How Many Americans Really Own Guns?


              Everyone knows and trusts the RAND Corporation to conduct serious and valid research on issues of paramount concern, which it has been doing now since 1948. In particular, their work is often cited by government agencies both to define challenges, as well as to help set priorities to meet specific needs.

              The company’s motto is ‘objective analysis, effective solutions,’ which together guide the organization’s research resulting last year in more than 800 reports and journal articles – whew!

              One of the areas where RAND has been creating a presence and doing research is gun violence, covered by RAND in a specific research initiative, Gun Policy in America, which attempts to examine the role and value of different laws and programs on current gun violence trends.

              I happen to have just finished looking at a database published by RAND in 2020 which gives an estimate for the number of gun-owning households in each state. This is a fundamental issue in the whole question of gun violence because it is taken as a given that our excessive rate of gun violence is somehow connected to a civilian arsenal which numbers somewhere between 300 million up to above 400 million guns.

              The data on ownership covers the years 1980 through 2016 and shows an overall national gun-owning average in 2016 of 32%, down from 45% in 1980. Of course, given that the national population has increased from 226 million to 327 million over those 36 years, if these estimates are correct, it means that there are at least 3 million more households with guns at the latter date.

              To arrive at the national; and state-level estimates of gun ownership, the research group tracked 4 data trends: (1). Firearm suicides; (2). Hunting licenses; (3). subscriptions to Guns and Ammo magazine; and (4). background checks. This is a rather interesting collection of data used to count households with guns, since background checks in most states didn’t start to begin until 1998 or 1999. As for Guns and Ammo magazine, although its monthly printing runs some 10 million, at least half that total goes to newsstands and other retail outlets whose locations aren’t known.

              All that being said, however, I have a much more fundamental problem with the attempt by RAND to correlate gun ownership with gun violence on a state-by-state basis and my problem is simply this: the data being used to calculate or estimate household gun ownership is counting different categories of legally owned guns. Individuals who are not legally allowed to own guns aren’t in the habit of buying hunting licenses, nor are they going to undergo background checks.

              On the other hand, the behavior which constitutes 80% of all gun violence events (homicides and aggravated assaults) is overwhelmingly committed by individuals who are not using legally acquired or legally owned guns. How can you make any kind of correlation between the number of legal gun owners on the one hand, and the number of gun assaults committed by individuals who are not legally entitled to own guns?

              You can make such a correlation all the time, and such correlations have been floating around gun violence research circles for years. But there is no valid reason to assume that such correlations explain anything about gun violence at all.

              I am still waiting for anyone from RAND or anywhere else to try and figure out how many guns are in households where guns, legally speaking, don’t belong. I would also be happy to see one gun violence researcher who even admits that maybe, just maybe, we need to figure out the reasons for gun violence from the perspective of crime, as opposed to the seemingly endless wringing of hands about how all those shootings occur because the poor kids in the inner city have nothing better to do with their time.

              Don’t get me wrong. Like Hobbes, I believe that human lives are nasty, brutish, and short, particularly when those lives have to be lived on a shoestring budget or less. But this doesn’t take away from the fact that gun violence as a response to social dislocation and gun violence as a crime are two differing explanations where the gap seems to be getting wider all the time.

              Is it therefore any surprise that the amount of gun violence also keeps growing all the time?

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


              Since it appears that guns will be an important issue in 2024, it seems to me that what my friends in Gun-control Nation should do is make sure they have all their facts straight about gun violence and gun control.

              In that regard, liberals often depend on reportage in The New Yorker Magazine, which has given us some very important and incisive perspectives on political issues (civil rights, Viet Nam, détente) over the years.

              One of the magazine’s noted reporters in this regard, Amy Davidson Sorkin, has just published a comment about guns in the May 29th Talk of the Town section, and I hate to say it, but when it comes to framing a proper argument about guns, gun violence and what to do about both, she just doesn’t get it at all.

              After correcting Donald Trump for his hideously-stupid comments that he made about guns during the CNN Town Hall (but that was par for the course since everything he said was hideously stupid) Sorkin then goes on to say that we are approaching “a particularly critical moment in the story of guns in America,” based on the easing of judicial restraints on owning and walking around with concealed guns, as well as allowing gun owners to carry concealed weapons without any specific licensing process at all.

              The notion that our high rate of gun violence is caused by the number of guns in civilian hands forms a bedrock belief of the gun-control community alongside the other fundamental assumption that guns carried around by civilians who legally own those guns is also a primary explanation for the 100,000+ fatal and non-fatal assaults caused by the misuse of those guns.

              The problem with the more guns equals more gun violence argument, however, is that most of those 400 million privately-owned guns are never used to commit any kind of violent assaults at all. The weapon of ‘choice’ for most shootings is a bottom-loading, semi-automatic pistol holding military-style ammunition, and while such guns are now added to the civilian arsenal at the rate of 3 to 4 million a year, they were basically unknown in this country until the 1980’s, when European companies like Glock and Sig began to ship their guns over here.

The other problem with the argument about the alleged impact of loosening gun-control regulations, is that there has yet to be one single study which attempts to determine exactly how many of those 100,000+ gun-violence events which have become a routine part of the American behavioral landscape are committed by individuals with legal versus illegal access to guns. Until we make at least some effort to figure out the actual connection between the legal status of guns which are used to commit all that carnage every year, what’s the point of even arguing about whether we should or should not be making it more or less legally difficult to walk around the neighborhood with a gun?

              Between 2007 and 2022, the Violence Policy Center (VPC) found open-source references which counted 2,240 individuals killed by persons with concealed-carry access to guns, of whom 1,271 were suicides. In other words, of the slightly more than 200,000 intentional fatal gun assaults which took place over those 14 years, roughly .005% (one-half of one percent) were committed by the types of individuals whose legal access to a concealed weapon makes Amy Sorkin and her gun-control colleagues convinced that gun-carrying Armageddon is near at hand.

              Granted, the data collected by the VPC is hardly comprehensive or exact. But even if we were to double, or triple, or quadruple the shootings committed by individuals who are legally armed, how do you begin to compare that problem to the hundreds of thousands of gun assaults committed by individuals who cannot qualify to be owners of guns?

              This excerpt from Billy Bathgate, is how the novel’s author, E. L. Doctorow, describes the feelings of a teenage boy who just got his hands on his first, real gun:

The gun means nothing until it’s really yours. And then what happens, you understand that if you don’t make it yours you are dead, you have created the circumstance, but has its own free-standing rage, available to anyone, and this is what you take into yourself, like an anger that they’ve done this to you, the people who are staring at your gun, that it’s their intolerable crime to be the people you are waving this gun at. And at that moment you are no longer a punk, you have found the anger that was really in you all the time.

              The kid in Doctorow’s novel who is thinking about how that newly acquired gun will transform him from being a punk to being a big, tough man represents what gun violence in the United States is really all about. And if Amy Davidson Sorkin wants to help us figure out how to deal with the real-life kids whose access to guns will ultimately result in hundreds of thousands getting wounded and killed every year, maybe she should spend a little more time thinking about how to prevent those kids from getting their hands on illegal guns, and a little less time worrying about how legal gun owners behave with their guns.

Can We Reduce Gun Violence by Reducing Violence?


              So, a week has gone by, and nobody has walked into a school or a supermarket and blown the place to bits. But I really don’t remember when we had such a spate of mass shootings, and I’m not talking about the pissed off ex-husband who shows up uninvited at a party thrown by his ex-wife and bang-bang-bang, two or three people are dead.

              I’m talking about the really big deals where the guy walks into some crowded space, takes out his trusty ‘sporting’ assault rifle and bangs away. The latest seems to have been down in Allen, TX where some nut job killed and wounded 15 people before the cops shot him dead. Now that’s a serious mass shooting, okay?

              And of course, you know that sooner or later we get a book which will explain what these shootings are all about, along with the requisite list of strategies we should adopt to keep such fearsome events from happening again.

              And here it is! The Violence Project – How To Stop a Mass Shooting Epidemic by two criminal justice academics who run a program in St. Paul, MN which claims to be a non-partisan research center ‘dedicated to reducing violence through research.’

              Before I get into some details about the book, I would appreciate it if someone would take the trouble to write and explain to me why all the various organizations and programs devoted to reducing gun violence always make a point of saying they are non-partisan in their approach to their work?

              Is there a partisan way to look at violence? Am I missing something here? Okay, back to the book.

              As far as I know, this book represents the first attempt to understand mass shootings by interviews with mass shooters themselves. The authors wrote to all the mass shooters living in prisons and five shooters responded positively and agreed to talk. They also then interviewed dozens of family members and friends of these five murderers, just to round things out. The purpose of all these discussions “was not the shooting itself but the perpetrator’s life story leading up to the shooting.” [Page 12]

              It turns out, surprise – surprise, that six out of ten mass shooters had some kind of mental health issue in the years leading up to the shooting event. Most also showed various symptoms of mental crisis (agitation, abusive behavior, depression, mood swings) in the days, weeks, months and even years prior to engaging in a shooting spree.

              Obviously, the one factor which somehow connected these behavioral issues with a murderous event was access to a gun. But the authors of this book have next to nothing to say about the fact that these mass killings wouldn’t have happened without access to a gun, and their only prescription for responding to this issue is to support the usual laundry list of gun-control measures (background checks, red-flag laws, etc.,) none of which have ever been shown to reduce gun violence or mass shootings at all.

There’s also the requisite plea to all gun owners to safely store their guns which, by the way, has never been shown to make any difference to the number or rate of gun violence events.

              The authors cite a 2018 survey which found that a “clear majority of Americans favor regulating the lethality of firearms available to the public.” [Page 167] Then they fall back on the idea of a ban only on assault rifles, which are used in an incidental proportion of gun deaths every year.

              God forbid these well-meaning authors/advocates would discuss or even mention the one strategy which would definitively erase gun violence as a behavior resulting in more than 100,000+ people getting killed or seriously injured by someone else every year. To quote Grandpa, would it be such a ‘gefailach’ (read: big deal) to call for the ban of those bottom-loading, semi-automatic pistols whose sale is the real reason that gun violence occurs at all?

              The reason that well-meaning and dedicated activists and scholars like Jillian Peterson and James Densley never go beyond what has become the standard prescriptions for reducing gun violence is very simple – they don’t know anything about guns. Which is true of the entire gun-control community as well.

              So, when these folks talk about ‘non-partisan’ or ‘consensus’ approaches to the problem, they are employing code words which mean they will try to deal with this problem in a way that will at least make it possible to have a discussion with pro-gun groups or advocates which doesn’t end up with a bunch of angry words being thrown back and forth.

              The evidence about gun risk is very clear: access to guns represents medical risk. When C. Everett Koop decided to declare smoking a medical risk, he didn’t try to find a ‘non-partisan’ way to create a narrative which would appeal to both the smoking and non-smoking sides.

              Mass shootings, defined in this book as an event where 4 people are together shot dead in a public space, has been going on for a lot longer than any other health epidemic has ever continued within the United States. To paraphrase Katherine Christoffel, gun violence isn’t an epidemic, it’s endemic.

              You don’t solve an endemic health problem until and unless you focus your energies first on figuring out why the problem exists.

              To paraphrase the 1992 Clinton campaign, it’s the gun, stupid.

Do We Know Anything About Gun Violence?

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              When I opened my third and last gun shop in 2011, a new Glock pistol ran about $500 bucks and a good assault rifle from Panther Arms cost about twice that much. Even at those prices, I sold plenty of both.

              Actually, I didn’t so much as sell them for the manufacturer’s suggested price. I sold them for about half the listed price because just about everyone who comes into a shop to buy a new gun brings in a used gun and makes a trade.

              Guns don’t wear out. And now that they’re made out of polymer, the frame doesn’t even rust. So, you buy a gun, shoot it a few times, then stick it away and take it out next year or the year after and trade it in for another new gun.

              That’s what the retail gun business is all about. It’s kind of like the car business except at some point cars end up being crushed into a square of rusted metal and shipped off to some big oven where they are melted down and the manufacturing process starts over again.

              I own a Colt 1911 pistol that was manufactured in the Hartford factory in 1923. The gun has gone through I don’t know how many owners, but it works fine. It even shoots some ammunition that was made at the Remington ammunition factory in Bridgeport sometime before World War II. 

              The Colt factory in Hartford is now an ‘innovation center’ which means the building’s just an empty shell. The Remington ammunition factory in Bridgeport is rubble. The gun is sitting in my son’s closet unless he sold it to someone else.

              Now according to my inflation calculator, a Glock which cost $500 in 2001 should cost $852 today. An assault rifle from Panther Arms with a retail price of $1,000 in 2001 should set a buyer back $1,705 and change.

              Meanwhile, I see dealers on the internet advertising Glocks for $400 and assault rifles for $600 and change. This means that in real dollars, the types of guns which show up in just about all the gun violence events which are happening today cost about half as much as they cost twenty years ago.

              If there’s a connection between the number of violent crimes committed with guns and the number of guns that are floating around, why should we be surprised when guns have become so much cheaper than they used to be?

              On the other hand, the truth is we really have no idea whether there’s any connection between all those guns floating around and how many crimes are committed by people who don’t have the legal authority to go out and buy one of those cheap guns. Instead, what we get from both sides in the gun debate is a totally unverified assumption that if more people own guns, then crime will either go up or go down, depending on whether all those guns are used either to commit crimes or to protect people from crimes.

              The latter argument, of course, is made by my friend John Lott, who has been saying that more guns equals less crime since he published a book with that title in 1998. The former argument connecting our elevated gun-violence rate to the size of the civilian gun arsenal is made by my friend David Hemenway, who has been making this argument in print since 2004.

              Lott goes around giving his lecture to friendly, pro-gun groups and Hemenway goes around spieling to groups who don’t like guns. Every few years Lott publishes a new edition of his book, Hemenway also updates his research from time to time. Neither Lott nor Hemenway, nor any of the other progenitors in these two cottage industries has yet to even attempt the one, basic piece of research which would definitively determine the link between violence and guns.

              What would that research be? It would be research that would determine exactly how many acts of violence committed with the use of guns are committed by individuals who have legal access to those guns.

              The only time the issue of whether a shooter used a legally acquired weapon is in cases of mass assaults, like last year’s mass shootings in Uvalde, TX or Buffalo, NY which together resulted in 31 deaths, with one shooter killed and the other taken into custody by the cops.

              But even though more than 100,000 Americans are killed or seriously injured by the random shootings which take place just about everywhere all the time, we have absolutely no idea where the guns come from which are used in most of those shooting events.

              I would be willing to take the short odds that less than 5% of all the men and women who are killed or injured each year by someone else who pops them with a gun are the victims of shootings committed by someone who is using a legally-acquired gun or someone who wouldn’t fail a background check even if the gun they used to commit an act of gun violence was acquired in an extra-legal way.

              So why do we continue to argue about laws to regulate the behavior of gun owners who know how to self-regulate themselves? Because the so-called experts who conduct research about gun violence don’t know anything about guns.

American Carnage – A Review.


              The purpose of this book is to provide an antidote to the misinformation which circulates in and around what the authors describe as the ‘intense and acrimonious’ national gun debate. The text is devoted to discussing 37 different ideas which create this misinformation, or what Tom Gabor and Fred Guttenberg refer to as gun ‘myths.’

              To their credit, G&G do an excellent job of describing each myth in clear and concise terms. They also have plumbed the research conducted and published which sheds some reality on each of these myths. If you find yourself in a discussion, debate or argument with a pro-gun advocate, the chances are pretty good that you will have to respond to one or more of the myths listed in this book and you can feel confident using the points made by G&G to provide a contrary case.

              That’s the good news about American Carnage – Shattering The Myths That Fuel Gun Violence. Now the other news, by which I don’t mean criticisms of what G&G have written. Rather, these are several concerns provoked by the book which perhaps require some additional thought. But the whole point of writing any book about a current debate is, after all, to widen the parameters of the debate. As Grandpa would say, ‘ze hais?’ (read: get it?)

              Concern #1. Early on, G&G argue that much of the misinformation about guns reflects the absence of research due to the Dickey Amendment, which prohibited the CDC from sponsoring evidence-based studies from 1997 until last year. But what is not mentioned is that the data on gun injuries produced by the CDC happens to be so insufficient and so lacking in both quantity and quality that our understanding of gun violence remains both minimal and misdirected, government research support or not.

              What I am referring to is the fact that the CDC only publishes estimates on the number of individuals who are killed with the use of guns, i.e., homicides and suicides. The CDC has yet to figure out how to derive and publish a valid estimate on the number of non-fatal gun injuries which occur every year, and my best guess is that this number, if estimated correctly, would increase the total annual gun carnage by two-thirds!

              How can you determine the efficacy of any law or strategy to reduce gun violence if you can’t figure out the number of gun violence events before and then after the law or strategy is put into effect? And let me make it clear that the only difference between fatal and non-fatal gun injuries is that in the latter instance, the shooter didn’t shoot straight.

Moreover, there are studies which strongly hint at the possibility that many of the victims of non-lethal gun injuries recover initially but then end up dying earlier than they otherwise would pass away. In other words, the actual fatal gun violence toll may be substantially higher than the number of deaths which occur in any given year.

My second concern, and again this is in no way of criticism of this fine, little book, is that G&G make no distinction between legal, as opposed to non-legal owners and users of guns. These lacunae aren’t their fault, because the absence of such a distinction is rife throughout the scholarly literature on guns. The United States isn’t the only country to sustain a regulatory system for private gun ownership, but it is the only country whose regulatory system is based on the behavior of gun owners, as opposed to a regulatory system which focuses primarily on the lethality and dangerousness of specific types of guns.

There’s a reason you can’t buy a semi-automatic pistol in Canada, which happens to be the same reason that you can’t buy an assault rifle in Britain or France. The only small arm whose ownership is restricted in the United States is a machine gun, but you can even own a full-auto gun if you’re willing to undergo two background checks, wait a couple of months to get approved and then ante up a $250 tax.

Not only do we try to respond to gun violence by looking primarily at the shooters and not at the guns they use to injure or kill themselves or someone else, in fact we have absolutely no idea how many gun violence events are committed by individuals who don’t meet the criteria we have developed to determine who can qualify to own a gun. G&G mention (p. 83) a California study of 18 million adults which showed that access to guns in the home resulted in a risk of fatal injury, but this study didn’t differentiate between legal and illegal guns.

We have absolutely no idea how many of those 400 million guns in the civilian arsenal are in the possession of people who cannot qualify for legal gun ownership. Hence, we have no way of actually determining the efficacy of the various gun regulations (ERPO, UBC, CAP, etc.) that G&G and the entire gun-control community believe, if enacted, will reduce the gun carnage which currently occurs in the United States.

Again, I am not raising these concerns as a criticism of G&G’s work. If anything, hopefully this book will give them a presence in the gun debate which will enable them to raise these issues in a meaningful ad influential way.

American Carnage deserves to be read.

Want to Protect Yourself? Turn a Pistol Into a Rifle.


              So, to make sure that none of their supporters make the mistake of thinking that they are doing anything to restrict or soften 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ today the GOP majority on the House Judiciary Committee voted to roll back a new ATF rule that would require owners of handguns with stabilizing braces to register those guns.

              A stabilizing brace is a plastic accessory which attaches to the grip of a handgun ans effectively turns the gun into a rifle because now it can be shot with the gun braced against the shooter’s shoulder instead of having to control the gun and its recoil just by using the shooter’s hands.

              “The stabilizing brace isn’t a gun,” said one of the GOPers on the Committee, “it’s just a mechanism that will allow a disabled individual to protect himself with a handgun.”

              Isn’t that nice?  This member of the GOP caucus is concerned about wanting disabled Americans to feel the same sense of protection and strength by carrying a gun that gun owners feel when they walk around with a rifle, except that a handgun is so much easier to conceal.

              What my friends in Gun-control Nation probably don’t understand, nor did I hear a single member of the Democrat(ic) minority on the House Judiciary Committee attempt to explain, is that what makes an assault rifle like an AR-15 so lethal is not the length of the barrel, but the fact that the gun loads from beneath its frame, which allows the shooter to use a high-capacity magazine which might hold 30 or more rounds, plus an empty magazine can be dropped out of the gun and a new, loaded magazine inserted in a second or less.

              These design features have nothing to do with the gun’s barrel length, which is how a gun is defined as either a handgun or a long gun. And many of the gun companies who today manufacture and sell assault rifles, are also making and selling handguns which incorporate the design features described in the previous paragraph and are pictured above.

              The attempt by the gun industry and its GOP cheerleading squad to present and define this issue as just another way to help the disabled among us behave just like normal, ordinary folks is a complete and total ball of sh*t. If I want to bring a gun into a public space and blast the hell out of everyone I could see, I’d buy an assault-style handgun, attach a stabilizing device to the grip and I’m good to go.

              One of the GOP jerkoffs on the Committee, Rep. Wesley Hunt, shot his mouth off in the usual, pro-gun fashion by saying “it’s not the gun, it’s the homicidal maniac” using the gun.

              Did it ever occur to this brainless individual that making it easier for the ‘brainless maniac’ to walk into a public space with a concealed assault-style weapon will just make it easier for the ‘brainless maniac’ to kill as many people as he can?

              Of course, this didn’t occur to Congressman Hunt. Before the hearing he no doubt asked a staff member to give him something to say in favor of the stabilizing brace. The staffer contacted the local NRA rep who immediately handed him this gem of a statement and Congressman Hunt had what he needed to say.

              The NRA has basically been saying the same thing for the last forty or so years. ‘Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.’ You still occasionally see that bumper sticker on the rear fender of an F-150 or another small truck.

              People also kill other people with knives, sometimes with a good, hard klop over the head. But why make it easier for someone to kill or injure someone else?

              Oh, I forgot! It’s not a homicide to defend myself when I’m attacked by someone else. Wasn’t that what the guy was doing who shot and nearly killed a teenager named Ralph Yarl who knocked on the guy’s front door by mistake?

How Do We Stop an Epidemic Which Is Endemic?

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              So, to keep things from getting out of control on the gun-control front, the GOP unleashed Vickie Spartz, a House caucus member from Indiana, who explained why locking her guns up or locking them away didn’t make her feel more safe. In fact, the way she put it, she needs her guns close at hand because she never knows if or when the cops will show up.

              This is something of an interesting balance act for the GOP, so to speak, because on the one hand they present themselves as the only think standing between them and those liberal hordes who want to defund the police. On the other hand, if you need to sleep with a gun under your pillow because you can’t be sure if the cops will respond to your call for help, then why should we be paying the folks in blue?

              That being said, the attempt by Congressperson Spartz (no, she’s a Congresswoman) to undercut a cherished idea of Gun-control Nation reflects just how much the GOP needs to keep itself in fighting trim for the gun ‘rights’ gang,  but it also unfortunately reflects the lack of reality in the strategies being promoted by gun-grabbing liberals (which is an oxymoron if there ever was one) to reduce or at least control the current spate of violence caused by the availability of guns.

              Yesterday, according to the Gun Violence Archive, there were 102 deaths and injuries from shootings, of which 30 victims ended up dead and the other 72 are still alive. At that pace, this year would find us at around 11,000 homicides from shootings, which is actually substantially less than the number of individuals murdered with guns over the last several years.

              On the other hand, since 2001, there has only been one year (2014) when less than 11,000 victims were intentionally shot to death, and the number that year was 10,945. To quote our friend Dr. Kathy Kristoffel, we don’t have a gun violence epidemic, because epidemics come, and epidemics then go. The U.S. has gun violence as an endemic condition, which has become as constant and unchanging as the daily replacement of the sun by the moon.

              Unfortunately, cynically stupid politicians like Victoria Spartz, can get away with the nonsense she spouts because the programs and strategies proposed by the gun-control crowd haven’t done much good and worse, don’t even reflect the reality of why and how gun violence actually occurs.

              There is not one, single study, including the research referenced by Idiot Spartz, which goes any further than assuming that maybe there would be a change in gun-violence rates if laws which required locking up the guns were put into effect. Sorry, but telling a gun owner that you believe he maybe might be safer if he locks up his guns, is like telling him that he doesn’t need to worry if he just drinks or smoke a little less.

              My state, Massachusetts, happens to have the strongest and most comprehensive law mandating safe gun storage of all 50 states. If you leave a gun out where other household members can even just touch it, you have committed a felony punishable by five years. The law was passed in 1999 and gun-violence rates went up, not down, over the following four or five years.

              Know why the U.S. has an endemic gun violence problem? Because we are the only country in the entire world which allows residents to own and walk around with guns that were designed specifically to be used to commit gun violence.

              I’m not talking about assault rifles, even though they are usually the weapon of choice when someone wants to blow through a movie theater or a school. I’m talking about my semi-automatic, bottom-loading Glock pistol with a 16-round mag.

              My Glock 17 wasn’t designed to be a ‘sporting’ gun. My Glock wasn’t designed to pop a cap on Bambi’s rear end. My Glock, and virtually every other semi-automatic pistol which together are used for most of the fatal and non-fatal shootings every year, was designed to kill human beings.

              And by the way, for all the chatter out there about how a gun makes you ‘safe,’ the World Health Organization defines violence as a conscious attempt to hurt yourself or someone else. And the WHO, as opposed to that other public health organization known as the NRA, doesn’t differentiate between violence which is ‘good’ and violence which is ‘bad.’

              Meanwhile, I don’t notice one, single public health researcher who has ever said that we can reduce or (God forbid) eliminate gun violence by simply getting rid of the types of guns which show up again and again and again in gun-violence events.

              Which is why I referred above to the lack of reality embodied in the statements and strategies of the well-meaning organizations and researchers who work to reduce violence from guns.

Can Gun Responsibility Replace Gun Control?


              Every time there’s a shooting which makes national news, the pro-gun movement gets religion and offers ‘thoughts and prayers,’ while the anti-gun movement comes up with yet another euphemism which they believe will make some gun owners think that they, the anti-gun people, aren’t against guns.

              In the olden days, which was back when the NRA’s national headquarters was located in downtown D.C. within walking distance of the FBI, nobody had any problem with using the term ‘gun control.’ This was because in those olden days nobody talked about guns.

              The government passed two gun laws during the 1930’s which basically made it a long, drawn-out process if you wanted to buy a machine gun. These laws also required gun dealers to register with the government and keep records on who bought guns. But nobody ever came around to look at those records, so nobody cared about guns.

              This all changed after JFK was shot in 1963. It took five years for the government to pass another gun law, but when they did enact a law in 1968, the legal landscape involving guns fundamentally changed.

              First and foremost, we now had a national police force, the ATF, whose agents went around to every federally licensed gun dealer to make sure they were following the rules. This law also required that every interstate movement of any kind of gun had to go from one licensed dealer to another licensed dealer, which meant that the entire commerce of guns in the United States was now under government control.

              It was during the debate over this 1968 law that the term ‘gun control’ first reared its ugly head. All of a sudden, if you supported the idea that the gun industry needed to be regulated far beyond the regulations imposed on other consumer goods, you supported gun ‘control.’ If you didn’t understand how or why the government needed to treat guns differently than the way they treated the sale of cigarettes or cars, you were against gun ‘control.’

              The pro-gun movement began to demonize ‘gun control’ after 1977, when the NRA became much more focused on direct, political action to promote 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ and shifted from an organization primarily concerned with guns for hunting and sport to guns for self-defense. In that respect, the NRA’s strategy was simply a recognition of the degree to which the organization would have eventually disappeared had it continued to promote a hunting culture which was also on the way out.

              Even though the government passed two gun bills in 1994 (assault weapons ban and Brady), these legislative initiatives did not coincide with any growth of a mass, anti-gun movement, the latter only coming about in 2013 following the massacre at Sandy Hook. The driving force in this respect was a decision by Mike Bloomberg whose personal financial resources matched or succeeded the NRA’s coffers, to develop a national, grass roots, anti-gun movement which in turn led to the appearance of Shannon Watts and her MOMS.

              The moment that anti-gun activity went big-time, however, the leadership of Bloomberg’s effort plus other groups (Brady, Giffords) realized that talking about guns as products which needed to be ‘controlled’ was too toxic a narrative to capture support from anyone on the other side.

              So, the phrase ‘gun control’ disappeared and was replaced by ‘gun violence prevention’ (GVP) which has now been replaced by ‘safety’ or ‘responsibility’ as ways to define the proper behavior of gun owners who don’t want to give up their guns.

              How does the anti-gun movement want ‘responsible’ gun owners to behave with their guns? The guns should always be locked up or locked away, the gun owners should spend time being trained, there should be no transfer of any gun to anyone without a background check and nobody should be walking around with a concealed weapon unless this conduct has been approved by the police.

              So, the United States will continue to have a civilian arsenal which will contain as many as 60 million guns that are also issued and used by the military and the police, but we won’t continue to suffer 100,000 – 125,000 intentional gun injuries every year because we will all behave responsibly with our guns.

              And anyone who wants to believe that nonsense should fly out and spend a weekend with the Martians who live at Area 51.  

What Should We Do About Gun Violence?

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              Today I happened to see a news report about the group in my state – Massachusetts – which works to eliminate gun violence. The group is the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, which like many such organizations, got started after the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook.

              In 2014, the Coalition helped pass a gun-control law which mandated background checks for all private gun transfers. In 2018 they were active in getting an ERPO law passed in our state. This year, their agenda includes “more analysis of the data collected in the aftermath of a violent gun event, better regulation of ghost guns, more protections for survivors of domestic and sexual violence and firearm industry accountability measures.” I’m quoting the group’s Executive Director.

              Gun violence is defined as the intentional attempt to injure yourself or someone else with the use of a gun. So far there have been at least 53 gun-violence injuries in Massachusetts, although this data no doubt undercounts the number of self-inflicted gun-violence events.

              Sounds like a lot of violence, right? In fact, Massachusetts happens to be more or less tied with Hawaii for the lowest rate of gun violence of all fifty states. The gun-violence rate in Connecticut is twice as high, in New Hampshire the gun-violence rate is three times than in the Bay State.

              If you want to be a legal gun owner in Massachusetts, here’s what you have to do. First, you have to be 21 years of age; none of this 18-year nonsense allowed. Then you have to apply for a license at the police department in the town where you live go through an interview with the chief who, a recent Supreme Court case notwithstanding, is still going to ask you why you want to own a gun. And if the Chief doesn’t like your answer, maybe you’ll get a gun, maybe you won’t. Or the gun you’ll be allowed to own will have to be reloaded every time you pull the trigger once.

              Before you even see the Chief you have to sit through a safety course, which is often taught by the local Chief. You’ll pay a hundred bucks to take that course, by the way, and then lay out another hundred to send your paperwork into the State where it is then run through a local and national background check.

              Now you have your gun license and you come running back to your local dealer to buy a gun. Your first choice is one of those snazzy, little military-type rifles which you’ve seen on all the John Wick flicks except you can’t buy a rifle like that in Massachusetts – they were banned in 1994 and the ban is not only still in effect, but it was updated to include additional design features back in 2019.

              You also can’t buy any new handgun, like a Glock, which doesn’t meet the state’s safety-design criteria and has been certified as being ‘childproof’ by an independent test lab. For that matter, if you want to save a buck and buy a used handgun , it has to be a piece that’s been in the state prior to 1999.

              In other words, if you want to be a legal gun owner in Massachusetts, you can’t own any of the guns which are used to commit just about every gun-violence event.

              So how come Massachusetts experiences any gun violence at all? For the simple reason that gun violence occurs throughout the United States, namely, that it’s a type of behavior committed by individuals who don’t use legally acquired or legally owned guns.

              What does the Coalition want to do about this problem? They say this: “Gun homicides and assaults are overwhelmingly concentrated in predominantly Black and Brown urban neighborhoods. These racial disparities in gun violence rates are the result of centuries of deliberate policy choices that created racially segregated neighborhoods that are underfunded and under-supported by policymakers. Gun violence is a symptom of deeper issues: racism poverty trauma and lack of opportunity.”

              So, now we’re not worried about gun violence, we’re worried about racism, poverty and all the other social and economic misfortunes which just happen to ne more common in neighborhoods where people are walking around with illegal guns.

              Take a look at the page where the Coalition defines its mission and goals. There is not one, single word that even remotely refers to the fact (note the word ‘fact’) that at least half, if not more of the gun-violence events which occur every year in Massachusetts happen to be crimes.

              Now take a list of the more than 100 organizations which have teamed up with the Coalition to support their work. There is not one, single organization on this list which happens to represent the cops.

              Maybe I don’t get it. Maybe I’m just too dumb to understand anything about gun violence because I don’t understand how you can mobilize against any threat to community safety unless you include the public agencies funded to protect all of us from a particular threat.

              I must be missing something here, right?

Does Safe Storage Reduce Gun Violence?


              I started writing about gun violence in 2012, hoping I could provide some degree of objectivity for how public health and medical researchers talked about guns. What concerned me then, and continues to concern me now, is the degree to which scholars providing ‘evidence-based’ research to help define more effective strategies and programs for reducing gun violence should align their research with at least some degree of understanding about how gun owners use their guns.

              Unfortunately, this is rarely the case, and a typical example of the lack of reality about gun behavior can be found in a new article published in JAMA Network covering the different ways that gun owners deal with safe storage of their guns.

              Here’s what the research article is all about: “Unsecure home firearm storage is associated with further increased risk of firearm death, and the promotion of secure firearm storage (e.g., with a locking device) may help reduce firearm injury and death.”

              However, according to the research findings, nearly 60% of the respondents in this survey said they kept at least one gun around the house unlocked, and one out of five said they kept the unlocked gun in plain sight.

              Of course, this information tells us that many gun owners are behaving with their guns in very unsafe ways. Who but an idiot would leave an unlocked gun lying around, right?

              This question and the choices respondents were given for an answer demonstrates just how meaningless this survey happens to be, and the idea that it would be used to formulate more effective strategies for dealing with gun violence is a joke.

              Why do I say that? Because what the researchers should have asked was whether the gun owner was able to access the gun while it was ‘hidden’ away. If I stick a gun in my pocket and I’m a woman and I put the gun in my purse, guess what? The gun is hidden and I’m probably the only person who knows where it is.

              My state, Massachusetts, has the strictest CAP law of any such law in any state. The law requires that every gun be locked or locked away, and if a gun is not safely stored the owner can be charged with a felony, even if no injury or other problem caused by an unlocked gun occurs.

              Except there happens to be a distinction in the law which basically says that the weapon does not have to be physically secured if the owner can reach out and touch the gun. And what this interpretation of the law represents is the fact that many gun owners keep a gun within reach from time to time and don’t consider this practice to constitute any kind of risk.

              The lack of reality involved in the analysis about keeping unsecured guns in the home is exceeded by how the researchers attempted to analyze why respondents bought and own guns. Gun owners were given the following choices to explain why they owned guns: home protection, concealed-carry, hunting, job requirement and heirloom. Of course, the majority response was that guns were needed for self-defense.

              I owned gun shops in three states – SC, NY, MA – and sold eleven or twelve thousand guns to probably seven thousand different customers in those three shops. Know why more than 90 percent of those customers bought a gun or guns from me? Because they had some extra bucks in their pockets or on their VISA cards and wanted to buy another gun.

              This may come as a great shock to all my friends who do research on gun violence, but the average gun buyer in my gun shop put about as much emotional and psychic energy into thinking about buying a gun as he put into deciding which lottery ticket to buy that morning at the convenience store on the way to work.

              Every single gun owner knows that guns are dangerous, that a gun around the home represents a risk, and that there’s always a chance that one of their guns will wind up being used to injure someone either by accident, or on purpose, or maybe both.

              Want to know what was the most common issue discussed in my gun shops? A description about how so-and-so shot a gun off by accident and the worst thing that happened was that a storm window had to be replaced. And such stories always get a good laugh from everyone hanging around.

              Here’s the article’s conclusion: “Secure firearm storage messaging that helps clarify the risk of unsecured firearms beyond situations involving child access may thus serve as a method for increasing secure storage.”

              It is now thirty years since Art Kellerman and Fred Rivara published research which definitively showed that access to guns in the home created serious medical risk. They did not qualify guns as being safely stored, and no subsequent research has ever found any substantive connection between safe storage and reduced gun risk.

              The authors of the current JAMA study not only assume a palliative impact from safe storage which has no basis in experience or evidence-based research, but they compound their uninformed assumption with a fundamental lack of understanding about how gun owners use or think about their guns.

              Of course, the authors of this article can all list this work on their CV’s. And isn’t that the point of public health research?

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