A Must-Read Novel by Joyce Carol Oates

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              Joyce Carol Oates isn’t a gun nut, that’s for sure. But the way a gun briefly appears in her latest novel, Babysitter, makes this work something which every gun nut should read.

              I’m not going to discuss the novel’s plot because I don’t want to rob anyone of the pleasure of reading every word without knowing what the next word is going to be. But when Joyce Carol Oates describes how people feel and think about anything that happens in their lives, you won’t get it better or richer from anyone else.

              The scene involving a gun takes place with a man and a wife. He has bought a self-defense gun and pulls it out, shows her how to hold it, load it, pull the trigger and now she’s ready to defend herself and the kids in case someone tries to get into the house and do them harm.

              The wife, of course, knows from nothing about guns. And despite being reassured by her husband that a gun is the best way to prevent any trouble, she basically tells herself that she doesn’t feel ready or able to use a gun in self-defense.

              That’s it. The whole scene is one page in a novel which runs 432 printed pages front to back. But in this one, very brief episode, we are given an extraordinary insight into the whole, contemporary problem known as gun violence which the author of this brilliant novel, knowingly or not, seems to understand.

              I’ll return to Babysitter shortly, but first let me create a proper context for the appearance of a gun in this book.

              In 1986, the U.S. gun market absorbed 3,741,934 new guns, of which 1,655,387 or 44%, were handguns. In 2019, the market absorbed 10,998,608 new guns, of which 6,221,322, or 57% were handguns. Ever since the 1980’s, the gun market has increasingly been driven by a demand for handguns, because the only gun owners out there buying rifles and shotguns for hunting are old farts like me. Kids don’t hunt.

              Pistols are designed and carried only for armed, self-defense. Many revolvers are also purchased and carried for self-protection, including the revolver owned by the husband in the book written by Joyce Carol Oates.

              The husband seems to think that all he needs to do is show the wife how the gun works, and she’ll be able to use it to protect herself and the kids when they are home.

              The wife knows better. In just a couple of paragraphs, Joyce Carol Oates conveys the woman’s combination of fear, doubt, and anxiety which she feels just by looking at a gun.

              These emotions were exactly what I observed in the behavior of more than a thousand women who took the safety course that my state mandated in order to get licensed to buy, own or carry a gun. The women who took my course were either wives or girlfriends of men who owned guns, and they were getting licensed because my state (Massachusetts) has the toughest gun access law of all 50 states.

              The law basically says that every adult in the household must be licensed to access guns if any member of the household wants to keep guns in the home. Of these thousand women or so who took the safety course, the number who were going to buy their own guns was less than ten.

The women who took the course showed up when their husbands or partners also took the course. Most of the seven thousand enrollees in the course were men, and most of the men showed up for the course with other men.

I required every student in the course to shoot some rounds with a 22-caliber Ruger pistol, just to get the feeling for what happens when a gun is shot off. The male students couldn’t wait to get down to the range and fire away. The women were reluctant at best to shoot a live gun, at worst they were so frightened that they either started crying when the gun kicked back after firing or dropped the gun.

I don’t know how many of the men who got licensed as gun owners ever took the time and the trouble to go to a range on a frequent basis in order to develop and then maintain the proficiency needed to use a gun in self-defense. But if they thought that just by dint of owning a gun they could use a gun properly for self-defense, they were wrong.

In Babysitter, the husband simply assumes that his wife will be able to use a gun for self-defense because he tells her how to use the gun if someone tries to break into their home. And this totally delusional attitude on the part of the husband is described perfectly by Joyce Carol Oates.

It goes without saying that I loved this book, and you’ll love it too.

The CDC Funds More Research on Gun Violence. Yea – So What?


              Two years ago, Gun-control Nation exulted when the CDC put money into its budget to support research on gun violence and then awarded almost $8 million for grants to conduct studies on how and why Americans keep injuring themselves and others with guns.

              The CDC has just announced a second wave of research funding that will result in $2.5 million being spent on four new research projects, the monies to go “to improve understanding of firearm injury, inform the development of innovative and promising prevention strategies, and rigorously evaluate the effectiveness of strategies to keep individuals, families, schools, and communities safe from firearm-related injuries, deaths, and crime.”

              Taken together, these two funding efforts total slightly more than $10 million. Meanwhile, in the two years since the first dollars were expended, gun violence has reached levels that have never previously been achieved, with the 2020 number for gun-violence deaths more than 30% higher than annual counts in the years at the turn of the century and numbers for 2021 and 2022 promise to be higher still.

              Since Friday, 138 people have been gunned down and killed, which is probably about half the actual number because the media sources used by our friends at the Gun Violence Archive are, by definition, incomplete, plus a number of the victims who are hospitalized with gun injuries will be released from medical treatment when they are dead.

              Or better yet, some of the victims of gun violence will walk out of the hospital under their own steam and go home to resume their normal lives. Then they’ll come back to the hospital in a couple of months with some new medical problem which doesn’t appear to be connected to the gun injury they suffered but it is. Then they’ll dop dead.

              So, what are the issues that the new round of CDC research on gun violence will attempt to understand and then solve? We are told that these research efforts are designed to “improve understanding of firearm injury and inform the development of innovative and promising prevention strategies,” and “rigorously evaluate the effectiveness of innovative and promising strategies to keep individuals, families, schools, and communities safe from firearm-related injuries, deaths, and crime.”

              First up is the $643,000 that will be spent by Shannon Frattaroli to study the effectiveness of ‘red flag’ laws, which are the Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) laws that allow people to go into court and ask a judge to take guns away from someone who is exhibiting behavior which makes them a risk to themselves or someone else. Professor Frattaroli’s research will focus on “communities that experience high rates of gun violence.”

              There are currently 17 states with such laws: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.

              Now, here are the 17 states with the highest rate of gun violence from 2015 through 2020: Alabama, Alaska, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Wyoming, South Carolina, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Montana, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada.

              How many of the 17 states which have the Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) laws have high rates of gun violence? Exactly two – Nevada and New Mexico which, by the way, represent 1.5% of the total population of the United States and 3% of the total population of the ERPO states.

              The CDC is also giving a researcher in Missouri nearly 600 grand to study “how individual, social network, and neighborhood environmental characteristics are associated with firearm risks for youth experiencing homelessness and examine the role their social network may play in moderating these risks.”

              Exactly what social networks is he talking about? The social networks organized and managed by the gangs which supply the homeless kids with the dope they sell and the guns they use to back up and ‘moderate’ their sales?

              The third research grant will help a researcher conduct a ‘nationally representative’ survey of 2,750 kids and adults to identify such risk factors as witnessing gun violence, gun carrying, perpetration and victimization, and the fourth research project has something to do with suicide but the project itself isn’t described.

Oh well, oh well. So much for how the CDC bothers to edit its own website.

I have read just about every piece of gun-violence research published in what is referred to as ‘evidence-based’ journals over the past 20 years. Most of this research was funded by private sources like the Joyce Foundation, now the funding is provided by the CDC.

I have yet to see one, single piece of research on gun violence which goes beyond what Art Kellerman and Fred Rivara published in 1992 and 1993. Their research found an indisputable link between guns in the home and medical risk. They didn’t qualify their findings in terms of whether the guns were safely stored or whether the gun owner was behaving in a dangerous way. They simply found that guns are a risk to health.

Kind of like how tobacco is a risk to health, right? Or kind of like how eating potato chips and drinking full-calorie soda is a risk to health.

And how does medicine deal with risks from smoking or consuming too many calories every day? Get the cigarettes and the high calorie foods out of the house.

But we can’t get guns out of the house because, after all, Americans have a Constitutional ‘right’ to own a gun.

Know what? After I post this column, I’m going to get in my car, drive down to the local mini-mart and buy a big bag of Frito-Lay chips, which the Constitution’s commerce clause allows the store to sell and gives me the Constitutional ‘right’ to buy and eat.

What Do You Really Know About Guns?



I started writing about guns and gun violence on May 31, 2013, and since that data I have posted 1,849 columns on my website. I have also self-published 16 books on guns and will shortly publish a very detailed, academic book about guns with Nova Science Press. The open-source, academic aggregator SSRN carries 11 of my academic papers, and I have been profiled both in The New York Times and The New Yorker Magazine – my complete credits can be found here, along with a description of my activities as a gun dealer, manufacturer, importer, trainer and owner-user of guns over the past sixty-six years.

              Why am I patting myself on the back? Because I am in the process of making a very big change in the scope and direction of my gun activities and my gun research, so I want everyone who follows this blog to understand how and why this reorientation came about.

              It has come about because over the nine years that I have been writing about guns, the gun-control communities have developed and now promote narratives about guns and gun violence which increasingly bear little, if any connection to the millions of guns found in the millions of American homes or how these millions of guns are used or misused.

              Here’s the gun-control narrative which I find most troublesome: We can reduce the awful levels of gun violence by passing laws which primarily control the behavior of individuals who legally own guns, such laws based on the idea that gun owners need to behave in safer ways with their guns, or what is often referred to as ‘gun sense’ or ‘responsible’ use of guns.

              The gun-control community, or the gun violence prevention (GVP) community as they like to call themselves, believe they can use their narrative to define some ‘middle ground’ with gun owners that will both reduce gun violence and at the same time respect gun ‘rights.’ Known as the ‘consensus’ approach, this strategy is endorsed not only by all the gun-control advocacy groups, but by the medical and public health communities as well.

              Why do these well-meaning groups think they can find some ‘consensus’ with gun owners when they don’t know anything about guns or why people own guns?

When someone goes out and buys a Glock or a Sig, they are buying a product designed only for the purpose of committing violence, okay? And the World Health Organization doesn’t differentiate between ‘good’ violence and ‘bad’ violence. So, if you’re going to build ‘consensus’ by talking to people who have decided that they are prepared to commit a very violent act, don’t you at least first have to understand why they hold such a crazy idea?

What do we get from the gun-control community when it comes to explaining why a majority of Americans believe that their home will be safer if it contains a product whose sole purpose is to be used to commit an act of extreme violence? You get surveys whose authors think they have learned something when they tell you that an increasing percentage of gun owners are buying guns for self-defense. Boy, that explains everything, right?

It might explain something if the only way to defend yourself was to walk around with a gun. How about calling the cops? How about backing off from someone who’s threatening you? How about don’t get into an argument with someone in a bar and then ‘take it outside?’ How about? How about? How about?

To go beyond the how abouts, I have published a little manual which gives non-gun owners an opportunity to engage in a reality-based discussion about gun violence by first learning and practicing the rudiments of defending yourself with a gun.

Don’t worry. You can learn the proper techniques, practice them, and perfect them without buying, owning, or using a gun. In fact, as far as I can tell, the training described in this brief booklet is the very first gun-training course which is designed to be learned and studied without requiring access to a gun.

Along with this booklet, I also have a website which contains detailed content on how to buy the proper self-defense gun, how and where to get trained properly, some of the legal issues which need to be considered when thinking about carrying a self-defense gun; in other words, the basic issues which need to be considered by everyone who wants to protect themselves with armed force.

Finally, there’s a Facebook group that allows you to contribute some dialog to this effort as well as connecting with other individuals who have become interested in practicing armed, self-defense. If we get enough members to join the Facebook group, we’ll open a forum on the website as well.

So, here’s your opportunity to replace the hot air with the knowledge and skills that will make it very difficult for any gun owner to talk about guns with you and think that you have no idea what you’re talking about.

Isn’t it time to build a response to gun violence based on at least some degree of knowledge held by everyone about guns?

Something to Think About.

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