Following Up: Tracing Illegal Guns

Friday, February 08, 2013

A follow up on some lingering questions from Wednesday's interview with Thomas King of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association. First, BL Show producer Jody Avirgan fact-checks the stats about the number of out-of-state weapons in New York. Then,  Paul Browne, Deputy Commissioner at the NYPD, discusses the tools law enforcement has at their disposal to trace illegal guns brought into New York City and State.


Jody Avirgan and Paul Browne

Comments [32]

Tony from Ulster COunty


I came to this a little late, living 'upstate' and catching up via Podcasts when I'm in the car or out running. I backed in to the original interview with Thomas King via the fact-checking. I have a couple of observations:

Hostile though he was, and though he may have confirmed all the worst fears of most of your listeners, the important thing to understand about the gun lobbyists is that they are not trying to convert you. They are playing to their base. There were constant references, code words, anecdotes & lies that were there to catch those who might be sympathetic to their 'cause' and presumably, to try and catch you in some form of partisan positioning in the process. When you stated your own position on gun control you played right into their hands.

The reference to MSNBC as a 'sister station' was not intended as pure 'fact'. It was intended to tar and feather either WNYC or NPR as part of the liberal media. In the heat of his bizarre statement, you may not have caught that intent, though I suspect you probably have done subsequently.

But in the process of your astonishment, you missed his claim, in the same sentence that "MSNBC, one of your sister stations, has reported that it wasn't an assault weapon that was used [at Sandy Hook]." This needs to be addressed, because it's part of a gun-lobbying conspiracy theory equal to the 'No Jews in the World Trade Center on 9/11' theory and equally insulting. An NBC (not MSNBC) news report on Dec 14 showed police handling a 'long gun' at Lanza's car & removing a cartridge. This was seized on as evidence that the AR-15 was left in the car and that good old 'handguns' killed the 26 people inside the school. Leaving aside that this would not justify the crime, nor would it negate more aggressive gun control, the AR-15 was indeed the murder weapon. I would refer you to , not least because it's a firmly Republican, firmly pro-gun site, and it supplies the correct sources. Thomas King was able to sneak that one in there and perpetuate an insulting mistruth. And note his choice of words, because they stop short of being an actual lie or slander on his own part. We can be tempted to call the likes of King 'crazy' but they know what they're doing.

One other thing: don't overstate the Upstate/Downstate divide. There are some pretty major urban centers north of the Bronx, & the rural areas of upstate NY have ample share of Dems and ardent supporters of gun-control just as they have their Republican base and a strong hunting community. The NRA (and the NYSRPA) are hyping up the worst possible fears amongst that hunting community, many of whom are essentially good people who struggle to understand why they are being blamed for the crimes of others. It's a difficult conversation that we are having in these communities and King does nothing to help it.

Feb. 14 2013 11:26 AM
Chris Wright from Bayshore

Brian Lehrer has handled his coverage of this terrible tragedy in an impassioned and disgraceful way. I listen to your show because you are the best at what you do, covering both sides of an issue. Your zealous persecution on air of law-abiding gun owners has made me reconsider my endorsement of your station. I had just started donating money on an annual basis a couple of years ago and have now stopped that. We don't need another parrot of the excessive and rights abusing national media. What made you different is what made you special.

The daily onslaught of poorly researched and agenda driven content has made my favorite shows unwatchable or unlistenable for over a month. Thanks for having Tom King on the air though, its a good start to redeeming yourselves.

PS, you had mentioned that the ban of "selected fire", full auto weapons was upheld by the SCOTUS and is now settled. Unless I'm missing something, appeals of Miller have upheld the NFA - regulations of these weapons, not a ban. I don't know that the courts have addressed NYs ban of all NFA firearms or the federal acts of 68 and the late 80's. I believe that the Federal and state governments can regulate who can own weapons, with added protection for more dangerous technology, but I don't t believe that they can ban them. Likewise, special background checks for the ownership of common use semi rifles with high cap mags is probably in order, but you guys are so hostile that compromise is imperilled.

Feb. 09 2013 09:51 AM
Scott from soho

I'm curious to know, how many of the criminals using the guns were born and raised here in New York? How many of these "crime gun" using criminals had prior, serious criminal records? How many of these "crime gun" incidents were committed against other criminals, and how many crimes were used on against civilians?

Feb. 08 2013 06:03 PM

Hero and army guy fantasy psychosis.

You don't need a gun, you need a doctor.

Feb. 08 2013 02:24 PM
Margaret from UWS Manhattan

Can't the serial numbers be engraved in a part of the gun that isn't removeable without disabling the gun? Different manufacturers could place it in different places. Experts can take one apart, and reassemble it; but isn't there a way to engrave it during manufacture, where you'd have to cut a part the weapon to see it? Then police can cut it open. If you find a gun store closed, when tracing, do you find whether the owner has another store? Require records from closed stores to be kept permanently. Microfiche, or whatever's current electronically. USB's hold a lot of data.

Feb. 08 2013 02:07 PM
Roy from Queens


"So, we know where a few guns came from out of how many millions, so what did that information do to stop the crime. We have countries that bans guns, what did that do to stop murder? No one is saying there should be no laws, but making everyone a sitting duck for slaughter is not the answer. Everything that animal did in Connecticut was against multiple laws. If you want to protect yourself it is ultimately up to you. The police cannot be everywhere even at their best, and more than likely they will only be there to investigate what happened after its too late and clean up the mess. Grow up."

Have you ever heard of hindsight? It gives you an idea if something's about to happen and you have the ability to prevent it from happening. No one's saying you don't have the right to protect yourself. You just have to be responsible when you own a gun as much as you have to be responsible owning a car. I think you should take your own advice.

Feb. 08 2013 11:57 AM
Roy from Queens

@Liz from Brooklyn: Thank you for the support. It seems that Leroy from the Bronx believes why only "bad people" should be subjected to the law for doing something wrong while "good people" should be excluded if they do the same wrong thing.

Feb. 08 2013 11:45 AM
Leroy from Bronx


So, we know where a few guns came from out of how many millions, so what did that information do to stop the crime. We have countries that bans guns, what did that do to stop murder? No one is saying there should be no laws, but making everyone a sitting duck for slaughter is not the answer. Everything that animal did in Connecticut was against multiple laws. If you want to protect yourself it is ultimately up to you. The police cannot be everywhere even at their best, and more than likely they will only be there to investigate what happened after its too late and clean up the mess. Grow up.

Feb. 08 2013 11:44 AM
Liz from Brooklyn

Leroy, you're right. Criminals, by definition, are those who break the law. By your logic, we should just abolish all laws because criminals are just gonna break them anyway, right? How, exactly, do you classify "feel good" laws as opposed to non "feel good" laws? How can you even presume to say a law is a "feel good" law if it hasn't even been enacted and therefore no evidence yet exists of its level of effectiveness?

Feb. 08 2013 11:36 AM
Leroy from Bronx

Roy, stop talking out the side of your neck. We're talking about criminals here. People who dont abide by laws. This will always happen. No ivory tower politician or talking head will protect you. Some people are bad, most are good. Until they invent some type of mind control there is no panacea and passing feel good laws again does nothing to stop people who have no problem breaking them. This isn't the same as protecting yourself from a military enemy like you try to make the argument, this is trying to stop someone who goes off the rails.

Feb. 08 2013 11:27 AM
Liz from Brooklyn

I'm pretty sure this segment, specifically the MAP on this page, shows that in many cases it is not impossible to trace where a gun has come from. Again, doing something is better than doing nothing with the reasoning that someone may try and get around it. I guess we should only make laws that criminals will immediately obey, right? I think you should rethink how you evaluate common sense, Leroy.

Feb. 08 2013 11:24 AM
Roy from Queens

@Leroy From Bronx: So, by your inane logic, the United States of America shouldn't make sure attacks like Pearl Harbor or September 11 happen again?

You're not a good manure salesman, sir.

As for the free society thing, a free society doesn't mean "I have mine and the hell with everyone else." It doesn't mean "I can do what I want and to hell with the consequences". It means living the way you want to while respecting others. You can own a gun, but you don't have the right to put my or anyone's life in danger, especially if you're a civilian who own a firearm that's meant for military use, without probable cause. I can say what I want, but I can't endanger people's lives by yelling "Fire" in a crowded area where there's none. I can't slander, verbally threaten a politician or produce/possess child porn.

Freedom's a great thing, as long as it doesn't tread on someone's else

Feb. 08 2013 11:18 AM
Shonica from Queens

It seems like none of the people who commit these terrible crimes care much about being found... They seem to want the fame that comes with it, so all this talk about registration seems like a solution seeking a problem, because it clearly won't stop the problem at hand.

Feb. 08 2013 11:18 AM
Leroy from Bronx

Because it takes so much effort to file off the identification numbers from a weapon? This doesn't happen regularly? Maybe it comes with growing up in the streets, but some people who must be intelligent to listen to a show like this have such little common sense.

Feb. 08 2013 11:10 AM
Liz from Brooklyn

That's crazy, Steve from Queens, thanks for the insight. Why not start making gun sellers responsible or liable for the harm inflicted by those they sell guns to? We have Dram Laws, which make me liable as a bartender if I sell alcohol to someone who is intoxicated and then goes out and harms himself or someone else, so why not have the same for gun sellers, or anyone who wants to give away or loan out their guns. It's just crazy to me that so many people are all bent out of shape at the prospect of their military style guns being banned, with the reasoning that they are the "good guys", the "responsible gun owners." You know who else was by all accounts a "good guy" and "responsible gun owner"? Nancy Lanza.

Feb. 08 2013 10:58 AM
steve from queens

Brian, a few minutes ago you asked someone you were intervieiwing, "why do so many guns come from out of state?" I tried to get on air to provide you with the answer but called a little to late. Here it is:

in 1991 I applied for and was given a Pistol Purchase Permit in New Hanover County, North Carolina. The process required that i provide three references and have no felony convictions. they then issued me a permit (which may still be good) to purchase three handguns. On the face of the permit it states that "I Joseph McQueen, Sheriff of said county, certify that ...(Name).... having satisfied me of their good moral character, a license or permit is issued to (name) to purchase ......(a pistol).....

Now mind you, this permit is over 20 yrs old, but certainly the gun debate was well underway here and that point in time and more frighteningly, there is a pretty good chance that the slow to change southern state of North Carolina has done nothing to update their gun permit process since 1991.

Lastly, I have always wondered. who is a sheriff, who has spoken to three people I know, to decide that I am of "fine moral character"? I mean, I could be the most law abiding citizen and be lacking in all moral judgement or I could be a person of the highest level of moral virtue yet be a repeat felon.

I might scan this permit and send it in to your show. it is a joke.

Feb. 08 2013 10:41 AM

It seems you're not willing to "fact check" the statements of your "guest"
(not that I'm accusing a commissioner of the NYPD of testi-lying or anything like that).

One of the subjects seemed to be the fabled "gun show loophole". The commissioner seemed to be offering an anecdote to illustrate one of the pernicious effects of that much ballyhooed loophole. The only problem with the anecdote was that it made no mention of any gun sale. Rather it seemed to illustrate that actual NYPD case investigation may be "buffaloed" by something like "the dog ate my homework" as an alibi. "Semper ita ad indocti"
I'm sure there is at least one case, in the known universe, that can serve to illustrate the "scapegoats" you seek to establish. I wonder why I never hear one?

Feb. 08 2013 10:39 AM
Leroy from Bronx

Roy, and how would that have prevented Sandy Hook? We had no problem identifying who did it. Right? He killed his mother to access the weapons after he could not obtain them on his own, right? This hole thing makes no sense. What does military "style" matter? People would die twice from fright from looking at a scary styled guns? None of the weapons were full automatic. How would limiting bullets matter? You can just put a couple more pistols on your person. You cannot do anything to stop crazy if you live in a free society. That is unfortunately a fact. Things will happen, however terrible and sad.

Feb. 08 2013 10:34 AM
Bob from Brooklyn

This whole conversation is one PR hack going against another PR hack. Snoooze....

Feb. 08 2013 10:29 AM
Roy from Queens

@Terrence You're blowing up things out of wack. Banning guns won't help, but making sure that there's responsible gun ownership, like not having civilians own military-style firearms and gun liability clauses, would be better. What do you want? No gun restrictions and the hell with the victims of Sandy Hook? There's something wrong in this country where a civil right has been twisted to the point where it's more important than the welfare of its' most vulnerable citizens.

Feb. 08 2013 10:27 AM
Terrence from Brooklyn

RL, really? You think once there is a thriving underground, instead of picking up a pistol they wont go for something a little better? Heck its all illegal, right? It will all be available. Just like you can get whatever drug you want, but the heavier stuff is more profitable. The naivete over this issue is stunning.

Feb. 08 2013 10:25 AM
Bob from Brooklyn


Feb. 08 2013 10:22 AM

"probably to even higher powered arms..."

Terrance, you just made that up... completely. You have no fact to prove that at all.

And just because you can't stop something entirely doesn't mean you should not take steps that would slow it down. Don't let Perfect be the enemy of the Good.

Feb. 08 2013 10:21 AM
Bob from Brooklyn

I am less interested in gun control than I am in the reasons why people use violence. The guns are here and they are not going away. We need to focus on why criminal acts happen, why people go nuts and shoot people and what kind of corrupt political/law enforcement tactics lead to the cycle of violence. Just saying "ban guns" is not going to fix everything.

Feb. 08 2013 10:21 AM
Terrence from Brooklyn

This segment is a waste of time. If guns were completely outlawed including manufacturing and sales in this country there would be an immediate black market for criminals. We cant stop people, drugs, counterfeit goods, cars, terrorists, etc from getting past our borders but somehow guns would be stopped? Please! Criminals would have access, probably to even higher powered arms once there is an established profitable routes for selling them underground. Even our kids at the local PS can get illegal drugs seemingly without problems, I can go to the corner and get a counterfeit Gucci bag. This is nonsense and just makes things harder for law abiding citizens.

Feb. 08 2013 10:18 AM
Joe from nearby

Thanks for taking up my suggestion the other day to fact-check King's so-called "facts." They sounded sketchy at the time- turns out they actually were.
That's the problem with the pro-gun wingnuts: if they can't de-fund gun studies (because they fear the results), then they twist the actual facts out of all relity to try & push their gonzo agenda on a citizenry that clearly has "had it up to here" with them
Keep up the great work!

Wingnuts' outraged posts will begin in 3....2.....1.........

Feb. 08 2013 10:16 AM
Bob from Brooklyn

Isn't this a discussion about illegal guns? Stop and frisk is the number one tactic to get guns off the streets. And the only people in New York who can legally own a gun are police officers. So I believe my questions are on point, actually.

Feb. 08 2013 10:16 AM

You mean Mr. King's allegations are not all factual (Yes that's sarcasm)? He was a blowhard who thought he could cite what he hoped the listeners would believe are esoteric and nuanced studies that are not reported by liberal media like WNYC and its "sister station", MSNBC ;-). Bill O'Reilly uses similar tactics.

Feb. 08 2013 10:15 AM

...what?!!? No ranting? No hysterics?? No hyperbole??

Just facts??

How can you make an gun argument with just facts??

Feb. 08 2013 10:15 AM

Too Late Now. For this information to matter you would have needed to know it yesterday. It doesn't do us any good that the guest from yesterday can not return your calls. That's why you must have these stats before you interview the guest. This day later follow up is not a good reflection on the BL show. Not that BL would have called they guy on this lie anyway. very unfortunate.

Feb. 08 2013 10:15 AM
john from office

Way to go Bob, on point, NOT!

Feb. 08 2013 10:10 AM
Bob from Brooklyn

Hi Brian,

Please ask Paul Browne if he believes the public's lack of trust in the NYPD has anything to do with their uncivil street tactics and unconstitutional and racist stop and frisks? Also, does the police department fear a repeat of the Chris Dorner situation here in New York? Do we as citizen have to fear rampaging cops because of internal police politics and corruption?

Thank you

[[Note: this comment has been slightly edited.]]

Feb. 08 2013 10:03 AM

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