Do We Need To Worry About Concealed-Carry of Guns?


              Since it appears that guns will be an important issue in 2024, it seems to me that what my friends in Gun-control Nation should do is make sure they have all their facts straight about gun violence and gun control.

              In that regard, liberals often depend on reportage in The New Yorker Magazine, which has given us some very important and incisive perspectives on political issues (civil rights, Viet Nam, détente) over the years.

              One of the magazine’s noted reporters in this regard, Amy Davidson Sorkin, has just published a comment about guns in the May 29th Talk of the Town section, and I hate to say it, but when it comes to framing a proper argument about guns, gun violence and what to do about both, she just doesn’t get it at all.

              After correcting Donald Trump for his hideously-stupid comments that he made about guns during the CNN Town Hall (but that was par for the course since everything he said was hideously stupid) Sorkin then goes on to say that we are approaching “a particularly critical moment in the story of guns in America,” based on the easing of judicial restraints on owning and walking around with concealed guns, as well as allowing gun owners to carry concealed weapons without any specific licensing process at all.

              The notion that our high rate of gun violence is caused by the number of guns in civilian hands forms a bedrock belief of the gun-control community alongside the other fundamental assumption that guns carried around by civilians who legally own those guns is also a primary explanation for the 100,000+ fatal and non-fatal assaults caused by the misuse of those guns.

              The problem with the more guns equals more gun violence argument, however, is that most of those 400 million privately-owned guns are never used to commit any kind of violent assaults at all. The weapon of ‘choice’ for most shootings is a bottom-loading, semi-automatic pistol holding military-style ammunition, and while such guns are now added to the civilian arsenal at the rate of 3 to 4 million a year, they were basically unknown in this country until the 1980’s, when European companies like Glock and Sig began to ship their guns over here.

The other problem with the argument about the alleged impact of loosening gun-control regulations, is that there has yet to be one single study which attempts to determine exactly how many of those 100,000+ gun-violence events which have become a routine part of the American behavioral landscape are committed by individuals with legal versus illegal access to guns. Until we make at least some effort to figure out the actual connection between the legal status of guns which are used to commit all that carnage every year, what’s the point of even arguing about whether we should or should not be making it more or less legally difficult to walk around the neighborhood with a gun?

              Between 2007 and 2022, the Violence Policy Center (VPC) found open-source references which counted 2,240 individuals killed by persons with concealed-carry access to guns, of whom 1,271 were suicides. In other words, of the slightly more than 200,000 intentional fatal gun assaults which took place over those 14 years, roughly .005% (one-half of one percent) were committed by the types of individuals whose legal access to a concealed weapon makes Amy Sorkin and her gun-control colleagues convinced that gun-carrying Armageddon is near at hand.

              Granted, the data collected by the VPC is hardly comprehensive or exact. But even if we were to double, or triple, or quadruple the shootings committed by individuals who are legally armed, how do you begin to compare that problem to the hundreds of thousands of gun assaults committed by individuals who cannot qualify to be owners of guns?

              This excerpt from Billy Bathgate, is how the novel’s author, E. L. Doctorow, describes the feelings of a teenage boy who just got his hands on his first, real gun:

The gun means nothing until it’s really yours. And then what happens, you understand that if you don’t make it yours you are dead, you have created the circumstance, but has its own free-standing rage, available to anyone, and this is what you take into yourself, like an anger that they’ve done this to you, the people who are staring at your gun, that it’s their intolerable crime to be the people you are waving this gun at. And at that moment you are no longer a punk, you have found the anger that was really in you all the time.

              The kid in Doctorow’s novel who is thinking about how that newly acquired gun will transform him from being a punk to being a big, tough man represents what gun violence in the United States is really all about. And if Amy Davidson Sorkin wants to help us figure out how to deal with the real-life kids whose access to guns will ultimately result in hundreds of thousands getting wounded and killed every year, maybe she should spend a little more time thinking about how to prevent those kids from getting their hands on illegal guns, and a little less time worrying about how legal gun owners behave with their guns.

How Come (Some) Americans Love Their Guns?


              Last week I found out that Smith & Wesson is shutting down its factory in Springfield, MA and moving the entire operation down to Tennessee.  S&W moved some of its warehousing to Tennessee last year, and now the entire company, which started producing guns in Springfield in the 1860’s, is relocating to the South.

              The small arms industry emerged in various sites along the Connecticut River, thanks to the decision by George Washington to fund a government arsenal in Springfield to produce military rifles after the Revolutionary War. Washington justified the arsenal’s location because the Connecticut River above Hartford, CT was too shallow for British warships to come up and bomb the facility to smithereens. But the real reason the arsenal was located in Massachusetts was as a payoff to Washington’s good friend, Henry Knox, who was a Massachusetts resident and became the country’s first Secretary of War.

              Knox was the man whose remarkable effort to bring heavy cannons from Ticonderoga to Boston in 1775 broke the British siege and probably saved the Revolution. The arsenal, which opened in 1777, spawned a host of smaller gun makers up and down the Connecticut River Valley, which became known as Gun Valley, and was the location of such iconic gun companies as S&W, Colt, Ruger, Marlin, and Winchester, none of which are operating in their original locations today.

              So, the gun companies have all disappeared from where they were first located, but all these companies and lots of other gun makers are still producing and selling weapons in the United States and abroad. In 2019, American gun companies produced 7 million weapons and accounted for 35% of all small arms exported throughout the world.

              How and why does the United States have such an overwhelming devotion to small arms? After all, you don’t need to make a small, semi-automatic rifle or handgun in order to manufacture an F-35. Many countries have suitable, well-armored military forces without extending the ownership or use of weapons to the civilian side.

              And by the way, thanks to the incisive reportage by Mike Spies, for all the talk several years ago about how the National Rifle Association was on its last legs and Wayne LaPierre was on his way out the door, I just sent in an extra donation for my Golden Eagles membership and received a nice thank-you letter from Wayne.

              I had three hobbies as a kid: toy trains, toy soldiers and toy guns.  My mother got sick of tripping over the train tracks on the floor, so the trains were boxed up and given away.  I stopped collecting toy soldiers when they were no longer made out of lead because the plastic soldiers were just too crummy and cheap. But I switched from toy guns to the real thing when in 1956 I bought my first Smith & Wesson in a straw sale in Florida when I was twelve years old.

              The manufacture of small arms was one of the principal commodities which emerged in the early decades of the Industrial Revolution, both in the United States and abroad. Guns were easy to make, parts could be quickly fitted together on a primitive assembly line, and the whole technology of creating a gaseous propellant by igniting some dry chemicals had been known since 10th-Century Chinese times.

              But the reason why guns became a fixture of commonplace life in America was because we were the only country which experienced its industrial revolution at the same time that its frontier was being opened, settled, and turned into farmland to produce edible commodities for urban life.

              The first modern guns were manufactured in Europe, particularly in Italy, around the 14th Century, with the technology quickly spreading into France, Central Europe and beyond. The frontier in these zones had been entirely eradicated nearly one thousand years previously as the Roman legions came up from the South and the Germanic tribes came down from the North.

              When was Paris first settled? Try somewhere around 225 B.C.  Not A.D., okay? B.C.

               Most of the land mass which today covers the habitable regions of our Lower 48 was transformed into living and farming space less than a century ago. When the Census declared that the frontier was ‘closed’ in 1890, this mean that at least one person had a permanent habitation located within one mile of someone else.

              If you wanted to be one of those early settlers in most of the Lower 48, you needed a plow, a saw, and a gun. And thanks to the Industrial Revolution, all three objects were cheap and readily available for anyone to purchase and use.

              In other words, guns truly are as American, if not more American than apple pie. And the idea that a bunch of highly educated, urban professionals are going to convince a majority of their fellow citizens that guns represent some kind of risk is like saying that Dirty Harry was a movie character about some detective who used a 44-magnum revolver to chase the bad guys around in England and France.

Do Guns and Social Media Mix?

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              I have been a fan of Vivek Murthy ever since that fake physician Rand Paul put his first nomination to be Surgeon General on hold back in 2014. Paul was doing nothing other than pimping for Gun-nut Nation which opposed Murthy’s nomination because the incoming SG had the audacity to raise the possibility that 100,000+ fatalities and serious injuries from guns represented a public health threat.

              I therefore looked with great anticipation at the advisory just issued by Murthy’s office on the health effects of social media access by children and adolescents, since so much social media content promotes the presence and use of guns.

              It also should be understood that access to guns which are used to commit violence (as opposed to guns used for hunting or sport) begins to show up when boys are in their teens, and by the time boys (and a few girls) reach the age of 20, more than 2,500 of these young persons have killed someone else with a gun.

              Unfortunately, the Surgeon General’s advisory on social media stays only within the boundaries of mental health, with the issue of social media and violent behavior left entirely undiscussed – you can download the report from my website right here. The report defines social media as follows: “internet-based channels that allow users to opportunistically interact and selectively self-present, either in real-time or asynchronously, with both broad and narrow audiences who derive value from user-generated content and the perception of interaction with others.” [Pg. 21]

              The report then goes on to say: “For the purposes of this product, we did not include studies specific to online gaming or e-sports.” [Pg. 21]

              But online gaming is where the violence, the violent behavior and the use of guns occurs. And most of the shooting games can be played with multiple players at the same time. That’s not interacting with others?

              The most popular shooting game right now is something called Free Fire, an app which can accommodate as many as 52 players at the same time. There are 15 different game modes, with such names as Team Deathmatch and Clash Squad. The most popular mode has up to 52 players landing on an island without weapon which they must then arm themselves by stealing or scavenging guns.

              How does a player win this game?  By killing all the other players and being the last man standing.

              The winner is then given a ranking, kind of like the way that people who play online chess can also achieve rankings which can be used to register for online chess tournaments, except in chess games, nobody’s getting killed.

              In 2021, it is estimated that revenues for Free Fire in the U.S. alone topped more than $100 million. This figure represents about 15% of the game revenues worldwide, with the game being played each day more than 150 million times worldwide.

              But here’s the difference between shooting games like Free Fire being played in the U.S. as opposed to being played anywhere else.

              Ready? The United States is the only country in the entire world where the kinds of guns which are used in video shootouts can also be purchased and used in real time.

              Notice in the picture above the young lady in black holding an assault rifle with a hi-cap mag? In most states, that young lady at the age of 18 can walk into a gun shop and buy that gun.

              Notice the girl slightly above and to the right of the girl with the AR? In her right hand she’s holding a Glock. Or maybe it’s a Sig. Either way, this game which was not considered relevant enough to be included in the SG’s advisory on social media, is giving gun companies like Glock and Sig one helluva free advertising ride.

              Back in 2015, the American Psychological Association (APA) adopted a resolution which called for more research on the connection between violence and violent video games. You can download and read the report right here. The resolution was amended slightly in 2018, but the conclusion remained the same: “APA endorses the development and implementation of rigorously tested interventions that educate children, youth and families about the effects of violent video game use.”

              Given the recent surge in gun violence, much of it committed by young men who are just above adolescent age, I simply don’t understand how the Surgeon General could issue an advisory on the effects of social media and ignore the issue of how social media and gun violence are wrapped around each other in a way which promotes both.

              Unless, of course, Dr. Murthy and his colleagues believe that a 16-year-old walking down the street with a Glock in his pocket doesn’t represent a threat to public health.

              But of course, they do.

Can We Reduce Gun Violence by Reducing Violence?


              So, a week has gone by, and nobody has walked into a school or a supermarket and blown the place to bits. But I really don’t remember when we had such a spate of mass shootings, and I’m not talking about the pissed off ex-husband who shows up uninvited at a party thrown by his ex-wife and bang-bang-bang, two or three people are dead.

              I’m talking about the really big deals where the guy walks into some crowded space, takes out his trusty ‘sporting’ assault rifle and bangs away. The latest seems to have been down in Allen, TX where some nut job killed and wounded 15 people before the cops shot him dead. Now that’s a serious mass shooting, okay?

              And of course, you know that sooner or later we get a book which will explain what these shootings are all about, along with the requisite list of strategies we should adopt to keep such fearsome events from happening again.

              And here it is! The Violence Project – How To Stop a Mass Shooting Epidemic by two criminal justice academics who run a program in St. Paul, MN which claims to be a non-partisan research center ‘dedicated to reducing violence through research.’

              Before I get into some details about the book, I would appreciate it if someone would take the trouble to write and explain to me why all the various organizations and programs devoted to reducing gun violence always make a point of saying they are non-partisan in their approach to their work?

              Is there a partisan way to look at violence? Am I missing something here? Okay, back to the book.

              As far as I know, this book represents the first attempt to understand mass shootings by interviews with mass shooters themselves. The authors wrote to all the mass shooters living in prisons and five shooters responded positively and agreed to talk. They also then interviewed dozens of family members and friends of these five murderers, just to round things out. The purpose of all these discussions “was not the shooting itself but the perpetrator’s life story leading up to the shooting.” [Page 12]

              It turns out, surprise – surprise, that six out of ten mass shooters had some kind of mental health issue in the years leading up to the shooting event. Most also showed various symptoms of mental crisis (agitation, abusive behavior, depression, mood swings) in the days, weeks, months and even years prior to engaging in a shooting spree.

              Obviously, the one factor which somehow connected these behavioral issues with a murderous event was access to a gun. But the authors of this book have next to nothing to say about the fact that these mass killings wouldn’t have happened without access to a gun, and their only prescription for responding to this issue is to support the usual laundry list of gun-control measures (background checks, red-flag laws, etc.,) none of which have ever been shown to reduce gun violence or mass shootings at all.

There’s also the requisite plea to all gun owners to safely store their guns which, by the way, has never been shown to make any difference to the number or rate of gun violence events.

              The authors cite a 2018 survey which found that a “clear majority of Americans favor regulating the lethality of firearms available to the public.” [Page 167] Then they fall back on the idea of a ban only on assault rifles, which are used in an incidental proportion of gun deaths every year.

              God forbid these well-meaning authors/advocates would discuss or even mention the one strategy which would definitively erase gun violence as a behavior resulting in more than 100,000+ people getting killed or seriously injured by someone else every year. To quote Grandpa, would it be such a ‘gefailach’ (read: big deal) to call for the ban of those bottom-loading, semi-automatic pistols whose sale is the real reason that gun violence occurs at all?

              The reason that well-meaning and dedicated activists and scholars like Jillian Peterson and James Densley never go beyond what has become the standard prescriptions for reducing gun violence is very simple – they don’t know anything about guns. Which is true of the entire gun-control community as well.

              So, when these folks talk about ‘non-partisan’ or ‘consensus’ approaches to the problem, they are employing code words which mean they will try to deal with this problem in a way that will at least make it possible to have a discussion with pro-gun groups or advocates which doesn’t end up with a bunch of angry words being thrown back and forth.

              The evidence about gun risk is very clear: access to guns represents medical risk. When C. Everett Koop decided to declare smoking a medical risk, he didn’t try to find a ‘non-partisan’ way to create a narrative which would appeal to both the smoking and non-smoking sides.

              Mass shootings, defined in this book as an event where 4 people are together shot dead in a public space, has been going on for a lot longer than any other health epidemic has ever continued within the United States. To paraphrase Katherine Christoffel, gun violence isn’t an epidemic, it’s endemic.

              You don’t solve an endemic health problem until and unless you focus your energies first on figuring out why the problem exists.

              To paraphrase the 1992 Clinton campaign, it’s the gun, stupid.

Does Public Health Understand Gun Violence?

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              I have been reading and writing about gun violence for more than ten years. I have yet to see how one of the most significant factors that we need to understand about this peculiarly American form of behavior not only remains unstudied by all the public health mavens (read: experts) but isn’t even mentioned by this so-called scholarly community as an issue of concern.

              What I am referring to is the extraordinary differential between whites and blacks when we look at the numbers for homicides versus suicides committed with a gun. The difference is startling. For whites, the gun-homicide rate in 2021 was 3.05, for blacks it was 28.03. This puts the white gun-homicide in the United States right around Sri Lanka and Turkey, and considering that white Americans own ten times more guns that the residents of either those other countries, the rate of gun homicides suffered by American whites isn’t so bad.

              On the other hand, the rate of gun homicides experienced by American blacks is up there around countries like Sudan, Guinea, and the Dominican Republic. In 2021, the U.S. gun-homicide rate for blacks between ages 14 and 34 was – ready? – 64.05. The only country which matches that number in the entire world is El Salvador. No other country is even close.

              Looking at gun suicides, however, gives us a much different view of things.  In 2020, the rate of white gun suicides was 7.84, the black gun suicide rate was 3.95. When it comes to how guns are used in this country for ending a human life, as opposed to using a gun for hunting or sport, whites use guns to shoot themselves, blacks use guns to shoot someone else. In that respect, I’m still waiting for the first researcher to attempt an analysis of the differential between gun homicide and gun suicide using race as the fundamental variable in both types of events.  

When public health researchers try to explain the racial difference in gun-homicide rates, they invariably trot out the same old, same old narrative about the ‘hopelessness’ and all the other socio-economic blah, blahs, blippity-blahs about the inner-city or what is now referred to as ‘underserved neighborhood’ life. This narrative was a particular favorite of the gun-control academic crowd during the Covid-19 Pandemic, when the incidence of gun violence shot up and of course was explained as being caused by the increased socio-economic pressures spawned by the spread of a virulent and deadly disease.

              We don’t yet have numbers for shooting deaths in 2022 or 2023, but either the media is paying more attention to gun violence, or maybe the gun-violence rate has jumped even higher, or maybe a combination of both. But if the increase in both gun homicides and suicides in 2021 was due to the socio-economic stresses of the Pandemic, how come present-day gun violence seems to be happening even more frequently although the incidence of Covid-19 has gone way down? Duhhh….

               Thirty years ago, Art Kellerman and Fred Rivara published two articles which definitively made a connection between access to guns and medical risk. They did not qualify what types of guns, or whether the guns were locked away, or anything else. They simply looked at the incidence of homicide and suicide in households which contained guns.

              These two articles provoked a shitstorm on both sides of the gun debate, with pro-gun advocates claiming that guns were the most effective means to protect individuals from crime, and anti-gun advocates claiming that we needed to regulate gun ownership to a greater and more effective degree.

              How did the so-called public health gun experts situate themselves within this debate? They decided and continue to promote the idea that having guns around is okay, as long as they are used in a ‘responsible’ or ‘safe’ way.

              What does ‘responsible’ mean? It means whatever behavior these public health experts believe will reduce the risk from guns, although they have yet to produce any research which actually shows any causal linkage between gun-violence rates and more laws and regulations covering guns.

              I love the studies which correlate gun violence with gun laws, i.e., the more gun controls you put into the legal environment, the more you reduce violence caused by guns. Except the fact is that with a handful of exceptions, the states which have lots of gun-control laws and lower rates of gun violence, had those lower gun-violence rates before the new laws were passed. Oh well, oh well, oh well.

              Want to end gun violence? It’s very simple. Get rid of the guns which cause the violence. This week the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal challenging an assault rifle ban passed by a second Illinois community – Naperville – which follows from an assault rifle ban passed by Highland Park in 2014. The Highland Park ban was upheld by the SCOTUS in 2015.

              How come the public health gun researchers who are all so worried about gun violence never make a peep about reducing gun violence by simply getting rid of the guns?

              Oh, I forgot. You can’t conduct public health research on gun violence unless you first commit yourself to programs which promote responsible behavior with guns. After all, didn’t C. Everett Koop promote the idea that tobacco wasn’t a health risk if people would smoke in a ‘responsible’ way?

Does Gun Control Lead to Gun Confiscation?


              If there has been one new addition to the political lexicon over the last several years, it’s been the phrase known as ‘conspiracy theory,’ which is mentioned by just about everyone who says anything at all about Donald Trump. Here’s a guy who’s still peddling his conspiracy theory about the ‘stolen’ 2020 election, which he trotted out again for a national TV audience last week on CNN.

              But I happen to know another conspiracy theory which has much longer legs than Trump’s claim about election ‘fraud.’ This is the theory that any kind of gun-control regulation represents the beginning of a ‘slippery slope’ that will eventually wind up with the entire American population being disarmed.

              This theory has been floating around Gun-nut Nation for at least the past 50 years and is thrown out there by the NRA and all the other pro-gun groups whenever a mass shooting creates a brief, but noisy chorus about how we ‘have to do something’ about all those guns.

              It turns out, of course, that not one, single gun-control group like Everytown, Brady or Giffords has ever promoted any kind of confiscation strategy at all. In fact, these groups go out of their way to avoid the issue of any connection between private gun ownership and gun violence by promoting bland and seemingly innocuous narratives like behaving ‘responsibly’ with guns.

              And don’t make the mistake of thinking that the ‘slippery slope’ resistance to more gun-control laws is only a product of the NRA and like-minded groups. One of the earliest attempts to promote this conspiracy theory can be found in a 2013 issue of Forbes, which is hardly known to be a no-holds-barred supporter of privately-owned guns.

              It seems that just about every day, President Joe says something about gun violence, usually lamenting how with a ‘divided’ Congress, there’s only so much he can do. And we all know that since the GOP controls most of the Southern and Midwestern states where just about everyone owns a gun, as long as the GOP also can determine which proposals go forward in one branch on the Hill, what Joe is saying is probably true.

              Except I’m not so sure that the issue of gun control necessarily comes down to a struggle between gun owners and people who don’t own guns. And to test my own theory about who believes the ‘slippery slope’ conspiracy theory about gun control, I have just run a national survey which was answered by 547 respondents in 41 states, which you can download here.

              Over the next several weeks, I plan to analyze the results of this survey in depth, but be advised that along with the standard questions about age, location, race, gender, income, occupation and so forth, I also asked respondents if they or someone they lived with owned guns, whether they supported the 2nd Amendment ‘right’ to own guns, and – here’s the biggie – whether gun-control laws are the first step in government confiscation of all guns.

              Like I said above, I’ll get into more details from the survey results over the next couple of weeks, but in the meantime, I just wanted to share one very interesting result from this survey with you today.

              It turns out that the number of respondents who are gun owners versus the number who don’t have any connections to guns was about 50-50, which is actually somewhat higher for the gun-owning side than what other recent surveys have found. But my survey may be the first which takes into account the recent splurge in gun buying which occurred during Covid-19.

              In any case, you would expect that just about all the gun-owning respondents would line up in favor of a theory which promotes the idea that any new gun law is just the beginning of an attempt to not just regulate but to ban guns.

              Ready for some preliminary results? Of the 272 respondents who don’t own or aren’t in a household where someone owns a gun, 113 respondents (41.5%) believe that new gun laws will ultimately result in the confiscation of guns. Of the 275 respondents who are either gun owners or live in a household where there are guns, 88 respondents (32%) do not believe in the ‘slippery slops’ conspiracy theory about how gun laws will eventually pave the way for taking away America’s privately-owned guns.

              These results, and again they are preliminary, are exactly the reverse of what one would expect. Because if 40% of households which don’t contain guns are also households were someone resides who believes that more gun laws will become a ‘slippery slope’ eventually resulting in all guns being taken away, maybe these are folks who want gun-control to eventually disarm the gun-owning population, or maybe these are people who buy the pro-gun paranoia about gun laws, whether they want guns banned or not.

              Either way, the early and most preliminary result of our survey reflects if nothing else that we need to be extremely careful in making any assumptions about how gun owners think about their guns.

              Stay tuned for more thoughts and analysis about our survey.

Do We Know Anything About Gun Violence?

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              When I opened my third and last gun shop in 2011, a new Glock pistol ran about $500 bucks and a good assault rifle from Panther Arms cost about twice that much. Even at those prices, I sold plenty of both.

              Actually, I didn’t so much as sell them for the manufacturer’s suggested price. I sold them for about half the listed price because just about everyone who comes into a shop to buy a new gun brings in a used gun and makes a trade.

              Guns don’t wear out. And now that they’re made out of polymer, the frame doesn’t even rust. So, you buy a gun, shoot it a few times, then stick it away and take it out next year or the year after and trade it in for another new gun.

              That’s what the retail gun business is all about. It’s kind of like the car business except at some point cars end up being crushed into a square of rusted metal and shipped off to some big oven where they are melted down and the manufacturing process starts over again.

              I own a Colt 1911 pistol that was manufactured in the Hartford factory in 1923. The gun has gone through I don’t know how many owners, but it works fine. It even shoots some ammunition that was made at the Remington ammunition factory in Bridgeport sometime before World War II. 

              The Colt factory in Hartford is now an ‘innovation center’ which means the building’s just an empty shell. The Remington ammunition factory in Bridgeport is rubble. The gun is sitting in my son’s closet unless he sold it to someone else.

              Now according to my inflation calculator, a Glock which cost $500 in 2001 should cost $852 today. An assault rifle from Panther Arms with a retail price of $1,000 in 2001 should set a buyer back $1,705 and change.

              Meanwhile, I see dealers on the internet advertising Glocks for $400 and assault rifles for $600 and change. This means that in real dollars, the types of guns which show up in just about all the gun violence events which are happening today cost about half as much as they cost twenty years ago.

              If there’s a connection between the number of violent crimes committed with guns and the number of guns that are floating around, why should we be surprised when guns have become so much cheaper than they used to be?

              On the other hand, the truth is we really have no idea whether there’s any connection between all those guns floating around and how many crimes are committed by people who don’t have the legal authority to go out and buy one of those cheap guns. Instead, what we get from both sides in the gun debate is a totally unverified assumption that if more people own guns, then crime will either go up or go down, depending on whether all those guns are used either to commit crimes or to protect people from crimes.

              The latter argument, of course, is made by my friend John Lott, who has been saying that more guns equals less crime since he published a book with that title in 1998. The former argument connecting our elevated gun-violence rate to the size of the civilian gun arsenal is made by my friend David Hemenway, who has been making this argument in print since 2004.

              Lott goes around giving his lecture to friendly, pro-gun groups and Hemenway goes around spieling to groups who don’t like guns. Every few years Lott publishes a new edition of his book, Hemenway also updates his research from time to time. Neither Lott nor Hemenway, nor any of the other progenitors in these two cottage industries has yet to even attempt the one, basic piece of research which would definitively determine the link between violence and guns.

              What would that research be? It would be research that would determine exactly how many acts of violence committed with the use of guns are committed by individuals who have legal access to those guns.

              The only time the issue of whether a shooter used a legally acquired weapon is in cases of mass assaults, like last year’s mass shootings in Uvalde, TX or Buffalo, NY which together resulted in 31 deaths, with one shooter killed and the other taken into custody by the cops.

              But even though more than 100,000 Americans are killed or seriously injured by the random shootings which take place just about everywhere all the time, we have absolutely no idea where the guns come from which are used in most of those shooting events.

              I would be willing to take the short odds that less than 5% of all the men and women who are killed or injured each year by someone else who pops them with a gun are the victims of shootings committed by someone who is using a legally-acquired gun or someone who wouldn’t fail a background check even if the gun they used to commit an act of gun violence was acquired in an extra-legal way.

              So why do we continue to argue about laws to regulate the behavior of gun owners who know how to self-regulate themselves? Because the so-called experts who conduct research about gun violence don’t know anything about guns.

American Carnage – A Review.


              The purpose of this book is to provide an antidote to the misinformation which circulates in and around what the authors describe as the ‘intense and acrimonious’ national gun debate. The text is devoted to discussing 37 different ideas which create this misinformation, or what Tom Gabor and Fred Guttenberg refer to as gun ‘myths.’

              To their credit, G&G do an excellent job of describing each myth in clear and concise terms. They also have plumbed the research conducted and published which sheds some reality on each of these myths. If you find yourself in a discussion, debate or argument with a pro-gun advocate, the chances are pretty good that you will have to respond to one or more of the myths listed in this book and you can feel confident using the points made by G&G to provide a contrary case.

              That’s the good news about American Carnage – Shattering The Myths That Fuel Gun Violence. Now the other news, by which I don’t mean criticisms of what G&G have written. Rather, these are several concerns provoked by the book which perhaps require some additional thought. But the whole point of writing any book about a current debate is, after all, to widen the parameters of the debate. As Grandpa would say, ‘ze hais?’ (read: get it?)

              Concern #1. Early on, G&G argue that much of the misinformation about guns reflects the absence of research due to the Dickey Amendment, which prohibited the CDC from sponsoring evidence-based studies from 1997 until last year. But what is not mentioned is that the data on gun injuries produced by the CDC happens to be so insufficient and so lacking in both quantity and quality that our understanding of gun violence remains both minimal and misdirected, government research support or not.

              What I am referring to is the fact that the CDC only publishes estimates on the number of individuals who are killed with the use of guns, i.e., homicides and suicides. The CDC has yet to figure out how to derive and publish a valid estimate on the number of non-fatal gun injuries which occur every year, and my best guess is that this number, if estimated correctly, would increase the total annual gun carnage by two-thirds!

              How can you determine the efficacy of any law or strategy to reduce gun violence if you can’t figure out the number of gun violence events before and then after the law or strategy is put into effect? And let me make it clear that the only difference between fatal and non-fatal gun injuries is that in the latter instance, the shooter didn’t shoot straight.

Moreover, there are studies which strongly hint at the possibility that many of the victims of non-lethal gun injuries recover initially but then end up dying earlier than they otherwise would pass away. In other words, the actual fatal gun violence toll may be substantially higher than the number of deaths which occur in any given year.

My second concern, and again this is in no way of criticism of this fine, little book, is that G&G make no distinction between legal, as opposed to non-legal owners and users of guns. These lacunae aren’t their fault, because the absence of such a distinction is rife throughout the scholarly literature on guns. The United States isn’t the only country to sustain a regulatory system for private gun ownership, but it is the only country whose regulatory system is based on the behavior of gun owners, as opposed to a regulatory system which focuses primarily on the lethality and dangerousness of specific types of guns.

There’s a reason you can’t buy a semi-automatic pistol in Canada, which happens to be the same reason that you can’t buy an assault rifle in Britain or France. The only small arm whose ownership is restricted in the United States is a machine gun, but you can even own a full-auto gun if you’re willing to undergo two background checks, wait a couple of months to get approved and then ante up a $250 tax.

Not only do we try to respond to gun violence by looking primarily at the shooters and not at the guns they use to injure or kill themselves or someone else, in fact we have absolutely no idea how many gun violence events are committed by individuals who don’t meet the criteria we have developed to determine who can qualify to own a gun. G&G mention (p. 83) a California study of 18 million adults which showed that access to guns in the home resulted in a risk of fatal injury, but this study didn’t differentiate between legal and illegal guns.

We have absolutely no idea how many of those 400 million guns in the civilian arsenal are in the possession of people who cannot qualify for legal gun ownership. Hence, we have no way of actually determining the efficacy of the various gun regulations (ERPO, UBC, CAP, etc.) that G&G and the entire gun-control community believe, if enacted, will reduce the gun carnage which currently occurs in the United States.

Again, I am not raising these concerns as a criticism of G&G’s work. If anything, hopefully this book will give them a presence in the gun debate which will enable them to raise these issues in a meaningful ad influential way.

American Carnage deserves to be read.

Do Gun Buybacks Work?

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              If there is one issue connected to the debate on gun violence which has been mis-stated and mis-understood over the years, it has been the issue of determining the efficacy of gun buybacks.  Before I explain what the previous sentence means, let me first define the phrase ‘gun buyback,’ which is also mis-understood.

              A gun buyback is an effort conducted within a community or multiple communities to offer financial incentives to people who voluntarily surrender guns. Note the word ‘voluntarily.’ It is not an activity which has any governmental authority or sanction behind it at all. It is not, for example, what happened in Australia in 1996, when the government changed the law and prohibited the ownership of semi-automatic weapons but then reimbursed gun owners a fair market-value for such guns when they were turned in.

              To have forced people to discard property that was legally acquired without compensating them for their loss would have been a major violation of a cornerstone of the legal system because the government can’t arbitrarily penalize citizens who behaved lawfully and now are behaving unlawfully because the law has been changed.

              And yet, here’s a definition of gun buybacks from Newsweek by a reporter who claims she has spent ‘years’ studying gun policies: “Gun buybacks are financed by taxpayer dollars and are generally paid for by local agencies rather than through state or federal funding.” 

              Wrong. Generally speaking, gun buybacks are financed through voluntary contributions by local merchants and advocacy groups which pay for the incentives, usually a gift card to a supermarket or a big-box store, that people receive when they turn in a gun. Last week, the taxpayers in New York State did finance a statewide buyback which brought in over 3,000 guns, but the media coverage hewed to the accepted notion that gun buybacks don’t work: “While gun buyback programs are popular, there is little evidence to show they’re effective in measurably reducing gun violence,” so said an article in USA Today.

              Why don’t gun buybacks ‘work?’ Because after the buyback, according to all the so-called experts, gun violence doesn’t go down. This has been the accepted and unquestioned analysis of the value of gun buybacks ever since Garen Wintemute published a study of a buyback in Milwaukee which concluded that: “Handguns recovered in buyback programs are not the types most commonly linked to firearm homicides and suicides. Although buyback programs may increase awareness of firearm violence, limited resources for firearm injury prevention may be better spent in other ways.”

              God forbid any of the experts who study gun violence would deviate an inch away from what Wintemute said. But Wintemute himself then realized that something as multivariate and complicated as gun assaults can’t just be explained or understood by making a rather primitive argument that if A doesn’t lead to B, there’s something wrong with A.

Wintemute later revised his criticism of gun buybacks, proposing instead that “buybacks may not directly reduce rates of firearm-related violent crime, but they can be an important element in a broader community-based effort to prevent violence.”

What does that statement mean?  Basically, it means nothing. But just to make sure that we understand the value of gun buybacks from Wintemute’s perspective, here’s another judgement from David Hemenway, who does gun research at Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health: “An important outcome of the buyback is having people work together, making it more likely they will work together on other aspects of the problem.”

Academics like Wintemute and Hemenway conduct gun research by taking data available in the public domain and twisting it around a new or revised statistical formula which yields a slightly different result from the previous time that the data was analyzed by themselves or someone else. In fact, the data published by the CDC on gun violence is so misrepresentative of the reality of gun violence that to use it in any kind of serious discussion about this issue is to move the discussion into never-never land.

The CDC defines gun violence only in terms of people who are shot and killed with guns, which happens to represent, at best, maybe 30 percent of annual gun violence events. Why is the data used by Wintemute, Hemenway and all their research peers so far away from what gun-violence data should really show? Because the CDC finally realized a few years ago that their sampling methods for estimating non-fatal gun violence were totally and completely wrong.

If any of the gun researchers would take the trouble to read Lester Adelson’s classic textbook on forensic homicide, or God forbid actually walk into a shooting range and shoot a gun, they would discover that the only difference between fatal and non-fatal shootings is that in the latter category, the guy using the gun didn’t shoot straight. Otherwise, to talk about gun violence and ignore the non-fatal events, would be like talking about Covid-19 but ignoring the people who contracted the virus but didn’t go to the hospital for help.

Believe it or not, gun violence in this country exists for one, very simple reason, and the reason is this: We are the only country in the entire world which allows law-abiding residents to purchase, own and walk around with guns whose risk of ownership far outweighs the benefits of owning such guns.

The gun industry would like you to believe that being able to yank a Glock, or a Sig, or a Beretta semi-automatic pistol out of your pocket and either wave it in the face of someone who appears to be a threat, or someone who maybe dissed your girlfriend, or someone who just pissed you off by something they said, is proof that having such a gun means that the benefits far outweigh the risks.

The evidence which proves this nonsense to be false rather than true was first published thirty years ago. And this single issue – risks versus benefits – is what the gun debate is all about. It’s not about the 2nd Amendment, it’s not about the God-given ‘right’ of self-defense. It’s about risk versus benefits of access to certain types of guns.

Ready?  The whole point of a properly organized gun buyback is to inject the risk versus benefit narrative into a community’s thoughts about access to guns.

I am still waiting for any of the so-called gun violence experts to mention this in a single piece of research.

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