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Chris Daley’s report of March 15, “Sheriff takes his second amendment talk into the lion’s den,” is a good snapshot of D’Agostini’s meeting in front of the Democratic Women Club of El Dorado County. (N.B. They’re lionesses, not ‘lions.’)
Unfortunately, Chris does not fully convey the contrast between the two speakers: D’Agostini on one hand and Dr. Larry Beutler on the other. D’Agostini comes across for what he is: a typical gun-lovin’, gun-totin’ cop who, according to his own words, “belongs to the Tea Party because he believes what the party stands for.” Lest we wondered if D’Agostini was politically moderate, his letter to VP Biden, besides being a cheap political stunt, makes him look like one of his TP buddies: extremist to the extreme.
On the other side of the lectern was Dr. Larry Beutler, a recognized expert on terrorism and gun violence, author of 26 books on the subject, as well as countless professional articles. Dr. Beutler is professor emeritus at UCSB and visiting professor at Stanford. His bona fides as a man of science are beyond reproach.
Dr. Beutler brought facts and statistics galore to the presentation. Far from calling Beutler’s data into question with “facts,” D’Agostini simply brought bombast and his favorite word: “knuckleheads.” According to the good sheriff, if only we got rid of the knuckleheads, we’d all be safe. He never told us how we can pre-emptively sort “knuckleheads” from non-knuckleheads without doing away with the Bill of Rights. He never explained the process that turns a jilted lover, a jealous husband, a drunken, angry man and a kid who found his father’s loaded pistol from “knucklehead” to “dead.” Nor did he make the biggest connection of all: suicide and knuckleheads. All he offered were Tea Party and NRA nostrums that asked listeners to suspend critical thinking. Perhaps Mr. D’Agostini thought he was still addressing the bobbleheads at the GOP Women Club.
The studies and the evidence cited by Dr. Beutler connecting gun violence with the easy availability of guns made no difference to the sheriff. He did mention that for every independent, peer-reviewed study Dr. Beutler cited, there was another proving the opposite. He did not cite a single such study because none exists.
From the very beginning, most members of the audience realized that D’Agostini was not there to enlighten, or teach or offer insights into gun violence; he was there to regurgitate NRA and Gun Owners of America propaganda and ensure his re-election two years hence.
Yet, D’Agostini and Dr. Beutler, theoretically, have a lot in common. Both are in the investigation business: one into crime and the other into science. A good cop and a good scientist operate on the same principle, the “scientific method.” They gather evidence from as many sources as possible, analyze it, and come to conclusions based on that evidence, and the evidence seldom points to “knuckleheads.”
Why Sheriff D’Agostini, a civil servant, cannot put his personal and political biases aside, and accept the evidence that every single, reputable organization and social scientist recognizes is beyond my comprehension. But it does raise an important observation: If the Sheriff is as biased in his investigations as he is in looking at causes of gun violence, then justice is not well served.