May 28, 2013
New York Times (Once Again) Decides Gun Industry is Irresponsible; After a Trip through 10-Year-Old Deposition Records
Given they have a little patience and no deadline, it is not generally difficult for journalists to go in search of and then to find selective statements that tend to support their (or their editors’) predispositions. And there may be no better exercise in this regard than to dig through old deposition transcripts and to pick out quotes that can be characterized, both by choice of phrase and by opponents, in an unfavorable light.
And such was the case for the Monday New York Times story with the misleading headline “Gun Makers Saw No Role in Curbing Improper Sales” for which two Times reporters dug through thousands of pages of depositions taken in connection with a decade old series of liability lawsuits brought by several cities. It is important to note that all of these lawsuits were either dismissed or voluntarily abandoned by the municipalities that brought them.
In this article, however, the writers’ assumptions are never in doubt and mirror those of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence that, along with other anti-gun organizations, usually get the opportunity to set the agenda for these stories in the mainstream media. The goal of these groups is to discredit firearms manufacturers and retailers and ultimately gain passage of additional legislation to further restrict the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. They do not want to focus on truly effective law enforcement tactics to reduce the criminal misuse of firearms, but instead focus on the sales process.
Depositions are used by plaintiffs’ lawyers to wear down potential witnesses into making seemingly revelatory or contradictory statements and they will use whatever tactics best serves their cause. Depositions do not provide impartial fact-finding. But even after the grueling questioning process, the 10-year-old excerpted statements from company executives of the time were unsurprising. Rather, it was the characterization and juxtaposition of the statements against judgments from anti-gun activists that provides fulfillment of the preconceived narrative. But don’t take our word for it. Read the article and decide for yourself. If this is not a case of confirmation bias, we don’t know what is.
We could say more, but what we will address here today is the outright falsehood attributed to an affidavit quoted in the article that “Leaders in the industry have consistently resisted talking constructive voluntary action to prevent firearms from ending up in the illegal gun market …” Quite the contrary, the firearms industry through NSSF’s “Don’t Lie for the Other Guy” program has for more than a decade partnered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) to assist law enforcement in educating firearms retailers to be better able to identify and deter illegal straw purchases and to raise public awareness that straw purchasing is a serious crime. Among additional measures, NSSF also matches ATF reward offers for thefts of firearms from federally licensed retailers, runs retailer education legal compliance seminars, and provides a number of videos and publications about the importance of inventory controls and store security. Lastly, NSSF has launched a national campaign to fix the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to ensure all appropriate records on persons that should be prohibited from purchases are, in fact, entered into the NICS system.
As an industry we’ll stand on the record of what was said in its entirety 10 years ago and on what we’re doing today.
Larry Keane is senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Follow him on Twitter at @lkeane.