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Why Can’t We Screen People for Guns like We Screen Them for Flights?

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              All of a sudden, it seems, some of the more moderate, or responsible, or whatever you want to call the non-MAGA wing of the GOP, have begun quietly talking about the one issue which nobody in the GOP ever talked about until this year, which is the issue known as gun control.

              Oh…my…God! Republic(ans) supporting anything that would infringe upon our God-given ‘right’ to own guns? No. Not possible. And yet, such blasphemy is beginning to occur.

              I’m referring today to an op-ed in The Hill where the writer, identified as a Professor of Computer Science and expert in data-driven, risk-based decision-making argues that what we need to do to reduce gun violence is to pay the costs of reducing the risk of guns getting into the wrong hands.

              How are we going to do this? By implementing for gun owners a strategy and program to weed out the bad guys similar to the TSA Pre-Check program used to keep the nuts off of plane flights. The program would require that every gun owner engage in some sort of continuous vetting procedure which would be renewed on a regular basis and would be required for anyone looking to buy or sell a gun.

              This guy’s brilliant idea is actually just a riff on the whole idea of universal background checks, which Gun-control Nation has been promoting for years. And it has always been assumed, without the slightest bit of evidence by the way, that forcing every gun owner to only transfer ownership of a gun after passing a background check wouldn’t eliminate gun violence but would at least reduce the annual carnage down to more ‘acceptable’ levels.

              What the editorial in The Hill does is stretch the background-check strategy to cover not only every gun transfer, but to cover the behavior and mental status of gun owners, whether they are or are not buying or selling a gun.  Which is what the TSA Pre-Check program is all about because your ability to be enrolled in the program has to be renewed whether you are taking a flight somewhere or not.

              Yea, yea, I know about all those times that some drunk asshole made an idiot of himself on a flight by trying to slap around a stew who didn’t sell him another drink or punched another passenger who had just told him to shut the f*ck up.

              As Aunt Florence used to say, I got news for you. Passengers abusing other passengers on public conveyances has been going on since the days of the Pony Express.  The reason we are more aware of it today is because everyone sitting on an airplane has a droid with a video feed. And when the nightly news has nothing better to talk about, they’ll show a video that some passenger on a United Airlines flight sold the station when he got off the plane.

              But the real issue of safety in air travel has nothing whatsoever to do with the behavior of the passengers while the plane is in flight. It has to do with the fact that every commercial airline operating in the U.S. needs to be equipped with GPS, which it only took the TSA twenty years to implement. That’s not bad timing to get a government program running, right?

              The problem with using background checks to weed out the people who shouldn’t have guns is that nearly all the 100,000+ yearly events where someone uses a gun to shoot someone else are committed by individuals who could never qualify to purchase, own, or carry a legal gun.

So, what would a screening program like the one being advocated in this editorial accomplish to reduce gun violence to any significant degree? Not one, goddamn thing.

I am still waiting for my friends who do research on gun violence for Gun-control Nation to come up with the first research project which actually tells us how many gun assaults are committed each year by individuals who have no legal permission to own a gun, or how many such individuals are walking around with guns they shouldn’t be allowed to own.

When that research is actually accomplished, maybe just maybe we’ll be able to figure out how to create and manage gun-control regulations which actually work.

Remember, it only took us twenty years to figure out how airline accidents could be almost entirely eliminated by using GPS.

Is Gun Violence Worse? We Don’t Know.

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              Our friend Eric Fleegler and his colleagues at Harvard, Emory, Brown, and Montefiore have just published what may be the most comprehensive and detailed analysis of gun violence produced over the past 30 years. And as expected, the numbers have been growing at an alarming rate over the last several years.

              The research is not only important in terms of the demographic details covering all the victims of this carnage, but even more important, the data has been connected and aggregated at the county level, the latter issue extremely significant since even within specific states, gun deaths can vary enormously between urban versus rural locales.

              This article is getting plenty of notice in the media and digital outlets which promote and support more controls over civilian-owned guns. I consider myself a member of that group, but I also feel it is necessary to approach such research from a critical point of view, particularly when the researchers in this instance claim that what they have published “may inform interventions to decrease firearm fatalities by targeting populations in specific geographic areas who have higher rates of firearm fatalities from homicide or suicide.”

              In that respect, I am drawn to the comments in this study where the authors list the ‘limitations’ which might influence or impact the value of their work. First and foremost, the paper makes no mention of the degree to which any study of gun violence is sadly incomplete because the data covering such events can only be recovered and analyzed for fatal shootings, which are probably less than 30 percent of all gun assaults.

              If it were possible to collect, aggregate and analyze non-fatal shootings, would having access to such data change the profile of gun violence created only by using data covering gun deaths? We don’t know.

What we do know, or at least I know, is that the only difference between fatal and non-fatal gun violence events is that in the latter category, the guy who pulled the trigger didn’t shoot straight. As opposed to car accidents, where factors like speed, weather, time of day and chemical impairment of the driver will significantly determine the number of fatal versus non-fatal accidents, whereas no such environmental differentiations can or should be made when it comes to analyzing intentional injuries caused by guns.

The second limitation in this article which is not mentioned by the authors but is generic to all public health gun research, is the degree to which we learn an awful lot about the victims of intentional gun assaults, but nothing at all about the perpetrators. And since the goal of these researchers, as mentioned above, is to help develop more effective ‘interventions’ to deal with gun violence, how do you develop any interventions, legal or otherwise, when you have such limited information about the people whose behavior requires the development of more effective interventional strategies in the first place?

The good news is that, at least for the next two years, we will continue to have an Administration in place which is committed to seeking and implementing better controls over guns, particularly the types of guns which are used to commit the more than 100,000 intentional fatal and non-fatal gun injuries which occur every year.

Would it be asking too much for my friends in the public health-medical research community to sit down and try to figure out how to access data which would allow them to conduct the same kind of analysis about the shooting population which this article so productively presents about the population which is shot?

I would hope not.

How Many Folks Walk Around with Guns?

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              Doesn’t it seem like there’s a shooting which kills and injures scores of victims just about every day? Last week there was a shooting in a Walmart that killed six employees and wounded five more.  The week before there was a shooting in Colorado Springs that left five dead and seventeen with wounds. A week before that, five people were gunned down in Maryland.

              These were the big shootings. The day-to-day random gun violence which kills one here or wounds two there is also way up. But those ‘normal’ shootings are so frequent that they don’t even make the local news.

              What’s going on? The Pandemic, which was blamed for the increase in gun violence in 2020 and 2021 is under control. The economic slowdown, which is always trotted out as an explanation for gun violence, is a narrative which simply can’t be taken seriously when the unemployment rate in most cities is under 4 percent.

              On the other hand, there has been a significant increase in the number of individuals who have been given legal sanction to walk around with a gun, which we refer to as concealed-carry, or CCW (‘W’ meaning weapon.) Is there a connection between more people walking around with legally carried guns and the increase in gun violence over the last several years?

              Several of our friends who conduct gun-violence research at Harvard and The University of Washington have published what they claim is one of the few serious attempts to determine the frequency of concealed guns being carried around, a particularly significant issue now that the Supreme Court has basically invalidated the ability of public authorities to arbitrarily decide who can versus who cannot walk around legally armed.

              The idea that anyone who passes a background check can traipse around with a Glock in their pocket has always been the most precious dream of Gun-nut Nation and the worst nightmare for folks who want more control over guns. These attitudes are based on the continued attempt by both sides to view guns either as the best way to prevent crime (the gun-nut argument) or the way which produces more crime and violence (the gun-control argument.)

              Both arguments happen to be incorrect, or better said, are based on research which is either incomplete, or simply wrong, or both. The latest contribution to the debate, the article produced by our friends at Harvard and U/Washington, happens to be incomplete at best.

              As usual, the article is based on what is always referred to as a ‘nationally-representative’ group of gun owners, who were asked if they ever carried a gun around, and if so, how frequently did this behavior occur?

              It turns out that one-third of the respondents said they were armed at least once during the previous thirty days, of whom about 40% of those self-armed gun owners carried their guns around every day.

              So, when you extrapolate this and extrapolate that, you wind up with 6 million Americans carrying their guns on a regular basis, a figure that was repeated throughout the liberal media as an explanation for why we now have shootings all over the place.

              The reason the media is circulating research which happens to be wrong both in its method and its result is because the researchers forgot to ask one question. And that question is this: Do you carry a legally owned gun?

              Of course, the respondents are legal gun owners. You think that someone is going to admit to some Ivy League researcher that he’s walking around with an illegal gun? What kind of sh*t is that?

              But if you don’t try to figure out how many folks are walking around with guns which they’re not supposed to have, what have you learned about anything having to do with gun violence today?

              There has never been one, single study of any kind which tells us how many individuals commit violent crimes with legally owned guns, or for that matter, with guns which aren’t legally owned. And if there isn’t any connection between legal gun ownership and gun violence, who cares how many people are walking around with their legal guns?

              This column will be sent to the researchers who published their ‘nationally-representative’ survey on CCW behavior, and I will be happy to circulate any response which I receive from that group. Not that I’m expecting to receive any response, because the folks who conduct public health research on gun violence are obsessively afraid to ever engage in public critiques about their own work.

              Which is the reason I wrote this column and will continue to publish critical reviews of all public health gun research. Because as Einstein said, “If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?”

A New Book Which Covers the Field.

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How Come Thoughts and Prayers Don’t End Gun Violence?

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              So, yesterday, somebody evidently walked into a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, pulled out a gun, and by the time he or she was finished shooting the place up, at least five people were dead, and another dozen were injured.

              This time, the thought and prayers were first sent out by the nightclub itself, which also praised some patrons for how quickly they subdued the individual who had the gun.

              The reason I’m not yet sure about the gender of the shooter is that the club, Club Q, isn’t just another place which wants gay patrons to feel welcome. In fact, it promotes itself as an LBGTQ club, not just some gay club, okay?

              Remember back in 2016 when a guy killed 49 people and wounded 53 more at a gay nightclub in Orlando? There were thoughts and prayers all over the place after that mass shooting took place. For that matter, when 58 people were shot to death at a rock concert in Las Vegas and hundreds were injured, even Donald Trump got onto the thoughts and prayers bandwagon following that 2017 event.

              The truth is, there’s only one way that we will get rid of mass shootings, which continue not occur with an almost banal frequency in the United States. And that way is to get rid of the guns which are used to commit mass shootings, meaning guns which shoot military-style ammunition from bottom-loading, semi-automatic guns.

              Note that I say ‘get rid of’ those guns. Not ‘control’ those guns. Not ‘better regulate’ those guns. Get rid of the goddamn guns, period.

              I have been writing about guns and gun violence for more than ten years, and during that time, at least 160,000 Americans have died because someone stuck a loaded gun in their faces, pulled the trigger and – blam! 

              The pro-gun gang of course explains this loss of lives as the price we have to pay to protect our 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ The anti-gun gang, on the other hand, says that we can solve the problem by a) getting more research funds from the CDC; b) pass laws which allow people to request that guns be taken away from individuals after they behave in a menacing way; c) ban the sale of new semi-automatic guns but let the 100 million semi-auto guns that are already out there remain in place.

              This is all bullsh*t on both sides, and everyone knows it’s bullsh*t, by the way. But in a country of 326 million people, another ten or twenty thousand unnecessary deaths each year is no big deal, particularly when you can use those deaths to send out an appeal for more funds.

              I have a friend named Mike Hirsh, who is a physician at U/Mass. Memorial Hospital in Worcester, MA. He has gotten together with Pina Violano, the Injury Prevention Coordinator at Yale – New haven Hospital, and together these two individuals (and some others) are committed to doing the one thing that will ever make a difference to gun-violence rates in this country, which is to promote and organize gun buybacks in communities throughout the United States.

              So far in 2022, Hirsh and Violano have become aware of 58 buybacks that have been held in 15 states, but there are probably other buyback events which have occurred. Of course, if you listen to some of the gun-control experts out there, gun buybacks ‘don’t work.’ This is the judgement of Garen Wintemute, who is invariably quoted by the media in a town where a buyback has just taken place.

              But Wintemute doesn’t know what he’s talking about because a voluntary return of guns is not and should not be judged as a program to reduce gun violence. Rather, the whole point of a buyback, which is not a confiscation of guns, is to get people thinking about and talking about the risk to community safety represented by guns.

              Right now, somewhere around 60% of all Americans believe that a home containing a gun is a safer place than a home without a gun. And since maybe 40% of all American homes contain a legal gun, obviously there are lots of non-gun owners out there who also think that having that old Smith & Wesson lying around is a good thing.

              Now the fact that research published thirty years ago indisputably found that access to guns creates medical risk shouldn’t be taken as the last word on why every red-blooded American should own a gun. After all, what do scientists know that the NRA doesn’t know, right?

              I still don’t understand why the gun-control community continues to twist itself in knots to avoid saying what needs to be said, which is the way you reduce a risk to health is to get rid of the risk. Or should we try to reduce the health risks from contaminated water by telling everyone to buy bottled water at Costco and stay away from the tap?

              Maybe that’s what we should be telling those poor bastards who drank poisoned water at Camp LeJeune.

              I hate to break it to some of my public health or medical friends, but there’s no way you can make a Glock ‘safe.’ Gaston Glock didn’t design his gun to be ‘safe.’ He designed his gun to be used to end human life. That’s the only reason for anyone to buy, own and walk around with a Glock or another similar type of gun. Cops? Yep. Everyone else? Nope.

              Would it hurt Mike Bloomberg’s bank account to fund a gun buyback in all 50 states? He can be reached at mike@mikebloomberg.com.

Ladies – Don’t Want to Be Abused? Get a Gun.

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              Brittany Smith is a 34-year-old Alabama resident who at the moment is doing time in the county jail of Montgomery County, A L. She also happens to be featured in a documentary movie, ‘State of Alabama versus Brittany Smith’ which can be viewed on Netflix.

              Brittany is behind bars today for violating a probation order which was part of plea deal she made in 2020 following her conviction for fatally shooting a guy, Todd Smith (no relation) who got into a fight with her and her brother Chris. The altercation took place in Brittany’s house where Todd was staying overnight.

              At some point during the evening, according to Brittany and Chris, Todd attempted to rape Brittany and also beat her severely, then started beating on Chris, at which Brittany picked up her brother’s gun and that was the end of Todd Smith.

              What made this story the subject of a movie was Brittany’s decision to mount a defense of her behavior by citing Alabama’s Stand Your Ground (SYG) law which was passed in 2006 and allows someone to use lethal force against an attacker both within the home as well as in the street.

              In order to use an SYG defense, a judge holds a hearing prior to the trial to determine whether SYG can be the grounds for a defendant to answer a charge of fatal or non-fatal assault. In Brittany Smith’s case, the judge – a woman – ruled the defendant could not invoke a SYG defense, which is why Brittany copped a plea for homicide, did some time, then was released on probation, broke the probation, and ended up back in jail.

              In the United States, women are the victims in one out of every five homicides, which happens to be the average rate for females killed throughout the have been world, according to the U.N. But while most killings where the victim is a male occur during gang-related or robbery-related events, homicides which produce a female victim are overwhelmingly the product of a domestic conflict between male and female partners which often are the culmination of long-term, continuous abuse. In fact, the WHO estimates that one-third of all women have been physically abused by a male partner at some point during their lives.

              Thanks to the #MeToo movement, women are no longer the ‘unseen’ victims in case of domestic abuse. But where women still lag far behind men in protecting themselves legally from an abusive male partner is when they react to an assault with physical force and then attempt to justify their behavior by asserting a Stand Your Ground defense.

              The whole point of the Netflix documentary is to show that while SYG is frequently and successfully used by men to defend themselves from a charge of battery or worse, women like Brittany Smith who claim a SYG defense, usually still wind up behind bars.

              When the NRA made an incredibly stupid move to become the Warner Bros. of the gun business by starting up a video-streaming channel called NRA-TV, they hired Dana Loesch away from The Blaze and made her the organization’s communicator to women, the idea being that maybe this would result in an uptick of gun sales to the fairer sex.

              So, Dana made some of the dumbest video messages ever put out anywhere, in which she proclaimed that women needed to buy and carry guns in order to protect themselves and their families from ‘street thugs.’ Term ‘street thug’ is a euphemism for what we used to call the ‘element,’ which denotes people whose skin color is such that if they move into the neighborhood, the value of your house will go straight down.  

              The NRA wasn’t about to help women deal with domestic violence because some of those guys who come home half sh*tfaced from the saloon and slap the old lady around are maybe members of the NRA. So all the NRA managed to accomplish by pissing away the cost of producing these incredibly stupid videos was to generate a response from our friends in Gun-control Nation who began promoting ‘red flag’ laws which allow women to elect the tiresome process of going into court and asking a judge to take the guns away from an abusive guy. Except the man can still do a pretty good job on the old lady’s face and bod by using his fists.

              A physician who treated Brittany Smith after she stopped Todd from beating on her by blowing a hole in his chest, found that she had suffered more than 30 separate wounds to various parts of her body, including bite marks on her cheeks and choke marks around her neck.

              But the last thing my friends in Gun-control Nation are about to do is consider the idea that perhaps women should think about arming themselves against abusive or threatening men.

              I’m not necessarily saying that every law-abiding female should trot over to the local gun shop and buy a Glock or a Sig. What I am saying is that men who abuse women need to be stopped from indulging in such behavior in the most immediate and forceful way.

              Got a better idea for how to get this message across than waving a gun in the guy’s face?

Why Not Kick John Lott Around Again?

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              Several years ago, an energetic journalist, Mike Spies, wrote a long and detailed article about financial mismanagement at the NRA which almost cut America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ down at the knees. The organization survived but the research by Spies may have cost the gun-rights group to lose more than $50 million in annual dues.

              Spies has recently published another detailed piece of research, this time aiming at John Lott, a self-employed economist whose pro-gun work has, according to Spies, “provided the empirical justification for looser firearms laws.” In particular, Lott has testified before legislative committees which have crafted ‘stand your ground’ and concealed-carry laws, he has also submitted documentation in courtroom cases, including a recent California case where the judge cited Lott’s work as the basis for overturning the state’s assault-rifle ban.

              Lott’s fundamental work is a book, More Guns, Less Crime, published by the prestigious University of Chicago Press. The book was initially published in 1998, has gone through multiple editions, and is regularly cited by just about every pro-gun politician and advocate promoting the easing of regulatory constraints of guns.

              Although the book is chock-full of data, as well as endless statistical analysis, Lott’s argument is rather simple insofar as he finds a positive correlation between the issuance of concealed-carry licenses in various states and a consequent drop in violent crime (murder and assaults) in those same states. He also finds an increase in covert crime (burglary) in most of those same states.

              Putting the data together, Lott argues that when criminals believe their intended crime victims may be armed, they switch to crimes in which there is no human element to concern them. Which means that what we get is a society which as it becomes more armed, is also a safer society in which to live.

              Lott’s argument is one of a number of attempts to explain the rather remarkable 50% drop in violent crime which occurred in the United States beginning in the early 1990’s, coincident with the increase in concealed-carry licenses where 16 states automatically issued concealed-carry licenses in 1992, a number which increased to 30 states by 1998.

              In the interests as they say of full disclosure, I must state that Lott and I are good friends and I support his research because he is the one scholar doing work on gun violence who has actually gone out and created an original data collection by tracking the issuance of concealed-carry licenses in every state. His critics in the gun-control scholarly community invariably rely on secondary data sources and I am one of these old-fashioned scholars who believes that an important role of research is to identify and promote primary resources on which to base research.

              I also happen to disagree with Lott’s argument about criminals switching from personal to non-personal criminality because they fear that their victims may be armed, for the simple reason that his argument assumes that we are talking about the same criminals who switch their criminal modus operandi because they believe that the ‘good guys’ are now walking around with guns.  The fact that Lott finds a coincidental shift in criminality and licensing doesn’t necessarily mean that we have any kind of cause and effect.

              By the same token, however, I am even less impressed by the work of Lott’s critics who take him to task either by creating statistical models which produce different results simply by changing the statistical parameters whether such changes bear any relationship to reality at all (Donahue) or the regression analysis which finds that the United States has such a high level of violent criminality because Americans own so many guns (Hemenway). Since violent crimes are overwhelmingly committed with the use of illegal guns, what difference does it make if we have hundreds of millions of legal guns floating around?

              The issue which neither Mike Spies nor anyone else in the gun-control research/journalist community has yet to explore is why we continue to debate and (on rare occasion) pass laws which only further regulate the behavior of lawful gun owners who relatively rarely show up as the individuals annually committing 100,000 criminal assaults with guns?

              And this number of gun crimes is probably way below what the real number happens to be, for the simple reason that lots of gun assaults occur with nobody getting injured or killed. And I am still waiting for the first gun-control researcher to even acknowledge that we have absolutely no idea how many guns are carried around every day for no lawful purpose at all.

Do You Need a Self-Defense Gun?

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              Sometime in the next month, I am going to announce the launch of a new organization called SAFE, which stands for Security and Firearms Education. It will be an organization that will produce and disseminate informational resources to help individuals understand the laws, context, and proficiency training required to use a gun effectively and safely for armed, self-defense.

              You might wonder how come someone who has been an outspoken advocate of gun control for the last decade would be willing to switch sides, so to speak, and now start promoting the ownership and use of self-defense guns? That’s a good question, and here’s my response.

              I published my first comments about gun violence in May 2013. Since that time, more than 150,000 Americans have been shot to death by other Americans, and probably another 750,000 or more Americans have been shot but survived their wounds. In other words, the number of victims who were injured or killed by someone else using a gun is now approaching one million over the ten years since I started writing about guns.

              What has been the response of the advocates and researchers who are shocked and saddened by this state of affairs? The answer to this uniquely American type of behavior is to mandate more gun-control regulations against legal gun owners whose legal status is based on the belief that they can be trusted not to commit violent behavior with their guns.

              Are there times that legal gun owners do things with their guns that they shouldn’t do with their guns? Of course. Since when have human beings ever been error-free?

              But the last time I looked at the Violence Policy Center’s report on concealed killers, the number of fatal assaults by private citizens who were legally allowed to carry a concealed weapon averages about 150 fatal assaults per year, a number which also includes some suicides, by the way. Want to compare that number to the 20,000 or so gun homicides committed each year, almost all of which are the work of individuals who cannot legally own guns?

              Don’t get me wrong. I don’t buy the argument that if everyone were walking around with a gun, that violent crime would go down. By the same token, I don’t buy the argument that individuals walking around with guns are committing all those fatal and non-fatal gun assaults.

              Back in June, when the Supreme Court struck down New York’s law which requires that concealed-carry applicants show valid cause for needing to walk around with a gun, the various GVP groups all knew ‘for a fact’ that New York was heading for an Armageddon of gun violence, no matter what.

              I am still waiting for the first piece of evidence-based research which definitively shows a connection between the issuance of concealed-carry licenses and a substantive, verifiable increase in violent crime. Sorry, but just finding a coincidence between when a law is changed and how people behave isn’t cause and effect.

              I have sold thousands of guns to people who walked into my gun shop and said they wanted to buy a gun for armed, self-defense. Most of these customers were kids who had been playing video shooting games as they grew up and now were old enough to have the real thing.

              At some point I sent emails and asked several hundred of these customers how often they were walking around with their self-defense gun. Less than 10 percent of the people who responded to my email said they were carrying their gun on a regular basis – the rest were walking around with a concealed weapon occasionally or not at all.

              Here’s what happens when you begin carrying a self-defense gun. You discover that there are places you can’t bring the gun, like shopping malls or restaurants that serve booze. You also discover that the gun is heavy, it’s bulky, so you won’t carry it during the warm months because it looks kind of stupid to be wearing an overcoat at the beach.

              For all the complaints from the gun-control folks about how issuing concealed-carry licenses increases risk, has there ever been one study which seeks to figure out how many of those newly licensed gunslingers are actually walking around with their cherished guns? Nope, not one.

              Why do most people buy Apple phones or droids? Not because they actually need to use the device, but because everyone else has one and looking at some video or sending a text is fun.

              Think it’s any different with people who buy self-defense guns? It’s not.

              But an iPhone 13 is one thing, a Glock is something else. So, to help those new owners understand the lethality and risk of the self-defense gun they just bought, I will shortly be putting up a website which tells them what they need to consider if they want to engage in armed, self-defense.

The website will have three content pages, one which explains the legal issues surrounding armed, self-defense, along with another page telling owners of self-defense guns how to determine whether the guy coming towards them is really a threat, and another page describing a 10-minute, daily exercise to develop and maintain necessary muscle memory which doesn’t require using a gun.

I may also add a page specifically geared towards women who want to defend themselves or others with a gun.

Everyone knows that guns represent a risk. If their lethality didn’t create risk nobody would consider using them for self-defense. But you’re not going to convince anyone to restrain from buying or using a self-defense gun by publishing some data-laden article in a public health journal which shows some kind of ‘correlation’ between access to guns and 100,000+ fatal and non-fatal gun assaults every year.

Every time I turn on my car’s engine and back out of the driveway, I’m taking a risk. Every time I gobble down a handful of those Lay’s potato chips, I’m taking a risk.     Every time I plunk down some dough to buy shares in the latest ‘hot’ social media company, I’m taking a risk.

How come we are so benign about certain risks and so hostile to other risks? How many Americans still believe that getting vaccinated against Covid-19 guarantees that, sooner or later, you’ll come down with the disease?

If nothing else, my new website is an attempt to inject a little bit of reality into the gun debate.

Are Guns ‘Good’ or ‘Bad?’ Both Sides Get It Wrong.

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              I have been paying attention to the debate about guns and gun violence since I read the research published by Art Kellerman and Fred Rivara published in 1993, research which found that access to guns represented a risk to health.  This argument inaugurated a debate about the social utility of guns which is still going on.

              On the one side we have Gary Kleck, who published a study in 1995 claiming that individuals who brandished or occasionally fired guns, prevented several million crimes every year.

              On the other side, we have David Hemenway, who found that America’s fatal violence was 7 to 20 times higher than other advanced countries because Americans own so many guns.

              What we end up with is that guns are ‘good’ because they are used to prevent crime, versus guns are ‘bad’ because their presence results in more crime.

              It goes without saying that the two schools of research – ‘good’ guns versus ‘bad’ guns – are used to create and bolster the narratives of the organizations which advocate for more (ex. NRA) or fewer (ex. Brady) guns.

I believe both narratives are wrong to the point of being delusional because neither argument is based on a valid analysis of the data they cite, and both arguments end up telling the two, respective sides what these researchers want them to hear, which makes the arguments delusional, at best.

The tone of this brief essay may sound both arrogant and unyielding, but over the past 60 years I have been a retailer, wholesaler, certified trainer, importer, and manufacturer of guns. I have discussed guns with thousands of gun owners, including the twelve thousand who were students in the required gun-safety course I taught from 2003 until 2014. So, when it comes to guns, I know what I’m talking about. Now, back to how both sides in the gun debate get it wrong.

              Guns are good:  Kleck looked at how guns allegedly prevent crime by conducting several thousand telephone interviews, then took the percentage of gun-owning respondents who claimed they used a gun in self-defense, extrapolated to an estimate of how many gun owners were alive in the 1990’s, and came up with his results.

              People who were interviewed by Kleck’s team were asked all the usual questions about who they were, where they lived, when were they forced to use a gun in self-defense, and what happened as a result. They had to provide their age, their gender, their race, all the usual demographic stuff.

              But there was one question they weren’t asked: In the confrontation with the attacker, were they using a legally owned gun?

              How can you understand how people behave with guns if you don’t differentiate between legal and illegal guns? You can’t.

              Actually, you can, but your results will be meaningless for a very simple reason, namely, because it’s the guys walking around with illegal guns who are the guys that get into situations where they either are attacked or believe they are about to be attacked by someone else.

              Guns are bad:  Hemenway’s says the United States has so much fatal violence is because we own so many guns. No other country has a per-capita rate of gun ownership which exceeds more than one gun per person.

Except what Hemenway glosses over is that a large majority of those hundreds of millions of guns in the hands of American gun owners are never used in violent events. They are rifles used to shoot Bambi or shotguns used to knock a bird out of a tree.

              So how do you make an argument which correlates the number of guns with the number of fatal assaults when the number you are using to represent the available guns is probably three or four times higher than it should be? You can make that argument all you want, except the argument is simply wrong.

              The reason we have gun violence is that we are the only country in the entire world which gives residents free access to the kinds of guns designed specifically to be used in person-to-person assaults. Semi-automatic, bottom-loading pistols made by companies like Glock, Sig, Springfield Armory, Ruger, Smith & Wesson, et. al., aren’t ‘sporting’ guns. They are ‘weapons of war,’ and are carried by tactical and military personnel worldwide.

              And by the way, for all the talk about how Americans have a ‘right’ to own such guns thanks to the 2nd-Amendment decision written by Tony Scalia in 2008, his opinion specifically denied Constitutional protections for ‘weapons of war.’

              Want to get rid of gun violence? It’s very simple. Limit the carrying the guns used to commit gun violence to police and others who are required to carry a gun as part of their job.

              The day that any one of the gun-control groups says this out loud, we’ll actually have a chance to reduce the violence caused by using guns.

              That was a tough one, wasn’t it?

A Must-Read Novel by Joyce Carol Oates

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              Joyce Carol Oates isn’t a gun nut, that’s for sure. But the way a gun briefly appears in her latest novel, Babysitter, makes this work something which every gun nut should read.

              I’m not going to discuss the novel’s plot because I don’t want to rob anyone of the pleasure of reading every word without knowing what the next word is going to be. But when Joyce Carol Oates describes how people feel and think about anything that happens in their lives, you won’t get it better or richer from anyone else.

              The scene involving a gun takes place with a man and a wife. He has bought a self-defense gun and pulls it out, shows her how to hold it, load it, pull the trigger and now she’s ready to defend herself and the kids in case someone tries to get into the house and do them harm.

              The wife, of course, knows from nothing about guns. And despite being reassured by her husband that a gun is the best way to prevent any trouble, she basically tells herself that she doesn’t feel ready or able to use a gun in self-defense.

              That’s it. The whole scene is one page in a novel which runs 432 printed pages front to back. But in this one, very brief episode, we are given an extraordinary insight into the whole, contemporary problem known as gun violence which the author of this brilliant novel, knowingly or not, seems to understand.

              I’ll return to Babysitter shortly, but first let me create a proper context for the appearance of a gun in this book.

              In 1986, the U.S. gun market absorbed 3,741,934 new guns, of which 1,655,387 or 44%, were handguns. In 2019, the market absorbed 10,998,608 new guns, of which 6,221,322, or 57% were handguns. Ever since the 1980’s, the gun market has increasingly been driven by a demand for handguns, because the only gun owners out there buying rifles and shotguns for hunting are old farts like me. Kids don’t hunt.

              Pistols are designed and carried only for armed, self-defense. Many revolvers are also purchased and carried for self-protection, including the revolver owned by the husband in the book written by Joyce Carol Oates.

              The husband seems to think that all he needs to do is show the wife how the gun works, and she’ll be able to use it to protect herself and the kids when they are home.

              The wife knows better. In just a couple of paragraphs, Joyce Carol Oates conveys the woman’s combination of fear, doubt, and anxiety which she feels just by looking at a gun.

              These emotions were exactly what I observed in the behavior of more than a thousand women who took the safety course that my state mandated in order to get licensed to buy, own or carry a gun. The women who took my course were either wives or girlfriends of men who owned guns, and they were getting licensed because my state (Massachusetts) has the toughest gun access law of all 50 states.

              The law basically says that every adult in the household must be licensed to access guns if any member of the household wants to keep guns in the home. Of these thousand women or so who took the safety course, the number who were going to buy their own guns was less than ten.

The women who took the course showed up when their husbands or partners also took the course. Most of the seven thousand enrollees in the course were men, and most of the men showed up for the course with other men.

I required every student in the course to shoot some rounds with a 22-caliber Ruger pistol, just to get the feeling for what happens when a gun is shot off. The male students couldn’t wait to get down to the range and fire away. The women were reluctant at best to shoot a live gun, at worst they were so frightened that they either started crying when the gun kicked back after firing or dropped the gun.

I don’t know how many of the men who got licensed as gun owners ever took the time and the trouble to go to a range on a frequent basis in order to develop and then maintain the proficiency needed to use a gun in self-defense. But if they thought that just by dint of owning a gun they could use a gun properly for self-defense, they were wrong.

In Babysitter, the husband simply assumes that his wife will be able to use a gun for self-defense because he tells her how to use the gun if someone tries to break into their home. And this totally delusional attitude on the part of the husband is described perfectly by Joyce Carol Oates.

It goes without saying that I loved this book, and you’ll love it too.

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