Just What the Neighborhood Needs: A New Gun-Control Organization.

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Back in the olden days, meaning the 20th Century, the gun-control movement consisted of a couple of D.C.-based lobbying groups, chief among them the Brady Group which got the background-check gun bill and a ten-year assault rifle bill signed by Clinton in 1994.

The NRA, on the other hand, had connections to gun owners all over the country by dint of sponsoring shooting matches at various public ranges, as well as having display booths at hundreds of gun shows which were held in just about all 50 states.

The NRA’s public presence and lobbying efforts were so much a part of the sporting and shooting landscape, that Bill Clinton’s declaration about how Al Gore lost the 2000 election because the NRA beat him in his home state of Tennessee went unchallenged for the next twenty years.

The NRA’s dominance of the gun debate, however, was shattered by the massacre at Sandy Hook, as well as the appearance and growth of well-financed gun-control efforts, chief among them Mike Bloomberg’s Everytown and its alliance with Shannon Watts and her MOMS group.

Almost overnight it seemed, gun-control organizations and groups started to bloom, with Gabby Giffords promoting gun control after recovering from a near-fatal shooting in 2011, and the Brady Group building membership within individual states.

You would think that with all the increased attention on gun violence generated by these new organizational initiatives, along with a weakening of NRA activities over the past couple of years, that strategies and measures would be adopted that would show some degree of a lessening of gun violence rates.

To the contrary, the per-100K rate for intentional, fatal gun injuries in 2012 was 10.45; in 2020 it was 13.58. So, in the eight years since gun-control organizational activity and advocacy began to surge after 2012, the fatal gun violence rate has increased by 30 percent! We don’t have any official gun violence numbers for the last several years, but nobody is expecting anything but further increases given the impact of Covid-19.

And what does Gun-control Nation come up with in response to a public health threat which has become endemic to a degree not experienced in any other advanced country? It’s another gun-control organization, in this case devoted to preventing or at least reducing gun violence in other countries by bringing legal actions against American gun makers whose business practices are designed to supply “the criminal gun market in Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, and countries in Latin America and elsewhere.”

So says the website of Global Action on Gun Violence, the brainchild of Jonathan Lowy, who was Counsel for Brady for 25 years, during which time he claims to have litigated and won more than $100 million in verdicts and settlements for gun violence victims, along with all kinds of other legal victories creating ‘groundbreaking precedent’ to hold gun makers responsible for causing gun violence.

Back in 2021, Lowy evidently helped the Mexican government to develop and file a lawsuit against 6 major gun manufacturers, including Smith & Wesson, Beretta, and Glock, which was initially dismissed because of PLCCA, but apparently is now going to be reviewed by the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals. The suit alleges that these gun makers knowingly sold guns to dealers and distributors for the purpose of moving guns into the hands of Mexican criminals and therefore violating various Mexican laws covering illegal ownership and use of guns.

Before I get into the details of this lawsuit, it should be mentioned that the export market for American gun makers and dealers represents somewhere between 3% and 6% of the guns manufactured in the U.S. every year.  In 2019, the most recent year for this data (from the ATF), the gun industry manufactured 7,011,945 guns and exported 317,482 guns. In other words, gun exports represented 4.5% of all domestic gun production that year. Big deal.

Getting back to the lawsuit (which you can download here) the complaint is nothing more than the same, old ‘rotten apple’ gun dealer narrative which has been floating around since the government started regulating gun dealers in the 1930’s and then made ATF responsible for inspecting and managing dealer behavior with the gun law passed in 1968.

We’ve been hearing this blah-blah-blah for years about how most gun dealers are ‘honest’ but there some rotten apples out there who are either not inspected by the ATF or are allowed to continue selling guns after an inspection finds that relevant laws aren’t being followed.

Back in 1999, the Clinton Administration made a deal with Smith & Wesson that would have required the company to police its dealers by physically visiting every gun dealer in the United States who sold just one S&W gun a year. I’ll spare you the details of this scheme, but the bottom line is that it would have put Smith & Wesson out of business.

Lowy’s lawsuit mentions this agreement, and states that it collapsed because S&W ‘reneged’ on the deal. Actually, it was the government which, after a Democrat named Clinton was replaced by a Republican named Bush, told S&W that the deal was dead. And by the way, had the agreement remained in effect, it would have immunized S&W from all tort suits, so bye-bye Lowy’s scheme to use tort litigation to regulate the gun business.

This new organizational effort to deal with gun violence does absolutely nothing except promote the careers and public presence of a couple of D.C.-based lawyers who are trying to carve out a new, little niche for themselves in the gun-control debate.

When it comes to reducing gun violence, this is the best we can do?

Don’t Count the NRA Out Quite Yet.


              Ever since Mike Spies did some great reporting on the various flim flams at the NRA, the liberal media and Gun-control Nation have been touting the collapse of America’s ‘first civil rights’ organization.

              The group was going down the tubes because the Executive Vice President, Wayne LaPierre, was outfitting himself in the boutiques on Rodeo Drive. Then Ollie North was going to take over the organization until he was kicked out. Then NRA-TV shut down and the advertising agency which thought up that brilliant idea – Ackerman-McQueen – was sued, then a bankruptcy and move from New York to Texas didn‘t go through, blah, blah, blah and blah.

              Worst of all, was the news that the NRA’s membership was going to hell in a handbasket, with even some Board members walking away. And since the NRA’s operating budget depends on dues, if the membership numbers decline, so does the inflow of cash.

              We now have the latest missive about how the NRA is going to fold up and disappear, in this case the leak of an internal memo which shows that things haven’t gotten any better, they’ve only gotten worse. The memo shows that dies receipts are down from what was expected to come in, ditto donations to the political action fund, ditto membership renewals, ditto, ditto and ditto.

              This report got a headline on The Trace, whose staff writer, Will Van Sant, noted that when a Democrat is in the White House and talk about gun control, this is usually exactly what revs up fundraising and member support for the NRA.

              But that’s not happening this time around, because as one pissed-off Board member says, “They [meaning LaPierre and management cronies] have destroyed the NRA brand, they have lost credibility. In our society, firearms ownership is expanding, and these new gun owners are not joining the NRA, and it’s because of the brand.”

              I am a member of the NRA, in fact, I’m a Lifetime Endowment member, which means I give the organization enough money each year so that they won’t throw me out no matter what I write or say. I just received the March issue of the American Rifleman magazine and if the NRA is on the verge of collapse, you wouldn’t know it from what the magazine is all about.

              There’s the usual editorial about how the 2nd Amendment is under attack, another editorial complaint about this or about that misguided anti-gun talk, and a somewhat disjointed article about the anti-gun ministrations of the CDC. Nobody who gets the magazine each month bothers to read that crap.

              What we do read are the excellent articles on the history of different guns which puts the Smithsonian to shame, as well as some technical data on reloading different calibers and some tests of the Chapuis line of French shotguns which having been acquired by Beretta, are finally going to be appearing over here.

              Next time you go into Barnes & Noble, take a look at one of the magazines on the store rack which is devoted to model trains. Now the difference, of course, is that nobody’s trying to ban model trains, and there has yet to be any research which shows that access to a model train represents threat to public health.

              But leaving aside the several pages devoted to gun-control hysteria, American Rifleman reads just like any other magazine which covers a particular hobby which is what guns are really all about. Yea, yea, I know all about how guns protect us from the bad guys out there, but I have personally bought and sold at least a thousand guns since I joined the NRA in 1955, and I will continue to buy and sell guns and read American Rifleman for the simple reason that I like guns.

              The NRA’s real problem is that the same people keep buying all those guns, even when more guns are bought than were bought the year before. Next time you’re in a big shopping mall, take a look at the number of customers inside the Apple store. Get it?

              The NRA will be around as long as there are people like me who had model trains, toy soldiers and toy guns when they were kids. The model trains and toy soldiers were given away but the toy guns became real guns and thus remain.

              So, the average gun owner will get older, and the NRA will get smaller over the next twenty to thirty years. Dollars to doughnuts, the organization will still be around even when The Trace stops focusing on guns and becomes a fashion magazine.

If Mass Shootings Are a Uniquely American Event, Let’s Not Forget the Gun.


              I have written almost 2,000 columns for my own blog, as well as more than 500 columns for the aggregate blog Medium, and between 2013 and 2018 I wrote somewhere around 250 op-ed columns for the Huffington Post. But in not a single one of those comments did I ever wonder whether what I was discussing was actually true.

              Today’s column, on the other hand, is based on news accounts which are so crazy, so bizarre and so out of this world that I just can’t believe the story behind these sources is actually true. 

              I’m referring to the news that a GOP House member, Barry Moore from Alabama, has filed a bill to declare the AR-15 assault rifle the national gun of the United States.  Not national flower, not national bird, not national dessert – the national gun.

              And better yet, although the bill hasn’t yet been formally submitted so we don’t know the actual text, the law has picked up three co-sponsors – Clyde Andrew from Georgia, Lauren Boebert from Colorado and – ready? – George ‘I got away with lots of lies the last time I ran’ Santos from New York.

              Boebert we all know from the Christmas greeting she sent out showing her kids happily playing with the assault rifles which they found under their X-mas tree. When Clyde Andrew ran for Congress in Georgia, he campaigned for the complete elimination of background checks, which would save him some time and money running his gun shop. As for Santos, there’s nothing to say.

              If those idiots were serious about wanting to memorialize a gun which really did make a positive difference both for the United States and worldwide, they should consider celebrating the invention of the M-1 Garand rifle, which was designed and manufactured at the Springfield Armory and distributed to our troops during World War II. My office is located one block from the Armory and I wish they would erect a sign telling everyone who comes to the site (which is now a vocational-technical college) that George Patton called the M-1 the ‘greatest battle implement ever devised.’

              But those four GOP schmucks promoting the AR aren’t engaging in such nonsense for anything having to do with history, or gun culture or anything else which could be even remotely connected to rational thought or beliefs. They got themselves a quick headline on some of the digital news outlets followed by the MAGA crowd, along with various liberal news sources which immediately get outraged by anything the alt-right says.

              If the GOP wants to commemorate any unique American issue which is connected to the AR-15 assault rifle, maybe they should consider coming up with a new postage stamp that would celebrate all the mass shootings which occur routinely throughout the United States. Maybe USPS should issue a series of mass shooting stamps, with each stamp showing the location of a slaughter such as the supermarket in Buffalo or the elementary school at Sandy Hook.

              Both of these massacres resulted in massive numbers of injuries and trauma because the shooters used an AR-15. But of course everyone knows ‘for  fact’ that the AR-15 is a defensive weapon which we need to keep handy just in case one of those bad guys tries to break down the front door, right?

              When I was a kid, which was sometime during the last Stone Age, it wasn’t unusual to find a Daisy Red Ryder bb-gun under the Christmas tree. When you were old enough to use a real gun, the bb-gun was replaced by a 22-caliber, bolt-action rifle, usually a lookalike for the rifle which Dad trained on before his unit got shipped overseas.

              In many respects, the AR-15 is now America’s third generation of ‘the kid’s gun.’ It’s cheap, it can be customized with all kinds of plastic doodads, and with a hi-cap mag, it’s a lot of fun to shoot.

              There’s only one little problem, however. The gun is also a formidable man-killing machine which can easily deliver 20 or 30 lethal rounds in a minute or less.

              But maybe mass shootings should also be celebrated, not condemned. After all, the whole point of the 2nd Amendment is to give every American the opportunity to protect their community with a gun. And who’s to say that those six-year-olds shot at Sandy Hook wouldn’t have all grown up to be violent criminals themselves, right?

The Governor of Massachusetts Protects Us from Guns.

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So, my state’s new Governor, Maura Healey, is in her job for less than six weeks when she announces a whole raft of new regulations to “help local licensing authorities comply with all state and federal laws and regulations, strengthen the gun dealer inspection process, and prevent illegal firearm trafficking.”

I’m quoting from the press release issued on February 17, 2023 by the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, the Municipal Police Training Committee, the Massachusetts State Police and the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services.

These four state agencies will partner with (who else?) the ATF “to develop specialized training to promote strict adherence with all applicable gun laws, educate local authorities about their responsibilities under those laws and protect communities against gun violence.” 

It just so happens that Massachusetts has the most comprehensive regulatory environment for controlling guns of all 50 states.  it also has the most far-reaching Child Access Protection (CAP) law of all 50 states, a no-nonsense ‘red flag’ (ERPO) law, and a ban on the sale and ownership of rifles which prevents dealers from selling assault rifles with designs that skirt the designs of the guns prohibited by the 1994 assault rifle ban, which in Massachusetts is still in effect.

I’m not saying there is necessarily any connection between the state’s strict gun laws and the fact that Massachusetts has the lowest gun violence rate of all 50 states. But the bottom line is that in 2020, the national gun-violence rate (homicide and suicide) was somewhere above 14 per 100,000, in Massachusetts the rate was 3.4.

This is the great threat to public health in Massachusetts that has gotten our new Governor to put together a statewide program involving a federal agency, four state agencies and now has enrolled more than 300 cops to be trained in responding to this dread disease?

And what exactly are these cops being trained to do?  They are going to go out and visit the 357 “active state-licensed gun dealers” who are “operating in 162 Massachusetts cities and towns.”

No wonder gun violence is such a terrible threat to community safety in the Bay State. The state has 351 cities and towns, which means that guns are being sold to the public in almost half the places where people work and live.  Wow!

My gun shop, where I stopped doing retail sales in 2016, is located in the town of Ware. There are three other gun shops located within 10 miles or so of my shop. One of the shops sells more worms than guns because the store is located near the entrance to the fishing area known as the Quabbin. Another gun shop is owned by my buddy Bope, who has an inventory of about 20 guns all nicely displayed in his garage.

The third shop has lots of guns, but this place would have closed years ago except the owner shleps his inventory to gun shows Five or six weekends every year. If he depended on in-store sales to make a buck, he’d be back selling furniture which is what he used to sell.

How many physical locations are occupied in Massachusetts by licensed dealers actually selling guns? Somewhere between 20 and 30 stores, a number derived by simply doing a search on the websites of gun companies like Smith & Wesson and Glock who list every single dealer selling their guns.

If you’re a gun retailer in any state and your store doesn’t display a Glock or a Smith, you may hold a dealer’s license but you’re not in the business of selling guns.

If Governor Healey wants to do something to make life safer for the residents of her state, why doesn’t she get the Legislature to increase the state’s sales tax on gasoline? Right now, our gasoline sales tax is so low that the highways never get repaired. The Bay State’s roads are the seventh-worst of all 50 states in terms of needing to be paved, and in terms safety design, our state ranks dead last.

Last week I had to drive slightly off a road in order to avoid a truck coming too close to the center line. The road had no shoulder, I shredded a tire and between replacing the tire and the front fender, I laid out $550 bucks.

And Maura Healey thinks she’s making our state safer by training hundreds of cops to spend an hour sitting around Bope’s garage playing with his guns?

Is Gun Violence an American Epidemic?

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              This past weekend, a 52-year-old man went into a convenience store and two private residences in the little town of Arkabutla, MS, and before he was arrested, shot and killed five people, including his ex-wife.

              So far, the cops haven’t released any information about why this rampage occurred, except what we do know is that this kind of violence has never happened before the tiny town of Arkabutla, whose population is somewhere around 300 residents, give or take a few.

              On the other hand, this event appears to be at least the 73rd mass shooting in less than the 50 days that we are into for 2024, a mass shooting defined as four or more persons who wind up with a bullet in their bodies at the same time and in the same place.

              When informed of the massacre, President Biden immediately produced the usual ‘thoughts and prayers’ response, but then he added this: “Gun violence is an epidemic and Congress must act now.”

              Sorry Joe, but with all due respect, this time you’ve got it wrong. Gun violence isn’t an epidemic in the United States because epidemics come and epidemics go. What we have in the case of gun violence is an endemic situation, which doesn’t appear to be diminishing at all.

              I wish I could take credit for the idea of gun violence as constituting an ongoing and continuous activity in the United States, but I have to give credit where credit is due. In this case, the idea of 125,000 deaths and serious injuries from guns every year as being just a normal aspect of American life was first brilliantly described by our friend Katherine Kaufer Christoffel, in an article published in 2007 which you can access right here.

              In 2007, the year that Dr. Christoffel published her analysis of gun violence as an endemic health problem, the national gun violence rate per 100,000 Americans was 4.20. In 2020, the most current year for CDC numbers, the rate was 6.16, an increase of nearly 50%. The rate has been above the 2007 number every year since 2016, and from various media sources aggregated by the Gun Violence Archive, the rate has continued and increased even more over the last five years.

              In other words, what Joe described yesterday as being an ‘epidemic’ of gun violence, has now been going on for somewhere around the last 20 years. That’s no epidemic, folks. That’s the Americans way of life (and death.)

              In that respect, our good friend Nicholas Kristof has published a lengthy and detailed op-ed about gun violence in The (Failing) New York Times. The good news about this essay is that someone (Kristof) is finally making it clear that it’s not ‘guns’ per se that are used to commit gun violence, but certain kinds of guns, in particular, handguns designed only for the purpose of inflicting fatal injuries on people like you and me.

              Having finally put the issue in its proper perspective in terms of regulating the product in a more effective way, Kristof then slips back into the mainstream of gun-control narratives by defining the regulatory strategy as keeping guns out of the ‘wrong hands.’

              How do we do that? By implementing a licensing procedure which would be similar to “the sort of system that we routinely use in registering vehicles and licensing drivers to save lives from traffic deaths.”

              Kristof cites as an example of the workability of such a system the licensing process for gun ownership which exists in Massachusetts which “has one of the lowest gun mortality rates in the United States.” 

              I happen to be a Massachusetts resident and was pleased when the state enacted its very comprehensive gun licensing procedure in 1999, a process which not only includes comprehensive background checks, but also prohibits the sale of guns whose design doesn’t meet certain ‘child-proof’ standards, as well as requirements to keep all guns locked up at all times.

              There’s only one little problem with this law, if I can be so bold as to suggest that maybe our friend Nicholas Kristof and the NYT editorial board should perhaps rethink what they believe will reduce gun violence throughout the United States.  The fatal gun-violence rate in Massachusetts went up after the law was passed, not down. In 1999, the gun-violence rate was 1.1, in 2016 it was 1.3. That’s only an increase of slightly less than 20%; i.e., 89 dead bodies instead of 71.

              I don’t care what the numbers show, whether they go up or down. What I do know is that most of those 71 or 89 deaths happened because someone took out a small, bottom-loading, semi-automatic pistol, aimed it at himself or someone else and went – blam!

              Laws or no laws, that’s the reason we have gun violence, and I simply don’t understand why we continue to analyze the reason for this problem in any other way.

              So now we should take all those Glocks and Sigs and the other handguns and melt them down? THAT’S A VIOLATION OF THE 2nd AMENDMENT!

              Too goddamn bad.

Goodbye To All That – I Close My Gun Shop.


              This past Friday I sold my gun shop – every good thing comes to an end. This was the third retail gun shop I owned and operated in three states – South Carolina, New York, and Massachusetts – and sold guns to somewhere around 12,000 customers who also bought ammunition, cleaning kits and assorted other gun junk.

              I started running my third and last gun shop in 2001, in fact I opened the store about a month before the Twin Towers came down. So, the shop was busy for a couple of months, then things calmed down for the next seven years, got busy again when Obama came on the scene, and then calmed down again under Trump.

              Of the 7,000 or so guys (and a few gals) who bought guns from me over the last 20 years, just about all of them bought guns for the same reason that people buy everything else they don’t need, namely, they had a few extra bucks in their pockets and couldn’t figure out what to do with the cash except to get rid of it before going home.

              If you’re a gun dealer, the biggest joke in the gun business is that if you have to order a gun for someone and then call the guy’s house when the gun shows up from the wholesaler, ‘the wife’ always answers the phone. And when she asks, ‘who’s calling?’ you never, never tell her you’re calling from the gun shop because if you do, she’ll put down the phone and yell, “Henry, did you just buy another friggin’ gun?’

              My gun shop is located about two miles away from the nearest Walmart and Stop & Shop. At some point every day the front door would open, some guy would walk in and as he entered the shop he would take a quick look at his watch. This told me he had just dropped ‘the wife’ off at the Walmart, and as she got out of the car she said, “Come back and pick me up in 45 minutes or so,” and he would respond, “What am I supposed to do?”

              To which ‘the wife’ would answer, “Why don’t you go up to the gun shop and hang around?” God forbid she would suggest he go sit in the town library, okay?

              One of the last transactions I did at the shop was a ‘straw sale,’ when I sold a gun to someone whom I knew was buying the gun for someone else. This transaction, which is considered the single, worst, and most offensive behavior by the gun-control crowd, is known ‘for a fact’ to be the basic reason why guns keep ending up in the ‘wrong hands’ and could be stamped out if we would just pass that damn law requiring every state to implement universal background checks.

              Who bought the straw-sale gun in my shop? It was bought by some fifty-ish lady who dutifully signed the 4473 form saying that the gun was going to be owned and used by her. Standing next to her was her husband, who not only told her which gun he wanted, but as she waited for her background check to go through, was placing the gun into a carrying case which he had brought into the store.

              Why did ‘the wife’ buy the gun and why did I allow myself and her to engage in an illegal act which could get each of us five years in jail? Because when her husband was a kid, he did something stupid which kids do all the time, but this dumb piece of behavior got him in trouble with the cops which meant he could never legally buy a gun.

              Gun shops are almost always local affairs. They are located, for the most part, in crummy, little towns and the shop owner knows the personal backgrounds and personal gossip about everyone who comes into the shop. And the same people come into the shop all the time.

              What were the odds that this guy whose wife bought him that gun would ever do anything illegal or violent with that gun? The chances are that the gun would be taken home, dumped into the same closet with all the other guns, and then resold to the gun shop next year when ‘the wife’ needed a new washing machine or the guy needed a new set of tires for his truck.

              Think I’m kidding? I’m not. The reason that most gun owners support requiring a  background check for every transfer of a gun is that they know that, in reality, the law won’t prevent them from getting another gun.

              Note the word ‘reality’ in the previous sentence. This word has absolutely nothing to do with how the various gun-control organizations decide what issues to promote when they send out a message asking their supporters to ante up some cash.

              I received a solicitation letter yesterday from the Brady Campaign, to which I automatically donate $100 every month, and getting a national background-check law through Congress was at the top of their ‘to do’ list.

              Don’t get me wrong. When it comes to inventing and promoting ideas about guns which have no basis in truth or fact, pro-gun organizations are just as, or even more prone to flights of fancy than anything which comes out from the anti-gun side. Is there the slightest proof out there that a gun in the hands of some Clint Eastwood wannabee keeps everyone safe? 

              I have been in and out of the gun business for sixty years because I like guns. I certainly wasn’t in the gun business because I thought I could earn a decent living engaged in this trade. The biggest joke in the gun business is that if you want to make a million in guns, start with two million, okay?

              What am I going to do now with all the time I have on my hands because I’m not standing behind the counter of my gun shop? That’s simple enough – I’ll just go around and hang out in all the other shops.

Finally – A Good Book on Concealed Carry.


              When I was a kid, which was back in the last Stone Age (the 1950’s), the only people who were allowed to carry handguns were cops and a few guys employed as ‘armed’ security guards. If you wanted to do anything with a gun other than use it for hunting, or just fooling around, you upped for the military, because that’s where you could spend all day shooting guns.

              The earliest home movie of me was taken by my father on my 6th birthday. I was standing in front of my grandfather’s little grocery store in Rockaway Beach, Queens wearing the birthday present I had just received, which was a cowboy hat and matching belt and holster containing a plastic revolver – a toy version of the gun carried by Roy Rogers in the movies and on TV. 

              In this 8mm color home movie, I was standing on the sidewalk, twirling the gun with a big smile on my face. This was what it meant to be self-armed in the 1950’s; in other words, acting out a complete fantasy which had absolutely nothing to do with the why, where or when of carrying a self-defense gun.

              I have just finished reading Angela Stroud’s book, Good Guys With Guns, The Appeal and Consequences of Concealed Carry. In 35 interviews of Texas residents who took the course required in Texas in order to walk around with a gun, she discovered that much of the fantasy which I acted out with my Roy Rogers six-gun outfit when I was a kid, continues to define the decision by many of the adults whom she met when she took her concealed-carry course. 

              However, there was or is one major difference between the fantasy which I acted out in front of my grandfather’s grocery store and the motivational thoughts of the concealed-carry population described by Professor Stroud (who teaches Sociology at Northland College) in her clever and though-provoking book; namely, the identity or the supposed identity of the people whose presence represents a threat that can be mitigated or vanquished by using a gun.

              In my childhood, I acted out the pretend confrontation between myself and some bad guys like the bad guys I saw in cowboy movies like Shane. I must have gone to the RKO-Keiths’s movie theater in my neighborhood a dozen times to watch Alan Ladd pull out his gun and mow down Jack Palance.

              The adults whom Angela Stroud met in her concealed-carry course, on the other hand, weren’t spending any time practicing their fast-draw techniques against some nasty, hired gun who was white, by the way. Professor Stroud’s classmates, as well as the instructors she met, in the main believe they need to carry a gun in order to respond to the possibility of an assault or some other crime about to be committed against them by someone who is black.

              Here’s the prescient statement from Stroud’s book: “… my analysis suggests that danger is a social construction based largely on perceptions that are shaped by race, class, and gender rather than by an objective assessment of risk.” [p. 109] And of the three perceptual categories, her book clearly shows that the issue of race stands out above the other two issues in terms of generating the fears which motivate some of the adults among us to walk around carrying a gun.

              If I have one caveat about this book which isn’t so much a criticism as simply a concern, it is the lack of comparative interviews with people who are also concerned about personal safety and threats of crime but decide to deal with such feelings by not arming themselves with a gun. Notwithstanding the fact that the number of concealed-carry licenses has gone up by a factor of five since such licensing became common beginning in the 1970’s, a majority of Americans do not see concealed-carry of handguns as an effective or necessary personal response to crime.

              Is the concealed-carry population more sensitive to issues of crime and race than the population which doesn’t walk around with a gun the way I walked around with my Roy Rogers six-shooter outside of Grandpa’s store? Are there other factors, for example, geography or community culture, which may play determinant roles in how people make up their minds about whether they need to carry a gun?

              Early in her narrative, Professor Stroud confronts one of the most persistent attitudes which circulates amongst the gun-carrying population, which is the idea that a gun is an ‘inanimate’ object no different from any other way which people might get killed. Whether it’s cars, or knives, or even swimming pools, the end result is the same. [p. 23.]

              This is a very important argument because the whole issue of concealed-carry turns on whether guns make things better in terms of community safety, or make things worse.

              The author of this timely book hits this nail squarely on its veritable head when she says that we can be sure of one thing: “more guns might only equal more guns.” [p. 46]

              Perfect, just perfect. Thank you, Professor Stroud.

Do We Really Need a ‘Smart’ Gun?

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              Every few years the media carries a story on some company that is in the process of developing a ‘smart’ gun, which is a gun that can only be fired by someone who is identified either as the owner of the gun or is allowed to use the gun. The identification process is usually the same process that you can find on many cell phones which contain a fingerprint scanner that automatically unlocks the phone.

              This whole ‘smart gun’ business actually started back in the 1990’s, when Smith & Wesson spent money from government grants to develop this technology. The company never put its resources behind the effort, and eventually the patents were purchased by a venture capitalist, Ron Conway, who then put together a tax-exempt foundation to develop a smart gun design, a deal which eventually went nowhere fast.

              It turns out that one state, New Jersey, actually has a law on the books which requires licensed gun dealers to stock at least one smart gun in their stores. But the law doesn’t take effect unless the dealers can stock smart guns which as of this writing, still don’t exist. In 2014 a German company, Armatix, started shipping a smart gun to the United States but it was quickly pulled from the market when the internet carried stories about hackers who were able to easily jam the electronic mechanism which unlocked the gun.

              The much bigger problem for the smart gun manufacturers is the question of price. The word going around is that a company named Lodestar, which is beginning to get noticed by the media for its smart gun, will set an MSRP of $895, which is about $500 cheaper than the retail cost of an Armatix, and a thousand bucks cheaper than a smart gun being developed by  a company called SmartGunz, a Kansas outfit which has yet to actually produce a working gun.

              I own and carry a Glock 17 pistol, and because I live in Massachusetts, I must keep the gun safely locked unless I’m holding it in my hands. When I bought the gun it came with a trigger lock, courtesy of a 2005 federal law which requires that every gun manufactured in the USA (or imported into the country for commercial sale) be shipped with a trigger lock or some other locking device, free of charge.

              If I wanted to buy a safety device to lock my gun and render it inoperable unless the locking device is removed, I could pick one up at the local gun shop for a few bucks, or I could go to the local police station which probably distributes free gun locks courtesy of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF.)

              What’s the advantage of an electronic security device over my little trigger lock which came with the gun? If it works, in theory I can disable the gun lock at the same time that I am pulling out the gun.

So, the question is this: Do I want to spend somewhere between $500 and $1,000 which will allow me to get my Glock ready to be fired at the ‘bad guy’ trying to break into my house or coming up behind me as I pull some cash out of the ATM?

              The point is that if the gun is being carried around as a self-defense weapon, even the states with the strictest laws on locking up guns exempt the gun owner from keeping the gun locked if he could reach the weapon with either hand.

              What the smart gun people say is that the real reason for owning a smart gun is to reduce the possibility that a child will somehow get his hands on the gun, and we don’t want to think about what that means, okay?

              Back in 2014 an accidental shooting occurred in an Idaho Walmart the day after Christmas, when a two-year old child reached into his mother’s purse, pulled the trigger of her legally owned handgun, and shot her dead.

              Leaving aside the question of why this poor lady felt it necessary to arm herself for a trip to Walmart in Hayden, Idaho, the more important question is this: even if a smart gun would have prevented this terrible accident from happening, what are the odds that violence of this sort represents a serious public health problem in the United States?

              We don’t know how many youngsters accidentally kill someone with a gun on a regular basis, because the CDC tracks victims, not perpetrators of shooting events. But if we can assume that the age of a victim and the age of a perpetrator in accidental shootings is more or less the same, the percentage of all 2020-gun fatalities involving a shooter under the age of 12 was .001% of all the gun deaths which occurred that year.

              In other words, if we want to use technology to help us reduce the 45,000 annual gun deaths that suffer, should the accidental gun deaths of children who pick up a gun without knowing what they are doing be an issue which should rank high on our list?

Is There Any Reality in the Gun Debate?

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              For you folks out there who are concerned about gun violence but don’t know all that much about guns, I recommend you spend some time going through the website of Ballistic Magazine, which to my mind is the best and most illustrative resource for understanding everything you need to know about guns and the people who buy and own guns.

              Note I didn’t refer to the population which ‘has’ guns, because when it comes to the population which has guns but didn’t go through a background check to get their hands on a gun, we don’t know anything about them at all.

              And guess which group makes no distinction between the two gun-owning populations – it’s the group which happens to manufacture the guns. In fact, what gun makers know about their industry is that whenever a law is about to be passed which will increase gun regulations, gun sales go up. Then after the law is passed, gun sales decline.

              Guns aren’t like cars. You need a car or you can’t live a normal life. And although the gun industry has been trying like all get out to convince Americans that guns should be nothing more than a normal ‘tool,’ like a hammer or a screwdriver, with an ever-increasing number of Americans, this bullshit just doesn’t fly.

              I love how all these so-called gun ‘trainers’ refer to guns as ‘tools.’ Yesterday I took a walk in a Home Depot store, and I saw hundreds, if not thousands of different types of tools for sale. I didn’t see one, single gun.

              My point is that the entire gun industry and all the talk about it on both sides of the gun debate reflects the degree to which owning and using guns is based entirely on fantasy which can be best understood by perusing the online or printed version of Ballistic Magazine.

              I bought and read my first gun magazine in 1960 or 1961. It was a copy of Shooting Times, which I read from cover to cover because I was just ‘getting into’ guns. The articles were mostly about shotguns and rifles – hunting guns – because that’s the kinds of guns which people bought and owned back then.

In those days, the only people walking around with a handgun were cops and bad guys, and I also knew that I would be taught how to shoot a gun when I went into the ‘service.’ I received my draft notice in 1968. Today, if you use the word ‘service’ in a conversation, most people think you’re talking about how long you have to wait for a four-dollar cup of coffee at Starbucks.

              Now back to Ballistic Magazine.

              The picture above shows a new 9mm pistol which is featured on the cover of this month’s mag. The product is manufactured by two companies which have been selling gun accessories for the past 20 years, most of these products designed for the ‘tactical’ market, whatever that means.

              When I was a kid, nobody owned or bought ‘tactical’ guns. The military bought ‘tactical’ guns. And for that matter, the only people who walked around wearing camo were kids like me who would go into the local Army-Navy store to buy a cheap pair of pants.

              Camo clothing has become high fashion, army-navy stores are long gone, and the gun industry now keeps its bottom line above water by pretending there’s a real need to buy and carry a ‘self-defense’ gun.

              Exactly what are we all defending ourselves against? Nobody really knows. Maybe we need to protect ourselves against all those Chinese balloons floating around. Or maybe there really is a 2nd-generation Martian community living at Area 51.

              And of course, let’s not forget the fifty thousand MAGA troops that Shithead Trump deployed to make sure that every single 2020 polling place was guarded against votes being stolen by the you-know-who’s.

              If you happen to reside in what we politely refer to as an ‘underserved,’ inner-city minority neighborhood, you are located in the kind of living space where just about all gun violence actually occurs. And the idea that we can reduce this violence by painting the empty lots green, just demonstrates how arrogantly stupid the so-called public health approach to gun violence has become.

              I wonder if any of the so-called gun-violence researchers who hold academic positions at our most prestigious universities have ever even gone into a public housing apartment. If they did, they would find (as I found when I was dating a woman who lived in the Washington Towers in New York City) that the closets don’t have doors. 

              “it’s an economy move,” as was explained to me by someone who worked for the New York City Public Housing Authority and didn’t seem to understand that such inhuman ‘economies’ are exactly why the residents of those vertical box cars can’t seem to align themselves with what we think are the best ways to make life more livable and less violent in ‘underserved’ urban zones.

              And by the way, public housing projects were the brainchild of liberal academics known as ‘urban planners.’ But it’s not as if the alt-right advocacy artists and gun-industry apologists ever promote an idea which has any more realistic grounding in what should be done to eliminate gun violence. Let every law-abiding American walk around with a gun? Yea, that works.

              I can’t think of another public debate in which both sides are as far removed from reality as what passes for an informed discussion about guns.

How Much Political Violence Can We Absorb?


A few years ago, I spent a day with the Michigan Militia at a campground where they were holding their monthly meeting and shoot. This is the group that Timothy McVeigh hung out with before he went down to Oklahoma City and blew up the Murrah Federal Building in 1995.

What impressed me most of all was the pizzas – quantity and quality. The cheese with extra mushrooms and onions was – non pareille!

I was thinking about that experience yesterday while I joined a seminar on ‘The deadly intersection of white supremacy and firearms,’ hosted and planned by the gun research group at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Much of the contributions by various researchers involved issues directly related to the behavior of armed militia groups like the Michigan Militia, a topic of almost obsessive interest following the involvement of various militia groups in the January 6th insurrection.

What did I learn about the intersection between white supremacy and guns over the past couple of years? To be blunt – not a goddamn thing. That militia members who run around in their camo outfits waving their assault rifles are on the far, far right when it comes to their political beliefs?  Gee, that’s a discovery. That most gun owners are conservative and will exclaim the importance of the 2nd Amendment at the drop of a hat? Another new discovery, okay?

One of yesterday’s presenters was Garen Wintemute, who published an article based on walking around 78 gun shows in 19 states. I quote: “Perhaps the most disturbing political activity at gun shows, because of its content and high prevalence, concerns identity politics.”

What are these politics? I quote again: “New Nazi materials (as distinct from memorabilia) are very common.”

Wintemute visited these gun shows between 2005 and 2008. Most of the persons attending the shows were white men of 50 years old or older. Did it occur to Wintemute that most of these men were the sons of World War II veterans?

My father was a Navy vet from World War II. When I was growing up, Dad and his buddies spent every weekend reminiscing about the war. They never talked abut anything else because those years were the greatest years of their lives. And by the way, if Wintemute were to revisit those gun shows today, I guarantee you that he would find that a lot of the vendors who were selling Nazi crap in 2005 are now selling crap from Viet Nam.

Wintemute’s presentation yesterday was based on a survey he has just conducted with 8,200 respondents covering their political views and identity politics today. He has found that ‘support’ for violent political change is strongest among gun owners, except there’s only one little problem.

Wintemute never asked his respondents to define what they meant when they used the word ‘support.’ Does it mean that when someone calls them up and asks them if they like the Boogaloo Boys they’ll say ‘yes?’ Does it mean they’ll send in a few bucks to help some asshole who was arrested for stealing Nancy Pelosi’s desk calendar cover his legal costs? Does it mean actually showing up at a rally of some militia group and marching down the street?

We don’t know, and Wintemute made no attempt to explain this issue in yesterday’s commentary at all. But what we got from virtually every speaker was the belief that violence committed by armed, alt-right militia groups is bad and will get worse.

One of the presenters reported that she had interviewed 60 public figures and 40 reported that they had received some kind of violent threat from someone on the alt-right. How many of these threats actually involved the appearance or brandishing of a gun? None.

Another researcher has been studying data collected by an outfit called the Armed Conflict Location and Advanced Data Project (ACLED) which tracks violence which occurs at political events. I wrote a column about this issue back in December, and I noted that there were some 30,000 political demonstrations in the U.S. between January 2020 and June 2021, of which less than 2 percent involved the appearance of a gun.

During this same period, there appears to have been 9 deaths of demonstrators or onlookers at public, political events. Other than the 2 poor bastards shot by Kyle Rittenhouse (who was not a member of any militia group), it’s not even clear how many of the other 7 victims were killed by someone using a gun, and according to an article in The Guardian, these deaths may have actually been deadly crimes committed during political demonstrations which had no connection to any political activity at all.

What yesterday’s seminar demonstrated is that liberal academics who study gun violence seem to have political violence allegedly tied to gun ownership on the brain. But I can’t blame them, given the degree to which this theme runs through the liberal news media as well. I wish I had a nickel for every story which ran prior to the 2022 election predicting that Election Day would be rife with violence and attempts by armed groups to create a sense of intimidation and fear.

Know what? Here’s what the Christian Science Monitor had to say about what happened last November at the polls: “There was no violence. At least for now, the serious threats that loomed over democracy heading into Election Day – domestic extremist violence, voter intimidation, and Republican refusal to respect election outcomes – did not materialize in any pervasive way.”

Obviously, when we had a President who promoted and glorified political violence on a non-stop basis for five years, nobody’s going to argue that the rhetoric surrounding politics and political activity is the same as it used to be. But the whole point of doing academic research is to make clear and convincing distinctions between what really happens as opposed to what we would like to believe.

Yesterday’s online seminar presented by the Bloomberg Public Health School was an exercise in advocacy which wasn’t backed up by valid research and therefore just added to the cacophony of liberal complaints about how Americans own too many guns.

Shouldn’t we be able to get at least a little bit beyond that idea?

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