If You Read One Book About Gun Violence, Read This Book.

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              Philip Cook is an economist who began studying and publishing on gun violence in the late 1970’s, and it would not be an overstatement to say that he has been the singularly most influential and significant scholar in this field for the past forty years. I’m two years older than Phil, so I can afford to be magnanimous in my praise of his academic work and impact on the field.

              Anthony Braga is a criminologist who ranks as the best and the brightest of the next generation of scholars producing original and important research on issues related to gun violence, in particular, the effectiveness of policing strategies which focus on proactive measures to control violent criminality occasioned by the use of guns.

              The good news is that working together, Braga and Cook have now produced a book-length study, Policing Gun Violence, whose title perfectly encapsulates their respective primary research concerns: Braga on cops and Cook on guns.

              What we get from this vaunted collaboration is an approach to understanding the how and why of reducing gun violence which creates a more penetrating and hopefully more productive narrative for reducing gun violence than what is being bandied around the gun-control community today.

              If you look at the messaging from the major gun-control organizations – Brady, Everytown, Giffords – what has now become the standard response to a couple of thousand fatal and non-fatal gun injuries each and every week is the idea that law-abiding gun owners have to keep their guns safe – use them safely, store them safely, sell them to someone else safely, on and on again and again.

              Where does Gun-control Nation get this nonsense?  They get it from public health researchers who have become enamored of the ‘consensus’ approach to gun violence, which means coming up with gun-control strategies acceptable to both sides.

              This would be like asking the CDC to come up with a solution for tobacco use that would be preferred by smokers, or maybe a way to deal with alcoholism by figuring out how to solve the problem which the binge-drinkers among us would also prefer.

              On the very first page of their spellbinding treatise, Braga and Cook waste no time getting to the heart of the matter: “Gun violence is a multifaceted problem requiring a multifaceted response. But an essential component of any comprehensive effort is more effective policing. Most instances in which one person shoots another are crimes.”

              Bingo! That’s it. We finally have an analysis of gun violence which starts at the beginning of the problem and not at the end. The end of gun violence is the guy lying in the street with a bullet in his head. The beginning of the problem is the decision by someone else to commit a violent crime. And that decision is in no way going to be influenced or affected by whether or the gun used in that assault was used safely or not.

              It’s too bad that one out of every seven or eight Americans lives in a crime-ridden, underserved, urban neighborhood. It’s too bad that many, if not most of the people living in those neighborhoods happen to be black. It’s too bad that the median household income for blacks is 40 percent lower than the median household income for whites. But mitigating and ultimately eliminating the ‘root causes’ of violence means nothing to the kid who disses another kid and then finds himself looking down the barrel of a gun.

              This past weekend two young guys got into an argument at the food court in my nearby shopping mall. One thing led to another, a gun got pulled out, a shot was fired and a third individual, described as an ‘innocent bystander’ fell down dead. This mall has a stated policy  as a gun-free zone. There are also armed security guards on continuous patrols.

              You think the guy who walked into this mall with a gun in his pocket spent one second thinking that he was violating the rules when he decided not to leave his gun out in his car? But the point of Braga and Cook’s book is an analysis of the methods and strategies that cops need to use to keep this guy from ever getting his hands on a gun.

              Which is why this book so timely, so coherent, and so important for everyone to read.

When Is an Assault Pistol Not an Assault Pistol?


              Now that 2023 seems to have a come in with a whole bunch of mass shootings (58 killed or wounded in 4 events in LA, CA, Fl, AL), we get the usual ‘thoughts and prayers’ on the one hand, and the usual search for explanations on the other. But this time around, thanks to a comment made by the Sheriff at the Monterey Park shooting, a third discussion has also broken out.

              When Sheriff Robert Luna was asked to describe the weapon that was used to kill 11 and wound 9 at the Star Dance Studio, he called the gun an ‘assault pistol, not an assault rifle,’ which set off all kinds of  tongue-wagging on the internet, because there’s no such thing as an ‘assault pistol’ and, for that matter, the term ‘assault rifle’ is also a phrase which means nothing at all.

              So, what I’m going to try and do in today’s column is explain what these terms mean and don’t mean, if only to attempt to bring a little bit of clarity to the current gun debate. I’m not assuming I’ll be successful in trying to make sense out of what has been and continues to be nonsense, but I’ll give it a try.

              Until the last year of World War II, every combatant on both sides of the conflict carried and used a semi-automatic gun. Whether it was a rifle or a pistol, the bottom line is that every time a soldier wanted to shoot his weapon, he had to pull the trigger.

              Now in fact guns which fired multiple rounds with one pull of the trigger had been around since the middle years of the nineteenth century, but the early guns, like the Gatling gun, were bulky, heavy and therefore not suited to be carried or used by individual troops. The Thompson sub-machine gun, popularized by Al Capone’s gang, was also produced both for military and civilian use but was never issued to troops in the field.

              Now we come up to 1944 and the German weapons engineers come up with a small, lightweight and fully automatic gun which really works which they call the Sturmgewehr 44, which means ‘assault rifle’ (sturm = assault or attack, gewehr = rifle) and the assault rifle is born.

              The Russians then developed their version of the assault rifle, the AK47, in 1947, and the United States gets into the full-auto act with the AR-10 in 1955. For any gun-nut reading this page, you can get a quick and clear history of the AR right here, but the end result of the efforts made by Gene Stoner to design a small, lightweight and full-auto rifle was the gun produced by Colt and first released to the troops in 1964.

              At the same time that Colt began delivering their gun to the military, which was called the M-16, the company also began to sell a semi-automatic version of the gun to the civilian market, which was first advertised by Colt as a ‘sporter,’ but other than the semi-auto versus the full-auto firing mode, the sporter was exactly the same gun as the M-16: same size, same weight, same everything except it wasn’t a full-auto gun.

              What makes the assault rifle so deadly and is the favorite weapon used by most shooters who want to kill lots of people as quickly as they can, is the way in which the gun loads the ammunition it fires, which is a magazine stuck into the bottom of the gun. A top-loading gun, like the venerable M-1, can only take 8 or 9 rounds before it needs to be reloaded because a larger magazine would stick out above the gun’s frame and make It impossible to aim the gun.

              On the other hand, if the gun’s ammunition is held in a magazine which sticks out below the gun’s frame, you can use magazines which are able to hold thirty, forty, fifty or even one hundred rounds.

And don’t make the mistake of thinking that because the civilian version of today’s assault rifle only fires in semi-automatic mode, that this is a handicap for the shooter in terms of how quickly the gun can be fired.  The kid who killed 20 children and 6 adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School shot off more than 90 rounds in three minutes or less.

The reason that Sheriff Luna referred to the weapon used to kill and injure 20 people in Monterey Park as an ‘assault pistol’ was because the gun used in that slaughter had a barrel which was less than 16 inches in length. And the federal government defines rifles and pistols by one characteristic and one characteristic only, namely, whether the barrel is 16 inches or longer, which makes the gun a rifle, or what is referred to as a ‘long gun,’ versus the barrel being less than 16 inches, which makes it a pistol or a handgun.

For all of the gun-nut purists out there, who have spent the last thirty-odd years telling us that no semi-automatic weapon can be considered an assault gun, let me break the news to you gently. The current battle rifle issued to our troops can be set either to fire a 3-shot burst or to fire in semi-automatic mode.

This design feature has been incorporated into the military gun because it has been determined that a lightweight, semi-automatic gun is more lethal than a full-auto gun when the trooper finds himself in a public space where mobility and point-of-aim will determine how many human targets will be shot and killed.

If that’s not the definition of an ‘assault,’ regardless of the gun’s barrel length, then obviously I don’t know how to use a vocabulary which I learned in the 3rd or 4th grade.

When It Comes to Gun Violence, Will the Two Sides Ever Agree?

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              Right now, there’s a debate going on in the Washington State legislature about a proposed law which would not only prohibit the sale of assault rifles but would also prohibit the transfer of currently owned assault guns from one person to another, basically sooner or later making Washington State completely free of such guns. You can read the bill’s text right here.

              You don’t need to wade through 16 typed pages – just take my word for the fact that this law, if voted up, will certainly be signed by Governor Jay Inslee and that will be the end of that.

              It goes without saying, of course, that the usual gaggle of gun ‘rights’ groups have joined with the usual gaggle of alt-right political groups to oppose this law, trotting out their usual bromides about how the statute would ‘unfairly target (no pun intended of course) lawful gun owners’ and do nothing to reduce gun violence in the state.

              The head of a group called Conservative Ladies of Washington, claims that the bill is ‘politically motivated’ and would ‘infringe on 2nd-Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.’ At the same time, almost 90% of all ‘gun violence is caused by people who are possessing firearms illegally,’ says this conservative lady (her name is Julie Barrett) which means that the new law wouldn’t reduce gun violence at all.

              What caught my eye about Ms. Barrett’s comment is how on the one hand, she feels compelled to pull the usual 2nd-Amendment rabbit out of the usual Constitutional hat, while on the other hand, adopting language which is never (read: never) used by the gun ‘rights’ gang at all.

              I’m referring to the lady’s use of the term ‘gun violence,’ a term found in just about every narrative produced by Gun-control Nation but considered to be a linguistic phrase rated at the highest level of toxicity by all those freedom-loving Americans who know for a fact that armed, self-defense is America’s oldest and most cherished civil right.

              That’s because in the gun-nut world, to link the word ‘gun’ to the word ‘violence’ is to violate the maxim found on the NRA’s favorite bumper sticker about how guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

              On the other hand, what she’s saying about how most acts of gun violence are committed by individuals who use illegal guns also happens to be true, yet it’s a truism which rarely finds itself mentioned in the narratives of all those tree-hugging liberal groups lining up to support this new bill.

              So, it occurs to me that maybe without realizing it, Julie Barrett has come up with a strategy which will finally begin to bridge the rhetorical gap between the two sides in the gun debate and possibly create the basis on which a rational and (God forbid) effective discussion about guns and gun violence might occur.

              Going forward, let’s agree that Gun-nut Nation will begin to inject the phrase ‘gun violence’ into their narratives about 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ and Gun-control Nation will begin to substitute the word ‘crime’ for the word ‘safety’ in their hallowed phrasing about guns.

              Let me break something gently to my gun-control friends. Lecturing a gun owner about behaving in a safe way with his guns is to insult that gun owner to a degree that will render any discussion between the two sides totally and completely moot. Think that gun owners don’t know how dangerous their guns happen to be? Why do you think they bought the damn things in the first place, okay?

              As for the idea that guns, not people, cause gun violence, is to create and promote a fantasy about the use of guns which cannot be sustained in the brains of anyone more than six years old.

              The bottom line is that both sides in the gun debate need to stop using language whose only rationale is to create instant messaging used to raise funds whenever there’s a mass shooting or a new gun-control law, or both.

              Which is what the gun debate has always been about – keeping your organization’s bank account full to bursting while the annual toll from shootings goes on and on.

Let The Experts Explain Gun Violence.

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              Here we go again. A couple of mass shootings take place over a couple of days, and the experts weigh in on why the shootings occurred. And who is going to challenge the expertise of people from Johns Hopkins University or the Rockefeller Institute, particularly when they are backed up with data gathered by the Secret Service?

              Duhhh … I’m going to challenge the opinions of these experts because all they’re doing is making sure the next time CNN needs 30 seconds of audio to go along with a video of some SWAT team rushing here or rushing there, that maybe they’ll be the mouths providing the noise.

              Here are the so-called reasons why the number of shootings resulting in four or more persons getting shot has gone up.

              Reason #1: “Americans have more guns now than they did before. US gun sales reached a record 23 million in 2020 – a 65% increase from 2019 – and remained high in 2021.” This brilliant example of expertise comes from Josh Horwitz, who used to be the head of a totally useless organization, The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, and now spiels at Johns Hopkins University.

              What’s the connection between more guns being sold to legal gun owners (the gun sales data comes from the monthly FBI-NICS background checks) and more shootings which kill and/or injure four persons or more? WTFK. 

              Why WTFK? Because we have no idea whether the shooters were using legally-owned guns, or guns they stole from someone else, or guns the shooters bought on the street corner, or anything else. 

              The more guns = more gun violence argument would be like saying that the reason we have more fatal car accidents is because we have more cars driving around on the roads. In fact, the number of cars registered in the United States has increased roughly 4 percent every year since 1960, and the fatal accident rate keeps going down.

              Reason #2: “Rise in life stressors, both in general and as a result of the pandemic, especially hardships related to finances, employment or family and relationships.” These issues, according to the lady who runs the gun group at Rockefeller, “can lead some people to act out or respond violently.”

              ‘Can lead some people?’ Which people? We are told (from the Secret Service report) that 93% of the 34 mass attacks which occurred in 2019 were committed by individuals who had experienced at least one of the stressors mentioned above over the previous five years.

              Over the previous five years? If we were to figure out how many Americans have found themselves experiencing a job loss, marital or relationship breakdown, mental health issues, substance abuse or other serious, life-changing events over the past five years, do you think the total number would be less than 200 million? I don’t. Some people. Thanks a lot.

              Reason #3: “Toxic masculinity.” This bizarre statement comes from the Rockefeller lady and is based on the ‘fact’ that mass shooters tend to be almost entirely men. She then adds, “If we are trying to understand the root causes of gun violence, we need to start by understanding why people pick up firearms in the first place to inflict harm, regardless of the target of that harm.”

So, what are these two experts really telling us? They are saying that all we need to do is figure out why this guy and that guy can’t just own guns because they want to own guns but need to own guns in order to use their guns to shoot themselves or shoot someone else.

              Incidentally, the reason I use the phrase ‘shoot themselves’ is because many mass shootings, particularly the shootings where lots of people get injured or killed, end up with the shooter killing himself. In other words, the event combines homicide and suicide, which happened to account for 6 of the 34 mass shootings discussed in the Secret Service report.

              Why do some people who want to kill themselves with a gun first make sure to take some other people with them when they decide it’s time to take off for the great beyond? WTFK.

              You would think that two research organizations as important and qualified as Hopkins and Rockefeller could come up with some reasons for gun violence which would allow me to go beyond repeating WTFK. But they haven’t and they won’t. Know why?

              Because the so-called experts in these two groups who claim expertise in gun violence know absolutely nothing about the guns which are used to cause the violence and know even less about the industry which manufactures and sells those guns.

              What they do know how to do is say the same, useless things that they have now been saying for nearly thirty years, which is that all we need to do is figure out how to predict which of the 165 million males living today in the United States will commit gun violence tomorrow or the next day and pass yet another law to keep guns out of their hands.

              Sounds reasonable, right?

When Will Doctors Figure Out a Disease Called ‘Gun Violence?’

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              After the Sandy Hook massacre at the end of 2012, all of the medical organizations and academies felt it incumbent upon themselves to issue some kind of statement about gun violence. And now, more than ten years after that horrendous event in Newtown, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued an official Policy Statement: Firearm-Related Injuries and Deaths in Children and Youth: Injury Prevention and Harm Reduction, which you can read here.

              Let me be as blunt and candid as I can be, okay? If the professional organizations which represent the medical community had been as opaque, senseless, and incorrect about Covid-19 as the AAP is now positioning itself in relation to gun violence, we would still be in the midst of a pandemic rather than seeing life getting back to normal following the initial appearance of that disease.

              When it comes to gun violence, on the other hand, the ‘new’ normal is just like the ‘old’ normal, with the 45,000 or so intentional gun deaths becoming not only what we have gotten used to each year, but what will continue to occur if statements like the AAP statement on gun violence are taken seriously and become the basis for how medicine tries to deal with this uniquely American disease.

              How does the AAP suggest we deal with gun violence? By applying “the principles of the Haddon matrix for injury prevention to develop a multipronged approach for pediatric firearm injury prevention at the individual, household, community, state, and national levels.”

              What exactly is the Haddon matrix? It’s a research strategy developed by William Haddon, who was the first administrator of the federal agency which ultimately became the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) which operates under the Department of Transportation and keeps track of how many Americans smash themselves to bits driving down our roads. The NHTSA also issues those recall notices when a car’s design or equipment turns out to be bad – right now millions of cars are being recalled so that their airbags can be changed.

              The whole theory behind the Haddon approach to injuries is the assumption that consumer products like cars and guns can be designed to be more safe. And this strategy is implemented by doing research on how products are used at three different phases in the product’s lifecycle – before it is used, while it is being used, and after it is used. Known as the Haddon Matrix, this is a way to reduce product risk through interventions during all three phases of the product lifecycle, which can be implemented with guns by keeping those products out of the hands of kids, so says the AAP.

              Leaving aside the fact that the AAP defines ‘children’ as anyone under the age of 24, even though every state allows anyone to go hunting with a loaded gun above age 14, there is a much more serious issue involving guns which makes using the Haddon Matrix to reduce gun violence not just wrong in terms of results but demonstrates a complete and total lack of knowledge about guns.

              If I were to walk into a crowded room with my Glock 17 pistol and several extra hi-cap mags, I could easily kill 30 people in that room in two minutes or less and – ready? – my Glock would be operating exactly as it was designed to operate and to be used. Thank you, but no recall or intervention would be necessary at all.

              Why? Because the World Health Organization doesn’t divide the medical problem known as ‘violence’ into ‘good’ violence and ‘bad.’ If I shoot someone with my Glock who otherwise would have hurt me, I have committed an act of gun violence, okay?

              The point is that the guns which are used to kill and injure more than 100,000 Americans every year – semi-automatic, bottom-loading pistols chambered for military-grade ammunition – are designed exactly for that purpose, and the United States is the only country in the entire world which allows its residents to purchase, own and carry such products whenever they want. Which is why we have gun violence in this country and other advanced countries do not.

              There’s a very simple way to reduce gun violence, which is to get rid of the guns used to commit the violence. And if the AAP would take the trouble to run their policy statements past anyone who knows anything about guns, this is what they would be told.

              But physicians aren’t about to let someone without an M.D. degree advise them about what they should say because, after all, doctors think they rely on ‘evidence-based’ research, even when the research has absolutely nothing to do with the health problem they need to solve.

Who Says Liberals Are Against Armed, Self-Defense?

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I love how FOX NEWS runs a piece which is not only completely based on nothing but wrong opinions but then refers to itself as ‘news.’  In this instance, one of many, FOX ran a story on Joe Biden which was a collection of comments he made about guns, and as you can imagine, the comments all demonstrate that when it comes to the beloved 2nd Amendment, Joe is either a demented fool, or a gun-grabber, or both.

              The story was obviously put together to appeal to the FOX audience, which is patently conservative and therefore pro-gun. And when the White House tenant is a Democrat, this obviously means that privately-owned guns are likely to be regulated more than they are regulated now, or maybe just gotten rid of entirely.

              Except to show you how full of sh*t FOX happens to be, or better yet, how full of sh*t the whole pro-gun advocacy world happens to be, what FOX didn’t bother to mention is that Joe Biden happens to be the only national politician of either party who admits to using a gun for the reason that the pro-gun movement believes a gun should primarily be used, which is for self-defense.

              That’s right. Joe Biden is on record as recommending that keeping and using a loaded shotgun in the home is a proper way to keep your home safe. And Joe goes further and admits, in a 2013 interview, that he has taught his wife, Jill, how to use a shotgun to keep a bad guy from doing her any harm.

              Here is the direct quote from the February 20, 2013, issue of Parents Magazine: “If you want to protect yourself, get a double-barreled shotgun, have the shells, a 12-guage shotgun, and I promise you, as I told my wife – we live in an area that’s wooded and somewhat secluded – I said ‘Jill, if there’s ever a problem, just walk out on the balcony here, walk out, put that double-barreled shotgun and fire two blasts outside the house.’”

              Note that Joe didn’t tell his wife to first pick up the phone and call the Secret Service boys. Note that Joe didn’t tell Jill to run downstairs and lock herself in a basement room. What he told her to do is exactly what the NRA and every other gun-nut group has been telling Americans to do for the last umpteen years – rack up the ol’ shotgun and blast away.

              Now you would think the moment that Parents mag hit the newsstands, that the guys who run Mossberg and Remington and all the other companies making shotguns would have been getting online outside Joe’s office (he was Vice President at the time) to present him with a new shotgun for Jill to keep in their home.

              Can you think of a better photo op for the gun industry, particularly at a time when the President was a notorious gun-grabber who would do anything to take everyone’s guns away? I can’t, that’s for goddamn sure.

              To the contrary.  The guys who run the gun industry are so friggin’ stupid that they all got hysterical about Joe’s support of armed, self-defense, and went out of their way to tell their bunch that what Joe said was not only wrong, but illegal as well. One of the dumb asses, his name escapes me now, even went so far as to say that it’s a crime in Delaware to shoot a shotgun off into the sky because a pellet might come down and hit someone in the head.

              Now the fact that Delaware happens to be a state which sits directly in the middle of the North-South path of about a gazllion ducks which fly back and forth between Canada and Florida every year, and the fact that there must be at least ten thousand guys with shotguns who blast away at the birds as the flocks fly overhead, and the fact that there’s absolutely no law in Delaware or anywhere else which prevents a hunter from pointing his shotgun in the air and popping off a few rounds, oh well, oh well.

              The  bottom line is that when it comes to talking about guns and gun violence in American society today, if you’re a Democrat it’s something to be worried about, if you’re a Republican you just have to remember to mention your ‘thoughts and prayers.’

              And if you think the two sides in the gun debate are going to come together and figure out some kind of ‘consensus’ approach to a problem which results in more than 125,000 deaths and serious injuries every year, think again.

The Know-Nothings Talk About Guns.

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              So, today Trump the Shlump chimes in on the shooting at the Star Ballroom in Monterey Park, CA which killed ten and wounded ten more. Well, at least we were spared the usual ‘thoughts and prayers’ routine. Instead, what we got was something much more bizarre and much worse.

              Here’s the statement from a former President of the United States who is trying with great diligence to be remembered as the biggest public asshole of all time: “10 dead in California shooting, horrible gun wielding ANTIFA protest against our great police in Atlanta. Nothing will happen to them despite night of rage and destruction. Yet our January 6th protestors, over a Rigged Election, have had their lives ruined despite nobody killed except true Patriot Ashli B.”

              What’s he talking about? What does anything that happened at the Star Ballroom have anything to do with the bunch who ran up the Capitol steps on January 6th and then swiped the stationery off of Nancy Pelosi’s desk?

              As for what happened in Atlanta, opposition to a new police training  center has been going on for months, not because of any animus towards the cops, but because the facility is going to be built in what has been an 85-acre greenspace in DeKalb County which has generated the usual opposition from a bunch of tree-huggers who don’t want any development of any open space.

              One week ago the cops broke up what they called an ‘illegal occupation’ of the wooded area  by a group of activists which ended in a gunfight between state police and one individual who was shot and killed after allegedly opening fire with his own gun. Last night’s demo on downtown Atlanta was to protest the previous week’s violence, things got rough at some point, some store windows were smashed, a car was set on fire, five were arrested and that was the end of that.

              So how did any of this have anything to do with ANTIFA, or was Trump the Shlump just doing what he always does, which is to say whatever will get him mentioned by social media no matter how stupid he sounds?

              But wait just one goddamn minute. Trumpo-Shlumpo didn’t blame ANTIFA for the Atlanta riot out of thin air. He got this information from another public figure who has never, never said anything that wasn’t completely true and backed up by hard, cold facts.

              Who’s that? None other than Marjorie Taylor Greene, who had this to say about what happened in Atlanta: “It’s happening again TONIGHT in Atlanta. When will our federal agencies start taking left-wing TERRORISM seriously? ANTIFA/BLM = DOMESTIC TERRORISTS!”

              So, what we now have on one side when it comes to the issue of gun violence are the incomprehensible rants of Trumpo-Shlumpo on the one hand, and the hysterical lies of MTG on the other.

              But if my dear friends in Gun-control Nation think that the people speaking for them have any better grasp on the reality of gun violence, you might want to consider some remarks made yesterday on CNN by Nanette Diaz Barragan, whose 44th CD happens to be adjacent to the 43rd CD which is where the Monterey Park shooting occurred.

              Rep. Barragan happens to be a member of Gun Violence Prevention Taskforce, which was founded in the House of Representatives after Sandy Hook and now has 165 House members, all Democrats, of course.

              When asked her feelings about the massacre in the Star Ballroom, Congresswoman  Barragan said that the only way to prevent such violence was to pass much-needed laws, in particular universal background checks and prohibitions against private gun sales at gun shows.

              California happens to be one of the states which currently requires a background check whenever a gun is transferred or sold. And even if the transfer of a gun from seller to buyer occurs at a gun show, a background check must be accomplished before the transfer can take place.

              When all is said and done, I don’t think there’s really much difference between a sop head like Marjorie Taylor Blah Blah Blah finding an ANTIFA member under every bed, and the sober and careful statements about gun laws by a member of the House gun safety caucus which happen to be just as wrong.

              At the very least, you would think that someone who evidently takes the gun violence issue seriously would take the trouble to learn the gun laws in her own state.

              I must be asking too much.

How Come Americans Stand Their Ground?


              On August 9, 2014, an eighteen-year-old Black youth named Michael Brown, was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, MO. The town of some 20,000 residents, is a largely African American community located five miles north of downtown St. Louis.

The shooting unleashed nearly two weeks of angry, violent demonstrations and rioting during which time Ferguson became a battleground between two populations: the many Black residents of the town and nearby towns who staged daily and nightly marches protesting the behavior of the cops, versus armed members of so-called ‘militias’ who showed up to help the cops ‘keep the peace.’

              Six years from the date of Brown’s death, a couple stood on the front porch of their St. Louis home, brandishing an assault rifle and a pistol at a group of Black Lives Matter demonstrators who were marching to protest the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in May, demonstrations which occurred in many American cities over those several months.

              In the Michael Brown incident, three separate investigations by the town, the state and the feds could not find any fault with the behavior of the cop who shot and killed Brown. It was determined ultimately that Brown responded to an order from the cop to stop walking down the middle of the street by charging the officer in his car and attempting to grab his gun.

              In the St. Louis incident, on the other hand, the AR-wielding attorney and his pistol-packing wife were indicted and convicted for unlawful use of a weapon, but their convictions were thrown out by a Republican Governor who was trying to score some points in a political year. Meanwhile, the attorney, Mark McCloskey and his wife, were invited to speak at the GOP National Convention and were also lionized by the NRA.

              So, here we have two examples of a unique, American behavior known as ‘stand your ground,’ (SYG) about which I have decided to write a book. And the reason I am writing this book is because the issue of SYG really sums up everything which creates the narrative about gun violence on both sides of the gun debate.

              This debate, which has been going on for nearly 30 years, consists of two diametrically opposed points of view about the presence and use of guns in American life. On the one hand, we have what I am going to refer to as the ‘positive social utility’ argument about guns, which basically says that a gun in the hands of a law-abiding individual represents a proper and effective way to keep the community safe. On the other hand, we have what I am going to refer to as the ‘negative social utility’ argument about guns, which basically says that a gun in the hands of anyone, law-abiding or not, increases the odds that a serious injury leading up to death will take place.

              Both of these narratives are backed up by what is referred to as ‘evidence-based’ research. The research which first defined the positive social utility argument was published by the criminologist Gary Kleck in 1995 and has been the subject of endless positive and negative responses ever since. The research which first defined the negative social utility argument was published by two medical researchers, Art Kellerman and Fred Rivara in 1992 and 1993, and has also generated scores of commentaries on both sides.

              Unfortunately, because the debate focuses primarily on the issue of guns, the more fundamental question of behavior is largely ignored. But what the research of criminologist Marvin Wolfgang in the 1970’s and the authoritative textbook treatment of homicide by coroner Lester Adelson tells us is that guns just make it easier for either or both combatants in a dispute to avoid backing down. And the United States happens to be the only country which not only has an SYG behavior running through its culture, but sanctions SYG through its legal system as well.

            There are now 40 states which either have enacted SYG provisions in their criminal codes, or support SYG defenses in court cases brought against individuals accused of threats or assaults. The appearance of SYG in American jurisprudence first during the colonial period is skillfully discussed by Caroline Light (Stand Your Ground: A History of America’s Love Affair with Lethal Self-Defense) but her work does not convey the degree to which SYG now permeates American society writ large.

              After all, if you watch the videos of those jerks who stormed up and into the Capitol on January 6th, and if you listen to the speeches by Trump and his pack of fools on the Ellipse earlier that day, you’ll hear endless invocations to the idea of not backing down. Wasn’t SYG the basic message which defined ‘stop the steal?’ Of course it was.

So, I am going to write a book about how and why this country is enamored of SYG behavior which permeates every facet of the culture, from political campaigns to hip-hop and beyond. Because until we understand this remarkably unique type of American behavior, America’s vibrant entrepreneurial community will figure out some way to take this culture and use it to make a buck, whether the bucks come from selling guns or selling something else.

A Gun Book Which You Should Read.

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              Mary Anne Franks is Professor of Law at the University of Miami Law School. Several years ago, she published a book, The Cult of the Constitution, which has a very interesting sub-                      title: Our Deadly Devotion to Guns and Free Speech.

I somehow missed this book when it first appeared, but for that matter, so did just about everyone else in both Gun-nut Nation and Gun-control Nation. So, I’m going to make up for lost time right now and begin by saying that Professor Franks has written a significant and important book.

I’m no Constitutional scholar, so my ability to write a seriously critical review of this work is somewhat limited, except when it comes to discussing the 2nd Amendment, or what the author refers to as ‘the cult of the gun.’ When the author talks about cults, she is really focusing on what she refers to as Constitutional ‘fundamentalism,’ which basically means interpreting the Constitution the way it was written by a group of 55 white men who came to Philadelphia to write and replace the Articles of Confederation with a new document which would serve to maintain the patriarchal social structure of a bunch of former British colonies now reborn as states.

What Professor Franks doesn’t mention is that of those 55 delegates, 34 happened to be attorneys, whose legal expertise and knowledge was largely a function of the British Common Law tradition, which still marks much of contemporary American jurisprudence to this very day.  Indeed, if you read the District of Columbia v. Heller opinion by Justice Scalia, which gave Constitutional protection to private ownership of handguns back in 2008, you will note that much of his text is a discussion of legal notions and definitions from the Common Law.

The author’s concern about how fundamentalist attitudes have crept into the interpretation of the Constitution, particularly the 2nd Amendment, grows out of the idea that ‘reverence and ignorance’ form the bedrock of fundamentalist beliefs. These beliefs are then strengthened by promoting the idea of victimhood, particularly the victimization of white men living in a world increasingly diverse and less open to the traditional patriarchal, heterosexual authority of those white, gun-owning men.

I can’t think of another public narrative out there which is more strongly promoted by one side over the other than the totally false and reverential idea that walking around with a gun will protect someone from becoming the victim of a crime. This nonsense has been the basic way in which the gun industry has kept itself in business for the last forty years since Americans stopped hunting and quit buying hunting and sporting guns.

On the other hand, I think the author’s attempt to push what she refers to as the gender, racial and socio-economic disparities between how armed, self-defense is protected for white men as opposed to everyone else, may be creating an argument which goes a little too far.

The biggest, single problem we encounter in discussing gun violence is that not only is most gun violence committed by individuals who do not have legal license to own or use a gun, but we have absolutely no idea about how many illegally owned guns are out there being carried around. So, to compare changes in gun laws (e.g., making it easier to carry a concealed gun) to changes in gun violence is to connect two phenomena which may have no real connection at all, no matter what those regression analyses endlessly promoted by public health researchers happen to say.

The smartest thing the NRA ever did to keep itself in business was to start referring to gun owners as ‘law-abiding gun owners’ as opposed to armed individuals who use their guns to break the law. And here is where Professor Franks needs to possibly reconsider her narrative because the idea of not backing down in the face of a real or imagined threat happens to be a longstanding American behavior which transcends the whole issue of the ownership and use of guns.

Between legislation and court decisions, standing your ground has become accepted behavior in more than 40 states. You can’t pin that widespread culture on the nefarious behavior of the NRA. America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ has always been reactive to the way the average person thinks, not the other way around.

That being said, The Cult of the Constitution is a very good and thoughtful book. Professor Franks has written a work which needs to be read.

Matt Gaetz – The ATF’s Best Friend.


              I never thought I would ever agree with any legislative proposal promoted by Matt Gaetz, particularly anything having to do with guns. This is because when he was a State Senator in Florida, he introduced a bill that would allow someone shot in a public space that was declared to be a gun-free zone, to sue for damages against the individual who owned that space. The bill went nowhere, by the way.

              But this week Gaetz got back into the gun thing big time by introducing a bill that would abolish the ATF. And while his reason for wanting to do away with the federal agency which regulates the gun industry is a nonsensical response to an ATF proposal which actually makes a lot of sense, I wouldn’t mind seeing the baby flushed out with the bathwater and the ATF be put to bed.

              The problem with what the ATF does or doesn’t do can only be understood if we first examine what regulating the American gun industry is all about.  The United States is the only country with a regulatory system covering guns which focuses on the behavior of people who own guns, as opposed to the design and use of the guns themselves.

              As a result, a law-abiding individual can buy and usually carry around any kind of gun as long as it doesn’t fire in full-caliber mode. To own what is called a machine gun, you have to go through a long, detailed police check, which is why the last time someone killed someone else using a machine gun in a criminal event was 1947 or maybe 1948.

              On the other hand, anyone who thinks that a semi-automatic gun is much less lethal than a full-auto gun, doesn’t know very much about guns. The kid who killed 25 children and 5 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School committed all this carnage in maybe 3 minutes or less. And the rule being developed by the ATF which has provoked the wrath of dumb-ass Gaetz, would make these semi-automatic guns even more lethal than the gun used at Sandy Hook.

              The ATF has its eye on something called a pistol ‘stabilizing brace’ which attaches to the grip of a handgun and turns it into a rifle because now the gun can be balanced against the shooter’s shoulder which means less recoil and more control. But if the barrel of this stabilized gun remains 4 or 5 inches in length, then the gun is being used as a rifle except it’s still, legally speaking, a handgun.

              Under federal law, a rifle must have a barrel at least 16 inches long. But the whole point of attaching a stabilizing brace to a handgun is to give the gun the aiming and shooting characteristics of a long gun so – voila! – all of a sudden someone has taken a Glock pistol and turned it into an assault rifle.

              Despite what some of the media has been saying, the ATF isn’t saying you can’t buy or own a stabilizing brace. They are saying that a stabilizing brace should be considered like a machine gun, which can be purchased only after a long and very detailed background check.

              On the other hand, what would be what Grandpa would call the ‘gefailach’ (read: big deal) if we got rid of the ATF? Most of their work consists of going into gun shops and conducting inspections which invariably turn up a couple of guns for which the paperwork is either missing or incomplete.

              The last time the ATF inspected my gun shop they found more than 500 documents which contained errors that were all defined as ‘threats’ to community safety and needed to be immediately corrected in order to make sure that we were operating the shop on the up and up.

              Know what the error was? It was that in the space on the 4473 form where you list the buyer’s home county, the kid running the shop put a two-letter abbreviation for the county instead of spelling it out. Oh…my…God!

              When the ATF inspectors began noticing this mistake, you could see the gleam in their eyes. Now they could justify the fact that they went out each day during the audit and treated themselves to a nice lunch for which I’m sure they were reimbursed.

              It’s very simple. All we need to do to get rid of gun violence and all the crimes committed with guns is to stop making and selling the types of guns that are used in violence and crimes. I’m talking about semi-automatic, bottom loading pistols and rifles which are chambered for military-grade ammunition like 9mm or .223 rounds.

              Those guns and that ammunition were designed specifically for military use, and I don’t know a single military action which has anything to do with hunting or sport.

              Too bad that a bill to eliminate the ATF is the brainchild of a schmuck like Matt Gaetz. Nobody’s going to take him seriously which makes him the best friend the ATF ever had.

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