The New York Times Wants To Ban Assault Rifles And They Are Right.


In just three mass shootings – Aurora, Sandy Hook and San Bernardino – the final toll is 147 killed and wounded.  Think about that number: 147.  That’s three busloads of human beings, two completely-full Amtrak passenger cars. The New York Times, in an unprecedented front-page editorial, is calling it a “moral outrage and national disgrace.”  The purpose of this column is to explain why I agree with them and why, if anything, the editorial board’s call for a ban on civilian ownership of assault weapons deserves to be supported in the strongest possible terms.

The gun industry has been promoting the sale of assault rifles for the last twenty years by advancing a big, fat lie; namely, that assault rifles are just another type of ‘sporting’ weapon which is no more dangerous than the old Remington or Winchester that Grandpa and then Dad used to lug out to the woods.  Until the 1960s, just about all sporting rifles loaded ammunition by the manual use of a bolt or lever, both of which considerably slowed the speed at which the gun could be reloaded and shot each time.  When semi-automatic sporting rifles began to be introduced in large numbers, the speed at which the gun could be reloaded increased, but the standard semi-auto hunting rifle, like the Remington 700 series, still only held 4 or 5 rounds.

What makes the AR-style rifle so different, so lethal, and so non-sporting is not the fact that it looks like a military gun (which it is); not the fact that it might be fitted with a laser which makes it extremely accurate, particularly in indoor, low light; not the fact that the stock can be folded so that the gun can be easily carried or even concealed; not even the fact that the front barrel lug can also be fitted with a bayonet, just in case a little extra oomph is needed to finish the job.

ARnew              No, what makes the assault rifle an assault rifle and not a sporting rifle is one thing and one thing only, namely, that it fires ammunition specifically designed to kill or maim military combatants (who happen to be humans, not sporting animals) and it can easily deliver 50 or 60 high-powered rounds in 30 seconds or less.  This is not to say that mass shootings involving scores of victims can only be accomplished with an AR; in fact, Seung-Hui Cho killed and wounded 56 people at Virginia Tech in 2007 using a Glock 19. But Cho’s attacks were spread over more than three hours; Adam Lanza killed 26 with an AR in an assault that didn’t last ten minutes.  Better coordination and communication might have saved many lives at Virginia Tech; in San Bernardino the carnage was over in five minutes or less.

What the Times calls a moral outrage and national disgrace is more than that; the ability of private citizens to get their hands on these highly-lethal weapons fitted out with high-capacity magazines is a risk to the nation’s health.  When two cases of Ebola occurred in the same hospital where a patient stricken with the virus had previously died, it wouldn’t have taken more than one or two more confirmed cases and the city of Dallas would have ceased to exist.  But the risk was recognized by the CDC and the threat was quickly brought to an end.

I am suggesting that the same situation now exists in the United States as regards the ownership and use of AR-15s.  How many more senseless slaughters are we going to endure while politicians dither around and pretend that they are truly concerned about 2nd Amendment rights?  The Constitution wisely gives government the right to institute comprehensive public health measures when the health of an entire community is put at risk.  If 147 dead and injured human beings in just three assaults with AR rifles doesn’t constitute a risk, then let’s save the taxpayers some money and close down the CDC.

Guns Are A Risk But There’s One Important Group That Doesn’t Agree.

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Do we have a problem with gun violence in this country or do we have a problem with the gun violence committed by one particular group?  If you look closely at the numbers as well as the profiles of shooters, I’m not so sure that gun violence is all that difficult to figure out.  Think about this: Adam Lanza was 20, Jared Loughner was 27, James Holmes was 27, Seung Hi-Cho was 23, and the granddaddy of all mass shooters, good ol’ Chuckie Whitman, was 25 when he climbed up to the top of the University of Texas Tower and blazed away until 14 people were dead.

But let’s not focus only on mass killers because headlines and public clamor to the contrary, these guys don’t add all that much carnage to the gun violence numbers that we rack up each year.  In 2010, the most recent year for numbers from the FBI, the age cohort 20-29 was responsible for the commission of one-third of all homicides, no other age group by decade came even half as close.  Switch perpetrators to victims and the numbers stay the same: nearly 40% of all gun-homicide victims are between 20 and 29, again more than 50% higher than any other decade age group that can be found.

gun crimes               It would be easy to take such numbers, align them alongside the ages of the mass shooters listed above and conclude that males between the ages of 20 and 29 have a propensity for violence that finds an outlet in the use of guns.  There’s only one little problem, however, which is that this same age cohort also accounts for the largest number of fatal vehicle deaths, scoring as high a percentage of overall vehicle fatalities as is the case with guns.  In 2013 there were 35,369 motor vehicle deaths and 7,563 of the victims, in other words, 21%, were between the ages of 20 and 29.  The only reason that this age decade didn’t experience the same preponderance of fatalities from cars as from guns is that gun homicides and violent behavior in general fades away once we get above age 49.

Another behavior that tends to fade with age is sex and its concomitant, sexually-transmitted disease.  There is very little incidence of STD in the pre-teen population for obvious reasons, with all STD cases reported prior to age 14 running around 1%.  But the incidence of female STD moves quickly upward beginning at age 15, with 22% of all female gonorrhea cases occurring by age 19, but an even larger incidence (34%) between ages 20 and 24.  Another female STD, chlamydia, also begins to occur after age 15, with 28% of all cases occurring up to age 19, but from 20 to 24 years old the percentage of all cases in the female population jumps to just under 40%!  As for male STD, since 2008 the incidence of syphilis is twice as high in men between the ages 20 to 29 as compared to the infection rate of any other decade age group.

What these three public health issues have in common is they all result from conscious behavioral choices – carrying a gun, exceeding the speed limit, having unprotected sex – in the face of massive social and educational messaging which clearly explains the risks of each. But the age group 20-29 is not averse to risk, it’s a population which often uses risk as a determinant for what they want to do. Want to know the number one killer for ages 18-29?  Unintentional injuries.

THE GVP community is united in promoting the idea that guns represent serious risk.  But the age group whose behavior contributes most to excessive gun violence is a group for whom the word ‘risk’ may be exactly what attracts them to guns.  In designing their messaging, GVP advocates should be sensitive to the fact that what words mean to them may have much different meanings to the audience with whom they need to connect.


A Court Decision That Uses The Gun Industry’s Own Fiction Against It.

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Right after the Sandy Hook massacre, both New York and Connecticut passed laws that tightened up restrictions on owning ‘black’ guns, a.k.a., the military-style AR rifles like the type Adam Lanza used to kill 26 adults and young kids.  The laws basically toughened the earlier assault weapons bans, provoking immediate outcries from the pro-gun gang who challenged the laws based on their inalienable 2nd-Amendment rights.  After all, the 2008 Heller decision protected private ownership of all guns that are “in common use,” and what could be more common than AR rifles of which probably more than four million have been manufactured over the last twenty years?

bushmaster logo2                The gun industry began promoting black guns in the 1990s when they realized that hunting and traditional sporting use of guns was dying out.  This promotion took two forms: on the one hand creating the fiction that black guns, like all guns protected us from crime; on the other hand creating the equally beguiling fiction that military-style weapons were no different from other, traditional rifles since they could only be fired in semi-automatic mode.

The industry went so far as to create an entirely new shooting tradition, replacing the phrase

‘assault rifle’ with the nomenclature ‘modern sporting rifle’ so as to pretend that an AR-15 is nothing other than the same, old hunting gun that sportsmen have for generations been taking out to the woods.  And for those who like to imagine themselves mowing down ISIS or Al Queda in the streets and alleys of Philadelphia or New York, the guns being sold by Bushmaster, Colt, Stag and other black-gun manufacturers are referred to as ‘tactical’ weapons, which everyone knows is simply an assault rifle with a different name.

Both the CT and NY laws were challenged and upheld in District Court; now the Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit, has upheld both laws again.  What is interesting about this decision, indeed remarkable, is the fact that it is based not just on the government’s authority to regulate guns that are in “common use,” but to regulate these particular types of weapons based on their definition as created and promoted by the gun industry itself!  The Circuit Court accepted the notion that black guns are just another type of sporting rifle, and it was the acknowledgement that black guns are no different from other types of sporting guns that ultimately legitimized the assault-rifle bans in Connecticut and New York.

Plaintiffs in this case argued that there were more than four million AR-15 rifles owned by civilians and that these guns, like other civilian weapons, could only be fired in semi-automatic mode.  As the Court said, “This much is clear: Americans own millions of the firearms that the challenged legislation prohibits.” Further, the Court also accepted the notion that many Americans keep an AR-15 in their home for self-defense.  Given those circumstances, how could the Circuit Court decide that prohibiting civilian ownership of such weapons was not a violation of 2nd-Amendment rights?  Because what the Court did was take the gun industry’s own fiction about these guns and stand it on its head.

The industry’s marketing of black guns as ‘sporting’ rifles is based on one thing and one thing only; namely, these weapons can only be shot in semi-auto mode.  Never mind that you can deliver up to 60 rounds of ammunition in thirty seconds or less; never mind that the .223 round has a lethality specifically designed to kill or injure human targets; never mind that many military and law enforcement units also deploy the semi-auto gun.  That residents in New York and Connecticut can own all kinds of semi-automatic rifles which do not contain certain military-style features means that the ban on AR-style rifles is not a prohibition of semi-automatic weapons at all.

As a noted Supreme Court justice once said, “History also has its claims.” And one of those claims is that the 2nd Amendment doesn’t give the gun industry the right to invent a tall tale to justify how it tries to sell guns.



What Did Adam Lanza and Chris Mercer Have In Common? Moms Who Lived Guns,

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So it turns out that the Oregon shooter, Christopher Mercer, got into gun s the old-fashioned way – he learned to enjoy the shooting sports from his mother.  And his mother, according to an article in today’s New York Times, was no shrinking violet when it came to exclaiming on the virtues and values of gun ownership, posting for example the following statement on the internet: “I keep two full mags in my Glock case and the ARs and AKs all have loaded mags. No one will be ‘dropping’ by my house uninvited without acknowledgement.”  Sweet.

lanza                Adam Lanza, the shooter at Sandy Hook, was similarly enabled and supported by his mother when it came to guns.  Momma and son visited gun shops together, they shot at the range together, they probably sat and cleaned the guns together.  Adam had access to all the guns in the house, which made it easy for him to drop a cap on the old lady before going over to the elementary school where he made his feelings really known.

What’s really scary in this tale of two massacres is that along with building warm and loving relationships with their sons over guns, both mothers were also keenly aware that neither boy would have qualified for the mental stability award of the year.  Lanza’s mother dragged him from one mental health professional to another; Mercer’s mother posted that he suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder, and she encouraged other parents of troubled children to contact her for advice.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not even hinting at the idea that children (or adults) who demonstrate any kind of mental disorder should, ipso facto, be considered risks to themselves or anyone else. I’m also not saying that the fact that these two boys were encouraged to use and shoot guns means, ipso facto, that they would be more disposed to commit horrendous gun assaults.  But in all of the post-Oregon chatter what we hear from a certain group of public officials who want to become the 45th president of the United States, is that the Umpqua CC massacre “proves” that no amount of gun control will make any difference because people like Adam Lanza and Christopher Mercer will always ‘fall through the cracks.’

I don’t really blame Trump, Fiorina, Bush, et. al., for saying something as stupid as that.  After all, it’s a tight race and pro-gun voters could be decisive in primary states like Iowa and South Carolina. What’s the old saying? You do what you gotta do?  And let’s not forget that the idea that we can’t do anything about mass shootings until we ‘fix’ the mental health system didn’t emerge full-blown from Trump’s Twitter account.  It was announced with unrestrained finality by Wayne LaPierre after Sandy Hook.

Truth to tell, it probably isn’t possible to do anything that would allow us to predict with any degree of accuracy who might be the next person to walk into a school, a movie theater, or some other public venue and see how many people could be mowed down before flipping to the next mag.  Which is why the whole point about ‘fixing the mental health system’ to deal with gun violence is nothing more than an argument that has been invented to avoid talking about gun violence at all.

Because the truth is that mass shootings are pretty hard to pull off if you are carrying a bolt-action hunting rifle which, loaded to full capacity, only holds five rounds.  And the idea that anyone would take an AR-15 with a 30-shot mag into the woods to look for Bambi is nothing but pure crap.  But when sport shooting and hunting are replaced with the safety afforded by the ‘armed citizen’ versus the dangers of ‘gun-free’ zones, the result is a debasement of language to the point that no substantive discussion can ever take place.  Which pretty much sums up the strategy of the pro-gun movement when it comes to gun violence.


Don’t Get Rid Of The Guns, Get Rid Of The Nuts. Thank You Donald, Chris, Bobby, Et. Al.

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So it’s official.  The Republican Party, or at least its putative Presidential candidates, has decided that the key to eliminating gun violence is to get rid of the nuts, not the guns.  The idea that gun violence has nothing to do with the gun and everything to do with the crazy people who on occasion use guns, has been floating around for a long time.  But after last week’s Virginia ambush, first The Donald and then every other red-meat Republican (a redundancy if I ever wrote one) fell into lockstep proclaiming that the real culprit was a mental health system that still needed to be “fixed.”  Here’s Bridgegate Christie explaining it to dopes like you and me who actually believe that stricter gun regulations should be in effect: “We need to have more information about people’s mental health background, but we don’t need new laws to do that.”

trump                Just for a moment I’m going to pretend that these jerks know what they’re talking about and go along with their stupid and pandering idea that ‘fixing’ mental health will ‘fix’ the problem of gun violence.  So let’s take three instances of horrific gun violence and see if the ‘fix mental health’ bullshit has even the slightest connection to reality or not.  The three instances I’m going to mention involved three shooters named James Holmes, Adam Lanza and Elliot Roger.  Together, these three ‘nuts’ shot 126 people, of whom 41 died either at the scene or in a hospital following the attacks.

What did these three young men have in common besides their ability to use a gun?  They not only had documented histories of some degree of mental distress, but had all been seen by mental health professionals in a short period of time before the actual shootings took place.  The official report on the Sandy Hook episode indicates that Adam Lanza’s mother dragged him hither and yon for mental health consultations; Elliott Roger’s diary contains numerous references to treatment by shrinks.  In the case of Holmes, who committed the worst massacre of all, his psychiatrist actually reported threats he was making to the University of Colorado Neuroscience Department because he had flunked out of school, reports that were forwarded to the campus police who took no action at all.

chris2                When we look at instances of individual shootings, we find a similar pattern wherein the shooter made contact with professional caregivers prior to the event, expressed concern about what was going to happen, disclosed the possibility of violence, but then was allowed to go about his business as if the discussion had never taken place.  I cited a case earlier this year in which a severely-agitated young man visited no less than seven different medical facilities in and around Fargo, ND, complaining that his room-mate was trying to poison him but was told in every visit to go home and take previously-prescribed psychiatric meds.  The cops then encountered him wandering in front of his apartment at 1 AM, but after he told them that his room-mate had a gun they decided that no crime was about to be committed and told him to go back home.  Three hours later, this young man shot his room-mate to death.

jindal                Every single state has a system whereby certain designated individuals must report suspected child abuse.  And once reported, the agency designated to deal with the problem must take action to see if the report is true.  The Federal Child Abuse and Prevention Act defines abuse as: “An act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.” And notice the word ‘must.’  Not maybe, not perhaps, must.

We don’t need to cop out on the issue of gun violence by pretending that the NICS system should get better reports on which nuts are walking around who shouldn’t be able to buy a gun.  We need to acknowledge that anyone who expresses anger or possible violence becomes an imminent threat if he has access to guns.  And the guns must be taken away.  Not maybe, not perhaps, must.

The NRA Thinks The Bushmaster Lawsuit Won’t Fly. They Might Think Again.

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I was wondering how long it would take the gun lobby to respond to the lawsuit filed against Bushmaster by the families at Sandy Hook.  It took less than a week and the response was a video interview with attorney Stephen Halbrook on the NRA-sponsored video show, Cam & Company.  I love how shows like this are called ‘interviews’ when the guest is never asked a question that reflects anything other than his own point of view.  But I shouldn’t complain because I’ve also done my fair stint of Serius radio gigs and I can’t say that I was ever asked a question that didn’t give me an opportunity to say what I wanted the audience to hear.

And what the NRA wants its audience to hear about the Bushmaster law suit is that it should never have been filed at all.  In fact, Halbrook went so far as to call the lawsuit ‘frivolous’ and even considered the possibility that it would not only be immediately dismissed but plaintiffs might have to pay defendant’s legal costs as well.  I’m sure that Attorney Halbrook did not mean to give the impression that the horrendous deaths of 20 young kids and 6 adults was in any way a frivolous event.  Not even the most ardent 2nd-Amendment supporter would ever sanction that kind of violence just because Americans have the right to own guns, right?

bushmaster logo                Incidentally, Steve Halbrook makes his living by representing the NRA but also fancies himself as something of a historian when it comes to discussions about guns.  He recently published a book, Gun Control in the Third Reich, in which he argued that the Nazi regime consolidated their power by using pre-Nazi gun ownership lists to disarm Communists and Jews, thus giving the 2nd-Amendment supporters an alleged historical context in which they can continue to promote their ‘slippery-slope’ nonsense about how gun control leads to gun confiscation, which leads to totalitarianism and blah, blah, blah. How Halbrook could imagine that Germany’s Jews would have stood up to the organized terror of the SS even if they were riding around in Sherman Tanks is beyond me, but that’s an issue I’ve discussed in another time and place.

The NRA’s response to the suit against Bushmaster is that the gun used by Adam Lanza was sold legally at every step of the way; hence, under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act of 2005, the industry is shielded from this kind of a suit.  The 2005 law was aimed at preventing lawsuits that held gun makers liable if a gun that had been used in a crime moved from ‘legal’ to ‘illegal’ hands, even though there was nothing preventing a law-abiding gun owner from selling one of his guns to anyone he wished.  And why should a gun maker or any manufacturer be responsible for how his product is used downstream if he has met all the requirements for getting his product to the market in a lawful way?

But the complaint against Bushmaster doesn’t take issue with the legality of the sale, and Halbrook’s attempt to characterize this lawsuit as ‘frivolous’ from that perspective is grandstanding at best.  The plaintiffs are arguing that this type of weapon, because of the lethality of its design, shouldn’t be made available to civilians at all, and here they actually get support from the 2008 Heller decision, in which the Scalia’s opinion clearly gave the government the right to withhold ‘military’ weapons from civilian sale. But isn’t there a clear difference between the full-auto M-16 carried by our troops in Iraq and the semi-auto AR-15 that Adam Lanza carried into the Sandy Hook Elementary School? Halbrook goes out of his way to make this point except that he and all the other black gun apologists are wrong.  Most of the troops in our military carry semi-auto versions of the M-16, a few carry guns set for 3-shot bursts, hardly anyone in the U.S. military is using a full-auto gun.  If that’s the basis upon which Bushmaster’s going to defend itself, the gun industry’s hope for a quick dismissal just isn’t going to fly.


Between Bushmaster And Murthy It Wasn’t Such A Great Week.

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It hasn’t been such a great week for the gun business.  First and most important, gun sales are really in the tank and don’t show any signs of improving. Ruger stock, which hit an all-time high of $85 a share back in January, closed yesterday at under $35. Smith & Wesson, which was at $17 in June, is now selling for around $9.  Nobody expected these companies to maintain the sales numbers they posted over the last several years when everyone believed that a new gun bill would somehow squeak through in DC.  But nobody also thought that the industry would bottom out so deep and so fast.  I walked into a gun shop on the North Shore this past weekend and walked out with a Colt H-Bar AR-15 for a little over seven hundred bucks.  It was used but mint and six months ago the same gun would have fetched at least a grand.

Talking about black guns, the long-rumoured lawsuit by parents of children shot by Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook was filed just before the deadline that would have made such wrongful-death claims null and void.  The suit goes after Bushmaster, the manufacturer of the XL-15 that Lanza evidently used with terrible results the day he walked into the school.  The good news for the plaintiffs is that Bushmaster is owned by a private investment group, Cerberus, which has some really deep pockets.  The bad news is that the suit has to somehow get around the 2005 law which immunized gun makers from most claims of negligence or product liability and stymied other victims of mass shootings, such as the Aurora Theater massacre, from seeking damages from the gun maker even though suits against the theater and the seller of the ammunition used by James Holmes have gone forward.

      Vivek Murthy, M.D.

Vivek Murthy, M.D.

What’s different about the Bushmaster suit, however, is that it takes issue with one of the most cherished missives in the gun industry, namely, the idea that the AR-15 is a perfectly-acceptable weapon for civilians because, as opposed to its military likeness, the M-16, it fires only one shot every time the trigger is pulled, whereas the M-16 is a machine gun that fires a massive amount of ordnance and therefore is unsuited and illegal for civilian use.  The moment the lawsuit was filed, various gun experts began pushing the semi-auto versus the full-auto story to explain why the legal argument wouldn’t work.  The only problem with the alleged difference between the M-16 and the AR-15 is that it’s simply not true.  Most of the M-16 rifles currently carried by U.S. troops in Iraq and elsewhere are semi-auto guns (a small number can also shoot 3-shot bursts) because the military long ago discovered that automatic fire was not only inaccurate and a waste of ammunition, but also would heat up the barrel to unacceptable temperatures leading to battlefield failures of the gun. Bushmaster touts the sale of its rifles to the U.S. military on its website – the gun purchased by Nancy Lanza was one and the same thing.

The other piece of bad news for the industry was the confirmation of Vivek Murthy as Surgeon General, an appointment that was contested loudly and continuously by the NRA and its most ardent Senate supporters, in particular Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. These two guys started taking pot-shots at Murthy because they saw it as a quick and easy way to begin building support among the conservative, Republican base as a possible step towards a White House bid in 2016.  The NRA has been trying to push physicians away from any discussion about guns because virtually every medical society has for years confirmed the bizarre idea that maybe, just maybe guns are a threat to health.  Now the fact that more Americans have died from gun violence in the last ten years than died during World War II doesn’t mean that guns are necessarily harmful, does it?  If you want to agree with the NRA on that one, you probably also believe that last week didn’t hurt the gun industry at all.



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Everytown Updates Its Report On School Shootings And It’s A Must Read.

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Want to see one of the best and most penetrating videos on gun violence?  Take a look at the new Everytown video that was mounted to coincide with the two-year anniversary of Sandy Hook. I haven’t seen any depiction of the stark reality of gun violence that beats this effort.  The video is accompanied by a new report analyzing the nearly 100 school shootings that have occurred since Newtown, and is an updated version of the report on school shootings originally published earlier this year.  Since this report, like the previous version, will no doubt come in for the usual slash-and-burn hysterics of the pro-gun crowd, I thought I would get my licks in first. So here goes.

The report is built on public (i.e., media) reports of school shootings defined as a gun being discharged within a school building or the campus around the facility.  This would include shootings that take place in school playgrounds, school parking lots and other areas that are considered school property but are not enclosed within the school building(s) proper.  Because it is based on media reports by definition it is incomplete and therefore has to be considered as representing a smaller number than the actual shootings that take place on school property.

everytown logo                The report breaks down shootings between K-12 institutions and colleges/universities, noting that the number of shootings that occurred in the two environments was roughly the same, with 49 shootings in K-12 and 46 in colleges and universities.  But while there were 18 shootings resulting in at least one injury on a college campus, as opposed to only 14 shootings that caused injuries suffered in K-12 institutions, the lower grades were much more deadly with 15 K-12 schools being the scene of gun homicides, whereas gun deaths occurred at only 8 college locations.

When Everytown’s previous report was issued in June, the pro-gun apologists immediately found all sorts of “inconsistencies” and “exaggerations” about the degree of danger posed by guns being used in and around educational institutions.  The most bizarre statement came from a right-wing blogger named Charles Johnson who determined that the numbers were overstated because a “gang” shooting that took place on school property, like a playground, was not actually a school shooting per se, but was just a random act of violence that happened to take place on school property. But the fact is that most acts of violence are random; they take place between individuals who knew each other before the violence occurred and break out because one party or the other decides to escalate a dispute from a verbal to a physical altercation.

It really doesn’t change things because someone decides to bring a gun onto school property who doesn’t happen to attend that school.  After all, Adam Lanza wasn’t a student at Sandy Hook Elementary when he opened fire on December 14, 2012.  But what differentiated him from many school shooters was his age; i.e., the most difficult aspect of the Everytown report is the age breakdown of the shooters in the K-12 schools.  While 60% were 17 years old or above, 40% were 16 years old or younger, with 3 shooters being 12 and one unbelievably age five.  How in God’s name does a five-year-old tote a gun to school and then shoot it?  For that matter, what can you say about twelve year old kids with live guns?

Earlier this year one of the so-called NRA commentators, Billy Johnson, posted a video in which he argued that teaching gun competency in school was as important as learning how to read and do math.  It’s easy to dismiss such dopey rhetoric as pandering to the fringe of the pro-gun crowd. If the best the pro-gun community can come up with is to quibble over whether or not this shootings took place during the school day or that shooting involved students from a particular school, then they are making it clear that a serious and sober discussion about school violence is beyond their abilities or concern.


Want To Get Gunned Down? Go To Target.

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Last week the mega-chain Target joined Chipotle and Starbucks in making their stores places where customers have a good chance of getting gunned down.  At least this is what the NRA believes will happen now that the company’s CEO announced that Target shoppers should leave their guns at home.  Everyone remembers the NRA’s reaction after Sandy Hook, namely, that schools that were gun-free zones invited kooks like Adam Lanza to walk in and start blasting away.  But the notion that public space is safer if people don’t walk around with guns seems to be spreading and it’s interesting that the NRA’s response so far to Target’s new policy has been no response at all.

The gun industry is not only encountering some push-back to its notion of guns as being the best way for citizens to protect themselves against crime; they can’t even get their facts straight about whether there’s any connection between gun ownership and criminal activity at all.  The NSSF just posted a video which announces that “gun crimes have fallen dramatically over the past 20 years,” except the graphic that accompanies this statement shows that the entire decline took place between 1993 and 2000, which was before Obama went into the White House and gun sales soared.

open carry               Despite what John Lott says, there’s no proof that higher levels of gun violence occur in gun-free zones.  And the evidence that protecting yourself with a gun may actually be less safe than using other protective methods to thwart a criminal attack – yelling, punching, running away – comes from, of all people, a scholar named Gary Kleck who first “discovered” that arming ourselves made us better able to stop crime.  Kleck published a study in 1995 which, based on answers collected from interviews with 213 respondents, claimed that people used guns to prevent more than 2 million crimes from being committed each year.  But in 1994 he submitted a report to the Department of Justice in which he found that defensive methods other than guns actually resulted in fewer injuries from criminal attacks.  He didn’t mention these findings when he began touting the benefits of armed resistance the following year.

And neither did the NRA.  Ever since the mid-1990’s the gun lobby has been tirelessly beating the drums for expanding concealed carry, as well as for diminishing the list of locations where guns cannot be found.  Their latest victory was Georgia, where a new law took effect July 1 which expands the right to carry a gun in locations that serve alcohol, houses of worship and government facilities, as long as the owners of the affected properties don’t object.

The campaign to promote carrying guns in public places took a big step backwards, however, with the decision by Target to ask gun-toting shoppers to stay out of their stores.  The announcement was worded in a way that did not absolutely ban concealed-carry in states which, unlike Georgia, don’t give property-owners the right to restrict the presence of guns.  But when Target said that guns are at odds with the “family-friendly” atmosphere they try to maintain, they weren’t just sending a message to gun owners, they were sending a clear message to the gun lobby as well.

Despite twenty years of unending appeals to fears of crime and the utility of owning guns, the NRA and its allies have failed to convince a majority of Americans that walking into a public place with a gun in your pocket is the smart thing to do.  What they have done is to provoke a grass-roots backlash organized and funded by a guy with lots of bucks whose efforts to get Americans behind the notion of less guns equals more safety may just begin to pay off.

Yo Colion – How About A Few Facts?


Now that the second episode of Colion Noir’s new talk show on the NRA Freestyle media network has once again made even the pro-gun bloggers call him out for being about as boring as a rerun of a 1960’s afternoon soap opera, the NRA’s self-professed expert on anything and everything having to do with guns has released a new video in which he gets it all wrong on the issue of gun-free zones.   And just to make sure that he squeezes the maximum number of non-sequiturs and erroneous statements into a three-minute video, Colion doesn’t just talk about gun-free zones, but doubles down on the question of multiple shootings because, according to him, it’s “multiple shooters” who are attracted to victims in places where people aren’t supposed to bring guns.

Noir begins his rant by explaining the mentality of the mass shooter to the rest of us in a tone that leaves no doubt that he really has it all figured out.  Let’s put aside the fact that the official report issued by the Connecticut State Police a year after the Sandy Hook massacre could not find an explanation for Adam Lanza’s rampage, nor has Jared Loughner ever really explained what drove him to shoot Representative Gabby Giffords and nineteen other people in an attack on January 11, 2011. But not to worry because Colion knows that mass shooters are “pathetically non-confrontational” and pick their targets the way sexual predators pick their victims.  A gun-free zone is to a mass shooter, Colion lectures, like a pre-teen chat room is to a sexual predator.  And the answer, of course, is to get rid of gun-free zones and let the “good guys” (that’s Colion, you and me with our concealed-carry permits) go anywhere and be ready to thwart a multiple shooter who otherwise will mow everyone down.

noir                Last year Mike Bloomberg’s group issued a comprehensive study of mass shootings covering 2009 through 2013. Using a combination of law enforcement and media reports, the researchers were able to identify 43 mass shootings, using the FBI’s definition of ‘mass shooting’ as any incident in which at least four persons were killed by someone using a gun.  Of these shootings, 40% arose out of domestic disputes, and at least 6 of the 17 shooters had been named in previous domestic assaults.  In only 10% of the shootings was there evidence of prior contact between the perpetrator and a mental health professional, although friends and relatives of other shooters expressed some awareness that mental health issues might have precipitated the attacks.

Now let’s get down to Colion’s real nitty-gritty, the issue of multiple shootings in gun-free zones.  The report states that, at maximum, one-third of these shootings took place in what might have been considered gun-free zones.  But other than 4 school shootings, the Aurora movie theater and Fort Hood (the report was released before the Navy Yard shooting), it’s not clear that any of the other 37 mass shootings took place in specific gun-free zones, although the researchers probably assumed that the 2 multiple shootings in Chicago and 1 in DC also took place in gun-free zones.  And how many of the 43 multiple shootings ended with a “good guy” pulling out a gun?  None.  In every incident except one, the shooter either shot himself or was arrested by the police.  The bystanders who subdued Jared Loughner after he shot Representative Giffords were unarmed.

I don’t see anything wrong with Colion Noir or anyone else going on YouTube and expressing their opinions about this or that.  But perhaps Colion’s new foray into media entertainment on the NRA Freestyle network would be better received if he would stop trying so hard to enlighten us with his distorted version of the facts.  You’re not just boring your audience, Colion, with a delivery that runs from the un-cool to the bland, you’re also insulting us by pretending that you understand things about guns and shooting that simply are not true.

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