Hopkins Has A New Online Course About Gun Laws.

Several years ago I ran a national survey asking gun-control advocates and activists some basic questions about gun laws. The questions covered the laws that have been part and parcel of the strategies of all gun-control groups: enhancing background checks, better regulation of dealers, purchasing and moving guns across state lines – the usual stuff. I ended up getting more than 250 responses from residents of 46 states, which was certainly representative enough for me.

The survey contained 12 questions; the average correct number was 6.  In other words, at least half the respondents who took the quiz on basic gun laws failed. And I specifically solicited responses from individuals who considered themselves to be involved in some kind of gun-control activity. Incidentally, I ran another gun-law quiz soliciting responses from individuals who considered themselves to be pro-gun.  The average score for that bunch was also around 6 correct answers – they also failed.

But the last thing you’ll find gun nuts supporting are more or stronger gun laws. On the other hand, the gun-control organizations that send me endless emails asking for more money (Everytown, Giffords, Brady – I support them all) consider laws and regulations to be the cornerstone of every strategy designed to reduce violence from guns. So, you would think that folks who donate time, money and energy to gun-control activities would want to understand how current gun laws work and what needs to be done to make such laws more effective.

In any case, our gun-research friends at the Hopkins Bloomberg School are trying to remedy this knowledge deficit by posting an online, interactive course covering the basic law which requires a background check before someone purchases a gun. The effort is part of a new distance-teaching approach being developed for internet users known as a ‘teach out,’ which is a digital version, if you will, of the old teach-ins that occurred on college campuses during the Viet Nam War. 

The Hopkins teach-out can be found here, it will be running for several more weeks, and I strongly urge everyone to register (for free) and support this effort before the course closes down. In particular, I think my gun-nut friends should sign up because the course also includes a nifty give-and-take between the instructors and the people who view the videos, an interactive Q and A that should be of value for both sides.

Now let me make it clear that this effort, like everything that comes out of the Bloomberg School, is a no-nonsense attempt to educate and inform. Which means that anyone who just wants to drop some nasty or snarky comment about all those tree-hugging, anti-gun liberals should stay away. The teach-in hosted by Dr. Cassandra Crifasi creates a forum for a serious, respectful and informed exchange about an important issue that should engage both sides. Want to rant and rave about your beloved 2nd-Amendment ‘rights?’ Do it somewhere else.

At the same time, I’m not about to simply let the other side off the hook. I learned about this effort because one of my gun-nut friends sent me an email about the online course. Did I get anything from Everytown, Brady, Giffords or one of the state-level gun-control groups who were all vociferously complaining last week when Gun-nut Nation showed up at Richmond for a jamboree? Not one, friggin’ word. And the lack of interest and support for this effort by Gun-control Nation is, to put it bluntly, a disgrace.

You would think that an open-source program that advocates extending the background-check system to private sales and permit-to-purchase licensing would be exactly the kind of effort that would be front and center on the agenda of every gun-control group. But if I have learned one thing from writing more than 1,500 columns on my website over the last eight years, it is the degree to which most gun-control organizations are more concerned about protecting their own, little turfs than getting together to promote a serious and sustained response to the violence caused by guns.

Anyway, enough complaints from me.  Sign up for the course – now!

15 thoughts on “Hopkins Has A New Online Course About Gun Laws.

  1. Amen, Mike, regarding your comment about the splintering of the GVP movement. I have reached out to many groups and find their insularity most discouraging.

      • You say “Mistakes”, and certainly for your personal views on gun control, Brent, they are. But I would argue that the gun control movement as it unites under Michael Bloomberg, is NOT about saving lives, preserving sport shooting and hunting, or fostering responsible gun ownership.

        I would argue their goals are the ones Addressed by Beto O’Rourke at the Democrat Debate to thunderous applause. That is banning guns, and as you know if you ban the AR-15 and AK-47 and their variants, what’s keeping them from banning Mini-14s and M1As? How about Browning BARs and Remington 740? How about the Ruger 10/22 and the Marlin Model 60?

        And while no military issues AR-15s as “Weapons of War”, They sure do issue a ton of Remington 700s as the M40 Sniper Rifle still used today. And Certainly the Murderer from the Texas Tower at UT Austin showed how much mayhem a simple “Hunting Rifle” could do.

        And of course even one of your beautiful muzzle loaders could be abused as a murder weapon.

        I would argue that ignorance of firearms, firearms law, and even violent crime numbers is a key factor of the gun control movement.

        You can’t talk about responsible gun ownership, because that would imply us “Gun Nuts” (A pejorative used to infer we aren’t rational people) can A) Be safe with guns B) Might have Reason to own guns and worse yet C) Might actually be endangered from being disarmed.

        Further if you can’t tell the difference between an AR-15 and a Mini-14 you won’t be able to see what a slippery slope banning one of them, but not the other causes.

        And of course ignorance of the law allows them to push laws that are completely unnecessary and/or easily abused. Like claiming the “Mentally Ill” can buy guns, so they can push Red Flag laws which will only make situations MORE dangerous, and are very easily abused.

        So you claim they are making a mistake, but if Gun Control activists realized that they aren’t preventing any violence (yet their are told they are Violence Prevention Activists) and their gun control laws that are being handed down from the Ivory Tower make zero sense with the talking points use, they would find their already small base of support to be even smaller.

  2. “… But if I have learned one thing from writing more than
    1,500 columns on my website over the last eight years, it is the degree to
    which most gun-control organizations are more concerned about protecting their
    own, little turfs than getting together to promote a serious and sustained
    response to the violence caused by guns. …”
    Mike, that is as sad as it is true. I’ve worked with Brady for 15 years and Everytown for 3. If I ever attempt to educate them on anything “gun”, which is quite often, they seem to instinctively plug their ears. I guess it’s in their DNA.
    Oh, I’m signed up for this course, just like the last one.

  3. Rob Pincus and Dan Gross were convinced that the NRA would collapse and they could pick up the pieces and make themselves the heads of a new, major gun organization. They couldn’t go the right of the NRA becsusebLarry Larry Pratt owns that space with GOA, so they veered a little but to the left and want to be the heads of an organization for ‘responsible’ gun owners.
    Gross is a nobody and King is is another so-called gun trainer who wouldn’ t know how to do real trsining if his life depended on it.
    But if you csn 100,000 people to send you $30 a year annual dues, do the math, okay?

    • Anyway, is Dan Gross correct about those either running or funding Brady? As Tom says, they’re a top-down outfit and this doesn’t look good for the GVP movement.

  4. I know Dan Gross. I can’t seriously believe that he’s not out to save lives.
    Mike, you sound a little ticked, if I may say so.

    • Dan Gross is what happens when a gun control activist actually becomes knowledgeable about both sides of this issue.

      • Yep! This is not at all certain, but I may be one of the gun guys who “woke” him. Mike, too,likely.

      • Hats off to you, Brent, if that’s so. Though Rob Pincus is talking a big game about being the gun guy that turned him against the Brady/Bloomberg gun bans.

        I have respect for Pincus, and he’s an honestly a good guy, but recently he’s been talking a big game about a lot of things. I wish there was a little more steak to go with all that sizzle…

  5. I like Cas Crifasi and have had some good conversations with her. She shoots traditional guns. But lately, her boss has put out sustained tweets that make me wonder how he can be a dispassionate researcher on one hand, change hats and become a passionate advocate. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt but when you want others to take your science seriously, you have to be your own most serious skeptic rather than most enthusiastic cheerleader.

    I sent the New Mexico ERPO/Red Flag legislation that is currently in committee to the NM ACLU for a review after they said they would do it and in return, I would forward their analysis to my club of over 1200 members (I’m on the BoD). After numerous requests for an answer, and even contacting the national organization, what I got back was…crickets. It would seem that they consider taking a stand on the due process in this bill (not the value of ERPO but whether the protections to anyone served an ERPO are sufficient) to be the third rail of discussion. That’s a bit different than the Rhode Island ACLU which actually critiqued that state’s bill to make it pass due process muster.

    I worked with my legislator last time around on a UBC bill (as I said a few days ago) until she went into radio silence. Found out at the end of the session from the Secretary of State web page that she took a $2500 check from Everytown in apparent return for carrying their Maine/Nevada bill verbatim. So its not about reaching out or compromise (as we see this session) but about “owning” the other side.

    I recommend the Hopkins online stuff to anyone who wants to learn something as long as you listen critically. One thing I know for sure is that the most vociferous ones on both sides of this debate are often short on facts and long on rhetoric. There is a lot of hot air being spent saying ERPO laws are “unconstitutional” but so far, a lot have been passed and so far as I know, the courts have not overturned any of them, conservative law reviews notwithstanding. One doesn’t know whether something is unconstitutional in the appellate court’s wisdom until it says so, my opinion, natural law and all that theory notwithstanding (my concession to a certain other person here after a recent exchange of email).

    • The issue with Red Flags and ERPO as they are proposed is that even in the best case scenario they make no sense. Here are some insanely cut-and-dry examples.

      #1. Wife is being abused by gun-owning husband. She packs her things and leaves and begins divorce proceedings. Husband doesn’t take kindly and escalates to stalking and threats. Wife initiates Red Flag Law. Police go to Husbands house, find all the guns he owns and remove them. Since Red Flag Laws don’t actually address the owner, he is now left alone, and you don’t think he knows who called the cops? So now he’s without guns, but can still plot revenge.

      #2. Combat vet recently separated from the army. After all that time in combat he is very comfortable around guns, and prefers to have one close-at-hand. He’s having trouble adjusting to civilian life, and is starting to abuse substances to self-medicate. While drunk he tells a friend he’s thinking about ending his own life. Friend initiates a red flag law, and again the police come into the home, find all the guns and remove them. Vet is now alone, betrayed, violated, and without his guns, and still suicidal.

      Both stories are fairy tales, Unfortunately I think we’ve probably all lived long enough to know SIMILAR stories….but they aren’t that clear-cut.

      But even in stories that over-simplified, do you think the Red Flag made things better, or worse?

      That’s danger #1. The lobbyists who propose these laws claim public safety, but I would argue just the opposite.

      #2 is that those are fairy tails. What if the police don’t find all the guns? What if the wife is claiming abuse, but is instead being vindictive and knowing that taking her husband’s prized WWII rifle collection will hurt him even more than her affair? What if it is an anti-gun activist wanting to lash out against any one of us because they KNOW we have guns?

      In the end it’s a “Mental Health” law written by the anti-gun lobby, that completely ignores the person who’s a danger to themselves and others while fixating on taking away guns.

      • I could not agree with you more Thomas Collins. Many gun owners have more than one firearm. Many gun owners don’t tell their significant other and/or friends how many guns they have (ask my wife how many I have). When Red Flag laws started to be enacted across this country many gun owners, if their smart, stopped telling people when they get a new firearm. Every since I heard about Red Flag laws I’ve wondered how law enforcement know that they have ALL firearms from the one who is ordered to surrender them. Stupid is as stupid does.

  6. Here was my opinion on the ERPO bill currently before the New Mexico legislature.

    Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO, or “red flag”) bills designed to remove guns from those who have credibly put self or others at risk of gun violence have been prefiled at the legislature and are supported by the Governor. In their present form, the bills have several highly problematic aspects. Of particular importance, and not just to gun owners, is the weakening of what constitutes due process under NM law
    Last year’s attempts to pass a defective bill died in Committee and have been resurrected with minor changes. If there is any good news in this year’s bills compared to last year’s, it is that these bills would require a sworn affidavit, which means that if the petitioner willfully misleads the court, he or she could be subject to penalties such as being charged with perjury. The bad news is that the due process rights of a red flag order recipient are weak.

    Due process is what allows anyone to protect themselves in legal proceedings. The two ERPO bills being considered by the Legislature use a low standard of evidence, the so called “preponderance of evidence” “fifty percent plus a smidgen” rule typical of civil lawsuits. This is in contrast to “beyond a reasonable doubt” used in criminal convictions. But unlike the results of a civil proceeding, an ERPO finding against a gun owner would deny a person enumerated rights, such as the right to bear arms and be secure in one’s possessions.

    Proceedings in these cases can be ex parte (only one party need appear to obtain an emergency order) and in any case, if an order is issued, the gun owner is put into a position of being guilty until proved innocent. The initial orders are good for about two weeks. You are deprived of your firearms until you get your day in court. If you convince the court the request is not supported by sufficient evidence, you get your guns back. If not, they go away for a year.

    But what happens during that day in court? Although your right to bear arms, enumerated in both the Federal and State constitutions is in limbo and your 4th and 5th Amendment rights to be secure from unlawful seizures and loss of property without due process are up for grabs, you have no guarantee of a rigorous defense. The bill, while saying you have a right to counsel, does not provide you with one if you cannot afford one. A person of limited means will likely be showing up in court not only unfamiliar with the whole judicial process (as would be the case for most of us), but unable to afford competent legal advice. That is the most shocking problem from my perspective.

    Finally, the bill suffers from vagaries that could set a legal trap. Section C lists reasons one can be served with an ERPO. These include ‘unlawful, reckless, or negligent use, display, storage, possession, or brandishing of a firearm”. While brandishing or unlawful use are fairly well established legal concepts, others in the list are vague. What is reckless or negligent storage? What is “misuse of controlled substances or alcohol”. Does it mean a conviction on a drug or alcohol charge? Your neighbor claiming you drink too much? If definitions are in the eyes of the beholder, these can be legally misused.

    An ERPO bill can be a critical tool if used carefully. Its tough to strike a proper balance with these bills

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