Yes, I’m afraid so.

The Gun Nut Lobby (GNL) did a very good job at eviscerating the gun-check law. When US Army Major Nidal Hasan purchased a super powerful pistol for the purpose of killing several of his fellow soldiers, the law required a background check which was processed by one part of the FBI as per usual. That information … that there was a purchase of a deadly weapon … could not be made available in any other way, so the other part of the FBI, which was busy looking into Hasan as a possible security threat, was not allowed to know about it.

Gun Nuts: You owe the family members of those slain at Fort Hood an apology, and you should not expect them to accept it. Your misguided paranoid libertarian fears and your inappropriate political meddling have made real and effective gun control legislation impossible. That really has to stop, and perhaps the formation of a “Fort Hood commission” will help bring some sense to this issue.

On a related story:

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Comments

  1. #1 NewEnglandBob
    November 11, 2009

    Greg, you expect rationality out of the gun lobby. It is not possible. Their libido will be crushed.

  2. #2 Roadtripper
    November 11, 2009

    Take a number. Everybody’s got someone they want to pin the blame on for this tragedy. As long as it’s not, you know, the guy who actually did it.

    Rt

  3. #3 Dwayne Jones
    November 11, 2009

    I’m not sure that the NRA was directly responsible for the FBI’s inability to properly communicate internally. This happened just before 9/11 as well and there were no gun purchases involved. And to just lump everyone who likes firearms in together like that makes you no better than a racist who thinks all black people steal. I’m a “gun nut” and I’m a liberal atheistic secular humanist progressive. I’m not a member of the NRA I completely resent you generalizing all firearm enthusiasts like this. I’m not apologizing to anyone. I’ve seen some pretty good articles on your blog, but this is the most ignorant short sighted piece I’ve seen. Please stick to the science and stay away from the politics. If you don’t like guns, don’t buy one.

  4. #4 Kierra
    November 11, 2009

    Can you post the source for that? I’d like some ammunition against some right-wing crazies who think that “political correctness” was the reason the shooting wasn’t prevented.

  5. #5 Rob Monkey
    November 11, 2009

    Dwayne, as a fellow liberal atheist gun-owner (did I just hear a million Republicans shudder?), I can sympathize, but I don’t really think this article characterizes all gun owners in a certain way. Personally I want the right to own guns for target shooting and hunting, but I have no problem with the idea that if someone’s under investigation for being a possible threat, that the FBI could find out that they were buying a handgun. I was a junior member of the NRA, but as I came of age I realized that they were more concerned with protecting the rights of the Michigan Militia to own Teflon-covered bullets rather than trying to protect the rights of those of us not in the tinfoil hat wearing crowd. Although you’ll have to forgive me, I’m a lot less sympathetic to handgun purchasers (even though I own one), simply because they are used in a lot more crimes, and frankly if you’re gonna protect your house, a good ol’ duck hunting 12 gauge beats a handgun any day.

  6. #6 Greg Laden
    November 11, 2009

    RoadTripper: I blame the shooter. But I blame this regulation, the way it works, as part of the reason he was not picked up by the FBI and disarmed prior to the event. That should be pretty clear.

    Dwayne: This happened just before 9/11 as well and there were no gun purchases involved.

    Huh?

    I’m not a member of the NRA I completely resent you generalizing all firearm enthusiasts like this.

    I simply have not done that. I use the term “gun nut” for a reason and I separate “gun nuts” from others who happen to own guns, use them for sport, etc. I’ve been clear on this all along.

    The truth is, Dwayne, that I’m right about this. THe gun lobby, fueled mainly by gun nuts and the firarms and ammo industry, have made the gun check laws impotent, and this is the proverbial chicken coming home to roost. People like you polarize this debate and make it impossible to have an actual conversation. And then people die.

    Your fault. Deal.

    Please stick to the science and stay away from the politics. If you don’t like guns, don’t buy one.

    Thanks for the advice. I’ll be sure to check with you next time I write a blog post to see if it is something that rubs you the wrong way.

    Kierra, there will be something on this in the NYT soon.

  7. #7 Rob Monkey
    November 11, 2009

    I would love to see more gun owners taking a reasonable view on this. Disney movies have conditioned us to think all hunters are gun crazy maniacs (Fox and the Hound anyone?), but any of us who actually hunts or knows a hunter knows that most of us are concerned with the environment, love nature, etc., etc. But I can’t even count the number of Stallone/Schwarzenegger/Van Damme worshiping fools I know who just want anyone to be able to carry their Glock anywhere they feel like it, even though most of them know next to nothing about firearms. Guns are dangerous, and just like dangerous chemicals, we should make sure that those getting them aren’t going to immediately go out and do something bad with them. Not to continue flogging the deceased Equus ferus caballus, but if you want a gun for sporting reasons, great. If you want it to protect your house, I’ll leave everyone with the advice I’ve gotten from multiple cops on the subject: Get an alarm, or even better, a dog. If the guy robbing your house hears an alarm go off or even a little pocket pooch start going nuts, he gonna pick another house, which means you don’t have to get out of bed in the middle of the night to put a bunch of holes in your walls and fill out police paperwork.

  8. #8 Jeff Darcy
    November 11, 2009

    If something like this can happen on an army base, of all places, it would sure seem to blow a big gaping hole in the “lots of well armed people keep everyone safe” argument I often see. Beyond that, I’ll decline comment.

  9. #9 Greg Laden
    November 11, 2009

    Actually, Jeff, an army base

    (as has been pointed out here:

    http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2009/11/lets_get_a_few_things_straight.php

    (in the comments))

    there may be very few firearms on an army base, as those who own personal firearms must check them at the door and the other guns and ammo are all heavily controlled.

    You really have to stop dissing the gun nuts like this, man.

  10. #10 "Gun Nut"
    November 11, 2009

    The army base was a “gun free zone” as far as those wandering around were concerned, as despite there being a lot of guns around, you can’t carry them on base without permission, so most people were walking around unarmed except for the armed MPs, who responded as a standard police force does – with force, too late.

    Guns don’t kill people. Gun free zones kill people.

  11. #11 Rob Monkey
    November 11, 2009

    Hmmm, this doesn’t seem to have been a gun free zone. Ya know, cause of all the fucking GUNS around? If anything, it seems like an intelligent security free zone, as they apparently didn’t actually check to see if he was packing in this “gun free zone.”

  12. #12 Deen
    November 11, 2009

    Guns don’t kill people. Gun free zones kill people.

    Aren’t you forgetting something? As soon as someone starts firing a gun, it’s not a gun-free zone anymore, now is it? Gun-free zones don’t kill people, gun-nuts that bring guns into gun-free zones kill people.

  13. #13 Enoch
    November 11, 2009

    Enough distractions about the gun free zone crap. Read the OP. The FBI could have had this guy but the NRA made certain that it could not happen.

  14. #14 Stephanie Z
    November 11, 2009

    Guns don’t kill people. Gun free zones kill people.

    This is, of course, why the urban area in which I live never has any fatal shootings. There are too many guns here for that to happen. There are even fewer shootings in North Minneapolis, where more people own and carry. “Gun Nut”, have you even stopped to think about what you’re typing?

    It’s the same thing with your snark about police using force late. I sure as hell don’t want them using it early.

    This is not an issue for soundbites.

  15. #15 rpsms
    November 11, 2009

    If the other half of the FBI heard about it, would they have been able to (legally) prevent the sale? AFAIK he wasn’t guilty of anything that would prevent him from passing the check.

    The FBI is a paranoid institution. Heck, my own father has a file.

  16. #16 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    November 11, 2009

    Thanks for the advice. I’ll be sure to check with you next time I write a blog post to see if it is something that rubs you the wrong way.

    I think that this is a good idea. There have been some wonderful organizations in the history of the written word who have assisted writers in pre-approving what gets published, and burning the writers of what doesn’t get published.

    I like guns, but I think that the registration and purchase of them should be at least as stringent as that for autos.

  17. #17 Jared
    November 11, 2009

    Pardon the brevity, but I am commenting via cell phone
    needed:
    1. regulations which can be and are enforced
    2. waiting periods with background checks at the puchase and end of the waiting period-two months or so sounds good
    3. making firearm sales between individuals without an intermediary licensed dealership following these rules illegal
    4. fewer licensed dealerships and the requirement to cover the cost of background checks

  18. #18 Greg Laden
    November 11, 2009

    RPMS: The FBI was investigating him for possible terrorist activities. I don’t think that stopping the sale of a gun would have been the point, or the only possible action, or even close to the best possible action.

  19. #19 Gwenny
    November 11, 2009

    Dwayne

    Don’t waste your time. Greg has things he irrationally hates and he’s as bad as a right wing nut in misrepresenting them. I’m taking him out of my feed for a bit. He goes through cycles and he’ll be back to what passes for normal for him in a week or so. Until then, I have plenty of other atheist and science blogs to read where there is a commitment to honesty and the facts.

  20. #20 Stephanie Z
    November 11, 2009

    Gwenny, I’m still looking for documentation that yesterday’s kidnapper was a cop, as you asserted in his defense. Does your dedication to facts stretch that far?

  21. #21 noel
    November 11, 2009

    Gwenny, Dwayne: Greg indeed does have his issues, but he has refuted your objections quite well. It is a fact that the NRA has made it easier for everyone to get guns -obviously that includes terrorists. This is clearly a case where their influence has come back to bite us: someone with a clear connection to terrorists was allowed to buy guns without setting off any alarms, even with a background check, and without any law enforcement or military notification, because of a law the NRA got passed.
    I am a gun owner from Texas, btw.

  22. #22 Dave the Hospitalist
    November 11, 2009

    I think it would be ironic if the gun check blocked him from buying a “super powerfull pistol” — what the hell does that mean — when as an officer in the US Army he is issues an M9 Barretta 9mm handgun and is probably trained to be proficient with an M16/M4 assault rifle. FYI the weapon he used is no more lethal than any other medium caliber side arm. Also “Teflon” bullets — it’s the steel core people not the teflon that’s illegal — will not defeat standard concealable level IIIA ballistic vests; oh they are illegal; oh yeah only the government can buy them; oh double yeah no police officer has ever been killed by one; oh triple yeah the 1969 law prohibiting the was written with the aid of the NRA; oh quadrouple yeah the incidence of police officers getting shot in the head increased after NBC aired its infamous piece about “cop killer bullets.”

    BTW, also a liberal athiest, democrat, who voted for Obama, and believes that we should have National Health.

  23. #23 Stephanie Z
    November 11, 2009

    So, Dave, if I can parse that statement, you’re saying that…no, I can’t really parse that statement. Once more, what Greg is saying is that if the information that someone under investigation was trying to purchase these weapons had been passed to the part of the FBI that was investigating him, he would have been monitored closely or brought in for questioning. Nobody’s saying he would have been sold a .22 filled with blanks as a distraction.

    Perhaps understanding the argument actually being made would be easier if you assumed that everyone advocating for effective gun control was familiar and comfortable with guns and a pretty decent shot. It’s at least true in my case.

  24. #24 Greg Laden
    November 11, 2009

    I have issues?

  25. #25 Jason Thibeault
    November 11, 2009

    @24: More like subscriptions! Ba-dum-tsh!

    To everyone saying Greg’s “just irrationally hating” guns, I don’t know how any hatred of an implement designed to kill, and ONLY to kill, is irrational in any way. That is, unless you use a Kalashnikov to carve your Thanksgiving turkey.

  26. #26 Enoch
    November 11, 2009

    As usual people are reacting in stereotypic fashin. If I understand this post correctly, the connection is being made between a rule for how to implement the Brad Law and the NRA, which seems to be a means of minimizing the amount of data the government has about a gun owner. This was originally pressed by the gun lobby because gun owners feared a database of who owns what, which would be handy dandy way to round up everyone’s guns some day.

    The consequence of this regulation is that one hand does not know what the other is doing. The federal investigators who may have put one and one together to get two, and move on who is probably a terrorist, could not do so. They may or may not have done it, but probably would have, or at least one would hope.

    This is a very reasonable association being made in this blog post, yet we see the reactions to it along the lines fully expected off unthinking “pry my gun out of my cold dead hands” gun nuts who strangelyl claim to be liberal atheists.

    But apparently the kind that don’t know how to read.

  27. #27 Tag
    November 11, 2009

    “YOU AR3 B31NG 1RRATION-ALL ELEVENTY!!1!!”

    We know what that usually means.

  28. #28 noel
    November 11, 2009

    Dave: Congrats on your liberal bona fides, but WTF? The issue wasn’t just preventing a gun sale, it was the FBI knowing that a potential terrorist was purchasing a gun and not doing anything about it, like informing his superior officer about the investigation. Or does “supporting the troops” not include informing them of a traitor amongst them if such information betrays “gun rights”?

  29. #29 Dave
    November 11, 2009

    Simple fact: The army base is a gun fee zone.
    Simple fact: Arab terrorist guns down 40 people.
    Simple fact: Had legal gun owners been allowed to be carrying their guns he would have not shot half of that number.
    Simple fact: case closed.

  30. #30 Dave the Hospitalist
    November 11, 2009

    I understood the arguement being made. My teeth hurt whenever I read things like “super powerful pistol.” See this link about the ammunition this gun was designed for (http://www.angelfire.com/art/enchanter/PDWdebunk.html. It’s like having a strong and vocal view about the NFL and then asking about the NFL World Series.

    Is the NRA cranially rectally inverted, yes. Is it appropriate for everyone of all political persuations to try to use the actions of an individual to push their choosen political point of view? The shooter passed enough backround checks to be deemed appropriate for deployment with the Army and issued a gun. Why not ask why the Army didn’t pick up on this man’s instability? He was in the Army long enough to be promoted once from captain to major. Why go for 6 degrees of separation and bring up the NRA? For all of their lunacy and faults, the NRA is not the issue in Fort Hood. Maybe it is the Army who needs to offer an apology and explanation regarding why they didn’t see a problem brewing?

  31. #31 Jason Thibeault
    November 11, 2009

    Arab terrorist

    And with that, Dave @29 proves he doesn’t know what’s actually going on here. The shooter was born in America. That makes him an American terrorist. Regardless of his being a Muslim.

  32. #32 Jessica
    November 11, 2009

    Dave the H: Your latest post is not even a half baked attempt to run away from the facts while throwing up a smoke screen.

    I do not know if “super powerful” is the correct technical term, but this pistol has been dubbed as a “cop killer” for the one he bought at issue here and the other was a 357. Extra powerful is not such a bad term.

    Why do you need to separate the gun lobby from any role in what happens with legally purchased firearms? If there are six degrees of separation twix the gun and the gun lobby, then may be the gun lobby should shut up and go home?

  33. #33 Dave "29"
    November 11, 2009

    He was a Palestinian. The technical detail of his citizinship is not any more important than the citizinship of Obama.

  34. #34 hibob
    November 11, 2009

    Source?
    Confirmed?

  35. #35 Dave "29"
    November 11, 2009

    His parents are from Lebanon and are middle eastern palistinians. He complained vocally and openly about muslims being forced to kill muslims in the war. Then before being asked to go to war to do that he killed a large number of US army christians. This is all well established facts.

  36. #36 Stephanie Z
    November 11, 2009

    Dave @33, come on. I’m sure there’s something you could do to make the racism just a little more transparent.

  37. #37 Dave (promoted to 33)
    November 11, 2009

    This is not racist. He yelled Allah Akbar when he pulled the trigger. The feds were investigating his links to an iman known for being a radical and that looks like it was not a dead end in that investigation. He was motivated by his religious and background.

  38. #38 Jason Thibeault
    November 11, 2009

    Stephanie: he just did, @35. Ask and ye shall recieve!

  39. #39 Dave (promoted to 33)
    November 11, 2009

    I do not enjoy the fact that the christian world and the muslim world are at war but it started before I was born.

  40. #40 Jason Thibeault
    November 11, 2009

    Dave @37: we’re referencing the post number so people know exactly which Dave and which post by Dave we’re replying to. We’re not assigning you a number that you can be “promoted to”. And I don’t know what you’re trying to suggest by that — that we have some kind of “enemies list”?

    Has it been confirmed that he yelled the Arab phrase for “God is Great”? I know the right-wingers have been screaming about it on the radio, but I was under the impression that this originated as an unsourced assertion. And would you assume, naturally, that someone crying out “Jesus help me!” while they carried out an attack, that they were motivated by Christianity? Because “Allahu Ackbar” isn’t a battle cry.

    Have you stopped and thought that, maybe, casting these wars as “Good Christian America vs. Bad Islamic [Afghanistan / Iraq]” might be reaping fruit you weren’t expecting (e.g. Muslim Americans being upset about being told they’re off on a holy war against their own religion), given that America is *supposed to be* a cultural melting pot, and not a Christian monoculture?

  41. #41 Jason Thibeault
    November 11, 2009

    What’s especially galling about all this is that Muslims and Christians both worship the same damn god. Yahweh. “God” is a title, just like “Allah” is. They mean the same thing, and they reference the same imaginary entity.

  42. #42 Stephanie Z
    November 11, 2009

    Dave @ all over the place, how is saying that his citizenship doesn’t matter because his parents were Palestinian not a question of race? If you’re saying something other than that his genetic heritage made him shoot a bunch of people, please clarify. While you’re at it, feel free to say whatever it is you’re trying to insinuate about Obama. Also, please learn to distinguish between Palestinian and Arab. Palestinians are largely of Jewish and Bedouin descent, even though they speak Arabic.

    As for what fed his motivations, you might want to think about the fact that both the shooter and the cleric with whom he’s been in touch appear to have had much more reasonable views at one point in time. Rather than being born or raised radicals, they appear to have been radicalized in response to their treatment by a hostile U.S. and Christian persecution of Muslims.

  43. #43 The Science Pundit
    November 11, 2009

    What’s especially galling about all this is that Muslims and Christians both worship the same damn god.

    I have to disagree. No two theists worship the same gØd; they each worship their own own personal imaginary friend.

  44. #44 rpsms
    November 11, 2009

    “The consequence of this regulation is that one hand does not know what the other is doing. The federal investigators who may have put one and one together to get two, and move on who is probably a terrorist, could not do so. They may or may not have done it, but probably would have, or at least one would hope.”

    I am still unsure if the FBI could have done anything that would be legal. Purchasing a gun legally is not an actionable offense. Nor is owning one. If he was a felon, it might be, but he wasn’t. What is being suggested is that this man ought to have been detained illegally or on a pretense. Of course this is before he did anything, so telepathy would have to be involved.

  45. #45 Jason Thibeault
    November 11, 2009

    Science Pundit @43: excellent point. I also like the substitution of Null for O.

    Time on Major Hasan’s ties with the radical cleric: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1937574,00.html

    It appears he was performing research, as part of his job as psychologist, on American Muslim soldiers’ mental states over being told to go to war against fellow Muslims. Shortly before he was told he’d be going to war against his fellow Muslims.

  46. #46 Dave 100
    November 11, 2009

    “If you’re saying something other than that his genetic heritage made him shoot a bunch of people, please clarify”

    To clarify: His granparents were palestinians, his parents were palistinians, he is brought up muslim as were they, he has made statements showing his hate for the idea of muslims going to war to fight muslims. If he was an irish guy sent to fight the irish during the “troubles” who resisted would you ask the same question!

  47. #47 Stephanie Z
    November 11, 2009

    rpsms, his goal appears to have been soldiers–the people going off to kill Muslims. Delaying the gun purchase through a “bureaucratic mix-up” until he was deployed, denying him access to the base, making sure he didn’t enter the base without being searched, being prepared for the confrontation–all of those could have made a difference. There are plenty of ways to interfere with someone’s plans that don’t require illegal detention.

    It’s even easier with a soldier, who has given up some rights to self-determination. They could have assigned him to complete some kind of evaluation, which would have kept him busy, and possibly technically detained, while they figured out what was going on.

  48. #48 noel
    November 11, 2009

    re#24: We all have issues.

  49. #49 Stephanie Z
    November 11, 2009

    Dave, would I ask why you’re denying the shooter is an American as you classify him as a terrorist? Hell, yes! Would I ask why you try to bring Obama into the picture? Same answer. And again for whether I’d tell you to sort out country of emigration, ethnicity, genetics and religion and figure out what kind of argument you’re trying to make.

    I’m picky like that.

  50. #50 becca
    November 11, 2009

    Greg- you have far more faith in the ability of the FBI to make intelligent use of information than I do, and far lower expectations for the army to do the same.

  51. #51 Greg Laden
    November 11, 2009

    Dave of the Numbers: Despite your rather clumsy way of putting it, I am not entirely in disagreement with you. We still need to learn the motivations of this particular person, and no matter how you slice it, prejudice has reared its ugly head, and I fear for other Muslim soldiers (or people who “look” Muslim or have “Muslim” or “Arab” or whatever sounding names) over the coming weeks.

    If it turns out to be true that Hasan was acting as a kind of religious warrior, then so be it. He is doing nothing other than what the extremists on both sides of what (and here is where I agree with you) really is a holy war are telling people to do. At the moments, the Christians are fighting their side of the war with big giant armies and Islam fights the war with other tactics.

    And this stupid holy war really needs to stop.

  52. #52 Greg Laden
    November 11, 2009

    Becca, Stephanie and Others:

    Regarding the FBI’s abilities and this flow of information … my faith in their ability has nothing to do with this. The FBI apparently looked at Hasan (as did the military, apparently) and passed him over as not interesting. If a gun purchase (of a cop killer anti-personnel close quarters combat pistol gun) was flagged, then they may have un-ignored him. That is utterly obvious.

    As to what to do, yes, as Stephanie points out, there were many options. I kind of imagined Keifer Sutherland following him around until he made a false move, then taking him down in one shot. But they would probably have other techniques like asking him a few questions that they knew he would “innocently lie” about, then coming back later and busting him for lying to a fed. That’s their standard method.

  53. #53 Alice Tripp
    November 11, 2009

    I am incensed that you would even half-heartedly suggest that 4 million NRA members could be responsible for Ft. Hood. The government mentions 1st amendment concerns for not acting on email from this deranged and unhappy person to extremist jihad members. And this “high power” handgun shoots standard ammunition. Armour piercing ammo is not sold to private citizens. The handgun wasn’t any more “powerful” than any other handgun. I’d sooner hold zippers accountable for rape than hold NRA or this firearm accountable for the actions of a murder. You’re living in a very shallow world devoid of logic.

  54. #54 Stephanie Z
    November 11, 2009

    Alice, since you didn’t understand the OP, may I refer you to comments 23, 26 & 28?

  55. #55 Greg Laden
    November 11, 2009

    Alice, I was not being even a little half hearted. The NRA lobbied for certain changes in the proposed laws. Those changes have had consequences.

  56. #56 Michael
    November 11, 2009

    What is a “super powerful pistol”?

    When does a pistol become powerful? When does a powerful pistol become a super powerful pistol?

    “Super powerful pistol” is just made up alarmist language.

  57. #57 Greg Laden
    November 11, 2009

    Super powerful is a meaningless phrase. What I meant was “a weapon designed for one purpose only: To kill as many humans as possible in close quarters using 20 rounds.”

    If you have any more questions about the weapon, go here:

    http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2009/11/nidal_hasans_weapons.php

  58. #58 Jeff Darcy
    November 11, 2009

    “Gun free zone” my ass. Yeah, some guns might be kept out, but there were clearly quite a few already in. It reminds me of the time I saw somebody try to walk into the US Embassy in Oslo, apparently having forgotten that as he was on his way back from mandatory military training he still had a weapon on his back. Yeah, that was a “gun free zone” too, because he was denied entry . . . by two Marines with M16s.

    P.S. The first person to nit-pick about the difference between guns, carbines, rifles etc. can stick whichever one they choose where the sun doesn’t shine. If it fires solid projectiles at high speed that’s sufficient for this discussion.

  59. #59 Mu
    November 11, 2009

    Being under investigation by the FBI isn’t actually a legal reason to prevent someone from buying a gun, in regards to that whole “presumed innocent” stuff. And in any case, since the FBI quite obviously didn’t have anything definite on the guy yet, they most likely would have let him purchase the gun anyway to not set off his alarm in regards to the investigation. In most states you have a right to find out why they refuse you, and protest it if you think it’s in error (like a conviction thrown out on appeal etc.).

  60. #60 Greg Laden
    November 11, 2009

    Mu, and others

    Listen to today’s news to find out what is coming out about who knew what when. I am now more convinced than ever that if there was complete information in front of federal authorities, the gun buy added to it would have resulted in a very different outcome.

  61. #61 davem
    November 11, 2009

    Coming fom the other side of the pond, I just sit back and shake my head in exasperation. Why are you even holding this debate?

    If I wanted a gun, I don’t even know where I’d buy one. Really. I haven’t a clue where I’d go. I do not know a single person who has a gun. The first time I ever saw a gun was at a NY airport, where I saw a cop swaggering around with one half hanging out of its holster. (It would have been simplicity itself to take it off him). I felt a visceral shock when I saw it.

    Jeez, what’s the matter with you gun nuts? It’s like you’re religious about these weapons. You have the same mindset about guns as Catholics do about child-molesting, or Muslims about stoning. “It’s nothing to do with us” you say. You are deluded. Seriously deluded.

  62. #62 Matt
    November 12, 2009

    VA tech: Gun free Zone
    Fort Hood: Highly restricted gun zone

    Greg, why dont we just form an international committee to ban all guns from the world? Then no one will kill one another.

    After that, we can outlaw intolerance. After that, hate. And then the world will be perfect. We’re almost there, societal perfection is just around the corner. Keep trying, Greg, we all know you’re pure of heart. And whatever you do, never, ever question the unintended consequences of your actions and proposed policies. Being a liberal means never having to say you’re sorry, because you’re Good, and anyone who opposes you is Bad.

  63. #63 Greg Laden
    November 12, 2009

    Matt: Thanks for the excellent example of the sort of thing gun nuts say when they’ve run out of effective arguments. I win.

  64. #64 DRK
    November 12, 2009

    I thought Greg made a good point about the part of the FBI that knows about gun purchases not being able to notify the part of the FBI that was investigating Hasan. That seems like a very stupid law, frankly. If you are investigating someone on suspicion of possible terrorism, you should be able to know if he’s purchasing weapons. Seems like a no-brainer. And I say that in spite of living in the southern US, where we have a huge gun culture, and in spite of having a husband who owns several guns, both rifles and pistols. All registered. (We had them when we lived in military housing on base, too).

    I have to say though, that in this particular case, I am not sure if repeal of this dumb law would have made any difference. Since Hasan had not been charged with any crime, it was not illegal for him to purchase guns. And until he suddenly started killing people, just what could he have been charged with? It was not illegal for him to to have foreign correspondence, even with someone who did not like the US, or the FBI would have charged him with that. In the interests of causing the least amount of fuss possible, I suspect that at most, the military might have medically discharged Hasan on the grounds of, let us say, emotional instability. He still would have been able to purchase those guns. And he still could have gone to a mall or a school or something and blown away lots of people.

    An embittered loner with a grudge, who doesn’t care if he lives or dies, kills a large number of people. That’s a crime that is almost impossible to prevent.

  65. #65 Greg Laden
    November 12, 2009

    Since Hasan had not been charged with any crime, it was not illegal for him to purchase guns.

    I don’t think that is the point, though. As we understand it now, the FBI had a choice … to pursue Hasan more or to drop it. They dropped it. Would they have picked it up again if they found him buying a cop killer pistol all of the sudden?

  66. #66 DRK
    November 12, 2009

    But what would pursuing more have uncovered, other than emotional instability? Which is not illegal. And due to another goofy law, (thank you, NRA!) being crazy does not necessarily prevent you from buying guns. It doesn’t seem as if he was in a conspiracy with anyone, although of course it is probably too soon to really tell.

    I find this whole event an extremely frustrating and saddening thing altogether, not least because I just don’t see how it could have been prevented except by unconstitutional means. Unless of course it does turn out that he was conspiring with someone, which would have been grounds for prosecution. It’s terrible to think of a conspiracy, but at least that is something that could have been uncovered, possibly, could have been dealt with. Isolated hate and madness, though — what protection does society have against it?

  67. #67 Stephanie Z
    November 12, 2009

    DRK, Greg and I both go into what could have been done in comments 47 & 52.

  68. #68 Greg Laden
    November 12, 2009

    Somehow I don’t think the FBI would have simply made a note in his file that he has just picked up a cop killer gun.

  69. #69 Doug
    November 12, 2009

    There you go again with that “cop killer pistol” nonsense!

    The 5.7 is a small caliber (within .001″ of a .22 rimfire) high-velocity round. With specialized ‘penetrator’ ammo, (which is not legally available to anyone but military or law enforecment agencies) it can penetrate soft body armor to level II. The malevolent Major did not have the
    ‘penetrator’ ammo, and, most significantly, he did not require it as none of HIS (not the gun’s) victims was wearing armor.

    To postulate that a NICS denial would prevent a determined jihadist from acquiring a firearm is obvious nonsense.

    The FBI NICS data is available agency-wide with the appropriate flag. The terrorism investigators neglected to place the flag due to the fact they had concluded Hasan was not sufficiently threatening.
    Geebus! What are atheists gonna do when the xtian zealots come with their guns…quote the laws making homicide illegal?

  70. #70 Greg Laden
    November 12, 2009

    Doug: See my note to Darren. You are not thinking this through, and you are also simply wrong.

    To postulate that a NICS denial would prevent a determined jihadist from acquiring a firearm is obvious nonsense.

    Actually, using a hypothetical when we have a real is bullshit.

    The FBI NICS data is available agency-wide with the appropriate flag. The terrorism investigators neglected to place the flag due to the fact they had concluded Hasan was not sufficiently threatening.

    That is contradictory to what actually seems to have happened. The law requires that the data be destroyed in 24 hours.

    Meanwhile, sources in the FBI are indicating that they are now thinking exactly what I’m saying.

  71. #71 Darren
    November 13, 2009

    Greg, you are thinking this through, but apparently more than the FBI did.

    The FBI thought their investigation was so important that they didn’t even tell the Defense Department about it.

    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-fort-hood-army11-2009nov11,0,464572.story

    This story is the closet thing to a journalistic investigation of your thesis that you will find.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/fort-hood-shooter-obtained-weapon-ongoing-terrorism-investigation/Story?id=9058803&page=1

    It does kind of bury the lede, this is on page 3:

    According to a Feb. 13, 2007, Justice Department letter to Lautenberg, “The NICS had made changes in 2004 to its procedures so that counterterrorism agents were consulted about a person listed in the VGTOF seeking to buy a gun, to determine whether those agents have prohibiting information about the individual that is not yet contained in the automated databases.”

    The problem in Hasan’s case is that inquiry was closed and he was apparently never place on the Violent Gang and Terrorist Organization File (VGTOF). Had he been in that file, the NCIS would have flagged his name. The Joint Terrorism Task Force officer assigned to Hasan’s case did not find him to be a threat, so he wasn’t put on the list and the case was closed well before he ever bought the gun.

    Prima facie, he looks like a pretty clean dude in early 2009. Without knowing what we know now, he’s an Army Major, a psychiatrist who treats soldiers with PTSD. He was educated in ROTC at Va. Tech and had spent almost nine years in the military. He contacted a radical cleric, but the contents of his emails were known to the NSA and were deemed not suspicious. What are you going to do, put him on the VGTOF for being a Muslim?

    This is a bureaucratic mistake, kind of like deciding not to investigate Zacarias Moussaoui’s hard drive, and not following up on these flight students that want to fly jumbo jets but not land them. We’re from the Federal Government, we’re here to help you.

    I agree with Sen. Lautenberg that people on the ‘No Fly’ list trying to buy firearms should be a red flag. What I don’t know is if the ‘No Fly’ list is the same as the VGTOF list used to check with the NCIS.

  72. #72 Obis Cygma
    May 2, 2011

    The FN Five-Seven is hardly a “super powerful pistol”… The round is small and fast, and that’s about it. Low recoil, flat trajectory, very accurate. So what?

    In the hands of a violent criminal, ANY gun could be called a “cop-killer” gun.

    Regardless, why do people insist on making this debate about the purchasing laws and gun availability? Do you honestly think that more restrictive gun laws would have eliminated the threat?

    If the gun stores said, “Sorry, Major Hasan, we can’t sell you any guns,” do you REALLY think this highly-motivated, determined, and mentally unstable guy is just gonna say “Hmph.. oh well, it was worth a try… I guess I’ll just stop being crazy now, go back to work, and forget about the whole ‘kill the American infidels’ thing…”

    No, if he wasn’t able to buy that gun (or ANY gun) legally, he would have found another way to get one… He could get one on the black market, or through a ‘straw-purchaser’… Hell, as a Major, he probably could’ve just used his rank to con his way into the company arms room…. Or, he could’ve just waited until his unit went to the qualification range and HELLO, they’d actually HAND him an assault-rifle. Or, he could’ve waited a few months until his unit deployed, and again, he’d have an assault-rifle…

    Problem with those last two scenarios, however, is that he wouldn’t be the ONLY one in the area with an assault-rifle… There’d be plenty of other people around who could shut his rampage down real quick. And he KNEW that.

    He needed to launch his attack when everyone else was unarmed…

    And since Army bases are now “gun-free zones” he could count on zero armed resistance until the MPs arrived (which could be a while, due to the fact that most MP units are deployed overseas, and the civilian security guards are usually unarmed)… And that’s why he was able to walk around shooting helpless unarmed soldiers for TEN MINUTES.

    There’s no gun-law or gun-ban that would have prevented this rampage… His goal was to kill soldiers, period. If he couldn’t get a gun legally, he would have found another way.

    His ability to get a gun so easily wasn’t the issue here… the problem was the fact that there was NO ONE around who could SHOOT BACK and stop him.

  73. #73 Greg Laden
    May 2, 2011

    Obis Cygma, the argument you are making can be made in reference to every single crime and every single law against crime. Please explain to us how since we can’t stop a determined rapist we should not bother having a law against rape. Do you have a daughter, wife, mother? Let them know what you are thinking on that. Then get back to us.