Here’s a Wisconsin Gazette (Progressive. Alternative.) lede to an AP story that’s meant to grab their undoubtedly anti-gun readers’ attention: “A yearlong Associated Press analysis found more than a dozen firearms sold by law enforcement agencies in Washington state since 2010 later became evidence in new criminal investigations.” Washington cops are selling crime guns! And those guns sold by Washington police are found at crime scenes?!?! Stop the presses!
Or are they? First, let’s look at the raw numbers. As the article details, the AP took a year — a year! — to track down six thousand firearms sold back to the public via police departments in the state of Washington in 2010. Of those, a grand total of twelve subsequently turned up at crime scenes. First, that’s only .2% of the total guns sold. A number that small rounds down to zero.
Second, even that stat is more than a little misleading.
Gazette scribe Martha Bellisle helpfully details each of the twelve guns found in this massive undertaking. But many of the twelve weren’t actually found at the scene of crimes. And only one of the 12 was actually used in a violent act. And even that one isn’t technically a crime in Washington.
Take, for example, their first example, clearly meant to shock the reader: BABY SHOT IN CAR SEAT. That’s about as horrific as you can imagine. But then you read Bellisle’s description of this awful event.
The Washington State Patrol traded a batch of crime guns with a firearms dealer in June 2010. The batch included a Lorcin L380 semi-automatic pistol. In April 2015, a gang member shot at a car carrying a couple and their year-old daughter. One of the bullets hit the child in the head and killed her. While searching a home frequented by the suspected shooter and many other gang members, the Kent Police Department found a Lorcin L380 semi-automatic pistol — the gun sold by the State Patrol.
So the gun that was found — the one sold by the Washington State Patrol — turned up in the home of one of the gang members during the subsequent investigation of the highway shooting. But it wasn’t the firearm used by the shooter. From the description, it isn’t even clear the the gun was owned by the suspect. It was simply found by police in “a home frequented by the suspected shooter and many other gang members.” So the gun had no connection to the crime in question at all.
There are plenty more. Like this one…
The Aberdeen Police Department sold a Lorcin Model L380 pistol in February 2011. In May 2016, the Kent Police Department located a stolen vehicle parked at the Benson Village Apartments and found a gun under the seat — the Lorcin Model L380 pistol sold by Aberdeen police. The three juveniles who stole the car were convicted felons.
Was the gun put there by one of the three yoots? Did they even know it was there? Was it owned (or stolen) by the owner of the car? There’s no way to know from the description. But the gun had nothing to do with the crime, grand theft auto.
The twelve tenuous examples include more like this; threatening text messages, a domestic violence call at a drug house, a couple of prohibited persons and a pistol found in a car during a traffic stop when the driver was found with coicaine.
So in eleven of the twelve cases cited in the article, the guns in question weren’t used in the commission of a crime.
The single exception was a suicide committed by a man with a gun that had originated from the Washington State Patrol (a .9mm handgun…yes, .9mm). And, sad as any suicide is, it’s not illegal in the state of Washington. So no crime was committed there, either.
With the possible exception of the two prohibited persons found in possession of guns, none of the twelve firearms detailed in the AP’s exhaustive study were used to actually commit a crime. In other words, the AP’s story — which was picked up by outlets like the Washington Post and CBS News — is a big, fat nothingburger.
But it will be used to claim that all guns collected or confiscated by police should be destroyed. No matter now little evidence exists that they pose a danger to the public. Because journalism.