Back To Business As Usual.

How do I know that things are back to normal? Because my friends in Gun-control Nation have launched an all-out assault on my good buddy John Lott. The campaign was kicked off by a writer for Media Matters about how John was doing some kind of gig for the Department of Justice and how come taxpayer money is being spent to support this ‘discredited fraud?’

I happen to believe, and I have published a long, academic paper to this effect which you can download here, that John’s work is not only a valid and important piece of academic research, but happens to raise issues that my friends in Gun-control Nation have made absolutely no attempt to figure out at all.

In particular, John’s argument directly addresses why a solid majority of Americans believe that access to a gun is more of a benefit than a risk. And until the gun-control movement tries to figure out why gun owners believe they are safer with their guns than without, how do you ever come up with a valid narrative to convince these gun owners that more, not less gun control should be the order of the day?  You don’t and you can’t.

I happen to like John’s research for two reasons. First, his book, More Guns, Less Crime, is published by The University of Chicago Press. I also happen to be a Chicago Press author, and this premier academic publishing house isn’t in the habit of publishing junk. Much of the so-called academic criticisms of John’s work are the product of individuals who have absolutely no academic credentials or training at all. They use John as a whipping-boy to generate more financial support for organizations that promote gun control. Good for them.

As to the research itself that underlies John’s work, it happens to be another contribution to what has been a cottage industry in academic life, seeking to explain the extraordinary decline in violent crime that began in the early 1990’s and notwithstanding a recent upsurge, continues to this day.  The rate of reported violent crime in 1991 was 716.  In 2016, it was 366.

How and why did this country become a much safer place over the last three decades? One argument is that it’s the result of locking up more bad guys for longer periods of time. Then there’s the argument about better policing of criminal ‘hot spots,’ the use of computer technologies and all that. And let’s not forget what has to be the single most stupid, racist piece of nonsense ever published in any branch of the social sciences, namely the argument linking crime decline to abortion access in the ghetto – the idea being that less children are born into desperate circumstances and hence they commit fewer crimes.

What John found was that violent crime began to drop in many jurisdictions at roughly the same time that these jurisdictions began issuing licenses to carry concealed guns. The tricky part, of course, is to make a cause-and-effect argument between any two trends. And here is where John’s work has been criticized, sometimes valid criticisms, sometimes not.

Want to blame John Lott as the reason why so many Americans own guns? Want to blame John Lott for the extraordinary spike in gun sales which accompanied the emergence and spread of Covid-19? You go right ahead. But I notice, incidentally, that handgun sales in October were 30% less than June sales, even though the virus has been expanding exponentially over the last couple of months.

I was really pleased to see how quickly and effectively the gun-control movement joined up with the Biden campaign. Brady, Everytown, Moms and everyone else did what needed to be done. Now Gun-control Nation can get back to business as usual, which means chasing around after John Lott, which is much more fun than trying to figure out why there are so many gun nuts like me.

What’s The Difference Between An Assault Rifle And A ‘Sporting’ Gun?

              I have to hand it to the gun industry. Their products haven’t changed in form or function for more than 100 years, but they keep finding new ways to package what they keep selling to the same consumers again and again.

              Back in 2000 or 2001, the gun industry started getting worried about the possibility that the ten-year assault rifle ban enacted in 1994 might be renewed, with a renewal leading to a permanent ban. So the industry began promoting the idea that the assault rifle was just another ‘sporting’ gun, the idea being that as long as a weapon only fired in semi-auto mode, it couldn’t be considered a military gun because the troops all carried full-auto guns.

              Oops! The battle rifle that was distributed to U.S. troops beginning in 1994, replaced the full-auto sear with a selective lever which allows the gun to be shot in either semi-auto or 3-shot bursts. So if a trooper decides that the tactical situation requires that he set the gun on semi-auto mode, is he now going into battle with a ‘sporting’ gun?

              Then there was a bigger problem which occurred in 2008, thank to my late friend Tony Scalia, whose majority opinion granting Constitutional protection for civilian gun ownership only covered handguns. His decision effectively meant that all long guns, including assault rifles, were not given any kind of Constitutional protection at all.

              Guess what? In 2015, the city of Highland Park passed a law which gave residents who owned assault rifles two choices: they could get rid of their gun, sell it, destroy it, whatever, or they could keep their gun, sell their house and move out of town. The Supreme Court refused to review the case. In New York State you can own an assault rifle but you had to have acquired it before a gun law, the SAFE Act, was passed in 2013. Ditto in Maryland thanks to a law passed in 2014.

              What will happen if Joe wins the Presidential contest and the Senate turns blue? I guarantee there will be a federal gun law which will either extend background checks to private sales, or ban assault rifles, or both. Which means gun makers better come up with a new product line that can protect them from being the targets of another liberal assault.

              And guess what?  They not only have such a product that can easily take the place of assault rifles in the arsenals of all those law-abiding Americans who really believe that a gun will keep them safe from the Antifa gang. It’s also a product which gives them all the firepower and lethality of an assault rifle without making them vulnerable to any attempt to take assault rifles out of civilian hands.

              Remember – the 2008 Heller decision said that Americans had Constitutional protection if they wanted to keep a handgun in their home. The ruling said nothing about rifles, and in fact a later attempt by Heller to get his personal assault rifle protected by the Constitution was turned back.

              Know the only difference between the standard assault rifle and the Heckler & Koch handgun pictured above? The length of the barrel – that’s it. If a gun has a barrel that is 16 inches or longer, under federal law it’s a long gun and not protected by the 2nd Amendment, which is why the assault rifle ban enacted in Highland Park was upheld. But if a gun has all the same design and function features as an assault rifle but sports a barrel less than 16 inches in length, it’s a handgun, okay?

              What makes the assault rifle so definitively dangerous is one, specific aspect of its design, namely, that it loads from underneath the frame which means it can take a magazine which holds 20, 30, 40 rounds or more. And if the gun has a lever-type of magazine release, which is found on the gun pictured above, a shooter can release and reload a 30-shot magazine in a second or less.

              The kid who shot and killed 26 adults and children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School fired off more than 90 rounds in two minutes or less. Sorry folks, but that’s not a ‘sporting’ gun, I don’t care what Gun-nut Nation says.

I got my flu shot today. Please get yours.

Maybe Some Day The Gun-Control Movement Will Understand What They Are Trying To Control.

So now we have the 9th Circuit in California deciding that a state law banning hi-capacity gun magazines is no good because the law prevents law-abiding California residents from exercising their 2nd-Amendment ‘right’ to self-defense. The Court thus takes the 2008 Heller decision which defined handguns as ‘arms’ traditionally kept in homes for defensive purposes, thus to ‘keep and bear arms’ means that you also need a magazine to use with the gun. And since hi-capacity magazines have been sold with handguns for what is now almost fifty years, these mags fall under Constitutional protection as well.

I didn’t notice any of the so-called experts like John Donahue who were consulted by The (failing) New York Times even consider the idea that maybe, just maybe, these so-called ‘traditional’ self-defense guns aren’t guns designed to be sold or owned by all these law-abiding California residents who need to protect themselves from a home invasion, a terrorist attack or even the spread of the ‘Chinese flu.’

In fact, the so-called self-defense guns which carry hi-capacity magazines – Glock, Sig, Beretta, S&W – weren’t designed for the civilian market. They were all designed to be what the 2008 Heller decision calls ‘weapons of war,’ which even gun-nut Tony Scalia said didn’t deserve Constitutional protection at all.

Gaston Glock built his first hi-capacity polymer handgun in response to an RFP issued by the Austrian Army. It was designed to hold military-grade ammunition (9mm) and it was designed to take a magazine which held 16 rounds. The magazine capacity was specifically considered to be a needed design feature for troops in the field; it was never considered a necessary part of a gun to be kept in the home.

In fact, the United States is the only advanced country which allows gun manufacturers to sell the exact, same gun to civilians that is designed and sold to the armed forces as a weapon of war. When SigArms won a contract to replace the Beretta M9 pistol with its modular 320 gun, the first thing the company did was to ship thousands of those guns to commercial wholesalers for sale to the retail trade. What were the design differences between the gun Sig shipped to the civilian market as opposed to the gun that was delivered to our troops both here and abroad? There was no design difference, as in none.

And all of those Sig pistols, by the way, were shipped to the civilian market with hi-cap magazines, except for the guns shipped to a few Communist states which still maintain the 10-shot magazine requirement from the Clinton assault weapons ban passed in 1994. For those states, Sig thoughtfully provides the gun with 10-shot mags.

I guarantee you that in the aftermath of this loony decision we will be treated to the usual pro-and-con argument about hi-capacity mags, with Gun-nut Nation saying that the 2nd-Amendment ‘guarantees’ the ‘right’ to self-defense, and the other side, our side, saying that ‘studies show’ that hi-cap magazines result in more intentional injuries and deaths from guns. You can find both arguments on display in the afore-mentioned article in The (failing) New York Times.

Until and unless my dear friends in Gun-control Nation realize that a gun designed specifically for the military shouldn’t be in civilian hands regardless of just how law-abiding, reasonable, and responsible those hands happen to be, we will continue to be treated to a debate about gun violence which never gets beyond la-la land.

How do you build a movement to regulate a product when you don’t know anything about the design and use of the product itself? You can’t. How do you convince a majority of Americans that a military weapon isn’t something that should just be lying around in case the bad guy comes crashing into your home? You don’t.

Which is why we still lack any kind of effective or even realistic plan for reducing gun violence at all.

Tom Gabor: Are Armed Groups Protesting Stay-at-Home Orders Merely Exercising Their Second Amendment Rights?

The images are harrowing: Groups of civilians, armed with military-style assault rifles, storming a state legislature and participating in protests in order to dismantle measures designed to fight an epidemic.  The President is egging them on.  To other  countries, this is pure madness and a sign of profound dysfunctionality as a small, aggressive, and  vocal minority is allowed to violate orders, such as safe distancing, installed by duly-elected leaders who have consulted with medical authorities in developing  the measures.    

Does the Second Amendment allow any individual to carry a firearm into any setting for any purpose?  Does the Constitution permit an individual to brandish a firearm (wave it in a threatening manner)?  Are guns allowed at protests? 

The Second Amendment (SA) of the US Constitution reads:

 “A well-regulated Militia, necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The SA was interpreted by the courts for over two centuries as the right to bear arms only within the context of militia service.  In 2008, the US Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller ruled for the first time that individuals had the right to own an operable gun in their homes for protection.  However, writing for the majority in the 5-4 decision, Justice Antonin Scalia—a hunter and a conservative—made it clear that this right was not unlimited and that laws regulating the carrying of firearms, denying gun ownership to felons and the mentally ill, and prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons did not violate the Second Amendment.  The Heller majority noted that historically “commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” Since Heller, an overwhelming majority of Second Amendment challenges to gun laws have been rejected by the courts.

In 1991, Warren E. Burger, the conservative chief justice of the Supreme Court, asserted that the SA “has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud—I repeat the word ‘fraud’—on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”  He stated that it does not guarantee the right to private ownership.  Instead its purpose was to ensure that militias would be maintained for the defense of the state.

Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice and author of The Second Amendment:  A Biography, notes that the phrase “bear arms” in the 18th century referred to military activities. According to Waldman, James Madison’s notes from the Constitutional Convention did not contain a single word about an individual’s right to a gun for self-defense or recreation.   Gun laws throughout the country regulated everything from the storage of gunpowder to the carrying of weapons and courts consistently upheld these restrictions. Four times between 1876 and 1939, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to rule that the Second Amendment protected individual gun ownership outside of a militia. From 1888, when law review articles were first indexed, through 1959, every single article on the Second Amendment concluded it did not guarantee an individual right to a firearm.   

However, in recent decades, the National Rifle Association launched a campaign, including funding research promoting the narrative that the SA guaranteed a right of Americans to acquire guns outside of militia service.  This campaign has convinced most Americans that such a right exists. 

The landmark 2008 Heller ruling took the position that the SA protects a right to self-defense in the home—period.  Gun carrying in public, carrying in sensitive settings (e.g., government buildings, schools), and possession of “dangerous and unusual” weapons could still be regulated.    

Despite the views of constitutional scholars and historians, as well as the limits placed on gun rights by the Supreme Court, over the last 30 years, states have reversed historical trends by adopting right-to-carry laws and 45 allow for the open carrying of firearms. 

However, states have a number of tools to avoid the repetition of the spectacle in Michigan’s Capitol, which arguably represents a frontal attack on democracy and the rule of law.  States can set limits with regard to the manner, settings, and contexts in which guns can be carried. The most obvious thing a state can do is to prohibit open carrying of firearms in government buildings.  For example, North Carolina prohibits the carrying of firearms into government buildings and at protests.  Virginia prohibits gun carrying in certain cities, as well as places of worship, courthouses, and airport terminals.  However, 36 states either explicitly allow concealed and/or open carry at rallies, or do not forbid guns in that setting — and also preempt localities from passing their own laws to keep firearms away from rallies.

States can also prohibit the brandishing of firearms.  In Michigan, legislators felt threatened by armed civilians who stormed the State Capitol.  The intimidation ultimately forced a subsequent session to be shut down to prevent a repeat of the incident.  Michigan does have a statute that prohibits brandishing, the pointing or displaying of a firearm “in a threatening manner with the intent to induce fear in another person.”  This statute was not enforced that day.

In 14th century England, the “Statute of Northampton,” prohibited carrying pistols and daggers in public — whether “secretly” or in the “open” … “to the terror of all people professing to travel and live peaceably.”  The prohibition was adopted by the American colonies, such that, for instance, Massachusetts passed a law barring residents from going out to “ride or go armed offensively, to the fear or terror of the good citizens of this Commonwealth.”  By the mid-19th century, 17 states adopted laws against weapons carrying that resembled North Carolina’s “going armed to the terror of the public” law. Saul Cornell, a legal historian, explained that the rationale underlying such laws was a balancing of gun rights and public safety.

Jeff Welty, a Professor of Public Law and Government with the University of North Carolina, notes that “going armed to the terror of the public” laws are designed to deal with situations in which people with firearms are menacing others in public and appear to be at risk of committing crimes. The laws allow for police intervention at the sight of worrisome gun carrying, without requiring that officers wait until a shot is fired. 

It is important to realize that gun rights today are flourishing in America when compared with the past.   The carrying of concealed weapons was outlawed in 40 states by the end of the 1800s.  Research conducted by John Donohue of Stanford University shows that right-to-carry laws undermine public safety, increasing homicide rates.  Now we see individuals pushing the boundaries of these carry laws—purportedly enacted for self-defense–and intimidating members of the public and even elected leaders.    Will the political will be there to put an end to this conduct and preserve our democracy?  

Is There Something Called ‘Gun Culture?’

              I went to my first gun show in 1976 in Charlotte, NC.  Since then, I have probably been to 200 gun shows in maybe 20 states.  I like gun shows. I wander around, talk to a few dealers and gun nuts, maybe buy something I don’t need, always have a coffee and a bite to eat.

              Do you suppose that going to these shows makes me part of gun ‘culture?’ I hear that phrase all the time on both sides of the gun debate. Gun-nut Nation uses it to set themselves apart from folks who don’t own or like guns; my friends in the gun-control gang use the same phrase when describing their fears about whether or not gun violence will increase.

              I happen to think that the phrase has about as much to do with reality as the veritable man in the moon. The word ‘culture’ means a set of beliefs and traditions held in common by a group of people which define how these individuals think, act, and behave. Know what gun owners have in common? They went out at some point and bought themselves a gun.

              I have had retail gun stores in three different states. I opened my first shop in South Carolina in 1978, my second shop in New York in 1985 and my third shop in Massachusetts in 1991. Together, I probably sold guns to more than 12,000 customers and if I ever asked any of those customers why they  just bought a gun, I can guarantee you the answer would have been, “because I like guns.”

              Now if a GVP-minded gun researcher happened to be in my shop and asked one of my customers the same question, the response would have been something having to do with needing a gun for self-defense, or wanting to maintain 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ or some other answer that would appear to reflect at least a minute’s thought. After all, the guy who just plunked down six hundred bucks isn’t about to tell a gun researcher that he just spent that kind of dough for the hell of it, right? And he doesn’t want to look like a fool because he knows that such a question would only be asked by someone who doesn’t own guns. If you believe that a gun guy would ask another gun guy why he’s buying a gun, then you don’t have the faintest idea about anything having to do with guns.

              If I went into a shoe store to buy myself a pair of Merrell shoes, would anyone say that I was part of ‘shoe culture?’ Of course not. I buy Merrell shows because I like the way they look and feel.  I need another pair of Merrell shoes like I need a hole in my head, but I like Merrell shoes. And the fact that Merrell shoes cost more than other brands of similar shoes, so what?

              Know those guys who have been tromping around lately protesting lock-down orders with their AR-15’s strapped to their backs?  They’ll tell you that the gun is what keeps them free. And that’s what they really believe, or at least they say it’s what they believe. But those jerks aren’t part of any ‘gun culture’ because if they didn’t own a gun, they would still stand in front of the government building and wave one of those stupid, ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ flags.

              About 20 miles from where I live, there’s a fairground that’s the location of a gun show every three or four months. It’s also the location of a model train show twice a year. Are the folks who go to the model train show part of some kind of ‘model train’ culture? No. They’re simply men and boys who like model trains.

              And that’s guns. Men and boys like guns. If the two sides in the gun debate would stop taking themselves so seriously, they might sit down and have a cogent discussion about how to reduce the injuries caused by all those guns.

How Come All Those People In Appalachia Need To Buy Guns?

              Since everyone else seems to be doing it, I am thinking about forming my own group on the internet called I Am A New Gun Nut.  I’ll have a website, a Facebook page, a domain like newgunnut.com, all of which I can create in about 30 minutes at a cost of maybe fifty bucks. Then I’ll find some guy who can make me some t-shirts to sell for $19.95 and let’s not forget a bumper sticker with some kind of logo I’ll design myself.

              I got this idea after reading what has to be the dumbest article of the many recent articles on the COVID-19 gun surge, a piece that appeared in an online magazine and is the work of a free-lance journalist who also writes for The Washington Post, The Daily Beast and The Village Voice. In other words, he’s a guy who doesn’t know anything about guns. But what he does know how to do is go out and interview the kind of people with whom the readership of those liberal websites have never come into contact at all; namely, the alt-right weirdos who have become a fixture of liberal journalistic interest in the Age of Trump. And what could be weirder for liberal readers sitting in the midst of their urban quarantines than residents of the poorest, rural outposts in Appalachia, piling into gun shops to buy their first guns?

              Our intrepid correspondent, Nick Keppler, gets it wrong right from the start when he notes that the FBI conducted more than 3.7 million background checks in March, the highest monthly number since God knows when. The fact that more than half the phone calls handled by the FBI call center had nothing to do with the purchase of guns, oh well, oh well. The fact that background checks for handguns in April had already fallen by 30% from March, oh well, oh well. Why let facts get in the way of a good story, right?

              But here’s where this story becomes so detached from any kind of reality that I really believe I can make a good living by taking Keppler’s totally-fanciful approach to understanding gun sales and creating an online movement that will celebrate the first-time ownership of guns. To support his argument about how first-time buyers are ‘flooding’ into gun stores located in Appalachia, we are given the numbers of background checks in states like Kentucky, comparing checks in March, 2020 to checks in March, 2019.

Comparing month-to-month sales in Kentucky, Keppler says there were 379,268 checks in 2019 as opposed to 235,305 checks this year.  Wait a minute! How can the residents of a state like Kentucky be worried about home invasions during the COVID-19 crisis when there were 40% fewer background checks than last year? And by the way, what Keppler evidently doesn’t understand is that Kentucky is one of the few states which uses the FBI-NICS system to check the status of every gun license issued in the state, whether that individual purchases a gun or not.  Oh well, oh well.

What I like is the comment from our friend David Yamane, a sociologist at Wake Forest University who promotes himself as a tried-and-true gun nut even though he probably doesn’t own five guns. When asked by Keppler to explain the surge in first-time gun buying, here’s what Yamane had to say: “It’s like the toilet paper, if they can’t have anything else under control, they know they have that one thing under control.”

That’s perfect. Simply perfect. When I set up my gun nut website I’m going to offer a free roll of toilet paper in return for a small payment of, let’s say $25, from anyone who joins my group. Maybe you still can’t get toilet paper in Appalachia, but yesterday when I went into my local supermarket to buy food for my three cats, I noticed that the shelves holding toilet paper were chock full. So much for the great surge in demand for guns, toilet paper or anything else.

Another New Study on Gun Violence Gets It Wrong.

Here we go again. A group of well-meaning but entirely ignorant researchers publish an article about gun violence in a so-called peer-reviewed medical journal and they get it completely wrong. Not a little bit wrong, not just a difference of opinion here and there. Completely and totally wrong.

The study, which has been done at least three other times using different dates but the same CDC-generated data, comes to the following conclusion: “States with stricter gun laws and laws requiring universal background checks for firearm purchase had lower firearm-related pediatric mortality rates.” Any study about the use or misuse of guns which refers to subjects above the age of 15 as ‘children’ is simply using an age-based, medical definition which completely distorts how, why, and when people of any age use guns.

In all 50 states, anyone above the age of 15 (in some states the age is 14) can take a safety course and then apply for a hunting license, which is granted without a background check because the individual is hunting with a gun, not buying a gun. The law doesn’t differentiate between hunting with a rifle or shotgun, or going out into the woods with Daddy’s Glock.

Why did the researchers find some kind of correlation between states with comprehensive background checks and states with fewer fatal ‘pediatric’ gun injuries? Because by and large, the states that have imposed comprehensive background checks happen not to be states with lots of residents who go out and try to bag themselves a Bambi every year. Of the 21,241 ‘children’ who died from gun injuries over the five years covered in this study, somewhere around 60% or more of these victims were at least fifteen years old.

Did the researchers ask themselves whether there might have been a connection between whether or not any of these kids had hunting licenses and ended up dead?  Of course not. The entire research team conducting this study happens to be faculty and staff from the George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C.  That’s a really big hunting area for sure.

I’m not saying these fatal accidents occurred when Grandpa or Daddy and Junior were out in the field. I am saying that in families that go hunting, every hunter in the family always has access to the guns. This happens to be a reality of gun ownership that none of the researchers who study gun violence acknowledge or even understand. But how do you study unintentional gun fatalities without taking this issue into account?

Not only don’t the researchers understand this issue, they also don’t recognize the extreme limitations of their research because the CDC data which they and every other gun-researcher uses does not give the slightest indication of how the fatal accident actually occurred. And I guarantee you that if they had such data, it would clearly indicate that the ‘child’ got shot for the same reason that just about everyone gets injured by an accidental discharge of a gun: “Duhhh, I didn’t know it was loaded.”

Over the fifty years that I have had guns in my house, I have shot off a gun accidentally at least seven times. One round went through the front door and out into the street. Another time I knocked a stack of books off a wall. A third time, my twenty-year old son picked up my 45-caliber pistol and blew a hole through our storage shed. Did I ever take the gun-safety course?  I teach the friggin’ course.

Until and unless my friends who do gun-violence research take the time and trouble to sit down with a couple of gun nuts and ask for some help and advice to help them understand the use and abuse of guns, we will continue to be treated to exercises in research that are nothing more than junk science and should be ignored.

I don’t mean to sound so belligerent or nasty, but right now there’s enough nonsense floating around about the COVID-19 problem. We don’t need any more misinformed ideas.

What’s Wrong With Armed, Self-Defense?

              When I got into the gun business back in the 1960’s, if you wanted to buy a handgun, you bought a Smith & Wesson, a Ruger or a Colt. If you wanted a shotgun, you chose from Remington, Winchester, Mossberg or maybe Ithaca Arms. And if you needed a rifle to go out after a white tail, it was a Remington 700, a Winchester Model 70, a Savage, a Marlin or maybe you went high end with a Browning or a Weatherby just for kicks.

              That was then, this is now. And thanks to the invasion of polymer into gun manufacturing, which completely obliterated the distinctive finish and design of each brand, the only thing which determines what gun goes across the counter in the dealer’s shop is price. If you walked around a gun factory in the olden days, you saw a whole bunch of craft shops operating under one roof. Now what you see is one guy sitting in front of a computer, locking a trigger, hammer and barrel assembly into a frame, then carrying the gun from the finishing room into the range where someone shoots it two or three times and it’s good to go.

              Yesterday I received the monthly sales sheet from one of the national gun wholesalers, and I didn’t recognize the name of one company producing a gun being sold to retailers by this distributor at a ‘bargain’ price.  Ever hear of a gun company called TriStar? How about an outfit called Canik? Maybe instead of a name-brand assault rifle like Bushmaster you’d rather buy an AR receiver from Aero Precision, Anderson Manufacturing or a company called Spike’s.

              In all the hue and cry coming from Gun-control Nation, I have never understood why guns are the only consumer products which somehow escape being regulated both in terms of safety and use. Oh no, you say – we can’t regulate the gun industry thanks to the PLCAA law the gun industry received as a gift from George W. Bush in 2005. But as David Kopel has pointed out (and Kopel is no friend of the gun grabbers), PLCCA does not shield the gun industry from any liability if someone uses a gun in a ‘lawful’ way and injures someone else. In other words, after I pull out my Glock and shoot you in the head, I still have done nothing wrong if I can just convince the cops that I was protecting myself from a threat.

              This idea that we should all be carrying guns to protect ourselves has a long and storied history in the United States, going back to when we were still a bunch of colonies operating under British Common Law. But Common Law doesn’t recognize the use of violence to prevent violence unless you happen to be wearing a Crown on your head. And the idea that ‘stand your ground’ laws reflect how White men stole land away from indigenous tribes is total nonsense because White men stole millions of square miles from indigenous peoples in Australia and South Africa and neither country has ever promulgated a ‘stand your ground’ law.

              I am still waiting for the very first attempt by all my public-health researcher friends to explain how and why a majority of Americans believe that keeping a gun around is the best way to defend themselves from crime. As of last year, Gallup says that 37% of American homes contain a gun.  Meanwhile, a majority of Americans also told Gallup they believed the country would be a safer place if more people were walking around with guns. Think the NRA is the reason why even many non-gun owners believe in armed, self-defense? It’s the other way around.

              This country has a unique love affair with small arms, and I’m in the process of writing a book that will attempt to explain it but don’t hold your breath. I don’t even really understand why I’m a gun nut, so how could I possibly figure out anyone else?

Do Safe-Storage Laws Protect Our Kids?

A group of medical researchers have just published a JAMA article about the effectiveness of child-access prevention (CAP) laws, which are also referred to as safe-storage laws. You can download the article right here. Or you can go to JAMA and read it there.  Either way, this is an important article for two reasons:

  1. CAP laws have become a priority with all gun-control organizations and now exist in 27 states.
  2. For the first time, we have a major piece of gun-violence research which clarifies the definition of ‘child.’

Most gun studies define children as being 0 to 20 years old.  The articles cited in the above link to Giffords use 17 and 20 as the maximum age for their studies. But virtually all 50 states grant hunting licenses to anyone above the age of 15, so to refer to them as ‘children’ is nothing more than an attempt to make the problem of gun injury worse than it is, since most gun injuries, intentional or unintentional, occur after the age of 14. To the credit of the researchers who wrote this JAMA piece, they use the age of 14 as their cut-off point.

Here’s the headline: “more-stringent CAP laws were associated with statistically significant relative reductions in pediatric firearm fatalities. Negligence laws, but not recklessness laws, were associated with reductions in firearm fatalities.” Fine – all well and good. But as usual, the devil’s in the details and I noticed one detail which remains unexplained.

This study looked at changes in gun injuries to children beginning in 1991 and ending in 2016, with the before-and-after comparison being set at 1997 when injury rates began to decline in both CAP and non-CAP states. Over the next eleven years – from 1998 through 2008, the decline was greater in the non-CAP states. Only after 2008 do injury rates in CAP states continue to level off (although they do not continue any downward trend) whereas injury rates in non-CAP states show an increase over the last few years.

The research team carefully explains a number of factors that might influence the results, such as an awareness of CAP laws, misclassification of data, etc. But what they don’t discuss is possible explanations for the decline of child gun injuries in non-CAP jurisdictions. A decline which, until 2008, was almost the same in both CAP and non-CAP states.

If you want to understand the effects of any law designed to require a certain type of behavior, at the very least you need to compare the effects of that law to whether or not the same behavior changed in places where the law didn’t exist. But there is also a bigger issue involved with this research.

The researchers make a distinction between laws which deal with access of children to guns in terms of ‘negligence’ (not locking the gun up or away) to ‘recklessness,’ which basically means that someone took a gun out of safe storage and used it in a stupid or careless way.

I happen to live in the state – Massachusetts – which has the most stringent CAP law of all states with such laws. The law states that unless the gun is under ‘direct control’ by a qualified (licensed) individual, it must either be fitted with a ‘tamper-proof device’ or be locked away at all times. No exceptions of any kind.

Guess what happens? The guy is fooling around with his gun in the living room; his son is playing a board game with a friend on the floor. Phone rings in the kitchen, guy jumps up to answer the phone but leaves the gun behind. Kid picks up the gun, points it at his friend – boom!  This act of utter recklessness, which cost an 8-year old his leg (but at least he’s still alive) was committed by a long-time veteran cop who had served his town with distinction for more than 20 years.

I want to commend the authors of this piece for bringing some important clarity to the CAP debate. I also want to remind them and everyone else that we don’t require seat belts for guns.

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.