Host David Gregory waved an empty 30-round magazine for an AR-15 rifle in the face of Wayne LaPierre, executive director of the National Rifle Association, on NBC's "Meet the Press" program Dec. 23, and asked him why it shouldn't be banned.
In the District of Columbia, from whence "Meet the Press" is broadcast, such "high capacity" magazines are banned. Possession of one is punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to a year in prison.
Mr. Gregory knew he was violating the law. D.C. police told him not to brandish the magazine, but he went ahead with the stunt anyway. Police may file charges.
That would be a "total waste of time," because Mr. Gregory wasn't planning to commit any crimes, said CNN's Howard Kurtz.
Prosecuting Mr. Gregory would do nothing whatever to reduce gun violence, conservatives agree. But 99.99 percent of legal gun owners in the U.S. aren't planning to commit crimes, either. Mr. Gregory is an advocate of the law he broke. If others who intend no harm must obey it, why should he be exempt?
Mr. Gregory pulled his stunt because in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14, Adam Lanza, 20, murdered 26 people at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, 20 of them children.
The massacre prompted many journalists to abandon all pretense of objectivity. There should be a "media agenda" to force the government to pass more gun control laws, said former CNN Washington Bureau Chief Frank Sesno.
When told the gun homicide rate is nearly 50 percent lower than in 1980, CNN anchor Don Lemon said: "It doesn't matter if gun violence is down. We need to get guns and bullets and automatic weapons off the streets."
If all we want is hasty action, facts can be a nuisance. But if we want solutions, facts matter.
You are more likely to be struck by lightning than to be the victim of a mass shooting (four or more fatalities). But there are more of them than ever. There were 18 in the 1980s, 54 in the 1990s, 87 in the 2000s.
There are many more gun control laws now than there were 30 years ago, so the surge can't be attributed to their absence.
What has surged is the glorification of violence in movies, video games and rap music. Sane people distinguish between fantasy and reality.
But most mass shooters have been mentally ill. In the past, people like Adam Lanza were committed to state mental hospitals. It's much harder to do that now.
News media coverage of mass shootings also has surged. That's unfortunate, because the primary motive of the shooters seems to be the notoriety they expect to get from their evil deed.
With just one exception, "every public shooting since at least 1950 in the U.S. in which more than three people have been killed has taken place where citizens are not allowed to carry guns," noted gun researcher John Lott. Mass murderers seek out soft targets where they know they won't be interfered with.
At least five times in the last 22 years -- most recently at the Clackamas Mall in Oregon on Dec. 11 -- armed citizens have cut murder sprees short.
Journalists rarely report this.
When Mr. LaPierre said at a news conference "the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun," he was derided.
But his proposal -- to put armed guards in every school -- would do far more to prevent future Newtowns than would a ban on high capacity magazines.
The other favorite nostrum of elite journalists -- reinstatement of the ban on "assault weapons" -- would do no good at all.
It would not have applied to the .223 Bushmaster rifle Lanza used for his murder spree, even though the Bushmaster is based on the M-16.
It's long been illegal for civilians to own automatic weapons, so all that distinguishes an "assault rifle" are cosmetics. An "assault rifle" has a bayonet stud and a pistol grip. Banning these may reduce drive-by bayonetings, not mass shootings.
But to the ignorant reacting emotionally to a horror, banning "assault rifles" sounds reasonable.
The "animating passion" of elite journalists who abandon objectivity and ignore facts to push for gun control is "moral posturing," said Washington Post columnist Peter Wehner.
"They want to take advantage of massacres like the one we saw in Newtown to push an agenda that makes them feel morally superior," he said.
"It doesn't really matter to them which laws are most (and least) effective. They have decided that more gun control laws are needed and the NRA is malevolent, and they are determined not to allow any contrary evidence or thoughts to upset their settled ways."
Jack Kelly is a columnist for the Post-Gazette (firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1476). This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/