N.R.A. President Oliver North Blames School Shootings On Drugs Used To Treat ADHD

The new President of the National Rifle Association has a new theory to explain mass shootings, but there's no basis for believing it's accurate.

In an appearance on Fox News Sunday in the wake of last Friday’s school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, incoming National Rifle Association President presented his own theory for the rash of school shootings that we’ve seen over the past twenty years beginning with the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado:

Incoming National Rifle Association (NRA) President Oliver North said in a Sunday show interview that the problem facing America is a culture of violence, not the Second Amendment.

“The disease in this case isn’t the Second Amendment. The disease is youngsters who are steeped in a culture of violence,” North said on “Fox News Sunday.”

North then seemingly blamed prescription drug Ritalin, which is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), for making kids — particularly male students — violent.

“They’ve been drugged in many cases. Nearly all of these perpetrators are male.”

“And they’ve come through a country where violence is commonplace,” North said.

North’s remarks came several days after N.R.A. spokesperson Dana Loesch, who has a long history of controversial statements on Second Amendment related issues that predates her affiliation with the organization, blamed the media for the rash of school shootings:

National Rifle Association (NRA) spokeswoman Dana Loesch on Friday accused the media of “creating” mass shooters by extensively covering suspected perpetrators.

“[The media] has got to stop creating more of these monsters by oversaturation,” Loesch said on NRATV.

“I’m not saying don’t responsibly report on things as they happen,” she continued. “I understand it. But constantly showing the image of the murderer, constantly saying their name, is completely unnecessary.”

Loesch pointed to a number of past school shootings in which the suspects referenced the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado either in writings or social media posts.]

Here’s the video of North’s comments today:

 

And Loesch’s comments on Friday:

This isn’t the first time that the N.R.A. has sought to blame someone or something outside of the scope of the national debate about gun control and the Second Amendment for the mass shootings that have plagued the United States over the course of the past two decades or more. In the wake of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that resulted in the deaths of twenty-seven people most of them, children aged seven or under. the organization blamed the video game industry for glorifying gun violence in what I noted at the time was a bizarre statement by N.R.A. Chief Executive Officer Wayne LaPierre that was entirely devoid of any self-awareness or recognition of irony. In the wake of the shooting in February in Parkland, Florida, President Trump also focused attention on the alleged link between “violent video games” and violence in movies and mass shootings. Given the N.R.A.’s long history of seeking to blame video games for school violence, this is hardly surprising.

There is, of course, little merit to any of the arguments that North, Loesch, LaPierre, or Trump have made in an effort to place blame for school shootings on outside forces. As The New York Times noted in the wake of President Trump’s recent comments, researchers have found no link between video games, television shows, or movies, and mass shootings or other forms of violence among teenagers. As for North’s allegation of a link between ADHD treatment and violence in schools, it’s worth noting that the National Institutes of Mental Health have estimated that only about 15 percent of males and 6.7 percent of females suffer from some form of ADHD. There’s also no demonstrable link between the prescription of Ritalin or any other medication used to treat ADHD and a propensity for violence. If anything, these medications seem to have the impacting of lessening violent tendencies rather than enhancing them.

North didn’t cite any sources for his claim, of course, but as Josh Israel notes, it is a theory that has been advanced by adherents to Scientology that has also been latched onto by some conservative websites as an explanation for school shootings. This theory was largely debunked, however, by an October 2000 study conducted by the Secret Service, the Department of Education, and the National Institute of Justice. That report found that “[f]ew of the attackers had been diagnosed with any mental disorder prior to the incident. Additionally, fewer than 1/3 of the attackers had histories of drug or alcohol abuse.” While this study was conducted eighteen years ago, there have been no credible studies conducted since then that have contradicted it, and no evidence that there has been an explosion in violence from people received pharmacological treatment for ADHD or other conditions.

All of this is consistent, of course, with the N.R.A.’s consistent effort to divert public attention in the wake of any of the recent mass shootings away from any discussion about gun control and toward other issues. It’s also consistent with the rhetoric we’ve heard from North ever since he was selected as the next President of the N.R.A., including his recent statement that said the N.R.A. and gun owners were being treated worse than African-Americans had been under Jim Crow.

To be fair, it’s largely true that in most of these cases the gun control laws that have been proposed would have done little to prevent the incidents in question. In nearly all of these cases, the shooters obtained their weapons legally and passed background checks. The exceptions to that rule are few and far between and demonstrate that laws are only as good as the people who enforce them. Adam Lanza, the shooter in the Sandy Hook case, obtained his weapons by breaking into the gun safe where his mother kept her weapons, after which he killed her early in the morning before going off to the school. Nikolas Cruz, the shooter in the Parkland, Florida case, had been on the radar of law enforcement for years and had a clear history of mental health problems but nonetheless was able to obtain a weapon more than a year before the shooting, which was also before he made his most overt threats of violence. Travis Reinking, who carried out the shooting last month at Nashville Waffle House restaurant, had his weapons taken from him due to his history of mental health problems and yet, for reasons that have yet to be explained, those weapons were given by authorities to his father who then proceeded to return them to Reinking. Finally, is as yet unclear how Dimitrios Pagourtzis, the shooter in Friday’s shooting in Texas, obtained his weapons. The fact that he is only 17, though, seems to indicate that he either stole them from a family member or otherwise obtained them illegally. Additionally, it’s worth noting that the main weapon that Pagourtzis used in the shooting was a sawed-off shotgun, a weapons modification that is illegal under both state and Federal law.

All that being said, the efforts by North, Loesch, and others to seek to divert attention in the wake of yet another mass shooting away from questions about possible reforms to gun laws that could help prevent these types of shootings and toward largely phony arguments about video games, the media, or, apparently now, Ritalin is a rather obvious effort to change the subject on their part. As noted above, there’s simply no evidence to support any of the contentions that these people have advanced. In fact, all they really seem to succeed in doing is to further discredit an organization that has become so reflexive in its efforts to reject any discussion about reforms to gun control laws that it’s simply impossible to take them seriously anymore.

FILED UNDER: Guns and Gun Control, US Politics, , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Mark Ivey says:

    “Ritalin?? sounds Mexican..” –NRAbot

  2. Andy says:

    All that being said, the efforts by North, Loesch, and others to seek to divert attention in the wake of yet another mass shooting away from questions about possible reforms to gun laws that could help prevent these types of shootings and toward largely phony arguments about video games, the media, or, apparently now, Ritalin is a rather obvious effort to change the subject on their part.

    I think this is more evidence the gun control debate is now a pure culture war issue divorced from any actual policy. On the one hand, we have the NRA pointing to anything except guns, no matter how stupid and immaterial. The gun control side, by contrast, only focuses on guns and considers anything else a distraction. They continually repeat the same dogmatic proposals that, as you noted, would do little or nothing to prevent these crimes.

    This leads me to believe that each side wants the issue more than solutions that would actually be effective.

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  3. @Andy:

    I think you’re onto something here. In the sense you’re expressing, the gun control/gun rights debate is basically now at the same point that the debate between the anti-abortion/abortion rights crowds. In both cases, we’ve largely reached a point where it’s impossible to have a discussion on the issue without it devolving into a fight, and where compromise of any kind is seen as surrender and therefore impossible.

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  4. gVOR08 says:

    To be fair, it’s largely true that in most of these cases the gun control laws that have been proposed would have done little to prevent the incidents in question.

    But aside from a rash of “You’re not the boss of me.” what real harm would such laws have done?

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  5. Modulo Myself says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Being anti-abortion is an apt comparison to being pro-gun rights. The anti-abortion side knows nothing about everything. Most of what these idiots believe boils down to women having always been happy to have another mouth to feed, until at least sexual revolution arrived. Every late-term abortion ban ends up without an exception for medical reasons, which is insane. But they just want women to be treated like property.

    Gun worship comes from the same antisocial ideology.

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  6. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    I’ll say this again…I’m against banning guns. You do that, what’s next?
    I am in favor of regulating guns comensurate with their purpose; killing people.
    There have been no SCOTUS rulings denying the application of rigorous regulation. The American people are in favor of rigorous regulation.
    The only reason this can’t happen is the gun lobby.
    It’s about access. The stats are ridiculous.
    More kids killed than service-members?
    In every other developed nation the number of school shootings is in single digits. In America it is 213.
    This is all because of the gun lobby.
    Period.

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  7. Kathy says:

    Is there anyone left on the Conservative side with a working mind?

  8. gVOR08 says:

    Wayne La Pierre, Oliver North, Charlton Heston, Dana Loesch and the rest of the NRA top leadership should rot in hell. But it’s not the NRA as a lobbying organization that does this. The bigger component is Republican politicians who depend on culture warfare to get elected and will seize on any issue they can to fire up their base and divide us culturally and politically.

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  9. teve tory says:

    @Kathy: A computer can work fine and still exhibit GIGO. If All the information you take in is Fox/Breitbart/Treehouse/etc, it doesn’t matter about the processor, you’re still going to get Garbage Out.

  10. CSK says:

    I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t know what the solution is. NRA membership, and gun ownership, have apparently increased over the past few years. I don’t come from a family in which gun ownership is sacred, though I’m sure some of my ancestors probably shot a deer or two to put food on the table. I have recently returned to live in the affluent suburb where I grew up. When I was in secondary school here, some of the guys brought rifles to school, locked in the trunks of their cars, so they could hunt with their fathers in the late fall afternoons. There was never the vaguest hint that any of those guys presented a danger, and, in fact, none of them ever did. No one hunts in town any longer, since most of the fields and woodlands that aren’t under the purview of the conservation commission have been developed, though I think you can turkey-shoot in specified outlying areas at strictly specified times.

    Something happened. I don’t know what it is.

  11. teve tory says:

    @teve tory: I worked with a guy in Gainesville last year, perfectly smart guy. In 3 mos I never saw him do a single stupid thing. But–if, say, someone mentioned Trump, he would say things like, “Can you believe how the FBI used to be the preeminent Law Enforcement Organization in the world, and now they’re doing things like trying to rig the election against Trump? He was genuinely appalled about things like that, or how Hillary hadn’t been arrested for selling our uranium to the Russians for under-the-table money, or how sad it was that Obama had wiretapped Trump for oppo research, etc.

    Smart guy, but garbage was going in, and garbage was coming out.

  12. Modulo Myself says:

    I don’t actually see any proposals or solutions to gun violence coming from the gun rights side. Mental health? How is it going to be funded? And what are the criteria? The Las Vegas shooter was reciting NRA propaganda. In Santa Fe, the kid might have been motivated simply because a teenage girl didn’t want to be stalked by him. Is this newly-empowered mental health regime going to be taking guns away from anybody who believes the NRA’s lies? How does it work?

    David French was channeling Malcolm Gladwell, but Gladwell explicitly built his tipping point theory–which is basically how these shootings are being conceived–around the idea that no larger forces shape desire. Like you just do things, like drink soda or go on shooting rampages. It’s telling–the larger forces that shape violence are things like misogyny and masculinity, and these are unimpeachable values for right-wing America.

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  13. Modulo Myself says:

    @CSK:

    I grew up around hunting too. You know what? It’s cruel. Hunters are out shooting animals that aren’t threats. I don’t believe that hunting should be outlawed or that vegetarianism is a moral necessity, but it’s very odd that hunting deer is presented as a sport that has no psychological consequences. Intentional cruelty to animals is a flag for a lot of f–ed behavior, and yet you put on orange camo and go drinking with your buddies, it’s legit. Nothing to worry about–just some guys hanging around shooting at vicious deer.

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  14. CSK says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    I agree–but I did point out that those of my forebears who did shoot deer did it out of necessity.

  15. Andy says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    I grew up around hunting too. You know what? It’s cruel.

    Have you seen the videos of what goes in the factories that supply our supermarkets?

    Eating meat requires killing – there’s no way to get around that. People may certainly disagree, but IMO hunting is no crueler than mass meat production and it is likely a lot less cruel.

    (Full disclosure: I fish but have never been hunting, and I eat store-bought meat).

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  16. Jim Tantillo says:

    I think it doesn’t make much sense to lump North’s argument in with what Loesch argues. The argument that the media “creates” mass shooters by over-hyping their crimes and personalities has been made by many reasonable people besides Loesch. Whereas North’s arguments are just plain weird in comparison.

    I also think the NRA is misunderstood and mis-characterized in many of these discussions, e.g. the claim above that “anti-abortion is an apt comparison to being pro-gun rights.” I think this gets it exactly wrong. The NRA is simply an absolutist organization dedicated to the absolute protection of a constitutional right, in much the same way as Planned Parenthood and NARAL are absolutist organizations dedicated to the absolute protection of a constitutional right.

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  17. EddieInCA says:

    @Andy:

    Have you seen the videos of what goes in the factories that supply our supermarkets?

    I have. It’s why I’m a vegetarian and have been since 1994.

  18. Kathy says:

    @Andy:

    Eating meat requires killing – there’s no way to get around that.

    There have been attempts to grow cow muscle cells in the lab. It works, but it’s not exactly beef. But give it time. If you can grow cow body parts in the lab, complete with fat tissue, blood, bone, etc. it will be beef. It might be more efficient, too, as you’d only grow parts you can sell for food, not the whole cow, and would likely take less time.

    In the meantime, yes, the meat industries are rather cruel. Often the animals are turned into meat-making machines, without much regard for their needs. And that’s long before they are slaughtered.

  19. Modulo Myself says:

    @Andy:

    I have and everybody who eats meat should know what goes on in factory farms. But people who eat meat aren’t present in the slaughter of animals. This isn’t about the morality of vegetarianism. I don’t think eating a rare steak has the same impact on a person as shooting a deer for sport using a weapon.

    My father returned from Vietnam. He could eat meat but he couldn’t hunt because it had too many similarities to killing humans.

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  20. Gustopher says:

    I don’t think it’s the video games or the Ritalin, but I do think Oliver North is right that we need to think a bit further when casting blame for school shootings…

    I blame people who give weapons to terrorists. TOW missiles in particular, being sold to bolster right wing death squads in Central America.

    I don’t know the whole chain that goes from trading weapons for hostages to school shootings, but before Iran-Contra we didn’t have a whole lot of school shootings. Something changed.

  21. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: Not on this issue, no. Probably not on most other issues, too, but I’ll give the benefit of the doubt because one working mind is a small number, so it’s possible.

  22. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @teve tory: Now you see, I see the story you just told as an example of a non-working mind. A working human mind has the ability to sort information to ascertain the degree to which the data should be considered valid. A processor simply believes whatever you tell it.

    Example: If you tell a computer that the value of the slope for 10 miles of the surface of the earth should be valued as zero and then tell it to tell you the shape of the world by multiplying slope value by however many 10 mile sections there are, it will probably tell you the world is flat. A human with a working mind will be able to tell you it’s still round. A conservative, not so much.

  23. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: Post hoc much?

  24. michilines says:

    I haven’t read all of the comments, but I have this to say,

    @Andy:

    This leads me to believe that each side wants the issue more than solutions that would actually be effective.

    Wrong. There is one side that wants their way. And that side has had their way for a very long time despite the reasonable efforts of both politicians and law enforcement. Do you think that law enforcement supports the NRA position? Most big cities (and some smaller ones) don’t. They realize that they are more endangered by the NRA’s stance than the opponents’ stance. I call bullsh*t.

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I think you’re onto something here.

    Of course you do. You are the person to whom this comment was directed. Someone who throws his hands up in the air and says, BOTHSIDES!

    @CSK:

    Something happened. I don’t know what it is.

    This is the most self-perceptive comment I have ever seen you make on this board. Perhaps it will be a new start for you.

    @Andy:

    Have you seen the videos of what goes in the factories that supply our supermarkets?

    This is as ridiculous as your first comment. People have be harvesting domesticated animals for food for forever. There are even rituals for the proper way of doing it in the Bible. Hunting on the other hand is in fact cruel. I know gun enthusiasts claim that they are just harvesting resources, but, you know, they aren’t.

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  25. michilines says:

    @Kathy: Have you ever heard of Temple Grandin?

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  26. Hal_10000 says:

    I do think Loesch is not 100% wrong when she says “culture of violence” but I think she’s missing the larger context. The culture of violence I worry about more is the casual way we go war, the way we ignore or dismiss the thousands killed in those wars, the way we excuse cop shootings, the tens of thousand of SWAT raids launched on our fellow citizens, the way we tolerate abusive resource officers in schools, etc. The problem is that Loesch and her fellow travelers support all this — more wars, more police militarization, more glorification of violence. She’s part of the problem she’s describing. Or maybe she missed that commercial he made about the iron fist of truth.

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  27. teve tory says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    @teve tory: Now you see, I see the story you just told as an example of a non-working mind. A working human mind has the ability to sort information to ascertain the degree to which the data should be considered valid. A processor simply believes whatever you tell it.

    If you saw this guy do absolutely anything non-political, like I did every day all day for three months, you’d know he had a very well-functioning Human mind. Most people aren’t like us–they don’t pay excessive attention to politics. On the subject of politics he spent very little time* and had been habituated some time in his past to a few sources that you and I know are in the Conservative Bubble. It doesn’t mean he didn’t have a human mind, it actually meant he had a normal Human mind. I easily spent 10 hours this weekend dwelling on political topics, even though I know it’s a bad habit and I shoulda been doing something else. Normal people, or normal smart people, don’t do that. Most of the people here at OtB are self-selected from the small minority of humans who spend way too much time on politics if we’re not getting paid for it. You and I are the oddballs.

    It’s easy to be the Linux nerds hanging out with the other linux nerds making fun of Noobs for not knowing how drastically different “rm -r” and “rm -rf” are or whatever. Or the guys who hang out on gun forums and think less of people who guess that a .38 and a .380 must be the same size bullet. Most people don’t pay attention to deep subculture stuff enough to know politics well. Politics is sufficiently complicated that the vast majority of smart people I’ve known (I mostly know biologists, physicists, geologists, and other STEMers) would seem like total Noobs if they were to post some comments here.

    I’ve had to revise how I think democracy itself works or doesn’t, based on the fact that I don’t think the average person will ever–maybe should ever–spend the stupid number of hours it takes to truly understand what it means when Trump says X but the AG does Y while historical precedent says Z, and it’ll be okay if the SCOTUS rules Q but not if it rules W. Those issues may seem normal to us but they’re deep subculture stuff that >90% of people will never give a shit about anymore than I can lecture someone about this version of Batman vs. that version of Batman, which I’ll never give a shit about.

    *And FWIW, what he chose to spend his time on instead made him much more successful than I am.

  28. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    Hunting deer is necessary. Not for the hunter, but for the deer. Without culling, the lack of natural predators would result in them overpopulating. If we banned recreational hunting, we’d have to pay people to do it.

    As an example, I live near Valley Forge National Historical Site where hunting is banned and they regularly have to hire sharpshooters to come in and cull the deer herd.

  29. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @teve tory: Don’t disagree that the dysfunction can be compartmentalized, but in that realm, his mind is non-functional. I know from reading what you write that you want to believe in the good in people and that “if they only had better data” crap, but I’ve given up on my fellow man and thinking the best of people.

  30. teve tory says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Yep. I haven’t hunted in a long time but I can’t abide people who want to ban it. Deer in the wild don’t die of old age, they either starve to death, or get eaten alive by wolves. Choice between getting a .30-06 to the heart and dying instantly, or writhing while wolves tear my guts from my abdomen, ain’t no choice at all.

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: It’s not so much that I want to see the good in people, as I come from a place, when I was young and dumb, where I thought everyone was stupid, and I hated them for being stupid, and was angry about how easy it would be to have a much more amazing society if all these tards would stop acting so fucking stupid. My big evolution over the past 2-3 decades has been coming to understand how they’re not always stupid, there are often logical reasons for why the world works as it does, and big economic and structural forces that influence people, and I shouldn’t blame people so much for being products of their circumstances. In my darker moments, I’m still angry that they’re stupid.

  31. teve tory says:

    @Stormy Dragon: I was listening to a hunter talk on a podcast about being someplace in Alaska where they have the biggest bears in the world, and he described watching a bull moose through field glasses when a big brown bear ran up and with one downward swipe, broke the moose’ back, and it collapsed.

    That reminded me of why I haven’t been out in the woods much lately. 🙂

  32. gVOR08 says:

    @Lava land:

    yes my conservative mind works fine, thanks

    It’s a common critique of conservative writing that it tends to run heavy on assertion and light on evidence.

  33. HarvardLaw92 says:

    N.R.A. President Oliver North Blames School Shootings On Drugs Used To Treat ADHD anything, however ludicrous it might be, other than the enormous surfeit of firearms in the United States.

    FIFY

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  34. grumpy realist says:

    @Stormy Dragon: It’s either shoot the deer, or run into them with cars….there are certain highways in Pennsylvania I’ve driven along which look pretty nerve-wracking at certain times of the year, what with the bloodstains all over the road.

    (I grew up in Upstate New York, so my attitude towards deer is “large vermin with antlers.”)

  35. An Interested Party says:

    I wonder how much Russian money is going to the NRA…if the goal is to disrupt our society, they’re certainly getting their money’s worth…

  36. michilines says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Hunting deer is necessary. Not for the hunter, but for the deer. Without culling, the lack of natural predators would result in them overpopulating. If we banned recreational hunting, we’d have to pay people to do it.

    It wouldn’t be necessary if the hunters had not already f*cked with the ecosystem. People have been killing off the apex predators and then complain about the deer. They seem to like the fur of those apex animals on their floors and sofas and don’t realize what they have done.

    Stupid people.

  37. michilines says:

    Am I banned?

  38. Matt says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Well murders via hands and feet (punching/kicking not strangling etc it has it’s own spot in the FBI crime database) are also MUCH lower in those countries too… We’re a violent country in general…

    @michilines: Yeah how dare people kill a mountain lion / bear / wolf / coyote / feral dog / etc that is trying to eat them their family or their livelihood…

  39. TM01 says:

    Divert attention away from more gun control laws. Which you just said are only as good the enforcement of said laws.

    Well, let’s focus on enforcement rather than new laws which only affect the vast majority of gun owners.

    You mention the 15% or so of kids with ADHD. Let’s talk about the number of guns vs the number of guns used in Mass shootings. That’s got to be at least 15%, right?

    Regarding Nikolas Cruz, there’s a pretty clear link between Obama and the Left’s leniancy trend to keep kids out of the prison system and that shooting. While great on paper, the price of that Utopian goal is more dead children. Parkland was a pretty clear cut case of a total failure of government to address a known threat. Perhaps he would have gotten guns by some other means, but he really should have been on a list preventing him from purchasing them, and maybe even should have been in jail to begin with.

  40. TM01 says:

    @An Interested Party: I don’t know how much Russian money is going to the NRA, but it’s a well established fact that Russians are a significant source of funding for a lot of the anti frakking groups in the US.