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“Dark Minds” and Gun Control

Tonight, at 9 PM (Central Time), I will make an appearance on the Investigation Discovery network’s television series Dark Minds.

Crime author M. William Phelps, criminal profiler John Kelly, and I, revisit the Colonial Parkway murders. Occurring near historic Williamsburg, Virginia, from 1986 – 1989, three couples were found murdered and another couple disappeared on or near the Colonial Parkway.

In 2010, at the request of the victims’ families, the Spingola Files visited Yorktown to profile these complex and troubling cold case homicides. The Colonial Parkway murders are also the subject of a chapter in my recently released book, Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. I & II, currently available at

Police Officers and the Gun Control Debate

Courtesy of Steve Prestegard, SF was sent this link from detailing the results of an extensive survey of 15,000 police officers’ beliefs on gun control matters.

Yesterday, I was contacted by a student writer about the coming gun control debate in the U.S. Senate. The writer asked if any of the proposed changes might have prevented the Newtown tragedy.  Here’s my response:

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In the Newtown shooting, none of the gun control measures being proposed would have likely prevented the shooting. First, the rifle was not lawfully purchased by the shooter. He took it, by force, from his mother. As such, a background check, even an expanded background check for private sales or for mental health, would not have prevented the perpetrator from obtaining the firearm.

Moreover, the term “assault weapon,” as defined in law enforcement circles, is a fully automatic rifle (i.e. those that dispatch more than one round with each pull of the trigger). In most states and under federal law, only a handful of people can possess such weapons. The “assault weapons” politicians and some police chiefs seek to ban are semi-automatic rifles, which fire one round for every pull of the trigger. Most hunting rifles and many shotguns used for hunting are semi-automatic. The “assault weapons ban” applies to some semi-automatic rifles but not others. My guess is that some senators [those supporting gun control measures] seek to ban some guns because the look dastardly, but, in reality, they are no more dangerous than 30-06 or .308 hunting rifles. The AR-15 is simply a .22 long (a .223). It is popular because it has very little recoil. The AR-15’s operation is no different than a standard hunting rifle, with one exception: it looks mean. If looks could kill, well, then the AR-15 would merit banning and not a .308, which is a much deadlier round (used by many police snipers).

The magazine capacity matter is probably a moot issue, too. If the government limits a magazine to seven rounds, what would prevent a shooter from bringing 10 magazines? Moreover, since an active shooter is intent on killing many people and then taking his own life, why wouldn’t this type of individual choose to violate the law and procure and use magazines that are unlawful to possess?

The only way any of these gun laws have even a minute chance of working is outright confiscation. That being said the country has ten times as many firearms as it does undocumented immigrants. The same politicians who advocate gun confiscation (Gov. Cuomo in New York, for example) are the same pols who claim it is impossible to confiscate and deport undocumented immigrants. Guns, of course, are much easier to conceal than immigrants, especially since firearms do not work, rent housing, or attend school.  Under outright confiscation, it would take 50 years before many of the guns would disappear. Like the do-gooder intentions of prohibition, an outright ban would cause the price of firearms to increase to the point where gun runners would traffic them into the country in the same manner illegal drugs—which are banned—are now brought in.

Personally, I would like to see more done in the area of mental health. It’s tricky, though, because good people could argue about the criteria used for the background check.  For example, should the government ban any person who takes Zoloft from possessing firearms? Is so, about five to ten percent of police officers would probably be unable to carry. Even if a consensus could be reached on the criteria, what about a person’s medical privacy? Would people in need of mental health services seek assistance if they knew that their names would end-up in a government database? Each solution tends to create another problem, which is why I believe this area deserves more research before solutions are proposed by grandstanding politicians.


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His latest print edition only book, Best of the Spingola Files, Volumes I & II, is now available at

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© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2013