Want To Argue About Nothing? Try Concealed-Carry Or Gun-Free Zones.


One of the issues which can always get everyone hot and bothered on both sides of the gun debate is the issue of gun-free zones. On the one hand, proponents of armed, self-defense (John Lott, et. al.) argue that denying folks the right to carry their self-defense gun into a public space makes that space a likely target for any nut who wants to commit mass mayhem using a gun. On the other hand, maintaining and/or expanding gun-free zones is seen by Gun-control Nation as a fundamental strategy for reducing the 125,000+ injuries that we suffer each year from the use/abuse of guns.

I happen to believe that both arguments are bunk and do not, in any way, shape or form, align with the relevant facts. This is because we don’t know the relevant facts, nor has anyone even attempted to figure them out. But making arguments without any factual underpinnings is hardly a new approach when it comes to advocating for or against anything, particularly when it comes to advocating an issue as emotionally-laden as the issue of guns.

It just happens to be the case that most public spaces are gun-free zones, and that’s not about to change. The reason that John Lott says that most large-scale shootings occur in gun-free spaces is because prohibitions on carrying personal firearms are typical of shopping centers, auditoriums and stadiums, which happen to be the places where many people congregate at the same time. Federal law also designates all public K-12 schools as gun-free zones. 

The other problem in the gun-free zone universe is that the issue is confused because it’s often attached to a second gun argument which is equally mis-stated on both sides, namely, the issue of mass shootings which, by definition, occur in places where lots of people congregate at the same time. The commonly-accepted definition of a ‘mass shooting’ is an event in which four or more persons are killed, but this usually excludes shootings in private residences or shootings in the street between rival gangs. So, for example, the gunfire which erupted on May 17, 2015, between two motorcycle gangs in a Waco, TX restaurant parking lot wouldn’t necessarily make the mass-shooting hit list, even though 18 bikers and bystanders were injured and another 9 ended up dead.  And by the way, how come we don’t hear about this event as being the ‘proof’ that armed citizens can prevent crimes when just about everyone standing outside the Twin Peaks Restaurant that day was carrying a gun?

On the other hand, what makes my friends in Gun-control Nation crazy about expanding gun-free zones is that invariably this proposal is tied to the increase in concealed-carry licensing, which is on its way to covering more than 20 million gun owners at last count. But if you want to argue that an increase in armed citizens leads to an increase in gun injuries you’ll find yourself facing two facts which don’t bear this out.

First, although the latest numbers of CCW puts the national figure at 17.5 million, this figure may represent more than five times the number of people actually walking around on a regular basis with a loaded gun. Do these 3 million gun-toters represent a serious threat to community safety and health? To answer that question we turn to our friends at the Violence Policy Center whose report, Concealed Carry Killers, found that between 2007 and 2017, roughly 1,000 people shot themselves or others with legally-carried guns, the division between homicide and suicide about 50 percent. Over that same eleven-year period, more than 350,000 Americans overall died from gun homicides and suicides. Ok? Get it?

Nobody has yet to come up with a definitive explanation for whether or not shooters, particularly mass shooters, are attracted to gun-free zones. But as far as I’m concerned, the whole issue of concealed-carry and gun-free zones is a side-show when compared to figuring out what to do about the daily, run-of-the-mill shooting events that each year now claim more than 40,000 lives.

Should The ACLU Defend The NRA?


The decision by the ACLU to defend the NRA against an attack by Andy Cuomo raises a significant issue that needs to be considered and understood by everyone involved in the debate about guns. What I am referring to is the brief filed by the ACLU supporting the NRA’s lawsuit against Andy who sent a notice to banks and other financial institutions telling them to avoid doing business with the NRA, a strategy which the NRA claims is not only  a financial disaster for America’s ‘first civil rights organization,’ but is also a violation of the 1st Amendment right to free speech.

Republican National Convention              One quick word about the relationship between Andrew Cuomo and the gun industry which I have yet to see mentioned in any media coverage of this case. In fact, it was Cuomo who, as Secretary of HEW under Clinton, cobbled together the infamous deal that would have allowed Smith & Wesson to avoid any and all tort claims, in return for adopting a code covering the behavior of its dealers which would have basically ended the company’s ability to make and sell guns. So, Cuomo is not only a real bête noir for Gun-nut Nation, he’s basically at the top of the list. Is there any chance that Andy may have been motivated to pursue this gambit because he was feeling some electoral pressure from Cynthia Nixon, an actress and activist who was putting together a primary challenge from the Left?

Evidently there has been a significant amount of turmoil within the ACLU of its decision to give the NRA a helping hand. Which is hardly a new situation within the ACLU, given its long history of defending the free speech of various right-wing groups, including the American Nazi movement which had ACLU representation when it went to court in 1977 to secure a permit to march through Skokie, a Chicago suburb whose residents included a substantial number of Jews.

In the current confrontation between Cuomo and the NRA, the organization and its ACLU defenders are basically saying that if a public official can use his authority to intimidate and/or punish the gun-rights group for their offensive speech, then what would stop another public official from using the same bully pulpit to go after a group like Black Lives Matter, or any group with which the official disagreed? The argument is a little specious, if only because BLM isn’t out there selling insurance and other financial products to its members, nor does it rake in two hundred million bucks every year from membership dues. But the 1st Amendment protection does not and cannot be applied only to groups who are vulnerable because of their small checkbook balances; the ‘rights’ stand by themselves regardless of whose ox gets gored.

On the other hand, our friends down in Fairfax at NRA headquarters have a rather interesting approach to the question of how they promote and affirm their support of free speech. Because they aren’t just defending someone’s right to get up and shoot his or her mouth off about the ‘right’ to own and use a gun. The NRA also defends and strives to promote the idea that gun owners can also show up at public events openly carrying their guns. After all, isn’t this the essence of the NRA’s demand to abolish gun-free zones?

Don’t give me any nonsense about how the idiots who stood in front of the 2016 Republican convention with their ARs at the ready were exercising the ‘right’ to free speech. They were reminding the media that a Presidential candidate was about to be nominated whose campaign would receive an unprecedented load of cash from the NRA.

I have no problem with the boys in Fairfax supporting Sleazy Don. I do have a problem with anyone who walks around toting an AR in a public space. That’s not free speech. That’s childish and stupid behavior, neither of which has ever been protected by the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.


And Now Trump Becomes An Expert on Gun-Free Zones.


One of the problems with talking about mass shootings is that everyone seems to have a different definition of what the term ‘mass shooting’ really means.  What is really interesting about this subject is the fact that the U.S. has so many shootings that we can create different categories of what constitutes mass shooting and what does not. How many people have to get killed at one time? Some say four, others say five. Others go so far as to say that it doesn’t really matter how many get killed; it’s the number of people who get shot by the same guy whether they live or die.

mass attacks                                  There’s also an argument about where a shooting resulting in multiple victims takes place. Some of the mass-shooting compilers say it doesn’t matter where it occurs, others ignore shootings that occur during other criminal events, or inside someone’s house or maybe yes or maybe no when it comes to a shooting in a school

Then there’s the big issue of whether or not mass shooters focus their activity on gun-free zones. If a public venue posts a sign prohibiting guns on the premises, does this serve as an invitation for a mass shooter to grab his trusty AR-15 and enter that zone?

All of these questions have been swirling around not just because of what happened at Parkland, but because that idiot in the White House has to open his yap and say something stupid about how mass shooters are attracted to gun-free zones.  In fact, at the NRA meeting Trump-o said that 98 percent of all mass shootings since 1950 occurred in gun-free zones. This statement provoked the Washington Post to do a little digging and they turned up some data from John Lott who came out with the 98% figure in 2013, then revised it downward last week to 97.3%. His latest research is an attempt to correct what he considers to be the misleading report  published by Everytown, which set mass shootings in gun-free zones between 2009 and 2016 at roughly 10 percent.  Lott’s data for the same period says the number was 86 percent.

How could Lott and Everytown come up with numbers that are so wildly different in terms of the percentage of mass shootings that take place in gun-free zones?  It gets down to the fact that Lott and the Everytown researchers define a mass shooting very differently depending on where it takes place. Lott’s data excludes private residences, as well as shootings that were part and parcel of an ongoing criminal event. Nearly two-thirds of the mass shootings counted by Everytown occurred in private homes, the victims usually belonging to the same family group.

I happen to agree with Lott that someone who walks into a family party and starts blasting away represents a horse of a very different color than the guy who walks into a movie theater or a school and just tries to kill as many people as possible, even though he probably doesn’t know the identity of a single person who gets caught in his sights. Where I find myself unable to go along with Lott’s research is his assumption that a mass shooter is motivated to attack a particular location because he knows it is a gun-free zone.

The U.S. Secret Service has just published a very detailed study of 28 mass shootings which occurred in public spaces in 2017. You can download it here. They found that of the 23 attackers who used guns, at least 10 possessed the weapons illegally at the time of the attack. A more significant finding is that every attack in a public space that was motivated by some kind of domestic issue resulted in injuries both to targeted as well as random individuals. In only two of the attacks was the shooter prevented from greater violence because of the intervention of another individual, in neither case with the use of a gun.

Let’s face it folks. The problem isn’t gun-free zones. The problem is someone getting pissed off and grabbing a gun.




Want The Craziest Florida Gun Law Of All? Here It Comes.


Now that Florida legislators are once again debating how and where state residents can and cannot go carrying a gun, a new wrinkle has been added to the discussion by a bill just filed by a longtime, pro-gun State Senator named Greg Steube.  He’s been in the legislature for six years and this year chairs the Judiciary Committee where pro-gun bills died in 2015 and 2016, but he’s going to really lead the fight for SB 140, which would allow guns on college campuses, as well as in airports and public meetings.

pulse             The bill has attracted the usual attention from both sides of the gun debate, particularly in the wake of the Fort Lauderdale shooting in January which killed five and injured a dozen more. But lost in the controversy over this piece of legislation is another bill filed by Steube himself, SB 610, which if enacted, would allow someone who voluntarily left his gun behind when he entered a ‘gun-free’ establishment to sue the owner if they were injured by someone who entered the same location with a gun and proceeded to blast away.

Now the way this crazy law would work is that if an owner decided that his establishment should be free of guns, he could always avoid litigation after a shooting if he elected some kind of reasonable strategy to keep his disarmed patrons out of harm’s way, such as hiring an armed guard or maybe installing a metal-detector at the front door.  You may recall, incidentally, that there was an armed guard at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, who traded gunfire with the shooter before the latter then barricaded himself at the rear of the club.  Fat lot of good the armed security guard (an off-duty cop) did for the 102 club patrons who were killed or wounded in that attack.

Know how all the really crazy stuff like half-and-half and Ronald Reagan first appears in California and then spreads nationwide?  When it comes to the worst laws for encouraging gun violence, they start in Florida; i.e., laws that promote CCW and Stand Your Ground (SYG.)  But this law is the craziest and worst sop to Gun-nut Nation of any gun law that has ever been introduced, because you can make the argument that under certain circumstances and with proper training, a responsible individual might be allowed to walk around with a gun.  As for SYG, while those laws have exacerbated gun violence when the alleged assailant happens to be black, the law itself doesn’t speak to the issue of what kind of weapon might be used to make it easier for someone to remain in place against an attack, it just makes it easier to claim self-defense.

This crazy law, on the other hand, is built entirely around the idea that a person who voluntarily gives up access to a gun should therefore expect the individual whose establishment has a no-gun policy to protect him if he suffers an injury due to an “unlawful or reckless act.”  Now let’s say I’m standing in a bar and someone next to me jiggles the drink I have in my hand and the contents of the glass spill out and soil my new shirt. The whole point of gun-free zones is that if I’m armed and slightly drunk, there’s a good chance that I might pull out my gun.  In the brilliant words of Lester Adelson: “With its peculiar lethality, a gun converts a spat into a slaying and a quarrel into a killing.”  This is what a gun-free zone is designed to prevent – the all-too-often escalation of an argument into a horrific injury or a death because someone had a gun.

Gun-nut Nation’s obsession with ridding the country of gun-free zones is based on no credible research showing that armed citizens make a difference in protecting us from crime.  But tell that to Senator Steube and the other gun-nut supporters from the Gunshine State.

How Come You Never Hear The NRA Talking About These Gun-Free Zones?


Now that Gun Nation has managed to get a bunch of craven politicians to vote for unlimited CCW in just about every state, you knew that sooner or later the next issue to be pushed would be abolishing gun-free zones.  There is absolutely no credible evidence, of course, that gun-free zones attract people who want to commit mass murder or any violence with guns, but since when did Gun Nation base any of its arguments on credible evidence, or evidence of any kind?  Sorry, but an anecdote here and an anecdote there isn’t evidence, even when the almost-putative Republican nominee for President tells his NRA audience that he ‘knows for a fact’ that the Paris terrorist attacks were successful and inevitable because the civilians didn’t carry guns.

TR           I happen to support the concept of gun-free zones, but in my case I’m referring to what the term ‘gun-free’ originally meant.  And what it originally meant and still means for those of us willing to engage in a rational discussion about guns, is the idea that there are many places where guns cannot be used except at specified periods during the year. In other words, during the hunting seasons that have been established in every state and regulate when guns can and cannot be used to shoot birds or animals, from ducks, geese and turkeys to hogs, moose, bear and deer.  And in certain Western states, let’s not forget antelope, elk, the mighty cougar and Dall sheep.

America is a bird and game-hunter’s paradise for one reason and one reason alone; because virtually all of the places where you can hunt birds and animals of any kind are largely gun-free zones.  Oh, you can tote a rifle out of season and tramp up the Brooks Range with a revolver on your hip. But you can’t actually shoot any gun except during the brief, allowable periods for each type of animal and I guarantee that you won’t find yourself facing down one of those celebrated ‘street thugs’ at five thousand feet. You see, most game animals have a funny way of knowing that where they flourish best is where humans find it difficult to tread.  Which is why so much of the United States contains many more animals than people, the result of mandating most wilderness areas to be, for the most part, gun-free zones.

Wilderness was defined by the Federal Government in 1964 as an area which “in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” I was in just such an area this past weekend when I hiked through a small part of the Hoosic Range that runs from northern Massachusetts through southern Vermont.  These mountains lie 100 miles equidistant from Boston and New York, which means they are within a three-hour drive of some fifteen million folks. But when you get less than a mile from where you park your car, you are in as untrammeled a region as you could ever hope to be.

Our 26TH President, Theodore Roosevelt, loved hunting, loved guns, and loved wilderness zones. But the first time he hunted the wilderness in 1883 he recognized the vulnerability of wilderness spaces in the face of human advance.  So he teamed up with America’s first naturalist, George Bird Grinnell, and created a national hunting organization, the Boone & Crockett club, which then and now is a leader in the protection of wilderness zones.

Want to get a feel for today’s wilderness?  Read Nick Kristof’s column on hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Many years ago I walked a bit of the Southern portion outside of Palm Springs – twenty miles from a million people and I was alone.  It’s time to remind the pro-gun noisemakers that what protects these remarkable places is that they are gun-free zones.

Why Did The NRA Endorse Trump? Because They Need Each Other – Particularly Now.


Two things about the Trump-NRA show merit further comment.  First – why did the NRA decide to endorse The Grump at such an early date?  They endorsed McCain in October, also waited until October to endorse Mitt in 2012.   And it wasn’t as if they were waiting to see whether the opposition (a.k.a. the ‘foreign-born’ Obama) was ever going to merit their support, right?  The other issue is more generic, namely, how come Trump has been pandering to the  NRA with his endless appeal for the right to carry a concealed (or open) gun?  Now you might think the answer to that question is obvious, but I got news for you – it wasn’t always that way, not at all.

The NRA was founded by a New Yorker, General George Wingate, who commanded a Civil War regiment of volunteers, none of whom seemed to know how to fire a gun. So Wingate started the NRA in 1871 and opened a shooting range at Creedmore, Long Island (fittingly, the current location of a state mental hospital) in 1872. In 1907 the NRA teamed with the Civilian Marksmanship Program that was chartered by the U.S. Government, and began holding national shooting matches at Camp Perry, Ohio. The CMP was also authorized to distribute surplus, military rifles to civilians who were members of local, NRA clubs.

trump          From the ratification of the Constitution in 1788 until the Heller decision some 220 years later, nobody, including the NRA, seemed terribly worried about the ‘right’ of Americans to walk around with a gun.  And even the President of the NRA stated during his testimony about the 1934 National Firearms Act that he did not believe “in the general promiscuous toting of guns.”  He further stated that CCW should be “sharply restricted.”  Following this line of reasoning, after the passage of the basic law regulating gun ownership, GCA68, a law generally supported by the NRA, the organization largely continued to steer clear of the issue of guns for self-defense, offering its membership a new magazine, The American Hunter, beginning in 1973.

The sea-change in the NRA’s stance is usually ascribed to the installment of new, more politically-combative leadership at the Cincinnati convention in 1977, when two activists, Neal Knox and Harlon Carter, took control and re-oriented the organization towards open and continuous political warfare against anyone who proposed gun regulations of any kind. And this new strategy placed the NRA squarely in the middle of a growing political current based on conservative social issues that started with Reagan and continues to the present day.

The alignment of the NRA with social conservatives also made a significant difference in the organization’s bottom line.  In 1986 the NRA took in $66 million; by 1998 it had doubled to $131 million.  In 2004 the Line 12 of the 990 was at $170 million and by 2013 the total revenues had shot up to $347 million, of which $183 million represented dues.  Know what happened in 2014?  F0r the first time since the 1980s, if not earlier, total revenue dropped 10% and dues declined by almost 25%.

I don’t know whether Hillary’s decision to go big-time for more gun regulations will reverse the 2014 numbers, but I suspect that the decision to give Trump an early nod is driven as much by bottom-line concerns as by anything else.  And since Trump is facing his own fundraising shortfall, you can bet that he’ll use the NRA endorsement to try and ramp up his own bottom line.

The NRA has never backed a Presidential candidate who has been as loud and as energetic in defense of gun ‘rights’ as Donald Trump.  They have also never endorsed a candidate who owns public-accessed properties that don’t allow guns.  That’s right – Trump’s hotels and golf clubs are gun-free zones.  But when you’re short of cash, you do what you have to do: hold your nose, ignore the stench and get out of town as fast as you can. Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch.

When It Comes To Guns, Trump-o Is Either Lying, Or Dumb, Or Both.

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It only took The Donald a couple of hours to figure out how to use the Paris craziness to once again demonstrate that if there’s something worth saying in a totally outrageous way, he’ll figure it out.  And while the other Republican Presidential candidates initially kept to themselves about what happened in the City of Light, leave it to Trump to jump onto Twitter and let fly with what we now expect from him, namely, a comment that is obscenely stupid or totally false, or both.

In this case, along with making some statements about Syrian refugees that could have easily tumbled out of the mouth of the fascist politician Jean-Marie Le Pen, we were then treated to what has become the standard Trump-ism for dealing with all the world’s problems, namely, giving everyone a gun.  Here’s how he ‘analyzed’ the problem, in Paris:  “If they had guns, if our people were allowed to carry, it would have been a much different situation.

And to make sure that nobody would fail to make the connection between everything that’s wrong in the world and the Kenyan-born occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Trump went on to say, “You look at certain cities that have the highest violence with guns and shootings and killings – Chicago is an example, toughest gun laws in the United States.”

trump2 When you stop to think about it, however, why should we condemn Trump for reminding us about the dangers of gun-free zones, when the NRA has been saying the same thing for years?  Isn’t this what Wayne-o said one week after Sandy Hook? Isn’t this what red-meat noisemakers like Breitbart say every chance they get?  In fact, it appears that the tweet put out there by Trump-o was actually a replay of what he tweeted back in January after the Charlie Hebdo attack.  One way or another, the phrase ‘gun-free zone’ has become a standard part of the American political lexicon and Trump-o can’t be blamed just because he gives it yet another digital whirl.

On the other hand, if Trump is going to talk about the negative results of gun control in the city whose current residents include the President of the United States, sooner or later someone from the media might actually try to earn a day’s salary by asking him about gun-control efforts in his own city, in this case not his adopted home town, but the place where he was born, which happens to be New York. Because, in fact, New York boasts the country’s toughest gun-control statute known as the Sullivan Act, which went into effect before World War I. And the result of this law is that The Big Apple is, to all intents and purposes, a totally gun-free zone.  If you’re willing to plunk down $434.95 and wait six months, you might be allowed to keep an unloaded gun in your home, but as for concealed-carry, unless you’re Donald Trump, fuggedabout it, which means, don’t waste your time.

Now it just so happens that this gun-free zone containing 8 million people has a gun-homicide rate of 2.2 per 100,000 residents, which makes it far and away the safest city –  in terms of gun violence -in the entire United States. Chicago’s gun homicide rate is 4 times higher, Los Angeles comes in at 3.52. And the neighborhood where Trump-o himself lives has not seen a single gun homicide or any kind of homicide for the last several years.  And don’t think for one second that there aren’t plenty of opportunities for the bad guys to bring guns into New York; the city of Newark right across the harbor just recorded its 44th gun homicide in 2015 which works out to an annual rate of nearly 16.

Want to understand the connection between gun-free zones and gun violence?  It’s about the same as the connection between the crime rate in New York City and the gun that Trump claims he maybe carries around all or maybe some of the time.

When It Comes To Gun Violence,Dana Loesch And John Lott Can’t Get It Straight.

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Every time I see Dana Loesch and John Lott on the same screen I wonder who is really who.  One looks like she had a sex-change operation, the other masqueraded on the internet as a female, altogether an interesting pair.  And it really gets interesting when they open their mouths because the misstatements aren’t just a little bit here and there; it’s almost like they really want you to think that they don’t know anything at all.  Dana refers to information on a website about concealed-carry scofflaws in Texas and gets it completely wrong, Lott disparages the Violence Policy Center’s report on concealed-carry and completely distorts what the report actually says.

loesch                But the dumbest part of their conversation is an attempt to smear Shannon Watts by claiming that the reports issued by Everytown on mass shootings in gun-free zones are incorrect. So I went to Lott’s website and read his critique of the Everytown  research, including his analysis of every shooting compiled by Everytown to back up their position that most mass shootings occur in places where guns are allowed.

This is where I begin to suspect that creatures like Lott don’t understand what’s in their own minds.  If Dana Loesch wants to parrot the prevailing pro-gun nonsense I’m not surprised nor concerned; she’s nothing but a two-bit entertainer filling up some air-space for The Blaze.  But when John Lott, who told Sean Hannity that he was a “professor” for “most of his life” (even though he has never held professorial rank at any educational institution of any kind) responds to the solid Everytown research by consciously saying things that simply aren’t true, we’ve reached the point of no return in attempting to engage the pro-gun gang in any kind of serious give-and-take.

The Everytown report covered 133 mass shootings between 2009 and 2015, a mass shooting defined as a single incident in which at least four persons died.  Interestingly, the overall profile which emerges from these incidents is not that different from what would be found if someone analyzed 133 gun homicides without regard to whether they resulted in multiple victims or not.  In the mass shootings, the majority took place in homes and were precipitated by a domestic dispute.  The median age of the shooters was 34 and one-third should not have been able to legally acquire a gun.  Finally, less than 15% of these shootings took place in ‘gun-free’ zones.

It figures that a report finding little connection between mass shootings and ‘gun-free’ zones would provoke a rebuttal from John Lott.  The report, he says “muddies the discussion on mass public shootings by including shootings in private homes along with ones in public places, and the vast majority of the cases they include are in private homes.”  He then goes on to make an even more absurd (or bizarre) criticism by claiming that any public place located in a city which doesn’t routinely issue concealed-carry licenses should also be considered a ‘gun-free’ zone.  His comment about Boston in this regard is simply wrong and on this point Lott either doesn’t know what he’s talking about or he’s just stating a lie.

Let me break the news gently to John Lott and pro-gun lapdogs like Dana Loesch: anyone who has unquestioned access to a private residence is, to all intents and purposes, walking into a public space when he enters that home.  The issue of ‘public’ versus ‘private’ is a red herring of immense proportions when we are talking about mass killings in which someone uses a gun.  And by the way, have you ever heard of a murder in which someone killed four or more persons with a knife?  I know of one.

There is no credible evidence whatsoever that ‘gun-free’ zones represent some kind of attraction to someone who wants to commit mayhem with a gun.  There’s a load of credible evidence which links mass murders to the use of a gun.  Lott and Loesch aren’t interested in evidence; they’re interested in filling up media space with their unique brand of hot air.

Hot Off The Ticker: The AME Church Is To Blame For The Shooting Because It’s A Gun-FreeZone

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I really don’t want to write this piece, not just because it’s about the unspeakable tragedy that took place yesterday at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, but because I knew that by today, the usual pro-gun sycophants would be lecturing us all on the dangers of gun-free zones.  Actually, they couldn’t even wait until today, although by this morning, the gun ‘experts’ on Fox & Friends were already advising their audience that if someone in the church had been carrying a gun, “they would have had the opportunity to pull out their weapon and take him out.”

But one of the real experts on gun-free zones didn’t even wait until the shooter was captured to tell us not only why the shooter, Dylann Roof, chose the historic Black church to practice target-shooting with live targets, but also why the now-dead parishioners were really to blame for their self-massacre because they weren’t all sitting there armed.  I am referring, of course, to Maestro John Lott, who regularly orchestrates a chorus about the dangers of gun-free zones whenever a particularly nasty shooting takes place.

pat                Lott announced the shooting on his website with a headline which read: “Another Shooting in a Gun-free Zone.”  He then went on to insist that virtually every mass public shooting since 1950 has taken place in a gun-free zone, and then finished up by letting it be known that the Charleston church was a strong supporter of gun control and regularly opposed concealed-carry and stand your ground laws.

Remember the loony statement by Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell who blamed the World Trade Center attack on America’s moral decay?  Now I’m not saying that Lott has become that crazy, but that he couldn’t even wait 24 hours after the unspeakable event to begin peddling a shabby version of ‘they got what they probably deserved,’ speaks volumes about the motives and agenda of this self-proclaimed academic researcher on guns. And for that matter, it also says something about the way in which pro-gun mouthpieces like Lott and others respond every time that a shooting takes place which provokes horror and dread.

Because the simple fact of the matter is that mass shootings aren’t supposed to happen in churches or schools.  These places are sanctuaries in every sense of the word, and when we send our children off to school or we ourselves go off to a house of prayer, there’s simply no good reason on God’s Earth why we should stop and consider, even for a second, about whether there’s any chance at all that we or our children will face the horrific trauma of a gun barrel being pushed into our face.

John Lott

John Lott

But of course John Lott knows that we wouldn’t have to give it a moment’s thought because he also knows something that nobody else knows, namely, that shooters who go into gun-free schools or churches or movie theaters do so because they know that nobody is carrying a gun. After the 2012 shooting at the Aurora, CO theater which left 12 dead and 70 wounded , Lott stated that the reason James Holmes chose the Cinemark theater, even though it was neither the closest theater to his apartment, nor did it have the largest audience, was because it was the “only one where guns were banned.”  The trial of Holmes is actually going on right now, but from the time of the shooting until today, Holmes has never once said to anyone that he chose the Cinemark theater because nobody in the audience would be carrying a gun.

If the parishioners at Emanuel AME had just talked to John Lott, they would have realized the error of their ways and would have been carrying guns.  And of course Dylaan Roof would have attacked another church. And of course he’s already told John Lott that he walked into Emanuel AME because he knew it was a gun-free zone.


A New Book On CCW That Deserves To Be Read.

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Jennifer Carlson teaches sociology at the University of Toronto but has just published a book on America and its guns.  The book, Citizen-Protectors, The Everyday Politics of Guns in an Age of Decline, is a little misleading, because the decline which Professor Carlson studied took place only in Flint, MI and the shabbier sections of Detroit.  Analyses of Rust Belt socio-economic alienation are hardly new (think Clint’s Gran Torino) but Carlson’s attempt to explain CCW as a paradigm through which to understand the human response to things going from bad to worse is a somewhat novel interpretation of why many Americans appear to be turning to guns.

Basically, Carlson argues that the notion of armed citizens, or what she refers to as ‘citizen-protectors,’ responds to fears of economic and social insecurities that pervade neighborhoods in economically-depressed cities like Flint.  Most of the guys she interviewed (Carlson was the only gun-carrying female mentioned in the book) were not motivated to carry guns out of any ideological or high-minded ideals; they had been threatened or attacked or otherwise felt that carrying a gun was simply something that daily life circumstances compelled them to do.  On the part of Whites, the overriding concern was fear of crime; on the part of Blacks it was a conviction that the cops weren’t there to help them out.

holsterw                The author explains how the NRA’s push for CCW and elimination of gun-free zones has neatly captured the concerns of both Whites and Blacks who carry guns in Flint and Detroit.  She correctly refers to the ‘moral politics’ of armed self-defense, which not only takes the form of believing that gun-carriers are law-abiding citizens, but that carrying a gun is actually a fundamentally-sound way to uphold the law.  The idea that America should depend first and foremost on armed citizens has been the NRA rallying-cry for the past twenty years, and if you don’t believe me, just read what Wayne LaPierre said about carrying guns after the massacre at Sandy Hook. What Carlson believes is that socio-economic decline, among other things leads to the collapse of public faith in public institutions to maintain the peace.  What more propitious atmosphere in which to promote the idea that guns represent a social good?

I would have no problem with Carlson’s argument had she kept her focus on places like Flint and Detroit.  But she’s after bigger game, what the end-notes refer to as a ‘captivating and revealing look at gun culture,’ and here I’m not so sure that the book completely succeeds.  Notwithstanding the fact that the number of CCW permits has probably doubled in the last ten years, the biggest increase in concealed-carry activity has taken place in parts of the country which benefited from the movement of people and industries away from Rust Belt cities like Flint and Detroit. Does the socio-economic alienation template constructed by Carlson for concealed-carry in Michigan explain the growth of gun-carrying in states like Florida, Texas or other Sun Belt states?  To me, that’s something of a stretch.

Notwithstanding the enormous upsurge in gun sales during the administration of you-know-who, the fact is that a smaller percentage of people own guns now then owned them ten years ago, and the demographics of gun ownership (older white males living in rural areas and smaller cities and towns) has basically remained unchanged.  I’m not disputing what Carlson discovered by going around to shooting ranges in Detroit and Flint, but the latter’s population has dropped by 50% since 1970, with Detroit losing almost two-thirds during the same forty-five years. Even if every single qualified adult in both cities went out to buy and carry a gun, it would make precious little difference in the overall downward trend of gun ownership in the United States.

Jennifer Carlson has published an interesting book and some of the comments about guns on her blog are really a ‘must read.’ Now that she’s done roaming around Detroit and is back in Toronto, I’d love to know what she did with her gun.

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