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How Violent Are We Today?

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              Several years ago, I had lunch with my friend Clarence Jones, who is currently Scholar in Residence at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute at Stanford University. He previously served as Dr. King’s personal attorney and also helped draft the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech which King delivered during the March on Washington in 1963.

              To that end, I asked Clarence what Dr. King would have thought about progress in civil rights over the fifty-plus years since his death. And Clarence responded with a statement I will never forget: “Martin’s primary commitment was never civil rights. His first and foremost commitment was to non-violence and this country has become much more violent over the last fifty years.”

              I was reminded again of this remark by Clarence Jones yesterday when I briefly watched the trial of three White men accused of killing an unarmed Black man, Ahmaud Arbery, who resisted what the defendants have claimed was their attempt to effect a ‘citizen’s arrest’ of Arbery for allegedly entering the property of a newly-built home in their neighborhood.

              So, here we have on national TV, two trials, one in Wisconsin and the other in Georgia. In one trial the victim who was killed was White, in the other trial he was Black. In the Wisconsin trial the defendant, who was also White, used his assault rifle to defend himself against individuals who he believed were going to assault him because he was protecting the private property of someone else. In Georgia, the shooter and his accomplices used a shotgun to defend himself from a man who allegedly attacked him because he and his accomplices were trying to defend the property of someone else.

              Let’s pause for a moment while I ask my readers a question. Have any of you ever been in the town of Skidmore, Missouri? I’ll bet you haven’t.

              I drove through Skidmore in 1989, when the population was around 350 people, of whom at least half lived on farms surrounding the town. As of today, the town’s population is probably down to 250, along with some dogs and cats. In other words, Skidmore is a rural dump.

              The town, however, became famous or better yet infamous in 1981, when just about every adult standing around the main street on a Saturday afternoon witnessed the shooting of Ken McElroy as he left a saloon and got into his truck. McElroy earned a living by rustling cattle from various farms or stealing equipment from unlocked barns.

              The previous year he had come into town and almost beaten to death the 70-year old owner of the dry goods store who was considered as the nearest thing to Mother Theresa because he extended credit to the local farmers on very generous terms.

              McElroy was convicted of the assault but didn’t serve one day in jail. When he showed up on a weekend day in July 1981 a crowd of 60-70 townspeople confronted him in the saloon and then he was shot by ‘persons unknown’ as he got into his truck.

              This murder, which occurred in daylight and was witnessed by more than forty adults, was never solved. The county cops investigated the shooting, but nobody talked, and nobody was charged. Then the state police showed up, conducted a second investigation,

and again, came up with a blank.

              This shooting then became national news when the FBI was called in. It was referred to in the media as ‘vigilante justice alive and well in the Old West,’ but the results of the FBI’s efforts were the same: no results. The case remains unsolved to this day even though it became the subject of a pretty decent book as well as a pretty crummy Hollywood flick.

              The shooting of Ken McElroy took place before we had cell-phones which took video and of course it took place before we had an internet news cycle which has an inexhaustible appetite for anything which can be described as ‘news.’ In both the current Kenosha and Georgia trials, videos of the shootings taken by onlookers or independent media producers have been shown in court.

              I don’t recall the last time that two trials in two different states were being held at the same time to determine whether defendants were legally protected from criminal charges because they shot and killed someone while claiming to be protecting private property which they didn’t own. In both instances, the shooters took it upon themselves to determine whether the person they killed represented a threat to them or to anyone else. And even if the victims were threatening to attack these self-made community protectors, why didn’t the men with the guns try to back down?

              I’ll tell you why. Because they had guns. And why did they have guns which allowed them to pretend that all they were really trying to do was protect the community from harm? I quote a speech given by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a month before he delivered ‘I Have a Dream’ in 1963: “By our readiness to allow arms to be purchased at will and fired at whim; by allowing our movie and television screens to teach our children that the hero is one who masters the art of shooting and the technique of killing,  we have created an atmosphere in which violence and hatred have become popular pastimes.”

              For all the people who were shocked by the video that shows Kyle Rittenhouse running down the street with his AR-15, just remember that his mother has already raised $460,000 on the internet to cover the costs of his legal defense, and yesterday she sent out a message asking people to donate $100,000 more. She’ll get it, I’m sure.

              Have we become more violent because we have so many more guns? Or do we have so many more guns because violence, pari passu, has become as American as the pie we’ll all gobble down next week? 

              To quote what I never hear from any of the online experts and pundits these days – I don’t know.

Will It Make Any Difference If Everyone’s Walking Around With A Gun?

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              Oh my Goddd.  That conservative Supreme Court is going to flip the 2nd Amendment on its head and turn America into an armed camp. And now gun violence will go through the roof because everyone’s going to be walking around with a gun!

              I’m getting what Grandpa would call this kind of geshry (read: yell) from every gun-control group along with a desperate demand for funds. This is because the Supreme Court has decided to take up the New York law which basically gives cops a free hand to decide who should and should not be able to walk around with a gun.

              This practice is referred to as ‘may issue,’ whereby the cops or some other designated agency can determine whether someone can walk around with a concealed weapon based on a documented concern of being attacked or otherwise being the victim of a violent crime. There are now only seven ‘may issue’ states, including California and New York.

              The other 43 states are either ‘shall issue’ states where anyone can receive a carry permit (CCW) without having a specific cause, or ‘Constitutional carry’ where no special license to walk around armed is required at all.

              Until the mid-80’s, states which allowed residents to walk around with a concealed weapon were few and far between. In fact, as late as 1886, there were 41 states which either didn’t grant any kind of concealed-carry license or only approved such licenses on a very strict and arbitrary basis, which usually meant you were good friends with the local chief.

              One of the ways that America is a unique country is the propensity of Americans to pick up a loaded gun, point it at someone else and go – blam! The United States happens to lead the entire advanced world in this type of behavior both in the number of people who get shot, as well as the rate of this type of violence which occurs every year. According to our friend David Hemenway, the odds of someone getting killed by being attacked by someone else with a gun is 7 to 20 times higher here than in any other high-income (OECD) nation-state.

              I have no issue with David’s calculations which places American gun violence rates at the top of the OECD list. I do have an issue, however, with the argument which attempts to explain this level of violence or at least connect this violence to all the people walking around with guns, or at least people walking around with legally-owned guns, which is what the whole noise being made about the Supreme Court taking a gun case is all about.

              Let me break it to my Gun-control Nation friends as gently as I can. When there were only 8 states which granted any kind of concealed-carry licenses for any reason whatsoever, the gun-homicide rate was 5.05.  In 2019, when the residents of 40 states could walk around with a gun in their pocket, the national gun-homicide rate was 4.39.  In other words, if we use gun-homicide numbers to figure out how violent we really are, the numbers clearly indicate that more concealed-carry licensing leads to more peace.

              This raises an interesting question, namely, what will be the impact on gun-violence rates if the Supremes throw out the New York gun law and the other ‘may issue’ states like California and New Jersey get into line?  Given the fact that the ‘may issue’ states together contain 25% of the national population, couldn’t universal ‘shall issue’ CCW law result in gun violence going down even more?

              Which is exactly what Gun-nut Nation has been saying for years. Except there’s only one problem with this argument as well. Let’s not forget that the Supremes are going to be looking at laws which regulate who can and cannot carry guns. And since when did the people who commit 15,000 homicides and at least another 75,000 non-fatal gun assaults each year give one rat’s damn about laws?

              Our good friend Philip Cook once interviewed 99 prison inmates and found that few of them got their guns through legal means. Gee, what a surprise. The point is that whether law-abiding gun owners can walk around the neighborhood with a gun just because they want to walk around with a gun, may or may not have any connection to the number of guys who use a gun to commit a crime, in particular the crime we refer to as homicide, which is what gun violence is really all about.

              I think the issue of gun laws versus gun violence is beside the point. To me, the real issue is whether anyone, whether a good guy or a bad guy, should have access to guns which can only be used to commit gun violence because in case you didn’t know it, the definition of violence according to the World Health Organization is any conscious attempt to injure yourself or someone else.

              If I believe you are coming towards me to commit an assault, and I pull out my Glock and drill you right through the head so that your assault against me doesn’t take place, aren’t I consciously trying to injure you? Damn right I am, which is why I carry a Glock, and not some 22-caliber target gun.

              On the other hand, like most Americans who are issued a concealed-carry license, I happen to live in a town where the only people who walk towards me at night are actually on their way to the Starbucks across the street.

              As far as I’m concerned, the whole concealed-carry issue is nothing more than a society-wide case of arrested mental development, and if this is the only thing that the Supreme Court has to worry about, as Grandpa would say, ‘a be gezunt’ (read: who cares?)

How Do We Reduce Gun Violence? The Same Old, Same Old.

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              Readers may have noticed that after a month’s hiatus in writing about guns and posting columns on my gun blog, Mike the Gun Guy, I’m back doing it again. There were two reasons that I switched over to a more general political perspective, in particular writing critical comments about the liberal, political media and press.

              First and foremost, I reject and resent the continued attempt by the mainstrem liberal media to promote the idea that Trump represents some kind of Fascist threat. I lived in Spain during the worst, most repressive years of the Franco regime, and Trump’s about as much of a Fascist as Leonard Mermelstein, who happens to be my cat.

              Second, to be as candid as I can, if I’m going to write for public consumption, I’d rather be a large fish in a small pond, then a tiny minnow in a large sea. And when it comes to politics, as opposed to guns and gun violence, everyone’s an expert and everyone seems to have something to say.

              As regards the latter, I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome a new voice to the online community writing about guns. Her name is Caroline Light who, several years ago published an important book on Stand Your Ground (SYG) laws. She has just opened up a blog about gun violence and promises at least one new comment every week. Way to go Caroline, and welcome to our little pond.

              Which brings me to an observation about some content newly posted by our friends in The Trace. I’m referring to what has become the basic approach to reducing gun violence in communities where the violence takes the form of one person shooting another, as opposed to gun violence where the shooter shoots himself.

              The former type of gun violence probably accounts for at least three-quarters of all intentional injuries committed with the use if guns, although we really don’t have an accurate number on intentional, non-fatal gun assaults because the CDC has given up trying to keep the score.

              Anyway, the bottom line is that most of this violence occurs in inner-city, minority-based neighborhoods which always seem to have high rates of violent behavior, with or without guns. And what my friends in Gun-control Nation promote is the idea that we can reduce gun violence in these communities by putting together some kind of domestic Marshall Plan to provide jobs and financial support because we all know that poverty makes people angry and anger results in violence and yadda, yadda and yadda again.

              So, for example, the current issue of The Trace has a lead article on how Baltimore is hoping to reduce gun violence by making the city’s public spaces safer spots for children to play. Money will be spent on after-school programs, better recreational facilities, all the usual stuff.

              Of course, such programs are always short of cash. Which is why when the dough runs out, gun violence rates go up again. But the bottom line is that either we take a ‘public health approach’ to gun violence or we don’t. And if we don’t upgrade the environment where gun violence occurs, it’s no different from how typhoid reappears if the drinking water isn’t always kept clean.

              I happen to think this approach is bunk. Why? Because violence is one thing, gun violence is something else. And the latter problem can’t exist without the presence of, and access to guns. It just so happens that we are the only country in the entire world which gives its residents free access to guns which are designed and used only for the purpose of committing gun violence, i.e., ending a human life.

              I know I’m repeating myself from yesterday, but if my friends in Gun-control Nation repeat the idea every chance they get, that we can reduce gun violence by going into poor neighborhoods and planting a bunch of trees, I reserve the right to remind them about the issue of guns every chance that I get.

              I carry a Glock 17 pistol with 16 rounds of military-grade ammunition. This gun wasn’t designed for ‘sport’ or even for ‘self-defense.’ It was designed to do what it does very well, which is to put a half-ounce piece of lead into someone’s head.

              Want to reduce gun violence by taking a public health approach? Get rid of what causes the violence, which happens to be certain types of guns.

How Come Only Good Guys Are Allowed To Carry Guns?

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              Yesterday I wrote a column about the Supreme Court’s decision to rule on whether New York’s Sullivan Law did or did not abridge Constitutional protections covering the civilian ownership of guns. In particular, the Sullivan Law vests very wide discretionary authority with the police to determine whether a law-abiding citizen can walk around with a concealed gun. And such arbitrary decision-making authority could deprive someone of their Constitutional

              I received a number of comments from readers who felt that I was showing a lack of concern for the degree to which concealed-carry (CCW) is a factor in the high rate of gun violence from which this country, and this country alone, suffers year after year. So, the purpose of today’s rant is to explain where I stand on the issue of armed, self-defense.

              First and most important, the term ‘self-defense’ is about as meaningless as the description of any type of behavior that could ever be put into words. If nothing else, it presumes that the individual who committed an act of self-defense was really defending himself against someone else.

              But to one person, an act of self-defense could be an act of self-offense to someone else, and who’s to say which is which? We do know, thanks to the research of Marvin Wolfgang and others going back more than fifty years, that in at least half of all homicides, it was behavior precipitated by the victim which led to the fatal event. Which makes it rather difficult to create a neat division of behavior between the individual who attacked someone else rather than the individual who reacted to an attack or the threat of an attack.

              In the ‘olden’ days, before the gun industry started promoting armed, self-defense as a type of behavior that was both legally and socially as virtuous as being next to God, it was usually assumed that someone walking around with a gun was up to no good. Guns weren’t considered to be things that law-abiding people needed to use or own unless they happened to live somewhere out on the frontier. But since, according to the Census, the frontier disappeared in 1890, the appearance and use of guns for anything other than hunting was simply not what self-defense and protection from the ‘bad guys’ was all about.

              Then along came Clint Eastwood who released a movie – Dirty Harry – in 1971, which took the whole gunslinging genre from the Wild West and re-set it as a social and cultural theme in city streets. And what Eastwood created was the idea that if you really want to be a ‘good guy,’ you have to walk around with a gun. And you have to use that gun against the bad guys as often as you can.

              We are the only country in the entire world which not only allows its residents to own guns whose design, function and sole purpose is to end human life, but we make a positive cultural motif out of the idea that a so-called ‘legal’ gun owner should first and foremost always use his gun to set things right?

              Why do we even bother doing research on the reasons for more than 125,000 fatal and non-fatal gun injuries every year when gun companies from all over the world being their products to sell in this country because these same products can’t be old in the places where they are made? We introduce several million man (and woman)-killing products into this country ever year and then you’re surprised when people get shot?

              And by the way, don’t give m any of that nonsense about how all we have to do is make sure that criminals and people who don’t obey the law can’t get their hands on guns. You think the guy coming towards you waving a Glock as you pull some cash out of the money machine won’t tell the cops that he was acting in self-defense? Of course, he will, and maybe he’ll even get off. We have the lawyers defending Kyle Rittenhouse for that one, to be sure.

              Next year, the Supreme Court will hand down a decision on whether we can exercise armed self-defense outside if our homes. If the Court says ‘yes,’ the gun industry will deliver some new, self-defense gun models which I’m sure are already being designed. If the Court says ‘no,’ we’ll see some more public health research on laws that could be enacted to bring gun-violence rates down.

               Do I sound just a little tired of listening to the same old, same old for the last thirty years?

Do We Really Need To Worry About Concealed-Carry of Guns?

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              Yesterday the Supreme Court listened to arguments in a case challenging New York’s Sullivan Law, which effectively makes New York City the most difficult location to get permission from the cops to walk around with a gun. The law has been on the books since 1913, and basically the law allows the cops to decide whether someone can carry a gun on their person, whether the individual makes a good argument or not.

              The ability of the police to exercise discretion in granting concealed-carry applications (CCW) used to be the way it was done in almost every state. But this situation has changed dramatically over the last 30 years, with New York now being only one of seven states which does not automatically grant CCW to anyone who meets certain criteria basically having to do with whether the applicant is law-abiding or not.

              Of the 43 states that do not require a specific reason for wanting to walk around with a gun, 15 of those states are also what’s known as ‘Constitutional carry’ states, i.e., if you are legally able to buy or own a gun, you can carry it around without getting any special permission from the police at all.

              Getting all 50 states to permit Constitutional carry has been one of two, main objectives of Gun-nut Nation’s political activity for the last 20 or so years. The other prize is a national concealed-carry law which would allow the resident of any state to carry his gun across any and all state lines.

              The opponents of national concealed-carry argue that such a law would deprive individual states of their ability to set standards for issuing CCW, including a pre-issue training requirement which is often part of the CCW application process.

              Which brings me to the real subject of today’s rant, namely, the mis-use and abuse of the word ‘training’ on both sides of the gun debate.

              This whole thing about training civilians to shoo guns was actually the original rationale for the founding of the NRA back in 1871. The organization was started by a general from the Union Army, George Wingate, who felt that the troops under his Civil War command would have been a more formidable fighting force if they knew how to shoot their guns.

              George Washington had the same problem during the Revolutionary War, except in his case it wasn’t just the lack of marksmanship training which caused him concern, it was also the fact that many of the militia members who showed up to fight the British had guns that were often handmade and hardly worked at all.

              The whole gun-training issue for the military was solved only in 1940 when the first peacetime draft went into effect. What this meant was that civilians were turned into soldiers by housing them in barracks and teaching them how to do everything from brushing their teeth to cleaning their guns.

              When I was at Fort Jackson in South Carolina I couldn’t get over how the Army could take these totally-illiterate hillbillies and teach them how to shoot, clean and load an M-14 rifle in 8 weeks. And by the way, not only was the training all hands-on by rote again and again, but until you could demonstrate proficiency you didn’t get to go on the chow line to eat.

              Nothing like an empty stomach to get you to learn how to shoot a gun.

              There isn’t a single state which requires any kind of pre-applicant training for CCW which is even a smidgen of serious training that you get in the USRA. And in some states, like my state – MA – the so-called training doesn’t even require shooting one, single live round. You can get a license to purchase and walk around with a deadly weapon even if you don’t have the slightest idea how to load or shoot your gun.

              Having said all of that, however, I need to point out that very little gun violence is actually committed by guys who have legal access to their guns. The Violence Policy Center has identified 1,951 CCW-carriers killed someone else over the last 12 years, which is an average of 160 murders per year, one percent of the victims who are killed each year by someone using a gun.

              Our friend John Lott tracks the number of CCW licenses issued throughout the United States, and he claims that there was a big jump recently in licenses, he estimates that now 8.3%   of American adults can legally carry guns. But having a CCW license is one thing, actually walking around with a gun is something else.

              The truth is that unless you’re law enforcement, after the thrill of being armed wears off, walking around with a concealed weapon is a pain in the ass. First of all, it’s a heavy piece of metal so you need a holster which never really fits the gun. Then you have to keep it concealed which means always wearing an overgarment even when it’s hot.

              But the most important thing to remember about CCW is that media stories to the contrary, most people will rarely, if ever find themselves in a situation where they need to have quick access to a gun. Violent, face-to-face crime overwhelmingly occurs between individuals who know each other, who live in the same neighborhood, on the same street, or even in the same house.

              Just about every boy who plays video games or watches TV has seen hundreds, if not thousands of make-believe shootings by the time he enters his teens. This is a cultural phenomenon which has been present in our society, and only our society since The Great Train Robbery movie appeared in 1903.

              The members of Gun-nut Nation who swear by the necessity to keep a gun handy to protect themselves from crime are nothing more than adults who still like to think of themselves as kids. For that matter, the members of Gun-control Nation who talk about only granting CCW to people who have been ‘trained,’ have about as much understanding of what constitutes real gun training as the man in the moon.

              The Supreme Court is supposed to issue a ruling on yesterday’s case sometime next year. Believe me, no matter how the Court rules, it really won’t change the whole issue of gun violence one little bit.

Why Do Americans Like Guns?

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              Yesterday I received an email from one of the gun-control organizations telling me that the time has come for all of us to support “bold, evidence-based comprehensive policies” to overcome “well-funded information campaigns” which have led a majority of Americans to believe that guns will keep them safe.

              Gun-control Nation has been running this narrative about the ‘well-funded’ pro-gun campaigns up the flagpole for almost the last thirty years. At the same time, evidence-based studies on gun violence definitively show that access to a gun increases, not decreases risk.

              How do we account for this cognitive dissonance between what the research shows and what a majority of Americans believe? It has to be all that money which Gun-nut Nation spends to define and promote their side of the debate, right?

              Unfortunately, there’s only one little problem with this point of view. And the problem lies in the assumption made and supported throughout Gun-control Nation-land, that people make up their minds about issues because one side outspends the other in getting their message across.

              And even if this assumption was true, the NRA happens to be broke, and none of the other pro-gun organizations have ever been known for spending money on politics at all. And even if they did, how do you compare what Gun-nut Nation gives in political donations to what Mike Bloomberg forks up alone? You can’t.

              According to Gallup, right now somewhere around 40 percent of American homes contain at least one gun, a number that has been dropping but-by-bit over the last twenty years. At the same time, the number of Americans who believe a home is safer with a gun is twice as high as the number who believe that a gun in the home makes you less safe.

              I don’t care how much money pro-gun groups like NRA spend on spreading their unique brand of ‘disinformation’ around about guns because little or any of that money is spent to reach Americans who don’t own guns.

              If you represent a state like my state – Massachusetts – in Congress, you don’t vote pro-gun. You don’t vote pro-gun because most Massachusetts residents don’t own guns. You vote pro-gun if you come to D.C. from states like Montana or Nebraska because everyone in those states owns a gun.

              But the issue of how people make up their minds about guns isn’t just a function of gun ownership. If the Gallup gun polls are at all accurate, there happen to be a lot of Americans who don’t own guns but also believe that having a gun is a better way to protect yourself than not having a gun. Forty percent of American homes contain a gun, but sixty percent of Americans think that a gun keeps you safe. Get it?

              I look at these polls and then I receive a well-intentioned email from a gun-control group complaining about the ‘disinformation’ being produced by the other side in the gun debate. My reaction is that there’s something wrong with what my friends in Gun-control Nation either believe or what they want me to believe, or both.

              If gun-control advocates and activists are convinced that we need more meaningful and effective gun laws in order to reduce gun violence, then how do you get such laws through Congress when a majority of your fellow Americans don’t happen to share your views on the risks represented by access to guns?

              You’re not going to persuade a lot of Americans who believe the ‘disinformation’ coming out of Gun-nut Nation to change their minds because you have done evidence-based research which shows that not owning a gun makes you safer than owning a gun. The only way you can possibly persuade these individuals to change their minds and come over to the gun-control side is to – ready? – try to figure why they believe a gun makes you safe.

              Back in the 1980’s two-thirds of gun owners said they owned a gun for hunting or sport, one-third said that the primary reason they owned a gun was to protect themselves and their families from harm. Forty years later, those percentages have reversed. Now for every American who says he owns a gun to go hunting, there are two gun owners who say they want to protect themselves with a gun.

              The standard explanation for this shift is usually the idea that hunting is simply an outdoor activity which is no longer why people go out to the outdoors. But I don’t think this is true. Because if it was, how come the people who stopped hunting or never hunted decided they needed a gun for self-defense? Why didn’t they just decide not to buy a personal-defense gun?

              For all the talk by Gun-control Nation about the dangers to community safety that exist because so many people own or are buying guns to protect themselves or protect someone else, I have yet to see a single, serious piece of research which even attempts to figure out why almost two-thirds of Americans believe that a gun keeps you safe.

              Given how the gun-control community seems to venerate evidence-based research to develop strategies for reducing gun violence, you would think that there would be at least some attempt to do some research that would provide answers to one, very simple question: Why do people like guns?

              Not a single researcher has ever asked me to explain why I have 50 or 60 guns lying around.

Will I Be Able To Carry A Concealed Gun?

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              Now that everyone else seems to be shooting their mouths off about the upcoming 2nd-Amendment case that will be heard before the Supreme Court, maybe it’s time for Mike the Gun Guy™ to add his nickel aa well.

              The issue in question is whether or not the definition of the 2nd Amendment should be extended to include Constitutional protection for carrying a concealed weapon outside of the home. Since 2008, the 2nd Amendment protects the existence of a privately-owned handgun (but not a long gun) in the home. But what if I want to protect myself with a gun while I’m walking around?

              The law in question is what happens in New York State, where getting the cops to allow you to carry a concealed weapon in the street is tantamount to getting the cops to let you jaywalk because you just don’t want to stand there waiting for the light to change.

              In other words, it doesn’t happen too often and in some pats o the state, like th five counties which comprise New York City, it doesn’t happen at all.

              Actually, you can carry a concealed weapon in New York City but only if you go through a rigorous and time-consuming background investigation in which you prove that you need to carry a gun given your line of work.

              So, someone who works as an armed security guard can get a concealed-carry license, ditto someone whose job requires them to move around the city carrying lots of cash. On the other hand, if you tell the NYOD Licensing Division that you want to carry a gun concealed gun because it will make you feel more safe, you’ll get the same answer that you’d get from Grandpa, ‘gai macht,’ (read: stick it up your you-know-what.)

              Interestingly, this case has brought into conflict two groups who usually find themselves on the same side.  A brief from the ACLU argues that carrying a concealed weapon in the street is a threat to public safety and should be restricted or altogether thrown out. However, a brief from a coalition of public defender groups which represents minority individuals charged with illegal possession of guns says that the current law discriminates against poor and non-White residents and should be dumped.

              I lived in New York City and held a concealed-carry license issued by the NYPD because I was an employee of an agency that supplied armed guards and sometimes had to travel to locations to make sure that our guards showed up and were doing what they were hired to do. If our armed security guy for some reason didn’t show up, I had to provide the armed protection myself.

              In order to be given a concealed-carry license in New York City, I had to appear at the NYPD Licensing Division for interviews no less than three, separate times. The first time I had to bring all the necessary documentation and answer a bunch of questions thrown at me by some half-asleep cop who was even more bored by he whole process than me.

              The second time I went back for another interview and also gave the Licensing Division the type of gun I planned to carry around, along with the name of the gun dealer where I was going to buy the gun.

              The third time I had to show up and let another half-asleep cop inspect the gun to make sure it was the weapon that the NYPD was allowing me to carry around.

              Between six back-and-forth subway trips to the Licensing Division, which of course was delayed at least twice, two trips to and from the gun dealer first to choose and then to buy the gun, and the time spent sitting around at NYPD headquarters waiting to be interviewed, processed, printed and everything else, I probably spent at least 24 hours getting my license to carry a gun. But at least I got the license. According to the brief filed in this case by the various public defender groups, most minority concealed-carry applicants are turned down.

              What I find most interesting in all the media stories about this upcoming case, however is nowhere does anyone on either side of the issue seem the slightest bit concerned about whether the applicant for a concealed-carry license actually has the slightest bit of experience or ability to use or even pick up a gun.

              At no time during my seemingly endless hegira to the NYPD Licensing Division did anyone ask me if I had ever shot a gun. For that matter, when I came down with the gun I had purchased to have it inspected by the NYPD, I had to hand the gun over to the officer while it was locked up in a small, steel box. I then gave the cop the key to the box and he, not me, reached in and pulled out the gun.

              Now you would think that if New York puts so much emphasis on making sure that people who walk around with a gun in their pocket aren’t a threat to public safety that the licensing procedure would include at least some demonstration to show that the prospective licensee knows how to hold, or God forbid, actually shoot a gun.

              Like so much else in the debate about guns, there just doesn’t seem to be even the slightest bit of reality understood or mentioned by either side.

Think The NRA Is Finished? Think Again.

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              Hey!  Look what I just got!  A beautiful, new hat from my good friend Wayne-o at the NRA.  And when I get done writing and posting this column, I’ll send him back a little cash. Because, after all, what’s more important these days than protecting my freedom by protecting my guns?

              Now you would think after all the sturm und drang surrounding the NRA over the past several years, that the last thing the boys in Fairfax would have time to worry about was sending me a hat. After all, between a bankruptcy filing that they couldn’t get straight, an investigation by the New York State AG which is still going on, the resignations by more Board members and the cancellation of the annual meeting due to Covid-19 concerns, isn’t that enough for any organization to have on its plate?

              I’ll tell you what the NRA has on its plate. It has a lot of dough on its plate. And even though member dues and program fees dropped more than 30% from 2018 to 2019, in the latter year member revenues still went over $135 million and contributions at $108 million stayed the same. That’s total revenue of nearly $250 million in 2019, which ain’t chump change even in my little book.

              Want to know what’s really going on with America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization?’ Take a look at their website where social events hosted by the NRA are found.  Between now and year’s end, there will be ten banquets and get-togethers in Pennsylvania, five gatherings in Ohio, Maryland’s got a couple, Virginia lists four. 

              Know what else Gun-nut Nation is doing with the NRA? Going to gun shows, of which there were more than 100 shows this past weekend, with a bunch of shows in Florida, Colorado, five shows in Texas and a couple of gun shows in PA. And at every one of those shows, the first thing you’ll see when you walk in is a welcome banner from the NRA

              The best thing that ever happened to the NRA was Joe and Kamala’s election last year, believe it or not. How can Mile the Gun Guy™ say something that stupid? Say something that dumb? I’ll tell you why.

              Because on the one hand, the NRA had no choice in 2016 but to hitch its wagon to the MAGA brand, because if Hillary had won the election and the Congress gone blue, there is no doubt in my mind that we would have seen a gun-control bill that would have been a copy of the bill that then-HUD Secretary Andy Cuomo wrote for Bill Clinton back in 1999 which would have left the gun industry, as Grandpa would say, ‘gestorben und fartig’ (read: good and dead.) 

              But glad-handing MAGA ended up costing the NRA more than the $30 million or so that it pumped into Trump’s Presidential campaign. It also cost the organization a loss of vision, a loss of identify and a loss of credibility with the average American, gun owner or not.

              I couldn’t believe how stupid, reckless, and downright inflammatory the NRA messaging became when the group got into video and launched NRA-TV. I don’t know what was worse – Colion Noir prancing around his backyard with an AR-15, or Dana Loesch advising women to arm themselves and protect their families from the radical hordes.

              This wasn’t the NRA that I joined back in 1955.  This wasn’t the NRA that first and foremost promoted shooting sports, hunting and outdoor life. So, the organization always said something about 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ So what?  Was that any different from the support for social security and Medicare promoted by the AARP?

              But the NRA went overboard with Trump, in the same way that Trump went overboard with his hateful rhetoric about immigration, his phony claims about ‘building a wall,’ and his refusal to say anything negative about the Nazis in Charlottesville because, after all, they were just marching down the street exercising their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

              Maybe the Democrats will get some piecemeal gun-control law past Manchin and onto the Oval Office desk. Maybe a couple of more states will enact ERPO statutes or require that all gun transfers only go forward after a background check.

              But this country has lived (and died) with its arsenal of privately-owned guns for more than two hundred years. And as long as some of these gun owners can get together at a weekend gun show or a banquet or a bar-b-que, the NRA will be around.

              Maybe next year Wayne-o will send me a jacket with the Golden Eagles patch. Last year he sent me a Golden Eagles knife which I use to cut some chicken treats each night for Leonard the Cat. And believe me when I tell you that feeding Leonard the Cat some chicken treats is a lot more important than defending my guns and my freedoms from the ‘tyranny’ of the Deep State. 

An Must-Read Article On Gun Violence.

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              Our friend Tom Gabor has just published an interesting and important perspective on how to think about gun violence which you can download and read right here. By training and academic experience, Tom’s a criminologist, but in this particular essay he moves into a wide range of issues having to do with both Constitutional and international laws.

              The article draws from many different sources and tries to answer the following question: Do Americans have the right to be safe in their communities? Obviously, with a gun-violence rate that is 7 to 20 higher than any other advanced country, it could be argued that Americans don’t really have such a right.

              Or at least if they do or should have a right to community safety, the 120,000 gun-deaths and injuries each year would indicate that this particular right is not being strictly or even loosely observed.

              Gabor begins his essay by noting that from at least the 17th Century, if not earlier, political philosophers and jurists declared that safety and security were the basis of the social contract which held society together and required governmental intervention whenever the contract got frayed or fell apart.

              The author then notes, and this is a very perceptive observation on his part, that whenever the issue of guns and safety is discussed, the pro-gun argument with its fidelity to the

2nd Amendment tends to win out. And this has been particularly the case since the 2008 Heller decision which, while it left room for the government to restrict gun ‘rights’ by keeping guns out of the ‘wrong’ hands (e.g., criminals, drug addicts, mentally ill, etc.) ultimately comes down as defining the ‘right’ to use a gun for self-defense as being more important than the ‘right’ to avoid getting shot while sitting in a classroom or walking down the street.

              But here is where Gabor’s attempt to find the ‘right’ to be protected by the state against violence caused by the use of guns hits a little snag. And the snag happens to be a rather unique legal and cultural issue in the United States, namely, the ‘right’ to self-defense.

              Ever country recognizes the notion that protecting yourself or others from a threat is consistent with the idea that we have a ‘right;’ to life, and Gabor notes the existence off this concept in international covenants as well. But the United States is the only country in he entire world whose legal system also allows its residents to respond to a perceived threat of injury by not backing away but standing in place and resisting the potential onslaught with force.

              More than half the 50 states have passed laws, called Stand Your Ground (SYG) laws, which basically say that if someone comes on your property without prior invitation or consent, that their presence is ipso facto proof that they might represent a threat which can be responded by you with lethal force.

              In 2015, a 50-year old Black man in St. Louis was sentenced to three years’ probation for killing a 13-year old kid because he believed that the teenager represented a threat to his life. He was sentenced because he killed the kid with an illegal gun. But under Missouri SYG law, he could not be convicted or even charged with murder or aggravated assault because the kid had come on his property to steal something out of the man’s car.

              Laws which allow Americans to pick up a gun and shoot someone who is considered a threat just because that individual has come on their property uninvited happen to be laws that are completely and totally inconsistent with the traditions and precedents that form the basis of our legal system, i.e., the Common Law. And such laws do not (read: not) exist in any other country, such as Australia or South Africa, whose legal systems derive from the Common Law.

              Guess what? At the same time that SYG law started spreading throughout the United States, pro-gun groups like the NRA and others also began successfully promoting laws which make it easier, indeed almost invite residents to walk around town with a gun. These laws, known as CCW laws, first started appearing in the 1980’s and now just about every state allows anyone who can legally own a gun to carry it on their person whether they feel threatened o not. In fact, next month the Supreme Court will hear a case which may determine whether the 2008 Heller decision grants Constitutional protection to carrying a gun outside the home.

              One other point about Gabor’s essay which needs to be considered as well, and that’s his assumption, shared by moist people, that our inner-city neighborhoods are places where so much violence occurs because such neighborhoods contain mostly residents who happen not just to be Black, but are also very poor. Gabor states it this way: “Violence is especially foreseeable in low income neighborhoods with persistently high levels of violence, poor public services, and policing that may not comply with international standards.”

              This connection between poverty and violence has a long pedigree both in research and common belief. Is it really true? Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately for the sake of a more realistic view of the endemic issue of racism in the United States, it may not be so true. Here’s an article which posits that race causes class, rather than the other way around. It is based on many community studies which find Blacks lagging behind Whites even when the socio-economic circumstances of the two races are the same.

              On the other hand, if you take the trouble to read Gabor’s essay all the way to the end, you’ll discover that the very last sentence of this refreshing and perceptive piece says this: “our national and state governments need to be held accountable when public safety is subordinated to the interests of a minority of citizens to own and carry a wide array of weapons, including those designed for military uses.”

              The last five words of Gabor’s piece are the most important thing he has to say. This country, our country suffers more than 120,000 conscious acts of gun deaths and gun injuries every year because we give folks free access to weapons of war.

              That’s right – all those semi-automatic pistols made by Glock, Sig, Smith & Wesson, et. al., and all those semi-automatic assault rifles made by the same and other gun companies are designed and carried by our troops and the military of other countries in the field.

              We don’t have a ‘problem’ of gun violence in this country. We have a problem because we define ‘sporting’ guns in a way that has no reality behind the definition at all.

              I invite Tom Gabor to respond to what I have said above, and I’ll be happy to post his response as a column on this blog.

Time To Chip In!

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My umbrella came in yesterday. It looks great! I’m going to take it out to my club where I am the only registered Democrat and walk around with it if it starts raining while I’m on the course.

So pull out a Jackson and a Lincoln or be politially correct and pull out a Lincoln and a Tubman. I don’t care.

Just do it, okay?

Here’s the link: Moms Demand Action Umbrella | Everytown for Gun Safety.

Do it. You got something better to do?

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