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The Media Commits To Writing The Truth About Guns.

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 Back in April, the Columbia Journalism Review held a ‘summit’ meeting on gun violence. Or to be more accurate, the meeting was held to address how and why journalists write their stories about guns. The event was evidently attended by the usual suspects from the mainstream media and resulted in the publication of a series of guidelines to which all the ‘responsible’ folks who do media coverage of gun violence are rushing to subscribe.

Here are the guidelines, courtesy of The Trace, which considers itself to be one of those responsible journalistic efforts par excellence:

  • We pledge to cover gun violence like the unfolding health crisis it is.
  • We pledge to allocate the time and resources needed to cover this crisis.
  • We pledge to acknowledge and address racist coverage.
  • We pledge to cover mass shootings as part of the larger gun violence problem.
  • We pledge to focus our resources on grassroots efforts.
  • We pledge to learn the lessons of the pandemic.

Now I may be a little stupid, or perhaps it’s just that I’m a 76-year-old gun nut which makes me kind of dumb, but I always thought that journalists didn’t need to subscribe to any sort of guidelines beyond the basic guideline which requires that they tell the truth. And in order to tell the truth about any issue on which you want to exercise your journalistic training, experience, and skills, it seems to me that the first and most important prerequisite is that you know at least something about the subject you are writing about.

Do the journalists who attended the CJR’s summit on gun violence know something about violence?  I’m sure they do. Do they know something about racism? Ditto that one too. Do they know something about mass shootings? That’s an easy one – there’s at least one mass shooting every week, sometimes every day.

But what I find both interesting and somewhat aggravating (but remember, I’m just an old, White gun nut living on 15 acres of woodland in Western Massachusetts) is that none of these journalists seem to know anything about the industry whose products create something we call gun violence.  In fact, I don’t recall the last time I ever read a single story about gun violence which said anything about how and why the products that create the violence are designed, manufactured, advertised, or sold.

Give you one quick example of how completely devoid the reportage on gun violence is from any kind of reality about guns. Ever hear of a group called the NASGW? It’s the trade group owned by the 30 national gun distributors who sell at least 90% of the guns made and imported every year which end up in the hands of consumers and then, in some cases, wind up in the street.

Every year the NASGW holds a meeting where the gun makers get together with the wholesalers, the road reps, and the PR outfits. The companies that make optics, ammunition and accessories show up too. They spend two days talking about the gun market and talking about which products they are going to promote, the prices they are going to charge, and the narratives which will be used to promote those products over the next year.

Want to understand how and why certain kinds of guns end up being used to commit gun violence or what the CJR manifesto refers to as the ‘unfolding health crisis?’ You can subscribe to the CJR guidelines all you want, but if you don’t spend two days walking around the NASGW meeting, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Several years ago, I sent an email to a dozen gun researchers and journalists asking if any of them had ever heard of the NASGW, never mind covering their annual event. How many responded in the affirmative? If you guess ‘none,’ you happen to be correct.

If and when my friends who do research or reportage on gun violence ever figure out that maybe, just maybe they need to learn at least something about the industry whose existence is the reason we experience gun violence, I’ll be happy to help them out.

Buy from Amazon: Hunters in the Wilderness (Guns in America Book 2) – Kindle edition by Weisser, Michael R.. Politics & Social Sciences Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

Are Ghost Guns A Threat?

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              Yesterday afternoon, the Department of Justice published a rule on ‘ghost guns,’ which follows from a promise made by Joe that he was going to require more regulation of these particular types of adult toys. Want to build a coffee table for your living room? Go over to Home Depot, buy some wood and maybe some shellac, make sure you have a hammer and nails sitting around in the garage, and you’re good to go.

              Want to build your own Glock? Go on the internet, do a google for ‘build a Glock’ and you’ll come up with website after website that will sell you all the necessary parts. They’ll also send you directions for putting the parts together, drilling a couple of holes in the frame to fit the screws, and in a couple of hours you own a Glock.

              What’s the difference between the new coffee table you stuck in front of the couch as opposed to the new Glock you built and now keep under a pillow on the couch?  The difference, legally speaking, is that there is no difference, because both items were made by you for your own, personal use.

              On the other hand, if you hold a tag sale to get rid of some of your household junk, you might get a few bucks for the coffee table. But if you give or sell the Glock to anyone else, and the gun is traced back to you, there’s a good chance you’ll get convicted of a federal felony, and that’s no fun even if you don’t go to jail.

              Ever since the feds passed their first gun law in 1934, the concept and practice of assigning a unique serial number to every, single manufactured or imported gun has taken on almost mythical proportions for aiding cops in their unending fight against crime. And who’s ever going to argue against helping the cops fight crime?

              There’s only one little problem with this reverential concern for putting serial numbers on guns, namely, since we don’t have any kind of system for registering guns, the odds that the serial number of a gun will help the cops solve a violent crime range from zero to none.

              The ATF loves to pat itself on the back about the hundreds of thousands of gun traces it does every year, in 2019 alone they claim to have used serial numbers to trace 450,000 ‘crime’ guns. In fact, most of those traces, probably at least 80%, had nothing to do with crimes at all. And even if the ATF actually ran traces on 90,000 real ‘crime’ guns, I notice they never give out a number for how many of those traces result in somebody getting arrested for committing a crime.

              The new rule published yesterday by the DOJ requires that any federally licensed gun dealer who sells a ‘ghost’ kit must first log the kit into his Acquisition & Disposition book, give the kit a unique serial number and require that the buyer fill out a 4473 form and pass a background check. The same rule will apply to a licensed gunsmith who repairs a kit.

              So, the DOJ has just given the ATF some more work, ditto the NICS call center run by the FBI. Nobody has any idea about the actual number of ghost guns that are floating around, but the DOJ justifies this new rule, in part, by noting that between 2016 and 2020, the ATF received 23,906 reports of guns without serial numbers being connected to crimes. How many of those guns were given serial numbers by manufacturers and then the numbers were rubbed off? Who knows?

              The FBI estimates that somewhere around 300,000 guns are stolen every year. That’s 1.5 million guns that disappeared during the same timeframe that 24,000 ghost guns were picked up by the cops. Between homicides, aggravated assaults and armed robberies, there are probably 150,000 serious crimes committed each year with serialized guns.

              Want to use an elephant to swat a fly? Just tell the ATF to come up with a new rule for regulating guns. They’ll wheel out the elephant every time.

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Why Do We Keep Buying So Many Guns?

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              Yesterday I wrote about yet another news article which represents the seemingly endless effort by my friends in Gun-control Nation to scare the bejesus out of everyone because Americans keep buying so many guns. Now the fact that the reporter overestimated the number of guns being purchased by maybe a factor of ten to one, oh well, oh well, oh well.

              Anyway, it occurs to me that whether someone believes that having a gun sitting around their home somehow reduces the risk of gun violence, even though the research shows such a belief to be absolutely untrue, is still a belief held by lots of Americans. It’s what my friends in academe would call ‘cognitive dissonance,’ and if we are ever going to come up with an effective strategy to reduce gun violence, we have to figure out why this widespread instance of cognitive dissonance actually exists.

              This issue has actually been studied in quite some detail by my friends in criminology, but their research rarely, if ever, gets mentioned in the current debate about gun control. This is because Gun-control Nation relies overwhelmingly on research conducted by our friends in the field of public health. And everyone knows that all the criminologists want to do about gun violence is to lock ‘em up and throw away the key, whereas public health is all about those ‘underlying’ causes of threats to health – poverty, family dysfunction – which can only be resolved with a more compassionate, enlightened approach.

              I happen to believe that we should not only look at research by criminologists about gun violence but make a point of spending as much time discussing that kind of research as we spend discussing the research conducted by our friends in public health. I say this for one, simple reason, namely, that even including suicides, at least 90% of all gun violence happens to be a crime.

              Now you may not like the fact that when some jerk walks up to someone, pulls a gun out of his pocket and shoots the other guy in the head, that he happens to have committed a very serious crime for which we have always believed that some kind of punishment must be meted out. Okay, okay, the shooter comes from a violent family, he’s got no job, he’s what my father would call a ‘poor, unfortunate.’

              But he just killed or injured someone else. And because he did it with the gun, the odds that he killed his victim are far greater than if he had attempted to injure that other person in any other way.  And in case you didn’t know it, the guns that are used in just about every assault are designed only for the purpose of killing or injuring yourself or someone else.

              I have just read four pieces of criminological research on why people believe they need a gun to protect themselves, which is what everyone says is the reason for the spike in gun sales since the appearance of Covid-19. You can download these articles from my website here, here, here and here,

              It turns out that people who buy or own guns often suffer from less fear than people who don’t. Maybe this has to do with other psychological factors which cause some people to become gun owners, maybe it’s access to a gun which reduces their fears. The research isn’t definitive either way.

              But what the research does seem to indicate is that much of the fear which may be driving the current spike in gun sales comes “when politicians pro[1]pose restrictive immigration policies, they employ menacing portrayals of immigrants, which are widely reproduced in the media.” Sound familiar? It should.

              The good news is that the biggest noisemaker in this respect has just been told that he won’t be coming back on Facebook any time soon.

On the other hand, when Trump first started his race-mongering about immigrants, gun sales actually went down. But let’s not forget that Covid-19 wasn’t a home-grown virus. It was, after all, the ‘Chinese flu.’

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Will We Ever Get Anything Other Than ‘Fake News’ About Guns?

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              Maybe the rate of pandemic infections is finally starting to go down, certainly there seems to be in most locations a clear drop in the number of patients being hospitalized with Covid-19. But one thing which hasn’t seemed to be negatively impacted by the pandemic are the stories about guns and gun violence which continue to be wrong.

              The latest nonsense came out yesterday in a story from WENY News in Ithaca, NY with the headline that has become all too common everywhere: ‘Gun Background Checks Soared in April.’ Let me tell you how they ‘soared.’

              FBI-NICS background checks for handgun transfers ‘soared’ from 1,392,677 in March to 961,947 last month.  Want to tell me how a month-to-month drop of 31 percent is some kind of soar? As for year-to-date sales, there were 984,872 handgun checks in April 2020, as opposed to 961,947 in April 2021. That’s only a drop of 2 percent, but it sure ain’t no increase at all.

              So, where’s all these soaring gun sales taking place? They are taking place, according to this story, in high-crime areas where people now feel they need guns to protect themselves from the hordes who are making the street unsafe. One such high-crime area is the town of Des Plaines, IL, where the owner of a gun shop says that he’s selling every gun in the place.

              Now the fact that the crime rate in Des Plaines happens to be 50 percent below the national crime rate average, so what? Obviously, this gun shop is being overwhelmed by all the people coming up from Chicago, right?  Meanwhile, the reporter who wrote this story could have asked the owner of the Des Plaines gun shop to scan through the FBI-NICS background check forms from last month just to see exactly how many customers who bought guns from him actually live in the Windy City. God forbid a reporter would actually attempt to verify what she is told by someone who has a vested interest in promoting the sale of guns.

              But the story gets better as we read down through the text. Demand for guns in Illinois may not be reflected just by counting FBI-NICS background checks in that state. The next-door state, Indiana, according to this story, had 187,000 background checks last month, the third highest in the entire U.S.A.

              In fact, this statement is so far away from being true that I really don’t understand how it got into the story at all. Background checks in Indiana for gun transfers didn’t even reach 50,000.  The reporter seems to believe that when the FBI-NICS phone bank does a background check on a gun license renewal that this should be counted as the transfer of a gun.

              Good. Let the reporter believe whatever she wants to believe. She can also believe that the Covid-19 virus actually came back from a secret mission to Mars, or maybe it’s another new weapon being tested at Area 51.

              I’m going to cut today’s column off a bit short, but I think you get the point. When it comes to disinformation floating around the last several years, you don’t need to get disinformed by watching Fox News or CNN. You can just go to Google, do a search for ‘guns,’ or ‘gun violence,’ and what will come up are endless stories from various news sources which are just as misinformed as the story published yesterday on WENY.

              In the interests of full disclosure (a phrase I love almost as much as I love the phrase ‘we are fully cooperating with the investigation’) I should add that the story contains this following statement: This story and headline have been corrected. An earlier version overstated the number of gun sales that have been recorded in Illinois.

              If the editors at WENY believe that the story is now accurate and true, all I can say is what Grandpa would have said, “Oy, zuch en vai,” I’d rather not say what it means.

What Does The ATF Really Do?

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              Want to read an article about gun violence which contains so many misstatements that it qualifies as ‘fake news?’ Try the article published in The New York Times about Joe’s decision to appoint David Chipman to run the ATF.

              I have nothing against Chipman. He and I have talked several times, and he’s a decent, stand-up guy. He retired from ATF and now does a gig with Gabby’s gun-control group.  He’s hardly the ‘fiery’ former agent that the NYT claims him to be.

              The inaccuracies in the NYT article run much deeper than whether they have created a false impression about David Chipman. The bottom line is that this article simply doesn’t show the slightest understanding of what the ATF has done or hasn’t done about gun violence over the last nearly fifty years.

              The ATF was assigned its current regulatory role over guns in the government’s most sweeping gun law to date – the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA68). The agency enforces the regulation of gun commerce, i.e., the interstate movement of guns. This happens to be the proper role of all federal regulatory agencies, whether the agency regulates the interstate movement of guns, cigarettes, money, potato chips, or anything else.

              Meanwhile, even though just about every gun which is used in an act of gun violence crossed a state line at some point in time, the control of gun violence, at the point where gun violence actually occurs, is left up to the individual states. That’s what federalism is all about, right?

              The GCA68 preamble says the law is intended to help law-enforcement agencies do a better job of dealing with crime. So, the ATF, from its very beginnings in the gun thing, operates in a kind of no-man’s land. The agency’s only statutory authority is to make sure that the behavior of the individuals who engage in gun commerce – manufacturers, wholesalers, dealers – follow the rules which define how guns move legally from one state to another state. When it comes to guns being used to commit gun violence, such events have little to do with the activities of the ATF at all.

              My gun shop was inspected by the ATF in 2014. Three agents from the regulatory division showed up and examined the paperwork covering more than several thousand transactions which had occurred in my shop over the previous years. At the end of this exercise, which went on for several months and involved at least a dozen separate visits to my shop, I couldn’t produce the requisite paperwork on the sale of – ready? – three guns.

              To complete the inspection, I had to call the ‘stolen-missing gun’ lady at the ATF’s Atlanta office, give her the serial number of those three guns, which she then put on some master list which presumably is used to figure out something about missing or stolen guns.

              One of the three ‘missing’ guns was the frame of an old Mossberg shotgun which couldn’t be fired because it didn’t have a barrel, or a trigger, or a stock. But the frame had a serial number which made it a gun. Another of the ‘missing’ guns was a 22-caliber, Iver Johnson revolver, which was manufactured sometime before World War II.

According to GCA68, my failure to produce the requisite paperwork on these two ‘weapons’ constituted a ‘threat’ to public safety. Such threats are felonies, punishable by up to five years in jail.

The NYT article follows  closely from a long, detailed report on the ATF published by the Center for American Progress (CAP) in 2015. That report was based on interviews with more than 90 staff from the FBI and ATF.  The NYT story was based on interviews with 50 ATF staffers and others. Neither the CAP report, nor the NYT article referenced an interview with a single individual – dealer, wholesaler, manufacturer – whose business activities are regulated by the ATF.

How do you determine the effectiveness of a regulatory agency without talking to at least one person whose entire business activity is controlled by what the regulatory agency does or doesn’t do?

You don’t.

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A New Gun Group To Protect Gun ‘Rights.’

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              Last year I began giving out an award for the dumbest gun law proposed in any state. The winner was Matt Gaetz, who proposed a law requiring owners of commercial spaces which didn’t allow guns to compensate any customer who was gunned down because a bad guy walked into the space with a gun, but no good guy was allowed to carry a gun.

              I am now starting a new contest, which will give an award to whomever comes up with the dumbest idea for creating an organization that will promote gun ‘rights,’ something that I see happening more frequently, given the apparent demise of the NRA.

              And the award this year goes toThe Center for Gun Rights and Responsibility (CGRR) founded by Dan Gross and Rob Pincus, an effort kicked off at a rally in front of the Capitol in 2019, attended it was said by ‘thousands’ of folks, even though the video of the event showed many less people milling about.

              What does the CGRR want to accomplish?  You can read all about the group in an op-ed published last month by Gross in (where else?) The New York Times, where Gross, the ex-head of the Brady Campaign, explains why what he and Pincus want to accomplish will work because it will “end the culture war” on guns.

              Pincus, you should know, considers himself to be a champion of not only the ‘right’ to own a gun, but the ‘right’ to carry the gun around. He cloaks himself in the unquestioned mantle of being a gun ‘educator,’ because who would ever question the value of ‘education,’ right? 

              Pincus earns his living by selling what he refers to as ‘gun safety’ videos which allegedly educate gun owners how to walk around with a gun but only to use it in a ‘safe’ way. So-called gun trainers like Pincus have been inventing totally worthless courses on armed, self-defense since Jeff Cooper first published Principles of Personal Defense back in 1972. Here are the first two sentences of that book: “Some people prey upon other people. Whether we like it or not, this is one of the facts of life.”

              To Coop’s credit, he makes it clear right at the outset that people who don’t want to protect themselves with armed response have no reason to read his book. And most of the folks who have bought and read this book (like me) don’t necessarily always go walking around with a gun.

              But for those who do view human relations in terms of predators and prey, they will find plenty of fun and games in the videos sold by Rob Pincus and other scam trainers just like him. There’s a reason why more than 125,000 people get The United States Concealed Carry Association’s magazine every month.

              Is it just coincidence that Dan Gross and Rob Pincus began ramping up their new approach to ending the gun culture war when the NRA began to fold its tent? I doubt it. If anyone believes there’s a whole bunch of Gun-nut Nation members just waiting to find ‘common ground’ with the tree-huggers on the other side of the gun debate, they are either delusional, totally unaware of how gun owners think about gun control, or both. Probably both.

              I conducted a survey of more than 1,500-gun owners and non-gun owners to determine what types of gun laws were considered effective on both sides to reduce gun violence. More than 60% of all respondents supported CAP laws, more than 70% supported universal background checks.

              Guess what? More than 50% of all respondents favored national concealed-carry and the same percentage supported eliminating gun-free zones. Since roughly 40% of American households contain guns, even some people who don’t own guns support gun laws that are the priorities of the gun ‘rights’ crowd. You can download an analysis of this survey right here.

              Woodrow Wilson’s VP, Thomas Marshall, said “What this country needs is a good, five-cent cigar.” Let’s add to that statement what Dan Gross and Rob Pincus are saying about the gun ‘culture war.’

Read it for free on Amazon: The Deadliest Pathogen: Guns and Homicide (Guns in America Book 10) – Kindle edition by Weisser, Michael. Politics & Social Sciences Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com..

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