Here’s A Way To Promote The Discussion About Guns.

Over the years, my friends in Gun-control Nation have been trying to figure out how to talk to Gun-nut Nation about the risk of guns. They do surveys on ‘reasonable’ gun laws, they proclaim themselves to be in support of gun ‘rights,’ sometimes a couple of the more adventuresome folks will wander around a gun show here or there. With all due respect to these activities, I have a better idea.

The truth is that one of the most cherished notions in the liberal-advocacy universe – conservation – happens to have been started in this country by gun owners who, by the latter part of the nineteenth century, found themselves running out of wild animals to hunt. When Teddy Roosevelt went out to the Dakotas in 1883 to hunt buffalo, the species was so close to extinction that he had to travel out to Montana to find an animal he could shoot.

Several years later, Roosevelt formed the Boone & Crockett Club for the purpose of promoting hunting regulations that would insure survival of wild animals out on the range. Another member was George Bird Grinnell, America’s first naturalist who was instrumental in the creation of National Parks; another early member was Aldo Leopold, who basically started the whole wilderness movement in the United States.

This alliance between hunters and conservationists has somehow gotten lost in the raucous debate about guns and gun violence. The NRA claims that it wants to “promote hunter safety, and to promote and defend hunting as a shooting sport and as a viable and necessary method of fostering the propagation, growth, conservation and wise use of our renewable wildlife resources.” But when was the last time you heard Wayne-o get up and talk about conserving anything other than the so-called ‘right’ to bear arms?

As for my friends in the gun-control movement, for all their talk about the joys and virtues of ‘responsible’ gun ownership, I have never heard any of them ever say anything about hunting as a sport or a way to help preserve the natural outdoors. They would rather remind you about all those gun injuries that happen when hunters mistake a human for Bambi out in the woods.

There is, however, a very interesting group that is trying to overcome the antipathy between hunters and conservationists by utilizing ranch lands as laboratories to study the genetics of wildlife reproduction, a field which is opening up all kinds of new ideas about how to preserve the wild animals who depend on the existence of open space.

Next time you go to a zoo, you’ll notice a plaque on many cages indicating that the animal lying there waiting to be fed is an ‘endangered’ species whose existence is being maintained by living in that zoo. Unfortunately, the idea that wild species can maintain the genetic strength and diversity required to survive is simply not possible without having enough space to roam and naturally produce offspring rather than doing some artificial propagation in a zoo because zoos just don’t have enough open space.

Take a look at the website of the Source Population Alliance, an organization formed by scientists, conservation centers, zoos, safari parks and owners of private ranches, who work together to study the migratory and mating patterns of wild species in their natural habitats. To date, this research has provided significant understanding about what is needed to conserve wild species both in the open as well as enclosed spaces. You can read details of this remarkable effort right here.

Why am I writing about the Source Population Alliance on a gun blog? Because the folks who own those ranches that are used as living laboratories happen to be hunters, that’s why. So if you’re really serious about finding a way to bring the two sides together in the gun debate, take out your credit card and send the Source Population Alliance some of the money that you still can’t spend this week at the mall.

Please help this wonderful collaboration of scientists and gun owners who are working together to preserve what nature is really all about.  DONATE HERE.

Tom Gabor: Are Armed Groups Protesting Stay-at-Home Orders Merely Exercising Their Second Amendment Rights?

The images are harrowing: Groups of civilians, armed with military-style assault rifles, storming a state legislature and participating in protests in order to dismantle measures designed to fight an epidemic.  The President is egging them on.  To other  countries, this is pure madness and a sign of profound dysfunctionality as a small, aggressive, and  vocal minority is allowed to violate orders, such as safe distancing, installed by duly-elected leaders who have consulted with medical authorities in developing  the measures.    

Does the Second Amendment allow any individual to carry a firearm into any setting for any purpose?  Does the Constitution permit an individual to brandish a firearm (wave it in a threatening manner)?  Are guns allowed at protests? 

The Second Amendment (SA) of the US Constitution reads:

 “A well-regulated Militia, necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The SA was interpreted by the courts for over two centuries as the right to bear arms only within the context of militia service.  In 2008, the US Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller ruled for the first time that individuals had the right to own an operable gun in their homes for protection.  However, writing for the majority in the 5-4 decision, Justice Antonin Scalia—a hunter and a conservative—made it clear that this right was not unlimited and that laws regulating the carrying of firearms, denying gun ownership to felons and the mentally ill, and prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons did not violate the Second Amendment.  The Heller majority noted that historically “commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” Since Heller, an overwhelming majority of Second Amendment challenges to gun laws have been rejected by the courts.

In 1991, Warren E. Burger, the conservative chief justice of the Supreme Court, asserted that the SA “has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud—I repeat the word ‘fraud’—on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”  He stated that it does not guarantee the right to private ownership.  Instead its purpose was to ensure that militias would be maintained for the defense of the state.

Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice and author of The Second Amendment:  A Biography, notes that the phrase “bear arms” in the 18th century referred to military activities. According to Waldman, James Madison’s notes from the Constitutional Convention did not contain a single word about an individual’s right to a gun for self-defense or recreation.   Gun laws throughout the country regulated everything from the storage of gunpowder to the carrying of weapons and courts consistently upheld these restrictions. Four times between 1876 and 1939, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to rule that the Second Amendment protected individual gun ownership outside of a militia. From 1888, when law review articles were first indexed, through 1959, every single article on the Second Amendment concluded it did not guarantee an individual right to a firearm.   

However, in recent decades, the National Rifle Association launched a campaign, including funding research promoting the narrative that the SA guaranteed a right of Americans to acquire guns outside of militia service.  This campaign has convinced most Americans that such a right exists. 

The landmark 2008 Heller ruling took the position that the SA protects a right to self-defense in the home—period.  Gun carrying in public, carrying in sensitive settings (e.g., government buildings, schools), and possession of “dangerous and unusual” weapons could still be regulated.    

Despite the views of constitutional scholars and historians, as well as the limits placed on gun rights by the Supreme Court, over the last 30 years, states have reversed historical trends by adopting right-to-carry laws and 45 allow for the open carrying of firearms. 

However, states have a number of tools to avoid the repetition of the spectacle in Michigan’s Capitol, which arguably represents a frontal attack on democracy and the rule of law.  States can set limits with regard to the manner, settings, and contexts in which guns can be carried. The most obvious thing a state can do is to prohibit open carrying of firearms in government buildings.  For example, North Carolina prohibits the carrying of firearms into government buildings and at protests.  Virginia prohibits gun carrying in certain cities, as well as places of worship, courthouses, and airport terminals.  However, 36 states either explicitly allow concealed and/or open carry at rallies, or do not forbid guns in that setting — and also preempt localities from passing their own laws to keep firearms away from rallies.

States can also prohibit the brandishing of firearms.  In Michigan, legislators felt threatened by armed civilians who stormed the State Capitol.  The intimidation ultimately forced a subsequent session to be shut down to prevent a repeat of the incident.  Michigan does have a statute that prohibits brandishing, the pointing or displaying of a firearm “in a threatening manner with the intent to induce fear in another person.”  This statute was not enforced that day.

In 14th century England, the “Statute of Northampton,” prohibited carrying pistols and daggers in public — whether “secretly” or in the “open” … “to the terror of all people professing to travel and live peaceably.”  The prohibition was adopted by the American colonies, such that, for instance, Massachusetts passed a law barring residents from going out to “ride or go armed offensively, to the fear or terror of the good citizens of this Commonwealth.”  By the mid-19th century, 17 states adopted laws against weapons carrying that resembled North Carolina’s “going armed to the terror of the public” law. Saul Cornell, a legal historian, explained that the rationale underlying such laws was a balancing of gun rights and public safety.

Jeff Welty, a Professor of Public Law and Government with the University of North Carolina, notes that “going armed to the terror of the public” laws are designed to deal with situations in which people with firearms are menacing others in public and appear to be at risk of committing crimes. The laws allow for police intervention at the sight of worrisome gun carrying, without requiring that officers wait until a shot is fired. 

It is important to realize that gun rights today are flourishing in America when compared with the past.   The carrying of concealed weapons was outlawed in 40 states by the end of the 1800s.  Research conducted by John Donohue of Stanford University shows that right-to-carry laws undermine public safety, increasing homicide rates.  Now we see individuals pushing the boundaries of these carry laws—purportedly enacted for self-defense–and intimidating members of the public and even elected leaders.    Will the political will be there to put an end to this conduct and preserve our democracy?  

Is There Something Called ‘Gun Culture?’

              I went to my first gun show in 1976 in Charlotte, NC.  Since then, I have probably been to 200 gun shows in maybe 20 states.  I like gun shows. I wander around, talk to a few dealers and gun nuts, maybe buy something I don’t need, always have a coffee and a bite to eat.

              Do you suppose that going to these shows makes me part of gun ‘culture?’ I hear that phrase all the time on both sides of the gun debate. Gun-nut Nation uses it to set themselves apart from folks who don’t own or like guns; my friends in the gun-control gang use the same phrase when describing their fears about whether or not gun violence will increase.

              I happen to think that the phrase has about as much to do with reality as the veritable man in the moon. The word ‘culture’ means a set of beliefs and traditions held in common by a group of people which define how these individuals think, act, and behave. Know what gun owners have in common? They went out at some point and bought themselves a gun.

              I have had retail gun stores in three different states. I opened my first shop in South Carolina in 1978, my second shop in New York in 1985 and my third shop in Massachusetts in 1991. Together, I probably sold guns to more than 12,000 customers and if I ever asked any of those customers why they  just bought a gun, I can guarantee you the answer would have been, “because I like guns.”

              Now if a GVP-minded gun researcher happened to be in my shop and asked one of my customers the same question, the response would have been something having to do with needing a gun for self-defense, or wanting to maintain 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ or some other answer that would appear to reflect at least a minute’s thought. After all, the guy who just plunked down six hundred bucks isn’t about to tell a gun researcher that he just spent that kind of dough for the hell of it, right? And he doesn’t want to look like a fool because he knows that such a question would only be asked by someone who doesn’t own guns. If you believe that a gun guy would ask another gun guy why he’s buying a gun, then you don’t have the faintest idea about anything having to do with guns.

              If I went into a shoe store to buy myself a pair of Merrell shoes, would anyone say that I was part of ‘shoe culture?’ Of course not. I buy Merrell shows because I like the way they look and feel.  I need another pair of Merrell shoes like I need a hole in my head, but I like Merrell shoes. And the fact that Merrell shoes cost more than other brands of similar shoes, so what?

              Know those guys who have been tromping around lately protesting lock-down orders with their AR-15’s strapped to their backs?  They’ll tell you that the gun is what keeps them free. And that’s what they really believe, or at least they say it’s what they believe. But those jerks aren’t part of any ‘gun culture’ because if they didn’t own a gun, they would still stand in front of the government building and wave one of those stupid, ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ flags.

              About 20 miles from where I live, there’s a fairground that’s the location of a gun show every three or four months. It’s also the location of a model train show twice a year. Are the folks who go to the model train show part of some kind of ‘model train’ culture? No. They’re simply men and boys who like model trains.

              And that’s guns. Men and boys like guns. If the two sides in the gun debate would stop taking themselves so seriously, they might sit down and have a cogent discussion about how to reduce the injuries caused by all those guns.

Josh Montgomery: Guide To Shooter’s Bags.

As you may know, most people own a firearm mainly to protect themselves and to maintain a vigilance level that would ensure that nothing bad happens to them. However, even professional shooters know that they cannot rely only on their weapon when it comes to survival – especially when hunting.

Therefore, instead of grabbing any random bag they have in their household, nowadays shooters look for bags that are specially designed to fit their needs – be it a hunting bag or a bug out bag.

As such, in the following lines, we’ll talk about the kind of bags that shooters like to take with them and increase their chances of survival in dire scenarios. In case you want even more information, then you can check this in-depth guide on bug out bags that will also tell you what to look for in a bag if you’re a shooter!

The Basics

Whether you go to the gun range or plan a hunting session, you’ll need a bag that can hold your equipment, as well as any essential tools or items. For example, besides useful gear, a shooter’s bag can also carry a handgun that they can keep for personal protection.

Moreover, a shooter may want to hide the fact that they are carrying a bag with a gun in it. Some people want to be discrete when it comes to their shooting or hunting habits. Therefore, you should take this aspect into consideration as well when choosing your bag.

How Shooters Choose their Bag

First of all, it is worth mentioning that bags come in a variety of models and types. Because of this, a shooter will have a very hard time narrowing down their options – especially if they consider only things like brand, size, and so on.

Here’s what a shooter takes into account when trying to find the proper bag:

  • Loadout and Amount of Gear

When talking about hunting and/or survival bags, it is very important that they are able to hold whatever loadout you plan on bringing with you – the gear that you need to store, as well as any other tools or survival items.

Obviously, after loading the bag, it shouldn’t look like it’s crammed and may spit out the next item you try to place in it.

  • Materials

Naturally, shooters like bags that are made from durable materials – they will never go for the usual materials that backpacks are made from. However, this is not everything they’ll consider.

Depending on the environment they’ll use the bag in, they’ll try to pick materials that can withstand the weather of certain areas.

For example, if their gear/loadout contains something that must not freeze and they plan to hunt in a cold area, they’ll most likely go for a bag made from materials that can keep the cold away.

  • Skill & Experience Level

It goes without saying that there are complex and simple bags that a shooter can choose from. In short, certain bags may come with features or characteristics specially designed for a particular type of shooter, firearm, equipment, or tool.

As such, you must take into account your specific scenario before choosing a bag based only on its looks or features. So, try to pick a bag fit for your skills and experience level.

  • Modification and Adjustments

Naturally, you may not always like the bag that you buy. Some shooters will even claim that they’ll always have to adjust the bag they buy so that it fits particular, special requirements.

Therefore, you must always be ready to modify and adjust the bag – and, ultimately, create the perfect bag for you. Of course, this is not a mandatory thing, as you can come across sturdy bags that cannot be easily tampered with.

A Bag that Shooters Like

However, after everything that has been mentioned, it is also noteworthy that shooters do choose a bag based on its looks too, not only on its functionality.

For example, durable materials should be accompanied by a rugged or military look. Even better, a carbon blackbag is the best choice for many shooters, as such a bag doesn’t pop out in a crowd and can be easily hidden while hunting.

Some of the Most-Wanted Features

Now, in order to get an idea of what kind of bags shooters like exactly, let’s take a look at some of the most sought-after features of such an item:

  • External and quick access storage
  • Multiple internal pouches for proper organization
  • Well-padded shoulder straps and back panel
  • Compression straps to reduce the bag’s profile
  • Hydration bladder pouch – depending on preferences

Naturally, this is not everything a shooter takes into account when choosing a proper bag. However, these are the most important features that they must have in a bag.

The Bottom Line

As mentioned above, it is hard to determine what kind of bags shooters like – mainly because there are so many occasions when gun owners need to rely on a bag to carry their equipment or tools.

On the other hand, it goes without saying that they prefer bags that are sturdy, durable, and come with little to no flaws. In short, they want an item that they can rely on, no matter the circumstances.

Moreover, when it comes to carrying heavier gear, shooters will usually opt for a heavy-duty rolling bag that can handle ammunition, firearms, and whatnot.

In the end, determining what kind of bag shooters like is quite difficult! No matter if they need one to take with them at the shooting range or at a hunting session, the requirements vary widely in both cases.

Want To Be Worried About Something? Try ‘Ghost’ Guns.

Yesterday I received the latest and greatest newsletter from our friends at The Trace, and what caught my eye was an article about ‘ghost guns,’ which have become something of a talking-point on both sides of the gun debate. In case you don’t know, a ‘ghost gun’ is a gun without a serial number, which means if it is picked up by the cops it can’t be traced. Why don’t ‘ghost guns’ have serial numbers? Because thanks to the use of polymer in the manufacture of gun frames, it’s not all that difficult to buy the frame, buy the parts that go into the frame, then put the whole thing together and you have a gun.

For Gun-nut Nation, guns that don’t have serial numbers can’t be necessarily connected to any particular owner, and since the 2nd-Amendment gang believes they have a ‘right’ to own guns without any government regulation at all, why not start off with a gun that can’t be traced? As for our friends on the other side, the gun-control side, if a gun doesn’t have a serial number it usually means that someone who can’t buy a legal gun can instead use a ‘ghost gun’ to do whatever he decides to do with a gun.

To tell you the truth, I find this entire discussion stupid beyond belief.  Why? Because it has next to nothing to do with the problem we need to solve which is this: How do we stop 90,000+ young men, ages 16 – 30, mostly minority, mostly poor, mostly living in what is politely referred to as ‘underserved’ neighborhoods, from picking up a gun, pointing it at someone else and blasting away? This type of behavior happens to account for 80% or more of all gun violence, and it has nothing to do with ‘ghost’ guns at all.

What have we done to solve gun violence?  Not very much. We’ve passed ‘red flag’ laws in some blue states, we have passed comprehensive background checks here and there, we have even banned wannabee assault rifles in Communist states like Massachusetts and New York. Know what happened in Colorado after comprehensive background checks were required starting in 2014? Gun-violence deaths went up from 651 to 873. Know what happened to gun homicides in New York after the SAFE ACT was passed in 2014? Gun murders went down from 372 to 356. Big deal.

Our friend Ruth Abaya is an ER pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, a.k.a., CHOP. The City of Brotherly Love had more homicides and shootings in 2019 than any year since 2010. So Dr. Abaya and her colleagues know something about guns. And last year they published research which found that 15% of ER patients, ages 19 and below, said they could get their hands on a gun in 24 hours or less.

Now why do you think these kids might want to get their hands on a gun? Think they want to go out in the woods and bring back Bambi to plop into Momma’s stew? Think they want to go down to the local gun club and take part in next week’s Turkey Shoot? Or maybe they’ll trade the gun for an i-Phone or a new pair of Air Jordan XXXIV shoes.

If you think these kids are all walking around or even thinking of walking around with a ‘ghost’ gun, think again. Why bother to buy a polymer frame, then buy the parts, then buy the tools you need to assemble the damn thing, when you can just go out into the street and buy one of the millions of stolen or misplaced guns that are floating around?

Want to do something serious to reduce gun violence? Stop screwing around and inventing yet another reason to be so concerned. Do what we all know needs to be done. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s simple. Just get rid of the guns.

How Come All Those People In Appalachia Need To Buy Guns?

              Since everyone else seems to be doing it, I am thinking about forming my own group on the internet called I Am A New Gun Nut.  I’ll have a website, a Facebook page, a domain like newgunnut.com, all of which I can create in about 30 minutes at a cost of maybe fifty bucks. Then I’ll find some guy who can make me some t-shirts to sell for $19.95 and let’s not forget a bumper sticker with some kind of logo I’ll design myself.

              I got this idea after reading what has to be the dumbest article of the many recent articles on the COVID-19 gun surge, a piece that appeared in an online magazine and is the work of a free-lance journalist who also writes for The Washington Post, The Daily Beast and The Village Voice. In other words, he’s a guy who doesn’t know anything about guns. But what he does know how to do is go out and interview the kind of people with whom the readership of those liberal websites have never come into contact at all; namely, the alt-right weirdos who have become a fixture of liberal journalistic interest in the Age of Trump. And what could be weirder for liberal readers sitting in the midst of their urban quarantines than residents of the poorest, rural outposts in Appalachia, piling into gun shops to buy their first guns?

              Our intrepid correspondent, Nick Keppler, gets it wrong right from the start when he notes that the FBI conducted more than 3.7 million background checks in March, the highest monthly number since God knows when. The fact that more than half the phone calls handled by the FBI call center had nothing to do with the purchase of guns, oh well, oh well. The fact that background checks for handguns in April had already fallen by 30% from March, oh well, oh well. Why let facts get in the way of a good story, right?

              But here’s where this story becomes so detached from any kind of reality that I really believe I can make a good living by taking Keppler’s totally-fanciful approach to understanding gun sales and creating an online movement that will celebrate the first-time ownership of guns. To support his argument about how first-time buyers are ‘flooding’ into gun stores located in Appalachia, we are given the numbers of background checks in states like Kentucky, comparing checks in March, 2020 to checks in March, 2019.

Comparing month-to-month sales in Kentucky, Keppler says there were 379,268 checks in 2019 as opposed to 235,305 checks this year.  Wait a minute! How can the residents of a state like Kentucky be worried about home invasions during the COVID-19 crisis when there were 40% fewer background checks than last year? And by the way, what Keppler evidently doesn’t understand is that Kentucky is one of the few states which uses the FBI-NICS system to check the status of every gun license issued in the state, whether that individual purchases a gun or not.  Oh well, oh well.

What I like is the comment from our friend David Yamane, a sociologist at Wake Forest University who promotes himself as a tried-and-true gun nut even though he probably doesn’t own five guns. When asked by Keppler to explain the surge in first-time gun buying, here’s what Yamane had to say: “It’s like the toilet paper, if they can’t have anything else under control, they know they have that one thing under control.”

That’s perfect. Simply perfect. When I set up my gun nut website I’m going to offer a free roll of toilet paper in return for a small payment of, let’s say $25, from anyone who joins my group. Maybe you still can’t get toilet paper in Appalachia, but yesterday when I went into my local supermarket to buy food for my three cats, I noticed that the shelves holding toilet paper were chock full. So much for the great surge in demand for guns, toilet paper or anything else.

Another New Study on Gun Violence Gets It Wrong.

Here we go again. A group of well-meaning but entirely ignorant researchers publish an article about gun violence in a so-called peer-reviewed medical journal and they get it completely wrong. Not a little bit wrong, not just a difference of opinion here and there. Completely and totally wrong.

The study, which has been done at least three other times using different dates but the same CDC-generated data, comes to the following conclusion: “States with stricter gun laws and laws requiring universal background checks for firearm purchase had lower firearm-related pediatric mortality rates.” Any study about the use or misuse of guns which refers to subjects above the age of 15 as ‘children’ is simply using an age-based, medical definition which completely distorts how, why, and when people of any age use guns.

In all 50 states, anyone above the age of 15 (in some states the age is 14) can take a safety course and then apply for a hunting license, which is granted without a background check because the individual is hunting with a gun, not buying a gun. The law doesn’t differentiate between hunting with a rifle or shotgun, or going out into the woods with Daddy’s Glock.

Why did the researchers find some kind of correlation between states with comprehensive background checks and states with fewer fatal ‘pediatric’ gun injuries? Because by and large, the states that have imposed comprehensive background checks happen not to be states with lots of residents who go out and try to bag themselves a Bambi every year. Of the 21,241 ‘children’ who died from gun injuries over the five years covered in this study, somewhere around 60% or more of these victims were at least fifteen years old.

Did the researchers ask themselves whether there might have been a connection between whether or not any of these kids had hunting licenses and ended up dead?  Of course not. The entire research team conducting this study happens to be faculty and staff from the George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C.  That’s a really big hunting area for sure.

I’m not saying these fatal accidents occurred when Grandpa or Daddy and Junior were out in the field. I am saying that in families that go hunting, every hunter in the family always has access to the guns. This happens to be a reality of gun ownership that none of the researchers who study gun violence acknowledge or even understand. But how do you study unintentional gun fatalities without taking this issue into account?

Not only don’t the researchers understand this issue, they also don’t recognize the extreme limitations of their research because the CDC data which they and every other gun-researcher uses does not give the slightest indication of how the fatal accident actually occurred. And I guarantee you that if they had such data, it would clearly indicate that the ‘child’ got shot for the same reason that just about everyone gets injured by an accidental discharge of a gun: “Duhhh, I didn’t know it was loaded.”

Over the fifty years that I have had guns in my house, I have shot off a gun accidentally at least seven times. One round went through the front door and out into the street. Another time I knocked a stack of books off a wall. A third time, my twenty-year old son picked up my 45-caliber pistol and blew a hole through our storage shed. Did I ever take the gun-safety course?  I teach the friggin’ course.

Until and unless my friends who do gun-violence research take the time and trouble to sit down with a couple of gun nuts and ask for some help and advice to help them understand the use and abuse of guns, we will continue to be treated to exercises in research that are nothing more than junk science and should be ignored.

I don’t mean to sound so belligerent or nasty, but right now there’s enough nonsense floating around about the COVID-19 problem. We don’t need any more misinformed ideas.

All Of A Sudden There’s A New Group Protecting America With Their AR-15’s.

Yesterday Gun-nut Nation finally saw its most fervent hopes and dreams realized when a small group of African-American gun guys showed up at the State Capitol in East Lansing, MI toting their AR-15’s to ‘protect’ a legislator who spoke out against the previous week’s demonstration by White gun nuts to protest the lockdown and social distancing rules imposed in their state.

What could be more perfect to advance the agenda of the alt-right than a bunch of Black guys walking around with guns? The last time this happened was back in 1967, when the Black Panthers showed up at the State House in California protesting the repeal of the state’s open-carry law, which was signed by then-Governor Ronnie Reagan, remember him?

A group of people standing in front of a building

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The NRA took a very low-keyed position to the appearance of the Panthers, just as the ‘responsible’ alt-right led by big-mouth Sean Hannity cautioned the gun nuts who brought their guns into the State Senate chamber to ‘leave your guns at home.’ But let’s not sell America’s super-patriots short. Gun-nut Nation has been hoping and preying for years that they could finally promote themselves as America’s first line of defense against anyone and everyone who might threaten us in our homes or on our streets. What greater threat could there be than a bunch of Black guys coming around with their AR’s?

If anyone reading this column actually believes that the pro-gun, alt-right movement doesn’t have a significant racial (i.e., racist) component behind its appeal, you haven’t been following the news. Remember a guy named Cliven ‘let me tell you about your Negro’ Bundy? Remember how all those White schmucks who had nothing better to do showed up at his ranch to make a ‘hard stand’ against the federal government’s attempt to make him pay grazing fees for using public lands? Remember how that fearless journalist Sean Hannity backed off from lionizing Bundy as soon as the idiot-rancher shot off his mouth?

So here we go again. If you’re a White man walking around with an AR, you’re protecting the infringement of Constitutional ‘rights’ by you-know-who, the you-know-who’s being tree-huggers, liberals, members of the Democrat Party, baby-killers, vaccinators and worst of all, anyone and everyone who doesn’t support Donald Trump. If, on the other hand,  you’re a Black dude who shows up with your AR which you’re going to stick in the face of those God-fearing, freedom-loving White guys, what does the alt-right have to say about them?

The bottom line is that the whole issue of gun ownership has never really been about gun ‘rights.’ The NRA can talk on and on about how it’s the ‘oldest civil rights’ organization in the United States, but that’s nothing but pure, unadulterated crap. When most people use the term ‘civil rights’ they’re talking about racial equality, gender equality, sexual equality, they’re not talking about walking around with a gun.

The term ‘2nd-Amendment rights’ has always been a code-word for promoting a political stance that really has little, if anything, to do with guns. It has to do with a cultural war which heats up when the GOP makes a turn to the more conservative side of its constituency, and then cools down when the same group of politicians and media noisemakers decide that they have to move the needle back towards the center-right. If a more moderate Republican were sitting in the Oval Office right now, nobody would be paying attention to these alt-right putzes at all.

By the same token, I don’t notice my friends in Gun-control Nation getting all hot and bothered when a Black firefighter and a few of his friends show up at the State Capitol in Michigan toting their guns. How come I haven’t received a ‘desperate’ appeal from Brady or Giffords telling me that if we don’t ban assault rifles, the world will come to an end?

And by the way, I always refer to my assault rifles as  ‘black guns’ because that’s how they’re finished and that’s how they’re made. Oh well, I guess I’m just not in tune with how things change.

Tom Gabor: Canada’s Assault Weapons Ban—Can the US Follow?

Following the murder of 22 people in Canada, the country’s worst multiple murder, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada would ban the use, purchase, sale, transportation, and importation of assault-style weapons.  One of the guns used by the perpetrator was classified by investigators as “a military-style assault rifle.”  The ban covers 1,500 models and types of firearms and took effect on May 1, less than two weeks after the murder spree.

Trudeau asserted that “These weapons were designed for one purpose and one purpose only: to kill the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time. There is no use and no place for such weapons in Canada.”

The government outlined the justification for the ban.  Assault-style firearms were deemed unsuitable for hunting or sports shooting purposes, given their inherent danger to public safety. The firearms prohibited were designed for military uses and were capable of injuring or killing humans quickly in large numbers given their tactical design and capability of holding a quickly reloadable large-capacity magazine. While some of these newly prohibited firearms were previously used for hunting or sporting purposes, the Canadian Government took the view that the significant risk they pose to public safety outweighs any justification for their continued use, given that numerous types of firearms remain available for recreational purposes.  The new ban also correctly notes that many of the deadliest mass shootings around the world have been perpetrated with assault-style weapons.

A large majority (80%) of Canadians support the ban and Canada is by no means an anti-gun country.  In fact, it has one of the world’s highest per capita gun ownership rates, with about 35 guns per 100 people.  Canada’s response to the massacre is similar to bans of entire classes of weapons seen in Australia, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand following large-scale mass shootings and murder sprees in those countries.

The Canadian Prime Minister announced a two-year “amnesty period” to allow gun owners to comply with the law.  The government is planning to buy back the banned weapons, although they left open the possibility that existing owners could apply to have them grandfathered.  This issue, as well as the planned compensation for those who currently possess the banned weapons, will be addressed in future legislation.

The Trudeau Government should be applauded for its decisive and prompt action, as the political will to undertake such a significant step tends to wane with time, especially as there are financial costs to such a broad buyback of arms.  In addition, discussing but failing to impose the ban immediately has been known to lead to a surge in sales of the weapons expected to be the subject of an anticipated ban.

One of the lamest but most common criticisms of the ban was voiced by Canada’s Conservative Party leader:   “The people who will not follow these new regulations are the drug dealers and the gun traffickers, and the people who choose to do evil with firearms. So we believe this is completely ineffective.” 

This is utter nonsense.  Many mass shootings are committed by people without criminal records and, often, the weapons used are obtained legally.  By failing to ban these arms, we are making it easier for a prospective mass shooter to purchase them legally.  Studies in the US show that over half of all mass shootings are domestic killings, some of which spill over to include other victims.  In addition, not everyone has easy access to illicit markets.  For example, teenagers who target a school may find it difficult to purchase an AR-15 from traffickers or to afford such weapons once they are available through illicit markets only.  Like prohibited drugs, the cost of smuggled firearms may be many times that of the same models obtained from a gun shop.

As the Nova Scotia shooter is believed to have obtained some of his weapons illegally from the US, concern remains that some people can circumvent a ban by obtaining the prohibited weapons south of the border.  There is no doubt that additional resources are required at crossings along the 4,000 mile US-Canada border to minimize trafficking into Canada.  Even with a porous border, the ban will prevent the legal purchase of many highly lethal models of firearms within Canada.

The Canadian Government has kept the door open for the possible grandfathering of existing weapons covered by the ban.  What justification is there for the grandfathering of a weapon the government claims is meant for war and unsuited for civilians?  Exempting weapons already manufactured at the time the US Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 took effect had the perverse effect of increasing the arsenal of weapons to be banned as manufacturers ramped up production when the ban was imminent.  This situation seriously undercut the impact of the ban as models subject to the ban could still be sold once the law had taken effect.  The prompt Canadian ban will prevent the arsenal from increasing but, with grandfathering, a large number of weapons now subject to the ban (estimated at 100,000) will still be in circulation.

The new regulations recognize the possibility that new models of firearms, with simply cosmetic modifications, can be developed to get around the ban.  Rather than simply identifying models covered by the ban, I would like to see a clear definition of an “assault weapon”.  While several features should be considered as part of this definition, I’ll leave it to the gunsmiths to come up with one. 

Opponents of the ban argue that it is handguns that ought to be banned as they are used in far more crimes than assault-style rifles.  In Canada, handguns have been restricted and subject to registration since the 1930s.  Very few Canadians are authorized to carry guns for self-defense.  Still, they are more frequently used in crime than semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15.  Further restrictions on handguns may be considered at a later date. 

By contrast, in the State of Florida alone, two million people have permits to carry concealed weapons.  Most US states have “shall issue” laws, requiring the granting of such permits when basic conditions are met.  Then, there are about a dozen states that allow the carrying of handguns without any permit or training at all.  In some states, guns can even be carried into public buildings, including legislatures that are in session, as we saw recently in Michigan.   America is an outlier not just in number of guns per capita, but in the permissiveness of right-to-carry laws in many states.  At the same time, the US has by far the most serious gun violence problem among affluent countries.  The gun homicide rate is 25 times that of these other countries, when they are considered together.  Still, gun rights advocates argue that guns make us safer as a society.  There is not a shred of credible evidence to support this fantasy.

Can the US follow Canada in banning assault-style weapons?  Of course it can.  In the landmark 2008 Heller ruling, Justice Scalia of the US Supreme Court noted that weapons deemed to be “dangerous” were not protected by the Second Amendment.  The Framers would never have envisioned weapons like the AR-15.  In fact, Michael Waldman, the Second Amendment scholar from the Brennan Center for Justice, found that in the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and in the notes of James Madison and the other participants, private gun ownership never came up at all!    

Is Covid-19 Driving Gun Sales?

              So the background check numbers are out for April and once again the media gets it all wrong. Here’s the statement from CNN: “The FBI conducted nearly 3 million background checks associated with the sale, transfer or permitting of firearms in April, making it the fourth highest month for background checks since the bureau began keeping statistics in 1998.” By tomorrow. I’ll get emails from the various gun-control organizations quoting the CNN story and asking me to send them some dough. Fine.

              In fact, 45% of the calls received by the FBI NICS call center in April had nothing to do with gun sales at all. They were calls being made to check license applications, concealed-carry applications, guns taken out of pawn, or guns transferred between two gun nuts in a private sale. That’s right, almost 3,000 NICS checks were for transfers between Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

Now you might think that 3,000 private sale background checks are nothing compared to the almost 1,600,000 checks done by dealers for guns they sold. But in 1998, the FBI didn’t bother to count NICS checks for private sales and of the 24 categories for background checks for which the FBI now issues their monthly report, there were only 5 categories of types of checks reported in 1998. You want to compare apples to oranges; you go right ahead. But the monthly FBI-NICS report issued last week has only contained the same categories since August 2016. Oh well, oh well.

Of course CNN being a responsible media outlet which always checks its facts, made sure to get statements about this avalanche of guns sales from both sides of the debate. A lady at the NRA who has not been laid off, said that the reason for all those guns being purchased is that “Americans are fearful and seeking security in the time of the COVID pandemic.” One of our gun-control friends, Igor Volsky, was then asked to chime in and he noted that the Trump administration “has repeatedly worked to expand access to guns during a national pandemic and has encouraged folks to take up arms and intimidate their governors into reopening the government.”

Last week I wrote a column in which I compared the current gun frenzy to what happened after the World Trade towers came down. I said that by the end of November, 2001 just three months short of 9-11, the spike in gun sales had come to an end. Guess what? This time around the number of Americans rushing out to protect themselves from the ‘Chinese virus’ (I love that phrase) may already be winding down. Background checks for gun transfers in March were 2,286,207; for April they were 1,596,519.  That’s only a drop of 30 percent. No big deal.

Remember I said that the FBI-NICS background check data has only contained the same categories for checks being done today since August, 2016. Know when Americans bought just as many guns in one month as they bought last month? Try November, 2016. The following month, December, they bought even more. Know what happened back then/ No virus, no ISIS invasion, no Korean or Iranian atom bomb. There was something called a Presidential election which a certain, notorious gun-grabber was supposed to win. And the reason why so many guns were sold not before but directly after the November vote is because many guns are sold on the installment plan – put down half now and the balance in 30 days.

I think we have a lot more to be concerned about than whether some gun guys use the COVID pandemic as an excuse to stock up on another gun. The worst that will happen is that ‘The Wife’ will find out that he snuck another gun into the house, which means it can always be sold back to the store if the washer-dryer goes on the fritz.

We have an election coming up on November 3rd. Let’s stop screwing around with the side-show, okay?