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How Do We Reduce Gun Violence?

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              Earlier this week I posted a story about a terrific new video produced by the Engagement Lab at Emerson College which featured a group of parents and friends who spent some terrible hours waiting to be told whether their child or their friend would survive a gunshot wound.

              What I am now going to say is in no way to be taken as a criticism of the Engagement Lab’s work. To the contrary, the video is awesome and if you haven’t watched it, you should watch it now. Or even if you have watched it, take 20 minutes or so out of your very busy day and watch it again.

              That being said, what also needs to be said is that the messaging about gun violence in this video is the usual way in which we frame the discussion about a type of behavior which kills and seriously injures more than 125,000 Americans every year, namely, the discussion invariably turns on the victims, their families, and their friends.

              But if we are ever going to do something meaningful and substantive about reducing gun violence, we have to approach the issue proactively, which means looking first and foremost at the individuals who commit gun violence and figure out ways to get to them before they pull out a Glock or a Sig and go – bang!

              And I’m not talking about all those wonderful and compassionate programs which give some inner-city kids a job, or some mentoring about a career, or any other life-fulfilling activity like that. Those gigs are all fine and well but by the time an adolescent connects up to them it’s usually too late.

              When do boys get interested in guns? According to Al Lizotte’s research, in their early teens. When do some of these kids start behaving in a way which eventually leads them to become the young men who commit the most violent crimes? Thanks to the research published by Marvin Wolfgang fifty years ago, in their early teens. So, the point is that when some distraught mother starts talking about how her son would have grown up to be a decent and dependable adult if he hadn’t gotten shot, there’s another mother out there who could also be asked to talk about what she did or didn’t do with her son before he became the boy who shot and killed the other kid.

              What I’m saying is that in the discussion about gun violence, we focus our attention on the victims, not on the ones whose behavior is the reason that gun violence exists. Because the simple fact is that you can’t commit gun violence without a gun. And getting to the point where you pull out a gun, load it, then point it at yourself or someone else and pull the trigger is not something which happens overnight.  It’s not like some kid who goes into the corner deli and swipes a little package of M&M’s.

              Back in 2015, a 13-year old was shot and killed in St. Louis because a man thought that the kid was going to assault him. The shooter got off because what he did was legal under Missouri’s Stand Your Ground (SYG) law. Why did the shooter believe that a 13-year old kid who had broken into the man’s car was going to attack him instead of running away from the scene? Because the shooting occurred at 1 A.M. and the man couldn’t see because there was no street light.

              The media lit up when the shooter was found innocent of the murder charge because how often does a 13-year old get shot and the shooter walks away scot-free? Then we were treated to the requisite interview with the poor, overwhelmed mother of the victim who acknowledged that her son was committing a crime by trying to break into the man’s car but even so, he shouldn’t have paid for his crime with his life.

              Did anyone bother to ask this woman why her son was riding around in the back alleys of St. Louis looking for a car to break into at 1 A.M?

              So, even when we focus on the victims of gun violence, we often don’t ask the questions we need to ask because in half of all fatal shootings, it was something done by the victim which precipitated the gun being pulled out and used.

              This kid in St. Louis was committing serious crimes when he was 13 years old. And what do you think he would have ended up doing if he had lived through that incident. He probably would have decided to get himself a gun.

              Either we start thinking about how gun violence affects the families and friends of both the shooters and the victims, or we don’t. And if we don’t, we can talk about gun violence all day long and that’s just what it is – talk.

A Must-See Video on Gun Violence.

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              Emerson College is a cute, little private college in the middle of downtown Boston which is known for concentrating on programs that deliver quality education in communication and the arts. The tuition and fees are more than 50 grand a year, so the student body isn’t comprised for the most part of kids from nearby inner-city neighborhoods like Dorchester or the South End.

              One of its programs, on the other hand, is a unique and enterprising look at a condition of life which is typical of what goes on in Dorchester and the South End of Boston, as well as in other inner-city neighborhoods all over the United States.

              I’m talking about a program called the Engagement Lab, which creates multimedia featuring a collaboration with community organizations that focus on issues of importance to these organizations and groups, one of which is the issue of gun violence. If there’s another college or university in the United States which has inculcated gun violence into its curriculum, it’s news to me.

              The program at Emerson is a collaboration between the college and two other organizations which play important roles in trying to respond to gun violence on Boston’s inner-city streets. One of Emerson’s partners in this effort is the Center for Gun Violence Prevention at Mass. General Hospital which promotes safety in the home through clinical care and education. The other is the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, a community-based organization founded by the mother of a teenager who was gunned down in 1993 on his way to a meeting of a group called Teens Against Gun Violence, believe it or not.

              Both of these groups are highlighted briefly in a new and provocative video created by Emerson’s Engagement Lab which is called Quiet Rooms and can be viewed right here.

              The video, which runs some 20 minutes plus, is basically a compilation of first-hand narratives of parents who sat in a Boston hospital waiting to be told whether their child was going to survive the heroic attempts of a trauma team to keep the victim alive after being shot by a gun. The term ‘quiet room,’ is how physicians in these hospitals refer to the room where parents, relatives and friends of a shooting victim have to sit and wait for what is often the worst news.

              This video is hardly an amateur production. The images are sharp, the dialog is clear, and most of all, the music which plays in the background sets and completely underscores the mood. And what is the mood or what we usually refer to as the ‘message’ of this film? The message is that the families which suddenly lose a child or an adult to gun violence, are totally unprepared to deal with the event, and the resources which they need to help them through this terrible and tragic event are few and far between.

              This is a different perspective than the one which is usually connected to gun violence, because there are many studies, anecdotal and evidence-based, which look at the individuals who are killed or wounded with a gun. In general terms, for homicide and aggravated assault, which together count for at least 100,000 hospital- ER admissions every year, we know the victims are mostly male, mostly minority, mostly residents of inner-city neighborhoods, mostly without jobs and mostly not in school.

              But the point of the Quiet Rooms video is that the person who’s brought to the ER with a bullet in his or her body isn’t the only victim of a gun assault. The people sitting in that quiet room waiting for the trauma surgeon to tell them what’s what are also victims of the same assault. And the way they are sometimes treated makes them feel like the perpetrator of a gun-violence event.

              I only hope that the Emerson Engagement Lab makes a follow-up video to Quiet Rooms which focuses on the testimonies of family and friends of shooting victims who explain how they and the injured or dead family member dealt with gun violence before the individual lying on a gurney down the hall was shot.

              Because gun violence doesn’t just pop up out of nowhere, the way someone gets bit by a mosquito or a tic. Half the time that someone is murdered with a gun, they actually committed the behavior which created a conflict with someone else who happened at that moment to be carrying a gun.

              The only way to make a substantial dent in gun violence numbers is to deal with its causes proactively, not after the violence takes place. Emerson’s Engagement Lab states that its goal is to “transform the narratives of gun violence.”

              The Quiet Rooms video is a great first step. I hope they will take the next step soon.

              And by the way, send them a donation when you get a chance. And don’t tell me how you’re broke because of what the mainstream media says is the ‘ruinous inflation.’ The latest inflation rate is 8.3%.  Give me a friggin’ break, okay?

What Is Violence?

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              What’s going on?  Over the Easter weekend, there were shootings that killed or injured four or more victims in ten different cities. Easter weekend, right? A time of quiet devotion and family moments celebrating good times. 

              Just several weeks earlier, ten people were shot by a crazy man on a subway in Brooklyn, and several weeks before that event, 6 were killed and at least 60 were wounded in another weekend of shootings where four or more were shot in the same place at the same time.

              Yesterday was Mother’s Day.  We celebrated the holiday by having at least 57 people wounded by gunfire and 12 people killed.

              I thought that what Grandpa would call the ‘chuchems’ (read: experts) were saying that last year’s spike in gun violence was due to the Pandemic, plus everyone was running into a gun shop to buy a gun.

              Meanwhile, the virus seems to be abating or at least contained in most locations, and April gun sales were down by almost 25% from April gun sales last year. So, what the f*ck is going on?

              The truth is nobody really knows. That’s what the f*ck is going on. Nobody really knows.

              And frankly, I’m getting a little sick and tired of saying that we don’t know why we have so much gun violence, since we have only been doing research on the issue for at least thirty years.

              That’s right.  It’s thirty years since Kellerman and Rivara published the first of two articles which found that guns in the home  created a risk for suicide and homicide. But most gun violence doesn’t take place in the home. It occurs in the street. And not only do the number of street shootings keep going up, but the shootings themselves seem to involve not only more victims, but – and here’s the important point – more shots being fired as well.

              Next time you watch the TV news and there’s a story about the latest shooting in your town, notice that the cops always mark where they find every spent shell with a little yellow plastic pyramid in the street. Note that the number of these little markers is usually many more than the number of bullets that end up in the bodies of the victims in a shooting event.

              There’s been endless debate over how to define a ‘mass’ shooting. Is it the total number of people who are killed and wounded in one place at the same time? Is it only the number of people killed? Of late, both numbers appear to be going up.

              I think the way we should define mass shootings is by the number of shots that were fired in a particular location because no matter how many people are killed or wounded, the only reason that everyone wasn’t killed is because the shooter didn’t shoot straight.

              I would be willing to bet you that if someone could get access to the data on how many shots were fired, and it exists in the documents of most police departments which cover murders and assaults, the number of rounds which go off in intentional shootings has gone up faster than the number of shootings themselves.

              Why do I say this? Because the kids walking around with Glocks and Sigs in their pockets want to shoot their guns. That’s the whole point of owning a gun. And all this talk about having a gun for self-defense or for protecting 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ is nothing but talk – doesn’t really mean anything at all.

              In order to commit gun violence, you have to make seven different decisions, and every decision has to be ‘yes.’ Here they are: (1). Interested in guns, (2). Get a gun, (3). Get ammunition, (4). Load the gun, (5). Carry the gun, (6). Point the gun, (7). Pull the trigger and – blam!  These decisions are usually made over a span of years, starting when a boy is 12 or 13 years old. But if at any time a kid asks himself one of those questions and answers with a ‘no,’ he won’t commit gun violence.

              And by the way, let me make one thing very clear.  The medical definition of violence, as defined by the WHO or the CDC doesn’t differentiate between offense and defense. If you try to injure yourself or someone else, you have committed a violent act.

              Why are guns used so frequently to commit violence? Because certain guns are designed specifically and only for the purpose of committing violence. Using one of these guns is an efficient and usually successful way to engage in a violent act, particularly the more rounds you spray around the location where the violence occurs.

              Most of the kids and young adults responsible for the recent wave of gun violence have absolutely no awareness of consequences no matter what they do. All they know is that last week someone else yanked out a gun and popped some caps (read: shot a gun) all over the place. And the odds that someone gets caught for committing gun violence is hardly a risk, in many cities less than one out of five are arrested for aggravated assault.

              We know why people who want to commit violence often do it with a gun. But why do they want to commit violence with or without a gun?

Gun Violence | TeeTee Press

Gun Violence Is Not Public Health.

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              Several months ago, the medical community rejoiced when the new Director of the CDC, Rochelle Walensky announced that going forward, gun violence would be considered a ‘threat’ to public health. This statement ended what had long been a disappearance of discussion and research about gun violence within the CDC, and it coincided with the resumption of research government funding for gun-violence research both by the CDC and the NIH.

              All fine and well, because there’s no disputing the fact that guns are used to kill and injure more than 125,000 Americas every year. But defining a medical problem as a ‘threat’ to health is one thing, defining it as a ‘threat to public health’ is something else. Because the latter implies or explicitly promotes the idea that everyone in a particular community is at risk, ad when it comes to intentional injuries caused by guns, this is simply not true.

              From 2016 through 2020, the total number of gun homicides was 76,713, for a per-100K rate of 4.87.  The numbers aren’t exact, but fatal gun violence in other advanced (OECD) countries is roughly 7 to 20 times lower than it is in the United States.

              But guess what happens when we calculate the gun-homicide rate in the United States just for the part of our population which is White? The per-100K rate drops to 2.39, which is still at the top end of the OECD country, but not by much.  And if you then calculate gun-homicide rates on the per-capita basis not of population but on the number of civilian-owned guns, the White population of the United States is so much less threatened by gun violence that the whole argument becomes a joke.

              Because when scholars like David Hemenway explain our high rate of gun violence because we own those 300 million or 400 million guns, almost all those guns are owned by White Americans which, according to the CDC numbers, are simply not responsible for all those gun deaths. The number of Blacks killed by guns from 2016 through 2020 was almost ten times the number of Whites, for a population which is one-fifth the size of the Whites living in the United States.

              Now if you want to say that a certain medical problem is a public health issue only for a certain population defined by race, or gender, or anything else, go right ahead. But that’s not what the CDC is saying – Doctor Walensky didn’t qualify her statement about guns as a ‘threat’ to the public health of any particular group.

              Why didn’t she? Because the medical community has decided that guns wouldn’t threaten anyone’s health if they were all safely stored. The idea that you can take a Glock, or a Sig, or a Beretta and keep it in the house without the gun increasing medical risk has become the basic response of physicians to how we can eliminate those 125,000 fatal and non-fatal gun assaults every year without infringing on the ‘rights’ of any law-abiding adult to own a gun.

              Now the fact that there has yet to be one, single evidence-based study which shows a reduction in the gun-violence rate of any community when more gun owners adopt safe-storage behavior means that the entire push to use safe storage as a medical response to gun violence is based on nothing more than a unproven assumption that when the gun is taken out of the gun safe or the locked drawer it will be used in a non-violent way.

              Which only demonstrates how far from reality the medical community exists when it comes to gun violence, because most of the guns which are used to commit intentional assaults are designed and sold to be used exactly for that purpose – shooting and killing someone else. And by the way, when the World Health Organization defines violence, they make no distinction between trying to injure someone as an offensive or a defensive act. Violence is violence, period. And that’s what guns manufactured by companies like Glock and Sig and Beretta, and all the other handgun companies are designed to do.

              The idea that the head of the CDC would go on national television and announce that gun violence is a public health threat but oh, by the way, we can bring a medical solution to the problem if every gun owner would safely store his or her guns isn’t just a sick joke, it’s a fraud.  And as long as the medical community continues to support this fraud, they will have plenty of opportunities to sit at conferences and share their feelings about the violence caused by guns.

Do We Really Care About Gun Violence?

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              I have been involved, in the gun business, one way or another, since 1964.  Luckily, I didn’t usually depend on it for a living because if you want to make a million dollars in the gun business, you usually have to start with two million. But there’s nothing about the business I don’t know.

              I have published fifteen books on guns and I’m writing another book right now. I self-publish my books because nobody’s really interested in gun books anyway and I need another IRS-990 like I need a hole in my head.

              I have also published more than 1,800 blogs on this website, have been profiled in The New York Times and The New Yorker Magazine and blah, blah, blah, and blah. Big deal.

              In other words, I know a little bit about guns and because of what I know, I try to write and publish correctives to the mistakes made by advocates on both sides of the gun debate.

              The debate breaks down to an argument about the social utility of guns. One side, the gun-owning side, insists that guns protect us from crime and threats to our personal security, so having access to a lethal consumer product is a good thing. The other side says that most guns are used to kill and injure either the gun owner or someone else and access to such lethal consumer products, on balance, is not a good thing.

              The gun argument waxes and wanes but is usually driven by mass shooting events. The first event was when Charles Whitman killed 16 people from the tower at UT in 1966, which carried over to the passage of the gun-control law in 1968. The second was the Columbine massacre in 1999, which made Clinton try to push more regulations down the throats of gun makers, an effort which failed. The last, which was also the worst, was Sandy Hook in 2012, which also failed to produce any federal legislative response at all. The Sandy Hook event did, however, result in a lawsuit by a brilliant, young lawyer named Josh Koskoff, which found the gun maker liable for injuries caused by his gun.

              I’m neither surprised nor shocked by the reaction of Gun-nut Nation to these events.  After all, the job of organizations like the NRA and the NSSF is to sell guns. And if you think there’s a single gun owner who doesn’t know that his gun represents a risk, then you have never talked to a gun owner, okay?

              Which is why the pro-gun folks aren’t concerned about gun violence because they know what can happen if a gun gets into the wrong hands. And why should they be blamed for the behavior of people who shouldn’t be allowed to get their hands on guns? There’s no gun violence problem in this country according to the NRA. There’s a problem because nobody wats to enforce all those gun laws already on the books.

              As for my friends in Gun-control Nation, they finally got what they have been dreaming to get for the last twenty-five years, namely a resumption of gun research funded by the CDC. And the head of the CDC has even stated for the record that gun violence is a public health ‘threat,’ which is why the CDC and NIH recently awarded $25 million to folks who will now try to figure out how to reduce violence caused by the use of guns.

              One of the CDC grants will pay for an ER doctor who claims to be a ‘4-H certified gun trainer,’ whatever that means, to go around and talk about gun safety to kids who bring their little 22-caliber rifles to 4-H club shooting ranges. Now how these discussions will help this researcher and his friends develop a way to explain to teen-age dropouts walking around inner-city neighborhoods with Glocks in their pockets is beyond me.

              But not to worry. We’ll find this out in 2024 when the grant recipients publish an article in some ‘evidence-based’ academic journal, making sure to thank the CDC for funding their research. And that will be the end of that.

              Want to reduce gun violence in the neighborhoods where it occurs? Here’s three very simple thing that can be done today:

  1. Hold a gun buyback not once a year, or never, but every month. The point of a buyback is not how many guns are turned in. The point is to circulate the narrative about gun violence again, and again, and again.
  2. Put up signage in high-violence neighborhoods which declare the area to be a ‘gun-free’ zone. Put a large sign in red letters on every corner. Don’t we put up a sign when we want motorists to slow down?
  3. Go to a PTA meeting and demand that the kids attend a monthly program which tells them to stay away from guns. Guns start showing up in middle schools and by the time you get to high school, it’s too late because the kids who will later commit gun violence have all dropped out.                                                                                                                                                                

There is not one, single community in the United States which is impacted by gun violence that has ever implemented even one of these strategies, never mind all three. And I didn’t need the CDC to award me one, single dollar to figure it out.

The fact that efforts like these aren’t happening anywhere tells me that nobody on our side really gives one rat’s damn about gun violence. And I don’t expect the other side to ever be concerned about gun violence at all.

The ATF Needs to Go – Part 2.

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              On Saturday I posted a column about the ATF and said that rather than appoint a new Director, that the agency should be shut down.  Wow! I got some interesting responses, most of them not only negative, but pissed-off negative too.

              So, rather than just leave well enough alone, I want to add a few points to my argument about why the ATF is no good and should join the dodo bird in the pantheon of things that no longer exist.

              For starters, you might want to begin by reading this report.  It’s the work of the Center for American Progress (CAP), which is the DC think tank that produces research to support legislative and governmental initiatives for the Democrats and was asked to study the ATF in 2015 when Obama was considering the possibility of folding the agency under the FBI.

              What got Obama started on the idea of closing down ATF was a program called Fast and Furious, which at the ATF ran from 2009 through 2013. The idea was to interdict guns that were purchased in gun shops in Arizona and then smuggled to Mexico and delivered to the cartels. All in all, ATF was involved in the movement of some 2,000 guns, many of which were assault rifles that were purchased in ‘straw’ sales.

              The purchasing was done by a bunch of gun ‘walkers,’ i.e., the men who smuggled the guns across the Rio Grande. Not only did the ATF know about these sales, but they encouraged dealers to break federal laws by not reporting or preventing these sales. After a U.S. Border Agent, Brian Terry, was shot and killed in 2010 by a guy using one of the ‘straw-sale’ guns, the program was shut down and the Department of Justice Inspector General issued a report.

              You can download the report here but get ready to read almost 500 pages.  Add that to the 150+ pages of the report from CAP, and you’ve got some serious reading to do. I’m willing to bet that I’m one of the very few gun-control advocates or writers in America who has read these two reports. Because if you read them, you’ll think twice about wanting to have anything to do with keeping the ATF alive.

              It’s not that the staff who managed this effort both in D.C. and Phoenix made endless mistakes. It’s not that of the 2,000 guns that were walked to Mexico, law-enforcement agencies interdicted and prevented maybe 100 of the guns from crossing the Rio Grande. It’s not that ATF senior management approved this crazy scheme because their primary motivation was to convince a federal judge to issue ATF it’s first-ever federal wiretap, which would have put the agency on a bureaucratic par with FBI and DEA. It’s not that one of the guns was used to murder a Border Patrol agent – getting shot is a risk that all cops take.

              Know how many ATF managers were fired, lost their pensions, and might have had trouble getting another law-enforcement job?  None. Not…one.

              How do you justify or even come up with a scheme that has the people whose business behavior you are supposed to regulate and make sure are following the laws consciously break the law because they are doing what you told them to do? And by the way, the entire scheme unraveled not just because of the investigation into Brian Terry’s death, but because comments were beginning to appear on the internet – where else? – which may have been posted by disgruntled ATF agents, pissed-off gun dealers, or both.

              One of my friends who is supporting the nomination of a new ATF Director told me that this issue gave him an opportunity to “f*ck the NRA.”  I understand his frustration and I understand his concern about wanting to do something that will blunt the power and influence of the gun lobby.

              But it seems to me that you don’t challenge the NRA’s presence and power by supporting a gun-control organization which has demonstrated consistently that it is as corrupt and useless as the organization whose pro-gun stance you would like to come to an end.

              When you do that, you’re helping the NRA stay afloat.

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