Will The NRA Survive?


              I have been reluctant to join my many friends in Gun-control Nation who have been exulting in the possible demise of the NRA because as a long-time member (I joined America’s ‘first civil rights-organization’ in 1955) I see the gun group from two very different perspectives. On the one hand, it has become a major political and PR force, using its money and influence to maintain a very public presence in and out of the government-lobbying ‘swamp’ in Washington, D.C.  On the other hand, it continues to be an important social and cultural grass-roots circle for gun owners and gun enthusiasts (read: hobbyists) in hundreds of local communities throughout the fifty states.

              On the political front, I always thought the NRA‘s decision to get into bed with Sleazy Don was a mistake. By cozying up to him so early in the 2016 campaign, the NRA was hitching its wagon to someone who was going to force them not only to support a very radical messaging narrative, but also require a complete and abrupt messaging turnaround from the previous eight years. The NRA was always comfortable demonizing liberals like Obama, but how do you maintain even a shred of credibility when you try to justify the AR-15’s that the dopes were carrying at Charlottesville, particularly the dopes representing the Nazis and the KKK?

              Of course the NRA was going to endorse Trump, they always endorse the Republican candidate, but the endorsement has usually been near the end of the Presidential campaign when it doesn’t really count for all that much. This time around, it was almost as if the NRA‘s ad agency, Ackerman-McQueen, was actually working for the Trump campaign, given the extreme messaging of noisemakers like Dana Loesch who, it turns out, was an employee of the ad agency and not, as it was claimed, working for the NRA.

              Meanwhile, the attempt by NRA to become a media presence through its video channel, NRA-TV, appears to be collapsing alongside the crumbling of the organization itself. Since February, monthly visits to the website have dropped from 370,000 to 200,000, with the decline since the April meeting a startling 35 percent! There is simply no way that this trend can continue much longer without severe repercussions for both Ackerman-McQueen and the NRA.

              On the other hand, the less-noticed but more fundamental activity of the NRA continues to grow and expand. I am referring to the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any lessening of interest and activity on the weekend gun show circuit, with estimates for yearly shows running between 2,000 and 5,000 events, each of which usually attracts at least 5,000 gun nuts who will stroll past the NRA booth which is present at just about every show. Between now and mid-October, Friends of the NRA will be holding 8 social events just within 70 miles of where I live. If I lived in Baltimore, MD I could easily get to 10 weekend NRA events over the same three months. In Georgia, I can go to five events just in July and August alone. At every event there’s some good bar-b-que to eat, a gun raffle, you sit around and shoot the you-know-what with your gun nut friends.

              When it comes to this kind of activity, Gun-control Nation can’t begin to compete with the NRA. And this isn’t just a function of a long-time organizing effort, it also reflects the degree to which many gun owners define their social behavior around their ownership of guns.

              What seems to have happened over the last several years is a clear disconnect between the behavior of the NRA as defined by the leadership of the home office, as opposed to the way the organization relates to its membership in the field. Not to worry, because If the current fight between the NRA and its ad agency results in the collapse of the Fairfax operation, somebody will figure out how to capture and maintain the enthusiasm of all us nuts who really love our guns.    

There’s An Election In 91 Days And The Gun Violence Prevention Community Better Get Out And Work.


Know what?  Utah and Georgia are in play. And if those two states go blue, there goes the Deep South and the Far West.  Which means that Trump-o the Shlump-o might not win a single state.  And the more he tries to act ‘Presidential,’ the more he’s going to sink in the polls, because if he had behaved like any other politician from the git-go, he wouldn’t have won anything.  Not a single primary.  Nada.

trump           Now the latest turn of affairs in the campaign is important for the Gun Violence Prevention community because the whole Trump craziness started – remember when? – he was endorsed by the NRA.  An endorsement that in every single Presidential campaign that I can remember always occurred in late October, and this time around took place before the end of May.  Trump the Shlump wasn’t the ‘presumptive’ Republican candidate when he appeared at the NRA shindig in Louisville; he was well ahead in the delegate count but Cruz and Rubio were still viable candidates, at least in their own minds.

And the decision by the NRA leadership to put their weight behind Street Thug didn’t exactly excite everyone in the crowd at the NRA show; there were some boos, some jeers, Chris Cox had to quiet the crowd by telling them that if they wanted someone else to be endorsed, it was ‘time to get over it,’ and Trump’s appearance didn’t exactly signal the beginning of a love-fest, especially when just one month later his comments about armed citizens shooting back in nightclubs was described by Cox as defying ‘ common sense.’

You see, the problem with this particular New York landlord is that no matter how much people may not like Hillary, they seem to like Street Thug even less.  Forget the national polls which are now beginning to give her a seven-point edge; forget the swing-state polls where she’s up by more than ten points; take a look at the most important poll of all, the poll that tracks whether a candidate is liked or not.  Hillary’s numbers are bad; she’s disliked by 11% more than she’s liked.  But Trump’s numbers, to quote Chris Cox again, defy common sense. Try 63.1% to 31.8%, and I’m not talking about favorable to unfavorable – I’m talking the other way around.

So here we have the Dems running the most unpopular candidate they have ever found and the red team produces a candidate who’s even worse.  And he’s so much worse that every day another Republican office-holder comes out and says, sorry, not for me.  And the announcement by Senator Collins was made directly after Street Thug made an attempt to behave ‘presidential’ in his speech on the economy delivered in Detroit.

So what does all this have to do with guns and GVP?  I’ll tell you what it has to do with.  It has to do with the fact that most gun owners are like everyone else.  They dress the same, they work at the same jobs, they watch the same shows and they think the same way.  Are some of the idiots who show up at Trump rallies with ‘fuck Hillary’ t-shirts the same idiots who march into Starbucks with an AR slung over their backs?  I wouldn’t doubt it for a sec.

But I know lots of gun guys; after all, it’s what I do for a living, and a lot of them tell me they don’t like Trump.  Will they vote for him even though they don’t like him?  Probably will because old habits die hard.  No matter what else, Trump’s a Republican and gun guys know that the GOP may no longer be the party of states’ rights, but it’s still the party of gun rights. Which means that there are 91 days until the election and between now and then the GVP folks better not think about anything else.  Better not.


Don’t Ask Me How, But The Great Trump-NRA Love Affair Seems To Have Cooled.

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Now that Donald Street Thug Trump figures he can’t win anyway because the whole system is ‘rigged,’ it didn’t take him very long to start throwing the people under the bus who got him there in the first place.  And I am referring to the rather interesting state of affairs that appears to be developing between the Trump campaign (if you can call it a campaign) and the NRA, in which it’s beginning to look like the hail-fellow-well-met tone of the initial connection is being replaced with a vague sense of discomfort on both sides.

trump2           For starters, take a look at the NRA-ILA website and scroll through the videos that start right up when you go to the home page.  Last week the montage included, indeed was kicked off with a video and picture of Street Thug himself, now Trump no longer appears.  And while you can still view the 30-second campaign plug by Mark Geist about Benghazi, you really can’t tell whether the NRA has endorsed a Presidential candidate at all.

Trump made a big deal out of the fact that he received the NRA endorsement back in April at the national confab, in previous campaigns the NRA usually waited until the last several weeks before the actual election to endorse the candidate whom everybody knew they were going to endorse anyway.  But let’s remember that it was Trump’s shout-out about his support of CCW after the mass shooting in Paris which forced all the other Republican Presidential wannabes to line up and fervently bless the 2nd Amendment as well.

But then the love affair started to cool down because Trump as usual couldn’t keep his mouth shut and declared himself in favor of prohibiting people on the ‘no-fly’ list from getting their hands on guns while the NRA was, as usual, hewing to its standard line that the government couldn’t deny anyone gun access without due process, which in case you didn’t know what ‘due process’ means to the NRA it basically means no process at all.  Then there was supposed to be a kiss-and-let’s-make-up meeting to straighten things out which never took place and finally the whole thing was forgotten because no doubt Trump stuck his foot in his mouth off about something else.

You can put that whole episode down to just a misunderstanding except that right around the same time an incident occurred that changed the whole tone of the Trump-NRA love affair because in response to Trump’s statement after massacre at the Pulse that things would have ‘turned out different’ if patrons inside the club had been armed, the NRA sent its chief political honcho, Chris Cox, onto to ABC-Television to say that the NRA would never support carrying guns into nightclubs and that such an idea ‘defied common sense.’ Woops! The guy the NRA endorsed for President didn’t possess common sense?

But things got even better this past week when the Trump campaign sent out a fundraising letter that was received by gun owners in which they were asked to rate the importance of different items which together comprise the ‘Trump Agenda’ or what he will do after he takes office on January 20, 2017.  And while the agenda contains the usual bromides like tax reform, fighting Islamic terrorism and negotiating better trade deals, protecting the 2nd Amendment is completely missing from the list.

Of course the argument can always be made that the Trump mob doesn’t need to be reminded about their guy’s fervent love of gun ‘rights’ because, after all, look who’s running for the Dems.  But I have watched numerous Trump rallies on YouTube and today I saw yesterday’s rally in Columbus, Ohio at which Street Thug spoke for an hour and didn’t mention the 2nd Amendment even once.  So the bloom is off the rose and it will be interesting to see if the two sides can recapture the passion that emerged when they first began their affair.  On the other hand, the NRA would hardly be the first Trump supporter to jump ship.

What’s The GVP Community Going To Do About Trump? They Better Do Something.

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When was the last time that gun violence was a defining issue in a national political campaign? Never.  The stories still circulate about how the NRA knocked off Al Gore in the 2000 election, but whether or not that was true, neither Bush nor Gore ever went strong for or against the gun vote per se.

But this time it’s different.  Hillary has used gun violence quite effectively against ‘crazy’ Bernie, and she’s evidently going to carry this strategy over to the general election against the Shlump.  That is, if she’s the candidate.  Which is why I referred above to the Senator from Vermont in the vernacular.  Who knows?  It’s been an altogether different kind of campaign.

trump2           And one of the major differences is the degree to which guns figure so prominently in the campaign rhetoric on both sides.  It started with Trump who began boasting of his love affair with the 2nd Amendment following the murder of two television journalists in Virginia; the issue was then ramped up by Hillary after the killings at Umpqua CC.  Trump now routinely tells his adoring fans that he’ll scrap gun-free zones on ‘day one,’ even though an Executive Order cannot be used to change Federal law (parenthetically, the failure of the ‘mainstream’ media to vigorously attack Shlump-o for his outright and endless lying is an absolute disgrace for which they should all be fired); Hillary will no doubt put expanded background checks at the top of her legislative agenda.

As might be expected, the NRA is going all-out to promote themselves and their members as the first line of defense against a new wave of gun grabbing promoted by Hillary and her friends.  Do I get a daily email from Chris Cox reminding me how critical it is to donate to the NRA-ILA so that friendly, pro-gun politicians can get elected or re-elected on November 8th?  Is New York a city?

I also get appeals from Brady and other GVP organizations to support their work, but the increasingly belligerent rhetoric about gun ‘rights’ employed by the Shlump campaign goes unnoticed and unmentioned.  The last two fundraising communications from GVP organizations talked about conducting a ‘reasoned conversation’ and asking Congress “to take immediate action to pass commonsense gun safety measures.”   Neither mentioned that Trump is going around the country saying that he’ll sign a 50-state, reciprocal CCW law.

So folks, let me break the news to you gently. If Republicans retain control of Congress and President Shlump is installed at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, I guarantee you that such a bill will be on his Oval Office desk within 30 days. At which point, when it comes to ‘sensible’ GVP regulations, or any other efforts to reduce gun violence, no matter how politely you package it, the gig is up.

And don’t make the mistake of thinking that once the nominating conventions are over, that you can use the specter of that wavy-haired jerk in the White House as a good fundraising device, because you’ll have too much competition on that playing field as well.  For every GVP money request I currently receive, I get at least five from crazy Bernie and just as many or more from the Clinton campaign.  And the folks running for local and statewide races both in my state and other states haven’t even started to gear up.

I don’t sit on the inside of any GVP organization so maybe I don’t really know what’s going on.  But what I hope is going on is a discussion about the Trump menace not within each GVP organization but between organizations.  Because if the GVP community doesn’t get together, plan and implement a united strategy that can maximize resources in the struggle against what is certainly a united effort on the other side, then the NRA might again take credit for the results of another national election and their candidate will owe them big time.  Think about that.

At The CNN Town Hall Obama Hit The Nail On The Head.


Want to get to the absolute highlight of Obama’s Town Hall discussion about guns?  Go to the one-hour mark of the video and listen to how he responds to a question from Mark Kelly about the alleged desire on the President’s part to take away everyone’s guns.  I’m not going to tell you what he said, but I will say that his response effectively demolished one of the NRA’s most sacred talking-points, namely, the idea that any gun-control laws will lead to registration, which will lead to confiscation, which will lead to fascism, which will lead to God knows what. And the reason he demolished it was the same reason why he presented a remarkably-effective argument about gun violence in general; namely, because the entire event allowed him to focus everything he said on the average American for whom concerns about gun violence are, at best, a passing thing.

bomber                 When do most of us think about gun violence?  When there’s a horrific shooting at San Bernardino, Umpqua or Sandy Hook.  Beyond that, the 84 gun deaths that occur every day get little, if any attention at all.  And when there is a response from Washington, the pro-gun gang can ramp up the energies of the folks who believe that aliens landed at Area 51 and get them to yell and shriek about how nobody’s going to take away their guns. And if you think I’m overdoing it, take a look at Wayne-o’s video message which begins with the claim that the Federal Government “would disarm us during the Age of Terror.”

So it was really refreshing to hear Obama answer questions, a majority of which came from pro-gun men and women, all of whom politely told the President that they didn’t believe his proposals would necessarily achieve his own goals, namely, reducing gun violence by keeping guns out of the wrong hands.  And because he was answering questions from folks who clearly were not on the GVP side, this gave him the opportunity to reach out not to the community that is already convinced that guns pose a risk, but to the much larger community of folks whose minds may not yet be made up.

Of course the immediate response from the pro-gun gang, predictably, was that the President had once again failed to get anything positive done.  As the Town Hall was ending, CNN switched to a quick comment from conservative mouthpiece Hugh Hewitt, who called the President’s performance ‘disappointing’ and ‘divisive,’ and this was followed by Wayne-o’s lapdog, Chris Cox, who told Megyn Kelly that “this President’s no longer credible to speak to the issues of law-abiding gun owners.” I wasn’t surprised that the NRA declined an invitation to attend; about the last thing Wayne-o will do is debate, quietly and objectively, his loony claim about how America’s Number One Liberal wants to take away all the guns.

Again and again the President made the point that none of his actions would ‘solve’ the issue of gun violence; his actions would have small, incremental results at best.  The most powerful moment was when he said, “I know we aren’t going to end 30,000 gun deaths each year.  But what if we can reduce that number by two thousand?  Those are two thousand families that don’t have to bear the tragedy and heartbreak of losing someone to a bullet.”

This is when all the shrieking about the 2nd Amendment begins to lose its effect.  Because now the President is talking about something that the average person, gun owner or not, can understand.  CNN may have wanted the NRA to attend the Town Hall, but Obama’s couldn’t have cared less. He knows he’s wasting his time trying to convince the Area 51 crowd that he isn’t trying to grab their guns.  It’s the rest of us who want solid, believable answers and solutions to the problems we face every day.  When it comes to the problem of gun violence, Obama talked the talk.

The Bad News For The NRA Is There Are Lots Of People Who Believe ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill.’

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                 Yesterday I found myself in the company of 150 people from all over the United States who came to Washington, DC because they want to do something about gun violence.  What they don’t want to do is entertain the stupid idea that more guns will protect us from violence and crime. That crap used to be promoted only by connivers like John Lott who used this insultingly unfounded nonsense to build a following on the red-meat lecture tour.  But now it’s been taken up by lackluster, red-striped Presidential wannabes who will stoop no matter how low to try and spear a few votes. The group that convened in DC was decidedly of a different sort.

It was an eclectic assemblage, representing national and state-level advocacy groups, political and policy experts from within the Beltway and without, researchers, activists from all over the place, in every respect a serious-minded and, more important, an energetic  group of folks.  I have been following the gun debate going back to the 1960s; in other words, before there was a real debate.  And I don’t remember a time when so many different types of people from so many different backgrounds were as committed to serious and continuous efforts to reduce or eliminate the violence caused by guns.  And just in case any NRA sycophant or 2nd-Amendment devotee wants to argue the case, let me make one thing completely and perfectly clear: it’s the gun stupid, it’s the gun.

peacenow                So I sat, watched and listened to speakers at the National Gun Violence Prevention Coalition Annual Meeting and I came away with the following thoughts.  First, the level of gun violence, both mass shootings and individual events, can no longer be justified or excused just because the 2nd Amendment protects individual gun rights. Since August, for example, there’s been a guy or maybe guys who have been shooting at motorists riding through Phoenix on Interstate 10. To date there have been at least eleven confirmed shootings, and the only good news is that’s it not that easy to hit someone in a moving car.

Now if you can explain to me how a lawfully-armed citizen walking around with his or her gun should be considered as a bulwark against this kind of crime, I’ll meet you tomorrow at the Morton’s Steakhouse of your choice and pick up the tab. According to the Gun Violence Archive, by year’s end the death toll from shootings may exceed last year’s number by 20 percent. The day in, day out reports of what appears to be an endless spiral of gun violence has clearly aroused more than its usual share of concern, and this concern was clearly evident at the DC conference this past week.

The NRA’s response to this situation is to have Chris Cox find an instance where an individual, in this case Vester Flanagan, used a legally-purchased gun to commit mayhem, the “proof’ that more laws won’t do anything to stop violence caused by guns.  This argument is so dumb I’m surprised that even a twit like Cox would try to foist it on the members of the NRA.  To follow his logic, the next time that there’s a pile-up on the Interstate we’ll understand why speed limits don’t help to save lives.

I spent a few minutes at the conference speaking quietly and emotionally to the parents of a young man who was among the 12 audience members killed in Aurora by James Holmes.  They told me they needed to help prevent more tragedies like the tragedy that resulted in the loss of their son.  I told them I don’t think it’s possible to understand what happened in Aurora in rational terms, but what they are doing will have a rational and objective end.  And the end will be that gun violence will disappear because ways will be found to respond to their courage and their strength.  There is, after all, a moral imperative called Thou Shalt Not Kill.


Even When The NRA Fudges The Facts, It Doesn’t Really Matter At All.

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I just received my weekly email call to arms from Chris Cox, who runs the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action.  It’s not really a call to arms, it’s a call to my wallet so that the NRA can continue to protect my 2nd-Amendment rights.  And this week’s appeal has a cute twist to it because it solicits me to take a poll called the 2015 Gun Rights Action Survey.  So in the interests (to quote don Corleone) in keeping my friends close but my enemies closer, I opened up the poll and I want to share the questions with you.

Basically the poll asks me whether I support or oppose laws that have been introduced at the federal level and in various states.  The answers will go a long way, according to Cox, to refute the lies told by Obama, Hilary, Mike and the rest of the gun-grabbing gang which, if left unchallenged, would surely result in my guns being taken away.

     Chris Cox, NRA-ILA

Chris Cox, NRA-ILA

Here’s a question which illustrates the kind of ‘lie’ the gun grabbers want me to accept: “Do you support or oppose H.R. 1217 – a new proposal in Congress that would implement Barack Obama’s national gun registration scheme?”  Of course I oppose it. What freedom-loving American wouldn’t oppose it?  How dare Obama try to set up a national registration that will then lead to confiscation, right?

Duhhh . . . wrong.  Because if you take the trouble to actually read the text of H.R. 1217, you’ll discover that the bill does nothing of the kind.  In fact, what it does is provide money to help states update the mental health records that they are supposed to send to NICS, a policy that the NRA has been supporting for years.  Remember Wayne-o’s demand after Sandy Hook that we need to “fix” the mental health system at the same time we put an armed guard in every school? I got news for you – that’s exactly what this bill does.

H.R. 1217 was introduced by Peter King (R-NY), who got a ‘D’ rating from the NRA because he voted for a bill that would have provided some scant, and I mean scant regulation over gun show operators.  He also voted for several bills that would have made gun dealers liable for the “criminal misuse” of any gun they sold, and he also voted ‘yes’ to require NICS background checks to be completed within 24 hours if the gun was purchased at a gun show. So King is hardly any kind of rock-ribbed gun grabber, but tell that to the folks who work for the NRA-ILA.

In any case, his H.R. 1217 bill does the following: it gives grants to states “to improve the automation and transmittal of mental health records and criminal history dispositions.” There’s some other boilerplate language but that’s what the bill does.  Period.  Want to know what it doesn’t do? It doesn’t “allow the establishment, directly or indirectly, of a federal firearms registry.”  Now I’m not paraphrasing or summarizing the bill – I’m quoting the language directly.

So how does a piece of legislation that specifically prohibits the creation of a ‘federal firearms registry’ turn into a bill that would “implement Barack Obama’s national gun registration scheme?”  I’ll tell you how.  It happens because Chris Cox simply lied.  Period.  End of story.  And want to know why he can lie with such impunity?  Because nobody who gets this email is going to read it anyway, nobody other than a few miserable contrarians como yo.

The NRA has done a superb job creating an army of devoted and loud followers who not only believe everything they’re told, but want to believe it, no questions asked.  And they know they can depend on the NRA to stick up for their gun rights, even if they catch Chris Cox in a little lie.  The problem with gun-safety advocates is they believe their concerns about gun violence should align with the facts.  It’s time to wake up to the fact that the other side doesn’t care.

How Much Does Gun Violence Cost? Mother Jones Has A New Number.


Economists and public health researchers have been trying to figure out the costs of gun violence for more than twenty years, and the latest estimate, just published in Mother Jones, puts the total tab at $229 billion. This isn’t the first time that attempts have been made to estimate gun violence costs; Philip Cook and Jens Ludwig published an entire book on the subject back in 2002, and they put the annual figure at $100 billion – surely the number couldn’t have more than doubled in the past 15 years,  particularly since the number of robberies, assaults and homicides have all declined from the earlier date.  In fact, the lead researcher for the Mother Jones piece, Ted Miller, said in 2010 that gun violence was costing the U.S. $170 billion, which means that somehow total costs have increased by 35% over the last five years.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not playing Monday-morning quarterback and casting aspersions or doubts on the research and analysis presented in Mother Jones.  Anyone who believes that gun violence isn’t a public health issue of major proportions might as well join Wayne-o, Chris Cox, Larry Keane and other professional gun delusionists in promoting the idea that guns don’t represent any risk at all.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a serious discussion among rational-minded folks about the ways in which we understand and frame the debate about guns.  The Mother Jones report is a serious contribution to that discussion and I’m responding to it on those terms.

conference program pic                The report breaks things down between direct and indirect costs, the former reflecting such expenses as medical care, policing, emergency services and penal  charges (courts and incarceration), the latter reflecting what the researchers call “less tangible” costs, such as lost income, quality of life impacts and labor replacement.  I would rather refer to these two categories by the qualitative value of the data, because most of the direct costs can be calculated from governmental budgets covering policing, medical care and penal institutions, whereas the indirect costs are estimates at best, and may or may not be based on any real numbers at all.  The direct costs of America’s annual gun carnage is estimated at less than 4% of the $229 billion total, of which incarceration accounted for 94% of the direct cost total for homicides, but only a fraction of that amount for each aggravated assault.  Miller and his associates claim that incarceration costs $414,000 per homicide; Cook and Ludwig set the cost at $244,000.  Could this number have nearly doubled in 15 years?  The overall gun violence costs appear to have more than doubled during the same period, so why not?

Moving from direct to indirect costs presents other types of data issues which I’m not sure are discussed with the sensitivity and acuity which they deserve.  The biggest one to me is the attempt to calculate the economic value of a human life which is based primarily on estimates of what that person would have earned had they lived out a normal life term.  And even though the report calculates the number to be significantly lower than estimates from various government agencies, any such estimate is based on assumptions about the economy’s long-term performance that may or may not be true. Those of us who watched out 401Ks shrivel in 2007-2008 or got called into the boss’s office at 4 P.M. on a Friday afternoon, know how dangerous it is to attempt to predict any degree of financial or economic performance out beyond the next couple of months.

When it comes to gun violence there’s a moral imperative – thou shalt not kill – which transcends any discussion about numbers even though the gun industry evidently feels that it doesn’t apply to them.  The cautions above should not detract at all from the value of this report which reminds us again that the real cost of gun violence, the cost to our humanity and decency, remains to be solved.

Book Review: Rise of the Anti-Media, Informing America’s Concealed Weapons Carry Movement

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The author of this book, Brian Anse Patrick, has given us a work which deserves to be discussed and read. In the interest of full disclosure, I have been engaged in a lively and somewhat combative email discussion with the author, but our disagreements in no way detract from the seriousness and value of his work.  So let’s see what he has to say.

The book is a very detailed history of how CCW laws were expanded and revised beginning in the late 1980’s with a particular focus on events in Ohio, Michigan and Florida.  Patrick places these developments within a broader historical recounti ng of concealed-carry laws and practices from before the Civil War up through present-day events, noting that much of the pressure for change came from a new gun ‘culture’ that embraced the use of guns for self-defense, thus displacing the more traditional gun culture which was all about hunting and outdoor sports.

patrick                The energy and activity that brought about the acceptance of CCW, according to Patrick, came largely from grass-roots, voluntary associations of gun owners who shared information, strategies and tactics through what the author calls “anti-media” channels that received and transmitted information horizontally via the internet rather than utilizing top-down resources which reflected establishment, anti-CCW views.  The push for CCW not only had to overcome the usual anti-gun prejudices of the political establishment, but also forced mainstream gun organizations like the NRA to abandon what had been a traditional reluctance to promote concealed-carry within their own ranks.

This is hardly the first time that Americans have come together on a voluntary basis to share information and develop or implement strategies for making the general public more aware of an issue that was of paramount importance to them.  Nor is it unusual for such horizontally-structured movements to then be subsumed and incorporated into the larger, top-down groups and organizations that later decide to take up the same cause.  There wasn’t a single college campus that didn’t have an anti-war group, SDS for example, long before the mainstream media, liberal labor unions and the Democratic party discovered there was a place named Viet Nam.  These campus groups (I was a member of one such group in 1963) didn’t trust the established media and used very unorthodox and largely unseen methods to maintain contact and build a national anti-war movement that only was embraced by the general public following the Tet offensive in 1968.

Patrick does an excellent job of explaining and documenting the effectiveness of such voluntary groups in the push to create legal and social acceptance of CCW.  Where he and I part company, however, is in his effort to vest in these voluntary CCW associations a greater awareness and accurate knowledge about guns and the wider world simply because they communicate through informal, horizontal channels and do not rely on the artificially-packaged, frequently erroneous world views of top-down media and corporate points of view.  He too often assumes that just because people gain their information from sources that have not been tainted by the mainstream media, that this makes their information more correct.  Many of these people, for example, were absolutely convinced that the retail ammunition shortages experienced after Sandy Hook were symptoms of an Obama-led conspiracy to keep gun owners from being able to defend themselves with their guns.  Patrick also spends a little too much effort constructing and then demolishing the straw horse known as the liberal bias against guns.  Do we need yet another author to argue that liberals and guns rarely, if ever mix?

Yesterday I received my now-daily email from the NRA’s Chris Cox begging me to push some money his way for the 2014 Congressional campaign.  From the way he talks you would think that Armageddon will occur if the election map on November 5 isn’t colored bright red. The NRA goes to great lengths to make gun owners believe they are members of the country’s most persecuted minority but Patrick’s recounting of how CCW has spread across the land undercuts that point of view.  The NRA would probably make a lot more friends in the non-gun community if it would simply admit the truth, which is that the battle for CCW is largely over and it’s time to move on to better things.

Can The NRA Sell Their Message To The Millennial Generation?

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Even though violent crime has declined by more than 50% over the last twenty years, it’s not surprising that Wayne LaPierre and other promoters continue to justify gun ownership as our first, last and most sacred form of personal defense.  After all, guns are found most frequently on farms, rural communities and smaller towns.  Bye-bye farms and rural living, bye-bye guns. Thirty years ago a majority of small arms manufactured in the United States were rifles and shotguns; now more than 60% are handguns and the percentage would be even higher were it not for a surge in assault-style rifles which are often sold as weapons that can be used by the ‘good guys’ to keep the ‘bad guys’ out of sight.

Going forward the news for the gun industry and its advocacy organizations like the NRA doesn’t hold any silver linings, at least any that can be found in a very detailed poll conducted by the Pew Foundation on the outlook of the Millennial generation, aka, persons aged 18 to 29.  The Pew poll summed up Millennials as follows: “They are more ethnically and racially diverse than older adults. They’re less religious, less likely to have served in the military, and are on track to become the most educated generation in American history. Their entry into careers and first jobs has been badly set back by the Great Recession, but they are more upbeat than their elders about their own economic futures as well as about the overall state of the nation.”

Wow.  That’s hardly the profile of the NRA stalwarts who gathered last week in Indianapolis to hear Wayne LaPierre, Chris Cox, Oliver North and the other harbingers of doom tell them that the country was quickly going to hell in a handbasket and that only a gun and a good dose of patriotism would keep the criminal hordes away from knocking down their doors.  In the first four minutes of her speech, Sarah Palin referred to the anti-gun threat sixteen times and made it clear that only a Republican sweep in November would guarantee American freedom and basic rights.  And what did the audience look like that whooped and hollered as these well-worn bromides were being served?  Mostly male, mostly 50 or older and totally White.

The NRA and the gun industry have done a really great job making that kind of audience feel like they are under attack. They’ve done an equally good job pushing the idea that modern life is fearful and fear can be overcome if you own a gun.  The problem is, that even after a prolonged recession when many younger people had great difficulty finding jobs, the Millennials are the most optimistic and the least fearful of all population groups, and remain the most convinced that their future dreams will come true.  They aren’t tying these thoughts to a Republican win in November; they see the world through their own eyes, and those eyes aren’t focused on the NRA.

If Millennials maintain this very distinct world view as they get older, the problem of gun violence may take care of itself.  Because even though many younger people think that guns are “cool,” (after all, they were raised on video-games,) they don’t see the world as a dark or forbidding place.  And it’s that dark and dangerous world that the gun industry and the NRA has been using to sell more guns since everyone started leaving the farm.

evolve-badgeWant to see the kind of gun message that Millennials will like?  Take a look at this video produced by my friends Jon and Rebecca Bond for their organization called Evolve.  It’s, hip, it’s cool, it delivers a serious point about guns but makes it in a clever and sophisticated way.  I have never seen a message like this coming from the gun industry because they haven’t figured out how to speak to the generation that will either become or not become their customers and supporters in the years ahead.  And if  they don’t figure out how to do it the Bonds and other Millennial-conscious organizations will end up owning the debate.