And The Winner For The Dumbest Comment Made (So Far) About Guns Is Rick Santorum.

It’s time for me to issue a challenge to all my GVP friends: Which politician has said the dumbest thing about gun violence?  I don’t want to wait until next November because, frankly, some of these guys say things that are so dumb that if we waited another ten months to announce the results, the list would stretch from here to the moon.  Or at least from here to Fairfax, VA, if you know what I mean.  So what I’m going to do is post a dumbness comment whenever a particularly stupid thing comes out of one of the mouths of the clowns who actually believe they should be elected to lead the Free World, or whatever we are calling ourselves these days.  And the dumbest remark I can come up with right now popped out of the mouth yesterday of Rick Santorum, who is evidently still running for President, at least this is what he claimed he was doing in an interview on MSNBC.

When Santorum ran against Romney for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2012, most of his campaign rallies were held at Evangelical churches and other conservative Christian conclaves because he spent his entire Senate career talking about nothing except ‘family values,’ which basically meant being the loudest anti-abortion voice in the U.S. Senate and really nothing else.  Since Trump has been married three times, I guess that Santorum figures the Evangelical, or at least the white Evangelical vote is up for grabs, so why not pitch the family values message again and, in the process, make sure to remind everyone that you are pro-gun?

santorum              Actually, I think the MSNBC co-host, Mika Brzezinski kind of got it wrong when she started off by telling Santorum that she thought he was a ‘smart guy,’ although maybe she was just being polite.  Anyway, she then asked Santorum, who had challenged American Muslims to confront extremism within their own community, how come he wasn’t challenging white men to come forward since it was white men who were ‘wreaking havoc’ with mass killings virtually all the time?

And here came Santorum’s response which I am nominating as the dumbest statement on guns that I have heard this year.  It all gets back to family values, according to Rick, and the fact that most of the crimes involving guns are caused by people who come from broken families headed by single Moms.  I’m paraphrasing slightly, but the bottom line is that what Santorum refers to as the ‘inanimate object,” a.k.a. the gun, has nothing to do with gun violence. It’s all about those kids from broken homes who don’t get proper guidance, a problem that Santorum claims he has been working on for ‘many years.’

Now let’s be honest, Rick.  When you were in the Senate, you didn’t get an A+ from the NRA for the way you voted on gun control because you had any interest at all in curbing deaths and injuries caused by guns.  In fact, according to you, none of the 100,000 gun deaths and injuries had anything to do with guns, it was and is because of the breakdown of the family, something that can only be reversed if we all pledge to adhere to your nostrum of ‘family values,’ whatever that means or doesn’t mean.

What really makes Santorum’s answer so embarrassingly dumb is not the fact that he didn’t answer the question.  It’s the fact that he didn’t answer the question by shifting the discussion to where he feels most comfortable, namely, reminding us that every social problem can be solved if we just had Ozzie and Harriet sitting in every American home.  Santorum continues to pretend that the definition of a ‘family’ can only be based on a concocted fantasy that certainly doesn’t exist today and probably never really existed at all. The truth is that gun violence comes in many different forms and grows out of many different social circumstances but it always starts with a gun.

Does It Really Matter How We Define Mass Shootings? I Don’t Think So.

When it comes to mass shootings, or I should say what to do about mass shootings, the argument is usually between pro-gun folks versus GVP folks and the argument usually turns on whether or not these shootings occur in what are called ‘gun-free’ zones.  The pro-gun strategy for dealing with mass shootings is the usual pro-gun solution for all gun violence; namely, respond with more violence in the form of arming civilians and getting rid of ‘gun-free’ zones.  The GVP strategy is, well, there isn’t a single strategy because what’s the point of trying to figure out what to do about something that we seem unable to define?

san bernardino               The latest contribution to the GVP mass shooting discussion comes from Mark Follman, a Mother Jones editor, who has become a major voice in the mass shooting debate since attending the annual conference of the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals (ATAP) at Disneyland this past August where 700 attendees talked their heads off about what to do to deal with the threat of mass shootings.  Threat assessment has become big business and the scenario painted by threat assessment companies is scary enough to convince just about anyone that we need to take all threats seriously.  Here’s why threat assessment is so important, as described by a company called At-Risk International, which provides security to “companies, individuals and families who face threats in the workplace, at home, on vacation, around the world. Kidnappers. Stalkers. Terrorists. The list goes on and on.”

The truth is that ATAP is basically a trade association representing private security companies that have transitioned from local outfits offering guard services and other basic security protections to international companies like Kroll Security, which gained notoriety when it was hired to find the personal assets of various deposed dictators like Ferdinand Marcos and Jean-Claude Duvalier. Companies like Kroll and At-Risk have been financial beneficiaries of the War on Terror for obvious reasons, so why not add another notch to the ever-expanding list of threats by protecting us from mass shooters?

Maybe an ATAP-certified threat assessment professional convinced the Disney Corporation to ban toy guns and install metal detectors at its theme parks, but if we perceive that mass shootings are on the rise and, as Follman argues, such perceptions will generate “undue fear and bad policies,” then perhaps it really is time for GVP activists to define mass shootings in a consistent and logical way.  Follman himself claims there have been four mass shootings in 2015, the Feds say there have been six, but the Shooting Tracker website says there have been nearly one every day, and of course it’s this inflated number that ends up driving the debate.

The main difference between Follman and the Feds versus the Shooting Tracker is that the latter counts multiple persons hit with bullets from the same gun whether they survived or not, whereas Mother Jones and the FBI only consider a mass shooting to have occurred when at least three or four persons get killed.  As a result, of course, mass shootings that occur in public places like Umpqua CC and San Bernardino get all the attention because the shooters go to public locations where, to paraphrase Willy Sutton, that’s where you find lots of people.

But I happen to believe that if we are concerned with eliminating mass shootings as an aspect of overall gun violence, the approach of Shooting Tracker and others who don’t distinguish between dead and injured is the way to go. And the reason I believe the GVP community should adopt this latter definition is because there’s a good chance that many mass shootings result in fewer killed than wounded simply because skilled trauma surgeons save many shooting victims who otherwise would wind up dead.

In the last nine mass shootings over just 11 days, according to the Shooting Tracker, 7 were killed and 30 were wounded but survived.  And we’re spending our talents and energies wondering how to label such events?

 

 

 

 

 

Where Do Crime Guns Come From? Not Necessarily From Where You Think.

My friends at The Trace have just published a document that has floated around gun circles since it first appeared in 2003 as an affidavit in a liability case against the gun industry that was one of a number of class-action torts which came to a crashing end in 2005.  Bob Ricker, the deposition’s author, had been an NRA attorney and gun-industry lobbyist who then went over to the ‘other side’ and began working in favor of more stringent industry regulations as a way to keep guns out of the ‘wrong hands.’

gun safe              Much of what is in this document was similar to what the Clinton Administration said about the gun industry when it tried to get gun makers to adopt better self-policing in return for an immunity from class-action suits.  This effort ultimately went nowhere, but much of what Ricker claims to have been standard practice in the industry has influenced discussions within the GVP community, along with shaping strategies that are followed by GVP advocate to this day.  Which therefore leads me to ask two questions: (1). What does Ricker actually say, and (2). Is what he says really true?

Here’s the key point as quoted from the affidavit itself: “The firearms industry has long known that the diversion of firearms from legal channels to the black market occurs principally at the distributor/dealer level.” Not only does the firearms industry know this, but so does everyone else.  And the fact that the industry, according to Ricker, had not taken “constructive voluntary action to prevent firearms from ending up in the illegal gun market” is, in and of itself, neither here nor there.  The reason it’s neither here nor there is that the one, voluntary action that Ricker mentions (Par. 12 of the affidavit) is that manufacturers and wholesalers could more closely monitor the sales practices of dealers, rather than just shipping guns to anyone with a valid FFL.

Ricker’s affidavit goes on to tie better policing of FFL business practices to the illegal diversion of guns to criminal hands through straw sales, gun shows and the like.  The only problem is that while we have all heard about ‘bad apple’ dealers as well as the proliferation of unregulated internet sales as two sources of illegal guns, nobody including the ATF has ever come up with an evidence-based number for exactly how many guns move from legal to illegal commercial channels each year.  Garen Wintemute estimates that as many as 40,000 straw sales were attempted annually, but he has no data on how many of those attempts actually result in a gun moving from an FFL’s inventory into illegal hands.

Let’s play devil’s advocate for a minute and pretend that all of those 40,000 attempted straw sales go through.  Sounds like a lot of guns going into the wrong hands, doesn’t it?  In fact, it’s a pittance compared to the way in which most guns in this country wind up in the wrong hands, and I don’t notice anyone talking about that issue at all.

Back in 1994, Philip Cook and Jens Ludwig published the most comprehensive survey on gun ownership that I have ever seen. Now if the Nobel Prize Committee decided to give an award for gun research, it would have to go to Phil Cook.  He not only practically invented the entire field of gun violence research, but his work, then and now, is impeccable and should be accepted without question as the best of breed.

And what did he learn about how guns get into the wrong hands?  He learned that perhaps as many as 600,000 guns were stolen every year, this at a time when the total number of guns owned by Americans was 50% less than it is now!  Are you telling me that we can have a substantive conversation about reducing gun violence without asking how to prevent the theft of guns? Gun theft isn’t the elephant in the GVP living room, it’s the whole house.

 

Do Americans Spend A Lot Of Time Thinking About Guns? An Interesting Answer From Google.

My friend David Yamane runs a pro-gun blog called Gun Culture 2.0.  In fact, what he really does for a living is teach sociology in North Carolina, and this year gave a course on the sociology of guns which included a trip to a shooting range, along with lectures on just about every facet of the gun world, along with off-line arguments with me.  Make no mistake about it, Yamane’s a pro-gun guy.  But he’s also a smart guy, a diligent researcher and someone who’s not afraid of the facts.  Which makes him somewhat unique among pro-gun folks, most of whom are about as interested in evidence-based discussions as I’m interested in staying on my diet.

trump2In any case, he’s just published some very interesting data on his website that was inspired by a bit of internet research conducted by his wife.  The research consisted of a state-by-state listing of all Google searches performed in 2015, which caught Mrs. Yamane’s attention because one of the most popular search terms listed for their state of North Carolina was “concealed weapons permit.”  And it turns out that this term was also one of the most popular search terms in Florida.  And then it turns out that if one takes the trouble to read through the popular search terms for all 50 states, the term doesn’t appear anywhere else.

Now wait a minute.  Didn’t we just go through two months of Republican Presidential clap-trap in which every one of those clowns endorsed the idea of carrying a gun?  Didn’t Donald Trump proclaim his own preference for concealed-carry after the Virginia shooting of two journalists followed by the Umpqua mess?  I don’t ever remember anything having to do with guns playing such a central role in any political campaign, and yet the issue at the center of the argument hardly gets a ripple at all.

And it’s not as if the Republican campaign was absent from the Google search engine.  In fact, Trump and other Republican candidates were mentioned 16 times in the most popular internet searches, which was 6% of all Google search terms – to put that into perspective, ISIS was searched exactly twice. I should add, incidentally, that one-third of the search terms for Presidential candidates were racked up in New Hampshire, which should hardly surprise given the fact that the Granite State probably suffered through more political visits than all other 49 states combined.  Bear in mind that the Google listings did not break down each term by specific number of searches; it just listed the most popular searches in each state.

While concealed-carry was obviously on the minds of residents in North Carolina and Florida, there were a few other states where something having to do with guns was also a popular search term.  The term ‘2nd Amendment’ was popular in Arizona, ‘mass shootings, in Colorado, ‘gun control’ in Idaho, ‘right to keep and bear arms’ in Missouri, and believe it or not, ‘NRA’ in Tennessee.  Wyoming must be a real gun-nut state because of the 6 most popular search terms ‘guns’ and ‘AR-15’ both made the list.

So the bottom line is that of the most popular 250 Google search terms throughout the United States, something having to do with guns made the list 3% of the time.  Again, be advised that I don’t have specific metrics for each term; for all I know maybe residents in Wyoming searched for AR-15s more than five million times.  But since the state’s total population is less than 600,000, this work would have kept every man jack, woman and child busy in Wyoming for a long time.  Get it?

I think the data presented by David Yamane (and his wife) is an important contribution to the GVP debate. Because if nothing else, it perhaps reflects the fact that guns aren’t quite the mainstream issue that the NRA would like you to believe. And if that’s the case, is it really all that important whether Donald Trump walks around with a gun?

 

 

 

How Many Guns In America? Maybe Not As Many As You Think.

Now that The New York Times has decided to become a major player in the gun debate – they even have editorial writers attending gun shows – we better make sure that all our facts are straight and our arguments correct when it comes to explaining violence caused by guns.  Now I’m not concerned with getting facts from my friends on the gun nut side because like all gun nuts, including myself, we just want to hold onto our guns.  But it’s my friends in the GVP community dialoging with the newspaper that sets the gold standard for fact-checking who need to make sure they get it right.  So over the next couple of weeks I’m going to look at some of the evidence the GVP folks bring to bear in discussing guns, and I’m starting today with the most basic question of all, namely, just how many guns do Americans really own?

colt1911a1              We are told again and again that the size of the civilian arsenal is somewhere above 300 million and climbing fast.  Since we don’t have anything close to universal (or even partial) gun registration, this number comes from a somewhat creative extrapolation combining guns that are manufactured and imported (both of which must be reported to the ATF), plus estimates of how many guns were floating around before the ATF started compiling and publishing their numbers in 1986.  The base number that is used by researchers on both sides comes from a survey of gun owners conducted for the National Institute of Justice in 1994.  This study concluded that the civilian arsenal stood at 192 million guns which, when one adds in the annual numbers from the ATF since that date, gets us up to the 300-plus million that is bandied around today.

Both the gun nuts and the GVP are quite happy promoting a massive gun ownership number that continues to increase.  After all, if you’re the NRA, America’s oldest civil rights organization, the more guns owned by Americans, the more guns are just another mainstream, consumer product, all the more reason why we shouldn’t do anything about guns. On the other hand, the GVP community would find its recent organizational momentum slowing if, all of a sudden, gun ownership really started going down.  What does seem to be declining is the percentage of American households which contain guns – from what appears to have been maybe half of all American homes in the 1970s now appears to be roughly thirty percent.

The problem in figuring out the size of the civilian stock is that the surveys assume that once a gun gets into the civilian arsenal, it should always be counted as if it still exists and, more to the point, could be a factor in the link between the size of the arsenal and our extraordinary rates of gun injuries and gun crimes.  But anyone who ipso facto assumes this to be true may know very little about guns.

According to the NIJ report, roughly one-quarter of all guns owned in 1994 were inherited or received as gifts, a percentage which is probably higher today as the proportion of gun owners continues to go down.  Know what these guns tend to be?  Old, useless junk.  I can’t tell you how many times the kids walk into my shop with a broken or rusted gun that’s been lying around the old man’s basement and now that the old man’s carted off to the nursing home or the cemetery, the old lady says to the kids, “get rid of the goddamn guns.” The average age of privately-owned guns in the NIJ report was 13+ years, which means that for every gun recently purchased, another one was at least a quarter-century old.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not denying the obvious connection between 300 million guns and 100,000 gun injuries and deaths every year.  But if we believe that controlling those guns will reduce gun violence, we should understand which guns need to be controlled.

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Available on Amazon.

 

Want To See A Gun Buy-Back Program That Works? Take A Trip To Worcester, MA.

You may recall that back in August, the news got around that the city of Honolulu decided to replace their Smith & Wesson service pistols with Glocks and, according to news reports, effectively forfeited $575,000 in the process. Why did the city take a $575,000 hit?  Because that’s the money they we would have made if they had sold the S&W pistols to gun dealers who then would have resold the booty to law-abiding gun owners.  “By destroying these guns,” said the NRA, “the city is throwing away taxpayer money over the irrational fear that these guns will end up on the streets of Honolulu.”

It just so happens, by the way, that the streets of Honolulu are the safest streets of any major city in the United States.  So maybe the cops in Hawaii know something about public safety that the NRA doesn’t know.  But either way, the NRA has long campaigned for reversing any policy that makes it more difficult for civilians to own guns, including policies that result in guns being taken off the streets.   And now that NRA Nemesis #2 (aka Hillary) has mentioned a national buy-back program as a campaign issue, you know the NRA will pull out all the stops to fight against buy-back programs of any kind.

gunsThe argument over whether buy-back programs are effective has droned on for years, but I would like to suggest two reasons why it’s difficult to connect specific buy-back programs to any change in gun crime.  First, most buy-back programs are carried out in a specific city or town, so the fact that some guns from a particular locale are turned in really doesn’t affect the ability of the bad guys in those places to get their hands on more guns.  Second, buy-back programs are usually conducted on a sporadic, one-time basis, which makes it difficult, if not impossible to gauge the effect of such activities on violence or crime.  And it’s pointless to use national buy-back programs in countries like Australia and Brazil as litmus tests for what might happen here – different culture, different crime environments – cross-national comparisons simply don’t work.

But I’m going to tell you about a gun buy-back program that does work, and it’s the program run in Worcester, MA, called Goods for Guns and yesterday it resulted in just under 250 guns, including 121 handguns, being exchanged for gift certificates to local merchants and stores. Now you might think that 250 guns in a city the size of Worcester (population: 180,000) is a paltry sum.  But you have to go beyond the raw numbers in order to understand what this program means.

First, the buy-back not only took place in Worcester, but in sixteen surrounding communities, some of them located thirty miles or more away from the city’s core.  Second, this program has actually been conducted every year since 2002, with the gun total now standing above 2,500 weapons collected over the past fourteen years.  This doesn’t mean that the program cleanses Worcester and other towns of privately-owned guns; what is does mean is that the issue of unsecured guns is on everyone’s mind.  Because the fact is that unwanted guns tend to be unsecured guns, and unsecured guns get into the wrong hands. And by the way, Worcester has paid out roughly $125,000 for those 2,500 guns.  That’s peanuts compared to the medical costs of treating people injured by guns.

Know what the homicide rate is in Worcester?  3.8.  In Springfield it’s 11 – three times as high.  Two cities of similar size, similar demographics, similar disadvantaged neighborhoods where violence abounds. I’m not saying that the difference is because Worcester does a buy-back program every year whereas in Springfield it happens every third or fourth.  What I am saying is that a regular, organized buy-back program is an effective tool for dealing with gun violence, no matter what the 2nd Amendment crowd would like you to believe.

Guess What? With Your Help There’s A Chance That CDC-Funded Gun Research Might See The Light Of Day.

Friday is usually a quiet day when it comes to gun news, for that matter it’s usually a quiet day for all news, particularly as we enter the Holiday season and office parties usually trump any real work.  But a news item out of DC caught my eye this morning and rocked me back on my heels.  I am referring to the fact that CDC funding for gun violence research might actually survive the House budget negotiations and get into the bill.

conference program pic              What?  A federal budget that actually contains money for CDC-funded research on guns?  How is this possible in today’s political climate?  How is it possible that one of the NRA’s most sacred totems, i.e., the defunding of gun research, could be overcome when every Republican Presidential candidate has followed Trump’s lead in calling for more, not less access to guns? Even the police unions and various chiefs are saying that we all need to be armed.  And wasn’t it CDC-funded research back in the 90’s which found that the notion that guns can protect us just wasn’t true?

The NRA has been claiming that armed citizens prevent millions of crimes each year.  And this claim, which has been repeated by right-wing think tanks and right-wing politicians again and again, is bandied about by gun-rights supporters hither and yon.  If you want the latest and slickest version of this canard, just tune into Wayne-o mouthing the same bromide to all his video fans. And what is this entire claim based on?  A telephone survey published in 1994 by Gary Kleck in which a few folks working for him allegedly spoke to 213 people who claimed they had used a gun to prevent a crime. If I had a nickel for every time this so-called research has been debunked, I wouldn’t have to work for a living, and even Kleck himself recently backed down from his own claim.  But if serious researchers can’t get financial support to validate anything that Kleck said, it doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not.

The problem with public health research is that, by definition, either it’s evidence-based or it doesn’t get published and read at all. Which means you need money to dig up and analyze the evidence  before you can contribute to the debate at all. Which is exactly why the NRA managed to defund CDC gun research after 1996, and is exactly why the spurious claims made by Kleck and his followers have taken on a life of their own. Because as a country whose legal system rests on due process, the law in most jurisdictions requires that any legislation must first be debated in a public forum, which means you have to hear from both sides.  And if one side presents arguments that are nothing more than opinions and marketing claptrap, while the other side can’t respond because they can’t conduct research to elucidate the facts, guess who wins the public debate?

This has been the sorry state of affairs for the past twenty years, and this is the state of affairs that might actually change in the budget negotiations on Capitol Hill.  I have to assume, incidentally, that there’s some connection between the idea of refunding CDC-sponsored gun research and the spate of mass killings which appears now to be totally out of control.  The good news for Trump, et. al., in the latest mass slaughter iteration was that the moment the shooters were linked to some kind of terrorist something, the fact they had acquired their guns and ammo legally just went by the board.

Here’s the bottom line, folks.  Anyone who believes that 100,000+ gun deaths and injuries each year doesn’t constitute a public health issue can go lay brick.  As for everyone else, here’s a link to a little app put online by Doctors for America that get you onto the phone to make a call to DC.  Needs to be done today.  Needs to be done now.

Gun Sales Going Through The Roof Now That Obama And Hillary Want To Ban Assault Rifles? Don’t Count On it.

Right after Obama and the Hillary (or maybe it was the other way around) came out with strong calls for more gun control, followed by the New York Times editorial calling for a ban on assault rifles, there was an immediate spate of stories about how gun sales were once again going through the roof.  And the ‘proof’ of this sales explosion was, of course, an increase in NICS background checks which showed a one-day surge on Black Friday that eclipsed previous Black Friday numbers by upwards of five percent.

ARnew               Every time there’s a mass slaughter or a gun-grabbing threat or anything else which the NRA can use to prove that the 2nd Amendment is in jeopardy, every gun nut in America rushes out to add to his stockpile.  Which means more guns in circulation, more guns ending up in ‘the street,’ more gun violence, yadda, yadda and yadda.

But before we get too concerned, perhaps we should take a deep breath and ask ourselves whether what we are saying aligns with the facts.  Or better yet, when the media says it, do we simply accept what they say if it’s bad news about guns, or do we actually take the time to do a little data-mining for ourselves.  In that regard I want to share a bit of data mining on NICS checks to see whether and to what degree the American private gun arsenal continues to expand.

Here are the real numbers.  NICS checks for November, 2014 were 1.797,163.  For the same month this year, the NICS total was 2,236,457, a month-to-month increase of almost 25 percent.  Wow! The gun nuts are going crazy.  In fact, I have to admit that I even bought a gun in November – a lovely Ruger in .222 caliber.  Which tells you that I’m a real gun nut because I refer to a rifle as ’lovely.’  Anyway, there’s lonely one little problem with those numbers – the increase had little to do with gun sales.

Ready?  NICS background checks for gun transfers in 2014 totaled 1,256,129.  In 2015 the total increased to 1,354,845, i.e., a whopping 7 percent!  So where did that 25% increase in NICS checks come from?  It came from a doubling in the number of checks conducted to validate gun licenses, usually concealed-carry licenses which in some states requires a separate background check before a CCW license can be issued, or a re-check of the individual’s legal qualifications at some point after the license has been issued.  In other words, what kept NICS so busy in November wasn’t what the pro-gun gang wants; i.e., more guns, it was what the GVP community wants; i.e., more background checks.  Hello. Hello-o.

I’ll let you in on a little secret.  The way I check the health of the gun market is not by looking at NICS data but looking at the market cost of guns.  Because gun prices tend to be very elastic.  The worst thing for a gun maker Is having unsold inventory sitting in the warehouse, ditto the wholesaler, ditto the retailer although in the case of the retailer, what he does when sales slow is to stop ordering guns. And the way I check prices is to go to the largest online retail seller, Bud’s Gun Shop, and take a quick look at what’s selling and what’s not.

Know what’s not selling?  Assault rifles.  Right after Sandy Hook you couldn’t buy a decent AR for under a thousand bucks.  You can buy one today from Bud for less than $700, and although his listed prices for the premium guns are over a thou, next to every price there’s the tell-tale ‘Make Offer’ which means the real (lower) price is between him and you. Now you would think that after San Bernardino the price of assault rifles would be going through the roof.  In fact, the prices seem to be heading for the basement.  And that’s a very interesting turn of affairs. It really is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want To Be In A Movie With Kevin Bacon? Everytown Just Produced One And It’s Great.

I always wanted to be in the movies.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to be in the movies? And I want a speaking part.  Doesn’t have to be a big part, a few words will do.  And I want to be in a movie with a big star – someone I really like.  Well now my dreams have come true.  I can go to a new website posted by Everytown, download a video cam and say, “We can end gun violence.”  Then I shoot the file up to the website and I’m in the same video as Kevin Bacon.  Kevin Bacon!  I mean we’re not talking about some nobody.  We’re not even talking about President Obama, who also appears in the video.  We’re talking about Kevin Bacon.  Wowee – kazowee.

baconAfter I get done writing this column I’m going to get ready for my cameo appearance: need to put on a different shirt, comb the little hair I still have left, stand in front of the mirror and say the line again and again until I have it right.  Should I emphasize the word ‘we?’  Or put a little juice into the word ‘end?’  Or just run off the whole string but change my expression when I get to the word ‘violence?’  Decision, decisions.  Look, it’s not every day that my family and every friend I have in the whole world can see me and Kevin Bacon go at it, right?

I have spent the last two years waiting and hoping that the GVP community would get into the video environment big time.  Because this is the way that an increasing number of people get their information, particularly the up-and-coming generation whose decisions about what to buy and how to behave will set the tone in the years ahead.  And it seemed to me that until I saw this new video, that the pro-gun gang seemed to understand this issue much better than the other side.

Take a look at the NRA website.  It’s all about video – a message from Wayne-o that tells you why the 2nd Amendment can protect you from anything and everything; a video of Colion prancing around saying something I can’t understand, some men and women sitting in front of a Sig-Sauer logo with this one guy lamenting that kids don’t learn about the ‘real’ American history; i.e., the value of guns.  I can’t imagine anyone actually sitting all the way through any of these insipid, boring commentaries, most of all because they are completely contrived.  The scripts come right out of the NRA marketing department even though there’s an announcement that tries to make you believe that you’re getting some kind of personal opinion from the spokesperson him or herself. But if you are an NRA member, every time they post a video you receive an email linking you to the latest missive which all have one thing in common, namely, that guns are a food thing.

Well maybe they are and maybe they’re not, but I’ll tell you this.  When the NRA says that “guns don’t kill people, it’s people who kill people,” what they conveniently forget is that the easiest and most efficient way for one person to kill or injure another is to use a gun. And if you take the guns away, there would still be plenty of violence, there would still be plenty of crime, there would still be plenty of people who would want to end things without waiting for nature to take its course. But the annual death and serious injury toll in this country would be minus 100,000 because that number represents what happens with guns.

What makes this new Everytown effort so powerful and so different from the video contrivances posted by the NRA is that these are real people, many related to someone who was shot with a gun, and their message is so simple and so direct that there’s nothing more that needs to be said.  Don’t want to end gun violence?  Kevin Bacon’s got plenty of other co-stars.

 

Could Gun Control Be The Defining Campaign Issue In 2016? Don’t Bet Against It.

I can see it now.  The tumultuous last night of the 2016 Republican Convention.  The newly-nominated Presidential candidate strides up to the podium flanked by family members and whomever is going to be the VP.  Then he bends down, can’t be seen for a second stands back up and  raises an AR over his head.

You think it can’t happen?  You think that gun control couldn’t be the defining issue of the next Presidential campaign?  I beg to differ with you and frankly, I even wish this little fantasy would come true.  Why?  Because if the election does turn on the gun issue, the folks who agree with the New York Times about banning assault rifles might just win.

heston              Before explaining, I have to mention the decision by the SCOTUS that denied certiorari to the appeal of the 7th Circuit’s decision that upheld the assault weapons ban in the town of Highland Park, Illinois.  The ban was passed after Sandy Hook, as were similar bans enacted (and upheld) in Connecticut and New York.  What was interesting about the denial of certiorari in the Highland Park case was the margin was 7 to 2; in other words, when it comes to protecting the 2nd Amendment rights of assault-rifle owners, as of now the usual 5-4 conservative majority that ruled in favor of Heller in 2008 has collapsed.

Given what just happened in San Bernardino, this decision should come as no great surprise.  And luckily for all the Republican candidates, the news that the slaughter did constitute a real, ISIS-inspired terrorist attack, gave them all some way of responding without having to spend much time or verbiage on what has become the standard, red-meat rhetoric about the virtues of an armed citizenry, the dangers of gun-free zones, and all that other crap.  This time around, defending the gun industry was left to Jerry Falwell, Jr., whose father, you may recall, blamed gays and lesbians for the World Trade Center attacks.

But let’s get back to which party would be helped and which would be hurt if an assault weapons ban was the driving campaign issue in 2016.  And make no mistake about it, ISIS or no ISIS, there’s every good chance that between now and next November, at least one idiot will bring out his Bushmaster or his DPMS and try to even some real and/or imagined score. And I’ll take the short odds right now that the Republicans will make “defending the 2nd Amendment” the Number One plank in the GOP Platform next year, which means that the Democrats will have no choice but to call for some kind of ‘sensible gun control,’ which could mean a ban on black guns.

Here’s the bottom line on next year from a gun point of view.  If Hillary gives up Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Minnesota and Florida but keeps the other states that voted blue in 2012 she still wins.  Doesn’t win by much, but she wins.  With the exception of Colorado, the others are all solid, gun-rich states.  The bad news is that if she gives up those states, she has to keep states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio in the Democratic column, which are also states with lots of voters who own guns.  But ‘lots’ and 50% plus 1 is not the same thing.  And it was the Democratic turnout in large, metropolitan areas in these states in 2012 which kept them blue.  And most of those voters could care less about the 2nd Amendment or about guns.

The Democrats used to keep themselves below the radar screen on gun control as a campaign issue because the NRA took Gore to the showers in his defeat by George Bush.  But 2016 isn’t 2000, and the country may not buy one more Sandy Hook.  I don’t want any election to turn on the loss of human life, but put an AR in the wrong hands and it could work out that way, like it or not.