David Frum: Firearm Manufacturers Should Face Tobacco Industry-Like Senate Hearings

CNN Columnist David Frum is calling for Obama to bypass Congress and have the Surgeon General investigate the dangers of gun ownership and to have the Senate convene tobacco industry-style hearings (circa 1990s) on gun manufacturers.

Frum's argument is that guns, like cigarettes, are dangerous, and that the gun lobby and gun manufacturers have blinded Americans to the truth of this in the same way that cigarette companies allegedly did in years gone by.  

In a desperate attempt to bolster this thesis, Frum uses two things: 1. Anecdotal stories that can easily be countered by other anecdotal stories, and 2. Disinformation bordering on purposeful distortion concerning the way firearms are manufactured and the way they operate.

Regarding the anecdotal examples, he says that stories given to justify female ownership of AR-15s for home and self-defense are "Rambo-like" stories that "do not happen in real life." To prove this, he cites a firearm accident involving a father and his child in 1994. He also cites a road rage incident between two women in which one woman got out of the car, approached the other car, and was shot.

That's it--a firearm accident in 1994 and a road rage incident and voila, gun manufacturers should be subjected to hearings and warning labels on the side of the firearms. (Oops, they already have warning labels on the side of firearms.)

What Frum conveniently overlooks is the story of the Loganville, GA mom who grabbed her children and crawled into an attic to escape a home invader on Jan. 4. Once the perpetrator chased the woman, found where she and the kids were hiding, and tried to get them, she unloaded a .38 Special revolver on him, but having only five shots, was not able to kill him.

Does that woman not posses the right to have more rounds at hand in a gun with a large magazine so she can protect herself and her children?

Frum also overlooked the incident in Miami, FL on Feb. 12, wherein an unarmed father being described as a "super dad" stood between his daughter and home intruders and was shot to death in the process. Could not the outcome have been quite different if the father had a semi-automatic handgun with 13 shots or an AR-15 with 30?

Note: Both the Loganville incident and the Miami incident are the kinds of home invasions Frum said "do not happen in real life."

Beyond this, Frum said gun manufacturers deserve to face scrutiny in hearings because "guns almost never indicate whether a bullet is in the chamber." This is an absolutely embarrassing statement that betrays more about Frum's ignorance of firearms than it does about firearms themselves.

Among semi-auto handguns alone, loaded indicators are commonplace and have been for decades. They are normally right beside the extractor on any given semi-auto, and are frequently painted red for visibility. 

But even if this weren't true, one of the first rules of gun safety is that you always treat a gun as if it is loaded--always. This is a matter of personal responsibility, not firearm manufacturer liability. 

Frum goes on to ask why firearm manufacturers can't be required to make guns that won't fire when dropped. Anyone who owns a Glock, Springfield XD, Smith & Wesson M&P, or any number of similar semi-autos knows that these guns are made with an internal disconnect to prevent them from firing when dropped. Moreover, for decades revolver manufacturers have been putting transfer bars in their revolvers to keep them from discharging if dropped. 

Here's the bottom line: Frum is upset that Obama's ambitious gun control push has met stern resistance among the American people and their Reps. and Sens. in Washington DC, so he's now grasping at straws.

Far from making the case for Surgeon General studies or Senate hearings, Frum has simply demonstrated he's another inside-the-beltway commentator whose firearm knowledge could be greatly improved by a class on gun safety, followed by a day of shooting targets at the local gun range. 


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