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Why Do We Like Gun Violence?

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What’s the connection, if any, between media which contains violent episodes and the gun violence that occurs more than 200 times every, single day? Our good friend Dan Romer, from the Annenberg Public Policy Center at Penn has just co-published a paper which indicates that there is not only a connection between media violence and real-life violence, but that the connection is getting stronger every day.

The research plan consisted of reviewing 1,476 hours of episodes of 33 popular TV dramas from 2000 to 2018, of which 60% were cop shows, the remainder split between lawyers and MD’s. All the shows were rated TV-14, i.e., content “’unsuitable for children under 14 years-of-age.’”

What the researchers found out, and this is something which I hope you’ll read with care, is that over the study period the actual amount of violence depicted in the study sample didn’t increase. What increased was “the use of firearms as the preferred method of violence.”

That’s a very important finding. In a previous study, the authors found that parents “see movie depictions of gun use as acceptable for viewing by adolescents over the age of 14 if the violence is viewed as justified for the defense of self or others.” 

And here’s the kicker to the above: “there is evidence that the use of guns for self-defense and other ethically acceptable forms of violence in entertainment could be a source of imitation, especially in youth vulnerable to such influence.”

When do kids who wind up using a gun to commit an act of violence first get interested in guns? In their early adolescent years.

The authors of this study have given us a possible explanation for a unique American cultural belief known as ‘virtuous violence,’ i.e., the use of violence to right what might otherwise be a wrong. The USA is the only country in the entire world which codifies such behavior in what we refer to as ‘stand your ground’ laws (SYG.) And there’s nothing as effective for engaging in an act of virtuous violence than picking up a loaded gun, pointing it at someone else and – bang.!

We don’t know all that much about non-fatal gun assaults because the victim usually gets himself to the ER and always seems unable to identify the guy who put a bullet in his arm, or his leg, or even his head. But we can assume that the only difference between fatal and non-fatal gun assaults is that in the latter category, the shooter didn’t shoot straight.

Fatal shootings invariably involve two or more individuals who had some degree of personal contact before the shooting actually began. A new book by our friend Tom Gabor finds this personal connection to be typical of mass shootings as well.

When did the media depiction of guns move from the Wild West to urban streets?  In 1971, the first Dirty Harry movie was released. Clint Eastwood held up a 44-magnum revolver and said there was nothing as accurate and deadly that could be carried around.

The difference, however, between Clint’s Smith & Wesson Model 29 and the Glocks and other handguns which proliferate in the TV shows studied by Dan Romer and Patrick Jamieson is that the revolver holds 6 rounds, and a Glock holds 17. Stick an extended magazine into the Glock and you have gun that will fire 30 military-grade rounds of ammunition before you have to stop shooting to reload.

Next time you have a minute to crank up your Netflix website and look at a movie or TV series which has a shooting scene, you’ll note that the shooter never pulls the trigger only once unless he’s firing a full-auto gun. If the gun used in the movie is one of those ‘legal,’ semi-automatic jobs, it usually gets shot all over the place.

Our media industry promotes virtuous violence by depicting guns that can be shot again, and again, and again. But we also have a culture which believes overwhelmingly that owning one of those guns is a good thing.

Want to figure that one out?

What Is A ‘Ghost Gun?’

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              So, after Joe announces his quickie gun-control plans, his press lady, Jen Psaki (whom I really like) gets into an exchange with a reporter from RCP who challenges her on how many crimes are actually committed with ghost guns. And of course, Psaki doesn’t know because nobody knows.

              But just leave it to CNN. They explained ‘ghost guns’ the day before Joe said he wants them to be regulated like any other gun. And CNN’s explanation for what constitutes a ‘ghost gun’ can be read right here. Except there’s only one, little problem, which is that CNN gets it all wrong.

              So, the purpose of this column is to straighten out what we mean and don’t mean when we use a phrase like ‘ghost guns,’ before the whole issue gets completely out of control. I note, for example, that a bill to regulate ghost guns has been introduced into the Maryland General Assembly. The bill, as it is currently written, doesn’t regulate anything at all.

              The term ‘ghost gun’ refers to any gun which doesn’t carry markings which allow law enforcement or regulatory agencies (ex. ATF) to figure out how and when a crime gun ended up being used in a crime. So, for example, if a ‘ghost gun’ is picked up from a 16-year-old kid wandering down the street in Baltimore, it’s a crime gun because a 16-year-old kid isn’t old enough to own a gun. And since every gun which is manufactured by a licensed gun maker is first sold after a background check, and since the dealer has to keep a record which contains the serial number of that gun, the cops can figure out how the gun moved from ‘right’ to ‘wrong’ hands.

              The ‘ghost gun’ bill which has been introduced in Maryland and will be typical of such statutes being introduced elsewhere, requires that the name, address, along with some kind of identifying numeric be stamped on the receiver of the gun. Furthermore, if the person who bought a ‘ghost gun’ kit wants to sell or give the gun to someone else, this transfer must be done through a federally licensed dealer who would only conduct the transfer after the requisite background check is done.

              Sounds like a smart and easy way to get rid of ‘ghost guns,’ right?  Wrong. And here’s the reason why it’s wrong and not just wrong but actually dumb as hell.

              When someone becomes a federally licensed gun manufacturer, his entire operation from end to end comes under the purview and regulatory activity of the ATF. Which means that ATF agents can walk into the Smith & Wesson factory in Massachusetts, or the Sig factory in New Hampshire, or the Glock factory in Georgia and conduct the same inspection which they do when the wander into my gun shop or anyone else who has a federal license to make, import or sell guns. 

              These licensees must keep very detailed records about every, single gun which passes through their licensed premise, including and most important, the unique serial number of every, single gun. Can Glock and Kahr Arms give their guns he same number? Of course they can. But one gun was made by Glock, the other was made by Kahr Arms. And every gun manufactured under a federal license must also carry the name of the company which made that gun.

              So, let’s say I decide to buy a kit and make my own gun. Why would I ever put my real name and address on the gun if I wanted to sell it to someone who couldn’t pass a background check but wanted to own a gun? Am I that dumb? 

              The only way we can effectively control ‘ghost guns’ would be the same way we need to control all the guns which cause gun violence – get rid of those guns.

              You can sign our petitions to get rid of those guns right here: https://www.change.org/bankillerhandgunsnow and here: https://www.change.org/Ban_Assault_Rifles_Now

Will We Get A New Gun Bill?

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              Now that we really can sit back and relax about last year’s election result, Gun-control Nation can begin beating the drums for the passage of a new gun bill. And this time we have a friend in the Oval Office who says he wants a new gun bill too.  So, what are the odds that a gun bill might really come about?

              Getting a gun bill onto Joe’s desk won’t be all that easy, given that the blue team would need 100% support from its own members, as well as 10 additional votes from the red side. And nobody seems to think that right now there are more than a couple of members of the Senate GOP caucus who are willing to make such a move. 

              But next year might be different. Next year is an election year. Next year there may be some GOP Senators who will read the tea leaves in their states and decide that being pro-gun isn’t such a smart way to go. Gun control certainly played a role in the blue team’s smashing House victory in 2018. Did Biden’s gun-control stance in 2020 make a difference for him? WTFK?

              The Federal Government has passed four gun-control bills: 1934, 1938, 1968 and 1994. The Democrat(ic) Party controlled both chambers of Congress as well as the Oval Office all four times. And even though most of the House and Senate members from the Confederacy (why did we take those states back?) voted against the bills, there were enough Democrats and even a few Republicans from the other 37 states to get the job done.

              The deciding factor in all four votes was that the bills were initially introduced in response to an attempted, and in one instance, a successful assassination of a sitting President: Roosevelt was almost gunned down in 1933, JFK was killed in 1963 and Reagan was wounded in 1981.

              This time around, the media is promoting the idea that a gun bill might get through Congress because shootings, and particularly mass shootings, are going way up. Just yesterday there was a bad shooting of a doctor, his wife, two grandchildren and two HVAC installers in South Carolina, and all the news reports mentioned the possible approval of a new gun bill.

              In the last ten years, there have been 19 shootings in which 20 or more people were wounded or killed. Drop the victim count down to 18 and you can add 6 more. I’m not taking about mass shootings in which 4 people get shot, which is the criteria used by various gun-control organizations and scholars to count the number of such events. I’m talking about 18 victims adding up to a grand total of 1,448!

              Believe me, I’m not hoping that we get a gun bill because someone takes a pot-shot at Joe. But I’m not assuming that the recent spike in gun violence during the Covid-19 pandemic will provide the public opinion impetus for a new law. When Joe proposed some new executive actions to regulate guns, he said that gun violence was a ‘national, public health crisis.’  Know how long I’ve been hearing that one?

              Generally speaking, the media treats a shooting, even a mass shooting, like a big pileup on the Texas interstate, or a California forest fire, or a hurricane that slams the Gulf Coast, or a tornado that rips through wherever tornados rip through. in other words, shootings are like natural disasters. And natural disasters happen all the time so the best thing to do is just duck.

              Joe says that gun violence is a ‘national crisis.’ But in 2019, more than half the people who were victims of gun homicides lived in just 15 states. Which states? The 13 Confederate states plus throw in a couple of border states like West Virginia and Tennessee. Like I said above, why did we ever take them back?

              Joe wants to spend a trillion dollars on infrastructure. Why don’t we make reducing gun violence an infrastructure priority just like repairing a bridge or paving a road? 

Biden Goes After Gun Violence.

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              So, Joe’s now making good on his campaign promise to do something about gun violence, and the first something he’s doing is nominating a former ATF agent, David Chipmen, to head the agency which regulates guns.  I’ve had several brief interactions with Chipman and he strikes me as a bright, responsive guy who’s not trying to prove to anyone how important he is. It remains to be seen, however, whether he has the management skills and temperament to clean up the ATF mess.

              I wrote a book about the ATF several years ago in which I pointed out that the agency has machine guns on the brain, among other things. They knew ‘for a fact’ that the Branch Davidians were building machine guns in their compound outside of Waco, but after the building was burned to the ground causing the death of 75 members of the sect, not a single machine gun or even parts for a machine gun could be found.

              The ATF also knew ‘for a fact’ that some guys were building machine guns in a car-repair shop in Tucson and then smuggled the gun over the border into Mexico, the resulting ATF investigation causing the death of a U.S. border agent even though no machine guns ever turned up.  This little ATF fandango was known as ‘Fast & Furious,’ a completely unnecessary and stupid exercise whose only purpose was to justify the agency’s attempt to get approval for a federal wiretap so that the ATF could take its place alongside the FBI and the DEA as a first-class law enforcement agency on the crimefighting front.

              The ATF has one statutory responsibility which it acquired thanks to the Gun Control Act of 1968. Namely, it’s a branch of the Treasury Department which regulates the interstate commerce of ammunition and guns. Which means that it regulates the behavior of federally licensed gun dealers, and all its other so-called responsibilities just reflect the way that given half the chance, any bureaucracy will find a way to expand its size and its budget in order to justify how it does its job.

              There’s only one little problem, however, when it comes to this approach as regards the ATF. Because even though the ATF has been allegedly regulating gun commerce for more than 50 years, the rate of gun violence keeps going up. And there has never been one, single study which shows any connection between what the ATF is doing out there and whether what they are doing out there makes any difference in terms of gun violence or not.

              The ATF, of course, insists they could do a better job if they were just given the money and resources they need. Let me tell you a little story about their staff and their resources, okay? 

              The night after the horrible massacre at Sandy Hook, the ATF dispatched a squad of agents in full battle dress and carrying live guns to invade the gun shop owned by Dave LaGuercia, which happened to be the shop that had sold the AR-15 to Nancy Lanza which her son then used to shoot up the Newtown elementary school.

              The transfer of the AR-15 from Dave’s gun shop to Nancy Lanza was done entirely correctly and in fact, it was Dave who first called the ATF to inform them that he had sold the AR-15 and a Sig pistol to the mother of the shooter at Sandy Hook. So, after a completely legal sale, these ATF militia spent the whole night tearing Dave’s shop apart and looking for God knows what.  The entire military exercise was put on hold for an hour, however, while the troops ordered and then wolfed down a generous supply of pizza pies, paid for of course, by the American taxpayer, folks like you and me.

              If Shipman wants to help solve the problem of gun violence, he can try to make the ATF into an agency that spends taxpayer dollars to regulate gun commerce instead of blowing its own horn. It would be a welcome and long-overdue change.

There’s another petition up there. Please sign: https://www.change.org/bankillerhandgunsnow

Mass Shootings – A New Study.

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              Back in 2015 a car pulled up in front of a barbershop in Tulsa, a guy got out of the car with an AK-47, walked into the shop and started blasting all over the place.  He was trying to kill a customer who was sitting waiting his turn, but instead a bullet went through the head of the barber and he was dead. Now hold that thought.

              Our friend Tom Gabor has just published a book, Carnage, Preventing Mass Shootings in America, which analyzes 1,029 mass shootings that took place in 2019 and 2020. The data for this study comes from the Gun Violence Archive, which is one of eight groups or organizations which track mass shootings in the United States. Gabor says that he used the GVA because they have a ‘professional staff’ and derive their information from more than 2,500 law enforcement and media venues every day.

              Unfortunately, most of the internet media operations which report gun violence events (or any other event, for that matter) cut and paste their texts from another source which has cut and pasted the same text from yet a third, or a fourth, or a fifth source. Frankly, Gabor could have gotten more or less the same data by just entering a few key words like ‘shooting’ and ‘guns’ into Google Alerts and receiving a daily Gmail feed.  How do you think I come up with a new story almost every day?

              Gabor identifies seven organizations plus one author, our friend Louis Klarevas, who try to keep track of mass shootings in an ongoing way. These folks all define a mass shooting as an event in which a minimum of two to four people are injured and/or killed. So, the question immediately occurs: how come the magic number for counting something as a mass shooting is set at two, three or four?  Why not set it at five? How about six? Nobody seems to know.

              It turns out, moreover, that when all is said and done, the ways which we usually define shooting events by the reason they occur, where they occur, the types of people involved, and the types of guns which are used in the assaults, is really little different for mass shootings as opposed to the humdrum, daily, one-on-one shootings that take place a couple of hundred times every day. And since, as Gabor notes, mass shootings result in roughly 2% of all the yearly gun-violence casualties, what’s the big deal?

              Let’s go back to what happened at the Gifted Hands Barber Shop in Tulsa on February 5th, 2015. The guy with the AK-47 was trying to kill the guy sitting in a chair waiting to get his hair cut.  He sprayed bullets all over the place and one of the rounds from the AK went through the barber’s head.

              I talked to one of the cops who investigated this shooting, an officer who had been doing homicide work in Tulsa for more than a dozen years.

I asked him, “Why did the guy with the AK-47 shoot up the whole place? Didn’t he just want to put one into the guy who was waiting his turn?”

Please read the officer’s response slowly and carefully: “That’s what they always do. They always want to shoot the gun as much as they can. They want to spray bullets all over the place.”

I define a mass shooting not by how many people get hit, but how many bullets come out of the barrel of the gun. If what the Tulsa cop told me is not unusual for how people use guns to shoot other people, then we have an explanation for the increase in mass shootings which says something much more serious and profound than all the usual bromides – poverty, drugs, inner-city hopelessness -put out there about gun violence today.  

Are we developing not just a culture of violence but a celebration of violence as well?

Please sign our new petition: https://www.change.org/bankillerhandgunsnow

Want Help Selling Guns? Hire Alex Jones.

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              Conspiracy theories, i.e., blaming someone for doing something whether they did it or not, have been around since the snake gave Eve an apple for a snack, but the whole thing got a big boost during the Presidential tenure of Trump, who now refers to himself as #45. This way he’s hoping that everyone will forget that he lost the election in 2020, even though the election was stolen, which is another conspiracy theory in case you didn’t know.

              Anyway, one of the most prolific conspiracy theorists, Alex Jones, just got his legal head handed to him when the Supreme Court – that’s the Court that’s now so conservative thanks to #45 – refused to hear his appeal about how he has been sanctioned for spreading conspiracy theories about the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook.

              The horrible mess at Sandy Hook Elementary School was the event which created today’s concern about gun violence, as well as giving rise to national gun-control groups like Brady and Everytown, which now rival or surpass the NRA in terms of money, political influence, and size. The CDC has even restored money for gun research into its budget, and a new gun bill may even wind up on the Oval office desk.

              Meanwhile, back in 2012, Alex Jones became a nationally known conspiracy theorist because of what he began saying after Sandy Hook, which was that the whole thing was staged by the federal government to promote a new gun bill and the disarming of America in order to expand the control exercised by the Deep State.

              His relentless lying about the Sandy Hook massacre landed him in court, when he was sued for defamation by several Newtown parents who were threatened and harassed by some of his more fervent believers. Ultimately, Jones admitted that it was his rants, not the massacre, which weren’t true. But he’s still faced with being a defendant in the civil case.

              The other defendant in a civil action brought by the parents of children killed at Sandy Hook is the gun industry itself. Remington, which owns the company y that manufactured the AR-15 used at the school, is being sued under a state law called ‘negligent entrustment,’ which prohibits a vendor from selling a product which is too dangerous to be owned. The lawsuit is on hold because of the Remington bankruptcy, but at some point, it also will be heard.

              The gun industry tried not once, but twice to have this suit overturned, citing the industry’s protection from torts under the PLCCA law. But PLCCA specifically exempts protection under ‘negligent entrustment’ statutes, which is why the Federal Appeals Court allowed this lawsuit to go forward because the “parents deserve their day in court.”

              So, sooner or later the gun industry will have to defend itself for the very first time for making products that are too dangerous to be owned or sold. And no doubt Remington will try to convince a jury that it’s not guns that are dangerous, it’s the people who use guns illegally or inappropriately who are a danger to themselves and everyone else.

              The defendants in the Sandy Hook lawsuit will also try to make an argument in front of the jury that guns like the AR-15, when used properly following standard, gun-safety rules, are nothing more than very effective ‘tools’ for protecting individuals and families from harm. Indeed, the advertising for assault rifles repeats this self-defense message again and again.

              The narratives being promoted by Gun-nut Nation to justify access to assault rifles are as meaningless, and stupid as what Alex Jones used to say about Sandy Hook. And for that matter, the gun industry makes the same, stupid arguments about why everyone should own and walk around with a concealable, handgun designed for the military like a Glock or a Sig.

              Which is why we now have two petitions online: A petition to ban assault rifles (https://www.change.org/Ban_Assault_Rifles_Now) and another just-posted petition to ban those handguns (https://www.change.org/bankillerhandgunsnow). 

            Ban those guns and gun violence disappears.   

Sandy Hook: A Man Sold A Gun (Guns in America Book 7) – Kindle edition by Weisser, Michael R.. Politics & Social Sciences Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

An Approach To Gun Violence That Works!

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              This past weekend we took a drive out in the country and passed by this billboard as we came into Cambridge, NY. The town is located on Route 22, which is the old, north-south highway between the Hudson River and Vermont.  It’s a beautiful road and meanders through a bunch of red-brick factory and farming towns, most now survive by becoming latte and gourmet bakery destinations for the weekend crowds.

              This area, Washington County, is also one of the prime hunting areas in all of the Northeast. It’s also an area which hasn’t voted for a Democrat since before I don’t know when. In 2013, when Andy rammed through a gun-control bill following Sandy Hook, lawn signs protesting the new law sprouted all over towns like Cambridge. As I drove up Route 22 this weekend, there were still some Trump2020 signs and banners around.

              In other words, Cambridge, NY isn’t Cambridge, MA, it isn’t Bethesda, MD. It isn’t Bryn Mawr, PA. It’s not where members of Gun-control Nation tend to live. To the contrary, it’s a place where most people believe that a gun in their home will keep them ‘safe.’ In fact, the only violence that occurs in towns like Cambridge is when someone picks up a loaded gun and shoots himself.

              Between 1991 and 2015, gun suicides in New York State dropped by 37%. But in Washington County during that same period of time, gun suicides have remained at a high rate of 7.2 per 100,000, the sixth-highest county rate in the entire state. In 2019, all of New York State registered a gun-suicide rate of 3.91, half as high as the Washington County rate.

              For all the talk about a national, red-flag law, or what is known as an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO), New York State has such a law. Anyone who has or has had the slightest familial connection to someone else can go into a local court and a temporary order removing all the guns from the home of a potentially dangerous individual (a danger to himself or someone else) can be issued that same day. And if you’re not in some way domestically connected to the person whom you believe might do himself harm, you can always get a local cop to act on your behalf.

              So, let’s say you live in a town like Cambridge. And let’s say your next-door-neighbor is an old man, a widower, the kids have long since moved away. And let’s say you knock on the guy’s front door because you haven’t seen him in a couple of days. And let’s say he opens the door, and you can tell that things just aren’t all that right. And let’s say that you know the old guy used to go hunting and he owns a bunch of guns. All you have to do to keep this guy from blowing his brains out in Cambridge is to make a phone call. That’s it.

              And what I don’t want to hear from anyone who reads this column is that ‘everyone has the right to decide how and when they want to end their life.’ I used to get occasional emails from the idiots who read previous columns about how suicide risk increases in the presence of a gun. I’m assuming that the people who sent me those emails are now hiding from the FBI following their attempt to invade the Capitol on January 6th.

              I’m really happy to see that the money I send Brady every month is helping to pay for that billboard on Route 22. I’d like to see that billboard outside of every town which finds itself losing residents because people make a quick and often thoughtless decision to end their lives with a gun. How long do many people think about gun suicide before picking up the gun? Maybe ten minutes, maybe less.

              Think that anyone living in Cambridge, NY will pay attention to a Congressional debate in D.C. about a national ERPO law? But you can’t miss that billboard on the way into town.

Want To Make Your Guns Safe? You Can’t.

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Guess which civic-minded organization has become enamored of gun safety? It’s America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization,’ a.k.a., the NRA.   I just received an email from their training division which says: “Whether you’re a new gun owner looking for a concealed carry course or an experienced marksman who wants to take their training to the next level, NRA Certified Instructors have a course for you.”

And here are the courses now being offered:

  • Pistol Training.
  • Rifle Training.
  • Shotgun Training.
  • Self-Defense Training.
  • Home Firearm Safety.

Here’s how the NRA describes the home safety course: “Non-shooting course and teaches students the basic knowledge, skills, and to explain the attitude necessary for the safe handling and storage of firearms and ammunition in the home.” It’s a four-hour course, no shooting involved, you can even take the course online in the ‘privacy’ of your home.

In the privacy of your home. That’s a good one. This is the same ‘privacy’ that you need to own a gun in order to protect it. This is the same ‘privacy’ which is being threatened by those gangs that are roving around Lindsey Graham’s home in Seneca, SC. Which is why ol’ Lindsey needs to keep an AR-15 in the privacy of his home.

But not to worry. Go out today, buy yourself a nice, new AR-15 and then sign up for the NRA course which teaches you how to keep and use that gun safely in the ‘privacy’ of your home. Nothing like privacy when it comes to owning a gun.

Want the best news of all about this NRA safety course?  It’s not only designed and delivered by America’s ‘first civil rights organization,’ it’s also a strategy and an approach to good health. Virtually every medical organization also recommends that you follow the same gun-safety rules and practices promoted by the NRA if you want to keep a gun in your home.

And not only do the medical groups believe that you can learn how to practice gun safety in the privacy of your home, they’ll even give you a nice, simple, easy-to-read brochure which explains how to own, store, and use guns in a safe way. 

Here’s the gun safety brochure that was developed by the Massachusetts Medical Society. Anyone can read through this pamphlet in a couple of days. But if you want to save yourself the trouble, in April the NRA’s gun-safety course is being offered more than 80 times just in Massachusetts alone. What could be safer than that?

I’ll tell you what could be safer. Don’t bring the gun into your house. Or if you have one of those guns in your home right now, just take it down to the little gun shop on the corner and sell it back. That’s the only way to be safe around guns. Get rid of the guns.

Now I’m not about to take any of the 60-odd guns I have lying around and sell them to Joe the Gun-shop Owner.  I’m a gun nut and I like my guns. But I’m not going to kid myself into thinking that those guns can be made to be ‘safe.’ They can’t. That’s not what guns are all about.

Of course, there are degrees of risk from different kinds of guns. My Glock 17 and my Ruger Mini-14 are a lot more dangerous to have around than Grandpa’s old shotgun that we found in the basement after he died, and Grammy was carted off to the lovely rest home. That old Sears-Roebuck shotgun probably doesn’t even work, so it’s a pretty safe gun.

But my pistol and my assault rifle weren’t designed to be safe. They also weren’t designed to protect me from all those ANTIFA and BLM gangsters prowling around outside my home. These guns were designed to do one thing and one thing only – to inflict fatal injuries on human beings every time they are used.

What physicians and everyone else who are concerned about 125,000 fatal and non-fatal gun injuries that we suffer every year should be saying is this: Get rid of the guns.

You can say it today by joining the more than the more than 3,300 folks who have signed our petition right here: https://www.change.org/Ban_Assault_Rifles_Now

Are Schools Safe? Not According To A New Book.

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I have just finished reading a book, Children Under Fire – An American Crisis written by John Woodrow Cox. Because he’s a reporter for The Washington Post, the book has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. I’m sure the book will wind up on the short list for a National Book Award, and for all we know, maybe Cox is in the running for a Nobel Prize too.

There’s only one little problem, however, with this book. When it comes to giving us the facts about out gun violence, Cox just gets it wrong.

The book is a very detailed, very emotionally laden story about how two kids dealt with fatal shootings, in one case of a school classmate, the other the killing of the kid’s dad. The latter took place outside of an elementary school in Washington, D.C., the former on the campus of a school in a remote, South Carolina town.

Two shootings, one involving a Black, the other involving a White that occurred in two very different communities. The whole point of the book is to argue that notwithstanding the racial, demographic, cultural and geographic differences between where these two shootings occurred, the results were the same: loss of a precious life, intense trauma for the survivors, meaningless efforts to stop such events from happening again. 

What Cox refers to as a ‘crisis,’ is that so much of this gun violence seems to involve schoolchildren, either as perpetrators, victims, onlookers or family members of someone in a shooting event.  He says that “nearly 39,000 young people ages five to eighteen were killed by bullets between 1999 and 2017,” [p. 112]    

The actual number is 39,186, but Cox forgets to point out that 28,568 of these victims (73%) were 16 years old or above.  Which means that probably three-quarters of the kids who Cox believes were in school when they were killed, may actually not have been attending school at all.

There are roughly 50 million children enrolled in pre-K to 12th grade.  So, the percentage of school kids who are involved in gun violence is somewhere around .0002 percent.  Wow.  That’s some crisis.

Cox goes on to argue that in order to figure out what to do about this crisis, we need more research. He then relates what has become a standard bromide in gun-control circles about how Congressman Jay Dickey, who authored the amendment to the CDC budget that eliminated funding for gun research, ended up regretting his action in the year or so prior to his death.

I have read virtually every, single piece of evidence-based research on gun violence that has been published since Art Kellerman and Fred Rivara published the two articles in 1993 and 1994 which found that access to a gun created a health risk. Many of these articles are based on analyzing the race, gender, income, age, blah, blah, blah and blah of the perpetrators and victims of gun violence. 

I have never read one, single piece of research which even attempts to figure out whether the victims or the shooters were enrolled in school when the shooting actually occurred. Not one. And Cox says we need more research?

The book contains an interesting chapter on what Cox calls the ‘charlatans’ who have created a cottage industry selling security programs to schools, even though schools are very safe locations, certainly safer than the street. Cox interviewed a bunch of these phonies who were exhibiting their products at a national school safety trade meeting held at Orlando in 2018.

Funny, but Cox somehow manages to miss what is probably the biggest, single school security program of all, a scam outfit called Stop the Bleed, which sells tourniquet kits that plug up a bullet hole in someone’s head.

Who owns a company which uses a shabby marketing strategy based on a fear of non-existent violence to peddle its products?  None other than the American College of Surgeons, that’s who.

This book is long on emotion and short of facts. Which makes it typical of how many people who should know better talk about guns.

The Assault Rifle Finds A New Champion.

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              So now the companies that manufacture the AR-15 assault rifle have a new champion who is touting the value and importance of this kind of gun. It’s none other than Lindsey Graham, the second-ranking member of the GOP Senate caucus, who came out and said he was happy to have an AR-15 in his house to protect himself against a “roving gang.”

              Graham’s house in South Carolina is located in the town of Seneca, which is located in Oconee County, the foothills of the Appalachians in the northwest corner of the state. Know how many people live in Seneca?  Nobody. Know how many ‘roving gangs’ are floating around Oconee County? None.  But Graham needs an assault rifle to stay happy and healthy in his home.

              Back in 2013, Joe got in a lot of trouble when he told Field and Stream Magazine that he kept a shotgun in his house which Jill would use to shoot anyone who tried to break down the front door. He made a point of saying that his house was located out in the woods, that he was often away from home and Jill was by herself, and that teaching her how to use a shotgun for self-defense had been a good thing.

              This was the first time that a national politician ever advocated armed self-defense. You would think that the NRA and the entire Gun-nut Nation would have jumped for joy. You would wonder how come the owners of Mossberg, or Browning, or some other company that made shotguns didn’t immediately show up at Joe’s office and present him with a new gun.

              You can think all you want, but what happened was that the entire pro-gun noisemaking industry came out against what Joe had just said. He was reckless, he was breaking the law, he was telling people to do what they should never do.  One idiot even said that if you shot a shotgun into the air, the pellets would fall down and kill someone when the pellets hit them in the head.

              The reason that Joe’s comments were universally condemned by the movers and shakers of Gun-nut Nation is that Democrats aren’t supposed to ever say anything positive about guns. That’s a narrative which has always been owned by the GOP. If Democrats were all of a sudden to come out in favor of guns, it would be tantamount to Republicans calling for an increase in funding for food stamps.

              Yesterday my little petition to ban assault rifles, which went up last Thursday night without any publicity at all, went over 2,500 names.  As of this moment, the petition is up to 2,730 signatures. When I started this petition I was hoping that maybe, God willing, I would wind up with a thousand names.  I suspect the petition will hit 5,000 names by this time next week.

              I’m going to send a link to Lindsey Graham’s comment out to everyone who has supported my gun-ban idea because there’s nothing that makes people get behind an idea when someone who disagrees with them says something as dumb as what Graham has just said.

              I think this country is in a much different place right now than it has been for the last four years. And I think that we need to be careful if we make any assumptions about the current political scene based on what went on between the 2016 election and what is going on today.

              If you haven’t signed the petition to ban assault rifles, please do it now. And please send the petition to everyone you know.  Thank you for your support, your comments and your good cheer.

Sign it here: https://www.change.org/Ban_Assault_Rifles_Now

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