Candidate Trahan’s Plan on Guns Lifts Portions from Other Sources

March 18, 2018 GMT

WESTFORD -- One week after a shooter killed 17 people at a high school in Florida, 3rd Congressional District candidate Lori Trahan released a searing letter criticizing inaction in Washington and offering a 12-point proposal to reform the nation’s gun laws.

The Democrat pointed to that plan during an interview with Chelmsford public access television, citing it as an example of her campaign’s “creative and innovative” position papers.

However, about 650 words of her 1,350-word plan as it was originally published were copied almost exactly from outside sources with no attribution, according to an analysis by The Sun.

Multiple paragraphs of Trahan’s policy paper, which was released to the press and published on her website on Feb. 21, mirror sections of a questionnaire sent to House of Representatives candidates by Giffords, a key gun-reform advocacy group founded by former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly.

Other similarities include:

* Two sentences nearly identical to those in the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s policy primer on gun violence prevention.

* Two sentences that come directly from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

* Two sentences that are exact to comments made by Walpole Police Chief John Carmichael in a 2017 Boston Globe op-ed.

Giffords, the DCCC, the Brady Campaign and Carmichael were never mentioned in Trahan’s original proposal.

“Of course Lori’s plan to reduce gun violence embraces ideas put forward by leading progressive groups like the Brady Center and Gabby Giffords’ organizations, along with local law enforcement officials,” the Trahan campaign said in a statement. “Good leadership often involves rallying behind good ideas and relying on experts.”

Following inquiries by The Sun, the text of the plan on Trahan’s website was changed last week to include citations.

Other candidates in the 3rd District race have taken similar stances on gun reform. Trahan was the first to release a lengthy and detailed proposal.

Political candidates often adopt the policy suggestions of advocacy groups or use frequently cited statistics. However, entire sentences of Trahan’s plan -- and in several cases, almost entire paragraphs -- are written with the same language word-for-word as outside material.

A source provided a copy of the Giffords questionnaire to The Sun. It contains more than a dozen questions designed to gauge a candidate’s stance on gun reform. The first nine questions, which cover topics such as domestic violence and concealed-carry reciprocity, are introduced with short paragraphs.

Eight of Trahan’s policy positions repeat parts of or the entire paragraph on the topic from the Giffords questionnaire, with the question “do you support?” changed into a declarative “I support.” Several other sentences in Trahan’s paper copy the same language as portions of the Giffords organization’s website.

The Sun requested a copy of the questionnaire from the Giffords organization several times. Those requests were not fulfilled, although the organization did provide a statement from its executive director, Peter Ambler.

“We work with candidates across the country on gun violence prevention policy and message and invite candidates to use our resources as they see fit,” Ambler wrote. “We are pleased that Lori and other candidates in that race have so aggressively embraced and campaigned on this issue.”

Two other sentences mirror the DCCC’s gun violence prevention policy primer, which, like the Giffords questionnaire, is sent to candidates running for office.

Trahan writes, ”(e)very day, we lose an average of more than 90 mothers, fathers, sons and daughters to senseless gun violence,” which appears identically in the DCCC’s document. She also writes, ”(w)e need common sense efforts to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of violent criminals, domestic abusers and potential terrorists,” which is similar to another line from the DCCC primer with the order of the clauses changed.

A source familiar with the DCCC primer confirmed the similarity of the language.

Three sentences are included in Trahan’s plan under a subsection about repealing the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, under which firearms manufacturers cannot be held liable for crimes committed with their products. The first two sentences are almost exact recreations of material about the law on the Brady Campaign’s website. The third sentence appears to be original.

The section of Trahan’s plan that calls for regulation of suppressors uses phrasing from two sources: the first three sentences mirror the Giffords questionnaire, and then the fourth and fifth sentences about the “purpose” of a suppressor are identical to what Carmichael, the Walpole police chief, wrote in a piece published in The Boston Globe on Aug. 4, 2017.

“The purpose of a suppressor, or silencer, is to reduce the noise emitted from the weapon when fired and to minimize muzzle flash,” Carmichael wrote. “This accessory certainly has some legitimate benefit for law enforcement and military operations but serves no real purpose for civilian use.”

Those two lines appeared the exact same way in Trahan’s proposal without any mention of Carmichael.

Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisLisinski.