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How To Reduce Gun Violence? Talking About It Would Be a Good First Start.

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              To paraphrase Cliven Bundy, let me tell you about your United States.  In your United States, we love to create and publish reports. We do reports on everything: income, employment, education, production, sickness, health – everything. We even do reports on violence, such as the report issued last week by the Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ), which you can download right here.

              By the time I read through the first two or three pages of this report, I thought I was reading a report produced by another group of concerned social scientists, activists and community leaders and issued in 2017, which you can download right here.

              What’s the difference between the two reports? The latter report focuses on New York City, the former on all large cities that are struggling to deal with violence today.

              Beyond that, the two reports basically say the same thing: reduce the central role played by cops in their ‘fight’ against crime and put emphasis on social and behavioral programs led by community groups.

              How many times does the phrase ‘gun violence’ appear in the CCJ report? Exactly once. How many times does the phrase ‘gun violence’ appear in the 2017 report? Exactly once. 

              You would think from these two reports that guns and violence are two very separate things, existing independently of one another. You would also think that if an approach to violence which focuses on behavior modification and community cohesion were to be organized in a particularly violent community, that all the guns in that community would somehow just magically disappear, right?

              Several years ago, our friends at The Trace published a listing of more than 9,000 guns connected to criminal activity and picked up by the cops in various jurisdictions throughout the United States. I analyzed this data, and you can download my SSRN paper here.

              One of the more interesting discoveries I made in looking at this information was the fact that many of guns which were ultimately used in crimes had been floating around the civilian arsenal for more than thirty years. Do you own one, single consumer item that came into your possession before 1990?

              The point is that guns don’t wear out and they don’t break. So, the idea that we will reduce gun violence by somehow making the kids and adults who otherwise indulge in such behavior become less violent but meanwhile allow the guns they use to be kept around is a really stupid joke.

              Meanwhile, neither of the reports on reducing inner-city violence mentions this issue at all. In 2019, there were 19,141 homicides reported in the United States. Of that total, 75 percent, or 14,414 were committed with guns.  We have a fatal, violent crime rate that is 7 to 20 times higher than any other OECD nation-state.

              Know what would happen if those guys (and kids) who shoot other people couldn’t get their hands on guns? Our fatal violence rate would be as low or lower than most of the other advanced nation-states.

               One of the report’s authors told me that the supply of guns is a national issue that has to be handled by the ATF. That’s simply not true. If schools teach kids public health behaviors like eating healthy foods and staying away from drugs, these same kids can’t be taught about the risks of guns?

One of these days my friends who do gun research at various universities around the United States need to sit down and ask themselves what role they should be doing in the current gun debate.  Are they scholars or are they advocates? 

It seems to me they try to be both. And I’m sorry but as far as I’m concerned, advocacy has no place in the scholarly debate.  Want to advocate for an end to gun violence?  Go right ahead. Join one of the gun -control groups, send them some bucks, go to their meetings, all fine and well.

But don’t publish an ‘evidence-based’ paper that raises some issues but leaves equally-important issues out. The role of the scholar is to question current beliefs, not come up with a new paradigm which you hope everyone will believe.

Are We a More Violent Country?

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              Back when Eric Adams was Borough President of Brooklyn, I did some work for him concerning guns. Eric had been a cop in Brooklyn’s 88 Precinct, done his twenty and now is Mayor of New York City.

              At some point I asked him how policing had changed since he first went on the job. His immediate response: “Today nobody backs down.”

              I think of this comment when I think about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Because even though Dr. King is considered America’s most foremost champion of civil rights, in fact his primary commitment was to non-violence, a commitment he maintained throughout his entire life.

              We have made remarkable progress in civil rights since Dr. King was murdered in 1968, progress not just for African-Americans, but also for women, for alternate genders, for alternate family relationships, for diversity of all kinds.

              So, we have come a long way in terms of fulfilling the civil rights dream that Martin Luther King preached on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.

              But what about non-violence? Are we a less violent society and a less violent culture now as opposed to back then?

              To the contrary. I believe we are a much more violent society and now I’m going to tell you why I believe this to be the case.

              What is violence? What does the word ‘violence’ mean?

              According to Merriam-Webster, violence is “behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.” The World Health Organization defines violence as the “intentional attempt to injure yourself or someone else.”

              Violence is usually, but not always considered to be a crime. And according to the FBI, the violent crime rate in the United States is about half as great as it was in 1994, although there has certainly been an uptick in the past two Coviod-19 years.

              Except I don’t define violence in terms of reported crimes. I define violence by whether we see violent behavior as a necessary and normal part of our lives. When Eric Adams said that ‘nobody backs down,’ he was talking about the acceptance of violence as a positive standard of behavior and belief.

              For me, what demonstrates how normal and natural violence has become is the fact that any American adult with a clean record can purchase, own, and carry products whose sole purpose is to be used to commit violence and to make it easier for people not to back down.

              I’m obviously talking about the several million handguns that are added to the civilian arsenal each year, guns which were designed for one purpose and one purpose only, namely, to inflict serious injuries on human beings. I’m sorry, but anyone who believes that a Glock or a Sig pistol is a ‘sporting’ gun is either lying or is what Grandpa would call a ‘vilde chaya,’ (read: damn fool.)

              The definitions of violence found in the dictionary or in medicine don’t differentiate between ‘offensive’ versus ‘defensive’ violence. You’re not less violent just because you shoot someone whom you believe is about to attack you.

              The idea that violence can be justified if it is used to achieve a positive end has been part and parcel of the American legal tradition since colonial times, and is now codified in the Stand Your Ground (SYG) laws in three-quarters of the 50 states.

Eric Adams wasn’t talking about a SYG law when he told me that ‘they never back down.’ New York State doesn’t have a SYG law. He was talking about the sixteen-year-old kids who walk the streets of the 88 Precinct in Brooklyn, many of them carrying guns.

Unfortunately, my friends in Gun-control Nation are as confused on this issue as the pro-gun advocates on the other side. These well-meaning folks also want to believe that somehow, we can find a way to support the 2nd Amendment because we are so in love with the other amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights.

Except the 2nd Amendment doesn’t give Constitutional protection to any kind of handgun; it protects whatever type of handgun the government decides can be kept in the home for self-defense.

Want to spend a little time thinking about how to reduce violence on the birthday of America’s foremost advocate of non-violence? Spend some time thinking about getting rid of the guns which are the means by which so much violence occurs.

It’s as simple as that.

What’s So Bad About Owning Lots of Guns?

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              Back in the 1970’s when I lived in South Carolina, my house was located about a half mile from a sand pit which measured some 200 yards across. Maybe three times a week, I would go out to my garage, load up 50 rounds of 357 magnum, 9mm or 45scp, and then take either my Colt Python, or my Browning Hi-Power, or my Colt 1911, go out to the pit and blast away.

              Over a three-year period I shot 20,000 rounds or more, every one of those rounds handloaded on my own ammunition press. It probably ran me about three bucks for 50 rounds, which was primarily the cost of the powder (I used Hercules 2400 rifle powder) and the primers since I made the bullets myself by melting down wheel weights, molding the lead and re-using the brass.

              Those same 50 rounds manufactured by Remington or Federal or Winchester would have run about fifteen bucks. So not only was my handloaded ammo much cheaper, but it performed better because every round was carefully loaded by hand.

              When I reloaded ammo, I was engaged in an activity which made shooting for me not just a hobby but an art. I never thought of my guns as self-defense ‘tools,’ or weapons of any sort. Handloading ammunition and trying to produce the most accurate round was no different than how guys took clay and shaped a landscape around which they ran their model trains.

              And by the way, back in the day if you went to a model train show, or a ham radio show, or a gun show, you saw the same guys.

              A reader recently tipped me off to an organization, The Cast Bullet Association, whose members are still doing what I did back in South Carolina fifty years ago. The group was founded in 1976, the exact same year that I started handloading, and the picture above is the presentation of a trophy to the Grand National Champion at the 44th annual national tournament held in Kansas City in September 2021.

              You’ll note that last year’s champion and the presenter of the trophy, the organization’s Vice President, are both real youngsters just like me. The group doesn’t conduct any kind of demographic survey, but I suspect that if I were to show up at one of their events I would be seen as just another kid, even though I’m 77 years of age.

              I just finished reading the CBA’s most recent Newsletter which runs some 40 pages, and on the very last page there is a brief statement of the organization’s purpose which contains these words: “Conducting the Associations affairs in a manner which presents a favorable impression of the private ownership of firearms to the general public and to otherwise support the citizen’s right to keep and bear arms.”

              This sentence is the only commentary in the entire Newsletter (the same words can be found in a page on the website) which says anything about gun politics or anything else having to do with gun ‘rights’ at all. People join this organization because they want to share knowledge about a hobby and a passion which like all hobbies and passions has its own language, its own culture, and its own lore.

              Several years ago, our good friends at the Harvard Injury Control Research Center published an article in which they found that a relatively small number of gun owners owned more and more of the guns. They referred to this group as ‘super hoarders,’ and the article got Gun-control Nation all in a tizzy because here were these guys, some of whom owned hundreds of guns. Since gun-control advocates can’t imagine owning even one gun, how come there are people out there who own fifty guns or more?

              I happen to be one of those guys. Right now, I have somewhere around 60 personally-owned guns lying around. I’m kind of light. Ask me why I have all these guns sitting upstairs, downstairs, every which way stairs, I’ll think for a moment and then say, “Because I like guns.”

              Ask someone why he is a member of an organization which promotes casting your own bullets and you’ll get the same response. The guy likes guns, and he likes making the ammunition for some of those guns. He also likes the idea that he can test his ammo-making competence by taking out one of his guns, loading it with his homemade ammo and put three shots in an inch-wide circle at 100 yards.

              Maybe one of these days my good friends in Gun-control Nation will begin to understand that paying the ATF to regulate the behavior of gun nuts like me and gun nuts like the members of the Cast Bullet Association is a waste of money and time.

              Mind you, I’m not holding my breath. I wouldn’t look very healthy if all of a sudden, I turned blue.

Do We Understand Mass Shootings?

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              Over the last couple of years, one of the big issues in Gun-control Nation has been what appears to be an increase in ‘mass’ shootings which are defined as at least four victims shot at the same time and the same place with some saying it has to be four dead victims and others saying that it has to be four people shot whether they live or die.

              You can get a good summary of all the different definitions of ‘mass’ shootings floating around in Tom Gabor’s lively book, Carnage – Preventing Mass Shootings in America. You can also see a daily summary of mass shootings in the Gun Violence Archive.

              With all due respect to the honest and intelligent work being done by these two research efforts on mass shootings, I happen to think they are barking up the wrong tree. And in the process, the gun-control community is being led in a direction they shouldn’t need to go.

              Let’s go back to the night of February 11, 2015, in Tulsa, OK, where two jerks burst into a barber shop one night, one of them spraying the place with an AK-47. Their target was a member of a rival gang who was waiting to get his hair cut.

              The shooter with the assault rifle dropped more than twenty caps but didn’t hit the intended target even once. Three men were wounded and a fourth who owned the barber shop took a round in his head and immediately dropped dead.

              The two assholes with their AK-47 were arrested shortly after the assault. The victim, who was considered a righteous and beloved member of the African-American community, was killed simply because his head was in the way.

              Several days after the shooting, I had a conversation with one of the detectives who covered this case, a street cop with more than ten years’ experience chasing down the jerks who commit such stupid, meaningless, and violent crimes.

              I asked him the following question: “How come the guy with the AK-47 sprayed rounds all over the place? Why didn’t he just point the gun at the intended target and pull the trigger once or twice?”

              His immediate response: “They always do it like that. They shoot every round in the gun. They just want to see how many rounds they can get off. They don’t care if they hit someone or not.”

              Next time you watch the local news report about a shooting you’ll notice that the cops always mark every empty shell they find in the street. They do this because it’s a good way to figure out what really happened, since in most street shootings the witnesses didn’t see ‘nuttin,’ even if they were standing next to the guy who got shot.

              Want to define mass shootings in a way that will help us understand why they happen and what we need to do to eliminate them from daily life? Why don’t we start by first analyzing the events themselves?

              What we will discover is exactly what the Tulsa cop told me, namely, that the number of shots fired often has little to do with who gets injured or killed. The guns that are used for most shootings these days resulting in someone other than the shooter getting hurt, happen to be guns which hold fifteen, or twenty, or even thirty rounds.

              When you get a chance, take a look at one of an endless number of websites which host video shooting games. My favorite is a website called Crazy Games, which gives you a choice of more than fifty shooting games. You can sit on your computer and shoot rapid-fire guns all day long.

              Or better yet, you can take some cash, maybe a thousand dollars or so, and buy an AR-15 rifle or Glock pistol by just walking down the street. Usually, the seller will also throw in a box of ammo for the gun. And by the way, a thousand for an AR-15 isn’t all that much when you consider that a pair of Air Jordans will set you back two hundred bucks.

              Isn’t it time we stopped screwing around by continuing to insist that mass shootings occur because guns get into the ‘wrong hands?’ As far as I’m concerned, any gun that can pop off thirty rounds of military-grade ammunition in fifteen seconds or less is a gun that can only be used by someone with the ‘wrong hands.’

It’s the Handguns, Stupid!

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              Way back in 1968, a Presidential Commission under Milton Eisenhower (Ike’s younger brother) was put together to study the causes and prevention of violence following the large-scale riots and disturbances that broke out after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Commission published its final report on December 10, 1969, and the 337-page document included a chapter, ‘Firearms and Violence in American Life’ co-authored by our good friend Franklin Zimring, who now teaches law at Boalt Hall on the Berkeley campus.

              I have now tried to upload this report to the media file on my website four times and the upload has failed every time. But if you would like a copy of the document, just send me an email (mweisser3@outlook.com) and I’ll send it right out to you.

              The other co-author of this chapter is a very distinguished attorney, George Newton. The Commission staff also included Marvin Wolfgang, who without a doubt was the most brilliant criminologist ever to hold an academic position in the United States.

              The chapter starts off with the following statement: “The availability of guns contributes substantially to violence in American society.” The idea that more guns = more violence is an accepted cornerstone (thanks to David Hemenway) of current gun-control narrative. And the report also underscores today’s argument for stricter gun control when it notes that the proportion of guns used in violent crime tends to parallel how many guns are sold to the public at any point in time.

              The report then goes on to note that Americans are increasingly buying guns to be used for self-defense. But this finding is followed by this: “From the standpoint of the individual householder, then, the self-defense firearm appears to be a dangerous investment.” And what Zimring and Newton are referring to here is the degree to which guns are used for self-protection to a much lesser degree than they figure in injuries within the home.

              The whole notion of access to guns as a cause of fatal injuries – homicide, suicide – was the finding of two articles published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1992 and 1993.  These two articles not only inaugurated the attention and concern of public health research on guns and gun violence, but also were the primary reason the CDC stopped funding gun research for nearly twenty-five years.

              Zimring and Newton made the same argument about guns as risks to public health in 1969.

              Finally, in its conclusion, the report notes that “It is the ready availability of the handgun, so often a weapon of crime and so infrequently a sporting arm, which is the most serious part of the current firearms problem in this country. The time has come to bring the handgun under reasonable control.”

              Here is where the work by Zimring and Newton establishes a very clear standard for how to think about and implement effective gun control. Note, in particular, the acknowledgement that handguns are ‘infrequently’ used as ‘sporting’ arms.

              How many Americans have been victims of gun homicides since Zimring, and Newton’s chapter was published more than fifty years ago? I think that 700,000 would be a good guess. How many Americans have been seriously injured because someone took a shot at them but didn’t aim straight? Maybe 3,500,000, give or take a couple of hundred thousand more or less.

              These numbers exist because we are the only country in the entire world which pretends that handguns designed and issued to the military beginning in 1911 and continuing to the present day, are considered, legally-speaking, to be ‘sporting arms.’ Zimring and Newton figured this one out in 1969. What have all my friends in public health gun research been doing since that time?

              They have been creating, affirming, and reaffirming a patently false narrative that we would not suffer from 100,000+ fatal and non-fatal gun assaults every year if everyone would just lock up their guns. This is what my friends in Gun-control Nation mean when they talk about ‘responsible’ gun ownership, okay?

              The argument made by Zimring and Newton in 1969 and indisputably supported by research published in 1992 and 1993 did not qualify gun violence as being the result of unlocked guns. It is the presence of handguns designed as non-sporting weapons which, to quote the 1969 report, doesn’t cause’ gun violence but ‘facilitates’ it to a degree which otherwise would not occur.

              It’s really time for my friends in Gun-control Nation to drop their Alice-in-Wonderland approach to the issue of gun violence and start developing strategies for controlling guns which Zimring and Newton brought to our attention more than a half-century ago.

              Or to paraphrase a statement from Clinton’s 1992 Presidential campaign – it’s the handguns, stupid. The handguns.

Is Violence At Political Rallies The New Norm?

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Our good friends at The Trace have evidently begun to get concerned about how many people visit their site every day. I can’t figure out any other reason why they would post some content which gives us a completely misleading idea of what gun violence in this country is all about.

I am referring to the Newsletter they sent out yesterday (thanks GL) which references a report by an outfit that calls itself the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED – whew!) which appears to come out of someplace on the internet although it’s not clear exactly where. 

Anyway, what this group evidently attempts to do is track ‘reported’ political violence all over the world, in order to ‘bring clarity to crisis,’ whatever that means.

Let’s not forget that political violence is something we associate with undeveloped countries who have weak governments (if any real governing systems at all) whereas what happened at the Capitol on January 6th was for us an unprecedented event.

On the other hand, the appearance of armed people was not only a new and disturbing feature at Trump rallies, but the whole idea of showing up with an AR-15 was behavior that Trump actively encouraged and always condoned.

The ACLED report covers 2020 through 2021, when armed people showed up at 1,646 Trump rallies at least 112 times. The percentage of armed demonstrations taking place on legislative grounds increased from 14.5% (70 out of 482) in 2020 to 33.6% in 2021 (44 out of 131). In other words, political gatherings in the United States have become more frequently targeted (pardon the pun) by the AR-15 schmucks but note that the actual number of gatherings which attracted gun nuts fell by almost half from 2020 to 2021.

If you take the trouble to download the complete report, however, the idea that the United States is awash in political events which attract guns and result in violence doesn’t really work, and the fact that The Trace is hyping the idea that guns have ‘invaded’ American politics and portend more violence may increase their click-rate but is simply not true.

Leaving aside the fact that any data aggregated from open (media) as opposed to official sources has to be handled with extreme care, particularly data from less-developed countries where political violence and violence of all kinds is underreported like crazy, the number of violent political events and the number of fatal injuries which occur at these events show how remarkably non-violent American political gatherings tend to be, guns or no guns.

From October 12, 2020, through October 12, 2021, there were 298 violent political events in the United States which resulted in 98 reported deaths. Right now, the United States contains 4.25% of the world’s population. In the 12 months which U.S. violent events and deaths were 298 and 98 deaths respectively, the reported worldwide numbers were 99,359 violent events and 151,076 fatalities.

So, in the United States, the odds that you might attend a political event where enough violence occurred that someone gets killed was 1 out of 3. In the rest of the world, the odds were better than 100%. In other words, for all the putzes toting their assault rifles around political rallies in the United States, these guns are rarely used in comparison to how guns are used at political events in the rest of the world. And let’s not forget that we’re the country with all the privately-owned guns, right?

Th attempt by The Trace to push the idea that political violence is becoming a serious threat in the United States is just another riff on the liberal narrative about how we are headed towards a civil war, or a fascist takeover, or worse.

When it comes to how many guns are privately owned, the United States continues to be an outlier in terms of a number that is higher, much higher, than anywhere else.

When it comes to how all these guns create a political climate of violence, the United States is also an outlier, but the profile runs the other way. Our friends at The Trace don’t need to sensationalize what gun ownership is all about.

The New York Times Writes About the Gun Business and Gets It All Wrong – Again.

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              I guess it’s just too much to ask The New York Times to exercise a little self-control and withdraw from the liberal stampede to promote the idea that fascism is just around the corner thanks to all those crazy insurrectionists who show up at various political events toting their AR-15’s.

              Of course, these militia groups are smart enough to leave the guns at home if the place they want to show off how important they are happens to be a location which doesn’t allow anyone to walk around with a gun. 

              So, for example, the jerks who wanted to chase Mike Pence around the Senate chamber last January 6th knew enough to leave their guns at home. Ditto the fifty putzes or so who demonstrated to ‘free’ the January 6th bunch last September but also knew to leave their guns at home.

              This wasn’t the case when a handful of Nazis paraded in Charlottesville back in 2017 and then learned that the President of the United States thought the swastika-mounted gang were some of the ‘good people’ on both sides of the line.

              And it was exactly Trump’s failure to condemn this bunch of shitheads which gave the militia groups a new lease on life all over the United States.

              These great patriots had been pretty quiet and kept mostly to themselves after Timothy McVeigh spent some time with the Michigan Militia before he went down to Oklahoma City and bombed the Murrah Federal Building in 1995.

              They had a brief renaissance in 2014 when they showed up at Cliven Bundy’s ranch in Nevada, but that incident quickly folded into nothing when Fox News and the rest of the alt-right media decided they just couldn’t give that idiot Bundy license to tell everyone about ‘the Negro’ on prime time.

              I never thought that Trump didn’t know what he was doing or saying when he defended the Nazis who showed up in Charlottesville with their AR-15’s. To the contrary, Trump openly solicited support from the militia movement because his entire MAGA narrative aligned itself with what these militia schmucks believe, most of all the idea that America will remain great as long as it remains White.

              What Trump didn’t appreciate (or maybe he did) is how the liberal media would make such a big deal out of the so-called militia ‘threat’ after January 6th.  And a perfect example of how Fake News is trying to  make something out of nothing is an article, ‘Out of the Barrel of a Gun – How Armed Protests are Creating a New Kind of Politics,’ which appeared in the NYT Sunday Magazine back in January and has been selected by our friends at The Trace as one of the most ‘memorable’ articles on gun violence published this past year.

The Trace tells us that this article “improved our understanding of a unique American crisis.”  I happen to disagree. And I disagree because the author, Charles Homans, has spent about as much time hanging around militia groups as I have spent in Weight Watchers meetings over the past few years.

In fact, his article is based on some interviews he allegedly did with some of the schmucks who showed up at the Virginia State House the last couple of years to participate in Lobby Day, when anyone who wants to can get 30 seconds to stand in front of a state legislator and complain about this or complain about that. The militia guys love to come around for such events because there’s nothing better than to look at the expressions of shock on the faces of people who can’t believe that someone would actually parade around the State Capitol building with an AR-15. 

And know what happens after the milling and the massing is over and done with?  Everyone goes back home, including the so-called militia members who appear at rallies organized by a pro-gun group known as the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), which has been around for more than 25 years.

Back in 2016, another gun expert, Katie Couric, did a documentary on guns which featured an interview with several members of the VCDL.  What she didn’t know about this bunch was that they don’t believe in background checks because the words ‘background checks’ don’t appear in the Constitution. And if it doesn’t appear in the Constitution, whatever it is, it doesn’t exist.

That’s who you’re dealing with when you interview members of the VCDL.  In other words, you’re dealing with jerks. Be that as it may, The New York Times would like you to believe that an article based largely on interviews with those morons should be taken as a legitimate representation for what gun ownership in the United States is all about.

Not only are members of the VCDL as stupid as can be, but the members who are involved with the various militia groups are also as law-abiding as can be.  Why? Because if they are charged and convicted of any criminal offense, not just offenses involving guns, but offenses involving anything else, they can’t buy, own, or carry a gun for the rest of their lives. 

And the whole point of being in a militia, pace what Charles Homans and his editors at The New York Times would like you to believe, is that if you can’t show up at the shooting range, wolf down a slice and play with your guns, there’s no point in being involved with any militia group or not.  If you can’t own a gun, you can’t have any fun.

I’m willing to bet you that if you ask the average reader of my columns what they like to do on a Saturday afternoon, they’ll say they want to go to a museum in the Winter months or during the Summer read a good book at the beach. Ask a member of a militia where he can be found after he mows the lawn on a Saturday, and he’ll tell you that he’s going to hang out at the local gun shop or if necessary, drive a hundred miles or so to go to a gun show.

You think dressing up in some stupid, camouflage outfit and trotting around with an AR-15 on your shoulder is any different than getting into a Boy Scout uniform and slinging the sash with your merit badges over your arm?

If you do, you might consider writing an article about the gun business for The New York Times.

New Year’s Wishes.

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              So, here’s what I hope happens in 2022:

  • The Democrats keep control of the Hill, or at least either the Senate or the House. Because if they lose both chambers, the only thing they can investigate is why the Senate cafeteria has stopped serving rice and beans. The cafeteria served rice and beans when I was a kid and ate lunch there in 1954 and 1955.  I understand that it was still on the menu last year.
  • Rand Paul loses his Senate seat and can then spend all his time running his fundraising business for alt-right candidates but at least we won’t hear from him again.  This piece of sh*t has the audacity to challenge Anthony Fauci even though his certification as an ophthalmologist is faked.
  • Marjorie Taylor Greene admits to living with another woman but it’s not a lesbian relationship since they only practice tantric sex.
  • One of Lauren Boebert’s wait staff in her restaurant accidently pulls out his gun and shoots a customer in the foot. The restaurant is closed ‘until further notice.’
  • Matt Gaetz and Donald Trump, Jr., start a national ‘freedom’ tour with an appearance at The Villages in Florida which is cancelled when it’s realized that their appearance conflicts with the first day of the monthly shuffleboard tournament.
  • Donald Trump tries to auction off his MAGA trademark. The auction starts at $10 million but gets no bids.
  •  Someone puts a virus on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and they all shut down – permanently.
  • Quentin Palfrey gets elected Massachusetts Attorney General.

Seriously – please stay healthy and safe!

Is There Such a Thing as a ‘Safe’ Gun?

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              I started writing and blogging about guns and gun violence in May 2012, when I learned that the NRA was sponsoring a law in Florida and elsewhere that would criminalize physicians for counseling patients about guns. Since I first went started this effort, I have produced somewhere around 1,800,000 words on guns and gun violence, much of my writing connected to the issue of guns, medicine, and public health.  This output includes 1,760 blogs on my website,  15 self-published books, 252 weekly columns I wrote for Huffington Post and 9 academic papers I have published on SSRN.

              I’m not listing all this output to pat myself on the back. I’m mentioning it because in all my writing about guns and gun violence, I have realized that I have ignored the most important issue of all.

              This is the issue of risk. And if you don’t understand and apply a proper definition of risk to the issue of gun violence, then you can’t understand anything about guns. Which unfortunately, appears to be the case with my friends in medicine and public health who honestly endeavor to find solutions to the problem of gun violence and yet again and again either ignore. misunderstand or mis-state guns and risk.

              How do we define risk from a medical point of view? We define medical risk as the probability of suffering harm when exposed to a specific risk factor. What is the risk factor in gun violence?  The gun. How do we know this? Because Art Kellerman and Fred Rivara found that the presence of a gun in the home created homicide and suicide risks. Is there any medical risk that is more serious than death?

              How has medicine and public health responded to the evidence that assigns a high level of medical risk to the presence of a gun? They have decided and they promote the idea that this risk can be mitigated and reduced by making the causal factor – the gun – something ‘safe.’ The gun will be made ‘safe’ because it will be used in a ‘responsible’ way, or it will be made ‘safe’ because it is locked up or locked away, or it will be made ‘safe’ by allowing people to go before a judge and take the gun away from someone who isn’t using the gun in ‘safe’ way.

              This is total and complete nonsense, and the only reason that such absurdly ridiculous strategies get any traction at all in the public domain is because my friends in medicine and public health actually believe that gun owners will take them seriously if they can just convince these gun owners that nobody wants to take away their guns. It’s what various medical and advocacy groups now refer to as ‘consensus,’ the idea being that we’ll come up with solutions to the 100,000+ fatal and non-fatal gun injuries which occur every year by incorporating life-saving strategies from ‘both sides.’

              Is there a single physician or public health specialist in the United States who would dare suggest that we should arrive at a ‘consensus’ approach to cigarettes? Should we develop a plan to reduce childhood obesity by asking some overweight kids or their overweight parents to tell us which full-calorie soft drinks they should imbibe?

              What none of these well-meaning gun-control advocates seem to understand is that the overwhelming number of fatal and non-fatal gun violence isn’t caused because gun owners not behaving properly or responsibly with their guns. Gun violence in this country is caused because we are the only country in the entire world which allows consumers to buy, own and use guns that are designed only for the purpose of ending human life.

 My Glock 17 pistol, which holds 16 rounds of military-grade ammunition, wasn’t designed by Gaston Glock to shoot a bird out of a tree.  My Colt AR-15 rifle, which allows me to get off 30 rounds of military-grade ammunition in 20 seconds or less wasn’t designed by Gene Stoner to take a pot-shot at Bambi or pop one into Smokey the Bear’s rear end.

These guns represent a level of risk that can only be reduced by restricting their ownership and use. If and when Gun-control Nation and their academic/clinical partners finally figure this out and begin promoting strategies that reflect the risk of such weapons, we might actually experience a decline in gun-violence rates.

If not, we won’t.

Do Laws Regulating Gun Sales Work?

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              The picture above is a catalog that a wholesale company named J. L. Galef & Sons published and sent out to customers in 1939. Actually, the catalog was published when the company rented some booth space at the New York World’s Fair because some of the countries which showed up in 1939 then departed when Germany invaded Poland and World War II broke out.

              Notice the price of the .357-magnum revolver – 60 bucks. The magnum cartridge had just started appearing in 1934 and every gun company started producing at least one revolver which chambered the round. But Smith & Wesson really made the .357 their ammo and it was the shift from the .38-special round to the .357-magnum which allowed S&W to take the military and police market away from Colt by the end of World War II.

              The wholesale company, J.L. Galef, was located in downtown Manhattan in a five-story, block-through warehouse, and office facility right down the street from City Hall. This neighborhood was known as the ‘wholesale district,’ and was primarily companies that furnished dry goods to retailers in locations throughout the South and the Midwest, mostly hardware stores, five and dimes, and pawn shops.

              All of this began to change beginning in the 1950’s with the growth of chain stores which bought their inventory direct from factories and depended on the movement of goods by trucks rather than rail. What put the final kybosh on the wholesale district in New York City was the demolition of many of the smaller buildings to make way for the twin towers of the World Trade Center which first started going up in 1968.

              We liquidated J. L. Galef and sold our property in lower Manhattan in 1985. Not only had the wholesaling industry completely changed from the years of the World’s Fair, but the legal environment surrounding the gun business had also changed. The big transformation came in 1968, with the passage of a federal law which created the regulatory system controlled by the ATF which we still have today. Essentially, this system forced anyone who wanted to sell guns either wholesale or retail to set up a physical facility where all the guns would be bought and sold and keep detailed records identifying all the sellers and buyers which could be inspected by the ATF.

              If you wanted to sell guns in 1939, on the other hand, you didn’t need any physical facility or storefront at all. You could sell guns out of the trunk of your car or at a booth at the New York World’s Fair. And the only records of the transaction the dealer needed to keep was the name and address of the person to whom the gun was sold, whether the buyer was legally entitled to own a gun or not.

              Now we have all kinds of regulatory procedures concerning the sale of guns. A dealer must maintain detailed records of every sale, records which can be inspected without prior notice by the ATF at any time, and before a gun dealer can sell a gun to anyone, the customer must first pass a background check, courtesy of a phone call or internet message to the FBI. A majority of states now require that anyone who wants to sell a gun privately must first get the person receiving the gun to pass a background check.

              This regulatory system was put into place to help control the violence caused by the use of guns. Indeed, the purpose of the 1968 Federal gun law (GCA68) specifically states that the law provides “support to federal, State and local law enforcement officials in their fight against crime and violence.”

              Want to know what the per-100,000 murder rate was in 1939? Try 4.0. Want to know what the murder rate was last year? Try 7.8 – almost double what it was eighty years ago.

              Both these numbers, incidentally, come to us courtesy of the FBI-UCR. There is an important difference in these two numbers, however, which is that the 1939 number was aggregated from reports covering police agencies that were responsible for law and order over roughly half the population of the United States. The current number covers what the FBI says is at least 90% of the national population today.

              But remember, we’re talking rates, not specific numbers of murders. Which means no matter how you slice it or dice it, a lot more people are getting killed now than were killed back in 1939. The FBI does not include any data for 1939 on how people were murdered, but in 1959, the CDC said that guns were the means used in half of all homicides. Last year, guns accounted for 75% of all fatal assaults.

              So, what do we know about the connection between violence and guns since my wholesale company sold guns at a booth at the 1939 New York World’s Fair? Here’s what we know. A lot more murders are being committed each year and a lot more of those murders are committed using guns.

              That’s quite an achievement for the national system we use to regulate guns, wouldn’t you say?

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