Tom Gabor: Democrats and Republicans – Where Have They Stood on Gun Rights Versus Public Safety


I usually deliver a nonpartisan message but we are approaching the midterm elections and voters should be aware that the two parties have a very different record over the last 50 years.  When we look at major pieces of legislation passed at the federal level, the Democrats have supported laws designed to regulate guns to improve public safety and the Republicans have passed laws that have promoted the rights of gun owners, reduced oversight of the gun industry, impeded research on gun violence, and resisted gun regulation.  Let’s look at their records.


The Democrats:

  • In 1968, after the assassinations of Senator Robert Kennedy and Reverend Martin Luther King, President Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat, signed into law The Gun Control Act of 1968. This comprehensive Act established categories of individuals prohibited from purchasing firearms (many felons, mentally ill individuals, those dishonorably discharged from the military, fugitives, etc.).  The Act also mandated the licensing of those engaged in the business of selling firearms.


  • In 1993, President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, signed the Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act. This law, as an interim measure, imposed a five-day waiting period for the purchase of a firearm from a licensed dealer.  The Brady Law also mandated the instant background checks introduced in 1998 to determine whether buyers from a licensed dealer fall in a prohibited category.


  • In 1994, President Clinton signed the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994, which prohibited the manufacture of certain semi-automatic weapons defined as assault weapons, as well as high-capacity ammunition magazines.


  • In 2013, following the horror at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, President Barak Obama, a Democrat, in what he called “a pretty shameful day for Washington”, saw his proposals to expand criminal background checks to all gun sales, to ban certain assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines voted down by a Republican-controlled Senate.


One exception was Rep. John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, who, when the Consumer Product Safety Commission was formed in 1972, inserted a provision exempting guns and ammunition from the agency’s oversight.  The CPSC regulates the safety of about 15,000 consumer items, from toys and hair dryers to mattresses and lawn mowers.  Rep. Dingell served on the board of the National Rifle Association.


The Republicans:


  • In 1986, President Ronald Reagan, a Republican, signed the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986. This Act strengthened the rights of gun owners and dealers by prohibiting the development of a gun registry, ending recordkeeping for ammunition, and limiting dealer inspections to one per year.


  • In 1996, Jay Dickey, an Arkansas Republican, inserted an amendment into the Federal Government Omnibus Spending Bill which effectively prohibited the Centers for Disease Control from funding research on gun violence.  This amendment was a major priority for the NRA.


  • In 2004, the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 expired under the administration of President George W. Bush, a Republican.


  • In 2005, President Bush signed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. Several cities had filed lawsuits against gun makers and dealers, claiming that their actions had compromised public health and created huge financial obligations for the municipalities.  The Act shields the industry from lawsuits relating to the use of firearms and ammunition, when “the product functioned as designed and intended.”  The PLCAA provides broad protection to companies in the gun industry that make unsafe products and engage in distribution practices that result in easy access by criminals. No other industry benefits from such protection.

Above, we see the factual record over the last half century.  On the major initiatives at least, there is a clear pattern.  Democrats support reasonable gun regulation, such as expanding background checks to all sales and banning assault-style weapons.  Republicans are more concerned about the rights of gun owners, protecting the gun industry from liability, and obscuring the role of guns in deaths and injuries by suppressing research on gun violence.


Tom Gabor, Ph.D. is a criminologist and author of Confronting Gun Violence in America.    

If Gun Control Is The Issue, The Democrats Have The Real Deal.

1 Comment

Now that the alt-left media has decided that Andy can’t run for President because he’s too much of a ‘centrist’ when we all know that Trump can only be beaten by someone who is truly a member of the Progressive Left, I’m going to challenge this nonsense and tell my friends in Gun-control Nation that if they really want a serious attempt at reducing gun violence, they should start a Presidential boom-let for Cuomo before it’s too late.

cuomo              Here’s what the Cuomo nay-sayers at Vox had to say about Andy’s Presidential chances today: “Had Cuomo simply done the normal thing and supported Democratic state Senate candidates and gotten the chance he feared to sign ambitious progressive bills, he’d be perfectly positioned for the circumstances of 2020. Instead, as it stands, he’s left relying on a powerful state party machine and the loyalty of less attentive voters [my italics] to secure what should have been a total cakewalk of a renomination.”

Know who these scions of left-wing political correctness are referring to when they say that Cuomo’s support comes from ‘less attentive’ voters?  They are referring to minorities, in particular Black voters who, according to Vox, always go for the Establishment candidate whether that individual really supports their goals or not. Why didn’t those closet racists at Vox just come out and use the line from Limbaugh-Hannity about ‘low-information’ voters?  Either way, they should be ashamed of themselves for pandering to such lies.

Regarding Andy’s stance on guns, there is not a single Democrat in or out of the Presidential possibilities who has a fraction of his creds.  Hillary may have been all in favor of gun control in 2016, but in 2008 she ran around blue-collar communities telling primary voters that she choked up in tears remembering the wonderful hunting trips she took with dear, old Dad. As for Bernie, he knew full well what would happen to him if he came out with a strong push against guns – in a general election he would have lost his home state.

On the other hand, memories may be short but it was Andy who wrote and brokered the deal between the Clinton Administration and Smith & Wesson which, in return for S&W agreeing to police its own dealer network, the government agreed to immunize the company against tort suits – a position ultimately put into force by the 2005 PLCCA law which immunized gun makers from torts, in exchange for which all they had to do was stick a lock in every gun that they shipped.

Know what would have happened if S&W had agreed to Andy’s plan?  It would have put the company out of business, period, kaput, which is why the gun industry backed a boycott against S&W that only ended when the company was sold and the new owners, along with the Bush Administration, decided to disregard the deal and let well enough alone. Basically, what Andy wanted was a complete monitoring of every S&W dealer by the factory, up to and including on-site visits insuring that safety rules and storage regulations were being followed, along with greater counter-top scrutiny to eliminate straw sales. Had this plan been forced on every gun maker, I don’t think that 10% of the retail dealers could have met its requirements and gun retailing as we know it would have disappeared.

Some of these requirements can be found in the New York SAFE law, which Andy pushed through the state legislature after Sandy Hook. And right now, some of the provisions of that law (registration of assault weapons, hi-cap magazine ban, comprehensive background checks) are a template for how gun-control activists want to strengthen gun laws in other states.

I don’t know Andy’s position on other issues, but on gun control he’s the real, unvarnished deal. If my friends in Gun-control Nation are looking for someone in 2020 to challenge Sleazy Don’s crazy idea that his supporters are so loyal they would vote for him even if he gunned someone down in the street, they won’t find a better choice than the guy who will be sitting in the New York State Governor’s Mansion on November 7th, 2018.

Guns And American Culture Don’t Mean What You Think They Mean.

1 Comment

The Addison Gallery at Phillips Academy in Andover, MA is currently running an exhibition, Gun Country, comprised of photos, paintings, drawings and other visual artifacts about guns. The museum refers to this collection as showing ‘America’s fascination with the gun,’ but a staff writer for the art blog Hyperallergic, Seph Rodney, has decided that what this exhibition really shows is that “guns are a principal symbol of our sense of masculinity and power for our culture.”

addison            Even though it has become a watchword of the gun-control movement that America’s love affair with guns is a function of the degree to which our society is still controlled by power-hungry, white men (read: Donald Trump), I think that what Rodney is saying happens to be a load of crap. And the reason I say that is because if America’s socio-economic-political structures reflect the dominance of white males who use guns to symbolize their masculinity and strength, how come the rest of Western civilization isn’t also awash in guns?

Oh, I forgot. We are the only Western country where white men settled a whole frontier armed with their trusty six-shooters and Winchester repeating rifles, so guns play a special role in our culture and historical consciousness that they don’t play anywhere else.  Another load of crap.

In 1934, then-Attorney General Homer Cummings proposed the first piece of federal legislation to regulate the ownership of small arms, a bill which became law and is known as the National Firearms Act, a.k.a. the NFA.  Given the existence of the 2nd Amendment, Cummings wanted a law that would make it legal for Americans to own guns, as long as these weapons were not too dangerous for civilian use. Hence, the appearance of the NFA list of ‘prohibited’ weapons (machine guns, sawed-off shotguns, silencers and a few other things) which still exists today.

What is not generally known about the NFA was that Cummings initially put handguns on the ‘prohibited’ list. These particular products were then removed from the NFA list before the bill became law. Now it is usually assumed that the decision to let Americans have free access to handguns (thus creating the contemporary problem known as ‘gun violence’) was because of successful lobbying by the NRA, as well as the genuine love and devotion that our culture promoted regarding the existence and use of guns.  More crap.

The reason why the U.S. government didn’t disarm the civilian population in 1934, whereas other Western governments disarmed their civilian populations shortly after World War II by copying the NFA but putting handguns and semi-automatic rifles on the ‘prohibited’ list, is because America was the only industrialized country whose political system hadn’t been threatened by armed, mobilized, mass protests from the Left.  We were the only advanced country whose labor movement wasn’t tied to revolutionary Socialist and Communist political parties; we were the only advanced country which never suffered from violent, countrywide work stoppages and strikes; we were the only advanced country in which personal ownership of weapons wasn’t ever considered to be a threat to the security of the state.

What I find so funny and ironic about the dopes walking around with an AR slung over their shoulder and tell us that it’s the gun that keeps them ‘free,’ is that these are the same jerks who tell you that they need a gun to protect themselves from the ‘tyranny’ of government, except that the current government adopts and promotes social and economic policies which happen to be based on what that same government believes will be supported by the more guns = more freedoms crowd.

The first and last time a President believed that protestors outside the White House represented a threat to law and order was when the President was named Nixon and remember what happened to him. Now maybe the idiot in the Oval Office also represents a threat to the Constitution,  and if so, he’s a much bigger threat to the country than all the noise and nonsense coming from the NRA.



A New Survey Doesn’t Tell Us What Gun Owners Think About Gun Violence.


In the endless quest to locate ‘responsible’ gun owners who will support ‘reasonable’ gun restrictions, Gun-control Nation has just been given a new road map courtesy of the gun-control research group at Johns Hopkins, who have released their third national survey comparing the attitudes of gun owners to non-gun owners regarding different laws and policies for regulating guns. I notice in all these surveys, by the way, that gun-control advocates and organizations never find it necessary to look for ‘responsible’ folks on their side of the argument, the assumption being that anyone who wants to reduce gun violence is, by definition, a responsible and reasonable sort.

may22             That being said, the Hopkins survey asked the two groups of respondents how they felt about 24 different gun-control policies, setting as an agreement – disagreement baseline between the two groups of 10% or more.  In other words, if 75% of Gun-control Nation supports a certain policy but only 65% of Gun-nut Nation supports the same idea, the survey authors pronounce such a gap to mean that the two sides don’t agree. Fair enough.

The publication of this survey was greeted by huzzahs on the gun-control side because universal background checks, Gun-control Nation’s most endearing policy change, was supported by both groups to the tune of 85.3 percent for gun owners versus 88.7 for non-gun owners, basically a dead heat. There were also significant and high rates of agreement for yanking licenses from ‘bad apple’ dealers, mandated proficiency testing prior to issuance of a concealed-carry license and tightening up reportage to NICS of individuals who are nut jobs either because they have been stuck away in a loony bin or some judge said they don’t know their right minds.

What I found most interesting about this survey was that of the 24 policies which respondents were asked to support or not support, only one of these policies was something that Gun-nut Nation has been trying to achieve; i.e., allowing legally armed citizens to bring a concealed weapon (CCW) into a public school. Not surprisingly, at least not to my surprise, this was the one policy in which the gun owners showed themselves to be more strongly supportive than non-gun owners, the gap being 42% to 20%.

The survey is described as an effort to determine public support for ‘gun violence prevention policies,’ but excepting the policy that would allow CCW access in schools, every one of the other 23 policies happen to be policies that will reduce gun violence as defined not by the general public, but by a slice of the general public, otherwise known as the advocates and researchers in favor of gun control.

This may come as a great shock to my friends at Johns Hopkins and other academic centers where gun violence is studied as a public health risk, but there happens to be large numbers of Americans who do not necessarily subscribe to the ideas proposed by Gun-control Nation to reduce the carnage caused by guns. The fact is that a majority of Americans, contrary to the standard mantra of the gun-control movement, actually believe that a gun around the home is a benefit rather than a risk. And I guarantee you that if a ‘nationally representative’ survey asked gun owners and non-gun owners how they feel about such gun-violence reduction strategies as a national, concealed-carry license or ‘constitutional’ carry, the gun-owning respondents would support these ideas with the same degree of fervor and unquestioned belief that gun-control advocates embrace comprehensive background checks.

A survey which tests attitudes of gun owners and non-gun owners based almost entirely on gun-control policies dreamed up by one side in the debate is a survey whose results are nothing more than whole cloth. And worse, such a survey creates false expectations about the degree to which gun-control advocates will be joined by a broad swath of ‘responsible’ gun owners in the effort to strengthen gun-control laws.

There may be some gun-control scholars who define their role as shaping false beliefs. This scholar, for one, doesn’t agree.



Should We Trust Government To Help Us Deal With Gun Violence?

1 Comment

If there is one issue, which more than any divides the two sides in the gun-violence debate, it’s the role that government should play in regulating guns. To pro-gun advocates, the government should basically stay out of the way allowing law-abiding men and women (with a minimal definition of law-abiding) to determine for themselves what to do about guns. To the gun violence prevention (GVP) movement on the other hand, aggressive and comprehensive government gun controls should be the order of the day.

liberal2             Want to carry a gun around for self-defense? The pro-gun gang says this is your unfettered ‘right,’ the gun-grabbers believe that only people who can show a specific and validated need for personal armed security should be able to walk around with a gun. Make background checks cover every transfer of a gun? There’s nothing about NICS in the Constitution argue the protectors of the 2nd-Amendment, whereas the liberals and the Bloomberg-loving crowd don’t understand how any ‘sensible’ person would object to government approval for every time a gun changes hands.

Behind this unyielding refusal to find common ground about how government should be involved in regulating guns is a much deeper division of opinion about the whole notion of government authority itself. Generally speaking, folks who don’t want government to interfere with their ownership of guns take a dim view of government interference in just about everything else. On the other side, activists promoting more government involvement in gun ownership tend to believe that government should play a large role in many social aspects of life. So basically, this division of opinion gets down to whether we should trust government or not.

What I find ironic about this division of liberal versus conservative opinion and government and about guns is that it used to be exactly the other way around.  I became politically active about civil rights in the early 1960’s, following the example of my older brother who went on several freedom rides in 1960 or 1961. My political activity then morphed into the anti-war movement (please don’t ask which war I’m talking about) with the highlight being my presence in Chicago at the Democratic National Convention of 1968.

I don’t remember a time when anyone who considered themselves to be a liberal thought the government was a force for good, and this attitude pervaded every stance which liberals took on political and social issues, even the issue of gun rights. The first major law review article that promoted the idea that the 2nd Amendment protected individual gun rights was written by Don Kates, a Yale Law School graduate who had been a civil rights worker in the South and spent nights on armed guard duty protecting black families threatened by the Klan. His work would be taken a step further by Sanford Levinson, an extremely liberal Constitutional scholar whose 1989 Yale Law Journal article, ‘The Embarrassing Second Amendment,’ basically opened the doors to the gradual tide of jurisprudence that culminated in the Heller decision of 2008.

Now we find ourselves, in the space of one generation, making a 180-degree shift with the Left manning the barricades to protect government institutions from assaults from the Right. Is there a single liberal influencer out there who hasn’t stepped up to defend the FBI? Isn’t this the same FBI that illegally tapped Martin Luther King because they knew he was just a dupe of the Reds?

Perhaps it’s my age, but regarding gun violence, I don’t feel personally comfortable placing my faith in effective government intervention while the other side gets seen as the protector of individual rights. Whether it’s gender rights, immigrant rights or any other kinds of rights up to and including gun rights, the last thing liberals should do is let the Breitbart, alt-white gang pretend they should be taken seriously or listened to at all.

When it comes to vesting the government with ultimate authority to protect us from gun violence, this is one liberal who agrees to disagree.

Will The Bloomberg – Moms Merger Make A Difference?


Starbucks Touchscreen Storefronts

Starbucks Touchscreen Storefronts (Photo credit: DavidErickson)

The NRA better watch out.  There’s a new gun in town and it’s called, well, actually it doesn’t have a name but it’s a combination of two gun control groups – Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense which, according to their merger announcement, will “soon be stronger than any gun lobby.”  And who can argue with that claim when you put together Mike Bloomberg’s gazillions with the tireless energy of Shannon Watts and other moms, right?

The Moms claim they have more than 130,000 members and Bloomberg has enrolled more than 1,000 mayors in his club.  But who knows what those numbers really mean?  Moms also has 130,000 Likes on its Facebook page and when I went to their website it appeared that if I sent them an email with my name and address, that this made me a member.  As for Bloomberg’s membership, I took a quick look at the list for Massachusetts, my state, and guess what?  I couldn’t find a single Massachuetts Mayor who’s a Republican, but I did find Dominic Sarno, the Mayor of Springfield, where the gun homicide rate this year will probably top out at four times higher than the national average. Way to go, big Dom!

And since this new combination will soon be bigger than any gun lobby, let me tell you a little about that other lobby.  There’s been a lot of back and forth over the size of the NRA membership, with the gun organization claiming 4.5 million and various critics scaling this down to 3 million or a bit more.  I’m willing to cut both estimates in half and assume that they have somewhere above 3.5 million, even though even they admit that their recent increase was partially due to a one-year cut in dues paid by new members and it remains to be seen whether all these folks will re-enlist when they have to pay a higher price.

But the fact that Moms doesn’t have any dues not only makes me wary of their membership claims, but also raises the more important question of exactly how effective they can be.  Because it’s not very hard to use today’s social media to create the image of an organization whether something really exists or not.  The Moms group garnered lots of publicity when they showed up at Starbucks and sent a letter to Howard Schultz demanding that the company ban guns from all their stores.  But the company sidestepped the issue by issuing a statement ‘asking’ but not requiring gun owners to keep their guns outside, but even as strident (and usually stupid) a pro-gun outlet as the Washington Times covered the issue in very timid terms because it turns out that lots of gun owners didn’t want to risk the possibility that Starbucks might eventually get a little backbone and ban them permanently. After all, would anyone elevate the 2nd Amendment above that steamy latte?

Of course an advocacy organization can play an important role in any public debate regardless of its size.  But the trick is to figure out who you’re really talking to and whether or not they will listen to what you have to say.  If the Moms want to have a real impact in the argument over guns, why don’t they talk to gun owners and stop wasting their energy on convincing people who don’t need to be convinced?  And you don’t talk to gun people by throwing up a website or a Facebook page and just ‘invite’ them to post a comment or engage in a chat. Sometimes that strategy works when you’re selling a product, but it’s rank arrogance or simply stupid to confuse marketing a product with marketing an idea.

Every weekend there are dozens of gun shows all over the United States.  Each of these shows, on average, count 10,000 admissions. So do the math: if you went to one gun show every weekend, set up a booth, gave out a flyer and shot your mouth off, by the end of the year you would have talked to 500,000 gun guys (and gals.) And don’t think for one second that nobody would talk to you.  Gun folks love to talk – that’s why they go to those shows.

I’d love to walk into a gun show or some other gun-friendly place and see those Moms promoting their point of view.  Would they get an argument from gun folks? Sure.  Would the argument sometimes get nasty or offensive?  It might.  But if Moms or any other gun-control group believes they will make a difference by not going out and meeting the other side, they’re barking up the wrong tree.

What Happened To All The Concern About Guns?

Leave a comment

For a few months after Sandy Hook, it looked like the government was going to pass a new gun control law, specifically aimed at keeping guns out of the “wrong” hands. The president got behind a bill, ditto the gun-control advocacy groups, the pundits wrote and spoke, even the lamentably tragic Newtown parents had their moment on the White House porch.

Meanwhile, everyone forgot the simple fact that the Democrats could barely muster 60 votes for any kind of legislation, a weakness that was exploited by the NRA and its allies to a remarkably-effective degree. All the polls showed a majority of Americans favored stricter gun control, but those numbers didn’t translate into 60 votes on the Senate floor, so Manchin-Toomey quickly died.

Then nine months and one day after Adam Lanza went on a rampage in Newtown, another loony named Aaron Alexis killed 12 people at the Navy Yard in DC and the response from the White House and Capitol Hill was no response at all. But here’s the more important news: Four days after the Navy Yard shooting, Gallup conducted its annual poll on whether Americans thought we needed stricter gun control, and the percentage of respondents who wanted stricter laws declined significantly from the previous year!

Gallup has been running this poll since 2000, and the question is always the same: “Do you feel that the laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict, less strict, or kept as they are now?” The high watermark for making the laws more strict was the first year of the poll, with 62 percent wanting the laws to be more strict and 31 percent wanting them to remain the same.

Year after year the trends narrowed until 2011-2012, when the percentage of Americans who wanted stricter gun laws versus those who saw no reason for change were basically the same. Then we had Sandy Hook, and for the first time since the poll was initially conducted, respondents by almost a two-to-one margin once again opted for stricter laws covering guns.

And yet, according to the latest Gallup finding in the aftermath of both Newtown and the Navy Yard, for the first time since 2008, less than 50 percent want stricter gun laws and the percentages who want the laws unchanged (37 percent) or want the laws to be less strict (13 percent) have both gone up.

How is it that a majority of Americans now believe gun laws should be weakened or remain the same? Part of the answer lies in the degree to which the NRA and the NSSF have continued their grass-roots efforts to mobilize their memberships while the gun control groups, lacking a legislative push on Capitol Hill, have gone back to sleep. The gun folks have become obsessively safety-conscious, just take a look at the NSSF’s Project ChildSafe website and you’ll get my point.

But the real reason for this attitudinal change is because public opinion doesn’t push politics, it’s usually the other way around: political leadership shapes public opinion. The jump in public demand for more gun control after Sandy Hook occurred because the president made guns an issue in every speech he gave. Once Obama and the Democrats stopped talking about gun violence, so did everyone else.

If you believe that we need stricter gun laws, then the year since Sandy Hook should give you no comfort at all. You might cynically believe that gun control will remain on the back burner until another massacre takes place, but if it happens when political agendas are focused on other issues, even the slightest attempt to push a common-sense response to gun violence probably won’t get very far.

Bloomberg Goes After Gun Traffickers: Does He Know Who He’s Looking For/

Leave a comment

bloomMike Bloomberg, soon-to-be former Mayor of New York City, has blanketed the airwaves and the internet since Sandy Hook with his campaign to stop gun trafficking.  Although I can’t find a strict explanation for what constitutes gun trafficking, I guess we can use the one found in H.R. 2554, the bill to prohibit firearms trafficking that was introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) that never got out of committee.  The text of the bill says that trafficking is the transfer of a firearm to an individual:

whose possession or receipt of the firearm would be unlawful; or who intends to or will use, carry, possess, or dispose of the firearm unlawfully.

If you want to know what this means or doesn’t mean, which is a polite way of asking whether Bloomberg, Maloney, et. al.,  knows what they’re talking about, just read on.

Bloomberg’s gun trafficking “evidence” is presented in two ways: there’s a detailed report and an interactive website.  The website allows the viewer to choose any state and see where guns initially sold in that state were later picked up by the cops, or you can turn it around, choose a state and see where guns picked up in that state were first sold.

Not surprisingly, the states that exported the most guns to other states are also states where there are few, if any legal restrictions on gun sales.  The website lists 10 state gun regulations that help deter illegal gun activity (licensing, straw sales, etc.) and only two of the top-10 exporting states, Virginia and North Carolina, had 4 of these regulations on the books, and nearly all the other high-exporting states had one or none.

It has long been an article of faith held by Bloomberg and other gun control advocates that more gun laws equals less gun crime.  But the evidence isn’t so much causal as coincidental because states that have stricter gun laws also tend to be states with less gun ownership.  And the bigger problem is that it’s simply impossible to take a phenomenon as complicated as crime and try to find a single factor that explains why and when it occurs.

But the real problem with Bloomberg’s search for gun traffickers lies in the fact that if we use the transfer of a firearm to test the definition of gun trafficking, and restrict our data to interstate seizure of crime guns, the data used to rank the exporting states starts to get less than precise.  For example, Georgia ranked 10th in total exports and yet 35% of all their exported guns were found in contiguous states.  Virginia was the 7th-highest export state but 40% of its gun exports were found in DC, Maryland and North Carolina.

I’m not surprised that a majority of the crime guns recovered in New York come from non-contiguous states when you consider that both Massachusetts and Connecticut not only have strict laws but have a per capita gun ownership rate far below the national average.

I could write ten more diaries on the analytical problems involved with understanding gun trafficking but my point is simply this:  If anyone thinks there’s a silver bullet out there that will solve the issue of gun violence, think again. The problem is very complex, it’s simply not amenable to any sort of “quick fix,” and before we change the laws, we better make sure that we really know what’s broken and whether we can fix it.


Want To Own A Gun? Move To New York City.

1 Comment

English: New York Mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg.

English: New York Mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you follow the gun debate at all, you’re aware of the fact that Mike Bloomberg, the soon-to-be ex-Mayor of New York City, takes credit for a steep decline in the city’s crime rate due to his strict enforcement of the city’s tough gun laws.  But while this may mean that very few city residents own legal guns, research published by Gary Kleck (UCLA Law Review, #56, 2009) indicates that within another few years, the number of illegal guns may exceed the number of adults living within the city.  Imagine that!  The city with the toughest gun laws will also be home to the largest number of guns.  How is that possible?

According to Kleck, roughly 60,000 people move into New York City every year.  He doesn’t know how many people move out of the city each year, he’s just interested in how many move in.  Why?  Because he assumes that they bring guns with them when they show up. In 2000, just under 800,000 NYC residents had been born in another state:

These migrants presumably moved their possessions with them.  If handgun ownership among these migrants was equal to the U.S. average, migrants born in other states would have moved about 260,000 handguns from other states into NYC.

Kleck bases his calculations on the idea that per capita American handgun ownership is .0325 (one-third of a gun for every person.)  But those numbers have changed.  In fact, since the 1980s, handguns have entered the market over long guns by a ratio of two to one.  So the per capita ownership of handguns is probably now close to 0.50.  This being the case, if we follow Kleck’s logic to its ultimate conclusion, the continued migration of people into New York City from 2000 until 2013 means that at least 400,000 new handguns have come into town during the same period. Add this to the 2 million guns that NYPD believe were in the city in 1980, then tack on another 30,000 each year between 1981 and 2000, and we are up to 3 million guns.
If the demographic breakdown of New York City is anything like the national average, there are approximately 2,700,000 males between the ages of 18 and 65 living in the five boroughs right now.  Since very few women own guns, let’s add in the men over the age of 65 and the total is still below the total number of guns floating around the Big Apple.
You don’t have to take my word for it.  Just read Kleck’s article and do the math. New York City is the handgun haven of the United States.  There’s no doubt about it.

The Gun Debate: Who’s Really Talking?


The last time we engaged in a gun debate that was as loud and time-consuming as what erupted after Sandy Hook was when the assault-weapons ban was enacted in 1994.  But there was no internet in 1994 so it’s impossible to compare what happened then to what is going on now.  The fact that a large number of “grass roots” gun control organizations have suddenly sprung into existence doesn’t necessarily mean that the country is more or less supportive of gun restrictions versus gun rights than it was twenty years ago.  There’s simply no way to compare the noise levels from one communication environment to the other.

What we can compare is the volume of pro-gun versus anti-gun sentiment through an analysis of social media to get some idea of which side might be outshouting the other.  Everybody has a Facebook page these days and people who “like” a particular page can receive content each time the page is updated or changed. The NRA has 2,463,000 ‘likes,’ the Sandy Hook Promise organization has 60,000. Glock’s Facebook page is liked by 567,000, Mayor Bloomberg with his billions has found some way to register a whopping 18,000,  Remington has 870,000 and the Brady Campaign, which has been around since before the 1994 debate, has amassed a grand total of 57,000.  If we use Facebook to estimate grass-roots support for pro versus anti-gun positions, the gun folks outnumber their opponents by 10 to 1.

The Facebook connections made by gun people are so much higher than the anti-gun Facebook connections that we appear to be playing in different arenas. Perhaps we are. What usually goes unmentioned when we talk about guns is understanding the real motivation of gun owners.  Maybe they are hunters, maybe they are target shooters, or maybe they really believe that a gun will protect them from crime.  But in most cases gun owners are hobbyists and their hobby is guns.  They think about guns, they buy guns, they trade guns.  Don’t believe me?  Walk around a gun show and you could be walking around a ham radio show, a model train show, or a computer show.

Guns are a lot more important to people who own them than to people who don’t.  That’s why people who don’t own guns join gun control Facebook pages in much smaller numbers because the passion and the interest just isn’t there.  They’ll tell a telephone pollster that they support background checks, but they’re not going to lose any sleep if the law isn’t changed.  The fact that some young kids get murdered by a “nut” who gets his hands on a gun just doesn’t support the idea that a lawful hobby should all of a sudden become more difficult to pursue.

In the age of digital communication it doesn’t take much to secure a presence in the public debate.  All you need is a URL, a website, Facebook page and Twitter account and you’re good to go. An organization called Moms Rising recently brought 5 groups together on their blog to issue statements about gun violence, including the Children’s Defense Fund whose President, Marian Wright Edelman, is one of my personal heroes.  Together the Facebook pages of these 5 groups total slightly more than 100,000 supporters and this number probably represents numerous duplicates. The NRA is just shy of 2.5 million.  That’s a joke, and not a funny joke.

People who want to see less gun violence aren’t going to get there by reminding gun owners to lock away their guns.  It’s not about websites or t-shirts or leading a seminar at the Aspen Institute.  It’s the tough, hard job of going into one inner-city classroom again and again to talk to 30 kids about staying away from guns.  I’m going to start doing it in September and if I can save one life by making these 30 kids think about gun violence every time I stand in front of the class, then I’ve done something that all the talk, all the organizational activity and all the world’s great opinion-makers and influencers have been unable to do.

%d bloggers like this: