Montana Politics

Pitiful Missoulian Editorial

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.”

How many times do we get to hear that phrase this year?  This month?

The above quote looks like the Missoulian’s answer to gun violence.  The editorial board doesn’t like the proposed ordinance to expand background checks on all gun sales and transfers within the city limits.  It offers no viable alternatives, just platitudes.  Days after the shooting deaths of ten in Roseburg, Ore., did the irony of this opinion piece escape the editorial board?

First, the editorial says the ordinance would create “a wedge that only serves to drive Missoulians further apart on an issue which should unite us.”  And what issue should unite us? That we abhor gun violence?  Then do something about it.  The ordinance is one small step in the right direction.

Or you can pander to Gary Marbut’s MSSA and the NRA and their threats of a lawsuit.  Is that who you want to side with on the issue of gun violence?

The editorial states that “the efficacy of the background check system itself is a matter for debate, especially in light of recent tragic failures.”  Then make the background checks work. This New York Times article illustrates the flaws in the system that allowed Dylan Roof, who shot and killed nine people in a South Carolina church, to get a gun.  The loopholes must be closed and the sloppiness has to stop.

The editorial also claims that most criminals get their guns from family and friends, which may be the case.  But most of these mass killings aren’t the work of convicted felons but of the mentally unstable, and this law could prevent gun sales to “adjudicated mental incompetents” (the term used in Montana Codes Annotated).  And if it also keeps firearms out of the occasional gangster’s hands, so much the better.

Then the Missoulian turns it into a pocketbook issue:

“Missoula also doesn’t need to drive away the legitimate business generated by gun shows, which draw visitors from around the region and regularly pack venues such as the Adams Center. A fair portion of Montanans consists of hunters, collectors and self-defense advocates. Do we really want to send them to other nearby towns?”

Give me a break.  Are the gun shows going to fold up shop or are they going to have background checks in place so people can purchase firearms?  If the folks putting on the shows refuse to do background checks, I’m fine with them taking their business elsewhere.  I doubt this will kill the Missoula economy.

But the most specious argument is that the ordinance would be “costly and inconvenient.”  I recently did some remodeling work.  I had to get a permit from the city.  It was costly and inconvenient, but I assume it was required for public safety (to keep me from burning down my house because of a faulty wiring job, for example).  Is it too much to ask that someone purchasing a gun has to go through something as simple as a background check?

This is the Missoulian’s solution:

“If those pushing for background checks truly want these laws to be effective and not just symbolic, the place to pursue such action is at the state and federal level. Our city councilors would do better to focus their time and attention on matters that will actually make a difference for Missoulians.”

I would venture that our city councilors have more moral courage than most of those at the state legislature or in Congress, but Mayor John Engen makes the point:

“We have a responsibility here to take a small action – and this is a small action – that could make a difference in our community.  I would suggest that our Legislature ought to consider this, but it’s not, so we’re left in the box of trying to figure this out for ourselves.  This might be hard, but I think it’s worth it.”

Councilman Jon Wilkins said it best, “If it makes a difference for one life, I’m going to support it.”


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  • Chicago has some of the toughest guns laws on the books and yet last week 50 people (including women and children) were shot. So they studied exactly where the perps were getting firearms.

    “A new study conducted by the University of Chicago Crime Lab, inmates in the Cook County jail said they get they guns on the streets from “personal connections” rather that outlets like guns shows and the internet.

    The study focused on “inmates who were facing gun charges or whose criminal background involved gun crimes.””-AWR Hawkins.

    Councilman’s Wilkins logic could be applied to automobiles. If we prohibited car sales no one would die in car accidents. Ban them, cause they’d save many lives.

    • Where to start, Swede. Although some may argue this point, automobiles aren’t designed to kill. They’re made to get folks from Point A to Point B. That’s a strawman argument. You know what else, I have to have insurance to drive my car. Too bad insurance isn’t mandatory for gun owners. I’ll bet the background checks insurance companies required would make the federal checks seem like nothing. Anyway, it looks like you may have skipped this paragraph in my post:
      The editorial also claims that most criminals get their guns from family and friends, which may be the case. But most of these mass killings aren’t the work of convicted felons but of the mentally unstable, and this law could prevent gun sales to “adjudicated mental incompetents” (the term used in Montana Codes Annotated). And if it also keeps firearms out of the occasional gangster’s hands, so much the better.

      • It doesn’t keep firearms out of the gangsters hands given the Chicago example. Does it Pete?

        In fact there’s been many cases of denied or delayed sales to battered spouses waiting for their legal hang gun purchase who have been killed while waiting.

        Couldn’t we revise councilman’s Willkins logic to say if a gun show sale saves the life of the purchaser then it’s a freedom worth keeping?

  • The Roseberg shooter was never adjudicated on his mental competency. His acquisitions were legal.

    Since you brought up the Roseberg tragedy, just how would the Missoula ordinance have prevented the shooter from legally acquiring his guns as there is no law requiring a competency review before acquiring? Now you have twice refused to answer my question on the prior post regarding the Missoula ordinance. .

      • Rob, I have been mulling that very question as it seems to be the only effective prophylactic barrier from the mentally unstable acquiring firearms. Question is, who would pay the $1000+ for the evaluation by a competent professional? Now, if the professional gets it wrong, would that person be protected from suit?

        • Using the “mental illness” label on these murderers is a misnomer. Its pure unadulterated evil. Mental illness especially in it’s more advanced stages renders oneself incompatible functionally in society. These tragedies were conceived months ahead of time to attack the softest targets with cold calculation.

          One of my best friends was a MT parole officer in Billings. He said he could always tell which of his clients were the most dangerous by looking into their eyes. Soulless eyes were the giveaway. Evil resides in soulless eyes.

          Mercer said he’d be “welcomed in Hell” and “embraced by the Devil”.

          • Cops do tend to develop that know-it-all attitude, and so prejudge people based on instant assessments. It’s known as “profiling.” Your parole officer friend ought to get into a different line of work where he has less power over people.

          • WTF? I know you’re a decent man in your heart, but that’s an odd statement, ya think?

            Water Skipper, I’ve never met a man with a smaller knowledge base as contrasted with the size of his opinions as you.

          • Some time when your fingers are working, give us some inkling of your inner dialogue that goes on with your exterior comments. This is intriguing.

  • I heard news of Roseberg, OR, the other day, and immediately turned it off. I deliberalty shut that stuff out, as it can be real, staged, or part of each. It takes months, if not years, to ferret out the details. But if it is a fake event, it is done for immediate psychological impact, which is why I tune it out. I refuse to let it affect me.

    In Europe it was called the “Strategy of Tension,” wherein NATO, using a cadre of embedded terrorists called “stay behind” were used to blame communists for various terrorist events, incline a fountain bombing in Rome and rail station in Bologna, among many other crimes including assassination of the Prime Minister of Italy. Hundreds were killed, and the purpose was to induce a constant state of fear. The strategy: Once fear is in place, we invite the fascists in to protect us. (This is all documented, by the way, Operation Gladio. It was real, people are in prison, it was NATO.)

    Anyway, as I read your piece, Pete, I realized that you are afraid, a frightened man. These events scare you. Guns scare you. You want protection. That’s a vulnerable state of mind. I urge that you just shake it all off and live your life free of fear. Save some highly unlikely random event, you’re safe as any of us. There are people running around with guns. Just like, you, they are merely scared.

    • You’re quite mad, Tokarski. The shooting was staged? I’ve read about Operation Gladio. I’m sure that’s what’s going on in Roseburg.
      Guns don’t scare me. Crazy people with an arsenal scare me. We’re the only developed nation in the world with frequent mass murders by gun-toting madmen. (By the way, you don’t pack, do you? I’d find that really scary.)

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Pete Talbot

'Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.

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