When We Talk About Gun Violence, Aren’t We Talking About Crimes?


For all the talk about a new gun law which is sweeping across both sides of the Congressional aisle following the mass shootings of last week, there seems to be one response to the problem of gun violence which somehow never gets said. And this response would take into account the fact that more than 75% of all gun injuries happen to be crimes. That’s right – crimes. 

Here are the numbers from 2017, rounded off a bit: Unintentional injuries – 15,000; suicides – 21,000; homicides and aggravated assaults – 90,000. Oops, that’s only 72% but it’s close enough. 

I know all the reasons why so many guns wind up in the ‘wrong hands.’ I also know all the reasons why so many shootings occur in inner-city, what we politely refer to as ‘disadvantaged’ zones. The latter topic may not be as popular for trade books as why America is quickly becoming a Fascist state, but a new book on this subject has a way of appearing every year.

Our most eminent gun researchers, Philip Cook and Jens Ludwig, have begun developing a different approach to this whole problem which my friends in Gun-control Nation should spend some time thinking about instead of always promoting the ‘public health approach.’ According to Cook and Ludwig, the average arrest rate for aggravated assaults in major cities is somewhere around five percent.  In other words, if I’m walking down Blackstone Avenue in Chicago and I decide to yank out my Glock and shoot someone else in the head, even if I miss and only hit him in the shoulder, the odds that I’ll get away with the assault are better than nine out of ten.   

The good news for my intended victim is that like most people walking around with a legal or illegal gun, I don’t practice enough to hit what I’m trying to hit. So even using a very lethal round like a 9mm or an S&W 40, chances are my intended target will survive. The better news for me is that when the cops show up and ask the three or four people who witnessed the assault to give them a description of what I look like, what they’ll be able to broadcast over the radio is that they are looking for someone who ‘I didn’t see nuttin’ at all,’ is the way I’ll probably be described.

Know why so many street-corner shootings appear to be just random, drive-by events? Because the nabe knows that if they go to the cops to complain that someone dissed them or someone assaulted them or someone’s just being a pain, the chances are better than even that the cops won’t do anything at all. Yea, yea, I know all about community policing – tell that one to communities of color in Baltimore or Washington, D.C., where the gun-violence rates in both cities have lately increased by more than 30 percent!

Let me make it clear. Believe it or not, I’m very pro-cop.  I earn my living doing lethal-force certifications for local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, and I appreciate the fact that when police show up at a home that is burning down they will rush right in to make sure that all the occupants are safely outside, including the family cat. So the purpose of this column is not (read: not) to dump on the cops.

On the other hand, I don’t understand why anyone who shoots someone else isn’t charged with attempted murder, since the only reason it was attempted and not completed was because the shooter didn’t shoot straight. Unfortunately, according to Cook and Ludwig, that even when someone actually aims accurately enough to leave a dead body in the street, the arrest rate for capital gun crimes is less than 20 percent.

My friends who promote the idea of a ‘public health approach’ to gun violence might take some time to consider the implications of the Cook-Ludwig research. Somehow I just don’t buy the argument that crimes as serious as gun assaults should go unpunished because we don’t want to be ‘judgemental’ about life on inner-city streets.

No Matter Who Wins In November, Gun Violence Still Needs To End.


Like it or not, the race for the White House is right now in a dead heat.  It’s not so much that Shlump-o is rising in the polls, but that HRC is slowly losing ground.  Even my friends who run the Huffington pollster are showing that over the past five weeks she has lost more than he has gained. So just as the Gun Violence Prevention (GVP) movement needs to suggest an intelligent and reasonable (read: it could pass) gun bill based on the premise that Hillary will still win, they also need to begin thinking about developing a post-election stance and agenda in case he whose real name is unmentionable chalks up the big W on November 8th.

hillary3           I know, I know, she’s still in the lead and the debate season has yet to begin. But the emails and her health issues didn’t help and all of a sudden a lead in Ohio has disappeared; what looked like a good shot in North Carolina and Florida is moving the other way.  Without those three states, particularly the Buckeye State, things don’t look all that good.  I’m not saying that we will be listening to an inaugural speech on January 20, 2017 that will commence with a recitation of the 2nd Amendment; I am saying right now that I wouldn’t necessarily give Mrs. Clinton the short odds.

My GVP friends need to ask themselves what they might do if the unthinkable becomes the thinkable over the next four years.  Because the truth is that even if our President didn’t have enough chips to pass Manchin-Toomey, he still has been a consistent and continuous voice on the question of gun violence, and one should never underestimate the value of the ‘bully pulpit’ when it comes to shaping public opinion about guns or anything else. So GVP may have to craft new messaging about gun violence that will not have the blessing or support of the Chief Executive, and what follows are some (albeit very) preliminary suggestions for what that messaging might contain:

  • Let’s stop venerating the 2nd Amendment. Enough is really enough.  The 2nd Amendment does not ‘guarantee’ our liberties; it doesn’t ‘protect us’ from terrorism or other threats.  It is simply a law which, according to the Supreme Court, allows Americans to keep a handgun in their homes for self-defense.
  • Let’s stop pretending that there is a difference between accidental shootings and intentional use of guns in homicides, suicides or aggravated assaults. You don’t make your home ‘safer’ by locking up your guns.  You make your home safe by not owning a gun.
  • Let’s stop promising everyone that gun violence can be reduced by limiting handgun and assault rifle magazine capacity to 10 rounds. What makes guns lethal is how they were designed, not how many rounds can be fired before it’s time to reload.

I’ve been in the gun business one way or another for more than fifty years and I don’t believe there’s some kind of ‘middle ground’ when it comes to the issue of guns.  Either you own them or you don’t; and if you do own them, at least you should have the honesty and the brains to admit that your guns represent a risk that could be completely eliminated if the guns weren’t there.  And that’s what GVP may be facing next year – a President who actually believes that guns don’t represent any risk at all.

But why wait until next year to take a firm and unyielding stance on the issue of guns? Because the truth is that what is really deplorable (to quote a certain Presidential candidate) is that more than 100,000 Americans are killed or badly injured with guns every year.  This extraordinary level of violence is what makes America truly exceptional, and there’s no reason to wait until the results are in on November 8th before figuring out what needs to be done.

A Must-Read Report On Guns And Domestic Violence.


Two new GVP organizations, Prosecutors Against Gun Violence and The Consortium for Risk-Based Firearm Policy, have just produced a new report that deserves the widest possible distribution and discussion.  Entitled Firearm Removal/Retrieval in Cases of Domestic Violence, the report not only highlights the degree to which gun access makes domestic violent so much more violent and deadly, but also presents case studies on removal/retrieval strategies that are currently employed in different states.

domestic              Leaving aside for a moment the report’s content, there is one other significant reason why this is such an important and valuable report.  Because for the first time we have an approach to gun violence which brings together all the major GVP stakeholders: law enforcement, legal, prosecutorial, public health, non-profit, GVP advocacy – I hope I’m not leaving anyone out.  It’s a very impressive list.

To quote the report: “Guns and domestic violence are a lethal combination.” The report cites the fact that there is a five-fold increase in deaths when either person (usually a man) in a domestic dispute has access to a gun.  If the report had given all the scholarly citations which exist to support this statement, we could spend lots of time scrolling down to get to the rest of the text.  NRA nonsense to the contrary (see below), what happens when a gun is part of an argument between domestic partners is an indisputable fact.

Guns can be taken away from persons engaged in domestic disputes either through a Court action or by law enforcement called to the scene of the dispute itself.  The fact that 32 states do not have any statutes authorizing on-scene seizures of weapons is, to my mind, a remarkable failure of government to fulfill its ‘compelling interest’ to keep communities safe. Because no matter how strong or effective a Court-ordered removal/retrieval action happens to be, there will always be some gap in time between when the dispute occurs and when a gun has to be given up.    The report notes that half the women killed by intimate partners had contact with the criminal justice system related to the dispute within one year prior to their deaths.  But when the cops show up at the front door because someone calls them and says that there’s a big fight going on in the apartment down the hall, does this type of incident, which happens all the time, count as ‘contact’ with criminal justice?  I have my doubts.

The part of the report that I find most disconcerting are the maps which show what types of removal strategies are sanctioned by state laws. Typical of state gun laws, it’s a hodge-podge of statutes, with a few states requiring gun removal after the issuance of an order, other states granting implicit removal authority, but many states making no mention of gun removals at all.  In this third group, for example, we find Texas, Missouri, Louisiana and Georgia, which just happen to be four states whose overall gun violence rates far exceed the national average.  Any chance there’s a connection?

The NRA will tell you there’s no connection at all.  In fact, in their obsessive attempts to find new markets, Gun Nation has been trying to convince women, in particular, to defend themselves with guns.  The latest screed in this respect comes from that idiotic loudmouth Dana Loesch, who has just put out another video claiming that gun control is the ‘real war against women’ because only a gun can equalize the physical differences between women and men.

I want to end with a slight editorial which in no way detracts from the value and importance of this report. I have always believed that the term ‘domestic violence’ is perhaps too narrow to really capture and understand what gun violence is all about.  Perhaps 80% of all gun homicides and assaults involve persons who knew each other and most of the perpetrators had histories of violence before the attack occurred.  Don’t we need to find some way to take the guns away from them?



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