How Come People Who Want Gun Control Don’t Know How to Talk to People Who Own Guns?


            Carolyn Maloney is a House member who chairs the House Oversight Committee and is today chairing the hearing on banning assault rifles prior to a House vote on a bill thar will die in the Senate. Since 2013, she has been pushing a bill to criminalize gun trafficking, parts of which were incorporated into the gun-control bill just signed by Joe.

            Maloney didn’t do groups and individuals who are concerned about gun violence and mass shootings any favors in the way she led this hearing. The witnesses were from two companies that manufacture assault rifles – Daniel Defense and Sturm Ruger – versus Ryan Busse from Giffords and a staffer from the Brady Campaign.

            The fifth panelist was a young, African-American woman from the Gun Owners of America (GOA) nut-job gang, who claimed that Black women were the fastest-growing demographic of gun owners, a statement for which there is absolutely not a shred of real data but so what?  Who needs facts to back up an argument about guns, right?

            The other side, of course, has its own interesting deployment of data to bolster its point of view. In particular, there’s this whole thing about all the so-called ‘new’ gun buyers who have armed themselves over the last couple of years. The numbers come from both the gun industry and from public health research.

            There’s only one little problem, however, with this argument about how the Pandemic has increased the number of Americans who own guns. Has anyone bothered to figure out how many gun owners died from Covid-19 who otherwise might be alive if China hadn’t sent us the ‘kung flu?’ And let’s not forget to mention that this virus is particularly virulent among older people, who just happen to be the demographic most likely to own guns.

            Anyway, back to the hearing.

            So, the Democrats on the panel tossed easy questions to the panelists from Gifford and Brady, the POS/GOP members tossed softballs to the guys from the two companies that manufacture the AR-15. Nobody on either side said anything that hasn’t been said before – the gun-control people want to ban assault rifles; the pro-gun advocates want to toss all the potential bad people with a gun into jail.

            What struck me as I watched the proceedings, however, was the degree to which none of the House members nor the panelists tried to say anything that might be of interest to the other side. These two groups – gun ‘rights’ versus gun control – never (read: never) ask themselves to come up with an argument that might resonate with even one person who doesn’t agree with what they are always going to say.

            I’m not expecting to hear a rational or defensible argument from the pro-gun side, because there is no rational or reasonable argument to be made for keeping an AR-15 or a hi-capacity, semi-automatic pistol like a Glock or a Sig around the house.

The reason I have those kinds of guns around my house is very simple: I like guns. Maybe it’s a case of arrested mental development, maybe I want to believe that I can be a real, tough guy if I walk around with a gun. Maybe I’m just full of shit.

Anyway, it really doesn’t matter what I think as long as I have the GOA protecting my 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

Several years ago, an old man came into my gun shop and bought a gun. He had trouble filling out the background-check form and started cursing ‘that goddamn Kennedy,’ even though Ted Kennedy never promoted gun-control measures in his public remarks.

Finally, I got pissed off at the guy and said: “Hey Mister, if you had two brothers who were shot to death by men who used legally purchased guns, wouldn’t you be in favor of more gun control?”

The guy stopped filling out the form, looked down, then looked at me and replied, “You know, nobody ever said that to me before.”

I am still waiting for one of the gun-control groups to come up with a meaningful way to explain gun risk to gun owners without lecturing them on being ‘responsible’ with their guns. I am also still waiting for the public health researchers to discuss the same thing.

How come it’s so hard to figure out something to say to gun owners that they haven’t already heard?

Want To End Gun Violence? Be Responsible with Your Guns.


 Since this past Saturday, according to our friends at the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), there have been 385 shootings throughout the United States where someone with a gun tried to kill someone else who either did or didn’t have a gun. 

The result? 154 dead and 388 wounded, numbers which are probably somewhat underestimated since the GVA relies on media sources for its numbers which means a few shootings are missed here and there.

What the GVA doesn’t give us, and it’s not their fault, is the number of times that someone pulled out a gun, pointed the gun at someone else, pulled the trigger and missed.

You know that old saying, ‘if it bleeds, it leads.’ Right?

The point is that we don’t really know the true extent of gun violence in America. In fact, we’re not only not close to knowing, but if anything, we seem to be moving further away from trying to figure it out.

An article in yesterday’s USA Today summarizes the research on gun violence that has been funded by the CDC since the agency resumed its support of such work last year.  The reporter breaks $75 million in research grants awarded so far into three basic categories: community initiatives to reduce gun violence, veteran’s suicides and keeping children safe. The research director at the Giffords Law Center then sums it all up by saying she hopes we can finally gather some “’really basic data.’”

All fine and well, except there’s only one little problem. None of the studies which have been funded by the CDC have anything to do with gathering data at all. And if the only way I can get any idea about the extent to which guns are used to kill or injure anyone is to rely on media accounts gathered by the GVA, would the CDC track the incidence of Covid-19 by running a daily Google alerts scan?

Every few years the public health gun researchers get together for a meeting (they enjoy attending meetings) where they kvetch and moan about not having sufficient data to really understand gun violence. Which doesn’t seem to stop them from doing research because it’s better than working for a living, right?

I have said this again and again, but I don’t mind talking to myself, so I’ll say it one more time. It’s very simple. The United States experiences morbidly high rates of gun violence because we are the only country in the entire world which allows residents to own guns – semi-automatic handguns chambered for military-grade ammunition – that are designed only for the purpose of committing violence, which is defined by the World Health Organization as the intentional attempt to injure yourself or someone else.

What’s the response of public health gun researchers to this state of affairs? They look for ways to somehow mitigate the violence caused by such guns without getting rid of the guns. Have you heard one public health researcher call for an absolute and total ban on such weapons? You won’t.

Oh! I forgot! Want to be taken seriously by your public health colleagues when you conduct research on gun violence? Make sure to state that you have no intention of depriving Americans of their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

It’s what the physicians and public health experts who claim to be concerned about gun violence refer to as the ‘consensus’ approach. All we need to do is figure out strategies that will reduce gun violence but, by the way, still let Americans have free access to the cause of that gun violence, which happen to be the guns.

Of course, there’s always another approach we can use to take care of the problem without pissing off too many people on either side. We can promote the idea of being ‘responsible’ with guns, what some of the gun-control groups refer to as gun ‘sense.’

How touching. How polite. It’s not sense, it’s nonsense. Okay?

I can walk into the local Stop and Shop, pull out my Glock 17 and kill maybe 15 people in two minutes or less. Who says I’m not behaving responsibly with my gun?

Isn’t that what my Glock 17 was designed to do?

What Does the New Assault Rifle Law Really Say?


            So, once again the country will be treated to yet another Congressional debate about guns, with one side saying we already have too many goddamn gun laws, and the other side saying that we can reduce gun violence by passing yet another law.

            The law being debated would ban certain types of new guns from coming into the market because these types of guns, known as assault rifles, are being used in shootings where twenty people or more get killed in the same place and at the same time. And when these people happen to be a bunch of little kids and the place where they are killed happens to be their elementary school, as Grandpa would say, that’s ‘nisht gut’ (read: no good.)

            Now, it turns out that if we were to take the total number of people killed with these assault rifles each year and deduct that number from the total number of people killed every year who get shot by guns, it wouldn’t reduce the overall fatal toll of gun violence by even one percent.

            But you got to start somewhere, right? And since we can’t seem to figure out how to stop forty thousand or so people from picking up a gun and using it to kill themselves or someone else every year, if we get rid of assault rifles, at least these really bad, mass shootings may disappear. Maybe they’ll disappear. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t.

            You can read a text of the House or Senate bills, which basically say the same thing, but I’ll save you the trouble and summarize them as follows. Once this law goes into effect, nobody in the United States will be able to buy a new rifle or handgun which shoots in semi-auto mode and loads with a detachable magazine that holds more than 10 rounds.

            There are a few more bits and pieces to the law, but what I said in the previous sentence is what this ban is all about. If you happen to own a gun like this now, you can keep owning it or you can sell it to someone else. Or maybe you can sell it to someone else. The devil is always in the details., and the Senate version of the bill has an interesting, little devil lurking within, namely, a paragraph which only allows the current owner of an assault rifle to dell the gun to someone else by taking the gun to a federally licensed dealer and having the dealer run a background check on the prospective new owner of the gun.

            The House bill also has an interesting little devil that so far has avoided any public mention, which is a provision that requires everyone who currently owns an assault rifle to store the gun in a way which would prevent anyone not legally allowed to access such a weapon to get their hands on it.

            The NRA has posted a review of the proposed ban which quotes the usual suspects from both sides of the gun debate who say that the law, once enacted, would have little impact on gun violence in the United States. But none of these experts have obviously bothered to read the text of these bills. Because if they did, they would have to see that by requiring universal background checks to transfer previously owned guns (the Senate version) or requiring safe storage of such guns (the House version) would move the gun-control needle strongly in the direction that gun-control activists would like the needle to move.

            And by the way, I don’t notice any of the pro-gun loudmouths in the House or the Senate taking notice of these provision as well. Jim Jordan, the GOP member from Ohio, one of the staunchest promoters of the idea that the 2020 election was ‘rigged,’ came out with a statement about the gun ban, calling it a ‘direct’ attack on the 2nd Amendment and would do nothing to reduce gun violence. Thank you, Congressman Jordan, for your insightful remarks.

            I would be very surprised if either version of this bill makes it to Joe’s desk because when it comes to anything having to do with guns, the moment someone mentions the word ‘ban,’ every member of Congress begins looking for cover, particularly those members who come from purple zones.

            On the other hand, if the bill does get to the Oval Office with either of those two provisions for background checks or safe storage in the bill, even though these procedures would only apply to assault guns, it would still mark a major step forward for our friends in gun-control – oops! – I mean gun ‘sense’ land.

            Maybe if we’re lucky, before voting, maybe nobody in either chamber will actually take the time to read the bill.  

Think California Is a Safe State? Think Again.


            Want to read a story about gun violence which gets the whole thing wrong? Take a look at this article in Time Magazine, which claims the whole country can learn how to control gun violence by looking at what has happened in California over the last several years.

            California, so the article says, “has one of the lowest firearm mortality rates in the country. Its residents are less likely to die from a gunshot than almost anywhere else in the country, and are 25% less likely to die in a mass shooting.”

            That’s very impressive, isn’t it? And in fact, in 2020, California’s gun mortality rate was the sixth lowest rate of any state, just behind Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

            What’s the story here? What’s the reason California is such a safe state? As usual, the explanation is provided by Garen Wintemute, an ER doctor in California, who heads the gun-research effort at UC Davis, and is always ready to explain what he thinks we need to know about guns.

            Wintemute says that the low gun-violence rate in California is due to the passage of various gun-control laws, in particular laws which closed down companies making cheap guns within the state, closed private-sale loopholes and restricted individuals convicted of a violent misdemeanor from owning a gun.

            Wintemute and his research group had a hand in all three of those new regulations, so I can’t blame him from taking a moment to pat himself on the back. That being said, maybe Wintemute or one of his colleagues might want to go back to this article and revise their remarks.

            Why? Because what they are saying and what the article is saying based on what they are saying, happens to be wrong. Not a little bit wrong. Completely wrong.

            Notice the article talks about gun ‘mortality,’ meaning any way that someone is killed with a gun. But the gun violence which has become so overwhelmingly evident in the last several years happens to be the violence which happens when someone picks up a gun and shoots someone else. Every day it seems we get yet another report about people getting shot in front of a mini-mart, or inside a shopping mall, or somewhere where they happen to be.

            The World Health Organization defines violence as the attempt to injure yourself or someone else. The most effective and efficient way to injure yourself is to shoot yourself with a gun. No other method even begins to compare. Ditto when it comes to trying to injure someone else.

            But the truth is that the demographics, causes and circumstances behind gun suicides as opposed to gun homicides are so completely and totally different, that to lump them together  into one statistical category, when the only thing they have in common is the use of a gun, is to create an explanation and/or a mitigating strategy which has absolutely no reality behind it at all.

            And yet this is exactly what has been done in the article which tells us that California’s response to gun violence is something that should be copied in all the other states, and it is exactly what Wintemute and his research colleagues promote as well.

            In 2000, California had a gun-homicide rate of 4.36.  In 2020 the state had a gun-homicide rate of 4.40. That’s a decline in gun violence over the last 20 years? That’s what Grandpa would call ‘vishtugadach,’ (read: not worth mentioning.)

            The states which rank lowest in suicide rates since 2000, regardless of how the victim chose to end his life, happen to be the same states which have the lowest rate of gun mortality. Gee, what a surprise.

            It’s no surprise because these are also states which are overwhelmingly urban and have all instituted various public health programs to identify and reduce suicide risk.

            What does this have to do with gun violence? Nothing, except for the fact that gun researchers like Wintemute can confuse two very different types of violent behavior and pretend that when it comes to solutions, they are both the same.

            And by the way, the gun-control laws which Wintemute cites as being what makes California such a ‘safe’ state have nothing to do with suicide whatsoever.

            It’s high time that my friends in the gun-control community stop pretending that the only difference between gun homicide and gun suicide is the direction in which someone points a gun.

            We can do better than that. We really can.

There’s Nothing Like a Good Conspiracy Theory to Promote 2nd-Amendment ‘Rights.’

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            Ready? Here comes the single craziest statement that anyone has ever made about gun violence in the United States.

            And who made it?  None other than Marjorie Taylor Greene who said in a podcast that the recent mass shootings in Highland Park on July 4th were ‘staged.’

            Why was the shooting which killed seven people and injured dozens more nothing other than a phony event? Because it would galvanize public opinion and push Republicans to support gun control.

            That’s what she said. She really did. Which is why we have the 1st Amendment in this country so that people like MJT can get away with saying such loony, hurtful things.

            Except maybe they can’t, if it turns out that what they said really did result in someone else getting hurt.  After all, the Constitution doesn’t protect someone who stands up and yells ‘fire!’ in a crowded theater, right?

            It just so happens that one of America’s most notorious fire-throwers, Alex Jones of Infowars, will be shortly going on trial both in Texas and Connecticut for having promoted the idea that the Sandy Hook massacre was faked, a non-stop series of talking points on his show which resulted in harassments and death threats suffered by the parents of children murdered at Sandy Hook.

Jones has been ducking this one for years, and finally had to admit that his conspiracy theories about what happened at the Newtown elementary school were concocted out of whole cloth and that he was suffering from mental illness at the time he made those claims up. Now he’s defending himself against the damages suffered by the parents of dead Sandy Hook children by claiming that he has the ‘right’ to say anything he wants.

            The judges both in Texas and Connecticut disagree. It should be noted that the Connecticut judge, Barbara Bellis, also heard the original lawsuit against Remington whose gun was used in the massacre at Sandy Hook. In that case, she found that Remington’s argument that they weren’t liable for injuries at the school was strong enough to move the case into Federal court where Remington lost.

            That decision paved the way for Remington to make a settlement with the plaintiffs for $73 million. Obviously, Jones thinks he has a chance to move his case into Federal court over the issue of free speech.

            And who better than Marjorie Taylor Greene to come out and defend Alex Jones? For that matter, who better than MJT to explain the Highland Park killings as another fraud?  Hasn’t she been talking about the 2020 election fraud for the last couple of years?

            I said it this morning on my Medium column and I’ say it again. We are being ruined by the extent to which anything and everything which appears on the internet gets reported as some kind of newsworthy event. The idea that something as stupid and self-aggrandizing as a podcast comment on how and why the slaughter at Highland Park didn’t take place should be repeated by any internet news source just blows my mind.

            On the other hand, maybe there’s some way to bring MJT’s comment to the attention of the courts in Texas and Connecticut where the trials of Alex Jones are due to take place. Maybe jurors in those trials need to understand that every ‘right’ protected by the Bill of Rights has limits – even the ‘right’ to free speech.

            On the other hand, maybe we really need to ask ourselves if it really matters that Alex Jones has friends and supporters like Marjorie Taylor Greene.

It’s Time to Figure Out Gun Violence.

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            The Sandy Hook massacre, which occurred on December 12, 2012, brought about the emergence of a national, grass-roots movement to reduce gun violence. Gun-control groups and activities sprang up in state after state, national organizations like Everytown and MOMS got to work on a full-time basis, and the strength and impact of the pro-gun lobby (read: NRA) was challenged and on occasion overcome for the very first time.

            There’s only one little problem, however, with this positive turn of events, namely, both the number and rate of fatal shootings keeps going up. Here’s how it looks:


            Let me put it this way. If I hired someone to run my company and these were how the numbers looked after eight years, my manager would have to make a pretty good argument to convince me to keep him around.

            Now I don’t own any of the gun-control organizations, but I give several of them more than a thousand bucks each year and I’ve been giving them this money for a number of years. Am I getting any kind of decent return for my bucks? I’m not sure.

            Yesterday I received a letter from Brady, which I one of the gun-control groups I support. They asked me to make a donation to a program called Not Above the Law, which will “hold negligent gun dealers accountable” for the flow of ‘crime guns.’

            The Brady letter states that 90% of all crime guns come from 5% of the federally licensed gun dealers, and Brady’s Gun Store Transparency Project shows which dealers are following all the required laws and which dealers are not. By collaborating with ‘activists, residents and violence interrupters,’ Brady will “promote comprehensive solutions that will save lives.”

            Fine. Good. Just what we need. Comprehensive solutions to gun violence.

            Earlier in this column I said that when it comes to gun violence, there’s one little problem. Actually, there’s another little problem too. And the second little problem is that we have absolutely no idea how guns which can only be sold for the first time to someone who passes a background check then end up being used to commit a violent crime.

            Brady claims that 5% of the gun dealers are somehow furnishing most, or nearly all the crime guns. But is just so happens that somewhere between 5% and 10% of all licensed dealers happen to sell somewhere between 80% and 90% of all guns thar are first shipped by gun factories to wholesalers, who then ship the newly manufactured guns to retailers who then sell every, single one of these guns to customers who first pass a background check.

            The gun business happens to be the last retail consumer niche where consumer demand is not met by chain or big-box stores. For reasons of licensing, as well as safety concerns, the gun business is still a two-tier business, i.e., factory to wholesale to retail.

            This is particularly true when it comes to handguns and you’ll find that many sporting goods chains, like Dick’s and Wal Mart stock plenty of long guns, but won’t touch the little ones. And it’s the little guns which are the crime guns.

            Are there gun dealers who flout the laws? Of course. There are also Wall Street guys who don’t follow the rules laid down by the SEC. But believe it or not, a gun dealer who has a good-sized store and sells, say, 30 or 40 guns a week, is going to be a lot more careful than the guy who sells maybe one gun every third day. Meanwhile, it’s the big store whose guns show up at crime scenes for the simple reason that the owner of that store has no control over what happens to the guns he sells after those guns leave his shop.

            I am prepared to send Brady a big check if they would stop fooling around with this transparency nonsense and fund a research project that would explain how legally purchased guns wind up being used in violent crimes.

            If Brady’s interested in supporting this research, they can tell me how much the research would cost, and I’ll set up a GoFundMe so that we can all get involved.

Want To End Gun Violence? Be Responsible.

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              So now The (failing) New York Times has become so desperate for readers and clicks that it has a dear Abby column where readers send in questions about whatever little problem they have, and some ‘expert’ responds with the proper advice. You can find this crap in the Social Q’s column in the Style section, and yesterday’s lead question is from a ‘mother’ who is worried about her teen-age daughter and the question starts off like this:

              “Our 15-year-old daughter is very headstrong. She’s never been in real trouble, but she bristles against rules and authority: curfews, homework, appropriate clothing — you name it! Recently, she exploded when her younger brothers discovered her journal in the family room. Now, she keeps it locked in a heavy black box she found at a secondhand store. The problem: The black box turns out to be a gun safe! she refuses to give up the safe, and we don’t want it in our house. Help!”

              The advice to this poor woman comes from Philip Galanes, who used to be an entertainment lawyer for the Paul, Weiss law firm, but now has become the entertainment himself. And here’s what he tells this poor woman to do: “Start by asking if she knew what the gun safe was. (I wouldn’t have!) If none of your children are very young, go deeper: Ask them about gun violence and their sense of safety. Let them take the lead. You and your husband can help them synthesize their thoughts. That’s probably more useful than any top-down declarations by you, and it may be the sort of meaningful give-and-take that your daughter responds to.

              How come this distraught woman wasn’t told to keep the safe around the house in case she and/or her husband decide to buy a gun? Aren’t that what responsible parents should be doing now that the CDC has declared gun violence to be a public health threat?

              That’s right. Back last August, the head of the CDC, Rachel Walensky, broke a 15-year silence about gun violence and not only proclaimed it to be a serious threat to public health, but also named the CDC’s -ready? – acting principal deputy director (whew), Debra Houry, to take the lead in promoting CDC’s response to this public health threat. Houry believes that gun violence can be effectively controlled through “research, education and targeted prevention.”

              If that’s all true, I still don’t understand why the Dear Abby wannabe in The (failing) New York Times didn’t advise the reader (who may not actually exist) to throw out the goddamn safe and oh, by the way, make sure never to bring a gun into the house. Because that’s what the CDC learned the last time they funded gun research which found that access to a gun in the home created a risk to health, the risk being a medical condition called death.

              But now that the CDC has decided to revive some evidence-based research that was done twenty-five years ago, we have to look to build a consensus about gun risk, and the consensus is that guns aren’t so risky as long as they are used in a ‘responsible’ and ‘safe’ way.

              That’s become the approach to gun violence promoted by the CDC over the past year, and obviously the reason for those mass shootings in Buffalo, Uvalde, and Highland Park (among other places) is because the shooters in all three of those events didn’t behave in a ‘safe’ or ‘responsible’ way.

              Not to worry. If there’s no big deal shooting, the whole issue will disappear and Philip Galanes will have to come up with some other problem that will align with inflation, or college loans or whatever the Fake News decides needs to be talked about this coming week.

              As for me, I think I’ll take a ride down to the guy who sells guns, ammo, archery equipment and fishing bait in my town. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even buy a gun. I have room in my gun safe for another AR-15 or maybe a new Glock.

              And if I do buy a gun, I’ll have no trouble passing a background check because, after all, I’m a safe and responsible guy.

How Come Only Mass Shootings Make The News?

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              Back in 2013, shortly after Sandy Hook, the Chicago suburb of Highland Park passed an AR-15 ban. The ban not only prohibited any town residents from going out a buying an assault rifle, but also required any current AR-15 owner to either get rid of the gun or move out of town.

              The law was appealed by the usual pro-gun bunch and the appeal went all the way up to the Supreme Court, which by a vote of 7-2 refused to hear the case, so the law remained on the books. Fat lot of good that law did over the weekend, right?

              The two justices who dissented from the decision to hear the case were, of course, Scalia and Thomas, with the latter writing a lengthy dissent [thank you Paula] containing the following text: “The overwhelming majority of citizens who own and use such rifles do so for lawful purposes, including self-defense and target shooting. Under our precedents, that is all that is needed for citizens to have a right under the Second Amendment to keep such weapons.”

              What Thomas should have added to his list of lawful purposes for shooting an AR-15 was the ability to climb up on the roof of a building, pop off some 70 rounds at people marching in an Independence Day parade, kill 7 people and wound 46 more. 

              What’s wrong with that? How do we know that this kid who did the shooting didn’t believe he was acting in self-defense? For all we know, he looked down at the parade and thought that the marchers were a bunch of moving targets, like the type you shoot at in a penny arcade.

              Maybe I have things confused, but I don’t see what all the Highland Park ta-ra-rum is about when you consider that this mass shooting occurred on July 4th.  After all, isn’t the whole point of celebrating this holiday to remind everyone how unique and different we are?

              And if there’s one way that the United States is truly different, it’s the fact that mass shootings like the shooting that took place in Highland Park happens here, there, and all over the place.

              On the other hand, I found the media coverage of what happened in Highland Park over the weekend a little strange. Why? Because more than 7 people get killed and another 46 get wounded in weekend shootings in Chicago and St. Louis and other cities all the time. And what difference does it make if these victims are all standing on the same corner or are standing all over the city when the shots ring out?

              I have never felt comfortable when I watch old Lester Holt on NBC Nightly News and he only seems interested in gun violence when a bunch of people get shot in the same place at the same time.  Back in May, when some kid walked into a supermarket in Buffalo, killed 3 people and wounded 10 more, 5 people were killed and another 11 were wounded in Chicago on the exact, same day. In St. Louis, the toll was 14 shot and 6 died on that same day.

              We don’t spend much time talking about the usual gun assaults that happen 300 times every day precisely because the one-on-one shootings are common, like car accidents, they happen all the time. No big deal.

              We also don’t talk about them because they occur overwhelmingly in certain kinds of neighborhoods where only certain kinds of people live. And if you don’t know what kinds of neighborhoods and people I’m talking about, as Grandpa would say, ‘gai macht,’ (read: good for you.)

              What’s the difference between a kid who gets up on a rooftop and sprays a parade with 70 rounds from an AR-15, or a bunch of kids who walk around in different parts of a city and each one goes –bam, bam – with a gun and a whole bunch of people end up injured or dead?

              In both situations, someone decided that they wanted to see what would happen if they used a gun the way they always see a gun being used on video or TV. And more important, they can get their hands on a gun!

              One of our premier gun researchers, Jens Ludwig, has a long op-ed on CNN about what he calls a ‘surprising solution to gun violence.’ What’s the surprise? Get more adults out in the streets to help kids learn how to deal with stressful situations without resorting to violence the way they do now.

              Guess what? If all those kids who right now can only express their anger by yanking out a gun couldn’t get their hands on a gun, there might be a lot of fistfights on the street corner, but nobody would wind up dead.

              Is this such a difficult concept to understand? 

Does America Have a Gun Culture?


              In 1971 I was helping my great-uncle Ben run his Smith & Wesson law enforcement wholesale business in South Carolina. In addition to selling uniforms, guns, ammunition, and holsters to cops, we also did a pretty good business selling guns to any retail customer who walked into the store.

              One morning, three different customers walked in and asked to buy a Smith & Wesson Model 29, the six-inch, 44-magnum revolver which S&W had started producing in 1955. The gun had always been something of an oddball because the magnum calibers hadn’t yet really caught on.  Plus, if you shot the gun more than three or four times, your hand hurt like hell.

              On that particular morning in 1971, I could have sold at least three Model 29 revolvers, maybe even four. But I didn’t have a single gun in stock. So, I picked up the phone and called the S&W factory in Springfield, MA, assuming that I could put in a special order for those guns and get them in a couple of days.

              “You’ll have to wait at least two months, maybe more,’ Del Shorb told me over the phone. Del was the sporting goods manager at S&W and even though my uncle Ben was a law-enforcement guy, sometimes we could hit up the other side of the factory to get a couple of guns.

              Understand in 1971, there was no Glock, no Sig, no Beretta, no nothing from overseas. The handgun business in the United States was Smith & Wesson, with a few models from Colt and Sturm, Ruger floating around. There wasn’t a single cop in the United States who wasn’t going on duty without his S&W Model 10, although some of the cops who pretended to be cowboys in places like Texas carried the 357-magnum revolver known as the Model 19.

              Anyway, so I ask Del “what’s going on? How could there be any demand for the Model 29?”

              I’ll never forget Del’s response: “Haven’t you seen Dirty Harry? It’s a movie about some cop in San Francisco who goes around hunting down all the bad guys with a Model 29.”

              That movie launched two, indeed three cultural movements in the United States. First, it shifted the entire Hollywood image and narrative of the gun fighter from the dance halls, saloons, and corrals of the Old West to the grime of modern, urban streets. Second, it made the gun industry wake up to the fact that handguns, not long guns would become the products in demand. Finally, and most important, it would transform guns from being used for hunting and sport to being used by good guys to even things out with the bad guys.

              Think there isn’t a direct connection from Dirty Harry down to John Wick?  Think again.

              Meanwhile, the year before Clint took his spaghetti Western franchise and remade it on San Francisco streets, America’s foremost historian, Richard Hofstadter, wrote a long and detailed article for American Heritage magazine, ‘America’s Gun Culture,’ which you can read right here.

              This article has probably been cited by more academics who have written about guns and the unique role played by guns in American life than any other published source. But nowhere in this article or in the numerous academic studies about the so-called American gun ‘culture’ does any scholar note the complete absence in Hofstadter’s essay of any recognition of how modern America media has created ad promoted cotemporary cultural views about guns at all.

              Back in the 1980’s, when Glock decided to enter the America gun market, in addition to creating a dealer network which gave retail gun dealers discounts for promoting the Austria brand, the company also sent representatives out to Hollywood to make deals with movie studios to feature Glock pistols in their films. When Smith & Wesson finally woke up to the fact that thanks to Dirty Harry, their Model 29 was flying off the shelves, they only lost a year’s worth of revenues because nobody at the factory had ever thought to sit through a Clint Eastwood film.

              What all the academic experts who think they know anything about gun ‘culture’ completely miss is that where this culture is strongest is among the population which isn’t legally connected to guns. Guess who’s watching and listening to all those hip-hop videos which promote guns? If you think that the hip-hop audience are the middle-class, law-abiding, White suburbanites who need a gun for self-defense, you have about as good a grasp on the reality of gun ‘culture’ as those gun-buyers have.

An Important Plan to End Gun Violence.


              Back in 1997 a Republican-led Congress decided that they didn’t want to hear anything more about gun violence, so they deleted a provision in the annual CDC budget which previously had funded gun research. It was called the Dickey Amendment and it remained in place until last year.

              Some of the slack in gun research was taken up by The Joyce Foundation, a liberal, grant-making operation in Chicago which began making grants to support gun research in 1993, and by 2019 had given out $32 million for this kind of work.

              I happen to have been a recipient of Joyce support when the Foundation generously helped fund the CME-accredited gun violence conference I organized in Chicago in 2016.

              This year, even though the CDC has once again begun providing funds for gun research, the Joyce Foundation has still awarded $566,905 to support programs about guns. What I am going to talk about in this column should not, in any way be taken as the slightest criticism of the Joyce Foundation’s presence in this field.

              The Joyce Foundation has just published an important document which needs to be read by everyone – researchers, advocates, practitioners – in the GVP field. The document, “Toward a Fair and Just Response to Gun Violence: Recommendations to Advance Policy, Practice and Research,” can be accessed here. It is based on a series of virtual meetings which brought together “advocates, prosecutors and defense attorneys, policy experts, researchers, violence intervention practitioners, and members of law enforcement, all experts in their fields.”

              Many of the recommendations in this report have become SOP for all gun-control initiatives, I am referring to the idea of expanding community-based interventions, which are now embodied in the new federal gun bill that Joe signed last week.

              On the other hand, what is new and different about the Joyce report is the recommendations which emphasize supply-side solutions to the problem, which is the first time I have seen a recognition within the GVP community that neighborhoods which suffer high rates of gun violence need to be seen not just as locations where poverty creates unlawful behavior, but as marketplaces for the supply and diffusion of guns.

              Unfortunately, the specific recommendations which are promoted for reducing the movement of guns into this market are not based on anything having to do with how markets function or how such functions can be changed. If anything, the recommendations are nothing more than a rehash of a basic GVP consensus which assumes that regulating the behavior of individuals whose activities create a market can somehow reduce the supply of products into that market, regardless of any changes in market demand.

              So, for example, the report calls for specific licensing of handgun purchases, citing as the value of this strategy a 40% drop in gun homicides in Connecticut after a more detailed permit system for handgun purchases went into effect in 1995. All fine and well but if the researchers had extended their analysis for another decade beyond 2005, they would have discovered that Connecticut’s gun-homicide rate in 2012 rose by 68% over the rate in 2005.

              The report also calls for stricter regulation of gun dealers, in particular revising the ‘willful violation standard’ used by the ATF to determine whether a dealer is consciously ignoring relevant gun laws in order to transact an illegal sale. The definition of ‘willful’ needs to be made more explicit because the courts keep allowing dealers to continue in business eve though they commit ‘willful’ violations multiple times.

              I committed more than 500 ‘willful’ violations when the ATF inspected the transfers conducted in my shop between 2007 and 2014. Every, single one of these willful violations occurred because we forgot to write down the federal firearms license number of the one wholesaler from whom we bought all our new guns.

              Why was this violation of federal law a willful attempt by me to avoid regulations and maybe sell guns out the back door? Because when I received my dealer’s license in 2001, some guy from the ATF showed up, spent about five minutes talking about procedures and disappeared. Had I appealed the ATF’s finding that I willfully violated federal law, of course the court would have told the ATF to get lost.

              Would it be, to quote Grandpa, such a ‘gefailech’ (read: big deal) if somewhere in that report or in any report, if my dear GVP friends would maybe just mention the idea that we could end gun violence simply and easily by just ending the commerce in certain types of guns?

              And if you think the 2nd Amendment doesn’t allow us to restrict the ownership of bottom-loading, polymer-framed, semi-automatic handguns and long guns, then you don’t know anything about the 2nd Amendment and you don’t know anything about guns.

              ENJOY THE HOLIDAY!!!

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