overcount — among fatal gun accidents involving adults because of a different quirk in the data.) To get more accurate information about firearm deaths, researchers have pushed for the expansion of the National Violent Death Reporting System.

The effort first started in the 1990s at the C.D.C. but was shut down shortly afterward when Congress, at the urging of the N.R.A., blocked firearms-related research at the centers. The project was revived in 2002 after researchers decided to expand its scope beyond guns, but it is up and running in only 18 states. President Obama has called for increased financing for the program, part of a package of gun-related proposals made after the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., last December.

Another important aspect of firearm accidents is that a vast majority of victims do not die. Tracking these injuries nationally, however, is arguably just as problematic as tallying fatalities, according to public health researchers. In fact, national figures often cited from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Web site are an estimate, projected from a sampling taken from hospital emergency departments. Nevertheless, in 2011, the most recent year with available data, the agency estimated that there were 847 unintentional nonfatal firearm injuries among children 14 and under.

More concrete are actual counts of emergency department visits, which are available in a small number of states. In North Carolina, for instance, there were more than 120 such visits for nonfatal gun accidents among children 17 and under in 2010, the most recent year for which data is available.

A Failed Lock

On a hot and humid August afternoon last year in Hinesville, Ga., Matthew Underhill, a staff sergeant in the Army, was mowing the lawn while his wife, Tessa, was in the house watching television with their 5-year-old son, Matthew. Their other son, Tristan, 2, was scampering down a hallway toward the bedrooms.

It had been a good day for Tristan. He had used the potty for the first time. He and his mother had danced a little jig. Down the hall, Tristan entered the bedroom where his father had been staying because of quarrels with his wife. She had chided her husband in the past for forgetting to safely store his .45-caliber handgun. But he had recently put a lock on his door to keep out his wife and children. He thought he had locked the door before going out to cut the grass.

Tristan Underhill, 2, died from an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound after he found his father’s gun under a pillow in an unlocked bedroom.

The lock, though, had failed to catch. Tristan found the loaded gun under the pillow on his father’s bed. He pointed it at his own forehead and pulled the trigger. Hearing the gunshot, Sergeant Underhill sprinted inside to find Tristan face down on the bed, the gun beneath him. When he called 911, the sergeant was screaming so hysterically that the dispatcher initially mistook him for a woman.

“My 2-year-old just shot himself in the head,” he said breathlessly. “He’s dead.”

Tristan’s death underscored several themes running through the cases examined by The Times.

While about 60 percent of the accidental firearm deaths identified by The Times involved handguns as opposed to long guns, that number was much higher — more than 85 percent — when the victims were very young, under the age of 6. In fact, the average handgun victim was several years younger than long gun victims: between 7 and 8, compared with almost 11.

Over all, the largest number of deaths came at the upper end of the age range, with ages 13 and 14 being most common — not necessarily surprising, given that parents generally allow adolescents greater access to guns. But the third-most common age was 3 (tied with 12), a particularly vulnerable age, when children are curious and old enough to manipulate a firearm but ignorant of the dangers.

About a quarter of the victims shot themselves, with younger children again especially susceptible. More than half of the self-inflicted shootings involved children 5 or under; the most common age was 3.

About half of the accidents took place inside the child’s home. A third, however, occurred at the house of a friend or a relative, pointing to a potential vulnerability if safe-storage laws apply only to households with children, as in North Carolina.

In opposing safe-storage laws, some gun rights advocates have argued that a majority of accidental shootings of children are committed by adults with criminal backgrounds. The Times’s review found that was not the case — children were most often the shooters — and that the families involved came from all walks of life.

On Dec. 1, 2006, Beth Dwyer was getting her two boys, ages 5 and 8, ready for school. Her husband, Daron, the minister of music at the family’s church in Gastonia, N.C., was not home because he had enrolled in a seminary several hours away. The night before, Ms. Dwyer had taken the family’s .25-caliber handgun from the top drawer of a dresser and placed it next to her on the bed. In the morning, she forgot to put it away.

Her 8-year-old found the gun. He initially tried to cock it and pulled the trigger, pointing the gun at the bathroom floor, but nothing happened, according to the medical examiner’s report. Evidently thinking the gun was empty, he tried again, pointing the gun at his brother, Matthew, who was crouched on the bathroom counter, having just finished brushing his teeth. This time, with a live round in the chamber, the gun went off, and Matthew toppled to the floor, shot through the forehead.

Based on a detailed examination of 259 gun deaths of children under 15 from jurisdictions that make death records public, including California, Georgia, Minnesota, North Carolina and Ohio, as well as Bexar, Tarrant and Harris Counties in Texas; Broward and Orange Counties in Florida; and Cook County, Ill.

Even in accidental shootings where criminals were in some way involved, they usually were not the ones pulling the trigger. Rather, they — like many law-abiding adults in these cases — simply left a gun unsecured.

As a felon, Anthony Wise was not supposed to have a firearm. But he was able to buy a .38 Special revolver on the street for $30. He had it in his ex-girlfriend’s apartment in Venice, Ill., on Jan. 29, 2007, when he left it next to a computer in the living room and went to another room. Within minutes, a 4-year-old boy, one of several small children in the apartment, picked up the gun and pointed it at his 2-year-old cousin, Timberlyn Terrell. The gun fired. The boy later told an investigator what happened next.

“Blood came out of her forehead,” the boy said, according to a transcript of the interview. He then said he did not want to talk about it anymore and asked for “my mama.”

Timberlyn died. Mr. Wise was convicted of felony firearm possession, but his 10-year federal prison sentence was based in part on the judge’s determination that he had also endangered a child with his negligence.

“Wise would have been a felon in possession even had he possessed the gun in a more responsible way — say, if he had kept it unloaded in a locked cabinet, or if he had kept it unloaded with a trigger lock,” an appellate judge wrote in rejecting his bid for leniency. “More than likely, though, responsible possession would not have endangered the lives of children.”

Safety vs. Self-Defense

The impact of the undercount of accidental gun deaths emerges in stark relief in the statehouse battles over gun-storage laws.

In state after state and often with considerable success, gun rights groups have cited the federal numbers as proof that the problem is nearly inconsequential and that storage laws are unnecessary. Gun Owners of America says on its Web site that children are “130 percent more likely to die from choking on their dinner” than from accidental shootings.

In February 2012, the rifle association issued a member alert about a proposed safe-storage law in Washington State, arguing that shootings are “at the bottom of the list of causes of accidental harm to children.” The group accused State Senator Adam Kline, who introduced the measure, of being interested only in “making life miserable for law-abiding gun owners.” The legislation never made it out of committee.

Under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures, in fact, gun accidents were the ninth-leading cause of unintentional deaths among children ages 1 to 14 in 2010. (The agency reported 62 such killings that year.) If the actual numbers are, in fact, roughly double, however, gun accidents would rise into the top five or six.

Gun rights groups have certainly called on gun owners to safely store their firearms. The National Shooting Sports Foundation says that it has distributed 36 million free firearm safety kits and that manufacturers have shipped 60 million locks with guns sold since 1998. But the groups argue that requiring gun owners to lock up their weapons could make it harder to use them for self-protection.

The rifle association and its allies also often note that studies on the impact of safe-storage laws have found mixed results. But those studies are based on the flawed government statistics.

“When we’re evaluating child access laws, we’re using total trash data,” said Catherine Barber, a researcher at the Injury Control Research Center of the Harvard School of Public Health.

Getting a definitive count of the number of states with a safe-storage law is difficult, but The Times identified only 18, using information from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and researchers who have studied the laws. And in most of those states, charges can be brought only if the child uses the weapon in a threatening manner, injures someone with it or displays it in public.

Even so, in one state, North Carolina, where the law is narrowly drawn to apply only to adults with minors living at home, the authorities charged about 150 people between June 2006 and June 2011, an analysis of court records shows.

An Accidental Shooting

14-year-old Noah McGuire was accidentally shot by a friend, with a gun that had been kept behind a television.Photo: Chris Parker/ThisWeek Newspapers; Video: Vijai Singh and Christopher Toothman for The New York Times

Jodi Sandoval of Ohio discovered the limits of her state’s laws after her 14-year-old son, Noah McGuire, was accidentally killed on July 5, 2012, in a suburb of Columbus.

Noah had slept over at the home of his close friend Levi Reed, who lived with his grandparents. In the morning, with no adults around, the boys went looking for a lighter to set off some fireworks. Instead, they found a .45-caliber handgun behind a television in a bedroom, one of three guns that Levi’s grandfather later told the police he had kept there for protection.

Though his grandfather had always admonished him never to handle the weapons, Levi, 14, removed the magazine, pointed the gun at his friend and pulled the trigger. He did not realize that a round had remained in the chamber.

Levi was recently sentenced in juvenile court to 12 months of probation for reckless homicide, a felony. Ms. Sandoval strongly opposed the prosecution, telling the court at Levi’s sentencing that the adults who failed to properly secure the gun were the ones who should be punished. But there is no safe-storage law in Ohio.

“There are no accidents,” Ms. Sandoval said. “There are simply irresponsible, stubborn, cowardly adults unwilling to stand up against the gun lobby and those who support it.”

A safe-storage bill was introduced in the Ohio legislature in February, prompted by a shooting that killed three students at a high school in suburban Cleveland. But the measure, which would prohibit storing a firearm in a residence in a place readily accessible to a child, has encountered skepticism from the Republicans who control the legislature.

“The tenor was, somebody breaks in, do I have time enough to get to my gun?” said State Representative Bill Patmon, a Democrat who introduced the bill.

A similar measure introduced in Louisiana this year also went nowhere.

The N.R.A. has long argued that better education is the key to preventing gun accidents, citing its Eddie Eagle GunSafe program, which teaches children as young as 3 that if they see a gun, they should “stop, don’t touch, leave the area and tell an adult.” The association, which did not respond to a request for comment, says its program has reached more than 26 million children in all 50 states and should be credited for the deep decline in accidental gun deaths shown in federal statistics dating to the mid-1980s.

Beyond the unreliability of the federal data, public health experts have disputed the N.R.A.’s claims, pointing to other potential explanations for the decline, including improvements in emergency medical care, along with data showing fewer households with firearms. They also highlight research indicating that admonishing children to stay away from guns is often ineffective.

“I have no problem with that message, and I would hope every child in America could follow it,” said Dr. Arthur Kellermann, a co-author of a study published in 2001 in the journal Pediatrics. “I just know that they won’t.”

As part of Dr. Kellermann’s study, researchers watched through a one-way mirror as pairs of boys ages 8 to 12 were left alone in an examination room at a clinic in Atlanta. Unknown to the children, an inoperative .38-caliber handgun was concealed in a cabinet drawer.

Noah McGuire with his father, Matt McGuire. Noah was shot by his friend Levi Reed with a gun found in Levi’s grandfather’s house. Levi thought the gun was unloaded.

Playing and exploring over the next 15 minutes, one boy after another — three-quarters of the 64 children — found the gun. Two-thirds handled it, and one-third actually pulled the trigger. Just one child went to tell an adult about the gun, and he was teased by his peers for it. More than 90 percent of the boys said they had had some gun safety instruction.

Other research has found that simply having a firearm in the household is correlated with an increased risk of accidental shooting death. In one study, published in 2003 in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention, the risk was more than three times as high for one gun, and almost four times as high for more than one.

As a solution, many behavioral researchers advocate greater emphasis on child-proofing firearms, along with safe-storage laws. But requiring, or even encouraging, efforts to introduce “smart gun” technology remains unpopular with the gun lobby, which has worked to undermine such research and attempts to regulate firearms as a dangerous consumer product.

In 2000, after President Bill Clinton proposed spending $10 million to help develop a gun that could be fired only by its owner, the rifle association ran derisory radio ads. One, called “Mad Scientist,” featured a Clinton impersonator and a bumbling scientist “deep in the White House laboratory,” trying in vain to get the new technology to work.

A commercially successful smart gun has, in fact, proved difficult to develop. Hurdles include creating fail-safe user-recognition technology, integrating delicate electronic components that can withstand shock from repeated firings, and allaying concerns of manufacturers fearful of liability if a supposedly safe gun was to fail.

Technologies exist, but a lack of research financing has hobbled their progress to the market, as have questions about whether consumers would actually want them. The opposition from gun rights advocates has certainly not helped. Some gun control advocates, meanwhile, fear that such technologies would lead to greater acceptance of firearms in the home.

In the mid-2000s, an Australian defense technology company called Metal Storm teamed with the gun maker Taurus International Manufacturing and the New Jersey Institute of Technology to develop a gun in the United States that would have fired only when gripped by its owner. New Jersey became the first state to require that handguns use smart-gun technology within three years after it is deemed safe and commercially available.

But Taurus backed out within a few months, citing competing priorities, and the project fell apart. Charles Vehlow, Metal Storm’s chief executive at the time, said that while he did not know exactly what pressures Taurus faced, there was a general wariness of smart-gun efforts among manufacturers and pro-gun groups.

“There was no question that the N.R.A. was very sensitive and was aware of what we were doing,” he said.

The Colt’s Manufacturing Company and Smith & Wesson experienced a backlash against their own smart-gun programs, which were abandoned amid financial problems caused, in part, by boycotts from gun groups and others in the industry. So unpopular was the whole smart-gun concept that Colt’s Manufacturing later could not even find a buyer for its patents, said Carlton Chen, a former lawyer for the company.

“I think people looked at Colt’s, they looked at the boycott and they looked at Smith & Wesson, and they thought, ‘Do we really want to go it alone?’ ” Mr. Chen said. “Gun companies have to be fairly careful about what they do.”

Gun rights lobbyists have also helped keep firearms and ammunition beyond the reach of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which has the power to regulate other products that are dangerous to children. The N.R.A. argues that the commission would provide a back door for gun control advocates to restrict the manufacture of firearms. Proponents of regulation say guns pose too great a hazard to exclude them from scrutiny.

“We know in the world of injury control that designing safer products is often the most efficient way to reduce tragedies,” said Dr. Kellermann, the co-author of the boys-and-guns study, who is a dean at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. “Why, if we have childproof aspirin bottles, don’t we have childproof guns?”

A Complex Relationship

A few months ago, Daron Dwyer took his 14-year-old son shooting for the first time, six years after he accidentally killed his brother with the gun he found in his parents’ North Carolina bedroom.

Matthew Dwyer, 5, was shot by his brother with a pistol his mother had left out at their home in North Carolina.

Mr. Dwyer had removed all the guns from the house, sending them to his father. But about a year ago, his son started asking if he could learn to shoot. Mr. Dwyer said he would think about it.

It was a question that Mr. Dwyer, who now works as a fitness director at a Y.M.C.A., knew would come. Relatives would often go shooting together during family gatherings. His son was fascinated by all things military. Guns were simply a part of life where they were from. “In my context, there’s a part of a young man’s growing-up experience that includes exposure to firearms,” Mr. Dwyer said. “That’s one of the responsibilities, like learning how to drive a car.”

Mr. Dwyer also saw an opportunity for forgiveness. “It’s kind of a tangible expression of the reality of ‘I do not hold this against you,’ ” he said.

So, alone in the Tennessee woods with his son this past spring, Mr. Dwyer watched him fire a .22 rifle a few times, and a 12-gauge shotgun. In the shattering of the stillness of the forest clearing, both sensed the import of the moment.

“I’m a quietly emotional person usually,” Mr. Dwyer said. “And so I didn’t burst into tears or anything, but inside that’s exactly what it was, mostly in the sense of me wanting him to realize this whole thing of forgiveness, to really feel the impact of the weight lifted, which I think he did.”

Mr. Dwyer’s feelings on guns today are complicated. He still firmly believes in “the right for people to defend themselves.” At the same time, he said: “It is also right to protect children from danger. Those are things you have to hold in tension.”

Under North Carolina law, his wife could have been charged for failing to keep the gun that killed their younger son stored safely. But she was not. Mr. Dwyer described her mistake as a momentary mental lapse, not blatant negligence. And he said that while he agreed with the law in principle, he also had sympathy for the objections to it.

“For defense at night,” he said, “I don’t think you should have to have a lock on it because you’re going to have to access it quickly.”

The deep hold that guns have on American culture also emerges in interviews with several other parents who lost children to firearms accidents.

In the summer of 2009, Joshua Skorczewski finally completed the gun safety classes he had been planning to attend a year before, the night he accidentally killed his sister in Minnesota. His parents thought that it would be good for him to be schooled on safety, that the training would be helpful, “so he would not be afraid of guns,” said his mother, Wendy Skorczewski.

Ms. Skorczewski had once planned to go through the classes too, but later decided against it. “I don’t want nothing to do with them anymore,” she said.

For two years after Joshua went through the training, the family’s rifles and shotguns remained locked away. Joshua and his father returned to bowhunting, but it was not until 2011 that they took out the shotguns again to hunt pheasants.

Ms. Skorczewski explained that in her part of the country, hunting is “in your blood.” She knew she could not ask her husband to get rid of his guns. He needs the escape that hunting provides, she said: “You got to have something to do in your life other than work.”

Tessa Underhill at the playground where she and her son Tristan used to come to play. She is holding an urn with his ashes.Stephen Morton for The New York Times

Tessa Underhill, whose son Tristan was killed last year in Georgia, has also struggled over where to draw the line. As a former corrections officer and Army veteran, she is no stranger to firearms. She used to enjoy going out shooting. Now she is finished with guns, refusing to allow them in her house.

“My child living is more important to me than somebody stealing my flat screen,” she said.

She knows, however, that her husband, whom she is in the process of divorcing, still has a rifle. Her other son, Matthew, now 6, is therefore still exposed to firearms. When asked if she would want Matthew to go shooting with his father one day or be a gun owner himself, she paused.

“That’s a hard question,” she said. “I know that’s something men do, that fathers and sons do.”

“You need to know how to use one,” she added. “Do I want him to have a gun case full of guns? If he keeps them unloaded and is safe about it.”

Griff Palmer contributed reporting.

A Ghastly Ritual Repeats Itself. The Senseless Massacre of American Continues Thanks To The NRA

Gun Control Now https://guncontrolnowusa.wordpress.com
https://guncontrolnowusa.wordpress.com

The dreadful monotony and morbidity of the gun control discussion in this country has left me dispirited.

Another mass shooting. Another round of shock, sadness and outrage. Another pitched discussion about rights and responsibilities, mental illness and background checks. And then nothing.

The pundits debate merits. The public demands action. But in the end, N.R.A. intimidation pressures the cowards in Congress to maintain the status quo and scare ordinary citizens into believing that they face extraordinary threats — from the burglars out to steal property to a government out to rob them of their guns and the Second Amendment.

As President Obama told Telemundo:

“I do get concerned that this becomes a ritual that we go through every three, four months, where we have these horrific mass shootings, and yet, we’re not willing to take some basic actions that we know could make a difference.”

But it has become a ritual, and we — or at least too many of our congressmen and congresswomen — are too afraid to act. We are stuck in a cycle of savagery as one shooter after another catches us in his sights.

One reason we talk past one another on guns is that we’re talking from vastly different worldviews.

According to a March report by the Pew Research Center, gun owners are more likely to be men than women, older rather than younger, white rather than black or Hispanic, live in the Midwest and South, live in rural or suburban areas, and be married. In many ways, this gun ownership division reflects the ideological split in our politics.

Another reason is that N.R.A. and gun lobby scare tactics have been depressingly effective. They raise the dander of one-issue voters to dazzling effect, and that leaves politicians groveling at their feet.

So rational discussion gets lost in the weeds of extreme rhetoric. This is not an all-or-nothing battle. But we must approach the issue and the facts with an open mind.

And we have to start with one point: the vast majority of gun owners are responsible, law-abiding citizens. They own guns for protection, hunting, sports or even as collectors.

If most of these people weren’t responsible, there would be far more mass shootings than there are now.

The problem, rather, is that there are simply too many guns in this country to ever ensure that some portion will not fall into the hands of the criminally inclined or the violently insane.

Gun proliferation is a chicken that has come home to roost.

According to the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey, there were an estimated 270 million civilian firearms in this country in 2011. The country with the second highest number of weapons — 46 million — was India, which has nearly four times the population of America. A November 2012 Congressional Research Service report put the estimate even higher, at approximately 310 million firearms “available to citizens.” That’s almost one gun to every man, woman and child in this country.

That leads to this idea of guns-as-protection, the idea that because criminals already have guns, law-abiding citizens need to have them too, just to even the playing field — or dare I say, killing field.

According to that March Pew report, protection has replaced hunting as the No. 1 reason that people own guns.

The notion that the world is more dangerous than it used to be and you can be kept safe only with more guns is a linchpin of the N.R.A. argument and a profit inflater for the gun industry. As the N.R.A.’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, put it: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

The only problem is that the facts don’t neatly line up with that line of reasoning.

A June report from the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council entitled “Priorities for Research to Reduce the Threat of Firearm-Related Violence” had some intriguing but not conclusive findings.

According to the report, there were about 300,000 violent crimes involving firearms in 2008. However, the estimated range of defensive uses of firearms ranged from 108,000 to more than three million. Furthermore, the report pointed out that studies of the effectiveness of the defensive use of guns “have found consistently lower injury rates among gun using crime victims compared with victims who used other self-protective strategies.”

However, the study hastened to add:

“Even when defensive use of guns is effective in averting death or injury for the gun user in cases of crime, it is still possible that keeping a gun in the home or carrying a gun in public — concealed or open carry — may have a different net effect on the rate of injury. For example, if gun ownership raises the risk of suicide, homicide, or the use of weapons by those who invade the homes of gun owners this could cancel or outweigh the beneficial effects of defensive gun use.”

Furthermore, a study this month in the American Journal of Public Health found the following:

“We observed a robust correlation between higher levels of gun ownership and higher firearm homicide rates. Although we could not determine causation, we found that states with higher rates of gun ownership had disproportionately large numbers of deaths from firearm-related homicides.”

The ambiguity here points to a much larger problem: the dearth of serious scientific studies on gun violence. A letter to the vice president and the Gun Violence Commission members, signed by more than 100 researchers from respected universities, pointed out that from 1973 to 2012, there were more than four million firearm injuries in America. Meanwhile, the letter said, the National Institutes of Health granted only three major research awards to study the epidemic over that time. By comparison, there were just 400 cases of cholera in America during that period, but the N.I.H. awarded 212 major research awards to study the disease.

This is in part because Congress discourages serious study of this issue. As the letter points out:

“Subsection c of section 503 and 218 of FY2013 Appropriations Act governing NIH and CDC funding still contains the language: ‘None of the funds made available in this title may be used, in whole or in part, to advocate or promote gun control.’ ”

We could get serious about this issue. We could turn away from scaring people and toward scientific principles. We could commit more money to more studies about the causes of and solutions to gun violence in this country, while sidestepping the talking-point spouters and the finger pointers and the profit makers.

But that would require courage and commitment, qualities that sadly run a deficit in Washington.