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October 28, 2002

THE VIOLENCE POLICY CENTER IS STILL TRYING TO FLOG ITS "SNIPER SUBCULTURE" THEORY, even though that was exploded before John Muhammad was even caught. But facts don't stand in the way of those guys (have they taken the Bellesiles quotes off their website yet?) as this Boston Globe article demonstrates:

Tom Diaz, senior policy analyst at the Violence Policy Center in Washington, D.C., said the subculture is fueled in part by gun manufacturers that market high-powered, military-style weapons to nonmilitary people. Certain training schools that teach people how to hunt a person, what part of their body to target, and how to take down a helicopter, and publications like Plaster's wildly popular and highly detailed book, also contribute to the subculture, he said. Other critics say the glorification of powerful military weapons and rock star-like admiration of military snipers, as well as video games and movies about lonesome but brilliant long-range killers, all lead to the possibility of more incidents like that in Washington and the chilling shootings at Columbine High School.

''This is clearly a hot trend and, yes, there is a subculture out there,'' said Diaz. ''Somebody is buying all these books, videos, and going to these schools. They are not Martians. They are human beings from this country and perhaps from some other places, too.''

So even though it had nothing to do with the D.C. sniper (much less Columbine), this "subculture" is being blamed. Makes sense. After all, these guys pushed gun control as a remedy for the Oklahoma City bombing, too.

It reminds me of one of my law professors who said, quoting a movie I don't recall: "I use gin for colds. But then, I use it for everything."

What's interesting is that this time the Globe isn't swallowing the VPC's line whole, but is actually presenting the issue as one with two sides:

Weapons experts have said they do not consider the person who terrorized the Washington suburbs a trained sniper. Professional shooters such as Rodney Ryan, owner of Storm Mountain Training Center, a sniper training school in West Virginia, takes issue with the public perception that the killers have been linked to his profession.

''This guy wasn't really a trained marksman. He was no more qualified than I am 16,'' said Plaster, who is 53. ''He was no more trained than anybody who goes to basic training,'' he added.

And here's the real non sequitur in the VPC's position: Muhammad is a military veteran, an expert says his shooting skills come from basic training, and the VPC is trying to cash in on the publicity brought about by his acts, but:

Diaz said his organization is not criticizing military snipers or even schools that only teach military and law enforcement sniper techniques, but he insists too many people are teaching dangerous lessons to regular people.

So Diaz is only against the "sniper subculture" in circumstances that are entirely inapplicable to the case he's relying on for publicity.

Sorry, but this is just pathetic.

UPDATE: Reader Byron Matthews writes:

CBS Evening News tonight had sniper story: How easy it is to get sniper training in the U.S.

Highlight was interview with "Gun Policy Analyst" who said he was "shocked" when he went to the Internet to find how many sites offered training and info about sniping.

The "analyst" was Tom Diaz.

Can you imagine an NRA rep being identified only as a "gun policy analyst"?

Nope. I can't.