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What Do We Really Know About Gun Violence?

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              I spent the weekend reading a wonderful, wonderful novel by Joyce Carol Oates. It’s The Gravedigger’s Daughter, which I read when it first appeared in 2007, but I chanced to pick it up again as I was looking for another book on one of my shelves, so I read it again. Wow.

              There’s a brief section in the text which describes how the gravedigger, an immigrant from Germany who came to the United States with his family in 1936, shoots and kills a man during an argument in the cemetery, then goes into the shack where he lives, shoots his wife, and then shoots himself. The episode is described through the eyes of his daughter Rebecca, who is twelve years old at the time.

              Her father had been a mathematics teacher at a very exclusive school in Germany where the family lived a substantial, middle-class life. He packed up everyone in 1936 and fled, no doubt running from the anti-Semitism of the Nazi regime, although this issue, like many issues within the family, is left unspoken and unsaid.

              They get into the United States, and the only job this educated, professional man can find is to take care of a small, Christian cemetery in a crummy, little, upstate New York town, where he is regarded as something of a weirdo, a loner, but at least the family has survived.

              As the years go by, the daughter’s father becomes more bitter, more anguished, more pissed off at how the world has not treated him the way he deserved. At some point he goes into town, takes his savings out of the bank, and buys a Remington shotgun and some shells. He tells the owner of the gun shop that he’s buying the gun to ‘protect’ his family from some kids who had painted swastikas on the cemetery walls.

              Rebecca has two older brothers of whom the eldest viciously beat up two of the kids who had vandalized the cemetery and he is now a fugitive with a warrant out for his arrest. The younger brother one day simply disappears. So, the family is in a state of gradual collapse – the father drinking too much, the mother increasingly withdrawn.

              One day two men come to the cemetery to visit a family grave and get into an argument with Rebecca’s father because they are pissed off at what they consider to be the lack of caretaking in the cemetery – the overgrown plots, the weeds growing on gravesites, the general lack of attention and care.

              Rebecca’s father goes into the tool shed, comes out with the shotgun, and blows one of the men away. He then walks into his little, stone cabin, kills his wife and then shoots himself dead. Rebecca is made a ward of the state and is taken in by her grammar-school teacher where she lives for the next four years.

              From the first page of this novel, you get the idea that something bad will happen to this family. You don’t know what it is, and when it finally happens, it’s not something you would expect. And when it does happen, it’s over and done with in about as much time as it takes to read the single page in this novel which describes the horrendous event.

              But this is exactly what happens in the United States more than a thousand times every year, what is called ‘murder-suicide’ almost always involving members of a family where things have just gotten out of control.

              I don’t know anyone who has ever written about this kind of event with the descriptive powers and observations employed by Joyce Carol Oates. But I have read endless accounts of families blown apart by this kind of behavior and until I read The Gravedigger’s Daughter I have never (read: never) been as overwhelmed by the suddenness and immediacy of such an event.

              Our friend Jennifer Mascia has just published an article about gun suicide in The Trace, where she makes the point that while we lead all advanced countries in our rate of overall gun violence, we are the country with the highest rate of gun suicides by far.  Rich or poor, it doesn’t matter – gun owners in the United States who want to end their own lives overwhelmingly do it with a gun.

              Mascia’s article goes into details about gun suicide, which each year claims some 30,000 lives or more. She mentions gun murder-suicides and quotes the publisher of the Gun Violence Archive, Mark Bryant, who gives a figure for annual murder-suicide events which may be about half as many of these events as actually take place.

              We don’t really know how many times someone shoots someone else and then turns the gun on himself. The reason we don’t is because the data on gun violence, regardless of the source (CDC, FBI, etc.) looks either at victims or perpetrators, but never at both. The FBI breaks out data on who commits gun violence using the standard SES categories: gender, race, age, etc. But we are left completely in the dark when it comes to tying the behavior of these individuals to the individuals they killed or how the actual killing took place.

              The World Health Organization defines violence as any intentional attempt by an individual to injure himself or someone else. Most violent behavior results in a non-fatal injury, the one exception being violence caused by using a gun.

              How will we ever figure out an effective strategy to deal with gun violence if we don’t know how, when, and why a life ended because someone picked up a gun?

Here Comes the Civil War Part 2.

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              Things have quieted down so much in D.C. that the only way the Fake News media can continue to attract any clicks to their websites at all is to forget about reportage, forget about events or fact, and just make it up. 

              Want an example?  Try this article in The Guardian which claims we are closer to a civil war than anyone would like to think. And what is the article based on?  A book which hasn’t yet been published, but what the hell, why not get some free publicity for the effort, right?

              The book’s author, Barbara Walter, a faculty member at the University of California, San Diego, says that when she puts America’s current political situation through a checklist that was developed by the CIA to gauge political stability in other countries, the United States has already experienced ‘pre-insurgency’ and ‘incipient conflict’ and is now entering into ‘open conflict’ represented by events like January 6th.

              Walter’s bleak and foreboding analysis is backed up by Sid Blumenthal, a long-time adviser to Bill and then Hillary Clinton, who believes we may be moving into a period of ‘low-intensity conflict’ with right-wing militia groups committing endless acts of violence. And what facts does Blumenthal use to base his analysis of the coming maelstrom that will bring us to civil war? The ‘proliferation of guns.’

              So, there you have it. All those schmucks who left their guns at home when they came to D.C. in January will return next time fully armed. And if you need more proof, try this Newsweek article based on an interview with some old fart in Georgia who is ready, willing and able to lead a million armed patriots to Washington, D.C. to stop Biden from “destroying this country.” And that’s a direct quote.

              How exactly Joe is destroying the country when unemployment is now under 5 percent and the Dow Jones has hit an all-time high is something that the old fart in Georgia doesn’t bother to explain.  And God forbid the Newsweek reporter would ask,

              Oh – of course. I forgot. Joe’s destroying America because he promotes the utterly stupid idea that mask mandates will help us get rid of Covid-19.  How silly of me to think that the President of the United States should base any governance idea on science or accepted fact.

              Back in the good old days, most people owned guns for hunting or sport shooting. Then around 2000 or so, when hunting and hunters began to disappear, the gun industry began promoting the idea of keeping a gun for self-defense. Meanwhile, between 2000 and 2010, the violent crime rate dropped by about 50 percent. Of course, the gun industry claimed that the country was safer precisely because more people were walking around with legally-purchased guns.

              In the last couple of years, however, the pro-gun narrative has shifted again. Now the reason you need to buy and carry a gun is not to protect yourself from the ordinary street thug. It’s to protect yourself from a tyrannical government which, of course, means a government run by Democrats like Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer and a few other left-wing, Deep State, Soros-funded threats.

              In this regard, the gun industry has always promoted its products by listening to what gun owners have to say. And what gun owners are saying is that they not only like Trump but want to see him back as the tenant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 2024.

              And why do gun owners like Trump?  Because gun owners tend to be White men who drive trucks that get `12 miles to the gallon and live in the 13 Confederate states and the rural parts of the Midwestern states.  And it’s pretty tough to promote the idea in those places that you need a gun to protect yourself from some street thug unless the thug is some Black guy who’s in your neighborhood because he just stole something out of a newly-built house.

              But keeping a gun around to protect everyone’s Constitutional ‘rights?’ Who would ever argue with that one? That’s like apple pie or a can of beer for less than a buck.

              To all my dear liberal friends who are willing to believe that we are entering into a Civil War redux, let me break it to you gently, okay?

              Between 2001 and 2015, I sold more than 200 assault rifles like the AR-15 in my gun shop. And every buyer told me he was buying the gun because he wanted to make sure he had one around the house before the Democrats told him he couldn’t own that kind of gun.

              Know what all those guys did with their assault rifles which they bought to protect themselves from the tyrannical state?  They stuck the gun in the same corner of the basement where they stuck all their other guns.

Students Demand Action – Now!

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Yesterday I received what I thought was going to be a Seasons Greetings card from our friend Shannon Watts and the Everytown/Moms Demand Action gang. But when I opened the envelope, what came out was a card from an organization called Students Demand Action, with a great pic of ten girls and one guy standing underneath what looks like the Santa Monica pier.

The group is nicely masked up, by the way, which pleases me no end. Everyone is also smiling and obviously enjoying standing in the surf.  But most of all, what impresses me about the picture is that everyone is wearing the ‘uniform,’ the red t-shirt which has become the most recognizable and identifiable symbol in the gun-violence advocacy movement since Shannon founded MOMS back in 2013.

Shannon did more than start a group to raise awareness about violence connected to guns. She actually began what has become a national movement for gun reform that has become as strong as the leading group on the other side, a.k.a., the NRA.

She’s had some help along the way, some of it coming from Mike Bloomberg, who merged his own gun group, Everytown, with the MOMS in 2014. But for everyone who thinks that Shannon and her girls couldn’t fail because they had access to Bloomberg’s bucks, let me break it to you gently, okay?

Money lets you do lots of things, organizationally speaking, that are much harder, if not impossible to do without dough. But for every organization which figures out how to spend its money wisely, there’s another organization out there which just pisses money away.

I have been donating money to various liberal and left-wing groups and causes since, hmmm, maybe 1968, maybe before. And no group that I have supported over the years does as good or as effective a job as Shannon does with her girls.  Or ladies, Or whomever they are.

To keep things even-steven, I should also tell you that I’m a member of the NRA. Not just a member, but a Lifetime Benefactor member, which means I hear from the boys in Fairfax all the time. I also get invited to lots of NRA events, and if weren’t for the goddamn Covid I could show up at a gun show or a pot-luck dinner from time to time.

Know what?  I can also go to meetings and activities run by MOMS.  They have a nice search function on their website which lets me register for various events, and to my great surprise, MOMS isn’t just active in the usual, blue-liberal states.  They have an event coming up on January 10th in – ready? Idaho! How in God’s name does a gun-control group hold an event in the state which is where the whole militia movement got its start? 

But that’s exactly why I support Shannon and, by the way, you can and should support them too, Because it’s no big deal to find some folks interested in working to reduce gun violence in Washington, D.C.  But Idaho? Or Indiana, where the gals are holding three lunch meetings next month?

If it wasn’t for the goddamn Covid, I would probably be giving some kind of spiel about guns to some group at least once a month.  But I’ve stopped appearing before gun-control groups because they know what I’m going to say.

People like me need to appear before the gun-owning groups because those are the folks who don’t hear what people like me have to say. And know what? Every time I talk to a bunch of gun owners, someone will come up at the end of my talk and tell me that he doesn’t agree with me, but I’ve given him something to think about. And that’s what it’s all about.

When Shannon first started MOMS, she told me that she wanted to get her messaging in front of people who needed to understand the risks of guns. And who better to aim such messaging at than the people who are usually most concerned about safety in the home? 

But thanks to the card I got yesterday, it’s clear that Shannon has widened her net and now wants to get her messaging in front of not just parents, but in front of the kids as well. Take a look at the 16 high school students who represent the next generation of advocacy leadership and you’ll see what I mean.

And while you’re at it, go to the MOMS store and spend a few bucks. And don’t give me some nonsense about how you’re too broke to chip in. 

Can Someone Commit Gun Suicide Without Using A Gun?

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              Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m just too stupid to understand the guidance being put out there to help prevent people from ending their own lives with a gun. And gun suicide has become a serious issue among certain population groups, in particular veterans whose suicide rate is now at least three times higher than the suicide rate for non-veterans in the same age groups.

              Worse, veterans tend to use a gun more frequently than other people as a life-ending device and the problem with a gun is that the odds that it will put you six feet under are 95%. No other means of committing suicide has odds of better than 50% and people who survive a suicide attempt generally go into treatment and report that they are glad to be alive.

              So, recently the White House released a whole report on what the Administration is doing to reduce gun violence, and much of their activity involves working with the VA and other groups to address the issue of depressed veterans who have access to guns. And the report specifically cites a VA program called ‘Firearm Suicide Prevention and Lethal Means Safety,’ which you can look at right here.

              So, I looked at this effort and what I saw is either so screwed up that I can’t believe it reflects any rational thought at all, or perhaps as I said above, I’m just too dumb to figure things out.

              The program begins with a brief video which tells veterans that it’s okay to be pissed off at what people say to them about their military service because such comments usually don’t capture what a tour in some sh*thole like Iraq or Afghanistan is all about. But then the video goes on to show a Glock pistol and a voice-over which says, “A simple lock puts space between the thought [of suicide] and the trigger” while a cable lock is being affixed to the gun.

              How much did the VA pay some advertising agency to produce this video and come up with such a clever phrase? I can only guess but what I happen to know for a fact is that YouTube has a bunch of amateur videos which show such locks being picked open in ten seconds of less.

              You then go to a page which says that “a safe home environment can save lives,” and continues on with this statement: “most suicides occur in the home and involve firearms — by far the most common and lethal of the means used in suicides.”

              So, how does the VA suggest that you make your home safe? Here’s what you should do: “Safe storage practices include using cable or trigger locks, storing firearms in a locked case or safe, and storing firearms and ammunition separately and locked.”

              And if you need any further help to make your home safe from using a gun to commit suicide, the VA recommends that you consult the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) which has been promoting for years the idea that more guns in homes results in less crime.

              Incidentally, the NSSF is located in Newtown CT, which happens to be the town where the massacre of 20 children and 4 adults took place at the elementary school just nine years ago. And what kind of gun did the shooter use to commit this unspeakable act of mass carnage? An AR-15 rifle which the NSSF has been saying for years is just a ‘sporting gun.’

              This is the organization that the VA partners with to run a program on reducing gun suicide? Okay, okay, obviously I don’t get it. I’m just too dumb.

              Unfortunately, had the VA gone out and put together a program to reduce gun suicides by aligning itself with a medical society like the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) or the American College of Surgeons (ACS) they would have found scant difference between what these groups say about preventing gun suicides as compared to what is promoted by the NSSF. Want to keep people from shooting themselves with guns?  Lock the guns up. It’s as simple as that, according to ACEP and ACS.

              I guess I’m just too stupid to understand how you can keep guns around the home and not worry about someone getting hurt. The fact that solid, evidence-based research shows that guns in the home, locked or unlocked, represent a health risk, just proves that I’m not the only idiot out there. 

Does ATF Gun Tracing Help Explain Gun Violence?

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 What is the relationship between guns and crime? Or better yet, is there any relationship between guns and crime? This question has been the focal point of the gun debate for almost thirty years. On the one hand, we have pro-gun advocates (Kleck, Lott) who say that the more guns owned by civilians, the less crime we experience, i.e., guns are a positive social device. On the other hand, we have gun-control advocates (Hemenway) who claim that we have more violent c rime than other countries because we own so many guns.

What we do know is that from 1994 through 2000, violent crime in the United States dropped by more than 50% at the same time that we were adding millions of guns to the civilian arsenal every year. Since 2000, on the other hand, violent crime rates were more or less steady until the Pandemic, but the number of privately-owned guns has continued to climb. So, which is which?

Answer: WTFK?

Our friends at The Trace have just given us a new perspective on this issue. Using the ATF’s ‘time to crime’ (TTC) data for 2020, it appears that guns retrieved by the cops in 2020, to quote The Trace, “were more likely to wind up at crime scenes within a year than in any previous period.” The average TTC in 2020 was 7 months or less for more than twice as many guns as in any previous year since 2010.

It would thus appear to be the case that more guns equal more crime, right? Except there’s only one little problem, or I should say, two little problems with the argument being made about gun sales and crime rates.

First, and most important, the ATF has been lying about how the true meaning of TTC since they first started calculating it when they began tracing guns back in 1968. They are lying because they know, and every gun dealer in this country knows that the first transfer of a gun over the counter is often not the last transfer of that gun. The gun business happens to be unique in the world of retail commerce for the simple reason that the products produced and sold in this business don’t wear o

I own a Colt pistol manufactured in 1922. It works as well as it worked when it left the Colt factory for the first time. How many people owned this gun before I bought it from another dealer back in 1994? Who the hell knows?

The inventory in my gun shop was usually 60% new guns, 40% used guns. When Garen Wintemute did his vaunted study of gun retailers he didn’t bother to inquire about the breakdown between new and used guns. Of course, Wintemute knew all about the gun business, right?

But the ATF is supposed to know all about the gun business. After all, they are the regulators of the gun business. And the fact that they only use the first transfer of a gun between dealer and customer to calculate the TTC data is a bald-faced lie.

As far as I’m concerned, you could take that entire, goddamn bunch of ATF employees who go around doing those stupid and useless dealer inspections and tell them to go out and find another job. Except they’re probably unemployable, which is why they are on the payroll of the ATF.

The second problem with the article in The Trace is the assumption that when a police department sends a trace request to the ATF, that this request represents a gun that was ‘retrieved’ because it was somehow connected to a crime. Not true. Not true at all.

The author of The Trace article, Champe Barton, is aware of the fact that police departments aren’t required to submit trace requests to the ATF. But perhaps he doesn’t know that when the cops submit a request for a gun to be traced, they have to designate a specific reason for their request.

There happen to be 64 different reasons why a law-enforcement agency might want to know how, when and where a gun was initially sold. Know what the fourth most-common reason is? Try this for size – ‘found firearm.’ In 2020, more than 10,000 traces were performed on guns used in suicides. I love the tracing category known as ‘sex crimes,’ although less than 1,000 traces were performed for sexual misconduct last year.

In other words, using ATF traces to tell us anything about crime, particularly crime involving guns, is a risky proposition at best.

After I post this column, I’m going to send a donation to The Trace and I think everyone concerned about gun violence should do the same. And I’m going to donate to them even though I know that young Mister Barton won’t take the trouble to go back to his story and correct the mistakes.       

The good news about The Trace is that its appearance reminds us that gun violence still needs to be better understood and more work needs to be done. I certainly can’t say that about the messaging I get from the NRA.

Sandy Hook.

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              Today marks the 9th year since a 20-year old kid shot his mother to death one morning in Newtown, CT, then got in a car and drove across town to the Sandy Hook Elementary school where he gunned down 20 children and 6 adults before putting a bullet through his own head.

              The day of the massacre I was standing in my gun shop and around 1 PM or so the phone rang, and it was the town’s police chief who told me to turn on a TV or a radio to catch the news out of Connecticut, which was our neighboring state.

              I watched the broadcast for about 10 minutes, turned off the TV, left and closed the shop and went home. I didn’t turn on the TV again because I was simply too sick to do anything except sit on my living room couch and try my best to avoid thinking about what had occurred.

              Over the next week or so I appeared on various TV programs in my area, and when I asked one of the talk-show hosts why I was being called up and invited to talk multiple times he replied, “You’re the only gun dealer who’s willing to talk about Sandy Hook without ranting about his 2nd-Amendment rights.”

              Frankly, I didn’t think then and I don’t think now that what happened at Sandy Hook and what has happened at the high school in Parkland, Umpqua Community College The Pulse, and every other place where a bunch of people have been gunned down has anything to do with the 2nd Amendment at all.

              So, what if the Constitution allows you to keep a handgun in your home? What’s that got to do with shooting your way into an elementary school and blasting the place to smithereens? So what if the 2nd Amendment says we can ‘keep and bear arms?’ How can the families who lost children or mothers and fathers ever feel that their Constitutional ‘rights’ should somehow replace the presence of a child or an adult in their home?

              And by the way, for all the talk about how we should get a comprehensive background-check law passed so that only ‘responsible’ and ‘law-abiding’ people can own guns, the AR-15 that the kid used to massacre everyone he saw was not only legally purchased and owned by his mother, but there was no law in Connecticut which prevented the kid from borrowing the gun and committing mayhem across town.

              There is something really fuck*ed up when we take a gun designed only for military use and sell it on the open market as a ‘sporting’ gun. There is something even more fuc*ed up when we also let anyone who hasn’t been locked up for a felony walk around with a handgun designed for the military but sold on the open market as a ‘tool’ for self-defense.

              Incidentally, the Sandy Hook shooter not only had an AR-15 as his basic slaughter gun, he also had a Sig pistol which he used to pop a round into his own head. And guess what handgun the U.S. military has been issued this past year? It’s called a Sig.

And just in case you haven’t watched a good war movie lately like ‘Band of Brothers’ or ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ you might be interested to know that the military doesn’t issue troops any kind of ‘sporting’ gun.

I think it’s important to mark anniversaries, both for things that are good and things that are bad. We all need to spend some time thinking about both because as Hobbes once remarked, life is ‘nasty, brutish and short.’

But we don’t have to make life nastier or more brutish or shorter by doing something as stupid as believing that someone walking down the street with a Sig or a Glock in their pocket is helping to keep himself and the rest of us safe.

All he’s really doing is demonstrating that he suffers from a case of arrested mental development and there’s simply no reason to pretend that he represents anything else.

Will The AR-15 Disappear From California?

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Yesterday the Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, announced a novel and significant approach to gun violence which, if it becomes law in California, I can only hope will spread.  The initiative, according to Newsom, was copied from the new Texas law which allows residents to sue someone who offers abortions which violate the state’s new abortion ban. In California, the state has passed a ban on assault rifles, and Newsom wants state residents to be able to sue anyone who ‘manufactures, distributes or sells’ an assault rifle in the Golden State.

When this initiative was announced, members of Gun-nut Nation in California immediately began whining about how such a law would deprive gun owners of their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

There has never been a gun-control law announced anywhere in the United States which doesn’t violate the s0-called 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ Of course, the fact that the 2nd Amendment happens to be an amendment and not a ‘right’ is somehow always left unsaid. A reader sent me a message stating that I was just a typical example of the ‘insidious, Left-wing mentality’ that has been destroying American life since World War II.”

There are actually people sitting around who think that way. Luckily, I suspect that most of them live in those red states where nobody is vaccinated which means they won’t be around to vote in 2022 or restore Trump to his rightful place in the Oval Office in 2024. Oh well. Anyway, back to Newsom.

The history of the United States is usually written to show that the country developed from East to West. So, for example, with the exception of the West Coast, we added states from East to West. We also opened the frontier to farming and human settlement from East to West.

But when it comes to nuttiness, things usually go the other way. After all, the shift of the GOP to nutty, right-wing ideas started in California with Ronald Reagan when he first ran for President in 1978. And what food product has ruined billions of cups of coffee? Half and half, which the dairy industry started selling in the 1960’s but was also first produced in the Golden State.

Except I don’t think that Newsom’s idea of giving residents the legal authority to express how they feel about the guy next door sitting there in front of his TV with a can of beer on the coffee table and his AR-15 on his lap is nutty at all. In fact, to the contrary, and let me tell you why.

When the first assault-rifle law was proposed, and it was also in California, by the way, the gun industry attacked the law because the AR-15 was a semi-auto design and hence, a ‘sporting’ gun. Semi-automatic guns had been used for hunting and sport since the semi-automatic design was developed by John Browning in 1898, and the AR-15 was just a ‘modern’ adaptation of Browning’s original design and the ‘modern sporting rifle’ had no connection to assault rifles sat all.

This was a good argument, a clever argument, an argument to keep the AR-15 design from being thrown on the ash heap of gun designs by liberal gun-haters like Michal Bloomberg, et. al.

There was only one little problem. The argument that the AR-15 was no different from any other semi-automatic rifle was simply wrong.

What makes the AR-15 dangerous and a threat to community safety is not whether only one round comes out of the barrel every time the trigger is pulled. The issue is how many rounds can be fired out of the gun before it needs to be reloaded and how much time is required to reload the gun.

The kid who blasted his way into the Sandy Hook Elementary School killed 26 adults and children in less than 3 minutes because over that period of time he fired more than 90 rounds! He got off that many shots in such a brief period of time because the AR-15 is a bottom-loading gun, so he was able to attach magazines holding 30 rounds to the bottom of the frame and switch from empty to full mags in two seconds or less,

If anything, firing a semi-auto gun is easier and more accurate to control than a full-auto gun, which is why the assault rifle currently issued to our military troops, the M4A1, can be fired in semi-auto mode.

If you are convinced that the AR-15 represents a danger to life and limb, the only thin you can do right now is send an email to your Congressional rep or send some dough to one of the national, gun-control groups which is trying to ban the gun. In other words, you can only express your worried and fears on a second-hand basis.

But let’s not forget that for every gun owner out there, there are probably two adults who don’t own guns. And if a bunch of them were to send a message to the powers-that-be about some guy wandering down the street with his AR-15….

Does ‘Safe Storage’ Protect Us From Gun Violence?

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              So, here I am at the Pri-Med East meeting in Boston, attended by more than 1,600 primary-care medical professionals who come to learn about all the latest research and practical issues that impact primary care.

              I am here as an exhibitor to distribute publications about gun violence that have been created by a stellar group of physicians, public health researchers, criminologists, media and legal experts who are listed here. The group, No Guns Healthy Lives, Inc., was founded (by yours truly) to bring more informed information about guns to the medical community. It is a 501c3 but we don’t solicit donations because then I would have to put together a much more complicated tax return. We are entirely self-funded, largely by my wife.

The Pri-Med conference is attended by primary-care medical professionals who need to know the latest information and practical approaches to treating patients under their care. The role of the physician, as defined by the Hippocratic Oath, is to figure out and prevent health problems, in other words, to be what our friend Jeff Nugent calls ‘first preventers’ before the gun injury occurs. Other medical specialists – emergency physicians, trauma surgeons – deal with gun violence as first responders, treating non-fatal gun injuries which occur probably more than 85,000 times every year.

              Hence, my appearance at Pri-Med this year because primary physicians are truly the front line when it comes to the medical response to guns. Unfortunately, when talking to patients about guns, most primary-care physicians take the same approach that has been adopted throughout the medical profession, an approach to reducing gun risk which sounds logical and informed but happens to be wrong.

              Back in 1993-94, two stellar researchers, Art Kellerman, and Fred Rivara, published research in the New England Journal of Medicine which found that the presence of a gun in the home created a suicide and homicide risk. It was this research which got pro-gun members of Congress to eliminate CDC funding of gun research.

              Frankly, I can’t blame the NRA and other gun organizations for wanting to squelch such research. How would you feel if your livelihood were dependent on selling a product that was considered a health risk? At least with a bicycle, all you have to do to reduce risk is wear a helmet. Has anyone designed a helmet that will stop a 9mm bullet from going through someone’s head?

              To avoid being chastised as anti-gun, medical organizations and groups now promote the idea that it’s okay to have a gun around the house, as long as it is safely stored. These organizations and groups use all kinds of euphemisms to describe their stance. They call themselves ‘consensus-builders,’ or trying to connect to ‘responsible’ gun owners, or just wanting every gun owner to be ‘safe.’

              This is nonsense. It’s just as nonsensical as the malarky being promoted by Gun-nut Nation about how a gun is an effective ‘tool’ for self-defense. Please read the next sentence very slowly, okay? The research published by Kellerman and Rivara did not (read: not) differentiate risk from guns based on whether the guns were safely stored or not. The evidence-based research simply found that a gun in the home creates medical risk.

              One of the leading public health researchers, Ali Rowhani-Rahbar, reviewed the medical and public health research on the efficacy of safe-storage programs. What he found was that half the programs led to an increase in household storage techniques, the other half didn’t change household gun-storage behavior at all.

              But note that Rowhani-Rahbar’s research did not (read: not) compare gun violence events before and after gun owners were given instruction in safe storage. The research simply looked at whether gun owners reported more safe-storage behavior after they enrolled in a safe-storage class. Sorry, but the idea that locking your guns away means, ipso facto, that less gun violence will occur is an assumption, not a proven or evidence-based fact.

              I first started writing about guns and gun violence in 2012 when the NRA attacked our friend Judith Palfrey when she was President of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and had the audacity, the temerity, to suggest that guns and children in the same home don’t mix. The NRA used Judy’s statement to launch an aggressive campaign against physicians who didn’t support the ownership of guns.

              How did the medical community respond to this assault, including an crazy attempt to criminalize doctors who counseled patients about guns? For the most part, they ignored the evidence-based research of Kellerman, Rivara and Rowhani-Rahbar and began pushing a ‘consensus’ approach based on the totally-unproven assumption that safe storage reduces gun violence. This is simply not true.

              I have taught the required gun-safety course to more than 7,000 residents of my state – Massachusetts – and I now conduct lethal-force certifications with officers from local, state, and federal law-enforcement agencies. I begin every class by putting a gun out on the table and telling the attendees that the moment they touch that gun, they are putting themselves in a risk situation for which there is no (read: no) mitigating behavior at all.

              Now the fact is that we all accept various risks in our daily lives. When was the last time you didn’t run a yellow light because you were late to work, and the coast was clear?

              And by the way, a majority of those 300 million or 400 million guns that are floating around the United States do not represent the kind of risk which creates 100,000+ instances of gun violence every year. Nearly all the intentional shootings are the product of someone using a gun that was specifically designed to inflict injuries on human beings – bottom-loading, semi-automatic pistols and bottom-loading, semi-automatic rifles.

              Want to reduce gun violence in a meaningful way? Stop promoting silly, non-factual notions about ‘safe storage’ or ‘responsible gun ownership’ and regulate assault rifles and semi-automatic pistols the way we have been regulating machine guns since 1934.

              How many full-auto guns are legally owned in the United States today? Try at least 60,000, maybe more. When was the last time that someone intentionally shot someone else with a machine gun? 1947.  Get it?

Should We Celebrate The Holidays With An AR-15?

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              Back in 2008, I played around with the idea of importing a modern sporting gun. It was a 22-caliber, bolt-action target rifle with Olympic-grade accuracy but a moderate price. So, the first thing I did was to try and get some internet presence for my product by applying for a trademark like the trademark I own for Mike the Gun Guy™.  

The Patent & Trademark Office turned me down. They said the phrase, ‘modern sporting gun’ had been in public parlance for too long and therefore couldn’t be consigned to a particular individual like me.

              So, then I did the next best thing and purchased modernsportingrifle.com. I figured that if I decided to import the rifle without the trademark, the URL was the next, best thing.

              The following year, 2009, I had a booth at the big gun trade show, the SHOT show, because I was importing a pistol but had decided that I wouldn’t bring in a target rifle the following year.

              At some point during the show, a gentleman came up to my booth and said he was a counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) which owns and runs the SHOT show. He asked if I would be willing to sell the modernsportingrifle.com to the NSSF, but instead of selling the URL, I just gave it to the NSSF in return for a better booth location at the 2010 SHOT show.

              Why did the NSSF want to own modernsportingrifle.com? Because they were going to start a campaign to promote the idea that the AR-15 wasn’t an assault rifle but was just another sporting gun.

              Why did they want to start this campaign? Because, according to their counsel, the NSSF was getting reports that big-box stores like Cabela’s were concerned about stocking the AR-15 because their stores were family destinations and mothers wouldn’t want their kids to go into a location that sold military guns. You can see NSSF’s description of the AT-15 as a ‘modern sporting rifle’ right here.

              That was then, this is now. And now we have a member of the U.S. Congress, Tom Massie from Kentucky, sending out a holiday greetings tweet surrounded by his family, three of whom are women gleefully holding up their AR-15’s.

              On the other hand, when it comes to using an assault rifle to score some political points, Massie’s a rank amateur compared to Mark McCloskey, who brandished his AR-15 at a group of BLM protestors marching peacefully by his house. He’s now running for Senate and his campaign website seems to be less a promotion for his candidacy and more an advertisement for his gun.

              Back in June, McCloskey held a political rally to mark the one-year anniversary of his stand against the forces of Socialism, Communism, Soros-ism and all the other isms that marched past his house. Want to read a great piece of journalism? Try a description of the rally in a local paper which drew a crowd so small that the reporter almost missed the event entirely because almost nobody showed up.

McCloskey rally.

I bought my first AR-15, a Colt Sporter, back in 1978. The dealer gave me a $30-dollar discount to move the gun off the shelf. In those days, people didn’t walk around a state capital building in Madison, WI or march down a street in Charlottesville, VA carrying their AR-15’s, and no candidate would ever have used a positive comment about assault rifles as a verbal prop in a national campaign.

What did Trump say when asked if he would ban assault rifles in the wake of the massacre at The Pulse? He claimed that AR-15’s were necessary because people needed protection, a stance which directly reversed an assault-rifle ban that he supported in his 2000 book, The America We Deserve.

By pretending to be in favor of using assault rifles for personal defense, Trump was cynically trying to take advantage of what he perceived to be the mood of voters whose support he needed to win the 2016 campaign.

Except it turned out that even if Trump grabbed a few extra votes in 2016 by stoking the belligerent mood, the mood hasn’t lasted vey long. I have sold a lot of assault rifles and I can tell you that I don’t think a single AR-15 purchaser walked out of my gun shop ready to go into battle against the forces of international terrorism or the shock troops of ANTIFA and BLM.

Customers bought an assault rifle because someone else had bought one, and they didn’t want to be the only guy without this newest adult toy when they showed up at the range.

For the first time since Charlton Heston raised a flintlock over his head at the annual meeting of the NRA, the gun industry has come up with a product that tells everyone which way you plan to vote.

Back in 2016, Jason Kander, a Democrat, ran for Senate in Missouri against the GOP incumbent, Roy Blunt. He put out an ad showing him assembling an AR-15 while he explained why he supported expanding background checks. Kander lost to Blunt by less than 3 points.

Let’s face it. Assault rifles have become as much a partisan issue as mandating masks or getting the vaccine. Which is fine with me because every week the number of people who have gotten their vaccinations keeps going up.

How Should We Reduce Gun Violence?

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The World Health Organization (WHO) defines violence as a deliberate attempt by someone to injure themselves or someone else. In 2019, there were 1.5 million times when someone in the United States tried to kick the sh*t out of someone else, of which in roughly 100,000 of those assaults, the sh*t-kicker used a gun.

So, in less than 7% of the really serious assaults a gun is involved, but it’s these assaults which result in the worst injuries and the greatest number of deaths.

There’s just no other way that you can do to the human body with a club, a first or even a knife what you can do to the human body when you use a gun. Around 20% of all serious assaults result in the victim getting killed, of which more than half involved a gun.

So, the question is: how we reduce the number of times that someone dies because he or she was attacked by someone else who pulled out a gun, pointed it at the victim and – bang! If the shooter at Oxford High School had walked around the school punching out other kids, he probably would have been stopped either by other kids or by a teacher or by a resource officer (fancy name for a cop patrolling the school), and that would have been the end of that. No big deal.

What we are told, on the other hand, is that we need to identify the people whose background, family situation, current family environment and a few other socio-economic factors which usually show up in the profile of guys who use a gun to hurt someone else. Then we need to watch these individuals closely and keep them from getting their hands on a gun.

This approach happens to be the strategy for reducing gun violence adopted and promoted by every medical, public health and gun-control advocacy group. Aligned with this strategy is the idea that anyone who owns a gun most store it and use it ‘responsibly’ to prevent the gun from ending up in the hands of the 7 percent whose profiles make them ‘high risk’ when it comes to how they will behave with guns.

That’s the reason we have background checks before someone can buy a gun and that’s the reason the entire gun-control community wants background checks to be made universal and applied to every transfer of a gun, whether the transfer is from a dealer to a buyer, or between two individuals who want to buy, sell, or otherwise transfer a privately-owned gun.

There’s only one little problem with this approach to reducing gun violence which, as far as I’m concerned, renders this strategy not only useless, but not worth the additional costs of creating a nationwide background check system that would allegedly keep guns out of the ‘wrong’ hands.

The guy who shot and killed 59 people at a Las Vegas rock concert in 2017 was legally entitled to own every gun that he took up to his rented room at the Mandalay Bay hotel. The kid who shot and killed 25 adults and children at the Sandy Hook Elementary school in 2012 had the legal right to borrow his mother’s AR-15. The young man who slaughtered 49 club-goers at The Pulse in 2016 was using a legally-purchased gun.

The point is that when you have 60 million or 70 million bottom-loading, semi-automatic handguns and rifles chambered for military-grade ammunition floating around, the idea that we will somehow figure out who should and shouldn’t be able to get their hands on one of those guns is absurd, particularly when it turns out that many of the individuals who commit the worst acts of gun violence use legally-acquired or legally-borrowed guns.

And by the way. If you’re going to attempt to engage in what Grandpa would call this facockta (read: stupid) ‘safe hands’ strategy, the very least you have to do is remember to make inquiries into the state of mind of individuals who might be thinking about shooting up a movie theater of a school before the incident takes place. The parents of the Oxford High School shooter met with guidance counselors and teachers on the same day that their son would later commit his unspeakable act of mass violence. Did anyone think to ask his parents whether they owned guns? Nope.

You can’t commit an act of gun violence without a gun. But you don’t just pick up a gun and use it the way you pick up a baseball bat or a kitchen knife. You have to make seven independent decisions in order to commit gun violence, and the decision-chain looks like this:

  1. Get interested in a gun.
  2. Get your hands on a gun.
  3. Get your hands on ammunition for the gun.
  4. Load the gun.
  5. Put the gun in your pocket or your backpack.
  6. Pull the gun out.
  7. Point and shoot the gun.

These decisions can me made over a brief period of time or they can be made over weeks, months, or years. If there is an intervention at any point during this process and the decision chain is broken, gun violence will not occur. Period.

When does this decision-chain first appear? When boys are between the ages of 12 and 14. Guess what? Until at least to age 14, just about every boy in the United States is in school and every one of these kids is still receiving vaccinations which are required in order to attend school.

Want to reduce gun violence? Stop screwing around with such nonsense as determining who is and is not ‘at risk’ for using a gun.

Get rid of the guns which have no purpose other than to be used to inflict injuries on human beings. Then it doesn’t matter whether anyone or everyone can get their hands on guns.

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