Want To Bet That Guns Sales Will Remain Strong In The Years Ahead? I’m Not So Sure.

Leave a comment

Far be it from me to inject a note of pessimism into the gun industry’s continued success in convincing America that guns are a benefit and not a risk.  After all, would anyone have predicted the recent Gallup poll which shows that a majority of us now believe that we need less, rather than more gun laws?  And how does the gun-control community deal with the latest research from Pew which shows that a majority of Americans now believe that guns keep us safe from crime?  And then there’s the proliferation of concealed-carry licenses which were virtually unknown in most places twenty years ago but are now issued without question in more than 40 states.  And let’s not forget, of course, the legal imprimatur handed to the gun industry with the Heller decision in 2008.

gun show                While it’s been a tough, uphill battle for the gun-control movement of late, I’m not sure that anyone should consider throwing in the towel.  Because what’s really interesting about all those success indicators noted above is that they seem to be happening just at the point in which certain trends which might foreshadow a very rocky road ahead for the pro-gun community are beginning to emerge.  And don’t get me wrong – I’m not pro-gun or anti-gun.  I’m just, as always, trying to tell it like it is. And this is how it is.

At the same time that legally, socially and culturally gun ownership seem to be more mainstream, the number of Americans who own guns keeps going down.  The latest studies indicate that slightly more than one-third of American households contain a legal gun, but this percentage was as high as 53% in 1976.  And since the average American household has slid from 2.9 to 2.5 persons during this same period, even the absolute growth in the total population means that the number of Americans who have access to legal guns continues to go down.

Once we begin to qualify gun owners beyond the raw number who own guns, the trends become even more bleak.  The industry has made a valiant effort to build a market among women, minorities and new shooters in general, but the truth is that gun ownership is still largely a choice embraced by older, White men.  And it is precisely the older, White men who are lagging behind the growth of such demographics as single women, new immigrants and minorities – the latter groups responsible for the increase in America’s population as a whole.

But if there’s one trend that should concern the gun industry vis-à-vis the future of gun ownership, it’s a trend that isn’t tied to gun ownership at all.  Rather, it concerns how the millennial generation is shaping its view of the world which will ultimately determine what American society thinks about everything, including guns.  What Pew Research refers to as the “relative liberalism” of Millennials is a serious, long-term problem for the pro-gun community because if there’s one thing that defines and divides conservatives and liberals it’s the issue of guns.  I’m not saying there aren’t a few liberals out there like me who happen to be gun nuts in their spare time.  But I can’t remember the last time a member of the Democratic Party addressed a meeting of the NRA.

Here’s a new survey which should give the gun celebrants some pause:  Only 19% of the age group 18-29 gets their news from Fox; more than 50% learn what’s going on around them from NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC and Public TV, and another 10% rely on Jon Stewart or Colbert!  None of those media outlets are in any way or shape pro-gun, and this could be a decisive factor in determining the place of guns within our society in the years to come.


Are Mass Shootings More Frequent This Year? This Seems To Be The Case.


It looks like that if we learn anything from the Louisiana shooting, we’re going to learn that another shooter might have played the loopholed NICS system to his advantage and gotten his hands on a gun.  Back in 2006 Daniel Houser applied for a concealed-weapons permit in Alabama and was denied based on arson and domestic violence allegations.  In 2008 he was involuntarily committed to a mental hospital in Georgia and his then-wife convinced the court to have his guns removed from their home before he was released.  This action should have resulted in a denial when Houser purchased his killing gun in March, but the system only delayed his purchase by one day.

So here we go again.  There will be all kinds of hand-wringing and I-told-you-so’s about how and why NICS doesn’t work, followed by some vague mumblings in Congress about expanding background checks to private sales.  Meanwhile, officially the NRA will keep a low profile but their unofficial loudmouths will be out there reminding us again that we would all be safe from such carnage if we just got rid of gun-free zones.  The best comment came from Bobby Jindal, who’s desperately trying to keep his feet or at least his fingertips in the Presidential race: “Now is not the time to discuss gun control,” he said, although he didn’t set another time for the discussion to take place.

jindal                Are multiple shootings (two dead and nine wounded in Louisiana) more common recently or are such events just being followed more closely by the digital press?  According to the Mass Shooting Tracker, it seems to be a combination of both.  So far this year their website lists 203 events in which four or more people were hit in the same location with gunfire that came from one or multiple shooters. Last year this website listed 283 total mass shootings so 2015 promises to exceed that rate by maybe 25%.  The good news is that ‘only’ 25% of the people hit with bullets in 2015 ended up dead, whereas 32% of the victims were killed in 2014. So the shooters are shooting less straight or maybe the trauma surgeons are perfecting their skills.

What impresses me about this website is exactly why it is being criticized by pro-NRA hucksters, namely, that it departs from the FBI definition of ‘mass shootings’ which counts only incidents in which four or more persons are killed.  The website cites the example of a mass shooting in 2012 where the gunman opened fire in a nightclub and killed only one person but a total of seventeen other people were struck by bullets, most of which came from guns carried by other patrons who were attempting to defend themselves.

Now here’s a perfect example of what happens when civilians carry guns into places that are not gun-free zones.  A gun goes off, then everyone starts banging away, and before you know it, there are injured bodies all over the place.  Remember the incident in Waco this past May when shooting erupted in the Twin Peaks restaurant and before it was over 9 bikers were killed and another 18 were treated for wounds?  I don’t recall whether the restaurant was a gun-free zone or not, but there were lots of guys in the food joint that day who obviously didn’t know and didn’t care.

We have a problem in this country called gun violence and we’re not going to solve it by ‘fixing’ a registration system that hasn’t changed in more than twenty years; it’s not going to be solved by putting the discussion off for another day; and it’s certainly not going to be solved by asking every law-abiding citizen to walk around with a gun.  It’s going to be solved when the idiots who claim to speak for gun owners finally come clean and admit that guns with 3-inch barrels can’t be used for hunting or sport.  At that point, a meaningful discussion about gun violence might take place.




The NSSF Believes That Walking Around With A Gun Is A Natural And Normal Thing.

Leave a comment

It’s getting to the point that the slow but steady decline in the number of Americans who own guns appears to be provoking the gun industry and its advocates not just to promote the idea that a gun is the best and safest way for people to protect themselves, but to present concealed-carry as a natural and normal way to use guns.  The normalization of CCW can be found in a new online publication from the NSSF called First Shot News, The Newsletter for Beginning Shooters.  It contains seven articles, and five of the seven articles or videos focus on tactical shooting, which is a polite way of saying that you are going to use a gun to shoot someone else.

nssf                Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying that anybody who subscribes to any NSSF online newsletter is thinking of using a gun in an unsafe or illegal way.  And I’m also not saying that they will ever use a gun except to have an enjoyable afternoon on the range with some friends.  What I am saying, however, is that consumers are told that this particular consumer product is the best way to protect themselves and society at large from any kind of physical threat.  So you’re not just buying a gun to protect yourself, buying and carrying a gun is a civic good.

And here’s how that message is conveyed to new shooters by the NSSF.  David Dolbee begins his article on choosing a holster like this: “One of the primary reasons people begin shopping for a holster is because they’re planning to carry a firearm concealed.”  Another article on short-barreled pistols advises new shooters that short-barreled guns are necessary in order to carry-concealed, but because of their compactness they aren’t much fun to shoot.  There’s a “First Shoot Shooting Drill” presented by Claude Werner, the tactical professor, whose website includes a link to “Gun Battles to be Remembered,” and the featured article is by the First Shots manager, Tisma Juett, who has put together some 60 shooting “seminars” even though most of them will be held at just 6 or 7 different sites.

Tisma’s article starts off with the usual bromides about the importance of safe storage, but she gets right down to the nitty-gritty when she asks her readers “Have you considered how you safely store your firearm when carrying concealed?” And if you need a bit more help to understand the point of her remarks, she concludes her safety advice to new shooters by stating that “When time is of the essence, you need to know where your firearm is and how to draw it out of the holster and into a position to shoot safely and even quickly.”

When time is of the essence for what?  For defending yourself against the possibility that you might be the victim of a criminal attack?  I don’t care how many times John Lott, Gary Kleck and the other self-defense fetishists continue to re-invent the sick idea that guns prevent millions of crimes from taking place.  It’s sick because those arguments appeal to fear, have no basis in fact and increase risk.  The last time Lott trotted out that stupid argument he couldn’t make any real connection between CCW and rates of crime, ending up whining that the two trends were “associated” with one another, whatever that means.

It’s time for my friends in the gun-sense community to say it loud and clear: You can’t call for CCW on the one hand and call for gun safety on the other.  It’s a contradiction in terms and pro-gun organizations promoting such nonsense should be called to account for what they are really trying to do, namely, make concealed-carry a normal and natural activity so that people will buy more guns. But the truth is that walking around with a gun isn’t normal and natural unless you also happen to be wearing a law-enforcement shield.  And anyone who thinks otherwise should go back to the O.K. Corral.

It’s Not A Matter Of Good Guys Versus Bad Guys – It’s A Matter Of Life And Death.

1 Comment

So now it turns out that, despite what Trump and other publicity-mongering idiots are saying about Chattanooga, that the recruiting centers attacked by Mohammed Abdulazeez may not have been gun-free zones at all.  Nobody’s yet going completely on the record, and nobody knows all the facts, but it appears that at some point during the rampage, the incoming fire at the Navy Operational Support Center, which was the second location hit that day, may have been matched by outgoing fire from guns carried by a Navy Commander as well as by one of the slain Marines.

chat                The shooter was ultimately stopped in an exchange of gunfire between himself and local police who followed him from his first destination at a strip mall adjacent to an interchange on the Lee Highway to the Naval Reserve Base on the Annicola Highway that skirts the Tennessee River just north of the center of town.  There definitely was an exchange of gunfire between Abdulazeez and personnel at the Navy facility; it’s not clear whether the Glock pistol found on the body of one of the dead Marines had been fired in response to the attack.

How long did it take the NRA and the gun lobby to get their rhetorical guns-for-hire out there to denounce the gun-free policy at military facilities that was initiated by the first President Bush?  The shooting first started at 10:30 A.M. and ended within 30 minutes of when it began.  Within eight hours after the shooting ended, John Lott was on the Lars Larson radio show telling everyone that the shootings occurred because both locations were gun-free zones. He put it like this: “Time after time attackers go after targets where the victims can’t defend themselves.”

But in this case, legally or not, the victims not only could defend themselves but obviously tried to defend themselves.  And what ended the shooting was what always ends multiple shootings where an individual shoots people at more than one location – the cops who arrive in time and bring the situation to its tragic end.  In fact, the FBI studied 160 of these shootings between 2000 and 2013 and found exactly five events, 3% of the total, which ended because an armed citizen intervened.

I have no issue with anyone who decides that a particular facility, public or private, requires the presence of armed guards.  I would hate to see an armed guard standing outside my house of worship, but if the congregation decided they needed to pay for such protection, by all means let them pass around the collection plate again.  Ditto with any other place where people might feel they need protection, including armed force.  But the gun-free zone nonsense being promoted by the NRA and its sycophants like John Lott has nothing to do with going out and hiring competent, well-trained armed guards.  It’s just a shabby and cynical way to push concealed-carry and more gun sales.

Here’s how Lott expressed it on the Larson show: “There are now 13 million people who have concealed-carry permits.  They’re all over the place.  If you go to a restaurant or a bank there’s a good chance that somebody nearby you will have a gun.”  So what?  I don’t mean in any way, shape or form to besmirch the beloved memories of the servicemen whose lives ended tragically and needlessly in Chattanooga last week.  But several of them were carrying guns and may have used guns, but the rampage ended when the folks who are trained to use guns showed up at the scene.

I want to end with a comment directed at my friends in the gun-sense community who, along with everyone else, were shocked and horrified at the Chattanooga events.  You are engaged in a serious fight with adversaries who want you to believe that this is an argument about Constitutional rights. It’s not.  It’s an argument about life and death and their proposals to protect the former only increase the risk of the latter.

Why Should Doctors Ask Patients About Guns? Here’s Why.

Leave a comment

Over a period of three days in June 2014, an agitated and obviously extremely upset young man named Christopher Hampton showed up seven times at hospitals in Fargo, ND, claiming that his roommate, who was also his cousin, was trying to poison him.  During one of the visits, Hampton was tested for poisons in his system but the tests showed only traces of marijuana and amphetamines.  He was told on several of these visits to seek psychiatric care but was not considered to be a danger to himself or anyone else.

On June 26, shortly following his last encounter with medical practitioners, Hampton went back to his apartment, grabbed a gun and shot his cousin to death.  At his trial, which is going on right now, Hampton had obviously regained his composure to the point that he was claiming self-defense and may testify that a series of arguments led up to a serious fracas in which he was victim, not assailant, and had no choice but to defend himself with a gun.  But the last witness to testify for the prosecution was a pathologist, Dr. Mark Kaponen, who noted that the entry wounds were in the back of the victim’s head, which is a pretty interesting way to shoot someone if you’re using a gun in self-defense.

docs versus glocks                The way things are going, it looks like there will be somewhere between 11,000 and 12,000 homicides committed this year with a gun.  And most of these shootings will involve perpetrators and victims who not only knew each other, but had been engaged in an argument or a series of arguments for hours, days or weeks leading up to the fatal event.   As Dr. Lester  Adelson put it in a classic article: “With its peculiar lethality, a gun converts a spat into a slaying and a quarrel into a killing.”  I actually prefer Walter Mosley’s more prosaic statement:  “If you carry a gun, it’s bound to go off sooner or later.”  Either way, the bottom line is that what we have in the Fargo homicide is a classic mixture of drugs, an argument and a gun.

But there was something else about this case that needs to be addressed and understood.  The fact is that the shooter, Christopher Hampton, certainly tried to draw attention to himself in the days leading up to the tragic event.  He visited health facilities six or seven times, he made it clear that he was concerned about his own welfare and safety, he may have made some pretty nutty statements about his cousin, but that was exactly the point.  People who walk into a medical facility under their own free will and say crazy, delusional things need to be taken seriously, not just told to ‘go home and relax.’ In fact, Hampton had previously been diagnosed as having bipolar disorder but stated that he had stopped taking his prescribed meds. How many red flags did this young man need to wave?

In fact, he waved one more, the reddest flag of all, because he told a cop just before the shooting that there were guns in the apartment and asked the cop to take them away.  The police officer decided there was no criminal activity going on and declined Hampton’s request to seize the guns. Two hours later, Hampton shot his cousin to death.

According to the NRA, there’s no reason for physicians to even ask patients about gun ownership unless the patient poses a clear health risk.  But how does a clinician know that a patient has stepped across that line?  How could anyone know for sure that Christopher Hampton’s delusional behavior would lead to a life-ending event?  The point is we don’t know, which is why doctors need the widest possible latitude in asking questions about the presence and use of guns.  And anyone who truly believes that physicians should not be concerned about guns is as delusional as Christopher Hampton the night he ended his cousin’s life.

There’s Nothing Like Openly Carrying A Handgun To Protect Us Against Everything – Real Or Imagined.

Leave a comment

In the weeks following the unspeakable gun violence in Charleston, there was one public voice notably absent, namely, the NRA.  As opposed to the belligerent screed from Wayne-o after Sandy Hook, this time America’s “oldest civil rights organization” kept their collectives mouths shut.  Well, almost all of them did, and the one exception was Charlie Cotton, a Board member from Texas, who quickly posted a statement blaming Clementa Pinckney for hastening his own demise because of his opposition to guns, and then just as quickly took the post down.

open carry                Good ol’ Charlie epitomizes the Mark Twain saying, “it’s better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt.”  And if you don’t believe me, here’s a few samples of other Cotton comments obligingly sent to me by a friend.  In February, he supported a bill that would have eliminated corporal punishment in Texas public schools with this gem: “a good paddling in school may keep me from having to put a bullet into him later.”  He once referred to Black-on-Black shootings as “thug on thug,” and in case the readers of his blog didn’t get the not-so-veiled, racist comment he added, “cops know what I really mean.”

In addition to proving his stupidity on issues far and wide, Cotton has also been a driving force behind the NRA-backed gun legislation in the Lone Star State, including the recent law that legalizes “open carry” of handguns in public venues.  The open-carry question has a contentious history in Texas; just last year the NRA publicly scolded a group of Texans who were parading around a fast-food outlet with AR rifles in plain sight, but the ensuing uproar on the part of open-carry activists forced the NRA to back down.

For our boy Charlie, the zeal of open-carry proponents in Texas has been a difficult fence to straddle, given the ambivalence of the NRA towards the spectacle of open-carry demonstrations on the one hand, while not wanting to piss off the open-carry fringe on the other.  In 2013, when then-candidate Greg Abbott was willing to support whatever loony idea would get him a few more votes in the race for Governor, he endorsed the idea of open-carry of handguns, and ol’ Charlie pulled a classic on-the-one-hand-this-but-on-the-other-hand- that, by supporting the legislation but warning Open Carry Texas and other nut-job groups that sitting in Starbucks dangling AR-15s might lead to public “panic.”

Now that open carry of handguns is legal in Texas, our boy Charlie Cotton still finds himself in something of a predicament, because it’s not quite clear what mainstream America thinks about turning every American city into the O.K. Corral.  The NRA’s post-Charleston silence is a pretty clear indication that the whole notion of gun ownership may still be up for grabs, 2nd Amendment or no 2nd Amendment.  And this came home to me last night when a friend sent me ol’ Charlie’s latest comment about open carry on his blog, in which he claimed he was still in favor of concealed carry because letting everyone know that you own a handgun might result in you being “attacked or burglarized” if a thug who saw the gun decided to follow you home. For that matter, sitting in IHOP with an unconcealed handgun would make you an immediate target if a “6-man hi-jack team” hits the store intending to do something other than ordering waffles and grits.

Did Charles Cotton, who happens to be a licensed attorney, actually make a public statement conjuring up the image of an IHOP invasion by a “hi-jack team?”  Let’s not forget that Texas is where a serious internet discussion is being carried on by residents who truly believe that a Pentagon-directed military exercise called Jade Helm is actually the beginning of a federal invasion of Texas, followed by martial law and the seizure of all guns.  If Charlie Cotton and the NRA have decided they need such paranoid lunatics to promote the ownership of guns, the gun-sense movement is much closer to victory than they believe.



Here’s A New Chapter In The Great DGU War.


The latest salvo in the DGU War has been shot off, and this barrage may go a long way to permanently cripple the argument that guns are used several million times each year (ergo, Defensive Gun Use)to prevent crimes.  DGU has been the rallying-cry of the ‘armed citizen’ and concealed-carry movements since the gun industry decided that personal protection would replace hunting as a way to sell guns.  And any time a politician wants to pander to a right-wing base (and there’s going to be lots of such pandering over the next 16 months), he can always prove his love of the 2nd Amendment by  insisting that gun ownership protects property and saves lives.

conference program pic                The idea that guns are used each year to prevent millions of crimes was invented by a criminologist, Gary Kleck, who published a survey in 1995 of 225 respondents that was immediately promoted by the pro-gun community and still remains the so-called proof that a gun in hand every day keeps the criminal away.  I say ‘invented’ not because of the significant analytical lapses that have been pointed out again and again, but for the very simple reason that he did not ask the respondents to describe in any way, shape or form the actual crime for which their access to a gun kept from taking place.  What Kleck only learned is that some 220 people thought they were going to be the victims of a crime, not that any crime could or did take place.

Now you would think that testing the ability of people who randomly answered their telephone to create a make-believe scenario about something that may or may not have happened would be dismissed out of hand as just so much intellectual junk.  But I don’t remember the last time pro-gun folks argued for an extension of concealed-carry onto college campuses or other public venues without citing Kleck or other proponents of DGU.

A long-time critic of Kleck has just published a new DGU study that uses as its inclusion criteria an admission by the survey respondent that an attempted or completed crime actually occurred.  And the survey data, drawn from the National Crime Victimization Survey, goes to great lengths to validate that what the respondent says about the criminal incident can more or less assumed to be true.  And this survey, based on interviews covering 14,000 criminal events, is that defensive gun use before or during the commission of a real crime is a pretty rare event.  Not only did a DGU occur in less than 1% of the total crimes (127 events) but the result when the victim used any kind of defensive action was basically the same as when the victim defended himself or herself with a gun.

You can get details of the study in today’s article in The Trace, written by the Armed With Reason duo, DeFilippis and Hughes, who tangled with Kleck earlier this year. They make a persuasive case for the strength of the analysis in this new piece, but I suspect that the pro-gun noise machine will reject their arguments, as well as defend Kleck’s DGU nonsense on the following grounds.  First, they will argue that since Kleck asked respondents about whether they used a gun to stop a crime before it occurred, comparing such behavior to situations when a gun was used after the crime began to take place is to make a comparison that simply isn’t fair.

The second and to me much more important reason why pro-gun and DGU proponents will dismiss this new work is that, when all is said and done, these folks have no interest in any discussion about guns that is rooted in evidence-based facts.  I don’t know what Kleck was thinking when he devised (and still defends) a survey which made no attempt whatsoever to validate what people said, but his work comes in handy when it comes to selling guns.

Want To Know Why You Should Carry A Gun? Ask Governor Abbott.

1 Comment

For twenty years I have been listening to the nonsense about how ‘armed citizens’ make us safe.  And alongside this fantasy has been the companion stupidity, namely, that it’s not just that carrying a gun is a good thing, but carrying a gun in plain sight is even better.  Be advised, incidentally, that there is not a single piece of credible research which proves either of these safety strategies to be true.  But where is it written that a public policy or the statements of a public official need to be backed up by credible research?  Or any research, for that matter.

Just this week the Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, assured the good citizens of the Sovereign State of Texas that he would personally make sure that an upcoming military exercise called Jade Helm, was not, in fact, an “invasion” of Texas by Federal armed forces.  You can’t blame Texans for being worried about the Federal government coming in with troops to do whatever they are planning to do.  After all, remember Waco?  And since Abbott’s predecessor, Jim Perry, used to regularly shoot his mouth off about plans for Texas to secede for the second time, who knows?

         Greg Abbott

Greg Abbott

Getting back to Abbott, as I said, he’s been a leading proponent of open-carry laws and just last month signed a bill that allows Texans to openly display handguns in most public places throughout the state.  The law exempts college campuses from open carry, but a bill that would close this loophole will probably be passed later this year. Earlier this year the NRA actually demonstrated a brief moment of sanity by advising its members to ‘stand down’ and stop openly carrying guns in restaurants and other public places; this brief display of fortitude, however, was reversed within two days with a public apology from the NRA to all its gun-totin’ members in the Lone Star State.

If Governor Abbott believes that pandering to the open carry crowd is going to keep Texas from moving politically from red to blue, he might be in for a big surprise.  The increase of Hispanics in Texas has become so great that they could represent a majority of the electorate in 2016 – assuming that every eligible voter actually registers and shows up to vote.  And when it comes to gun ownership, Hispanics don’t seem to be enamored of the 2nd Amendment in a way that bodes positive for the gun industry in Texas or anywhere else.  Despite an endless barrage of noise about how “new” shooters like women and minorities are swelling gun-owning ranks, the fact is that gun ownership is still concentrated in the same demographic where it has always lived, namely, older White men in rural areas, second-tier cities and smaller towns.

Which is why I found a tweet by Abbott sent to me by a friend last night so interesting and deserving of a comment today.  Because for the first time since the whole ‘armed citizen’ rubbish started being promoted twenty years ago, someone has finally come out and explained the real reason why the NRA and the gun industry want you to walk around carrying a gun.

Abbott’s tweet, pasted up on July 8, was in response to a message from a guy named Rupert Ellis announcing to the world that he was about to open his first gun shop in Texas, although it appears that the shop won’t probably be open to the public for another few months.  But sending an announcement to the Governor is a clever way to drum up some publicity, particularly when the Governor actually responds!  And here is Abbott’s response:  “Welcome to the gun business.  I hope open carry boosts sales.”

Bingo! Greg Abbott has finally done what no single pro-gun organization or gun nut has ever done, namely, admitted that the real reason for promoting the notion of the ‘armed citizen’ is to boost the sale of guns.  Congratulations Mister Governor, you’re the only honest one out there.

A Modest Suggestion To Memorialize Victims Of Gun Violence

Leave a comment

Yesterday I read about a new project of the Equal Justice Initiative organization to place memorial markers at the 4,000 sites where Blacks were lynched in the South.  This project follows from the Initiative’s publication of a report, Lynching in America, that documents 3,959 lynchings between 1877 and 1950, at least 700 more than previously known.  As I read the interview with Bryan Stevenson, who founded and heads the EJI, it awoke the emotions I felt when I first viewed plaques on buildings in Paris memorializing Jews who were sent East by the Nazis and never seen again.

       Bryan Stevenson

Bryan Stevenson

So in the words of Jonathan Swift, I want to make a modest suggestion to the folks who have committed themselves to bringing an end to gun violence in the United States.  And this suggestion is aimed primarily at organizations and individuals who are working against gun violence in communities where the human toll from guns – Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, DC – is a ceaseless and unending event.  Why not consider placing a permanent memorial marker where someone has been gunned down?  The markers in Paris are no bigger in many cases than six or eight inches wide; a gun-violence plaque that size could easily be affixed to a wall or a tree.  And I’m thinking this might be an interesting way to draw more attention to the scourge of gun violence, in particular because it would build a permanent consciousness about what gun violence really means.

Last week I drove through the North End of Springfield, MA, where the gun murder rate this year will probably be the highest of any city its size in the United States.  As I went past a particular corner, I could tell from the yellow tape, the cop cars, the onlookers, the ambulances and the body covered by a sheet, that a shooting had taken place within just a few minutes before I arrived at the scene.  I drove past that same corner thirty minutes later and everything that had marked the spot as a murder scene was gone; someone walking down that block for the first time that day would never know that a human life had brutally and tragically ended on that sidewalk the very same day.

Physically memorializing the place where someone was gunned down would not only raise and retain consciousness about gun violence, it would also be an appropriate way to counteract the pro-gun argument about guns which rests on the notion that most perpetrators and victims of gun violence, particularly inner-city gun violence, are criminals who got what they deserved.

That argument happens to be often tinged with racism and is simply wrong.  Don’t be fooled by the fact that a majority of gun shooters and victims are, chronologically, young adults (although many are still in their teens).  Mentally and emotionally, they are kids.  And like all kids they are impulsive and have no awareness of risk.  They carry guns because it’s “cool,” or because some older kid told them they should carry a gun, or for some other stupid, childlike reason.  But most killings and injuries from guns do not occur during the commission of other crimes.  To quote the brilliant Lester Adelson, “With its particular lethality, a gun converts a spat into a slaying and a quarrel into a killing.”

In memorializing the victims of this particular form of infantile senselessness, we aren’t paying homage to the work of street criminals and thugs.  We are saying that every human life is sacred, everyone needs to feel safe, and people who lose their lives to guns deserve to be remembered by the community in which they lived.  There’s one block in Springfield – Franklin Street – where two people were murdered in two successive May weeks. The first victim, a woman, was remembered two days later when classmates from the commercial college she attended released some balloons in her name.  Now the street’s back to “normal” until the next killing takes place.

What’s The Best Way To Defend Yourself? A Gun Or An Iphone.

Leave a comment

This morning’s email feed from The Trace contained a link to an article in the online Forbes Magazine about the sale of a new iPhone case that looks like a gun.  The article wasn’t particularly positive about the product; in fact, it was downright negative, listing 15 different reasons why something could go “very, very wrong” for anyone who paid $51 for what appears to be something made in Japan or at least shipped from Japan.  The Gun Grip Case as it’s called is evidently no longer for sale on this particular website, which features all kinds of products from Japan, but a competitive product for $24.99 has already appeared in another online store.

gun-grip-case-iphone-5-cover-1                God Bless America – if there’s something out there – anything – which costs money, you’ll find someone in our great country who’s willing to buy it. But aside from our desire to shop until we drop, I found the content and tone of the article somewhat disquieting because why should an organization like Forbes which is committed hook, line and sinker to free enterprise look so negatively at someone’s attempt to make a legal buck?

And the reason may lie in the fact that the Forbes reporter, Tara Haelle, spends most of the story interviewing an attorney named Emanuel Kapelsohn, who is identified as the Vice President of something called the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors, which is sponsored by just about every major gun and ammunition manufacturer around.  Kapelsohn is quoted as saying that the Gun Grip Case is a “stupid, stupid, stupid product that should never be sold,” and the article then goes on to list no less than 15 reasons to support Kapelsohn’s point of view.  Here’s a couple of real doozies right off the list:

  1. Someone could mistake the iPhone for a real gun.  Huh? They could?  It sure as hell doesn’t look like a gun to me.  Actually it looks like exactly what it is: an iPhone stuck on a plastic gun.
  2. A cop could shoot someone waving it around or pulling it out of their pocket or purse. I thought that cops had to be able to pass a vision test in order to be a cop.
  3. A cop could injure or kill a bystander in attempting to address the perceived threat. See # 2 just above.

And in case these reasons aren’t enough to keep this product off the market, Kapelsohn who is also an attorney is quoted as saying that the company making this product will “absolutely be sued out of existence.”  Has Kopelsohn ever gone into Wal Mart and noticed all the air-soft guns that look a lot more like a real gun than anything that this Japanese company is trying to sell?  For that matter, how come gun companies haven’t been sued out of existence in states that allow residents to walk round with real guns that aren’t concealed?

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying that Kopelsohn’s concerns aren’t genuine or real.  What I am saying is that the problem isn’t whether or not someone can walk around with a droid or any other kind of gadget that looks like a gun.  The problem is that people are walking around with the real thing in their pocket and if somebody pulled one of those out and waved it around, Kopelsohn would no doubt have the same concerns.

Or would he?  One of the corporate sponsors of his training organization is an outfit called Team One.  And they run training classes for all kinds of shooting skills, including one course called “Concealed Carry Instructor Workshop,” which is described as a course that “is designed to merge combative handgun techniques with everyday carry and concealment of the personal handgun.”

I love the idea that Kopelsohn’s organization is sponsored by a training company like Team One. Frankly, I’d rather be sitting next to someone whose iPad is attached to a plastic gun than someone with the real thing in their pocket just waiting to engage in ‘combative handgun techniques.’

Older Entries