Do We Still Need Research on Gun Violence?


              I have been writing about guns, the gun business and gun violence for early ten years.  I posted my first blog in May 2012 when I learned that the NRA, of which I am a Lifetime Endowment member, was pushing a law in Florida that, had it not been overturned by a federal appeals court, would have criminalized physicians who counseled patients about guns.

              I simply didn’t understand how anyone would be afraid of anything said to them by a physician, but I guess I’m kind of naive in that respect, considering how many people are still resisting the Covid-19 vaccine.

              My gun blog had a few viewers but that changed after the Sandy Hook massacre in December which created a media firestorm about gun violence and changed the public discussion about guns in several immediate ways.

              To begin, Obama came out with a new gun-control law which went nowhere but at least generated the beginnings of grass roots gun-control organizations to compete with the NRA. This was also the time that social media made it easier to form advocacy groups and promote ideas and strategies for gun control. Nobody has done this better than Shannon Watts and her girls.

              At the same time, the pro-gun groups or as they prefer to call themselves, the gun ‘rights’ folks, also started popping up on the internet, forcing the NRA to move towards the alt-right, partially to deflect criticisms from gun-control groups, as well as to protect its right flank from the real crazies like Gun Owners of America and the militia nut jobs who have emerged full flower before and during the Age of Trump.

              Meanwhile, if we go back to 2012 and try to understand what has happened with guns and gun violence from then until now, what we quickly realize that things haven’t gotten better, they’ve gotten worse. Know what the national gun-violence rate was in 2012?  Try 10.44. Know what the GV rate was in 2020, which is the most recent year for data from the CDC? How about 13.44. Gee, that’s only an increase of 28.7%.

              But wait a minute, you say. The 2020 number has to be taken with a grain of salt or maybe with a salt shaker because, after all, that was the first Pandemic year.

              Yea, right. Except it’s not right. The national violence rate from 2012 to 2020 went up by 17.4% – a little more than half the increase in the gun-violence rate.

              Now if you tap the average medical or public health gun researcher on the shoulder and ask for an explanation as to why gun violence has shown such a remarkable increase over the past eight years, he or she will tell you that nobody was able to do any CDC-funded research on gun violence over that period of time.

              Which is true, except that I’m not so sure that our inability to prevent or reduce gun violence has little, if anything, to do with research into the causes of this scourge at all.

              Back in the early 90’s, two very able researchers published research which definitively found that access to a gun in the home created risk for homicide and suicide. And by the way, this research did not qualify guns as to whether or not they were safely stored.

              I read these articles when they first appeared and I not only knew they both were correct, but I never understood why it was necessary to do any more research on the issue of guns, gun violence or gun risks.

Meanwhile, during the 1980’s and early 1990’s, the gun industry shifted away from the production of long guns – shotguns, rifles – to the production of handguns, in particular semi-automatic pistols which carried 15 rounds or more of military-grade ammunition.

Why did this product shift take place? Because new manufacturing technologies – MTM manufacture and polymers – doubled and sometimes tripled operating margins for companies that primarily produced handguns. For all the talk about how Americans wanted to own handguns because they needed to protect themselves from increased crime, the gun industry has never succeeded in convincing a majority of Americans that they need to own a gun.

We are the only country in the entire world which allows law-abiding residents to buy, own, and walk around with guns which are designed solely for the purpose of ending human life. I mean, you just don’t use a Glock or a Sig pistol to shoot a bird out of a tree.

Need more research to figure that one out? No, you don’t.

Taking On The 2nd Amendment.


Last week I received an email from our friends at Americans Against Gun Violence (AAGV) asking me to spread the word about their annual High School Essay Contest which gives out $15,000 in prize money for the nest essays written by high school students about why the 2nd Amendment should be changed.

The AAGV is asking high schoolers to write 500 words or fewer about this statement by Chief Justice Warren Burger: “If I were writing the Bill of Rights now, there wouldn’t be any such thing as the Second Amendment…. This 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.

As in past years, the best 12 essays will be given cash prizes and the deadline for sending in essays is April 16th. The problem this year is that there has been a noticeable drop-off in responses, even though news about the contest was sent to more than one thousand educators across the country, along with a flyer advertising the program which you can download here.

I really like the idea that AAGV is trying to engage high school students in this effort because it’s when kids are in high school that they most often get turned on by guns. So why not get high school students thinking not just about guns but what we need to do to reduce the violence caused by guns?

The problem, according to AAGV, is that many high school educators are intimidated by introducing anything in their classrooms which smacks of a negative attitude about guns. It’s not just that Gun-nut Nation is watching out to keep doubts about 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ outside of school, it’s that the whole issue of what is and isn’t taught in schools has become a political football thanks to the culture war being conducted by the GOP.

But I happen to think there’s another reason why raising the issue of gun violence in the classroom seems to be slowly fading away. And it has to do with the fact that many of the groups and individuals who are concerned about gun violence are just as, or even more concerned with protecting everyone’s Constitutional ‘rights.’

Back in 1989 our friend Sandy Levinson wrote an essay about the 2nd Amendment which appeared in the Yale Law Review. You can download the article right here, and if you haven’t read it, you should. What Professor Levinson basically argued is that if liberals want to defend those parts of the Bill of Rights that protect free speech and the free exercise of religion, they should be defending the free ownership of guns as well. After all, the Bill of Rights is a package deal, and you can’t slice or dice Constitutional rights to support only one point of view.

Levinson’s argument has become a standard narrative in the gun-control crowd.  In fact, the AAGV is the only gun-control organization which doesn’t explicitly proclaim itself to be supporting the 2nd Amendment even though these same organizations want gun ownership to be more tightly regulated and controlled.

The problem today is that the GOP has decided to wage an all-out assault on liberal Constitutional precepts and ideals, so what we thought were settled issues like gender and abortion have now come under fierce attack. After all, what else is the GOP going to complain about? The fact that nobody’s unemployed?

Last week the Governor of Washington signed legislation which bans hi-capacity magazines, as well as ‘ghost’ guns.  Laws requiring safe storage of guns were passed last year in Oregon and Colorado. But other states, like Texas and Kansas, have recently passed pro-gun laws.

When one of our two national, political parties believes that getting shot by a gun is a Constitutional privilege and not a problem for public health, the chances of any tampering with the 2nd Amendment are slim to none.

Of course, when Galileo was locked away in the tower he didn’t turn around and declare that the Earth revolved around the Sun.

Is The Wolverine Militia Our First Line of Defense?

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Meanwhile, the trial of the four members of the – ready? – Wolverine Watchmen paramilitary gang who are accused of plotting to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer in 2020 is going on in a Federal court in Grand Rapids, MI with opening testimony from two FBI agents who infiltrated the group. 

              The defense, of course, is claiming that the FBI agents were not only present when kidnapping plans were being hatched, but in fact were the instigators of the whole, crazy thing. It’s already been admitted in court that many of the conversations that were secretly taped took place while everyone in the room was getting high on a doobie. Next thing we’ll learn is that the FBI supplied the dope.

              The four guys charged in this case must have a collective, not individual IQ of 79.  Can there really be such schmucks walking around? And worse yet, can guys who are this friggin’ stupid walk into a gun store and buy a gun?

              One of the defendants not connected to the Wolverines but charged after January 6th was a kid named Anthony Antonio, who claimed he went to D.C. to storm the Capitol at Trump’s request. His attorney had a slightly different story to go along with his client’s ‘not guilty’ plea – in the courtroom he said that Antonio was a ‘dumb ass,’ but out in the street he was a little more precise, referring to his client as ‘dumb as shit.’

              Ever since Donald Trump decided to enlist groups like the Three Percenters and The Proud Boys as his shock troops for the 2020 campaign, there have been endless stories in the media about how paramilitary organizations, usually referred to as ‘citizens militias’ not only represent a threat to law and order but are actually planning to engage in a 22nd-Century version of the 19th-Century Civil War.

              These militia groups first got noticed when Timothy McVeigh hung out with the Michigan Militia before going down to Oklahoma City and blowing up the Murrah Federal Building in 1995. The Wolverine group is one of a number of militia groups which have sprung up over the past few years in Michigan and elsewhere. Their website is remarkable in that it doesn’t contain an online store. 

              What the website does contain, on the other hand, is a 36-page, single-spaced Handbook, which not only contains a very academic argument about the historic origins of militias going back to before the Revolutionary War (complete with footnotes) but references the usual hodge-podge of Libertarian philosophy (Hayek, etc.) as well as a listing of all the sins and transgressions of the national government, particularly the whole notion that any kind of taxes are both illegal and wrong.

              There is also a whole and very detailed section on the militia’s organization, starting at the top with a State Commander and staff, then nine operational divisions covering different regions of the state and specific officer titles including Air Operations, Ground Operations and Special Operations.

              Finally, the website also contains a calendar of upcoming training events, which includes a swap meet, something called Escape and Evasion and a day for Community Service although the actual service activity isn’t explained. For that matter, the calendar gives months and days but not a specific year, so who knows if any of this stuff is actually real?

              At some point, I don’t recall exactly which year, I found myself in Michigan with time to spare so I drove out to a shooting range where some members of the original Michigan Militia were shooting off their guns. I was impressed by two things:

              First, although I tend to walk around with an extra 20 pounds on my frame, I was a real slim-jim compared with most of the members of this group.  These guys weren’t just heavy, they were guys who really love to eat. And I happened to arrive at the range just in front of a car that was carrying a stack of fresh-cooked pizzas, along with potato chips, Fritos, and drinks.

              The second thing which impressed me about the group was that there was absolutely no talk at all about invasions or terrorist threats or anything else. There was talk about the weekend sale at the local Walmart and where someone had just bought a set of tires for their truck.

              Don’t get me wrong. I’ll let the jury in Grand Rapids decide whether those four schmucks are guilty of planning to kidnap the Governor or are guilty of just being loud and dumb. But if anyone thinks that the militia movement poses a threat to the government, like Joe says, they better show up with their F-15.

Let’s Send Some More Guns to Ukraine.


              I guarantee you that sooner or later, one of the Gun-nut groups will issue a call for people to donate guns which can be shipped to the civilian population in Ukraine to help them fight back against the Russian hordes.

              The word will spread around to those stupid, alt-right chat venues like Parler, Gettr, and all that childish crap. Then the idea will get picked up by the Fake News – CNN will run a story and then the ATF will announce that any such shipments are a violation of this and a violation of that.

              Then to finish things off, two dopes from the Proud Boys or the Three Percenters will walk into O’Hare Airport with AR-15’s that they want to load onto some flight to Ukraine (even if there are no commercial flights to Ukraine) and they’ll be told to go home but someone will shoot a video, post it on Facebook and they’ve got their 15 seconds of fame.

              In fact, there’s actually no law which prevents someone from sending a gun to Ukraine or anywhere else. But there is a law which says that if you want to ship a gun to an address outside the United States, you have to first get an export license from the State Department whether you are shipping one gun or ten thousands guns.

              There’s a company in Florida named KelTec, which has been granted approval to ship 10,000 guns to Ukraine.  They make a gun, the Sub CQB, which is a small, 9mm carbine that folds in half for easier carry and has a built-in silencer to minimize the sound. Their best-known gun is called the Bullpup, a semi-auto job which ejects the spent shells down instead of up.

              Last week the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) sent a message out to all its gun-dealer members advising them how to initiate an ‘expedited’ application to the State Department to ship guns to Ukraine. I’m surprised, frankly, that the NRA hasn’t started a campaign to ship guns over there, but let’s not forget that there are some alt-right politicians (read: Marjorie Taylor Greene) who don’t believe that we should be involved with Ukraine. So, the argument that Gun-nut Nation should be sending guns to the civilians fighting the Russkies in Ukraine could cut both ways.

              On the other hand, I’m waiting for the emails from various Gun-nut Nation groups to start showing up in my in-box which will exhort me to remember that sending guns to people who are protecting themselves from government ‘tyranny’ or government ‘violence’ or government whatever you want to call it, is a perfect example of why we need to vigilantly protect our 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

              I can see it now. The NRA will create a new award to honor folks who go down into their basements, pull out one of Grandpa’s rusty, old pieces of shit shotguns from behind the hot-water heater and send it off to Ukraine. And if the Russian invasion of Ukraine is still going on over Memorial Day weekend when the NRA is holding their annual jamboree, there will be a special event at the meeting where Wayne-o will give out a medal or a t-shirt to honor members who have sent the Ukrainian freedom-fighters some guns.

              Of course, if the Ukrainian situation is back to status quo ante (hope, hope) by the time the NRA faithful gather in Houston at the end of May, the boys from Fairfax can scrap that part of the program and schedule instead a speech by Ted Cruz. 

              I love how Gun-nut Nation actually believes that selling some guns to anyone inside or outside the United States has anything to do with 2nd-Amdndment ‘rights.’ The last time I looked, the 2nd Amendment can be cited to justify keeping a handgun in your home for whatever reason you want to have the gun lying around. What that has to do with giving the Russian army a shellacking, God only knows.

              Why don’t we just get that lab in Wuhan to cook up a dose of the kung flu and send it over to Putin and some of his friends?

Want To Go to The NRA Show?


              So, yesterday I get an email from the boys in Fairfax telling me that the NRA is once again doing their annual meeting which will be held in Houston this year.

              Hey! Wait just one goddamn minute!  I thought the NRA was out of business.  I thought that between the scandal with Russia, the fight with Olllie North, the big investigation by the New York State Attorney General and Wayne-o buying millions of dollars of clothing at some shop on Rodeo Drive, that America’s ‘oldest civil-rights organization was ka-put. 

              As Grandpa would say, vus machts-du? (read: what’s going on?)

              I’ll tell you what’s going on. What’s going on is that you don’t take an organization which does care and feeding of its membership the way the NRA cares and feeds its membership and assume that things are going to hell in a handbasket just because they’ve had a couple of bad years.

              I’m also a member of the Audubon Society, the Wilderness Fund, and the National Parks Conservancy Organization, or whatever they call themselves.  When was the last time I went to a national meeting of any of these organizations and said hello to people who I have seen at other meetings over the years? Never. These organizations don’t have meetings.

              I also make monthly donations to at least three national, gun-control organizations. I guess this makes me a member of those organizations as well. Except there’s no real membership relationship to these organizations at all, unless you want to call it a ‘relationship’ when I get an email asking me to send them more cash.

              I went to my first NRA national meeting in 1980.  It was held in Philadelphia, believe it or not. Ronald Reagan showed up and gave a speech – big deal. I spent all my time at this meeting talking to gun writers like Elmer Keith and Skeeter Skelton whose stuff I regularly read in the monthly NRA magazine, American Rifleman, whose articles on gun history put the Smithsonian to shame.

              Since that first show, I have gone to NRA national meetings in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and a few other states. Since I am a Lifetime Endowment member (which means they can’t throw me out no matter what I say) there’s always a special lounge where I can relax, have a cup of coffee, and say hello to Wayne-o when he drops by.

              Not only can I go to a national show ever year, but I can also go to gun shows every weekend which are sponsored by the NRA. The only difference between those shows and the national NRA show is that I can buy and sell guns at a local gun show. At the national NRA show all I can do is play with the guns.

              Several weeks ago I posted a column on Shannon Watts and her MOMS where I pointed out that her group had more activities coming up than what was listed on the NRA website. But the great work being done by Shannon focuses almost entirely on appearances before state legislators considering new gun-control laws. They aren’t social events per se, and this is where the NRA has everyone in Gun-control Nation completely beat.

              When I was in college, I had a girlfriend whose father never missed going to New Orleans for the annual Shriners jamboree. The fact that the Shriners operated these wonderful hospitals around the country was taken for granted and was entirely beside the point. This guy never missed the national binge so he could get together with all his Shriner friends.

              For those of you in Gun-control Nation who think the NRA is one step away from being good and dead, you better think again. If you’re a gun nut, and there are plenty of us still around, being able to wander through 14 acres of gun displays and gun-related crap is a joy to behold.

Does Gun Violence Deserve a Public Health Approach?


              So it looks like researchers in Gun-control Nation will get funding into the CDC budget for the third year in a row. Which is all fine and well except to tell you the truth, I never really understood why my tax dollars ever went to fund research into the causes and prevention of gun violence in the first place.

              I remember the first time I ever shot off a gun by accident.  I was sitting in my living room in South Carolina, playing around with my Colt 45 pistol and the damn thing just went off. I thought the gun wasn’t loaded. I was wrong. The round went through the front door, smashed the storm door, and ended up God knows where. At least it didn’t wind up in someone’s rear end.

              I also remember the first time I ever shot a gun with the intention of killing someone else. It was an M-14, I was on the firing line at Fort Dix, NJ and I was told that if I didn’t hit the torso-shaped target 200 yards downrange I wasn’t going in for chow.

              Then in 1994 I read the two articles in the New England Journal of Medicine which found that access to a gun in the home created a health risk known as being dead. The research for these articles, by the way, was funded by the CDC and was the reason that the CDC didn’t fund any more gun research for twenty-five years.

              During that quarter century, somewhere around 300,000 Americans died before they otherwise would have died because either they or someone else picked up a gun and shot them with it.  Another 1.75 million got shot but somehow survived.

              Each year somewhere around 400,000 drivers and passengers get killed in car accidents, another several million are injured in a permanent way. We know exactly what to do to prevent these injuries from taking place – seat belts, speed limits, crash-proof design, a combination of safety features built into the vehicles and better training before drivers take to the road.

              So, what do my friends in Gun-control Nation say when it comes to reducing injuries from guns? They say we need the same kind of ‘public health’ research for guns that the taxpayers have funded for cars. And now that research has started up again.

              There’s only one little problem with this approach. It’s complete bullshit and anyone who subscribes to it doesn’t know anything about guns.

              The guns whose use is responsible for at least 90,000 of the 110,000 deaths and injuries suffered each year from gun violence are not guns that can be used ‘responsibly’ or ‘safely.’ They are guns that are designed for one purpose and one purpose only – to end human life.

And let’s not get into a whole thing about whether someone used a Glock or a Sig or a Beretta or a Smith & Wesson M&P in an ‘offensive’ or ‘defensive’ way. Cars are designed to make it easier and faster to move from here to there. Handguns like the ones listed above are designed to end human life in an easier and faster way.

Want to deny what I just said? You’re denying reality. And this denial of reality seems to be versant throughout the public health and medical communities.

I love how some medical organizations talk about approaching gun violence from a ’consensus’  point of view. What are they saying? That we can all sit down and figure out a way that law-abiding Americans can walk around their neighborhoods with a Glock or a Sig in their pockets and somehow the neighborhood will still be safe? 

I once had a conversation with a physician who runs a program which has social workers standing on the corner ready to intervene when/if two rival gangs come together and the ‘fuck you’s’ begin to fly. I asked him whether the social worker would alert the cops if one of the kids was carrying a gun.

“Of course not,” he said. “He would lose all credibility if he did that!”

If you can identify any threat to the human community that is worse than the threat represented by a 16-year-old wandering around with a loaded handgun in his pocket, I’ll immediately donate $100 to the charity of your choice.

If the government wants to spend my tax dollars on gun violence research, why don’t they give the money to the Department of Justice rather than the CDC? After all, the 90,000 shootings each year which involve both a shooter and a separate victim happen to be crimes.

Or maybe we should re-define homicides and assaults committed with guns as just another public health threat like unclean water or cigarettes sold to kids.

The Deadliest Pathogen: Guns and Homicide (Guns in America): Weisser, Michael R.: 9781792317866: Amazon.com: Books

What Can Paul Farmer Teach Us About Gun Violence?


              Yesterday I started reading Paul Farmer’s remarkable book, Pathologies of Power, and it occurred to me that while he doesn’t address the issue of gun violence, the way he approaches health and poverty (or better said, poverty and the lack of health) might be considered an exemplar for understanding or at least addressing the most pronounced disparity in the issue of who is affected by assaults committed with guns.

              We are used to thinking about gun violence as a pathology which overwhelmingly involves minorities and the poor. Most gun assaults occur in the inner cities; most of the individuals charged with gun assaults are minority males. Other than suicide, most victims of intentional gun assaults are also non-White males.

              So how come most intentional gun assaults in this country only occur in communities where the disparity between those who have and those who don’t have is the greatest of all? How come only 7% of the individuals who commit aggravated assault each year use a gun?

              The most penetrating aspect of Paul Farmer’s approach to medicine is his insistence that we need to go beyond simple numbers to not only understand why certain groups (viz., the ‘poor’) have worse health outcomes than the rest of us, but how and why the specific conditions of poverty result in poor health outcomes. He talks about this issue in terms of understanding poverty biographically, i.e., knowing life histories of individuals who make choices because they are poor which then lead to disparities in health.

              Farmer’s work was performed primarily in Haiti where he paid attention primarily to AIDS and sexual assault. His book contains biographies of women who died of AIDS even though they performed consensual sex with male partners who were carriers of the disease. Given a choice between starvation and risky sexual activity, many women chose the latter hoping that they might avoid becoming AIDS-infected because that was less of a risk than not being able to eat.

              As for contracting AIDS from earning money through sexual activity, women in impoverished Haitian communities had far less employment opportunities than men, either be cause they had young children whose welfare kept them at home, or they were just not able to secure employment outside of certain job categories (ex. domestic help) which often then resulted in sexual assaults.

              Farmer insists, and he’s absolutely correct in this respect, that if we are going to respond to health disparities in some positive and mitigating way, we not only need to know the numbers of poor people who live shorter and more desperate lives, we also need to understand and share their pain.  In other words, if we are going to do anything substantive about closing the health gap between people on the bottom of the social hierarchy and everyone else, we need to give poverty a ‘human face.’

              I could say exactly the same thing about how we discuss and try to understand gun violence which occurs at least 300 fatal and non-fatal times every day. When the issue is described on a personal basis, the description invariably comes from a family member or friend of someone who has been a gun-violence victim, usually a dead victim at that.

              Lucy McBath represents Georgia’s 6th District in Congress. She gave up a 30-year career as a Delta flight attendant and went to work for Everytown after her son, Jordan Davis, was gunned down while listening to music in a car.

              The shooter in this case, Michael Dunn, harbored all kinds of hateful and abusive thoughts about Blacks before this event occurred. You can get a good idea about what was going through his head by reading some of the letters that he wrote from jail. But as angry and vicious as these letters appear to be, Dunn had never been arrested for any violent act before the fateful night when he blasted ten rounds into an SUV.

              What made Dunn suddenly lose control to the point that he pulled out a gun and started shooting at three kids who refused to turn down the music that was blaring from their car? For that matter, why couldn’t the kids in that SUV just drive off instead of first getting into an argument with someone who was obviously pissed off and maybe a little bit drunk?

              These are the kinds of questions that are never asked when gun violence is discussed only in numerical terms. I just regret that someone like the late and sainted Paul Farmer has yet to focus our attention on what he called ‘bearing witness’ to the deaths and injuries caused by guns.

Let’s Hear It for Shannon Watts and her MOMS.


              It turns out that last year and again this year will go down as two very bloody and violent years.  We don’t yet have official numbers from government sources like the FBI or the CDC, but our friends at the Gun Violence Archive estimate that gun deaths in 2020 increased by more than 25% from 2019, and the gun-death number for 2021 increased over the previous year again.

              At the same time, what I find just as interesting is that the mainstream media doesn’t seem to be all that interested or even concerned with the degree to which Americans continue to blast each other apart. While the media reports this violence from time to time, it’s not as if my daily Google word search for phrases like ‘gun violence’ and ‘guns’ contains all that many alerts.

              This past weekend, there were at least 12 people killed and wounded by gunfire in Chicago and another 10 gun victims in Atlanta.  The local media carried stories about both events but neither made even a ripple on the national news. Twenty-two people killed and wounded in two cities over the weekend? No big deal.

              There’s no question, at least in my mind, that gun violence has become much less important for the media under Joe than it was under Trump. Of course, this could change if, God forbid, some nut walked into a shopping mall or a movie theater with an AK or an AR and mowed down 30 or 40 people in one fell swoop.

              But even if such an event were to happen, I suspect it would generate headlines for a couple of days and then gun violence would quickly disappear from the front page. We often refer to gun violence as an ‘epidemic,’ but to quote our dear friend Katherine Christoffel, gun violence really has become endemic to how we think and behave.

              It wasn’t until the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook that folks concerned about gun violence began to think in organizational terms. Until then, when it came to guns, the grass roots was owned by the NRA. Then a woman who had a background in internet marketing but was at the time a stay-at-home Mom decided to put together an organizational challenge to the Fairfax boys. She put together a group called Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense and started getting the message out.

              Shannon Watts worked tirelessly for a couple of years and what she got for her efforts was the beginnings of a national movement, some nasty and often profane messaging from the other side, and a complete emptying of her bank account.

              Then, by the grace of God, she found herself becoming an important and financially supportable object of Mike Bloomberg’s largesse, and she now runs a national organization that rivals and probably exceeds the influence of the NRA.

              Before Shannon and her gals (and some guys) came along, the NRA did a pretty good job promoting itself through various membership activities like sponsoring gun shows, holding weekend dinners and shooting events, and telling members to stand up for their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

              What impresses me most of all about the MOMS organization is that if you compare what they have coming up for membership events versus what the NRA is planning over the next couple of months, guess who has more events and activities coming up? Take a look at Shannon’s Facebook page and you’ll see what I mean.

              In the pre-MOMS’ days, lots of folks would get all riled up when a bad shooting occurred, like the shootings at Aurora, Santa Isla, Virginia Tech, or Sandy Hook. But as horrendous as these events might be, what drives our gun violence rate to its stratospheric and endemic level are the run-of-the-mill shootings that occur in every state just about every day.

So, it’s all fine and well to call out the troops to go marching around when some bozo tries to see how many people he can kill one morning with his AR-15 or his Glock 17. But what you really need to fight back against Gun-nut Nation and their bizarrely-stupid ideas, is to get into the trenches, push every day a little bit here and there, and not worry about whether CNN gives you any time or space.

              Want to see how dumb the pro-gun gang has become?  Try this one on for size: Second Amendment Foundation (saf.org)

              Here’s what makes Shannon Watts someone I admire and trust. She understands that dealing with gun violence is ultimately a one-on-one thing. You have to take the time and the trouble to sit down and talk honestly and directly to people who own guns. You also need to do the same thing with people who write the laws covering guns.

              Know what? I’m going to send Shannon some extra bucks this month and you should send her some bucks as well. Got something better to do with your money?

NRA versus NPR. Who Wins? The NRA.

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              You may recall that back in July 2018, the FBI arrested a Russian moll, Maria Butina, and charged her with spying by trying to infiltrate the Trump Administration through contacts she had made with the NRA. Just what America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ needed as it was about to be engulfed in a massive political fight between Wayne LaPierre and Oliver North, the results of which are still going on.

              North got booted out as NRA President in 2019, and then there was a big fight between NRA and its long-time PR firm, Ackerman-McQueen, and then an abortive bankruptcy, and then a still-active investigation by New York AG Letitia James, and then the cancellation of NRA-TV, and then the collapse of revenue, and then the articles by Mike Spies, and then and then and then, all of my Gun-control Nation friends were overjoyed and assumed the NRA was to quote Grandpa fartig (read: finished) and toyt (read: dead.)

              Meanwhile, I still get my weekly emails from Wayne, my monthly magazine shows up in my mailbox on time, the online clothing store has a new line of polo shirts which means that my golf club will shortly allow me out to play, and when all is said and done, things at NRA headquarters in Fairfax seem to be back to where they used to be.

              How did all this happen? You might want to read a new book by NPR’s investigative correspondent Tim Mak, Misfire, Inside the Downfall of the NRA, which purports to explain the events of the last five years. The book has received rave reviews from some of the usual suspects, including David Frum and Olivia Nuzzi, I’ll get to those reviews and what they really mean below.

              In the meantime, let me just say that the book is completely and totally wrong. And it’s wrong because the author may be someone who knows all the political ins and outs of the D.C. scene, but he doesn’t know anything about guns, or the people who make guns, or the people who sell guns, or the people who buy and own guns. Which is kind of standard for what happens when someone in Gun-control Nation takes an allegedly ‘inside’ look at the ‘other’ (read: pro-gun) side.

              So, the result is that someone like Tim Mak ends up interviewing all kinds of people, but he has no ability to determine whether they are telling him the truth, or some of the truth, or none of the truth. The fact that you ask two people the same question and get two different answers is about as valid a way to figure out why something did or didn’t happen as the man in the moon. 

              So, in this book, Mak begins by relating a conversation with a ‘trusted’ source who told him that Maria Butina “infiltrated the NRA in order to promote Russian interests.” [p. 112] But what exactly were those Russian ‘interests?’ Here is where Mak completely misses the boat and takes his book off in a direction that it shouldn’t have gone.

              Butina came to the NRA show for the same reason that lots of foreigners come to the show every year – she was looking for an importer and/or a manufacturer who could help her get the AK-47 assault rifle into American gun-owning hands. Her boss, Alexander Torshin, was on the board of the Russian bank which funded a Russian gun company, Izhmash, which makes the AK-47 for the Russian military.

              Why did Izhmash want to get into the American gun market?  For the same reason that companies like Glock and Sig have gotten into the American gun market, because the American market happens to be larger and potentially more lucrative than all the other commercial gun markets in the world combined.

              That’s the reason that Butina was at the NRA show in Orlando, that’s the reason she tried to ‘infiltrate’ the NRA, and none of what I just said is mentioned or even hinted at in Mak’s book. Did he attend the NRA show?  Of course not. Why bother to go to the NRA show when you can have breakfast with a trusted ‘source’ in D.C. and get all the dirt?

              Butina ended up trying to make something more of herself than just being a sales-person for the AK-47 by moving to Washington and getting mixed up with a small-time political consultant who had been involved in some state-level campaigns. She used some of this guy’s connections to begin promoting herself as a ‘representative’ of the Russian government which is when she violated the law about registering as a foreign ‘agent’ which then got her arrested by the FBI for being a ‘spy.’

              Now for me, being a ‘spy’ means that you are doing all kinds of secret stuff to get information which otherwise you’re not supposed to have.  She never did anything like that. She just forgot to register herself because the truth is that she wasn’t employed by the Russian government at all. She was peddling a consumer product and by telling Torshin that her sales gig was opening up important doors, she was able to increase her salary and make more charges to her expense account.

              And that was it.  That was the whole story about Maria Butina and her connection to the NRA.  Do you get any of this in Tim Mak’s book? Nope.

              I could have sat in my living room in Massachusetts and done all the so-called ‘investigative’ journalism which Mak claims he did for this book. You can do it too. Just go to this website, Home – NRA Watch, which contains all the documentation from the various legal proceedings involving the NRA and you’ll find virtually every so-called ‘interview’ which Tim Mak claims provided him with the content for this book.

              That’s not investigative journalism. That’s shabby journalism and it’s not made any less shabby by the fact that three of the five blurbs on the book’s back cover were written by current or former colleagues of Tim Mak when he wrote for The Beast.

It’s Time to End Gun Violence.


              If the Russian invasion of Ukraine proves anything, it proves that the one threat to the human community that we have not been able to bring under control is the threat of violence. We know what to do about famine, we know what to do about disease, we know what to do about global warming.

              Now maybe we don’t have the political will to engage in activities that will mitigate or eliminate those threats, but we know what needs to be done.

              Were this only the case when it comes to violence. And I happen to believe that violence between national states, such as what’s happening right now in Ukraine, is just an extension of the violence which occurs every day between two people, or maybe more than two people, who can’t settle an argument or a dispute in a non-violent way.

              And this human propensity to commit violence isn’t just a function of poverty, or underdevelopment or any of the other social ills which allegedly are caused by lack of financial security, or lack of food security, or lack of something else.

              The three men who gunned down Ahmed Arbery in Georgia because he was jogging through their neighborhood weren’t poor, weren’t unemployed, weren’t unable to tell the difference between right and wrong. And I can say the same thing with the same degree of conviction about the more than 100,000 Americans, almost all men, who in 2020 (according to the FBI) picked up a gun and used it to attack someone else.

              Yea, yea, I know all about the Pandemic and how everyone’s afraid of getting sick, so they get easily riled up, get pissed off at someone else and out comes the gun. So, if this is true, how come many of these same individuals can’t be bothered to show up at a neighborhood clinic and get vaccinated against Covid-19? 

              I have been supporting the various national organizations that want to do something about gun violence for the past ten years. By and large these groups began operating after the massacre at Sandy Hook.

              Know what the annual rate of gun homicides was in 2012?  Try 5.88.  Know what it was back in 2012? Try 3.70.  That’s only an increase of 60 percent.

              Oh, I forgot. We had the Pandemic in 2020, right?

              In 2019 the gun-violence rate was 4.39. There was no Pandemic in 2019 but the gun-violence rate was still nearly 20 percent higher than in 2012. A 20-percent increase in 8 years? No big deal.

              I think it’s time that the leadership of organizations like Everytown, Brady and Giffords sit down and confront the fact that what they have been doing to confront gun violence hasn’t worked. And maybe in the course of discussion, they might want to take a chapter from the efforts of a group of physicians led by our friend Ira Helfand, who decided to do something about the greatest violent threat of all – nuclear violence – and was a co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility which received a Nobel Prize in 1985.

              The prize was awarded to PSR because of their efforts to champion the control over above-ground nuclear testing, an effort which then morphed into an international effort to stop the spread of nuclear weapons that earned Dr. Helfand and his colleagues a second Nobel Prize in 2017. This Nobel Prize was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a coalition of 635 organizations active in 107 countries worldwide.

              There is absolutely no reason why a campaign to abolish the ownership of guns used to commit violence needs to be any different from a campaign to abolish the use of nuclear energy for purposes other than peaceful means. If anything, such a campaign led by the one country which grants Constitutional protection to gun ownership would break down all kinds of barriers to the more effective control of guns.

              And if you think such a campaign would violate the 2nd Amendment, then you don’t understand the 2nd Amendment and you probably also believe that gun-control threatens your God-given ‘rights.’

              Want to live in a country that enforces ‘rights’ which come from God? Move to Iran, okay?

              Otherwise, perhaps you will join me later this year when I announce a campaign to ban guns which have no purpose whatsoever except to be used to kill human beings and thus maintain our devotion to violence on a one-to-one scale.

              You can see an early version of my website here: Home | Mysite 1 (bantheseguns.org). Please feel free to respond and yes, we will have an online store where you can buy a coffee mug.

              If you haven’t gotten your booster shot, go out today and get it done.

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