Want To Reduce Gun Violence? Just Ask Donald Trump How To Do It.


              Over the last ten years, the United States has contained roughly 4% of the world’s total population.  Every year, the per-100K homicide rate in the U.S. stands around 5.5, in the other advanced countries, the rate is somewhere around 3.5.

              How does the United States, with the fifth-highest per-capita GDP income in the OECD, wind up with a homicide rate that is almost twice as high as every other advanced nation-state?

              The answer has been supplied to us by our good friend David Hemenway at the Chan – Harvard University School of Public Health. And what David has been saying is that the difference between our rate of violence and what occurs throughout the rest of the OECD is basically caused by the three hundred, or maybe four hundred million guns that we have floating around. You can download and read David’s research right here.

              David’s work comes on top of the research published in 1993 by Art Kellerman and Frederick Rivara, who found an indisputable causal link between homicide and access to guns in the home.  You can also download and read this article here.

              The publication of the Kellerman-Rivara research ignited a firestorm on the other side of the debate, i.e., the gun industry and its supporters who didn’t like being told that their beloved toys represented a threat to public health. This bunch, in and out of academe, even got the CDC to stop funding gun research, although of late,  that funding has been restored. Fine. Good. Big deal.

              The reason I am skeptical of what might actually be the result of this new wave of gun research can be found in a lengthy and detailed document published by the World Health Organization and the United Nations back in 2014. Entitled, ‘Global Status Report on Violence Prevention, 2014,’ you can also download and read it here. But I suggest you give yourself plenty of time to download this report, which happens to be 275 pages in length and contains specific data from 133 countries, which in 2014 represented nearly 90 percent of everyone living on the globe.

              Why did the WHO-UN group conduct this research and publish this report? Because interpersonal violence, which they define as homicide, results in between 450,000 and 500,000 deaths every year, is the third-highest cause of death for males in the 15-44 years age group, and is usually preceded by non-fatal sexual or physical abuse which then leads to “lifelong ill health – particularly for women and children – and early death.” That sums it up kind of nicely, doesn’t it?

              The problem with this report, all the data notwithstanding, is that we aren’t given any real guidance for bringing the homicide rate in the U.S. down to where it would be equal or less than what occurs throughout the OECD. In fact, of the 52 specific legal and programmatic categories which the report covers for every country, the United States only lacks two specific violence-related laws, one which would make gang membership a specific criminal offense, and the other providing funds for victim representation in court.

              In other words, the country with the highest rate of homicide in the OECD also ranks highest in the number of laws and programs which exist in response to homicides which take place. And nowhere in this entire report is this anomaly pointed out. Nowhere. Thanks a lot.

              In fact, what makes this report so difficult for me to read or accept is that the data on U.S. interpersonal violence is lumped into a basked called ‘the Americas,’ which contains data from countries like Honduras and Guatemala, nice, peaceful countries like that.

              There is, however, one interesting comparison that can be made between the rate of violence in the United States versus the rate in countries both within and without the OECD. In the United States, the percentage of homicides committed with a gun is 68 percent. In the U.K., the percentage is less than 10 percent. In Italy, it’s 45 percent, Germany is 13 percent.

              Now let’s look at the other American shooting galleries – oops – I mean countries.. In Honduras guns are used in 83 percent of all homicides, the percentage for Guatemala is 82 percent. Mexico, however, is just like the U.S.- the use of guns in homicides is only 68 percent. Colombia, with all those drug cartels, has a gun-use percentage of 78 percent.

              Know what the percentage is in Cuba? Try zero. That’s right. None. But let’s not forget that Cuba, after all, is a Communist state and we know ‘for a fact’ that the first thing the Commies always do when they take over is they rid of all the privately-owned guns.

              The per-100,000 homicide rate in Colombia was 34. Our rate is 5.5. Cuba’s homicide rate is 4.8. Want to have guns or do you want to have murders? We seem to be the only advanced country which has both.

              The good news is that at least the voters in America had the sense to get rid of the very first President who claimed that he would do anything to make sure that Americans could own guns to protect themselves from crime. Except the data in the WHO-UN report completely contradicts that nonsense, but since when does Donald Trump ever base anything he says on evidence-based facts?

              The WHO-UN report says that the United States has laws which ‘regulate’ civilian access to guns, but the report also notes that the laws vary from state to state.

The bottom line is this: As long as certain kinds of guns are regulated and not banned, we will continue to experience a level of violence which makes us a 3rd-world country in this respect.

Don’t like what I just said? Go argue with the WHO and the UN, not with me. And while you’re at it, don’t waste your time with Trump.

Do Guns Protect Us Or Hurt Us?


              Ever since Art Kellerman and Fred Rivara published research in 1993-94 which definitively linked gun access to increased homicides and suicides, the issue of whether guns protect us from harm or create more harm has been the basic dividing-line between the two sides.

              The ‘guns keep us safe’ argument is identified most frequently in the work of our friend John Lott, whose book, More Guns, Less Crime makes the connection between the issuance of concealed-carry licenses and violent crime rates to argue that as the former number goes up, the latter number goes down.

              The ‘guns make us less safe’ argument is identified most frequently in the work of our other friend, David Hemenway, who makes the connection between per-capita gun ownership and violent crime rates to argue that as the former number goes up, the latter number goes up as well.

              I happen to believe that both of my friends know a lot about statistics and how to use data to develop interesting arguments based on regression methodologies. I also happen to believe that neither of my two friends know anything about guns. Because if they did, they would never use only the numbers on murders committed with guns to make their argument, regardless of whether or not they argue pro-gun or anti-gun.

              Why do both John and David restrict their definition of gun violence only to the number of people who end up dying because someone else shot them with a gun? Because they can’t get good data, verifiable data on the number of people who are shot by someone else but still manage to survive the event.

              The CDC never had good numbers on injuries from non-fatal gun assaults, their estimates were, at best, off by more than thirty percent. And a few years ago, they stopped publishing any data on non-fatal gun assaults, so the whole argument about gun violence rests only on the number of people who are shot and killed.

              And this is where the analysis of gun violence, either pro-gun or anti-gun, comes up short when it’s being done by well-intentioned researchers like John Lott and David Hemenway, neither of whom know very much about guns.

              Here’s the bottom line: The only difference, repeat, the only difference between fatal and non-fatal gun assaults is that in the latter instance, the guy using the gun didn’t shoot straight. He didn’t shoot straight because either he was pointing the gun at a moving target, or the event took place at night in low light, or he just hadn’t practiced enough to hit the target where the bullet would hit a vital spot.

              Guys walking around with guns don’t ever pull their gun out with the intention of shooting someone else in the leg, or the arm, or some other non-vital spot. The gun is yanked out, and if it’s a semi-automatic pistol the trigger will be pulled again and again, and either the victim goes down or he doesn’t go down. That’s the end of that.

              Both Hemenway and Lott are making arguments about guns and violent crime that don’t even remotely capture the reality of gun violence in the United States. So, for example, John Lott recently published an op-ed in which he compared the total number of homicides, with or without a gun, against the estimates for defensive gun uses and found the latter to outnumber the former by four or five to one.

              But if John had compared defensive gun events to the total number of gun assaults, fatal and non-fatal assaults, his argument about the value of guns used for self-protection would collapse. By the same token, David’s comparison of fatal gun violence to per-capita gun ownership is equally invalid, for the simple reason that most of the guns in America’s civilian arsenal happen to be guns designed for hunting and sport and never (read: never) end up being used in any kind of gun violence at all.

              If it were the case that the research published by my two friends never went beyond an entry on their CV’s, I wouldn’t really care what they said or didn’t say. But this research is what is used by both sides in the gun debate to promote and/or justify their ideas about what we should do to reduce the number of injuries and deaths cause by the use of guns.

              Know what happens when you create a law to regulate a problem but don’t understand what the problem is all about? The law has no real effect at all.

              Gee – what a surprise that gun violence keeps going up, not down.

Trump Disappears And The NRA Stops Being Crazy. Gee, What A Surprise.

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              To show you how far from reality the National Rifle Association used to be, and how much closer to reality they have become in the post-Trump age, you might want to take a look at a recent rant by Grant Stinchfield, who used to headline NRA-TV.

              Stinchfield now does a show on Newsmax, which is one of the alt-right media venues that began popping up on the internet a decade or so ago.  Their website draws a whole, big million visits a day, which in a country whose population now is more than 325 million, that number is what Grandpa would call ‘kasha mit varnishkes’ (read: a disgusting dish made of oatmeal and boiled pasta) which is what he called everything that had no real value at all.

              Stinchfield used this episode to advise the Republicans how to deal with the debt issue before they ‘caved in.’ And his advice was to shut down four federal agencies which eat up a lot of government spending and aren’t doing anything worthwhile at all. First on his list, of course, was the Department of Education, because everyone knows that only fools and liberals want to learn how to read and write.

              The other three agencies which aren’t any more important than the Department of Education are Commerce, EPA and Energy.  After all, we don’t need to know how much the economy is growing or sometimes not growing. We certainly don’t need to worry about clean water or clean air. And if we don’t need to worry about clean air then we certainly don’t need to be concerned about how much energy we are using, so to hell with the Department of Energy as well.

              Obviously, Stinchfield is just reading from a script that his producer knows is what the Newsmax audience wants to hear. Whether he actually believes any of this nonsense is beyond the point. What isn’t beyond the point is that when he did a daily rant for NRA-TV, his comments were just as stupid, just as loony, and just as focused on the most extreme, far-right idiots who happen to own guns.

              The NRA always promoted some degree of political messaging because, after all, the organization needed to speak out publicly to support gun owner’s rights, which meant the usual patriotic stuff about the 2nd Amendment versus the idea that liberals and Democrats didn’t like guns. 

              Every year at the NRA national show, a few Republican politicians would show up and say he same thing about talking to a group of ‘real Americans,’ but the year that Gaston Glock appeared and signed autographs at the Glock booth, he outdrew all the political luminaries by maybe ten to one.

              NRA’s descent into crazy political messaging really started in 2016 when they endorsed Donald Trump at their annual meeting. At the time, I wasn’t surprised that they broke with their tradition of endorsing the GOP Presidential candidate in October and endorsed Trump in April because Hillary was a fearsome candidate who was talking about guns in a rather unpleasant and confrontational way.

              In fact, I am convinced that had Hillary become President with a blue Congress behind her, she would have re-introduced the gun-control measure that Andy Cuomo, then head of HUD, had written for Bill Clinton, a plan which would have effectively ended the retail gun business in the United States.

              I also wasn’t particularly bothered by the $30 million that the NRA anted up for the 2016 Clinton campaign.  It was more money than the NRA had ever given to any, single Presidential campaign, but when you’re talking about a political campaign which runs into the hundreds of millions of dollars, thirty million is still chump change. Would that money get Wayne-o into the White House from time to time?  Of course it would. But the NRA was always on the VIP list whenever a Republican sat behind the Resolute desk.

              What bothered me was that the NRA turned itself into a video production company featuring some of the worst, most inflammatory and stupidly alt-right messaging that I had ever seen.  You had that other idiot, the home-school queen Dana Loesch talking about how everyone needed a gun to protect themselves against cities being burned to the ground by radical hordes, and you had Stinchfield ranting on and on about how liberals would not only take away all the guns but were in the process of building a Fascist-style state, using illegal immigrants to take apart what good, law-abiding Americans had built over the years.

              The whole NRA-TV deal collapsed when it turned out that NRA’s then-PR company, Ackermn-McQueen, was lying about the number of people who watched NRA-TV video shows. The legal wrangle between the NRA and Ack-Ack is still going on, but NRA-TV closed down in June 2019.

              Go to the NRA website today and it’s business as usual once again. The lead stories are about next year’s annual meeting, a new banking relationship with a real bank, a chance to win a Ford truck and, by the way, the re-election of Wayne-o as the outfit’s Executive VP.

              In other words, maybe the NRA has learned something from the 2020 election, which is that the country, including both gun owners and non-gun owners, have a few more important things to be worried about than the predations of the Deep State.

Why Do Americans Like Guns?


              Yesterday I received an email from one of the gun-control organizations telling me that the time has come for all of us to support “bold, evidence-based comprehensive policies” to overcome “well-funded information campaigns” which have led a majority of Americans to believe that guns will keep them safe.

              Gun-control Nation has been running this narrative about the ‘well-funded’ pro-gun campaigns up the flagpole for almost the last thirty years. At the same time, evidence-based studies on gun violence definitively show that access to a gun increases, not decreases risk.

              How do we account for this cognitive dissonance between what the research shows and what a majority of Americans believe? It has to be all that money which Gun-nut Nation spends to define and promote their side of the debate, right?

              Unfortunately, there’s only one little problem with this point of view. And the problem lies in the assumption made and supported throughout Gun-control Nation-land, that people make up their minds about issues because one side outspends the other in getting their message across.

              And even if this assumption was true, the NRA happens to be broke, and none of the other pro-gun organizations have ever been known for spending money on politics at all. And even if they did, how do you compare what Gun-nut Nation gives in political donations to what Mike Bloomberg forks up alone? You can’t.

              According to Gallup, right now somewhere around 40 percent of American homes contain at least one gun, a number that has been dropping but-by-bit over the last twenty years. At the same time, the number of Americans who believe a home is safer with a gun is twice as high as the number who believe that a gun in the home makes you less safe.

              I don’t care how much money pro-gun groups like NRA spend on spreading their unique brand of ‘disinformation’ around about guns because little or any of that money is spent to reach Americans who don’t own guns.

              If you represent a state like my state – Massachusetts – in Congress, you don’t vote pro-gun. You don’t vote pro-gun because most Massachusetts residents don’t own guns. You vote pro-gun if you come to D.C. from states like Montana or Nebraska because everyone in those states owns a gun.

              But the issue of how people make up their minds about guns isn’t just a function of gun ownership. If the Gallup gun polls are at all accurate, there happen to be a lot of Americans who don’t own guns but also believe that having a gun is a better way to protect yourself than not having a gun. Forty percent of American homes contain a gun, but sixty percent of Americans think that a gun keeps you safe. Get it?

              I look at these polls and then I receive a well-intentioned email from a gun-control group complaining about the ‘disinformation’ being produced by the other side in the gun debate. My reaction is that there’s something wrong with what my friends in Gun-control Nation either believe or what they want me to believe, or both.

              If gun-control advocates and activists are convinced that we need more meaningful and effective gun laws in order to reduce gun violence, then how do you get such laws through Congress when a majority of your fellow Americans don’t happen to share your views on the risks represented by access to guns?

              You’re not going to persuade a lot of Americans who believe the ‘disinformation’ coming out of Gun-nut Nation to change their minds because you have done evidence-based research which shows that not owning a gun makes you safer than owning a gun. The only way you can possibly persuade these individuals to change their minds and come over to the gun-control side is to – ready? – try to figure why they believe a gun makes you safe.

              Back in the 1980’s two-thirds of gun owners said they owned a gun for hunting or sport, one-third said that the primary reason they owned a gun was to protect themselves and their families from harm. Forty years later, those percentages have reversed. Now for every American who says he owns a gun to go hunting, there are two gun owners who say they want to protect themselves with a gun.

              The standard explanation for this shift is usually the idea that hunting is simply an outdoor activity which is no longer why people go out to the outdoors. But I don’t think this is true. Because if it was, how come the people who stopped hunting or never hunted decided they needed a gun for self-defense? Why didn’t they just decide not to buy a personal-defense gun?

              For all the talk by Gun-control Nation about the dangers to community safety that exist because so many people own or are buying guns to protect themselves or protect someone else, I have yet to see a single, serious piece of research which even attempts to figure out why almost two-thirds of Americans believe that a gun keeps you safe.

              Given how the gun-control community seems to venerate evidence-based research to develop strategies for reducing gun violence, you would think that there would be at least some attempt to do some research that would provide answers to one, very simple question: Why do people like guns?

              Not a single researcher has ever asked me to explain why I have 50 or 60 guns lying around.

Another School Shooting? What Else Is New?


              This morning I got some kind of message about a high school shooting in Alington, TX so I turned on the TV and switched back and forth between Fox and CNN.  And by 1 PM or so the shootings seemed to be over with four injured kids and adults being taken to a local hospital and the shooter, an 18-year old, still at large.

              This past Monday, two members of Florida’s Congressional delegation who both happen to be Democrats, held a press conference to discuss a bill they have filed called the School Shooting Safety and Preparedness Act, that will require the Departments of Education, Justice and HHS to gather, compile and publish data on school shootings that will allow legislators to “develop policies and strategies to curb some of this preventable bloodshed at America’s places of learning.”

              Those words came out of the mouth of Debbie Wasserman Schultz who art one time was the Chair of the DNC but had to resign in 2016 when it turned out that she and some other DNC members got together to try and derail the Bernie Sander campaign. Her Congressional District by the way, happens to be right next to the CD which covers the town of Parkland, where a mass shooting in the high school killed and injured thirty-four adults and students in 2018.

              So, Congresswoman Schultz believes we need more information about school shootings in order to know what to do? And she gets paid $174,000 a year plus bennies to get up in public and announce such crap? 

              What I’m going to say right now may come as a great shock to Representative Schultz and any other Member of Congress who signs on to this bill, but we have all the information we need to prevent every single school shooting from ever taking place. 

              Go back to the first big shooting, which was when a former Marine named Charles Whitman went up to the top of the tower on the University of Texas campus ion 1966, and over the next 90 minutes shot and killed fifteen people, wounded another thirty-one and was himself then shot and killed by an armed civilian and a cop.

              Over the years since then there have been other school shootings at places like Columbine, Umpqua Community College, Virginia Tech and of course the big gugga-mugga at Sandy Hook. These are only the shootings which left more than 10-15 people getting injured and dead. Only four people taken to the hospital in Arlington today?  It’s three or four hours since the shooting took place and it’s already off the front page of the news.

              Now what do every, single one of these shootings have in common which they happen to share with the more than three hundred deaths and injuries that Americans suffer from guns every day. Not every week. Not every month. Every friggin’ day.

              And the reason that these shootings never get the headline on the mid-day report from Fox or CNN is that most of these shootings involve either older White men who live in small towns out in the boondocks and shoot themselves or involve younger men and boys who happen to live in what we now politely refer to as ‘underserved zones.’

We used to call these neighborhoods slums, then we became a little more sensitive to the feelings of the slum dwellers and we started talking about ‘ghettos,’ then ‘inner-city neighborhoods’ and now these places are ‘underserved.’

Let me tell you something about these slums or underserved neighborhoods or whatever you want to call them. Since the 1950’s, and I can’t find any data which goes back earlier than 70 years, the people living in these God-forsaken locations have been getting shot at rates that are ten times or higher than what happens in the more, shall we say, ‘proper’ neighborhoods throughout the United States.

My office is located in the South End of Springfield, MA, a neighborhood mostly Hispanic and Black where nobody has a job. The gun-violence rate in this neighborhood is up there with Honduras, maybe even a little worse. Cross the city line and you’re in the suburb of Longmeadow where there hasn’t been a crime involving the use of a gun for at least the last ten years.

When some kids in a suburban high school in Arlington, TX get shot, the story makes the national news. When someone who lives in Springfield’s South End gets shot, it doesn’t even make the local news.

But both of these acts of violence come from the same source, and with all dure respect to Debbie Wasserman who hasn’t yet figured out what to do about these shootings, the answer is right in front of her nose.

Get rid of the goddamn guns.

Will I Be Able To Carry A Concealed Gun?


              Now that everyone else seems to be shooting their mouths off about the upcoming 2nd-Amendment case that will be heard before the Supreme Court, maybe it’s time for Mike the Gun Guy™ to add his nickel aa well.

              The issue in question is whether or not the definition of the 2nd Amendment should be extended to include Constitutional protection for carrying a concealed weapon outside of the home. Since 2008, the 2nd Amendment protects the existence of a privately-owned handgun (but not a long gun) in the home. But what if I want to protect myself with a gun while I’m walking around?

              The law in question is what happens in New York State, where getting the cops to allow you to carry a concealed weapon in the street is tantamount to getting the cops to let you jaywalk because you just don’t want to stand there waiting for the light to change.

              In other words, it doesn’t happen too often and in some pats o the state, like th five counties which comprise New York City, it doesn’t happen at all.

              Actually, you can carry a concealed weapon in New York City but only if you go through a rigorous and time-consuming background investigation in which you prove that you need to carry a gun given your line of work.

              So, someone who works as an armed security guard can get a concealed-carry license, ditto someone whose job requires them to move around the city carrying lots of cash. On the other hand, if you tell the NYOD Licensing Division that you want to carry a gun concealed gun because it will make you feel more safe, you’ll get the same answer that you’d get from Grandpa, ‘gai macht,’ (read: stick it up your you-know-what.)

              Interestingly, this case has brought into conflict two groups who usually find themselves on the same side.  A brief from the ACLU argues that carrying a concealed weapon in the street is a threat to public safety and should be restricted or altogether thrown out. However, a brief from a coalition of public defender groups which represents minority individuals charged with illegal possession of guns says that the current law discriminates against poor and non-White residents and should be dumped.

              I lived in New York City and held a concealed-carry license issued by the NYPD because I was an employee of an agency that supplied armed guards and sometimes had to travel to locations to make sure that our guards showed up and were doing what they were hired to do. If our armed security guy for some reason didn’t show up, I had to provide the armed protection myself.

              In order to be given a concealed-carry license in New York City, I had to appear at the NYPD Licensing Division for interviews no less than three, separate times. The first time I had to bring all the necessary documentation and answer a bunch of questions thrown at me by some half-asleep cop who was even more bored by he whole process than me.

              The second time I went back for another interview and also gave the Licensing Division the type of gun I planned to carry around, along with the name of the gun dealer where I was going to buy the gun.

              The third time I had to show up and let another half-asleep cop inspect the gun to make sure it was the weapon that the NYPD was allowing me to carry around.

              Between six back-and-forth subway trips to the Licensing Division, which of course was delayed at least twice, two trips to and from the gun dealer first to choose and then to buy the gun, and the time spent sitting around at NYPD headquarters waiting to be interviewed, processed, printed and everything else, I probably spent at least 24 hours getting my license to carry a gun. But at least I got the license. According to the brief filed in this case by the various public defender groups, most minority concealed-carry applicants are turned down.

              What I find most interesting in all the media stories about this upcoming case, however is nowhere does anyone on either side of the issue seem the slightest bit concerned about whether the applicant for a concealed-carry license actually has the slightest bit of experience or ability to use or even pick up a gun.

              At no time during my seemingly endless hegira to the NYPD Licensing Division did anyone ask me if I had ever shot a gun. For that matter, when I came down with the gun I had purchased to have it inspected by the NYPD, I had to hand the gun over to the officer while it was locked up in a small, steel box. I then gave the cop the key to the box and he, not me, reached in and pulled out the gun.

              Now you would think that if New York puts so much emphasis on making sure that people who walk around with a gun in their pocket aren’t a threat to public safety that the licensing procedure would include at least some demonstration to show that the prospective licensee knows how to hold, or God forbid, actually shoot a gun.

              Like so much else in the debate about guns, there just doesn’t seem to be even the slightest bit of reality understood or mentioned by either side.

Think The NRA Is Finished? Think Again.

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              Hey!  Look what I just got!  A beautiful, new hat from my good friend Wayne-o at the NRA.  And when I get done writing and posting this column, I’ll send him back a little cash. Because, after all, what’s more important these days than protecting my freedom by protecting my guns?

              Now you would think after all the sturm und drang surrounding the NRA over the past several years, that the last thing the boys in Fairfax would have time to worry about was sending me a hat. After all, between a bankruptcy filing that they couldn’t get straight, an investigation by the New York State AG which is still going on, the resignations by more Board members and the cancellation of the annual meeting due to Covid-19 concerns, isn’t that enough for any organization to have on its plate?

              I’ll tell you what the NRA has on its plate. It has a lot of dough on its plate. And even though member dues and program fees dropped more than 30% from 2018 to 2019, in the latter year member revenues still went over $135 million and contributions at $108 million stayed the same. That’s total revenue of nearly $250 million in 2019, which ain’t chump change even in my little book.

              Want to know what’s really going on with America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization?’ Take a look at their website where social events hosted by the NRA are found.  Between now and year’s end, there will be ten banquets and get-togethers in Pennsylvania, five gatherings in Ohio, Maryland’s got a couple, Virginia lists four. 

              Know what else Gun-nut Nation is doing with the NRA? Going to gun shows, of which there were more than 100 shows this past weekend, with a bunch of shows in Florida, Colorado, five shows in Texas and a couple of gun shows in PA. And at every one of those shows, the first thing you’ll see when you walk in is a welcome banner from the NRA

              The best thing that ever happened to the NRA was Joe and Kamala’s election last year, believe it or not. How can Mile the Gun Guy™ say something that stupid? Say something that dumb? I’ll tell you why.

              Because on the one hand, the NRA had no choice in 2016 but to hitch its wagon to the MAGA brand, because if Hillary had won the election and the Congress gone blue, there is no doubt in my mind that we would have seen a gun-control bill that would have been a copy of the bill that then-HUD Secretary Andy Cuomo wrote for Bill Clinton back in 1999 which would have left the gun industry, as Grandpa would say, ‘gestorben und fartig’ (read: good and dead.) 

              But glad-handing MAGA ended up costing the NRA more than the $30 million or so that it pumped into Trump’s Presidential campaign. It also cost the organization a loss of vision, a loss of identify and a loss of credibility with the average American, gun owner or not.

              I couldn’t believe how stupid, reckless, and downright inflammatory the NRA messaging became when the group got into video and launched NRA-TV. I don’t know what was worse – Colion Noir prancing around his backyard with an AR-15, or Dana Loesch advising women to arm themselves and protect their families from the radical hordes.

              This wasn’t the NRA that I joined back in 1955.  This wasn’t the NRA that first and foremost promoted shooting sports, hunting and outdoor life. So, the organization always said something about 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ So what?  Was that any different from the support for social security and Medicare promoted by the AARP?

              But the NRA went overboard with Trump, in the same way that Trump went overboard with his hateful rhetoric about immigration, his phony claims about ‘building a wall,’ and his refusal to say anything negative about the Nazis in Charlottesville because, after all, they were just marching down the street exercising their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

              Maybe the Democrats will get some piecemeal gun-control law past Manchin and onto the Oval Office desk. Maybe a couple of more states will enact ERPO statutes or require that all gun transfers only go forward after a background check.

              But this country has lived (and died) with its arsenal of privately-owned guns for more than two hundred years. And as long as some of these gun owners can get together at a weekend gun show or a banquet or a bar-b-que, the NRA will be around.

              Maybe next year Wayne-o will send me a jacket with the Golden Eagles patch. Last year he sent me a Golden Eagles knife which I use to cut some chicken treats each night for Leonard the Cat. And believe me when I tell you that feeding Leonard the Cat some chicken treats is a lot more important than defending my guns and my freedoms from the ‘tyranny’ of the Deep State. 

The Gun Business Just Keeps Making Those Adult Toys.

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              This past week the management of Smith & Wesson announced that the  company would be moving its operations out of Springfield, MA to a new location in Tennessee. The move was in response to what the company believes will be the eventual passage of a state law that would prohibit the manufacture of assault-style rifles, which happens to be a major source of income for the gun maker which has been operating in Springfield since 1852.

              I bought my first S&W gun in 1956 when I was 12 years old.  It was a K-frame, .38-special revolver with a 6-inch barrel, the gun that most cops in the United States were carrying as their duty weapon. S&W took the police market away from Colt’s Firearms after World War II, but the company’s military and police dominance would be short-lived. By the mid-70’s, the hi-capacity European pistols made by Beretta, Sig and Glock, particularly Glock, were taking over the tax-exempt market, and S&W fell into a slow but steady decline which lasted until the company revived its product line, in particular by pushing its assault-rifle lineup, or what was called the ‘modern sporting gun.’

              Over the years, this ‘sporting’ gun was used to kill and injure more than 80 theater-goers at the movie theater in Aurora, CO, it was also used to kill and injure 34 students at the high school in Parkland, FL, and was the weapon of choice at I don’t know how many other gun rampages over the years.

              Every time one of these ‘sporting’ slaughters occurs, S&W issues some stupid statement about how their products were manufactured and sold according to law, a statement which neatly parallels the ‘hopes and prayers’ that pro-gun politicians always pronounce to cover their asses after the same events.

              The company’s management is moving the assembly of these ‘sporting’ guns to a factory in Tennessee but will continue to operate its forge and some other manufacturing activities at the old Springfield site. That being the case, the gun bill that would prohibit assembling an assault rifle in Massachusetts just has to be amended to prohibit manufacturing of any component of the assault rifle, and S&W’s attempt to find a safe harbor for its line of ‘modern sporting guns’ would be as good as dead.

              Want to know what would really end gun violence in the United States? It’s very simple. Pass a federal gun law prohibiting the manufacture and sale of ‘modern sporting guns’ not just in Massachusetts, but anywhere in the United States. The law would need to define ‘modern sporting guns’ not just to cover assault rifles, but to include any semi-automatic, bottom-loading gun of any kind.

              For the life of me, I don’t understand why my friends in Gun-control Nation continue to avoid discussing the most obvious and effective way to end gun violence, which is to get rid of the guns whose use creates the violence. Yea, yea, yea – I know all about the 2nd Amendment ‘right’ to own a gun. But the 2nd Amendment doesn’t say one, goddamn word about the type of gun.

              Incidentally, laws which prohibit the sale and ownership of bottom-loading, semi-automatic rifles, shotguns, and pistols exist in every other country which allows residents to own what are really ‘sporting’ guns. Which is why there are plenty of guns floating around countries like Italy, France, Spain, Germany, etc., but rarely does anyone get killed.

              On the other hand, the kid who slaughtered 26 adults and children at Sandy Hook needed less than 4 minutes to shoot off more than 90 rounds. He did it with a ‘sporting’ gun.

              Take a look at the gun pictured above. It’s a new product from Smith & Wesson called the M-12 shotgun, which is also a ‘sporting’ gun. The company claims that it’s the perfect weapon for home defense. Doesn’t this gun look a lot like the guns that are featured in those make-believe gun movies like John Wick?  That’s exactly the point.

              The MSRP on this ‘sporting’ gun is more than a thousand bucks. The gun happens to be a complete piece of cheap, polymer junk. It’s designed to accept all kinds of extra doo-dads, like a scope or a laser or some other accessory that will add another few hundred bucks to the price tag. No wonder in Smith & Wesson’s last financial statement, the company’s gross operating margin was over 40 percent!

              For all the blabber from Gun-nut Nation about how the Constitution protects our gun ‘rights’ and how we need to be armed to resist the ‘tyranny’ of the state, the truth is that the gun business in the United States is fast becoming nothing more than a supplier of look-alike adult toys featured on video and TV.

              The only problem is that these toys shoot real bullets which wind up in the heads, chests, arms, and legs of more than 125,000 men, women, and children every year.

              Is this such a tough one to figure out?

An Must-Read Article On Gun Violence.

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              Our friend Tom Gabor has just published an interesting and important perspective on how to think about gun violence which you can download and read right here. By training and academic experience, Tom’s a criminologist, but in this particular essay he moves into a wide range of issues having to do with both Constitutional and international laws.

              The article draws from many different sources and tries to answer the following question: Do Americans have the right to be safe in their communities? Obviously, with a gun-violence rate that is 7 to 20 higher than any other advanced country, it could be argued that Americans don’t really have such a right.

              Or at least if they do or should have a right to community safety, the 120,000 gun-deaths and injuries each year would indicate that this particular right is not being strictly or even loosely observed.

              Gabor begins his essay by noting that from at least the 17th Century, if not earlier, political philosophers and jurists declared that safety and security were the basis of the social contract which held society together and required governmental intervention whenever the contract got frayed or fell apart.

              The author then notes, and this is a very perceptive observation on his part, that whenever the issue of guns and safety is discussed, the pro-gun argument with its fidelity to the

2nd Amendment tends to win out. And this has been particularly the case since the 2008 Heller decision which, while it left room for the government to restrict gun ‘rights’ by keeping guns out of the ‘wrong’ hands (e.g., criminals, drug addicts, mentally ill, etc.) ultimately comes down as defining the ‘right’ to use a gun for self-defense as being more important than the ‘right’ to avoid getting shot while sitting in a classroom or walking down the street.

              But here is where Gabor’s attempt to find the ‘right’ to be protected by the state against violence caused by the use of guns hits a little snag. And the snag happens to be a rather unique legal and cultural issue in the United States, namely, the ‘right’ to self-defense.

              Ever country recognizes the notion that protecting yourself or others from a threat is consistent with the idea that we have a ‘right;’ to life, and Gabor notes the existence off this concept in international covenants as well. But the United States is the only country in he entire world whose legal system also allows its residents to respond to a perceived threat of injury by not backing away but standing in place and resisting the potential onslaught with force.

              More than half the 50 states have passed laws, called Stand Your Ground (SYG) laws, which basically say that if someone comes on your property without prior invitation or consent, that their presence is ipso facto proof that they might represent a threat which can be responded by you with lethal force.

              In 2015, a 50-year old Black man in St. Louis was sentenced to three years’ probation for killing a 13-year old kid because he believed that the teenager represented a threat to his life. He was sentenced because he killed the kid with an illegal gun. But under Missouri SYG law, he could not be convicted or even charged with murder or aggravated assault because the kid had come on his property to steal something out of the man’s car.

              Laws which allow Americans to pick up a gun and shoot someone who is considered a threat just because that individual has come on their property uninvited happen to be laws that are completely and totally inconsistent with the traditions and precedents that form the basis of our legal system, i.e., the Common Law. And such laws do not (read: not) exist in any other country, such as Australia or South Africa, whose legal systems derive from the Common Law.

              Guess what? At the same time that SYG law started spreading throughout the United States, pro-gun groups like the NRA and others also began successfully promoting laws which make it easier, indeed almost invite residents to walk around town with a gun. These laws, known as CCW laws, first started appearing in the 1980’s and now just about every state allows anyone who can legally own a gun to carry it on their person whether they feel threatened o not. In fact, next month the Supreme Court will hear a case which may determine whether the 2008 Heller decision grants Constitutional protection to carrying a gun outside the home.

              One other point about Gabor’s essay which needs to be considered as well, and that’s his assumption, shared by moist people, that our inner-city neighborhoods are places where so much violence occurs because such neighborhoods contain mostly residents who happen not just to be Black, but are also very poor. Gabor states it this way: “Violence is especially foreseeable in low income neighborhoods with persistently high levels of violence, poor public services, and policing that may not comply with international standards.”

              This connection between poverty and violence has a long pedigree both in research and common belief. Is it really true? Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately for the sake of a more realistic view of the endemic issue of racism in the United States, it may not be so true. Here’s an article which posits that race causes class, rather than the other way around. It is based on many community studies which find Blacks lagging behind Whites even when the socio-economic circumstances of the two races are the same.

              On the other hand, if you take the trouble to read Gabor’s essay all the way to the end, you’ll discover that the very last sentence of this refreshing and perceptive piece says this: “our national and state governments need to be held accountable when public safety is subordinated to the interests of a minority of citizens to own and carry a wide array of weapons, including those designed for military uses.”

              The last five words of Gabor’s piece are the most important thing he has to say. This country, our country suffers more than 120,000 conscious acts of gun deaths and gun injuries every year because we give folks free access to weapons of war.

              That’s right – all those semi-automatic pistols made by Glock, Sig, Smith & Wesson, et. al., and all those semi-automatic assault rifles made by the same and other gun companies are designed and carried by our troops and the military of other countries in the field.

              We don’t have a ‘problem’ of gun violence in this country. We have a problem because we define ‘sporting’ guns in a way that has no reality behind the definition at all.

              I invite Tom Gabor to respond to what I have said above, and I’ll be happy to post his response as a column on this blog.

What Can We Do About Gun Violence?

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Yesterday afternoon I sat and listened to an interesting and lively discussion by a group of informed and dedicated activists who want to put an end to the violence caused by the inappropriate use of guns. The discussion focused on two basic areas of concern, one being the laws that need to be enacted to regulate gun ownership and use in more effective ways, the other being efforts to redo the culture and outlook of young people before they get involved with guns.

With all due respect to the energy and commitment of the folks who engaged in yesterday’s event, I would like to propose a much different perspective on this whole question of gun violence and what we need to do to bring it to an end.

The United States passed its first national gun law in 1934.  This law was based on the idea that what needed to be regulated to the point of almost complete prohibition were guns that were considered too dangerous for commercial sale, i.e., fully-automatic guns, a.k.a., machine guns. The 1934 law, known as the National Firearms Act, is still on the books and it still defines certain types of weapons as requiring all kinds of vetting and licensing before they can be sold.

Most other advanced countries, particularly in Western Europe – England, France, Italy, Germany – also passed national gun laws around the same time that we passed our first law, and in every single case these countries patterned their gun laws after our 1934 law.

There was, however, one basic difference between the NFA34 law in the United States and gun laws everywhere else. Namely, that in England, France, Italy, et.al., handguns and semi-automatic rifles were also considered too dangerous for civilian sales.

The reason we have gun violence that is 7 to 20 times higher than gun violence in other advanced countries is because we are the only country which gives residents basically free access to the purchase, ownership and use of guns that were designed and are still used as military weapons both in the United States and abroad. These guns, manufactured by companies like Glock, Sig, Beretta, Smith & Wesson, Kahr – want a few more? – are the weapons used to kill and injure more than 100,000 Americans every year.

So, here’s what happens in the land of the free and the home of the brave when it comes to buying and owning a gun.  On any given day, some young guy walks into my gun shop, plops a rusted, piece of sh*t on the counter and wants to sell it to me for twenty bucks. He found the gun in a closet of his parent’s home while Mother was being carted off to long-term nursing care and Dad, of course, had already departed the scene.

I give him a Hamilton, he’ll buy a pizza on his way back to Boston, I’ll put the gun out on the rack for twenty bucks.

Now the gun doesn’t work. It’s a rusted, old piece of sh*t. But it has a serial number on the size of the receiver, so it’s a gun.

A few minutes later, an old geezer wanders into my shop. He was a machinist years ago and likes to play around with old, metal junk. His eyes light up when he sees this piece of sh*t on the rack, and he offers me ten bucks.  Thank you very much but I need fifteen, which he grumbles as he yanks a fiver out of the front pocket of his pants.

While the old guy is wandering around the shop looking to kill some time before going down to Wal Mart to pick up ‘the wife,’ another guy walks in, quickly comes up to the counter and says – “great! Just what I’m looking for! A Glock 17.”

The second customer pulls out a Visa because he usually doesn’t walk around with $600 cash, but what the hell, since he’s got the credit card, he’ll also buy four, hi-cap mags.

So now the two customers line up at the counter so that we can do all the paperwork and they can leave with their guns. One guy has a gun that doesn’t even shoot. The other guy is standing there with a military weapon and if he walked into a school with all five of his magazines fully loaded up, he could kill or injure 80 adults and children in 3 minutes or less.

Ready?  Under our regulatory system, these two guys have to jump through the exact, same legal hoops to walk out of my store with their guns.

That’s crazy. That’s bizarre. That’s the reason why we have gun violence and other countries don’t. Period. End of story.

As long as we avoid regulating the guns which are used to commit gun violence and instead try to regulate the behavior of people who might commit gun violence, even though we really have no way of telling exactly whom those people might be, we won’t make any dent in the number of Americans whose lives either end or are dramatically and woefully different because they or someone else shot them with a gun.

As for the kids who run around on inner-city streets and need to have their culture reset so that guns no longer play a central role, do you have any idea the resources that would be required to track all these kids from their early school years? The young men who commit the worst, most violent crimes (murder, aggravated assault, armed robbery) are usually clinically and habitually delinquent by the 4th or 5th grade. Our dear, late friend Marvin Wolfgang had that one figured out fifty years ago, okay?

Want to pass another law that will tell law-abiding gun owners what they can and cannot do?  Hey – I got no problem with new laws. Fine with me.

Want to get rid of the violence caused by guns? Get rid of the guns that cause the violence.

After all, you can’t shoot someone with a baseball bat.