9/11/03
Missouri Becomes 36th State with Right-to-Carry Law

With only one state having passed a right-to-carry law in the previous six years, Missouri becomes the fifth state this year to pass a right-to-carry law. (Minnesota, Colorado, and New Mexico passed laws that grant a permit and Alaska moved from providing a permit to a Vermont style law where permits are not required.) Yesterday the Missouri state House and today the Missouri state Senate overrode the governor's veto.

Conversations with Mikael Gross and Rick Montgomery about Appalachian Law School Attack

Just to get everyone up to speed on this issue, Mikael Gross was one of the students involved in helping stop the attack. Rick Montgomery is a reporter with the Kansas City Star who wrote an article that mentioned a claim by Ted Besen that wasn't in the other newscoverage about the incident. Other discussions on this topic can be found posted on 9/6/03 and 7/4/03. (See all the information on the Appalachian Law School Attack here.)

Notes from a conversation that I had with Mikael Gross yesterday:

Mikael Gross was very generous and spent a half hour talking to me about the Appalachian Law School attack.

In discussing Ted Besen’s statements to the Kansas City Star, Mr. Gross said that “it is very easy to miss facts, that Ted walked up and didn’t see Tracy. Ted did not see where I was or where Tracy was or what he was doing. I am not saying that is what Ted did, but when your heart gets to 120 it is just hard to pay attention.” Gross said that it was quite possible that both Ted’s and Bridges’ impressions could be consistent with each other simply because Ted was closer to Odighizuwa and wouldn’t have seen Bridges and what he was doing. In this situation, it would only be normal for Besen to be "focusing on Peter" Odighizuwa, the killer, who was directly in front of him. Gross also noted that “Neither Ted nor Tracy had worked in a law enforcement in two years and it is possible that when you are out of training you are not as sharp at recognizing everything that is happening.”

I also asked Gross about the first time that he heard of the version of events given by Ted Besen to the Kansas City Star (“Odighizuwa laid down his weapon before the students confronted him”). While Gross didn’t know exactly how long that it was after the shooting before he first heard this version of events by Besen, he said that it was around two months and it was through “scuttlebutt” around the school, not through a direct statement to him by Besen. Gross said that “No, I don’t know why Ted waited two months to say that.”

Other interesting facts that I got from talking to Mikael Gross was that he was the one who secured Odighizuwa’s gun after he had put it down and that he also secured Tracy Bridges’ gun, taking it from Tracy just to make sure that it wasn’t accidentally fired. Gross never really personally knew Besen when they were both at the law school, but he did get to know Bridges through their membership in the Federalist society and that in the six or so months that Gross knew Bridges he had always seemed very honest. What Gross knew of the attack was “consistent” with Bridges’ statements, though Gross was unable to see Bridges during a good portion of the attack. He also confirmed that Bridges and Besen had been friends before the attack and for awhile after it and that some strains resulting from the relative attention given to them had broken up their friendship. These facts seem to confirm the previous statements by Bridges.

Today I also talked to Rick Montgomery from the Kansas City Star. Rick was the author of the March 4th 2002 Kansas City Star piece that contained the statement by Besen that has generated the e-mail that I received. Rick was very helpful, though his article was written over a year-and-a-half ago and I am sure that he has written many other articles since then. In any case, Rick did have a few recollections.

1) He thought that both Bridges and Besen’s stories may have been colored by events that happened after the original attack. Bridges seems to have really enjoyed the attention that he was getting and may have embellished his discussion of the events. On the other hand, Besen appeared to have been very upset by the attention and coverage that Bridges was receiving. Rick specifically mentioned the very strong negative reaction that Besen had to a magazine story that had been done recently that featured Bridges.

2) Rick never felt that he was given a clear explanation for why Peter Odighizuwa had put down the gun. Rick ventured tha even if Besen was correct, Peter Odighizuwa may have put down the gun because he might have noticed from a distance that people with guns were coming towards him. As one way of trying to resolve this issue, Rick asked me if I had tried to contact Peter Odighizuwa, and I told him that I hadn’t.

3) Rick wasn’t sure whether he had anticipated the type of statement that Besen made to him that “Odighizuwa laid down his weapon before the students confronted him” prior to Besen making that statement. Rick has some recollection that the state police implied that there might be conflicting accounts of what had happened at the time of the attack and that is why he called up both Bridges and Besen.

-- A final thought is in order. While Tracy Bridges did talk to a large number of reporters and did tell them about using his gun to stop the attack, Ted Besen, who also apparently talked to a large number of reporters, apparently did not make clear statements like the one he made to the KC Star until about two months after the attack (see report for 9/06). Given this, it is still very surprising that virtually none of the news reports after the attack mention Bridges' account. The explanation made to me by reporters about "space constraints" does not explain the problem.

Update: Bernie Goldberg, a former reporter for CBS News, recently had an e-mail exchange with me about the Appalachian Law School events and he also interviewed Tracy Bridges. Goldberg told me that Tracy had provided him the same story that Bridges had provided me.

For other post on this topic seeAppalachian law school attack.

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Updated Media Analysis of Appalachian Law School Attack

Since the first news search was done additional news stories have been added to Nexis:

There are thus now 218 unique stories, and a total of 294 stories counting duplicates (the stories in yellow were duplicates): Excel file for general overview and specific stories. Explicit mentions of defensive gun use increase from 2 to 3 now.

Journal of Legal Studies paper on spoiled ballots during the 2000 Presidential Election

Data set from USA Today, STATA 7.0 data set

"Do" File for some of the basic regressions from the paper