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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Opinion >  Syndicated columns

Smart Bombs: Ringing in the new fears

Happy new fears to those who have slinked away from the old fears.

Remember those?

Newly elected President Barack Obama was going to grab guns, following through on his comment about rural folks clinging to them.

Before he could even take office seven years ago, the word spread that this obscure community organizer with the foreign-sounding name was about to hatch his massive confiscation plan.

Dan Cooper, who co-founded Cooper Firearms of Montana Inc., was forced out as chief executive officer when word spread, in 2008, that he was an Obama supporter. Rather than face a crippling boycott of his custom-built rifles, he resigned to protect his employees.

Cooper was a firm believer in the Second Amendment, and his livelihood depended on gun rights. But because he wasn’t paranoid about Obama, he had to go.

A few months after Obama was inaugurated, the Missoulian reported that three ammunition facilities that pumped out 300,000 rounds per day were unable to keep up with orders.

Dan Newson, owner of the Bitterroot Valley businesses, said he’d never seen anything like it.

“It’s just unreal,” he told the Missoulian. “Somewhere in lots of basements around the country, there are millions of rounds of ammunition being stored.”

It goes without saying — or does it? — that this rumored sweep of guns and ammo never took place. But the fear, it seems, can never be dislodged.

CAMP INVENTION. I still hear about those FEMA camps up by the Canadian border, where God-fearing Americans will be interned and forced to perform hard labor after being stripped of their firearms. Apparently, these camps are like vampires, impossible to photograph, because I’ve never seen a picture.

But I have seen pictures of empty Wal-Marts in Texas, where folks were supposedly going to be imprisoned after Operation Jade Helm. But those military maneuvers are over, and the stores still have no use for greeters.

So I ask, how many do-overs do the conspiracy theorists get? If they were golfers taking mulligans, they’d never finish a round.

Guess we’ll find out this year as they spin new tales of fear and loathing without ever being called to account.

Happy New Fear!

RED HERRING EFFECT. The numbers are in and that purported “war on police” is a bust.

Radley Balko, who has been following this issue for the Washington Post and Reason magazine, has the final count, and it looks like 2015 was the second safest year on record for law enforcement. Only 2013 was safer.

After a steady stream of videos capturing controversial police shootings and other questionable uses of force, a counter-narrative emerged alleging that criticism of police practices had emboldened citizens to attack officers.

In short, it was the protesters, not the police, that were the real problem. And they were preventing police from stopping an alleged crime wave that stemmed from “The Ferguson effect,” as a Wall Street Journal op-ed called it.

But as Balko reports, the rate of gun-related police deaths last year was six times lower than in the 1970s and 14 to 17 times lower than during Prohibition. The rate was 20 percent lower than in 2014. It also isn’t true that nonfatal assaults on officers increased.

And while the homicide rate is up in several cities, it looks like the overall crime rate will be down for 2015, according to Ronal Serpas, chairman of Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration. His group is made up of 150 current and former law enforcement leaders, prosecutors and attorneys general, and it notes that last year’s crime rate will be less than half what it was in 1990.

So, no crime wave either. Just an attempt to change the subject.

Associate Editor Gary Crooks can be reached at or (509) 459-5026. Follow him on Twitter @GaryCrooks.

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