Here Comes Bernie With Or Without His Guns.


              Now that Crazy Bern seems to be moving into a commanding lead in the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination, a lead that may well get him near to the brass ring on Super Tuesday, which happens to be just one week away, his record on guns and gun-control laws comes up because he has always been pictured as being too ‘soft’ on guns.

              The image of a pro-gun Bernie was used by Hillary in 2016, even though when she campaigned against Obama in 2008, he was the gun-control candidate while she waxed lyrical of going out hunting with her father in the woods. How much reality was there behind her attempts to appear comfortable with 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ God only knows. But she had no trouble jumping to the other side of the fence once she discovered that her 2016 primary opponent was himself something of a pro-gun guy.

              What vote was used in 2016 and again this year to paint Crazy Bernie as a stooge of the NRA?  The first pro-gun vote he cast was against the Brady bill, the second time he voted in favor of the PLCCA which immunizes the gun industry from class-action suits. In both instances, Bernie justified his vote on the fact that he represented a rural, gun-owning state. In fairness to him, it should be noted that Vermont’s Democratic Senator, Pat Leahy, also voted against the Brady bill.

              I happen to think that this attempt to paint Sanders into a corner over his record and views on gun control is a dead duck before it ever gets off the ground. To begin, if Bernie has flip-flopped on certain gun-control measures, how do you compare what he has done this year to what Hillary did in 2016? When she ran against Obama in 2008 she sent mailers around before the Indiana primary accusing her opponent of being ‘soft’ on ‘gun rights.’ In 2016 she not only went after Crazy Bern for being pro-gun, she made gun control one of the building-blocks of her entire campaign. If anyone in Gun-control Nation found her shift from pro-gun to anti-gun a little difficult to believe, all I can say is they voiced their concerns in a very quiet way.

              Where does Bernie stand right now on guns? He’s in favor of universal background checks, red flag laws, and co-sponsored the current assault rifle ban which will go nowhere at all. He is also a co-sponsor of Dick Blumenthal’s bill (S. 1939) to repeal PLCCA. At various campaign stops, Joe has gone after Bernie for voting against the Brady bill in 1994.  Criticizing someone for a vote cast twenty-five years ago is like using the Paleozoic era to define political time.

              What I find most interesting about the gun issue in 2020 is the degree to which it has become much less of an issue than it was in 2016. There was a little dust-up from Gun-nut Nation when Beto O’Rourke proposed an assault weapons buy-back plan, but when his campaign ran out of gas and money in November, the issue was politely shelved.

              There have been two federal gun laws passed in my lifetime: GCA68 and Brady in 1993. Both laws came about because a liberal President from a Southern state was able to count on blue majorities in both the Senate and the House. It should also be remembered that the genesis of both laws was the successful assassination of one President and the unsuccessful assassination of another. I’m not a Trump fan by any means, but I certainly wouldn’t want to see him shot. For that matter, the odds that both houses of Congress will return blue in 2021 is far from assured.

              No Democratic Presidential candidate will say anything about gun control other than supporting the standard legislative proposals that have been flopping around now for more than twenty years. So, if anyone in Gun-control Nation thinks they should decide how to vote because of how the candidates differ on guns control, they might want to think again.

How Do We Define Mass Shootings? Let Me Count The Ways.

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If I had a nickel for every different definition of ‘mass shooting’ that’s floating around out there, I could go back to sleep this morning instead of getting dressed to go to work. Last time I counted, there are at least four different ‘mass shooting’ definitions appearing in the media based on how many people get killed, how many people get shot whether they die or not, where the event takes place, and whether or not to include ‘domestic’ acts of violence, aa if anyone has a definition of ‘domestic’ that fits every case.

LV2             The issue of mass shootings has taken on a certain importance not just because of Parkland, but because the organizational response of the gun-control movement has been to push one of their favorite ideas, namely, a new assault weapons ban (AWB.) The idea, of course, is being vigorously contested by the other side, whose chief ally in this regard is DD Trump, who seems to have a peculiar affection for getting rid of gun-free zones. And since Trump is now tying mass shootings to gun-free zones, all the more reason why the #resist movement would try to get more traction for a new AWB.

Let’s get back to the definition of a ‘mass shooting,’ because here is where the rubber meets the road.  Earlier this month our friend Lott published a critique of what is an important book on mass shootings, Rampage Nation, in which the author, Lewis Klaveras, argues that mass shootings declined during the 1995-2004 AWB, despite the fact that the number of mass shootings involving the use of an ‘assault weapon’ was: a) quite small; and, b) didn’t change during the years covered by the ban.

Klarevas has responded to Lott’s criticism by saying that the latter’s definition of ‘mass shootings’ is “arbitrary,” when, in fact, it is the definition employed by Klarevas himself (6 or more deaths) which has never been used by Lott or any other gun researcher, including the folks who write the reports on mass shootings for the FBI. Lott uses the FBI definition which sets the number of deaths at four and excludes shooting events that are either gang-related or occur within a domestic situation, a definition with which I wholeheartedly agree.

What makes mass shootings such terrifying events is not just the loss of life; it’s the randomness of the event and the anonymity of the victims who are injured or killed. Steve Paddock didn’t know the name of anyone attending the rock concert in Vegas when he opened fire on October 1st. Nikolas Cruz had been a student at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, but he didn’t go to the school to hunt down a specific kid or kids. With all due respect to my many GVP friends, John Lott is absolutely correct when he says that mass shootings are unique events in which the motives of the shooter can’t be simply explained because someone holds a grudge against someone else.

I am beginning to believe that gun-violence arguments based on numbers are a dead end. I say this, first of all, because in other columns and studies I have addressed the fact that most of the data we use to create numerics about gun violence are at best rough estimates, at worst simply made up out of whole cloth. And if we can’t even agree on the numerical definition of mass shootings, how could we ever come up with a rational strategy to deal with mass shooting events at all?

So I’m going to go out on a limb and offer a definition of a mass shooting which at least might get us beyond the useless arguments being engaged in today. A mass shooting is when someone points a gun at someone else, pulls the trigger and keeps firing until he’s out of ammo and has to reload. I like this definition because it gets around behavior or motive and simply acknowledges a basic truth: Guns aimed at human beings will kill them faster than any other device that we know.


Greg Gibson: The Delusion About Gun Violence.



 The impressive wound ballistics of the AR-15 are not accidental. The thing was designed to do what it does. A .223 round impacts with such velocity that it generates an explosive shock wave inside the target. Also, the bullet will tumble, enhancing its destructive properties. Don’t let anyone fool you. We may not be able to settle on a decisive characterization of an “assault rifle,” but an AR chambered for a .223 round will make a mess of a human body – exactly as it was designed to do. And it will do so thirty, fifty, or many more rounds in short order, depending on how fast the lunatic on the other end can pull the trigger and swap out his mags. The industry’s characterization of this type of weapon as a “modern sporting rifle” is an obscenity.

Fortunately for the college at which he went berserk, my son’s killer was financially constrained. Furthermore, he was a novice, having never fired a gun before he went on his campus shooting spree. He settled on a used SKS, a cheap carbine that fired the lower-velocity 7.62 x 39 mm round. He purchased a pistol grip and plastic folding stock to replace the original wooden one, a conversion kit to allow the SKS to accept 30-round magazines, six of those magazines, and 180 rounds of ammunition. The aforementioned financial constraints led him to purchase inexpensive full metal jacket bullets. Because they are jacketed the projectiles tend to go through a body rather than disintegrating as a hollow point bullet might, or tumbling and generating a shock wave as the .223 round does. The killer’s chest shot shattered my son’s sternum, passed into his chest cavity, severed blood vessels, passed through a lung, severed the trachea, passed through the 7th rib and exited the back. He died on his college library floor, bullets zinging past, friends and classmates freaking out watching one of their own strangle and bleed to death. After he’d killed two people and wounded four, the wannabe psycho killer’s gun jammed – the magazine wasn’t seating properly – and he didn’t know how to clear it.  This saved many lives.

When such a thing happens to your son or daughter you don’t experience it as a chapter from a wound ballistics textbook. It is the most painful, calamitous, life-changing event imaginable.

If you manage to not kill yourself or someone else, as I just barely managed not to do, and if you don’t go so crazy as to become completely dysfunctional, you might fall prey to the very reasonable delusion that, once people hear your story, once they learn how horrific and widely damaging gun murder is, they’ll be inspired to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else ever again.

This same delusion caused those Parkland teens to speak out as they have. The worst thing imaginable had just happened to them. Surely, once they let the world know about it, the world would rise as one and cry, “Enough!”

I love their ferocity and energy, but I worry about how those kids will be feeling years down the road, when the journalists have moved on to other stories, and they are left with only the horrific images of what happened, set against the backdrop of America’s vast, self-absorbed, indifference.

This is an excerpt from a longer piece entitled “Survivor Apocalypse.”


What Do Gun Owners Think About An Assault Weapons Ban?



In light of all the post-Parkland talk about an assault weapons ban, I thought I would ask the one group that would be most directly impacted by such a measure – gun owners – to share their thoughts on such a ban. So I put a little survey up and have so far collected roughly 400 responses, the survey runs another week, but I thought I would publish the early results now.

Actually, I first began with two surveys, one for gun owners and one for non-gun owners, but I deleted the non-gun owner survey because too many of the gun owners felt it incumbent upon themselves to answer both surveys, which skewed the results of the latter survey to a degree that I can’t trust the results.  I’ll deal below with the reasons why many gun owners who answered the survey behaved in such a childish fashion, for the moment let’s just put it down to a generalized case of arrested mental development which, unfortunately, tends to infect a small segment of the gun-owning community, particularly those members of the community who have anointed themselves as the public defenders of 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

Anyway, back to the survey.  To make sure that the survey was getting a representative response (I pay Facebook to run ads for my survey) I ask respondents to identify the region in which they live.  Here was the result:


The survey is representative for gun owners nationally, particularly because from other surveys I have conducted, the region of residence tends to be the one demographic that influences attitudes about guns more than anything else.

So how do gun owners feel about an assault weapons ban?  They are against it – gee, big surprise.  And they are against a ban whether or not currently-owned assault weapons have to be surrendered or not – against either option to the tune of 95 percent.

I also asked survey respondents whether they actually owned an assault rifle and 70% said they did, but this numeric reflects the fact that the survey specifically referred to an assault weapons ban, which means that AR-owners would answer the survey in greater numbers than what they represent within the gun-owning population as  whole. On the other hand, nearly two-thirds of the respondents who identified themselves as owning assault riles said they used the rifle for hunting and sport shooting, with roughly 36% saying that they bought the gun for self-defense.  This is an interesting finding, given the degree to which the gun industry has been promoting black guns as the latest and greatest ‘tool’ for personal defense.

Overwhelmingly, to the tune of 90% or slightly higher, gun owners did not think that assault rifles are too dangerous for civilian ownership, nor did they want magazine capacity to be limited to 10 rounds. And last, roughly nine out of ten respondents said they would not comply with a gun ban, so much for the NRA‘s endless paeans to ‘law-abiding’ gun owners.

What this survey indicates, and I will publish final results next week, is that gun owners have little enthusiasm for regulating assault rifles, but this should come as no surprise. I have never been comfortable with national polls (e.g., Pew, Gallup) which show strong support among gun owners for additional gun regulations, such as expanding background checks or otherwise inhibiting the flow and availability of guns.

On the other hand, let’s recognize that within the gun-owning population, as within any broad-based group, we will always find a hard core who are particularly eager to jump on social media to express the most stupid and infantile beliefs simply because: a) they have nothing better to do; and, b) it’s fun.

What makes an assault rifle attractive to most of its owners is the degree to which you can pretend you are mowing down all the bad guys. Take an AR onto the range and you instantly become that kid you once were before adult life intervened. And if someone threatens to make it difficult for you to recreate those happy days, why not do what children always do when someone threatens to take away their toys?

Throw a tantrum. Why not?  Yelling a few curse words is almost as much fun as shooting a gun.




What The Assault Weapons Ban Needs And Doesn’t Need.


Let’s say that Congress actually passes this assault weapons ban (AWB) and El Schmuck-o signs it into law.  And let’s say that a year after the bill becomes law the cops come into my house and find my Colt H-Bar, which I am allowed to have around because I owned it before the law was passed.  And let’s say I don’t have any paperwork to show when I bought it (which I don’t.)  How do I prove that I’m not breaking the assault weapons ban?  I can’t.

awb            Here’s Problem Number Two. Let’s say that after the law is passed I want to sell my H-Bar to someone else, which I can do because I legally own the gun and therefore can transfer it to anyone else who can legally own the gun. But the proposed AWB law as it now stands requires that all transfers of grandfathered assault guns be done in a dealer’s shop. Which means that, for all intents and purposes, a ‘universal’ background check system has just begun to creep in through the back door.

I’m not listing these problems because I personally care whether Americans can own these particular kinds of guns or for that matter whether they can own any guns at all. My task, as I see it, is not to advocate but to inform and the chips will fall where they may. Obviously, Gun-nut Nation will oppose any kind of bill which regulates anything having to do with guns. But the two issues I have just raised might also create serious opposition to this bill even among people who might otherwise be in favor of regulating assault-type guns.

One thing I wish the supporters of an AWB would eliminate from this bill and from their brains is all the nonsense about banning a gun because it has features like a pistol grip, a barrel shroud, a grenade or rocket launcher, or a folding stock. What makes an AR more lethal than other kinds of rifle designs is the bottom-loading, detachable magazine, which by taping two mags together gives the gun a capacity of 60 rounds or more.  As far as threaded barrels are concerned, if the harebrained scheme by harebrained Donald Trump, Jr., to pull silencers off the NFA list is dumped in the trash can where it belongs, owning a gun with a threaded barrel won’t create any real safety risk at all.

Some of the guns that are banned, such as the Hi-Point carbine, load ammunition through a magazine in the grip rather than underneath the frame. Guns like this simply aren’t assault rifles the way the term is defined in this bill, and if the bill begins to gather some traction, I hope the list of both banned and approved guns will be reviewed by someone other than a well-meaning ‘expert’ from the ATF.  In case you don’t remember, the ATF is the bunch whose mistaken belief that David Koresh and his Waco followers were building full-automatic weapons ultimately led to 75 deaths.  I don’t notice that Waco is ever mentioned in discussions or studies about mass shootings, by the way.

The United States is the only advanced country which regulates gun ownership not by how a gun is designed, but whether the gun’s owner can be trusted to use the weapon in a proper way. And despite Gun-nut Nation’s self-serving attempt to push some cock and bull about how any rifle that shoots in semi-auto mode is a ‘sporting’ weapon, the truth is that a rifle which allows the shooter to touch off 60 rounds in less than a minute is a lot of fun to shoot, which I guess meets the definition of a ‘sporting’ gun.

What’s wrong with going to a video arcade and popping off a hundred rounds in 10 seconds, complete with great graphics and realistic sounds? Oh, I forgot. Not only can you do the same thing with a real AR-15, but the gun will also protect you from ISIS or maybe even an invasion from Mars.

Tom Gabor – A New Approach to Regulating the Most Dangerous Weapons.


 AR red

Much has been said of late about the need to ban “assault weapons” (AW) or “weapons of war”. Polls show unprecedented support for a nationwide ban on these weapons.[1]  When used in the context of legislation or bills, these terms have been defined in a variety of ways, needlessly offend certain gun owners, and may even serve as impediments to effective laws.  In this article, we propose a different approach and one that avoids the pitfalls of previous AW bans as well as bills filed since the mass shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.


The Problem:  Unless one has lived in a cave over the last 20 years or so, it has become apparent that mass shootings have become an increasing concern in the US.  The largest massacres have almost always involved the use of weapons like the AR-15 and its relatives in Las Vegas (with the aid of bump stocks), at the Orlando Pulse nightclub, Virginia Tech, Aurora Century Theater, and Sandy Hook Elementary School, as well as in Parkland. One analysis has found that an average of 9 more people are shot and 3 more people are killed in mass shootings in which these weapons or high-capacity magazines (HCM) are used, illustrating the emptiness of the slogan:  “Guns don’t kill, people do.”[2]

An analysis conducted for my book, Confronting Gun Violence in America, shows that the number of public mass killings by firearm more than doubled from the 1980s to the 1990s and 2000s.[3] Between 2010 and 2015, the annual number of incidents has again increased sharply, at over four times the frequency observed in the 1980s.  More than half of the 30 deadliest mass shootings since 1949 have occurred since 2007.  The average number of deaths per year resulting from mass public shootings also has increased and, since 2010, was almost four times that of the 1980s.  It is worth noting that the acceleration in the number of large-scale mass shootings occurred following the expiration of the national AWs ban.


The increasing annual number of fatalities is especially noteworthy because great strides have been made in the management of bullet wounds over the last 15 years or so due to lessons learned on the battlefields of Afghanistan.  Thus, despite higher survival rates, we see an increasing toll from mass shootings, reflecting the greater lethality of weapons and an increasing proportion of victims who incur multiple bullet wounds.  This makes sense as we know that there is a growing number of military-style weapons in the civilian market.  The gun industry introduced these weapons into the civilian market in the 1980s in response to the saturation of their core market (white, rural males) with conventional firearms.


The Assault Weapons Ban of 1994:  The federal AWs ban, in force between 1994 and 2004, prohibited the manufacture, transfer, and possession of those semi-automatic firearms designated as AWs.  The weapons subject to the ban were characterized by features (see below) suitable to military and criminal applications rather than sport shooting or self-defense.  Over one hundred firearm models, including certain pistols and shotguns, were covered by the ban.  The ban also covered HCMs holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition.   This aspect of the ban extended beyond designated AWs as it applied to many non-banned weapons that could be equipped with these magazines.  At the time the ban took effect, it was estimated that 1.5 million AWs were privately-owned in the US along with about 25 million HCMs.[4]  Millions more of the HCM’s manufactured before the ban were imported into the country by 2000.


The ban yielded mixed results with regard to its effect on violent crime.  While there was no discernible reduction in gun crime or gun homicide, in six major cities—Baltimore, Boston, Miami, St. Louis, Anchorage, and Milwaukee—the share of gun crimes committed with weapons covered by the ban declined by between 17 % and 72 % during the ban.  Nationally, traces of guns used in crimes were 70% less likely to involve AWs during the ban.  Louis Klarevas, author of Rampage Nation, found that gun massacres, defined as incidents involving six or more fatalities, were nearly cut in half during the ban in comparison with the ten-year period preceding it.  In the decade following the ban’s expiration, fatalities again increased dramatically, more than tripling the deaths seen during the ban.[5]


The reduction in crime by assault weapons was, in part, offset by the substitution of military-style firearms that technically did not qualify as AWs. Also, during the ban, a study of four cities indicated that guns with HCMs actually rose as semi-automatics were being equipped with them.  In addition, the grandfathering provisions of the AWs ban, which allowed weapons and HCMs already manufactured to continue to be sold, undercut its effectiveness.  Approximately 25 million of these magazines remained in the country and millions more were available for import from other countries.[6]  In fact, manufacturers took advantage of the grandfathering provisions by boosting production of designated AWs in the months leading up to the ban, creating a large stockpile of these items.  By contrast, in Australia’s well-known and successful ban, pre-ban weapons were bought back rather than exempted from the ban.


The manner in which weapons covered by the ban were defined also undermined its effectiveness.  The federal ban and current state laws define “AWs” by their features, some of which are irrelevant to the harm the weapon can produce.  Under the 1994 ban, an assault weapon included semi-automatic rifles capable of accepting detachable magazines and possessing two or more of the following features:

  • Folding stocks for concealment and portability;
  • Pistol grip protruding conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon;
  • A bayonet mount;
  • A flash suppressor or threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor; or
  • A grenade launcher.


Definitions based on these features create a loophole by allowing manufacturers to circumvent the law simply by making minor modifications to a weapon.  For example, removing flash suppressors and bayonet mounts makes a weapon no less dangerous but can get around a features-based definition.


Overall, the 1994 ban showed some promise but the potential effectiveness was reduced by the grandfathering provisions and the features-based definition of “assault-style” weapons.  In addition, those evaluating the law made the point that the ban’s exemption of millions of AWs and HCMs manufactured before the ban meant that the impact of the law would be gradual and would not be fully realized for several years beyond its expiration, especially as HCMs made before the ban kept pouring into the market.[7]


A New Approach Focusing on Weapon Lethality: The first AW ban in the US, The Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989, was enacted in California following the massacre of schoolchildren by a drifter who fired 106 rounds of ammunition in three minutes with a semi-automatic military-style weapon.  The law defined an AW as one with “a high rate of fire and capacity for firepower that its function as a legitimate sports or recreational firearm is substantially outweighed by the danger that it can be used to kill and injure human beings.”  Unfortunately, the law failed to explicitly define such terms as ‘high rate of fire,’ and ‘capacity for firepower”.   Instead of defining these terms and banning weapons that met these definitions, the law listed over 50 specific banned guns, and added some cosmetic features (collapsible stock, flash hider, etc.) which have no impact on a gun’s lethality.

When the Federal Government enacted its AW ban in 1994, it borrowed the list of California-banned guns, included the various design features but dropped any reference to lethality; i.e., no mention of ‘high rate of fire’ or ‘capacity for firepower’ at all. This opened the door for gun rights advocates to claim that, functionally, there is no real difference between an AR-15 and any other kind semi-automatic rifle.

To address this void, I propose identifying the most dangerous firearms and regulating them, not on the basis of what they look like but on their ability to kill and injure as many people as possible in the shortest time frame.  National gun expert Mike Weisser proposes a method of scoring the lethality of a firearm on the basis of five factors:[8]   This system is an objective one which is not influenced by cosmetic modifications intended to circumvent regulations.

  1. Caliber – Larger and faster projectiles tend to cause more damage to human tissue, although the design of bullets and the materials used to make them are also important;
  2. Capacity – The number of cartridges that can be fired without reloading;
  3. Loading mechanism – The speed at which a rifle can be reloaded;
  4. Action – Time required to fire a single cartridge and bring the next cartridge into the breech;
  5. Design flexibility—the ability of a firearm to accommodate accessories, some of which increase lethality (e.g., lasers, electronic aiming devices, fore grips).

Once a scoring system is in place, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has the expertise and facilities in place to evaluate each firearm on the market and give it a lethality score.  This will allow for a classification of firearms on the basis of their lethality, with regulation increasing with the growing lethality of the category in which a firearm belongs.  Restrictions that might be considered can vary from complete bans to special licenses and vetting for owners of more lethal weapons, registration requirements, special taxes, longer waiting periods, increasing penalties for noncompliance, and storage requirements for more dangerous weapons.  One option for semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 is to regulate them under the National Firearms Act, as is done with fully automatic firearms.


Thomas Gabor, Ph.D. is a criminologist, sociologist and author of Confronting Gun Violence in America






[1] Quinnipiac Poll, February 20, 2018; https://poll.qu.edu/national/release-detail?ReleaseID=2521

[2] Everytown for Gun Safety, Analysis of Recent Mass Shootings; https://crimeresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/everytown-mass-shooting-analysis.pdf

[3] https://www.amazon.com/Confronting-Violence-America-Thomas-Gabor/dp/331933722X/ref=mt_hardcover?_encoding=UTF8&me=

[4] Christopher S. Koper, America’s experience with the Federal Assault Weapons Ban.  In D. Webster and J. Vernick (eds.),  Reducing Gun Violence in America.  Baltimore:  Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013, p.161.


[5] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2018/02/22/the-real-reason-congress-banned-assault-weapons-in-1994-and-why-it-worked/?utm_term=.7aab6b1f3ce5


[6] https://www.factcheck.org/2013/02/did-the-1994-assault-weapons-ban-work/

[7] Christopher S. Koper, America’s experience with the Federal Assault Weapons Ban.  In D. Webster and J. Vernick (eds.),  Reducing Gun Violence in America.  Baltimore:  Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013, p.166.

[8] Mike Weisser, Measuring Gun Lethality; https://mikethegunguy.social/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/measuring-gun-lethality.pdf

A Guest Editorial From Ladd Everitt


I’ve been working in the gun violence prevention field for 16 years now as a volunteer and professional. As reflected by the events at the recent Democratic National Convention, there is no doubt the movement is in the best shape it’s ever been in.

The convention dedicated an entire program to gun violence prevention (GVP) on its most electrifying night, Wednesday. DNC 2016 included emotional appearances by gun violence survivors like Mothers of the Movement (the surviving mothers of Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Jordan Davis and Dontre Hamilton) and Erica Smegielski from the Everytown Survivor Network. It also featured riveting speeches by the likes ofReverend William Barber (a powerful nonviolence icon) in favor of an Assault Weapons Ban (AWB). “You heard, you saw, family members of police officers killed in the line of duty because they were outgunned by criminals,” saidDemocratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in her acceptance speech. “I refuse to believe we can’t find common ground here.”

It was a defining moment for a movement that has built significant capacity since the awful tragedy that happened on December 14, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut.

Much of that progress has been led by the movement’s two most powerful groups, Everytown for Gun Safety and Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS). Their PACs have dramatically changed the political calculus of legislators across the country. And Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America (under the Everytown umbrella) has been an ever-present grassroots force in states across the country.

But important questions hang in the air…

With so many gun violence survivors and gun violence prevention champions in elected government now aggressively calling for an Assault Weapons Ban — after having seen the Orlando gunman decimate a civilian population with the MCX rifle designed for members of our Special Forces — why are the two most powerful groups in the GVP movement, Everytown and ARS, still refusing to even mention the issue, much less support a ban? Shouldn’t the GVP “Bigs” be setting the agenda for their elected (and cultural) champions, much like the NRA does on the pro-gun side? What does the movement lose by pursuing a more moderate agenda — i.e., overwhelmingly popular policies like expanding background checks and prohibiting suspected terrorists from purchasing firearms — that fail to motivate its most ardent supporters?

We are now seeing a constellation of new individuals and groups emerging to assume a bolder posture on the issue. They are less rigid on policy and willing to embrace solutions from the ground up. They are acting aggressively to confront our nation’s degenerate gun culture. They are totally unapologetic. [And they are just the tip of the spear. With the cultural tide on the issue shifting, more will soon follow.] Among them are:

· Celebrity hairdresser Jason Hayes has crowd-funded more than $40,000 (average contribution $21) to put on a “Disarm Hate” rally on the National Mall on Saturday, August 13th. The rally will endorse a renewal of the Assault Weapons Ban.

· Po Murray and David Stowe of Newtown Action Alliance have done phenomenal work to organize a coalition of 97 different organizations that support an Assault Weapons Ban renewal. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence (the third and final “Big”) is part of that coalition.

· Anonymous men and women from across the country have created “The Betsy Riot,” a social norming project with a suffragette theme that aggressively confronts gun idolatry and gun culture at large.

· Gays Against Guns has stood up in response to the Orlando massacre and is building chapters across the country. They are conducting in-your-face protests at a number of high-profile venues, such as Trump Tower.

Taking it to the Streets, GAG Style

· The National Action Network is preparing an August 27th rally at the DC lobbying offices of the NRA that will launch 72 days of action. This will involve civil disobedience.

· Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence got a handgun licensing law enacted in their state and are the policy’s strongest proponent in the movement today.

· Actor/LGBTQ rights activist George Takei has launched One Pulse for America [I’m their director], a rapidly growing Facebook group with 70,000+ members. Members, described as “the folks who have been dying to turn up the volume and just needed to find the right muse,” are asked to take action on gun violence prevention on a daily basis.

The goal of these groups will be to close the oft-discussed “Passion Gap.” You can imagine what it looks like in practice. When a legislator hears from the pro-gun side, most often he/she is hearing the message, “I’m a single-issue voter. If you support any gun reform — no matter how modest — and fail to pass permissive gun policies, I will do everything I can to end your political career.” When they hear from the gun violence prevention side, it’s typically, “I care about reducing gun violence in our country. Please vote to expand background checks today.”

There’s no comparison. And when compromises are hammered out by legislators on gun legislation, pro-gun activists are almost invariably successful in “moving the middle” to their side and making those policies more favorable to the gun lobby.

I also think there is an opportunity to reach out to people who feel like they don’t have a home in the contemporary gun violence prevention movement. I see these folks on social media all the time. I meet them at rallies.

Remember, we’re living in an era of daily mass shootings. There are many people who would like to live in a society without guns; or at least with dramatically fewer guns and far tougher controls. Controls that you would typically see in every other free nation on the planet. They haven’t had a voice in the GVP movement since the late 1980s, when Handgun Control and the National Coalition to Ban Handguns changed their names to the Brady Campaign and Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, respectively, and began arguing for more moderate policies.

Currently, there is no advocacy in the movement for the following policy options:

· Licensing and registration laws, which have proven enormously effective at denying firearms to dangerous individuals in states that have implemented such laws. Virtually all other democracies have licensing and registration laws at the national level. They have astronomically lower rates of gun death, and there has been no loss of individual freedom whatsoever. [See Alan Berlow’s excellent article on the topic.]

· Larger gun buyback programs at the state and/or national level.

· Computerizing records of gun sales maintained by federally licensed firearm dealers and the ATF (out-of-business dealers).

· Comprehensive updating of the prohibited categories for gun buyers defined in the (amended) 1968 Gun Control Act, based on the best evidence/research currently available in 2016.

· Mandated requirements for smart guns and crime-solving technologies (microstamping).

· Outright opposition to private citizens carrying firearms in public, except under “May-Issue” systems that give law enforcement discretion to deny permits to individuals with a history of violence.

Nor is any organization in the movement really challenging the legitimacy of the controversial 2008 D.C. v. Heller decision, in which the Supreme Court’s conservative wing rewrote 200+ years of judicial interpretation of the Second Amendment, declaring a newfound individual “right” to keep a handgun in your home. [Contrast this with the approach taken on Citizen United.]

This is about the time where some anxious critic stops me and says, “Fine, but Ladd — If you advocate for things like gun bans — even one as limited as the federal AWB — you’re going to be feeding into NRA confiscation rhetoric and we’ll be doomed!”

But listen. The NRA has been promoting confiscation propaganda for decades now with no provocation whatsoever. The NRA’s www.gunbanobama.comwas up and running long before President Obama ever addressed the GVP issue during his second term. And look what the gun lobby has to say about Everytown founder Michael Bloomberg, a guy politely calling for modest policies.

I’d say we’ve suffered about as much as we’re going to suffer from gun ban propaganda. And it’s not like truth is an antidote for the Trump crowd these days, either. We need to begin embracing what they consider to be a weakness as a strength. Why not start harnessing some intensity among our own base by advocating for more aggressive policies? Let’s move the middle on this issue toour side.

The result will be a win-win for everyone: a more vocal, passionate movement that will push the envelope and make space for the more moderate policies favored by GVP Bigs. And most importantly, we will create a safer America with far less human suffering.

When It Comes To Assault Rifles, The Gun Industry Has A New Friend: The New York Times.


There’s a video floating around that shows Rupert Neate, a reporter from The Guardian, being heaved out of the Shot Show because he walked up to the Smith & Wesson display and began asking a company employee about an assault rifle ban.  This conversation took place as a member of Smith & Wesson’s marketing team happily placed an assault rifle in Neate’s hands and kept referring to it as a “modern sporting rifle,” although to be fair the gun, known as the AR-15 Sporter, fires only an itty-bitty 22-caliber cartridge, as opposed to the more lethal 5.56 or .223 military calibers that most so-called modern sporting rifles use.

ar              This nonsense about how a remarkably-lethal weapon used by our armed forces has been transmogrified into a ‘sporting’ gun by the gun industry for the last twenty years has been going on since the imposition of the 10-year assault weapons ban back in 1994.  The gun industry first reacted to the ban by claiming that ‘assault’ weapons were fully-automatic guns used only by the military; hence, any semi-automatic rifle deserved to be sold in the civilian market regardless of its design. And when the ban was not renewed in 2004, the industry went whole hog in trying to convince everyone that an AR-15 gun, as long as it didn’t fire more than one shot with each pull of the trigger, was no different from Grandpa’s old Remington or Winchester hunting rifle except it had a more modern look.

In arguing against any new attempt to impose a new assault weapons ban, the gun industry has cited again and again the Koper study, published as the ban was expiring, which could not, according to the author, definitively determine the effects of the ban on rates of gun crime.  But this study, commissioned by the Department of Justice, has also been cited by proponents of a ban as showing that changing the design of assault rifles and limiting the capacity of all semi-automatic gun magazines did, in fact, result in a reduction of gun crime. So once again it’s the old story in the gun debate: pro-gun advocates saying that government regulation doesn’t work, gun-control advocates saying it does.

Out of the woodwork we now have a major gun-control voice joining up with Gun Nation to proclaim that the assault weapons ban was a dud. And the voice belongs to none other than The New York Times, whose Pulitzer Prize-winning editorialist, Nicholas Kristof, has decided to share this “inconvenient truth” with his liberal colleagues in an evident attempt to get the GVP community to be  more realistic and honest in its approach to guns.  To quote Kristof, the gun debate should be driven by “evidence of what works,” and what didn’t work, was the assault weapons ban. To quote Kristof again, the law was “poorly drafted” and didn’t reduce gun crimes during the ten years it was in effect.

Far be it from me to challenge the ability of a Harvard and Oxford-educated journalist to read his sources clearly, but I have read the Koper report several times and Kristof’s attempt to align its contents with the views of the pro-gun mob just doesn’t work. First and foremost, the report compared only a few years of data before and after the ban when nearly all of the pre-ban guns were still in circulation and a majority of pistols were equipped with hi-cap mags. Furthermore, very few police jurisdictions collected data on magazine capacity of guns picked up at crime scenes, and the vaunted tracing data of the vaunted ATF turned out to be useless at best.

If Koper’s report says anything, it says that attempting to evaluate the impact of a weapons ban which expired before sufficient data even existed was an exercise that simply could not succeed.  Which is much different from concluding that the ban didn’t work. Kristof is correct in asking for evidence, not opinions, to shape the gun debate. He might show the way by doing it himself.

A Gun Control Activist Reflects On His Battles With The NRA


The Wall Street Journal carried an interesting interview this morning with Mark Glaze who, until Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts combined to form Everytown, was the Executive Director of Bloomberg’s first gun-control group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns.  I’m not sure whether this group ever had a clear objective for what it wanted to do; some of its research efforts were outstanding, some were duds, there didn’t seem to be any attempt to forge a unified and active voice among the city mayors who comprised the membership, and their lobbying efforts in Washington certainly never paid off.  But that’s all history now as Everytown seems to be ramping up for the next round, meanwhile Mr. Glaze sat down with a WSJ reporter to reflect on what he had and hadn’t done.

What I found most interesting in his comments was an attempt to tie the failure of gun control in Washington to other issues that have nothing to do with guns.  In particular, Glaze focused on the controversy about NSA spying that emerged in the flight and prosecution of Anthony Snowden, as well as the botched roll-out of the website that prevented people from signing on to the ACA.  To quote Glaze: “There’s an almost perfect overlap, I think, between the people who are the most active and radicalized gun voters and people who just don’t like and trust the government very much.”

acaThe fact that both the website mess and Snowden’s revelations occurred long after the post-Sandy Hook gun control bill was dead and buried doesn’t really negate his general point of view.  The NRA has been attacking the Federal government’s alleged whittling away of gun rights for the last twenty years, in particular whenever a Democratic administration tries to enact even the most mild gun reforms.  In fact, the gun bill that was ultimately voted down in 2013 was a much less draconian measure – in terms of the scope of government regulation – than what Clinton got through the Congress in the form of the Brady Bill in 1993 and the assault weapons ban in 1994.

Glaze shouldn’t be faulted for seeing only the tip of the iceberg because his vantage-point for understanding the behavior of the NRA is, by definition, the very narrow perspective that surrounds anyone who’s work ties them to hanging around DC. The truth is that what makes the NRA so formidable is not the care and attention they lavish on elected officials in Washington (what they hand out for political campaigns is a tiny fraction of what other industries like banking and lawyers shell out every two years) but their efforts at the state level to promote issues like LTC.

In 1994, following passage of Brady, less than half the states operated under laws that made it relatively easy to qualify for concealed-carry permits, a number which has swelled to include just about every state, even though the Supreme Court explicitly stated that the 2nd Amendment did not cover carrying a gun outside the home for self defense when they ruled for Heller in 2008.  And while there are still a few jurisdictions, particularly large cities like Washington, New York and Chicago where LTC is basically not issued, probably 90% of all Americans, particularly in areas where everyone owns a gun, can qualify to carry a gun on their person with about as much difficulty as they would encounter in acquiring a license to operate a small boat.

If the NRA has been the main voice preventing more gun control in Washington, it’s because out in the hinterlands most of us can walk around with a gun in our pocket and pretend that we are the “good guys” who are on the lookout to protect everyone else from the “bad guys” with guns.  The fact that gun violence rates have stabilized or increased slightly in the years since LTC became the law of the land is one of those inconvenient facts that the NRA simply chooses to ignore.  But nobody ever said that a successful advocacy campaign requires having the facts on your side.  What the NRA knows how to do is reach gun owners in ways that really count, a strategy that the gun control folks still need to figure out.


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