If Minorities Are Buying Guns, It’s Not To Exercise Their 2nd-Amendment ‘Rights.’


During the Presidential campaign there were all sorts of stories floating around about how some of Trump’s supporters were planning armed insurrection if it turned out that their candidate was somehow cheated out of his rightful prize.  And even The New York Times ran a story based on some interviews with Trump loyalists, none of whom actually said that they would lead an armed revolt (which even to verbally promote such nonsense happens to be a federal crime) but they knew other people who were ready to take their guns into the streets.

hate           Luckily we were saved from a revolutionary situation because Shlump actually won.  But in the aftermath of his victory, while the guy who really understands the ‘common man’ lines up an Executive management team which represents the billionaire class, we are now being treated to the opposite of the ‘Trump loss equals armed revolt’ crap with stories about how people who consider themselves targets of Shlump-o’s fascist-populist message are arming themselves in response to the impending warfare that will sooner or later break out.

This latest effort to sensationalize every aspect of political news and commentary was the handiwork of NBC, which ran a story about how ‘fearful minorities’ (read: African-Americans) were ‘buying up guns,’ the reportage based entirely on interviews with a black lady who lives in Alpharetta, GA, a black gun-shop owner in Virginia and the guy who heads something called the National African American Gun Association, which just happens to be occasionally featured on the Breitbart website (where else?) because of the group’s strong support for 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

This idea that African-Americans should become gun owners predates the 2016 campaign, reflecting an attempt by the gun industry to reach out to new markets, in particular women, Hispanics and blacks.  The problem is that none of these demographics have ever shown any serious inclination to join Gun-nut Nation, and while noisemakers like Dana Loesch (for the women segment) and Colion Noir (for the African-American segment) push their stupidly-contrived videos on the NRA website and YouTube, they are basically speaking for themselves. The FBI, under statute, does not maintain or release data on the racial breakdown of NICS-background checks (my request for such information was politely refused last year) and anecdotal evidence is anecdotal but it’s not evidence.  What we do know from the latest Pew survey is that roughly one out of five African-American and Hispanic households contain guns, so there’s plenty of room for growth.

But let’s assume for the moment that even with the shallowness of the reportage, the NBC story about how minorities are streaming into gun shops is true.  You would think this would be a salutary news event for Gun-nut Nation, given how the gun industry has tried to promote the ownership of its products to non-white groups. But judging from a Breitbart story based on the NBC report, the enthusiasm is less than real.  Because the problem that Gun-nut Nation now faces is to find a way to promote the idea of minority gun ownership while, at the same time minimizing (or simply lying about) the reason why African-Americans are buying guns.  And the reason is very simple:  the incoming President of the United States has made it clear that minority communities can expect little, if any protection from a federal government whose Chief Executive pollutes the digital airwaves daily with a mixture of racism, appeals to violence and outright scorn.

If, as the NBC story suggests, minorities are considering gun ownership out of fear of what an unbridled racism promoted by Donald Shlump might bring, this also creates an important turning-point for the gun violence prevention (GVP) community as well. Because the one thing we know is that defending yourself or your community by going around armed basically does nothing except create circumstances and situations in which more gun violence occurs. I’m not denying the reality of a palpable sense of fear created by the shenanigans of Jerk Trump. But sticking a gun in your pocket will only make it worse.

The NRA Doesn’t Believe That Gun Suicide Is Gun Violence Since They Don’t Believe That Guns Cause Violence At All.


If you are active in the field of Gun Violence Prevention, you can tell you are making a difference if you get attacked by the NRA, or better yet by Breitbart, which is one and the same thing.  Breitbart has been pimping for the NRA since it first started up in 2007 because if you want to become known as the loony voice on the Right, what better way to do it than to say something crazy about guns?  And at least for the next couple of months the craziness will be spread even further by a guy named Trump.

suicideSo it was no surprise to me that yesterday’s NRA-ILA political blog would carry a lead story attacking (and distorting) the views of one of our most dedicated and distinguished public health scholars, who happens to be Shannon Frattaroli, a faculty member at the Bloomberg School of Public Health.  Professor Frattaroli has been an outspoken advocate in many areas of gun violence, in particular helping to frame the discussion around taking and keeping guns away from individuals involved in domestic disputes.  She is also an authority on the issue of restricting gun use by persons who are strong self-harm candidates, and helped the California Legislature draft its 2014 law that allows family members and intimate partners to directly petition a judge to determine if an individual might be a threat to themselves or someone else.

The gun industry has always been reluctant to acknowledge the fact that two-thirds of gun deaths each year are caused by people who use a gun to end their own lives.  For some of the more extreme Gun-nut Nation elements, this isn’t a worrisome aspect of gun violence, it’s all about ‘personal choice.’  But there are more enlightened approaches being taken about gun suicide by the gun-owning community, witness the recent announcement by the National Shooting Sports Foundation to partner with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to develop resources for gun dealers, shooting ranges and gun owners about suicide and guns.

About the last thing that the NRA is going to endorse is any effort by anyone to develop ‘educational’ resources about anything; their definition of ‘education’ is to have an invented YouTube character with a phony name like Colion Noir prance around with his AR, or home-school queen Dana Loesch come down from her perch and lecture all those soccer moms on how they could defend the ‘real America’ if only they would all go out and buy guns.

But when the NRA really wants to concoct an argument completely out of whole cloth, they can always count on Breitbart to help them out.  And the story they relied on for this week’s attack on Shannon Frattaroli comes right out of the Breitbart land of make-believe.  Pulling some of Frattaroli’s comments out of context from an article in New America Media, the Breitbart writer, a Gun-nut Nation noisemaker named AWR Hawkins, accuses her of trying to disarm the senior, gun-owning population because older gun owners tend to be the most adamant supporters of 2nd-Amendment rights.

Actually, what Frattaroli is really saying reflects nothing more than common sense, namely, that guns are problematic when they are on the hands of an aging population, because the older we get, the more we become susceptible to physical and mental conditions that make us more vulnerable to the risks posed by guns. The CDC reports that in 2014, for example, while the overall gun-suicide rate per 100,000 was 6.54, the rate for ages 70 and above was 12.4, more than twice as high.

The NRA has never felt comfortable with saying anything about guns which leads to a discussion about risk.  This is because the only gun-risk they believe exists is when you don’t own a gun. Which is why they find it convenient and necessary to attack what Shannon Frattaroli says.  All the more reason why it’s very important to read what she has to say.



Can Gun-nut Nation Push Trump Over The Top?


So now Shlump-o has gone from the bizarre to the absurd, and brought in the real lunatics from the asylum to run his campaign.  I’m referring to the appointment of the head of Breitbart, a former Goldman-Sachs banker, who will now make sure that the Shlump doesn’t fall prey to anyone who even quietly suggests that maybe Americans are just getting sick of all the insults, cursing and rhetorical flailing-about that is claimed to be a political campaign.

trump2            When I go to the internet to look at news blogs I spend most of my time reading stuff on the Right, first of all because I know what the liberals are saying because I happen to be a liberal; but also because in keeping with the maxim of don Corleone, it’s important to keep my enemies closer than my friends. So I read Breitbart and Drudge and listen to Rush who is really becoming boring as hell.  At least Drudge is basically an aggregator promoting for the most part right-wing mush, but Breitbart pretends to be a real newspaper, with op-eds and reporters and headlines and even an occasional exclusive.

The problem with Breibart, however, is that you really can’t tell if anything you read is even remotely based on facts, which is why I guess the management gets it on so easily with Shlump, who seems to have something of a problem distinguishing between facts and fiction as well. And if there’s one issue above all where the line between true and false doesn’t exist, it’s the issue of guns. Here’s a few doozies randomly picked off the Breitbart site

  1. On June 9th there was a story about whether a Clinton-appointed 9th SCOTUS Justice would reverse the Heller and McDonald decisions which give Americans Constitutional protection for keeping a gun in the home for self-defense. The article says that the 2nd Amendment guarantees that citizens should be able to carry a weapon outside the home (which it doesn’t) in order to defend against a ‘tyrannical’ government.
  2. On August 15 they ran a column which blamed universal background checks for the mass shootings in California, Colorado, Paris and Munich – “all sites of some of the highest profile and deadliest shootings of the last 18 months.” I thought that the Aurora movie shooting occurred in 2012, and what does Paris or Munich have to do with FBI-NICS?

Breitbart has been pimping for the NRA since it first appeared back in 2007 and declared itself to be the ‘Huffington Post of the Right.’ And if there is one voting bloc on the Right that Shlump has assiduously courted, it’s the gun-owning voter who, it is assumed, might make the difference in swing states like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, not to mention keeping him above water in Southern states like Georgia where his ship is beginning to tilt.

I don’t want to imagine that someone running to be the CEO of the world’s largest corporation could be a captive of such delusions, but I’m beginning to think that from the very beginning, Shlump believed that he could ride a pro-gun wave into the White House if he could just find a way to motivate gun owners to vote.  His panderings about concealed-carry (“…if someone in the Orlando nightclub had been armed…”,) his positive allusions to gun violence (“… I could shoot someone down in the street…,”) and his latest not-so-veiled invitation for 2nd Amendment supporters to ‘deal’ with Hillary, there has never been a Presidential candidate who has so openly and continuously promoted guns as a positive and necessary political stance.

So now it’s time to roll out what I hope is a bit of delusional thinking of my own, except I’m not so sure that I’m wrong.  In the last three Presidential elections, the winner polled more than 60 million votes.  That’s about half the number of adults who live in households which contain guns.  There are 82 days until November 8th. Get it?

Gay Marriage Didn’t Happen Overnight And Neither Will Sensible Laws Dealing With Guns.

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The day after the SCOTUS announced Obergefell vs. Hodges, which legalizes same-sex marriage in all 50 states, Shannon Watts will speak at the national PTA convention in Charlotte, NC.  And if you don’t think these two events aren’t connected in a way that tells us a lot about the future of guns and gun violence, then think again.

The linkage happens to do with the fact that opposition to gay marriage and support of the 2nd Amendment usually go hand in hand.  For that matter, support of gay marriage and opposition to the 2nd Amendment also link together in most public-opinion polling and fundraising efforts that accompany political campaigns.  With a few exceptions, political liberals never bother to use a mailing list from the NRA; political conservatives wouldn’t get caught dead sending out appeals via any of the pro-gay groups.

gay                Don’t get me wrong; I’m not expecting the gay culture or the gun culture to change overnight.  And the response of the various Republican presidential candidates to yesterday’s decision made it clear that law of the land or no law of the land, conservative audiences will continue to be provoked by opposition to gay rights. But when Shannon gets up in front of the national PTAs, she’s going to say what she always says, that the battle against gun violence won’t be won overnight.  And her precedent in this respect will be the fact that less than twenty years ago, coming out of the closet as a gay was still big news.  I’m not saying it will take another 20 years for Congress to pass some sensible gun-control legislation or for the NRA to get real about gun safety and stop peddling the nonsense about how armed citizens protect us from crime.  What I am saying is that you can’t jump into the gun debate and assume that things will change overnight.

Actually, the PTA organization first began talking about guns back in 1999, which was almost a decade after then-Senator Joe Biden introduced the Gun-Free School Zones Act that was signed into law by then-President George H. W Bush.  The law has gone through numerous iterations since then, but it basically imposes requirements on every school district which receives federal aid to set up and monitor a program to keep schools as gun-free zones.  And despite the stupid notion that gun-free zones are less safe, legal efforts to allow teachers and students to bring guns even onto college campuses haven’t gotten all that far. Currently the PTA position on guns goes far beyond whether they should be allowed in schools. Among other things, it calls for restrictions on internet gun sales, waiting periods, safety locks to prevent juveniles from accidentally discharging guns – Shannon should feel right at home.

But the real importance of her appearance at the PTA convention is not so much the fact that what the Moms and Everytown organizations promote in terms of guns and gun safety aligns with the PTA position on guns which nobody’s going to read anyway. What’s really important is that she’s at the meeting, talking to Moms, Dads, teachers, school administrators and others about guns.  What I have always liked about Shannon and the gals is that they get out there to meet and talk to Mr. and Mrs. Average American who, thanks to yesterday’s SCOTUS ruling, will increasingly be the same sex, even if they are man and wife.

Back in April, the Moms held a rally at the NRA meeting in Nashville, and the pro-gun noisemakers like Breitbart immediately assured their followers that the rally was of no consequence because only a few hundred people were outside the convention hall.  I’ve been going to NRA meetings since 1980, and this was the first time that anyone other than some crazy guy with a ‘Jesus Saves’ poster ever walked outside at all.  Want to talk to average Americans about guns?  I don’t notice Wayne-o talking to the PTA.

Why Not Stand In Front Of Kroger’s And Have An Argument About Guns?

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When Shannon Watts and her Moms first started campaigning to turn popular retail destinations into gun-free zones, the pro-gun noisemakers went ballistic, accusing her (and the eminence grise behind her) of all sorts of nefarious schemes to leave Ma and Pa Shopper unprotected from  thugs, criminals, ISIS-wannabes and God knows who else might be trying to kill or maim the American family as it fulfills its self-appointed destiny to shop until we drop. And it didn’t take long for some of the pro-gun bloggers to dig up the usual stories about how several shoppers were held up outside of Target stores which was no doubt caused by Target’s decision to ask customers to leave their guns at home.

Now the gun internet is agog at the most recent efforts by Shannon and her ladies to push yet another retailer – Kroger – into taking a no-gun stance. But this time around they are celebrating the fact that, until now, the supermarket chain has refused to give in. To show you how loony the gun debate can sometimes become, Breitbart pitched in with its usual anti-gun screed by announcing that Kroger’s reported third-quarter profit increase was no doubt due to its refusal to buy into the Mom’s demand that shoppers leave their guns at home.

gun free                I happen to believe that the campaign to create gun-free retail zones is the most creative and positive step ever made by the gun-sense crowd.  What it does, for the very first time, is challenge the most sacred and stupid rationale for gun ownership in this country, namely, the idea that guns protect us from crime.  This idea has been assiduously and constantly promoted by the gun industry for the past twenty years, and it is nothing more than whole cloth.  There is not one, single, credible study that proves any connection between crime rates and access to guns. Period.

Now before all my usual critics send out their comments about how I have finally revealed myself to be against the 2nd Amendment in every shape and form, let me make one thing very clear.  Note in the previous paragraph that I did not say that guns don’t protect us from crime.  What I said is that there’s no evidence to support the argument either way.  In case you didn’t know it, that’s what the word ‘any’ really means.

I can’t blame the gun industry for wanting to make Americans believe that guns are a good way to keep us from getting assaulted, robbed or worse.  After all, once Americans began living in suburbs and getting off the farm, the whole nature of gun ownership began to change.  What are you going to do?  Tell Mr. and Mrs. Suburbanite they still need the shotgun wedged behind the front door to go out and shoot the wolf or coyote that’s hungrily eyeing their cows or sheep?  There ain’t no cows or sheep.

The funny thing is that the gun industry has done a pretty good job of convincing gun owners that there’s still a need to own a gun.  Not only do the polls show that a clear majority of the gun-owning population not only believes they need guns for self-defense, but this is a complete reversal from the results of the same polls conducted twenty years ago which showed that a clear majority of gun owners owned guns for hunting and sport.  The fact that there’s nothing behind this attitudinal shift except incessant, pro-gun hot air is beside the point. People believe what they want to believe.

Which is why I am so impressed with the Mom’s strategy to put feet on the ground and make people think and talk about this issue as they enter retail stores.  Because what better place to meet the ‘average’ American than in front of a supermarket, a mall or a discount chain?  And what better way to challenge the assumptions and marketing riffs of the gun industry than with a direct, face-to-face talk?  You never know.  Maybe both sides will learn what the other side really wants.


Breitbart Does What It usually Does About Guns – Gets It Wrong.

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I don’t usually waste anyone’s time with reactions to editorials or other commentary on the gun business because everyone’s entitled to their own opinion.  But as the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan observed, “we are all entitled to our own opinion but not our own facts.”  And every once in a while someone published an opinion that is so at variance with the facts about guns that I feel it almost to be a civic duty to set the facts straight. This is the case with an editorial published in the Brietbart News calling for the Republican-led Senate to repeal the “burdensome and frivolous” gun control law of 1968 which, according to the editorial’s author, prevents Americans from going to other states, purchasing a handgun and returning with the gun to the state in which they live.

According to the author, A.W. Hawkins, the 1968 Gun Control Act is a “burdensome and unnecessary” law because while at allows residents o one state to travel to another state to purchase a rifle, it prohibits the same kind of transaction as regards handguns.  The author goes on to state that, “the arbitrary nature of the ban is evident in the fact that by law, a law-abiding citizen from one state can walk into a retail store and buy an AR-15, AK-47, or shotgun in another state.”  Not only does this rob consumers of the opportunity to support a “national” consumer market for small arms, but is an example of a “freedom-crushing law” that the Republican majority was elected to remove or change.

control cartoon                Let me break the news gently to Mr. Hawkins.  The prohibition on interstate sales of handguns was not the handiwork of the Gun Control Act of 1968, it was codified in the National Firearms Act of 1938, which amended and extended provisions of the original National Firearms Act of 1934.  The latter statute was passed to control the transfer and sale of automatic weapons, like the so-called ‘Tommy Gun’ that was used by the Capone mob and other gangsters during the Prohibition era, and then became props in all those Hollywood shoot-‘em-ups about Ma Barker, Alvin Karpis and Pretty Boy Floyd.

The 1938 National Firearms Act made it illegal for guns to move across state lines unless they were shipped from one gun dealer to another, a prohibition that covered all firearms and, for the first time required such dealers to acquire a license for interstate traffic in guns from the Treasury Department for the grand total of one dollar per year.  The 1938 law also for the first time created certain categories of “prohibited persons.” Like felons and fugitives, who could not own guns.  The only problem with the 1938 law was that it required dealers to record the sources of all firearms shipped to them from other states, but did not create any kind of regulatory process to verify or validate that dealers were actually maintaining such information.

The Gun Control Act of 1968 closed some of these loopholes by bringing all activities of gun dealers under the regulatory authority of the ATF.  For the first time, dealers not only had to maintain records of the sources of their inventory, but also were required to utilize the Form 4473 for recording detailed personal information about individuals to whom they transferred guns.  The dealer had to verify the gun recipient’s personal information by dint of a driver’s license or other standard type of ID.  Most important, the ATF could visit any dealer, inspect these records, and therefore have access to information about everyone who purchased a gun.

I’m not saying that GCA1968 is a perfect law.  Far from it.  But at the very least it does codify the idea that certain types of people simply should not be allowed to get access to guns.  The Brietbart editorialist isn’t against laws per se; he’s just doing what the pro-gun folks usually do whenever the discussion turns to guns -reduce the debate to the lowest, dumbest denominator because that’s the argument which the NRA can always win.



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