The Bias Pageant (Vote Early And Often!)

The weekend saw not just one, but two bits of epic anti-2nd-Amendment bias in the Strib.  And not in the columns, mind you – it was in the “news”.

Contestant Number One:  Matt McKinney:  McKinney, whose coverage of the Darin Evanovich shooting in 2011 we spent so much time assailing back in the day.  Last week, he wrote about the Byron Smith trial in Little Falls.  Smith is accused of ambushing two youngsters who were breaking into his home.  Again.  The two -Haile Kifer, 18 and Nick Brady, 17 – were apparently not visiting Mr. Smith’s home for the first time.

How many times?

McKinney (with emphasis added):

The Little Falls homeowner had suffered a few break-ins in his home and his adjacent property in the fall of 2012, but didn’t go to the sheriff’s office until after an Oct. 27 break-in, when a shotgun and rifle, as well as other items were stolen from his home.

“A few break-ins” may have been a half-dozen or more.

How many break-ins is a person supposed to cheerfully endure?

To be fair to McKinney, it appears to this non-lawyer that Byron Smith broke one of the absolute rules of self-defense.  While he was not a willing participant, he had no “duty to retreat” in the home, and he may well have had a reasonable fear of being killed or maimed, the idea that he may have shot one or more of the burglars after they were down and no longer a threat may have been the one mistake he made.

On the other hand?  The Strib ran the story on a Saturday.  When the jurors weren’t sequestered, and could read McKinney’s heart-rending elegies to the victims.  Er, burglars.  Why would they do that?

And the County is charging him with first-degree murder – as if he’d been specifically planning to kill the two.

Why, it almost seems like the Strib has a desired verdict.

No – that’d be crazy talk.

The Second Contestant:  Baird Helgeson:   The Strib’s Helgeson wrote last week about the Schoen-Latz bill to take guns away from domestic abusers.

It’s not so much that the issue doesn’t warrant attention – domestic abuse is ugly and prone to violence.  Most people – even shooters – support some provisions to disarm people who are legitimately suspected of domestic abuse, with due process.

It’s the words “legitimate” and “due process” that are the clinkers.  Many – maybe most – domestic abuse charges brought during divorce proceedings are inflated or false, intended by angry spouses and sleazy divorce lawyers to try to skew the proceedings.   The accused – usually men – are often treated as guilty until proven innocent.  And even a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction is sufficient to disarm someone for decades, maybe life.

So most shooters agree – disarm the violent, but give people due process.

The responsible anti-gunners and the Minnesota 2nd Amendment community have been negotiating over a current bill for a while now, trying to make sure everyone’s concerns get addressed.

So look at the tone of Mr. Helgeson’s piece.  I’ll add emphasis for things like cheerleading and repeating Heather Martens’ chanting points under the guise of “news reporting”:

Minnesota could be on the verge of breakthrough changes in some of its gun laws.

“Breaking through…” against what?

Until now, no restriction on gun ownership has been too small to draw the fierce opposition of gun rights groups and their supporters.

“Small” to whom?  This blog spent a lot of time last year showing how big the “small” restrictions actually were.  That is, apparently, of no interest to Helgeson.

Just a year ago, a proposal for broader background checks for firearms purchases was crushed at the Capitol despite attempts to weaken the bill enough to get it approved.

“Crushed” sounds so…bad.  How about “defeated”?

This time, a rank-and-file police officer — who also happens to be a DFL House member from St. Paul Park — is leading the effort to take all firearms, including rifles, away from those who stalk or abuse their partners. His careful ­legislative campaign is winning surprising support.

Notice how Helgeson is framing the issue?  Gun rights supporters are tyrants, “crushing” and “weakening” legislation from the plucky, reasonable underdogs of the DFL!

The narrative is served!

He has a powerful partner — Republican Rep. Tony Cornish, a retired police officer and the Legislature’s most outspoken advocate of gun rights. He ­regularly carries a handgun into the ­Capitol.

Presumably as “the Darth Vader March” plays in the background.   That plucky Dan Schoen!

The bill, which has run a gantlet of House committees, faces its most serious test Monday, when the full House is scheduled to vote on final passage.

Now, if I were a reporter exercising my personal biases, I’d say the bill “slithered through a series of House committees where members, weary of defending bad gun bills from well-informed citizens, gave it a solid working-over”.

But good bills “run gauntlets”.

Here’s the interesting part – and perhaps the part the Minnesota anti-civil-rights lobby would prefer Helgeson not have written:

The proposal would put Minnesota at the leading edge of a larger national movement that, after meeting with defeat on more ambitious proposals, is aiming at narrow niche victories in areas with broad public ­support, such as preventing domestic homicides.

Leading the way to “Victory” against the big bad shooters!

That is, of course, Michael Bloomberg’s current strategery – to kill the Second Amendment with a million cuts. 

I wonder if Helgeson would be so excited about laws that tossed biased “journalists” out of the trade?  Probably not – he (and I) would likely turn into civil libertarian absolutists.

Narrative alert!

The bipartisan nature of the measure has drawn the attention of DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, a devoted gun owner who has been leery of tightening Minnesotans’ right to own firearms.

The left trots that out whenever Dayton needs to appear “moderate”.  He’s a “devoted gun owner” – but not one of the icky bad ones!

“It’s not perfect, but it’s getting there,” said Rob Doar, a lobbyist for the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance, which has dropped its objection to Schoen’s bill. “We agree with making sure the guns get out of the house,” so long as there is ample due process.

There is some question as to how accurately Helgeson related Doar’s quotes.  I’ll be talking with Rob about this soon enough.

Studies show that half of all domestic abuse homicides in Minnesota over the past three years involved a firearm.

“I absolutely believe without a doubt that lives will be saved by this,” said St. Paul City Attorney Sara Grewing, whose office handles about 1,000 domestic violence cases a year.

All likely true.  But they’re significant for what they set up:

The gun culture of this country is so disturbing,” said Marree Seitz, whose daughter Carolyn was shot and killed by her husband several days after filing for divorce in 1996. “So much of the domestic abuse is so flammable, where the littlest thing can set the person off,” she said. “The accessibility of the weapons makes it such a natural thing.”

It’s as if Helgeson thinks he’s writing a buddy movie – the unlikely good/liberal cop bad/conservative cop taking unlikely sides against “the gun culture”, personified by all those unwashed gun maniacs that swarm the Capitol “crushing” and “weakening” their precious gun laws.

And yet they try soooo hard!

Legislators were still working on the proposal late in the week, ensuring that gun advocates could approve the changes.

The measure puts opponents in the difficult and politically dicey position of defending gun ownership rights for domestic abusers and stalkers.

Right!  And in case any of you missed it, Baird Helgeson was there to say it’s so!

The measure has strong support from Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the country’s largest gun violence prevention advocacy organization.

Not to be confused with “gun control group”.  Good heavens, no.

The group was founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has poured millions of dollars of his personal fortune into the cause.Just this month, Bloomberg pledged an additional $50 million to try to match the NRA’s formidable membership base, lobbying force and campaign organization.

That’s good ol’ Bloomie; just another plucky billionaire underdog, fighting against those millions of regular middle-American nuts!

“Clearly, we ran into a buzz saw last year,” said Paymar, who runs a nonprofit organization aimed at reducing domestic abuse. “The environment was toxic at the time.”

Regular citizens turning out and making their opinions crystal clear = “toxic”.

Good to know.

Now It’s Time To Vote!:  Who wins the first ever “Strib Bias Pageant?”

Who Wins This Week’s Strib Bias Pageant? free polls 



Results will be announced tomorrow. Vote early and often!

11 thoughts on “The Bias Pageant (Vote Early And Often!)

  1. Domestic child abuse is bad. Domestic partner abuse is bad. Stalking is bad. HF 3238 is bad. It will be abused and won’t stop crime.

    I was a divorce lawyer for a decade. I routinely saw Womyn’s Advocates coach divorcing women how to get a domestic abuse restraining order that awards custody, support and possession of the house and contents based on wild claims in an expedited hearing. Judges were terrified to decline lest they be pilloried as heartless.

    Rep Paymar groundlessly fears gun-show transfers: Carolyn Seitz husband passed a background check and bought the gun from a licensed dealer. This law would not have saved her life either, because she didn’t have a restraining order in place.

  2. I watched two lawyers divorce and saw just about every nasty trick that could be pulled be pulled, including the domestic abuse charge. After dropping off the kids they guy got in an argument with his wife, then went straight to the cops telling them that his wife was about to file a domestic abuse claim so he wanted them to see him before the call. Sure enough, while he was sitting there talking to the cops she called and went hysterical, claiming all sorts of bloody bruises and whatnot that the cops could see hadn’t happened. Strangely enough, after the cops investigated and filed the report that incident made it into the case as a plus for him, not her.

    So yeah, I’ve got a jaded view of domestic abuse charges when a divorce is involved.

    […] the idea that he may have shot one or more of the burglars after they were down and no longer a threat may have been the one mistake he made.

    No, the big mistake he made was recording his screwup. Without that he might have dodged charges. Not that shooting a wounded person who wasn’t a threat wasn’t wrong — it’s just that without that evidence his defense of justifiable fear inside his own home would have been far easier. I’ve had cops tell me only half jokingly that if you have shoot a criminal make sure to drag them back into the house to make your life easier.

    Honestly, it’s his description of a “mercy shot” that tells me he wasn’t justified in what he did. But premeditated? Not hardly.

  3. I heard the lefty on late afternoon WCCO radio say Smith “lured” the teenagers into his house. No, he hid his car and then waited in his basement. That’s luring?
    Yeah, Smith went one step too far, which is too bad. He made that area safer by getting rid of 2 serial criminals.
    He reminds me a bit of Clive Bundy in Neveda. These are people who are not polticians. Don’t handle being in the public spotlight very well. They just want to be left alone.

  4. One test I apply to situations like this is to ask the person whose opinion I am interested in who they would like to live next door to; Trayvon Martin or George Zimmermann? The teen burglars or Byron Smith?

    The last one is closer for me than the first, but I think I’d bet on Smith. Homes that produce people like the two burglars are typically without supervision and are usually the problem house of the neighborhood.

    Problems that involve property lines usually generate a more thoughtful, personal, and truthful response than those that involve political, racial, or socioeconomic lines …

  5. But the female burglar was a pretty girl with a nice smile. Shocked the Strib hasn’t made it into a hashtag WarOnWomyn bit.

  6. Joe Doakes’ comment brings to mind a complaint I’ve had about the media for a while; they rarely, if ever, seem to ask the follow up question, and that’s probably the biggest bias out there. No depth of reporting, really.

  7. Nerdbert, way off topic here (sorry gracious host), gives implicitly a great hint to those facing legal action. Document what your opponent is doing and let them hang themselves. I’ve given this advice to a lot of single parents whose “sperm donors” or “egg donors” behave badly. Document it, and then “roll tape” at the next custody hearing.

    Nobody appears to have listened to me yet, but I keep hoping to help someone.

  8. I’ll wait until all the FACTS come out and the jury makes their decision on the Smith trial, but from what I’ve heard reported up to now it doesn’t look good for his case. I’m with nerdbert on the mistakes he’s said to have made and how that will probably be his undoing.

  9. No, the big mistake he made was recording his screwup. Without that he might have dodged charges

    Sure, that too – although a prosecutor could look at blood spatter and a spent bullet on or in a floor directly underneath an exit wound on a body, conclude that it was a coup de grace, and at least try to charge “excessive force”.

  10. Mitch, powder residue–wasn’t it a revolver?

    I don’t think recording things was the big issue–you can explain that from the profession he’d just retired from. That just provided the evidence.

    What I think is going to nail him is that he (a) used small caliber weapons, (b) didn’t call authorities, and (c) administered a close range coup de grace. All of these choices suggest he was consciously departing from his training and from basic principles of self-defense–you don’t get within knife/punch range if you’re afraid the person could still be dangerous. Might be more of a case for murder 1 than I’d originally thought.


  11. @Mitch: I’ll take “excessive force” over murder 1 any day. And it would be hard to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the perp on the floor wasn’t “reaching for what I thought was a weapon” (the magic words that work for homeowners as well as cops). You had two serial burglars caught inside a home with a history of having stolen a weapon from that house: any reasonable person would have been in fear for their safety so lethal force was justified, just not the way that Smith actually did it. I still maintain that without Smith’s own evidence against himself the odds are he would have walked, especially given where the crime occurred and who was involved, and that would have been a shame since his behavior was at the very least immoral.

    I’ve seen a few of the TV reports and it seems that there’s a serious divide in the community about this case. I’ll be curious if the judge gives the jurors a chance to convict on a lesser charge.

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