A GOP lawmaker misremembering a mass stabbing spree in Norway that never happened is just the latest and most extreme example of a politician avoiding talking about sensible gun-control measures.
Politicians dodging questions about gun control has become frustratingly commonplace after mass shootings, among Republicans and Democrats alike.
But when your deflections include misremembering a mass stabbing attack in Norway, along with lies about knives killing more people than guns, you are clearly on the wrong side of the debate.
That is where state House Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, found himself this week, after a reporter asked him and other GOP leaders whether they’d support new gun-control measures after last week’s school shooting in Florida.
Kristiansen didn’t just deflect by talking about other issues lawmakers should address that he said contribute to gun violence, including “videos” and “programs” kids watch (though he did that, too). He veered straight into fantastical territory, talking about a supposedly recent incident involving “a person wielding a knife who killed even more people” than the 17 victims who died in this month’s Parkland shooting.
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This alleged stabbing incident, Kristiansen said, shows “that there’s something that’s beyond just the tool that’s being used here.”
The problem is, there’s no evidence of any such stabbing ever occurring in Norway. In fact, when Kristiansen was pressed for details, he described an incident at a kids camp on an island that sounded suspiciously like a mass shooting that occurred near Oslo in 2011. In that attack, the killer opened fire with a gun — not a knife — and killed about 70 people.
Kristiansen went on to lecture reporters about knives being a greater killer than firearms, using nonexistent data and faulty reasoning.
“Because we all know this, and if you don’t know, you should: More people are actually killed by knives than by guns, not just in our country, but around the world,” he said.
Yet according to the FBI’s annual compilation of U.S. crime statistics, 11,004 people were murdered with some type of firearm in 2016, compared to 1,604 people killed with knives or other cutting instruments.
Conservative sites frequently refer to this FBI data in a misleading way, noting that rifles as subcategory of guns appear to kill fewer people in the United States than knives.
Such reports, however, obscure the fact that nearly 3,100 of the reported firearm deaths in 2016 — close to double the total number of knife-related homicides — involved a type of gun that law-enforcement officials didn’t specify. Guns as a whole still are responsible for more than two-thirds of the nation’s homicides.
Our elected leaders’ usual reticence to discuss gun-control measures is maddening enough. But when a leader makes up tragedies and skews data about the topic, it shows how far he or she will go to avoid any reasonable conversation about how to prevent future massacres.
By insisting that lawmakers solve a range of complex societal problems — from depression to poor parenting — before imposing additional limits on firearms, Kristiansen and other like-minded politicians are promising only one thing: Continued inaction.
This year, the Democrats who control both legislative chambers at the state Capitol are not proving themselves to be much better. Measures to address assault weapons and high-capacity magazines did not advance before key legislative deadlines this year. One of the stalled bills is a common-sense change that would require people buying assault weapons to undergo the same background checks as handgun buyers. The measure would also prevent people under 21 from purchasing an assault weapon.
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, encouraged voters to try to pass the enhanced-background check policy by citizen initiative, saying she didn’t think it had enough support in the Legislature. When it comes to public safety, however, our elected officials should be the ones leading the way, instead of hoping that voters will do it for them.
Democrats should revive the bill to strengthen background checks on gun purchases, while also pushing for an outright ban on military-style assault weapons.
At a minimum, they should hold a floor vote this year on the background check measure, so voters can see where their elected representatives actually stand.