A New Website That Perfectly Describes The NRA.


I’d like to think that I have some good ideas for how to communicate about gun violence, but every once in  a while something pops up that is so remarkably brilliant that I have to pause, take a deep breath and realize that there are some people out there who are a lot more brilliant and original than me.  And in the case of Amanda Gailey, I mean a lot more, I really do.

Amanda is an English Professor at the University of Nebraska and she has been involved with a very active state-level GVP group, which is Nebraskans Against Gun Violence, aka NAGV.org.  Right now the organization is trying to drum up support to stop the passage of a bill, introduced early this year that would prohibit individual localities from passing any restrictions on gun ownership or use that does not conform with state laws.  Presently there is no pre-emption in Nebraska, which means that individual towns can decide the gun-owning environment for themselves.  The NRA-supported bill would undo local gun control, hence the campaign of the NAGV.

gailey                Now along comes Professor Gailey, who writes about how to detect literary genius, but has just authored a web page to support the NAGV and her web page is nothing short  of genius in and of itself.  Actually it’s a shopping cart hosted by SquareUp, which gets digital sellers off and running on the web. The name of Amanda’s digital kiosk is Hysterical Ladies Anti-Domestic Terror Society, and I guarantee you that from the moment you click this link you won’t come back to my website for some good period of time.

Right now the website is offering seven different buttons, they run three bucks apiece, and basically they more or less revolve around what I think is the perfect gun-control slogan, namely, Fuck The NRA. There are a few other messages, and the artwork on all the buttons is evocative and superb, but I can’t get over the fact that someone, in this case a young English professor in Lincoln, Nebraska, has finally come out and said what needs to be said.

Because the truth is that the NRA’s position on the violence that kills and injures 100,000 Americans each year is obscene.  The truth is that telling people to go out and buy a gun to protect themselves from violence when it’s the gun that causes the violence is obscene.  The truth is that pretending that all we need to do to end gun violence is to keep guns out of the ‘wrong hands’ is obscene.  And the most obscene thing of all is the idea that a bunch of citizens living together in a small locality shouldn’t be able to decide for themselves what they want to do about guns.

The button I love most of all is the one which shows a group of suffragettes walking down a street with a large banner which no doubt originally said something about being able to vote but has now been Photoshopped into a banner that says “Together We Shall Fuck The NRA.”  And the reason I love this button is because the NRA has been making this big play recently about getting women into the shooting sports, but the truth is that women, NRA bullshit to the contrary, just aren’t all that interested in getting into guns.

Amanda, I just can’t get over how brilliant and original you have been.  Because the more I think about it, the more I think that the NRA really doesn’t deserve to be mentioned or discussed in any other way. I don’t think the GVP community gains any points by being polite or politically correct when it comes to the death and injury of 300,000 Americans since the massacre at Sandy Hook.  I think gun violence is a national disgrace and I think this website tells it like it really is.  Great work Amanda, great work.

Want To Know The NRA’s Election Strategy? Here It Is.

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Now that the 2nd Amendment has become an issue in the looming 2016 Presidential campaign, it was just a matter of time until the NRA got its own campaign playbook together and started adding its voice to the political fray.  So it was hardly a surprise when the NRA released its first political message right out of the mouth of Wayne LaPierre, who claimed he was responding to Obama’s appearance at a police chief’s meeting in Chicago where the president dutifully repeated his call for ‘common-sense’ laws to help end the everyday carnage from guns.

The NRA’s campaign message turns out to be a riff on the ‘we don’t need no stinkin’ new gun laws’ mantra that was first promoted by Donald Trump.  And once Trump said it, all the other Republican Presidential pretenders fell into line with what has become official policy for the NRA.  And why don’t we need any more gun laws to stop what Wayne-o calls the “bloodshed?”  Because all we have to do is “enforce the federal gun laws” and “direct every federal jurisdiction to round up every felon, drug dealer and gangbanger with a gun” and the problem will be solved right then and there.

lapierre                But Obama won’t do it, and if she’s elected Hillary won’t do it because they “wait for a crime that fits their agenda and blames the NRA.”  Which is another way of saying that instead of locking up all those bad guys with guns, the Democrats just want to pass new gun-control laws.  “President Clinton and President Obama use the carnage to campaign for new gun laws” says Wayne-o, and the result of not enforcing current laws is that “thugs” like Darius Brown (picture of Brown the thug with voice-over from Wayne-o) don’t go to jail and instead end up shooting a nine-year old girl.

So here we have the NRA game plan as we inch towards Election 2016.  Blame it all on the Democrats who don’t enforce crime laws, tie them to ‘thugs’ who are always young men of color, and make sure to remind everyone that urban ‘bloodshed’ has nothing to do with guns. Doesn’t it remind you just a bit of the Willie Horton campaign ads that secured the White House for the first iteration of George Bush?  But if the Horton campaign was short on facts and long on emotional, racist-tinged images, it can’t be compared to the misrepresentations and racist-laden messaging this time around.

Let’s start with the charge that Clinton and Obama won’t enforce laws and are ‘soft’ on crime.  In 1993, the national violent crime rate was 746. Eight years later, at the end of the Clinton Administration, the rate had fallen to 506, a decline of 33%.  Eight years after that, at the end of Bush II, the rate stood at 457, a further decline of 10%.  In 2014, seven years into Obama, it’s at 357, a drop from the end of Bush’s tenure of 22%.  Since 1993 the violent crime rate has declined by 52%, of which 90% disappeared during the administrations of two, crime-loving Dems.

In the rush to get Wayne-o’s comments up there right after the President addressed the police chiefs, the folks who produce those insipid NRA videos might want to take another look.  Because the picture of ‘Darius Brown’ is actually a picture of Jamal Streeter, one of three young men charged in the murder of a 13-year old teenager named Darius Brown.  Oh well, if every young man of color is either a gang banger or a thug, how hard is it to get them all mixed up?

It’s not hard at all if you’ve decided that, everything else failing, you’ll fall back on the time-honored issues of race and crime in order to galvanize your political base and garner some votes.  I happen to believe that most Americans, gun owners or not, will see right through this stupid charade even if Wayne-o and the NRA haven’t yet figured it out.



When It Comes To Gun Violence,Dana Loesch And John Lott Can’t Get It Straight.

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Every time I see Dana Loesch and John Lott on the same screen I wonder who is really who.  One looks like she had a sex-change operation, the other masqueraded on the internet as a female, altogether an interesting pair.  And it really gets interesting when they open their mouths because the misstatements aren’t just a little bit here and there; it’s almost like they really want you to think that they don’t know anything at all.  Dana refers to information on a website about concealed-carry scofflaws in Texas and gets it completely wrong, Lott disparages the Violence Policy Center’s report on concealed-carry and completely distorts what the report actually says.

loesch                But the dumbest part of their conversation is an attempt to smear Shannon Watts by claiming that the reports issued by Everytown on mass shootings in gun-free zones are incorrect. So I went to Lott’s website and read his critique of the Everytown  research, including his analysis of every shooting compiled by Everytown to back up their position that most mass shootings occur in places where guns are allowed.

This is where I begin to suspect that creatures like Lott don’t understand what’s in their own minds.  If Dana Loesch wants to parrot the prevailing pro-gun nonsense I’m not surprised nor concerned; she’s nothing but a two-bit entertainer filling up some air-space for The Blaze.  But when John Lott, who told Sean Hannity that he was a “professor” for “most of his life” (even though he has never held professorial rank at any educational institution of any kind) responds to the solid Everytown research by consciously saying things that simply aren’t true, we’ve reached the point of no return in attempting to engage the pro-gun gang in any kind of serious give-and-take.

The Everytown report covered 133 mass shootings between 2009 and 2015, a mass shooting defined as a single incident in which at least four persons died.  Interestingly, the overall profile which emerges from these incidents is not that different from what would be found if someone analyzed 133 gun homicides without regard to whether they resulted in multiple victims or not.  In the mass shootings, the majority took place in homes and were precipitated by a domestic dispute.  The median age of the shooters was 34 and one-third should not have been able to legally acquire a gun.  Finally, less than 15% of these shootings took place in ‘gun-free’ zones.

It figures that a report finding little connection between mass shootings and ‘gun-free’ zones would provoke a rebuttal from John Lott.  The report, he says “muddies the discussion on mass public shootings by including shootings in private homes along with ones in public places, and the vast majority of the cases they include are in private homes.”  He then goes on to make an even more absurd (or bizarre) criticism by claiming that any public place located in a city which doesn’t routinely issue concealed-carry licenses should also be considered a ‘gun-free’ zone.  His comment about Boston in this regard is simply wrong and on this point Lott either doesn’t know what he’s talking about or he’s just stating a lie.

Let me break the news gently to John Lott and pro-gun lapdogs like Dana Loesch: anyone who has unquestioned access to a private residence is, to all intents and purposes, walking into a public space when he enters that home.  The issue of ‘public’ versus ‘private’ is a red herring of immense proportions when we are talking about mass killings in which someone uses a gun.  And by the way, have you ever heard of a murder in which someone killed four or more persons with a knife?  I know of one.

There is no credible evidence whatsoever that ‘gun-free’ zones represent some kind of attraction to someone who wants to commit mayhem with a gun.  There’s a load of credible evidence which links mass murders to the use of a gun.  Lott and Loesch aren’t interested in evidence; they’re interested in filling up media space with their unique brand of hot air.

It Hasn’t Been A Good Month For The NRA And Things Might Get Worse.


All of a sudden it seems like the pro-gun gang is taking it on the chin.  I am referring to a spate of lawsuits that have pushed back gun ‘rights’ in favor of gun ‘controls.’  And while I don’t want to assume that the trend will continue, it’s a basic shift in the legal landscape involving guns and may foreshadow more gun-control victories to come.  It certainly promises that there will be more legal battles and here is why:

  1. Last week the 2nd Circuit upheld the Connecticut and New York laws that were passed after Sandy Hook, laws which effectively gave both states the right to closely regulate assault-style guns.  The plaintiffs (NRA, etc.) of course argued the same old, same old; namely, that the little ol’ AR-15s were just like any other kind of semi-automatic hunting gun, even though I don’t believe anybody ever went into the woods looking to pop Bambi with a rifle that could shoot 60 rounds in three minutes or less.  Which is basically how the Court saw the case, noting that taking this type of weapon out of civilian hands did not deprive consumers from buying any other type of semi-automatic gun.  The Court agreed that the 2nd Amendment protected the right of gun owners to have semi-automatic rifles but didn’t protect any particular sub-group of same.  Bye bye modern sporting gun.
  2. A jury in Milwaukee found a local gun shop guilty of aiding and abetting a straw sale which eventually led to two police officers being shot with the illegally-sold gun. The gun shop argued that they had no way of knowing that the buyer was actually fronting for someone else; the jury had trouble swallowing that cock-and-bull story when they were told that the jerk who bought the gun mistakenly wrote down his buddy’s address on the 4473.
  3. Another lawsuit was filed in Milwaukee, this one against Armslist, the website that allows unlicensed individuals to advertise, buy, sell and trade guns. In this case someone sold a 40-caliber handgun to a dope who promptly walked into a health spa, shot seven women and killed three of them including his own wife, and then went down in a blaze of glory by putting the gun against his own head.  Last year another liability suit against Armslist was dismissed in Illinois because the owners of the website claimed that they required all users to agree to follow relevant gun laws.  But the suit filed in Milwaukee sidesteps the issue of user responsibility entirely, arguing instead that the website’s user terms are “a ruse and a fraud intended to create the illusion of legal compliance” with the laws covering gun sales.
  4. Then the big news is out of Connecticut, where the District Court sent the suit by the Sandy Hook parents against Bushmaster back to state court. In this case the defendant – Bushmaster – had originally moved the case from state to federal court, evidently hoping that the suit would then bump up against the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Firearms Act and get thrown out.  The case might eventually wind up in the federal courts on appeal, but as of today it must first be heard in the state where the massacre took place.

lapierre                All in all it’s been a rough month for the guns, made even more difficult by the fact that after the Republicans decided the 2nd Amendment trumped Benghazi as a campaign issue, Hillary shot right back and said that she was ready, willing and able to take on the NRA.  So the question has to be asked: How come, as Brady’s Dan Gross says, we seem to have reached a “tipping point” in the debate over guns?

Here it is short and sweet.  Everyone’s sick of the NRA.  Sick of the killings, sick of the loss of life, sick of the blind devotion to the 2nd Amendment and sick of all those sacred gun ‘rights.’ Wayne-o is going online today to remind his members that Obama wants to take away their guns.  It’s a hollow argument falling on increasingly deaf ears.

Responding To Mass Shootings Has Nothing To Do With ‘Gun-Free’ Zones.

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What are we going to do about mass, public shootings which not only exact a terrible physical and psychic toll on our society, but also appear to be on the rise?  Well, there’s two ways we can go.  One way is to believe that the stupid, self-promotions of people like John Lott about ‘gun-free’ zones and armed citizens can provide a measure of safety and security. The other way is to sit down with the professionals in the field who are intently trying to figure out the problem based on real data and real-world experiences and listen to what they have to say.

The latter response is the basis of an important article in Mother Jones by Mark Follman, who writes frequently about guns and gun violence for the Mother as well as for just about every major news venue that can be found. This article is based primarily on a threat assessment conference that Mark attended in August at which 700 professionals got together to share ideas, experiences and strategies for what might and might not work to identify and stop mass shooters before they hit the ground.  The conference was sponsored by the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals (ATAP), which comprises law enforcement officers, forensic psychologists, private security consultants, representatives of school districts, researchers; in other words, the people whose job it is to protect all of us from mass shooting events.  The annual conference was held this year at Disneyland because public amusement parks are considered a Numero Uno attraction for anyone who wants to commit serious mayhem with a gun.

campus                I’m going to pause right here for a moment and tell you why Wayne LaPierre wasn’t invited to this conference, despite the fact that he postures himself as an expert on how to respond to mass shooting events.  The NRA response to every type of gun violence – ‘good guys with guns stop bad guys with guns’ – may get an enthusiastic response from everyone who suffers from arrested development when it comes to fantasizing walking around with a gun, but it’s nothing more than a shabby marketing ploy to sell more guns.

In that respect it should be noted, incidentally, that the conference attendees were near-unanimous in their belief that easy access to guns, particularly guns that are favored by mass shooters like AR-15s, make these events not only more probable, but also more lethal.  This wasn’t the opinion of a bunch of tree-hugging, liberal do-gooders who want to get rid of guns.  This was the consensus view of law enforcement and security specialists who spend all their time trying to figure out what to do.  Nobody at the conference wasted a moment talking about the 2nd Amendment; it was simply recognized that when you have so many guns lying around, this creates more problems for professionals who are trying to stop mass killings in which invariably guns are used.

One of the reasons that the professionals dealing with mass shooters don’t come out and tell people like John Lott where to get off is because the nature of the task which confronts them requires that they operate in a non-public mode.  For example, the FBI has a special unit at Quantico that brings together specialists from five federal agencies in an effort to assist local police departments in identifying and tracking mass shooting threats.  Since 2012 this group has taken on more than 400 cases, in other words, good guys using computers to stop bad guys with guns.

Identifying a mass shooter means figuring out a probable profile and then figuring out who fits the profile before the shooting begins. I came away from reading this article with a greater awareness of the difficulties and challenges precisely because sometimes the mass-shooting profile fits and sometimes it does not.  But the profiles are all the same in one respect:  these shooters all have in common the ease with which they get their hands on guns.

The Cops Found 7,000 Stolen Guns But This Doesn’t Make Our Streets More Safe.

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There’s a great story out of Chesterfield County, South Carolina, where law enforcement evidently found more than 7,000 stolen guns sitting in a storage bin on the property of a feller named Brent Nicholson who, in addition to the guns, also was in possession of chainsaws, some 4-wheelers and other stolen junk, much of it sitting in plain view on his front lawn.  Actually, the cops had been eyeing ol’ Brent for awhile because of some issues involving drug trafficking, and when they dropped by his house to serve a subpoena on the old boy, they found all those guns.

So the local cops, the State Law Enforcement Division boys and, of course, the ATF, are going to have a rollickin’ good time sorting through all those piles of firearms to figure out the rightful owners, notify and return the stolen property from whence it came and do what they gonna do to good ol’ Brent.  But for those of you who think that the seizure of these 7,000 guns means that 7,000 guns won’t have a chance to get out to the street and into the wrong hands, think again.  Because the reason the guns were sitting around in the first place is that nobody would take the time or trouble to cart them over to the Iron Pipeline, aka Interstate 95, where they could then be moved up to the crime-gun markets of DC, Baltimore, Philly and New York.

stolen guns                The problem with ol’ Brent’s guns is that they are hunting rifles and shotguns, no handguns and no AR-15s.  And while the police said that it “appeared” that the old boy was just “hoarding” the weapons, the truth is that when you break into somebody’s place looking for guns, you’ll find all kinds.  Want the short odds that the homes which contained these rifles and shotguns didn’t contain any handguns at all? So as long as ol’ Brent keeps his mouth shut, he’s just guilty of holding stolen property which in a rural area like Chesterfield County just ain’t no big deal.

Back in 2010 Mayors Against Illegal Guns put up a website that showed the state origin and state destination of stolen guns, as well as a report based primarily on ATF trace data from 2009. The report clearly makes the connection between states with high export rates, shorter time-to-crime rates and little or no gun-control laws.  It turns out, of course, that states with lax gun laws (like South Carolina) tend to be the states that furnish most of the crime guns.  Everytown wants to expand its research but has been stymied by the ATF’s refusal to hand over more data, so the organization recently filed a complaint against the ATF and we’ll see what we see.  For all I know, the ATF’s refusal to comply with Everytown is because the agency’s afraid it will be criticized by the loony, pro-gun Congressional gang for infringing on the poor, gun-owner’s 2nd Amendment rights.  Or maybe it’s just the old story of another bureaucracy not wanting to tell the public what they really do.

Either way, assuming that sooner or later Everytown pries the detailed trace data away from the ATF, we might find out a bit more about all those other guns that were probably sitting in ol’ Brent Nicholson’s storage bin.  But before everyone gets all excited, let’s understand one major limitation about trace data from the ATF, namely, it’s based on when the gun was initially sold, not the date when it was stolen and then wound up in ol’ Brent’s shed.

The ATF tracing system provides “investigative leads in the fight against violent crime,” but the leads don’t shed much light on how guns end up in the ‘wrong’ hands.  After all, the states with lax gun laws are also the states in which virtually every house contains guns, which is why ol’ Brent probably sent lots of iron up North but still ended up with 7,000 guns.


The NRA Admits The Truth About How Often We Actually Use Guns To Protect Ourselves From Crime.

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So my man Colion, he of the prancing around with his cute little AR, has just stuck up a new video on the NRA website, and it is simply a remarkable commentary on the Big Lie that the NRA has been spreading around for the last thirty years. And the lie I am referring to is the idea that armed citizens carrying their own guns are an effective response to crime.  In the old days they had real personalities like Charlton Heston drumming up the ‘guns protect us from crime’ doggerel, now it’s left to made-for-video characters like Colion Noir or AM Talk Radio hamsters like John Lott to spread this nonsensical and dangerous line around.  Why is it nonsensical?  Because it’s based on data which (I’m being polite) doesn’t exist.  Why is it dangerous?  Because it diverts attention from the fact that guns create risk.  Notice that I have bolded, underlined and italicized the word ‘fact.’  Get it?

noir                Anyway, so Colion has this new video in which he’s up on a stage and with lots of canned applause, ooohs and aaahs, performs a card trick in which it appears as though he is laying out 52 cards in a certain order and then tries to do it again.  And the odds of anyone being able to perform such a trick, he admits, are somewhere above a gezillion to one.  Which he then says – are you ready, are you ready? – that these are about the odds of an American getting attacked and, in their moment of peril, needing to use a gun.

What?  A spokesperson for the NRA actually coming out and saying that we aren’t all facing an immediate and continuous threat to our lives from the you-know-who’s that are stalking us down every street?  No.  Play it again Colion, play it again.  And here it is: “The odds of you or me needing a gun to protect our lives is not that much better than Colion the Incredible putting these cards back in the exact order.”   Then he drops the other shoe: “But the odds of someone needing a gun to protect their life with is a hundred percent.”

So what he’s saying in a somewhat scrambled way is that even though guns are the best way to defend yourself, the chances that you will ever have to defend yourself are a gazillion to one.  And this segues into the usual nonsense about how people who are anti-gun have no right to tell anyone else how they should defend themselves, and nobody has the ‘right’ to tell someone else that they don’t have the ‘right’ to do something.  I’m actually quoting our man Colion word for word and maybe he’s decided that if Donald Trump can get a big following by talking to his audience on a third-grade level, then Colion will get an even bigger response if he ratchets his language down to second grade.  I don’t really know whether he’s dumb, playing dumb or figuring his audience is dumb, or all three.  But I do know this: I never imagined I would ever hear anyone connected to the NRA admitting that the odds of ever using a gun in self-defense were about the same as bumping into a rhinoceros while you were taking Fido for his evening walk.

But come to think of it, that’s not really the reason why Wayne-o and the other NRA noisemakers tell us over and over again that we should be carrying guns. What the NRA has really been saying is that you shouldn’t be carrying a gun just to protect yourself, you should be carrying it to protect everyone else!  Remember the ‘only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun?’

Colion my man, it’s refreshing to see someone from the ‘other side’ of the gun debate actually saying something that’s based on a bit of the truth.  But don’t push the truth too far or you might find yourself looking for a job.

If You Want To Help End Gun Violence, Come To The National Cathedral on November 3rd.

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On Tuesday, November 3, Washington’s National Cathedral will hold a special event on gun violence and if you can make it, I urge you to attend.  This won’t be the first time that people have gathered at the Cathedral to talk about gun violence and it certainly won’t be the last.  But the event is taking place at a time when the debate about the place of guns in American society seems to have hit a fever pitch, which is exactly why having a gun event at the National Cathedral is a good thing.

The debate started heating up when all the Republican Presidential candidates discovered how much they loved the 2nd Amendment.  Not to be outdone, Hillary and the Democrats volleyed back with an equally strong gun-control retort.  The current political divide on this issue reflects, if nothing else, a polarization that has always existed between the two sides.  According to the NRA, guns make us safe and protect us from crime; according to groups like Brady and Everytown, guns create risk. Not only do the arguments appear incapable of compromise at any step along the way, I also don’t recall another time that the arguments were as loud and continuous as they are right now.

cathedral1               This brings me back to an event held at the National Cathedral on December 11, 2013 – a memorial service for Nelson Mandela who died the previous week.   I was a high school senior when Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly attempting to overthrow the South African apartheid state.  I witnessed the civil rights movement in the 60s, the anti-War movement in the 70s, the gender equality movement in the 80s, and Mandela still languished in jail.  He was finally released in 1990 because otherwise the de Klerk government would have collapsed.  It disappeared two years’ later anyway and Mandela was elected President of the Government of National Unity in 1994.

In my wildest dreams I never imagined the racial breach in South Africa would ever be healed.  I also never believed that Mandela would come out of prison after 27 years and immediately talk about reconciliation and peace.  Which made it altogether fitting that the United States memorialized his death at the National Cathedral, a site consecrated by the commitment to finding ways for people to occupy common ground, speak in language that everyone can understand, promote commonalities instead of differences about the important issues of the day.

Nelson Mandela came out of jail after 27 years of incarceration and didn’t speak about hatred or violence, but about unity, love and respect.  In the same way, the United To Stop Gun Violence event at the Cathedral on November 3 will take place in an atmosphere of understanding, fellowship and grace.  You’ll meet advocates, policymakers, influencers, social media and messaging experts, folks who just want to get involved and folks who are already doing their thing.  It’s a chance for you to decide how and what you can do to help hasten the end of gun violence, as well as to learn what you can say to others who then might be persuaded to get involved.

I am hopeful that everyone who comes to the meeting, including myself, will leave with a renewed sense of optimism about the daunting task that lies ahead.  But I’m also hopeful about something else, which is that we will all not just learn better ways to enlist more people in the crusade against gun violence, but better ways to talk about gun violence to folks who own guns.  If Nelson Mandela were alive, he would say that the problem of gun violence can only be resolved by bringing everyone to the table who has a stake in the game. We need to invite the other side to join us in the discussion; if they refuse, we need to invite them again and again. That would exemplify the true spirit of Nelson Mandela and again denote what Washington’s National Cathedral is really all about.


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Guns Are A Risk But There’s One Important Group That Doesn’t Agree.

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Do we have a problem with gun violence in this country or do we have a problem with the gun violence committed by one particular group?  If you look closely at the numbers as well as the profiles of shooters, I’m not so sure that gun violence is all that difficult to figure out.  Think about this: Adam Lanza was 20, Jared Loughner was 27, James Holmes was 27, Seung Hi-Cho was 23, and the granddaddy of all mass shooters, good ol’ Chuckie Whitman, was 25 when he climbed up to the top of the University of Texas Tower and blazed away until 14 people were dead.

But let’s not focus only on mass killers because headlines and public clamor to the contrary, these guys don’t add all that much carnage to the gun violence numbers that we rack up each year.  In 2010, the most recent year for numbers from the FBI, the age cohort 20-29 was responsible for the commission of one-third of all homicides, no other age group by decade came even half as close.  Switch perpetrators to victims and the numbers stay the same: nearly 40% of all gun-homicide victims are between 20 and 29, again more than 50% higher than any other decade age group that can be found.

gun crimes               It would be easy to take such numbers, align them alongside the ages of the mass shooters listed above and conclude that males between the ages of 20 and 29 have a propensity for violence that finds an outlet in the use of guns.  There’s only one little problem, however, which is that this same age cohort also accounts for the largest number of fatal vehicle deaths, scoring as high a percentage of overall vehicle fatalities as is the case with guns.  In 2013 there were 35,369 motor vehicle deaths and 7,563 of the victims, in other words, 21%, were between the ages of 20 and 29.  The only reason that this age decade didn’t experience the same preponderance of fatalities from cars as from guns is that gun homicides and violent behavior in general fades away once we get above age 49.

Another behavior that tends to fade with age is sex and its concomitant, sexually-transmitted disease.  There is very little incidence of STD in the pre-teen population for obvious reasons, with all STD cases reported prior to age 14 running around 1%.  But the incidence of female STD moves quickly upward beginning at age 15, with 22% of all female gonorrhea cases occurring by age 19, but an even larger incidence (34%) between ages 20 and 24.  Another female STD, chlamydia, also begins to occur after age 15, with 28% of all cases occurring up to age 19, but from 20 to 24 years old the percentage of all cases in the female population jumps to just under 40%!  As for male STD, since 2008 the incidence of syphilis is twice as high in men between the ages 20 to 29 as compared to the infection rate of any other decade age group.

What these three public health issues have in common is they all result from conscious behavioral choices – carrying a gun, exceeding the speed limit, having unprotected sex – in the face of massive social and educational messaging which clearly explains the risks of each. But the age group 20-29 is not averse to risk, it’s a population which often uses risk as a determinant for what they want to do. Want to know the number one killer for ages 18-29?  Unintentional injuries.

THE GVP community is united in promoting the idea that guns represent serious risk.  But the age group whose behavior contributes most to excessive gun violence is a group for whom the word ‘risk’ may be exactly what attracts them to guns.  In designing their messaging, GVP advocates should be sensitive to the fact that what words mean to them may have much different meanings to the audience with whom they need to connect.


A Court Decision That Uses The Gun Industry’s Own Fiction Against It.

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Right after the Sandy Hook massacre, both New York and Connecticut passed laws that tightened up restrictions on owning ‘black’ guns, a.k.a., the military-style AR rifles like the type Adam Lanza used to kill 26 adults and young kids.  The laws basically toughened the earlier assault weapons bans, provoking immediate outcries from the pro-gun gang who challenged the laws based on their inalienable 2nd-Amendment rights.  After all, the 2008 Heller decision protected private ownership of all guns that are “in common use,” and what could be more common than AR rifles of which probably more than four million have been manufactured over the last twenty years?

bushmaster logo2                The gun industry began promoting black guns in the 1990s when they realized that hunting and traditional sporting use of guns was dying out.  This promotion took two forms: on the one hand creating the fiction that black guns, like all guns protected us from crime; on the other hand creating the equally beguiling fiction that military-style weapons were no different from other, traditional rifles since they could only be fired in semi-automatic mode.

The industry went so far as to create an entirely new shooting tradition, replacing the phrase

‘assault rifle’ with the nomenclature ‘modern sporting rifle’ so as to pretend that an AR-15 is nothing other than the same, old hunting gun that sportsmen have for generations been taking out to the woods.  And for those who like to imagine themselves mowing down ISIS or Al Queda in the streets and alleys of Philadelphia or New York, the guns being sold by Bushmaster, Colt, Stag and other black-gun manufacturers are referred to as ‘tactical’ weapons, which everyone knows is simply an assault rifle with a different name.

Both the CT and NY laws were challenged and upheld in District Court; now the Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit, has upheld both laws again.  What is interesting about this decision, indeed remarkable, is the fact that it is based not just on the government’s authority to regulate guns that are in “common use,” but to regulate these particular types of weapons based on their definition as created and promoted by the gun industry itself!  The Circuit Court accepted the notion that black guns are just another type of sporting rifle, and it was the acknowledgement that black guns are no different from other types of sporting guns that ultimately legitimized the assault-rifle bans in Connecticut and New York.

Plaintiffs in this case argued that there were more than four million AR-15 rifles owned by civilians and that these guns, like other civilian weapons, could only be fired in semi-automatic mode.  As the Court said, “This much is clear: Americans own millions of the firearms that the challenged legislation prohibits.” Further, the Court also accepted the notion that many Americans keep an AR-15 in their home for self-defense.  Given those circumstances, how could the Circuit Court decide that prohibiting civilian ownership of such weapons was not a violation of 2nd-Amendment rights?  Because what the Court did was take the gun industry’s own fiction about these guns and stand it on its head.

The industry’s marketing of black guns as ‘sporting’ rifles is based on one thing and one thing only; namely, these weapons can only be shot in semi-auto mode.  Never mind that you can deliver up to 60 rounds of ammunition in thirty seconds or less; never mind that the .223 round has a lethality specifically designed to kill or injure human targets; never mind that many military and law enforcement units also deploy the semi-auto gun.  That residents in New York and Connecticut can own all kinds of semi-automatic rifles which do not contain certain military-style features means that the ban on AR-style rifles is not a prohibition of semi-automatic weapons at all.

As a noted Supreme Court justice once said, “History also has its claims.” And one of those claims is that the 2nd Amendment doesn’t give the gun industry the right to invent a tall tale to justify how it tries to sell guns.



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