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Why Don’t We Regulate the Gun Industry?

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            Last week the House voted another assault weapons ban which will probably die in the Senate or at least will be sidetracked until after the mid-terms. But even if the bill doesn’t go forward, my friends in Gun-control Nation need to understand what such a bill really means and how it should be used as we continue to look for ways to reduce a threat to public health called gun violence which kills and injures more than 125,000 Americans every year.

            What I have never understood about my friends who advocate for more gun control is their reluctance to focus on the only issue which can really result in a meaningful decline in gun violence, namely, regulating the industry which produces the products which are used to commit deaths and injuries from guns.

            Every other country that regulates guns to reduce gun violence focuses first and foremost on regulating the guns themselves.  Canada just imposed a temporary ban on handgun imports until a new gun-control law is passed which will eliminate the ownership of handguns that are used in most Canadian gun assaults.

            Countries like France, Germany, Italy, and the U.K. also impose severe restrictions on owning certain types of handguns, while imposing few or any conditions on purchasing or owning long guns.

            How do we regulate the industry whose products are the only products whose access and availability creates gun violence? We regulate how the products move from the manufacturer to the retailer to the customer. We also try to regulate the behavior of the customer, the gun owner, by imposing a background check on whether they are law-abiding before they purchase a gun.

            So how is it that with regulations that only allow newly manufactured guns to move from manufacturers to dealers to consumers, all of whom have to be either licensed or prove themselves to be law-abiding, we wind up with 125,000 guns being used to commit fatal and non-fatal injuries every year? 

            WTFK. And if you need someone to tell you what that acronym means, ask any 12-year-old kid.

            Want to reduce the number of Americans who are killed or injured with guns every year?  It’s very simple. Regulate the gun industry the way we regulate every other consumer industry by regulating what types of products can and cannot be sold.

            I was a VP of IT at one of the largest insurance companies in the United States which routinely introduced new insurance products all the time. Every, single one of these products had to be examined and approved by a regulatory body in every state to make sure the product conformed to the relevant laws for what kinds of insurance could be sold in that state.

            Want to get a new food product onto the shelves of Stop and Shop or some other grocery chain? Either the state agency which tests and approves foods gives you the green light or you can stick your new product you know where or try to sell it to Venezuela or Belize.

            So, we have a very comprehensive regulatory system for making sure that just about everything a consumer can buy meets some very clear standards in terms of safety and design. Except when it comes to guns, which even if they were regulated like roller skates or motorcycle helmets are still as dangerous as all gitgo.

            Want to manufacture and sell a gun to American consumers?  All you need to do is get a manufacturer’s license from the ATF, which is nothing more than passing a background check. Then make sure that the gun is a certain length if it’s a rifle or a shotgun, otherwise it’s a handgun. Then make sure that when someone loads the gun and pulls the trigger, only one bullet comes out at a time.

            And that’s it. That’s how you will be regulated if you want to make a consumer product that has killed more than 375,000 Americans over the past ten years.

But gun makers producing assault rifles will be regulated by having to make sure their guns meet certain design standards if the new law somehow gets to the Senate floor and gets passed. Too bad that assault rifles account for a small fraction of the fatal and non-fatal gun injuries that occur every year.

            Either my friends in Gun-control Nation cut the bullshit about gun control and start holding meaningful discussions about how to regulate the products made by the gun industry that cause all those injuries or as Grandpa would say ‘gurnisht’ (read: nothing) will change.

            And this goes for my friends in public health research as well who spend all their time doing research on the effectiveness of this law and that law which regulate how people behave with guns but oh, we can’t regulate the gun makers because they have 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ to produce and sell whatever they want to produce and sell.

            Gaston Glock designed a gun to be used by the military and the United States is the only country which lets civilians own this type of gun. Gun makers shouldn’t have any such ‘rights’ at all.

Does Right-to-Carry Increase Crime?

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            If I have one problem with my friends in Gun-control Nation who do research on gun violence, it’s that they know next to nothing about guns. Virtually all of their research is based either on medical data from various branches of the CDC which yields a lot of information about who gets shot with guns, but very little about who does the shooting or why the shooting occurs.

            Alongside medical data, the other sources used by gun-control researchers are first-person surveys of gun owners which attempt to explain how gun owners change or don’t change their behavior in response to changes in gun laws.

            In that regard, I’m looking at a paper just published by NBER, which is a study of the effects of right-to-carry laws on crime and policing in various cities. The lead author, John Donohue, has been looking at the intersection of laws and behavior in the gun world for s number of years, and is considered an important scholar in this respect.

His scholarship in the area covered by this paper has become more important in the wake of the recent SCOTUS decision – NYSRPA v. Bruen – which extended the 2008 Heller decision granting 2nd-Amendment protection to handguns in the home to similar Constitutional protection for carrying a concealed handgun outside of the home.

I’m going to leave alone the whole issue of whether regression analyses, particularly synthetic controls, can really explain causal relationships between such dynamically variable factors as robbery and homicide, except to say that using such methodologies demands a very clear understanding of the social contours and circumstances in which events like violent crimes actually occur. Unfortunately, when the violent crimes involve the use of a gun, Donohue and his colleagues demonstrate major gaps in what they know about guns which makes it impossible to accept the validity or relevance of this research for developing effective gun-control policies.

Perhaps the biggest flaw in this paper is the assumption that laws covering the carrying of guns has anything to do with the way in which people who use guns for criminal purposes think about using guns. The fact that certain crimes increased coincident with the passage of RTC laws, doesn’t necessarily mean that the behavior of one trend has anything to do with the behavior of the other, unless you set out to prove this to be the case.

Since more violent crimes are committed without guns than with guns, you would think that researchers would want to know what factors go into a decision that someone makes to use a gun to commit a violent crime. In fact, there has not been one, single study which has ever asked criminals who commit gun violence to explain the process which led them to: acquire a gun, acquire ammunition for the gun, load the gun, carry the gun, pull out the gun, point the gun at a potential crime victim, and in the case of an assault or homicide, pull the trigger of the gun.

Whether this sequence occurs over a brief period of time or over many years, if someone does not engage in all seven steps, a gun violence event will not occur. Should we assume that the passage of an RTC law in any way influences the decision-making process that results in someone using a gun against someone else? Sorry, but I’m not impressed with the idea that a regression analysis can give us a definitive answer to that question.

And Donohue isn’t sure either. So, what he does is to assume that RTC leads to more gun violence because of secondary results of RTC laws, namely, that more guns are stolen from individuals who are now walking around with a gun.

For the issue of gun theft, Donohue relies on research published by the Harvard Injury Control group, which estimates that 250,000 guns are stolen every year, and that the rate of theft is higher among gun owners who report carrying a gun as compared to those who leave the gun at home: “We find that owning many guns, owning guns for protection, carrying guns, and storing guns un[1]safely are associated with having guns stolen.”

How did Hemenway’s research team determine which respondents to their survey were carrying guns? They asked the following question: “In the past 30 days, have you carried a loaded handgun on your person?” If a respondent answer with a ‘yes,’ Donohue then assumes in his study that this type of individual was probably more frequently found in jurisdictions where RTC was in effect.

To their credit, Hemenway’s team makes it very clear that their research has significant limitations, up to and including the fact that they have absolutely no idea when guns were stolen, what kinds of guns were stolen, and a number of other limiting factors which gave the team a publishing credit but certainly doesn’t inform us about how guns move from legal to illegal gun-owners at all.

Does Donohue even suggest that perhaps the work on which he relies for his estimates about gun thefts has as many self-admitted holes as the piece of Dorman’s Swiss cheese that I’m going to eat when I finish this piece? Not one bit.

If the team which sent the new Webb telescope into orbit knew as little about outer space as Donohue knows about guns, we would have wasted nearly 10 billion dollars putting the Webb package into orbit last year.

In this respect, unfortunately, scholars like Donohue continue to publish research that are clever exercises in statistics but tell us next to nothing about the individuals who use guns to commit crimes.

That being the case, how can you use this research to design or implement effective laws to prevent people from committing crimes with guns?

Want To Walk Around with a Gun? In Some States Maybe You Can, and Maybe You Still Can’t.

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            I have been inundated by fundraising requests from gun-control groups like Brady and Giffords ever since the SCOTUS issued its opinion in NYSRPA v, Bruen which basically shot down (pardon the pun) used by New York State and six other states for deciding who can, and who can’t walk around with a concealed gun.

Until this opinion was published in May, New York State was one of seven states which still required an applicant for a concealed-carry license (CCW) to show that he needed to be armed because otherwise he wouldn’t be able to defend himself, in other words, proving that he had a specific reason for needing to carry a gun.

In effect, the SCOTUS decided that the ‘right’ to own a gun didn’t just cover keeping a handgun in the home, which is what had been the issue when SCOTUS defined the 2nd Amendment in 2008. With the Bruen ruling, anyone who can pass muster to own a gun can also get permission to walk around with the gun outside his home.

Thanks to our friend Jennifer Mascia’s article in The Trace, we now know how this case will shift those ‘may issue’ states to ‘shall issue’ states, i.e., removing the ability of the cops to apply discretionary judgements to the issuance of CCW.

No wonder that Brady, Everytown and all the other groups in Gun-control Nation are up in arms (again, pardon the pun.) The only other legal barrier whose disappearance will result in untold mayhem are the laws which prevent gun owners from freely moving across state lines with their concealed guns, but not to worry – I’m sure the gun ‘rights’ gang is getting ready to attack that law as well.

I happen to live in one of those seven states, which used to be a ‘may issue’ state.  I live in Massachusetts and to the joy of the local gun nuts, on August 1st the State Legislature amended the CCW process, striking the word ‘may’ with the word ‘shall’ as it applies to decisions by the cops on who can and who still can’t walk around the Commonwealth with a gun. The new language also deletes the phrase ‘a reasonable exercise of discretion’ from the issuance instructions now followed by the police.

So now Massachusetts has joined the ranks of the ‘shall issue’ CCW states. Except there’s only one little problem for my friends in Massachusetts gun-nut land, which is that the new procedures do not (as in no, or zero or however else you want to define it) take discretionary authority for CCW issuance away from the cops at all.

The new CCW procedure still requires that an applicant submit to an in-person interview with the ‘licensing authority’ which is the police chief in whichever city or town the person seeking CCW permission happens to live. The new law gives the licensing authority the ability to withhold a CCW license if the applicant demonstrates – ready? – that he might be a danger to himself or someone else.

How does the new ‘shall issue’ procedure in Massachusetts define the word ‘danger?’ It doesn’t. That’s left up to the cops.

What the SCOTUS did not do in the Bruen ruling, and what even this bunch of alt-right SCOTUS justices would never do, is issue a ruling on any law that would challenge what we refer to as the ‘compelling interest’ of the community to decide that certain basic features of modern life are too important to be left to each and every town resident to decide himself.

One of those issues, for example, is the ability of everyone in the community to be able to read and write. So, we have public schools supported by taxes and if you don’t want your kid to sit in a classroom and have his head filled up with crazy ‘woke’ ideas, that’s fine. But you still have to pay taxes and you still have to find some other way to prepare your kid to pass those statewide proficiency exams.

Ditto with another compelling interest known as community safety. Which is why we pay the salary of the police which, by the way, didn’t happen throughout New York State until 1917. And guess who pays the costs for that compelling interest? The same taxpayers who pay for public schools.

Jennifer Mascia notes that following Bruen, hundreds of Massachusetts residents were going to have CCW restrictions lifted from their gun licenses. Except that what Jennifer couldn’t know is that virtually every one of those restricted licenses were issued to Boston residents for the simple reason that cops in large cities have never felt comfortable granting CCW to any city residents in Boston, New York, Chicago or anywhere else.

The real question, however, is whether or not states which move from ‘may issue’ to ‘shall issue’ CCW will see an increase in violent crime. But the issue isn’t whether or not there will be any increase in violence per se; the issue is whether or not a change in violent crime rates is connected to whether more or fewer state residents are walking around with legal guns.

Our friend John Lott has built an entire career out of the idea that when a jurisdiction issues more CCW licenses, violent crime rates go down, an argument which gets him plaudits from pro-gun groups and angry denunciations from the other side.

Meanwhile, neither side has yet to produce one, single piece of serious research which shows that the more guns equals less crime argument, or the more guns equals more crime argument to be true or even connected to one another at all.

But since when did the argument about the role of guns in American society need to rely on facts?  We don’t need no stinkin’ facts – we got guns.

It’s People Not Guns That Win Elections.

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            I’m waiting until tomorrow to write anything about the Tuesday primary results because a couple of the races have not yet been called. But I did want to sneak a story in about one race, which was the Senate GOP primary in Missouri, where the lawyer Mark McCloskey, received less than 3% of the primary vote.

            McCloskey and his wife were arrested and charged with reckless endangerment in June 2020 after standing in front of their home as a Black Lives Matter group marched by in the street, and waving their guns at the crowd, because according to them, their house was about to be attacked.

            Nobody else in the vicinity of their suburban home outside of St. Louis saw anything which even remotely resembled an assault against either their property or against the couple themselves. But appearances can be deceiving and who knows what mayhem might have occurred if McCloskey hadn’t come out with his AR-15 to uphold his 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

            What McCloskey got for his stand in support of the Constitution was an invitation to speak at the GOP convention and a digital pat on the back from the NRA.  They were interviewed by Dana Loesch, who used to be a big deal on NRA-TV, where they said they had a ‘right to bear arms,’ among other things.

            I have to give my friends at The Trace credit for digging up some very interesting news about McCloskey and his wife. It turns out that these two stalwart defenders of gun ‘rights’ have actually made a nice buck suing gun companies whose guns misfire and in one case resulted in the shooter’s death. In fact, the gun held by Patricia McCloskey in the picture just below looks suspiciously like one of the guns that was a defendant’s exhibit in a liability case.

            You’ll also notice by the way in the picture above, that both the McCloskey’s have their fingers on the triggers of their guns, which is an absolute no-no even among the gun-nut population which sent in money to help the McCloskey’s pay for their defense.

            So, these two schmucks are found guilty, are sentenced but then their sentences are commuted by the Governor and this act paves the way for McCloskey to run for Senate this year with a really original campaign sloganNever Back Down!

            On his website, McCloskey states that “a violent mob stormed onto his property and threatened his family,” although we’re still looking for that violent mob. For that matter, so is just about everyone else, given that McCloskey got less than 20,000 votes out of nearly 620,000 votes cast.

            Ever since Orange Shithead got up at a campaign rally in January 2016 and said that he could shoot someone dead in the street and he wouldn’t lose any votes, some of his most enthusiastic supporters have been trying to prove him correct.  The way they do it is to show up at public events brandishing their guns, like the Nazis who marched down the street in Charlottesville VA waving their AR-15’s and chanting anti-Semitic slogans on August 12, 2017. That’s when Trump said there were ‘good people’ on ‘both sides, a comment which basically guaranteed that he would only serve one term and never win another election again.

            The point is that anyone who tells you he needs to wave an AR-15 around in public for any reason at all is basically just full of shit. And if nothing else, yesterday’s GOP primary vote in Missouri tells me that even in a red state like the ‘show me’ state, which is also a big gun state, nobody’s buying that nonsense at all.  

How Come (Some) Americans Love Their Guns?

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            I happen to believe that the current debate about gun violence is the most uninformed and unaligned with reality of any debate on any public health issue of all time.

            We know what to do about global warming. We may not have the political will to do it, but we know why it’s happening, and we know what to do.

            We know what to do about hunger and famine. Again, there may be political exigencies that prevent us in every situation where famine threatens to do what needs to be done, but we know what we should do.

            We also know what to do about viruses like Covid-19 and other epidemics.

But gun violence isn’t an epidemic. To quote our good friend Kathy Christoffel, gun violence has become endemic rather than just epidemic because we don’t know what to do.

            And the reason we don’t know what to do about gun violence is because every time there’s a really bad shooting and the gun-violence debate erupts again, the two sides whose arguments create the debate demonstrate that they know anything at all about the only issue which really matters, and that issue happens to be the issue of guns.

            Last week we had a Congressional debate about gun violence before the House voted up the assault weapons ban. At one point the expert from the Giffords group, Ryan Busse, started arguing with a pro-gun GOP member from Florida, Scott Franklin.

            In a rare moment where they actually agreed on something, they told everyone that the current battle gun used by U.S. troops was not the type of assault rifle owned by American consumers, because the civilian gun only fires in semi-auto mode, whereas the Army gun fires in full-auto or 3-shot bursts.

            In fact, the gun which our troops use in the field, the M4A1, fires either in full-auto or semi-auto mode. So, if a trooper decides to set his rifle to fire semi-auto, does that mean he’s going into battle with a sporting gun?

            This is the kind of stupidity which passes again and again for informed narrative when it comes to talking about guns and gun violence. Want another one? Try this one.

            Every time that some researcher or research organization does a so-called survey about who owns guns, one of the first questions always asks the gun owner to explain why he bought his last gun. The choice is always the same: (1). I bought the gun to go hunting; (2). I bought the gun for self-defense. And every time this survey is published, the self-defense answer is twice as frequent as the answer about buying a gun for hunting or sport.

            Over the past 45 years, I have probably sold guns to some 7,000 or 8,000 residents of three states: South Carolina, New York, and Massachusetts. So maybe I know a little bit about why people buy guns, okay?

            If I asked any one of those thousands of customers why they were buying a gun, they would stare at me in disbelief. How could I ask such a ridiculous question? They had come into my shop to buy a gun because – ready? – they … wanted … to … buy… a … friggin’… gun!

            That was a hard one to figure out.

            Of course, as the guy was walking out of my shop and someone from Pew or Harvard asked him why he just plunked down $600 bucks to buy a new gun that he needed like he needed a hole in his head, he’d have to come up with some kind of bullshit reason, so he’d mumble something about his ‘2nd-Amendment rights,’ or he wanted to protect his family from all the rioting and looting that’s taking place in some other state, or some other nonsense he heard someone else say in some other gun shop.

            The point is this. The whole gun thing is nothing but impulse, that’s all it is. The guy who just bought a gun from me spent as much time thinking about why he needed that gun as he’ll spend tomorrow morning deciding which lottery ticket to buy when he stops for coffee on his way to work.

            For that matter, the kid who gets into an argument and drops a cap on the other kid because ‘he dissed me’ or some other crap, is also behaving on nothing more than impulse. Or to quote Lester Adelson, “a gun converts a spat into a slaying and a quarrel into a killing.”

            Either my friends in Gun-control Nation – advocates, researchers, public officials – will start trying to figure out how to stop people with access to guns from behaving impulsively with their guns or they won’t.

            And notice I say, ‘access to guns.’ When it comes to gun violence, there’s no difference between people who can pass a background check and people who can’t.

            A gun is a gun is a gun.

How Come People Who Want Gun Control Don’t Know How to Talk to People Who Own Guns?

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            Carolyn Maloney is a House member who chairs the House Oversight Committee and is today chairing the hearing on banning assault rifles prior to a House vote on a bill thar will die in the Senate. Since 2013, she has been pushing a bill to criminalize gun trafficking, parts of which were incorporated into the gun-control bill just signed by Joe.

            Maloney didn’t do groups and individuals who are concerned about gun violence and mass shootings any favors in the way she led this hearing. The witnesses were from two companies that manufacture assault rifles – Daniel Defense and Sturm Ruger – versus Ryan Busse from Giffords and a staffer from the Brady Campaign.

            The fifth panelist was a young, African-American woman from the Gun Owners of America (GOA) nut-job gang, who claimed that Black women were the fastest-growing demographic of gun owners, a statement for which there is absolutely not a shred of real data but so what?  Who needs facts to back up an argument about guns, right?

            The other side, of course, has its own interesting deployment of data to bolster its point of view. In particular, there’s this whole thing about all the so-called ‘new’ gun buyers who have armed themselves over the last couple of years. The numbers come from both the gun industry and from public health research.

            There’s only one little problem, however, with this argument about how the Pandemic has increased the number of Americans who own guns. Has anyone bothered to figure out how many gun owners died from Covid-19 who otherwise might be alive if China hadn’t sent us the ‘kung flu?’ And let’s not forget to mention that this virus is particularly virulent among older people, who just happen to be the demographic most likely to own guns.

            Anyway, back to the hearing.

            So, the Democrats on the panel tossed easy questions to the panelists from Gifford and Brady, the POS/GOP members tossed softballs to the guys from the two companies that manufacture the AR-15. Nobody on either side said anything that hasn’t been said before – the gun-control people want to ban assault rifles; the pro-gun advocates want to toss all the potential bad people with a gun into jail.

            What struck me as I watched the proceedings, however, was the degree to which none of the House members nor the panelists tried to say anything that might be of interest to the other side. These two groups – gun ‘rights’ versus gun control – never (read: never) ask themselves to come up with an argument that might resonate with even one person who doesn’t agree with what they are always going to say.

            I’m not expecting to hear a rational or defensible argument from the pro-gun side, because there is no rational or reasonable argument to be made for keeping an AR-15 or a hi-capacity, semi-automatic pistol like a Glock or a Sig around the house.

The reason I have those kinds of guns around my house is very simple: I like guns. Maybe it’s a case of arrested mental development, maybe I want to believe that I can be a real, tough guy if I walk around with a gun. Maybe I’m just full of shit.

Anyway, it really doesn’t matter what I think as long as I have the GOA protecting my 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

Several years ago, an old man came into my gun shop and bought a gun. He had trouble filling out the background-check form and started cursing ‘that goddamn Kennedy,’ even though Ted Kennedy never promoted gun-control measures in his public remarks.

Finally, I got pissed off at the guy and said: “Hey Mister, if you had two brothers who were shot to death by men who used legally purchased guns, wouldn’t you be in favor of more gun control?”

The guy stopped filling out the form, looked down, then looked at me and replied, “You know, nobody ever said that to me before.”

I am still waiting for one of the gun-control groups to come up with a meaningful way to explain gun risk to gun owners without lecturing them on being ‘responsible’ with their guns. I am also still waiting for the public health researchers to discuss the same thing.

How come it’s so hard to figure out something to say to gun owners that they haven’t already heard?

Want To End Gun Violence? Be Responsible with Your Guns.

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 Since this past Saturday, according to our friends at the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), there have been 385 shootings throughout the United States where someone with a gun tried to kill someone else who either did or didn’t have a gun. 

The result? 154 dead and 388 wounded, numbers which are probably somewhat underestimated since the GVA relies on media sources for its numbers which means a few shootings are missed here and there.

What the GVA doesn’t give us, and it’s not their fault, is the number of times that someone pulled out a gun, pointed the gun at someone else, pulled the trigger and missed.

You know that old saying, ‘if it bleeds, it leads.’ Right?

The point is that we don’t really know the true extent of gun violence in America. In fact, we’re not only not close to knowing, but if anything, we seem to be moving further away from trying to figure it out.

An article in yesterday’s USA Today summarizes the research on gun violence that has been funded by the CDC since the agency resumed its support of such work last year.  The reporter breaks $75 million in research grants awarded so far into three basic categories: community initiatives to reduce gun violence, veteran’s suicides and keeping children safe. The research director at the Giffords Law Center then sums it all up by saying she hopes we can finally gather some “’really basic data.’”

All fine and well, except there’s only one little problem. None of the studies which have been funded by the CDC have anything to do with gathering data at all. And if the only way I can get any idea about the extent to which guns are used to kill or injure anyone is to rely on media accounts gathered by the GVA, would the CDC track the incidence of Covid-19 by running a daily Google alerts scan?

Every few years the public health gun researchers get together for a meeting (they enjoy attending meetings) where they kvetch and moan about not having sufficient data to really understand gun violence. Which doesn’t seem to stop them from doing research because it’s better than working for a living, right?

I have said this again and again, but I don’t mind talking to myself, so I’ll say it one more time. It’s very simple. The United States experiences morbidly high rates of gun violence because we are the only country in the entire world which allows residents to own guns – semi-automatic handguns chambered for military-grade ammunition – that are designed only for the purpose of committing violence, which is defined by the World Health Organization as the intentional attempt to injure yourself or someone else.

What’s the response of public health gun researchers to this state of affairs? They look for ways to somehow mitigate the violence caused by such guns without getting rid of the guns. Have you heard one public health researcher call for an absolute and total ban on such weapons? You won’t.

Oh! I forgot! Want to be taken seriously by your public health colleagues when you conduct research on gun violence? Make sure to state that you have no intention of depriving Americans of their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

It’s what the physicians and public health experts who claim to be concerned about gun violence refer to as the ‘consensus’ approach. All we need to do is figure out strategies that will reduce gun violence but, by the way, still let Americans have free access to the cause of that gun violence, which happen to be the guns.

Of course, there’s always another approach we can use to take care of the problem without pissing off too many people on either side. We can promote the idea of being ‘responsible’ with guns, what some of the gun-control groups refer to as gun ‘sense.’

How touching. How polite. It’s not sense, it’s nonsense. Okay?

I can walk into the local Stop and Shop, pull out my Glock 17 and kill maybe 15 people in two minutes or less. Who says I’m not behaving responsibly with my gun?

Isn’t that what my Glock 17 was designed to do?

What Does the New Assault Rifle Law Really Say?

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            So, once again the country will be treated to yet another Congressional debate about guns, with one side saying we already have too many goddamn gun laws, and the other side saying that we can reduce gun violence by passing yet another law.

            The law being debated would ban certain types of new guns from coming into the market because these types of guns, known as assault rifles, are being used in shootings where twenty people or more get killed in the same place and at the same time. And when these people happen to be a bunch of little kids and the place where they are killed happens to be their elementary school, as Grandpa would say, that’s ‘nisht gut’ (read: no good.)

            Now, it turns out that if we were to take the total number of people killed with these assault rifles each year and deduct that number from the total number of people killed every year who get shot by guns, it wouldn’t reduce the overall fatal toll of gun violence by even one percent.

            But you got to start somewhere, right? And since we can’t seem to figure out how to stop forty thousand or so people from picking up a gun and using it to kill themselves or someone else every year, if we get rid of assault rifles, at least these really bad, mass shootings may disappear. Maybe they’ll disappear. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t.

            You can read a text of the House or Senate bills, which basically say the same thing, but I’ll save you the trouble and summarize them as follows. Once this law goes into effect, nobody in the United States will be able to buy a new rifle or handgun which shoots in semi-auto mode and loads with a detachable magazine that holds more than 10 rounds.

            There are a few more bits and pieces to the law, but what I said in the previous sentence is what this ban is all about. If you happen to own a gun like this now, you can keep owning it or you can sell it to someone else. Or maybe you can sell it to someone else. The devil is always in the details., and the Senate version of the bill has an interesting, little devil lurking within, namely, a paragraph which only allows the current owner of an assault rifle to dell the gun to someone else by taking the gun to a federally licensed dealer and having the dealer run a background check on the prospective new owner of the gun.

            The House bill also has an interesting little devil that so far has avoided any public mention, which is a provision that requires everyone who currently owns an assault rifle to store the gun in a way which would prevent anyone not legally allowed to access such a weapon to get their hands on it.

            The NRA has posted a review of the proposed ban which quotes the usual suspects from both sides of the gun debate who say that the law, once enacted, would have little impact on gun violence in the United States. But none of these experts have obviously bothered to read the text of these bills. Because if they did, they would have to see that by requiring universal background checks to transfer previously owned guns (the Senate version) or requiring safe storage of such guns (the House version) would move the gun-control needle strongly in the direction that gun-control activists would like the needle to move.

            And by the way, I don’t notice any of the pro-gun loudmouths in the House or the Senate taking notice of these provision as well. Jim Jordan, the GOP member from Ohio, one of the staunchest promoters of the idea that the 2020 election was ‘rigged,’ came out with a statement about the gun ban, calling it a ‘direct’ attack on the 2nd Amendment and would do nothing to reduce gun violence. Thank you, Congressman Jordan, for your insightful remarks.

            I would be very surprised if either version of this bill makes it to Joe’s desk because when it comes to anything having to do with guns, the moment someone mentions the word ‘ban,’ every member of Congress begins looking for cover, particularly those members who come from purple zones.

            On the other hand, if the bill does get to the Oval Office with either of those two provisions for background checks or safe storage in the bill, even though these procedures would only apply to assault guns, it would still mark a major step forward for our friends in gun-control – oops! – I mean gun ‘sense’ land.

            Maybe if we’re lucky, before voting, maybe nobody in either chamber will actually take the time to read the bill.  

Think California Is a Safe State? Think Again.

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            Want to read a story about gun violence which gets the whole thing wrong? Take a look at this article in Time Magazine, which claims the whole country can learn how to control gun violence by looking at what has happened in California over the last several years.

            California, so the article says, “has one of the lowest firearm mortality rates in the country. Its residents are less likely to die from a gunshot than almost anywhere else in the country, and are 25% less likely to die in a mass shooting.”

            That’s very impressive, isn’t it? And in fact, in 2020, California’s gun mortality rate was the sixth lowest rate of any state, just behind Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

            What’s the story here? What’s the reason California is such a safe state? As usual, the explanation is provided by Garen Wintemute, an ER doctor in California, who heads the gun-research effort at UC Davis, and is always ready to explain what he thinks we need to know about guns.

            Wintemute says that the low gun-violence rate in California is due to the passage of various gun-control laws, in particular laws which closed down companies making cheap guns within the state, closed private-sale loopholes and restricted individuals convicted of a violent misdemeanor from owning a gun.

            Wintemute and his research group had a hand in all three of those new regulations, so I can’t blame him from taking a moment to pat himself on the back. That being said, maybe Wintemute or one of his colleagues might want to go back to this article and revise their remarks.

            Why? Because what they are saying and what the article is saying based on what they are saying, happens to be wrong. Not a little bit wrong. Completely wrong.

            Notice the article talks about gun ‘mortality,’ meaning any way that someone is killed with a gun. But the gun violence which has become so overwhelmingly evident in the last several years happens to be the violence which happens when someone picks up a gun and shoots someone else. Every day it seems we get yet another report about people getting shot in front of a mini-mart, or inside a shopping mall, or somewhere where they happen to be.

            The World Health Organization defines violence as the attempt to injure yourself or someone else. The most effective and efficient way to injure yourself is to shoot yourself with a gun. No other method even begins to compare. Ditto when it comes to trying to injure someone else.

            But the truth is that the demographics, causes and circumstances behind gun suicides as opposed to gun homicides are so completely and totally different, that to lump them together  into one statistical category, when the only thing they have in common is the use of a gun, is to create an explanation and/or a mitigating strategy which has absolutely no reality behind it at all.

            And yet this is exactly what has been done in the article which tells us that California’s response to gun violence is something that should be copied in all the other states, and it is exactly what Wintemute and his research colleagues promote as well.

            In 2000, California had a gun-homicide rate of 4.36.  In 2020 the state had a gun-homicide rate of 4.40. That’s a decline in gun violence over the last 20 years? That’s what Grandpa would call ‘vishtugadach,’ (read: not worth mentioning.)

            The states which rank lowest in suicide rates since 2000, regardless of how the victim chose to end his life, happen to be the same states which have the lowest rate of gun mortality. Gee, what a surprise.

            It’s no surprise because these are also states which are overwhelmingly urban and have all instituted various public health programs to identify and reduce suicide risk.

            What does this have to do with gun violence? Nothing, except for the fact that gun researchers like Wintemute can confuse two very different types of violent behavior and pretend that when it comes to solutions, they are both the same.

            And by the way, the gun-control laws which Wintemute cites as being what makes California such a ‘safe’ state have nothing to do with suicide whatsoever.

            It’s high time that my friends in the gun-control community stop pretending that the only difference between gun homicide and gun suicide is the direction in which someone points a gun.

            We can do better than that. We really can.

There’s Nothing Like a Good Conspiracy Theory to Promote 2nd-Amendment ‘Rights.’

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            Ready? Here comes the single craziest statement that anyone has ever made about gun violence in the United States.

            And who made it?  None other than Marjorie Taylor Greene who said in a podcast that the recent mass shootings in Highland Park on July 4th were ‘staged.’

            Why was the shooting which killed seven people and injured dozens more nothing other than a phony event? Because it would galvanize public opinion and push Republicans to support gun control.

            That’s what she said. She really did. Which is why we have the 1st Amendment in this country so that people like MJT can get away with saying such loony, hurtful things.

            Except maybe they can’t, if it turns out that what they said really did result in someone else getting hurt.  After all, the Constitution doesn’t protect someone who stands up and yells ‘fire!’ in a crowded theater, right?

            It just so happens that one of America’s most notorious fire-throwers, Alex Jones of Infowars, will be shortly going on trial both in Texas and Connecticut for having promoted the idea that the Sandy Hook massacre was faked, a non-stop series of talking points on his show which resulted in harassments and death threats suffered by the parents of children murdered at Sandy Hook.

Jones has been ducking this one for years, and finally had to admit that his conspiracy theories about what happened at the Newtown elementary school were concocted out of whole cloth and that he was suffering from mental illness at the time he made those claims up. Now he’s defending himself against the damages suffered by the parents of dead Sandy Hook children by claiming that he has the ‘right’ to say anything he wants.

            The judges both in Texas and Connecticut disagree. It should be noted that the Connecticut judge, Barbara Bellis, also heard the original lawsuit against Remington whose gun was used in the massacre at Sandy Hook. In that case, she found that Remington’s argument that they weren’t liable for injuries at the school was strong enough to move the case into Federal court where Remington lost.

            That decision paved the way for Remington to make a settlement with the plaintiffs for $73 million. Obviously, Jones thinks he has a chance to move his case into Federal court over the issue of free speech.

            And who better than Marjorie Taylor Greene to come out and defend Alex Jones? For that matter, who better than MJT to explain the Highland Park killings as another fraud?  Hasn’t she been talking about the 2020 election fraud for the last couple of years?

            I said it this morning on my Medium column and I’ say it again. We are being ruined by the extent to which anything and everything which appears on the internet gets reported as some kind of newsworthy event. The idea that something as stupid and self-aggrandizing as a podcast comment on how and why the slaughter at Highland Park didn’t take place should be repeated by any internet news source just blows my mind.

            On the other hand, maybe there’s some way to bring MJT’s comment to the attention of the courts in Texas and Connecticut where the trials of Alex Jones are due to take place. Maybe jurors in those trials need to understand that every ‘right’ protected by the Bill of Rights has limits – even the ‘right’ to free speech.

            On the other hand, maybe we really need to ask ourselves if it really matters that Alex Jones has friends and supporters like Marjorie Taylor Greene.

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