Do a little research before falling for clickbait headlines

Monday, October 22, 2018

The headline was sure to raise the ire of patriotic fans of the Second Amendment.

“Vietnam War veteran sentenced to 7 years in prison for buying ‘rare’ gun in the 1980s”.

A television station reported that a Plano, Texas, man, Alfred Pick, 70, was sentenced to seven years in prison for buying a rifle like one he carried before briefly being taken as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Silver Star.

It was a collector’s item, one of 14 weapons in his collection that included a number of rare guns.

Sometime in the 1980s, he purchased a military M14 rifle at a gun show, according to the story on a CBS television station.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives raided Pick’s home last year after hearing about the rifle.

Many readers were understandably outraged by Pick’s sentence, which he received after pleading guilty to purchasing the weapon.

The story did include important details, such as the fact that his wife had died two weeks before the raid, and that the rifle had a scratched-out serial number.

But the official release on the sentencing adds important details that might temper reader outrage.

Pick actually pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm while an unlawful user of a controlled substance.

In October, Plano police were called to a hospital where Pick, upset over the treatment of a relative in the hospital, said he intended to return to the hospital with a firearm and “would shoot [hospital staff] in their kneecaps and elbows first and let them bleed.”

After he was taken into custody and delivered to authorities for a mental health evaluation, ATF agents, acting on a tip, obtained a search warrant and found over 2 grams of cocaine and 10 grams of marijuana at Pick’s house.

And, unlike the story as reported, officials said Pick told witnesses he had stolen a fully automatic “machine gun” with an obliterated serial number while he served in the military. An M14 is capable of fully-automatic operation.

Other details not included in the story are reports that Pick had repeatedly been cited for criminal trespass at various area hospitals with verbal and physical abuse of staff, police were called to restaurant parking lots twice in 2014 where he had reportedly threatened patrons and brandished handguns.

And, Pick’s daughter reported to investigators during the pre-sentence investigation that he had sexually abused her from the time she was 4 until 17, taking nude photographs to “chart her growth.”

“Obviously, there was a lot more to the sentence that was received — a sentence that Mr. Pick and his lawyers agreed to — than a single gun with a missing serial number,” said U.S. Attorney Joseph D. Brown.

“Although Mr. Pick was a decorated veteran, he would use that status routinely to try to excuse his repeated criminal behavior. This was also not a mental health issue,” Brown said, “it became a public safety issue.”

Facebook is full of stories from questionable sources, something both the U.S. Department of Justice and the social media site itself confirm.

It’s sad, however, when the network that was the home of Walter Cronkite, once the most respected voice in broadcast journalism, stoops to such shoddy tactics.

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