He bought his guns on the Internet

by jonl

Gun Room at Philadelphia's City Hall

In casual conversations, we often hear someone say “I read blah blah on the Internet,” and if you ask for a specific source, you’ll often get “I don’t remember where.” So it could have been the New York Times, or it could have been an inexpert blog post: a comment qualified in that way has no authority or meaning. Same with “bought it on the Internet.”

I was struck by a comment MSNBC’s Chuck Todd made while talking about access to weapons in the U.S. He mentioned that James Eagan Holmes, the Aurora shooter, bought considerable guns and ammunition “on the Internet.”

My first thought was that Todd is a careless journalist (something I never thought before), in part because he used a phrase so vague. Also because he followed with a comment suggesting that Holmes dyed his hair bright orange “like Heath Ledger’s Joker in Batman.” The Joker existed as a character before Heath Ledger played the part, and clearly does not have the bright orange hair we see in the photos of Holmes. Chuck, you’re thinking of Bozo the Clown. The Joker’s hair is green.

But I digress. The relevant question here is the significance of saying that Holmes bought his arsenal online? That anyone can buy guns? Could we argue that, had Holmes bought his guns from a physical gun store, the clerk would have noted his demented stare and refused to make the sale? I doubt it.

It doesn’t matter where he bought the components of his arsenal. He could have bought them anywhere guns (and bullet-proof vests) are sold. Or so I read on the Internet.

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