The GVP Research Community Has a Meeting.

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              Back in December 2014 I organized and ran a national conference on gun violence which was held at the headquarters of the state medical society in Waltham, MA. I had difficulty finding enough researchers to populate an 8-hour conference schedule which ran over two days.

              This week, an organization which calls itself The Research Society for the Prevention of Firearm-Related Harms is holding its second annual conference in Chicago, and like the 2022 conference, the event is sponsored by the usual suspects in gun-violence research who are listed here.

              I couldn’t take the time to do a detailed count, but the program for this year’s meeting appears to contain at least one hundred academic researchers who are presenting papers, or participating in panel discussions, or are engaged in one of the workshops or other events.

              I am pleased to see that what was a rather intimate gathering of researchers in front of a modest-sized audience has become not just an academic cottage industry, but clearly a serious and significant academic and research initiative and will doubtless continue to grow over the years to come.

              That being said, let’s look at the other side of the coin. Since the 2014 Waltham conference, somewhere around 380,000 – 400,000 Americans have been killed with guns. The CDC has entirely abandoned any attempt to calculate the number of individuals who have received serious wounds from guns, but I would be willing to bet that the non-fatal injury number for the past nine years is at least another 800,000, if not more.

              Not only has the number of deaths and injuries from guns continued to increase, but the rate of gun violence has also gone up by at least somewhere around 40% to 50%.

              That’s right. In 2015, the gun-violence rate was 11.03, in 2021 it was 14.62.  We don’t have numbers yet for 2022 or 2023, but the estimates from the Gun Violence Archive and other unofficial sources indicate that gun deaths, never mind gun injuries, have climbed and are climbing higher still.

              Don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaming The Research Society for the Prevention of Firearm-Related Harms in any way for being responsible for a public health problem which is not only epidemic in scope, but to paraphrase my dear friend, the late Katherine Kaufer Christoffel, is an epidemic which has become endemic as well.

              On the other hand, America’s love for guns and our tolerance for this continued and growing form of violence simply cannot be blamed on the so-called ‘power’ and financial excesses of the NRA and like-minded groups. For all the talk about how our elected representatives are bought off by donations from the NRA lobbying in D.C. and many states, the entire campaign cash doled out by pro-gun interests doesn’t add up to 5% of what is spent every year on political campaigns.

              Get a bunch of the researchers attending this week’s conference in a room and ask them why we experience and sustain such a high level of gun violence and the first words you’ll hear are words to the effect that gun violence is associated primarily with access to guns.

              This idea happens to be the fundamental axiom upon which all gun violence research rests and It has been substantiated again and again by research first published by Art Kellerman and Fred Rivara back in 1992 and 1993.  I note, incidentally, that Professor Rivara is a Board Member of the group meeting in Chicago this week.

              All well and good that the research community has adopted a post hoc ergo propter hoc explanation which ties gun violence to the existence of guns. Unfortunately, this analysis isn’t shared by a majority of Americans, which even includes many Americans who don’t own guns.

              The last time Gallup asked Americans whether a gun in the home made them more or less safe was in 2014, and 63% said guns in the home made their residence a safer place. A survey by Pew in 2023 said the same thing, i.e., 81% of gun owners said that a gun made them feel safer and 57% of non-gun owners agreed.

              Now, if we live in a country which not only gives Constitutional protection to private gun ownership but us a country in which a clear majority of its population believes in an idea which thirty of evidence-based research does not support, then it seems to me that the people conducting all that research need to ask themselves how come the general public disagrees with what they have found out.

              And you can blame the NRA all you want for this sorry state of public opinion affairs, but I think it’s rather difficult to sustain an argument in which a majority of non-gun owners happen to agree on this basic issue with the NRA.

              Again, I haven’t had time to read then entire Chicago program with detailed care, but at first glance I didn’t see one, single contribution or panel discussion which would lead me to believe that this large group of researchers, of whom many have published significant works, will be spending one minute figuring out how to speak about gun violence to anyone except themselves.

              The keynote speaker, who works at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, is going to talk about how Twitter posts by self-identified gang members can be used to connect AI and social media to firearm harm prevention. That’s fine. But has Doctor Patton ever considered taking a 30-mile ride up I-476 to speak at a meeting in Telford of the Friends of the NRA? Since I’m a Patriot Life Benefactor Member of the NRA, I’d be happy to ask them on his behalf.

              Or if that would be a little too difficult for Dr. Patton, how about he asks his hospital to schedule some talks before high school PTA meetings in Philadelphia? How about if every member of The Research Society for the Prevention of Firearm-Related Harms Board commits to at least one monthly appearance before a group of parents whose kids are young teenagers and beginning to get interested in guns?

              I’ll offer right now to contribute $10,000 to this society if they would start talking to the people who need to hear about gun risk and stop talking just to themselves.

Does Either Side in the Gun Debate Know What They Are Talking About?

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              Back in 1992 and 1993, Fred Rivara and Art Kellerman published two articles which found a clear link between suicides and homicides when a gun was present in someone’s home. These two articles inaugurated a thirty-year argument about gun risk which is still going on.

              The respondents to Rivara and Kellerman were Gary Kleck in 1995 and John Lott in 1998, the former finding that several million Americans prevented serious crimes by dint of carrying a gun, the latter finding a link between the issuance of concealed-carry permits and a decline in violent crime.

              I refer to this debate as an argument about the social utility of guns. Do we need guns for self-protection, or should they only be used for hunting and sport? The United States happens to be the only country which regulates gun ownership but also allows law-abiding individuals to purchase and own guns for both purposes; in the other countries which have gun-control laws, owning a gun designed for self-defense is either a no-no or very tightly controlled.

              This issue of social utility happens to be the most important argument between the two sides when it comes to talking about guns. But there’s only one, little problem with how the debate plays out, namely, neither side is saying anything which is at all realistic when it comes to understanding how and why 120,000+ Americans are fatally or non-fatally injured each year with guns.

              We have all the data about who winds up being treated for a gun injury. We also have plenty of data on who gets arrested and charged for injuring someone else with a gun. But what we do not have, nor can I find a single bit of research on this issue from either side, is an attempt to figure out how many guns are out there in the hands of individuals who have no legal right to own or have access to a gun.

              The only research I have seen which skirts around this issue is an article published by Gary Kleck the year before he published his national survey of guns being used for self-protection, which is an article that seeks to tie the rate of gun violence to what he refers to as the ‘prevalence’ of guns. But this article makes no attempt to differentiate between legal versus illegal guns, which happens to be typical of the research by David Hemenway that ties our high rate of gun violence to the civilian ownership of some 300 million or more guns.

              Until and unless someone sits down and tries to figure out how many guns are owned by individuals who cannot under current law own a gun, then the whole debate about the social utility of guns means nothing at all. Someone who can pass a background check before buying a gun isn’t then going to turn around and stick up the local bank or the minimart.

If we know one thing about criminality, thanks to Marvin Wolfgang’s work published fifty years ago, we know that violent criminals show serious and continuous misbehavior in their early teens. Occasionally, domestic violence breaks out in a relationship which ends in serious injury or death, but that behavior rarely occurs in families which haven’t been engaged in some degree of physical brutality up to that point in time.

There has also never been a serious study on the number of gun crimes which occur with someone using a legally acquired gun versus an illegal gun. Given the lack of that information, how anyone thinks they can make any valid assumptions about whether gun-control laws make a difference to rates of gun violence (an assumption which is made in virtually every piece of research conducted by the gun-control crowd) is beyond me. 

For that matter, for all the talk by the pro-gun crowd about how giving out concealed-carry licenses reduces violent crime, the fact that someone can legally carry a gun doesn’t mean that someone who is illegally carrying a gun will necessarily worry about whether the guy who just yanked some bills out of an ATM machine will defend himself with armed force instead of handing over the cash.

Both of these arguments are carried out by scholars and advocates who actually believe that regression analysis can explain causation, when in fact saying that an ‘association’ exists between two trends, which is what the gun researchers say all the time, is saying nothing at all.

When the country was being ravaged by Covid-19 and gun violence rates shot upward, everyone in the cottage industry known as ‘good guys with guns versus bad guys with guns’ knew for a fact that the Pandemic was causing a level of stress and street-level anxiety which caused more injuries and deaths from guns.

So now we are reporting a level of Covid-19 infections which just makes this virus another quasi-normal pathogen floating around, meanwhile gun violence appears to be at an all-time high.

So much for that evidence-based theory, right?

Just What the Neighborhood Needs: A New Gun-Control Organization.


              I have been a member of the National Rifle Association since 1955 when I started shooting every week with a kids’ rifle team sponsored by the NRA. Incidentally, just to give you a little perspective, the team met each week in the rifle range of my brother’s junior high school, McFarland Junior High, which was located in the Petworth neighborhood of – ready? – Washington, D.C.

              Back in those days, the NRA spent little time or money advocating 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ because nobody was challenging the 2nd Amendment or even thinking about what the words actually meant.

              It wasn’t until after Kennedy was shot and a bill was introduced in Congress to create a big government regulatory infrastructure that the gun ‘issue’ reared its ugly head, and the eventual result was the passage of GCA68 which created an end-to-end gun-control system administered by the ATF.

              There wouldn’t have been a need for GCA68, nor would there have been what has since then become an endless and continuous gun debate, had the first federal gun-control law promulgated in 1934 contained one important provision requested by then Attorney General Homer Cummings, which was to define handguns as being as dangerous as fully automatic weapons and placing such guns on a restricted, heavily controlled list.

              A rigorous licensing process for owning handguns was actually implemented by every other country which has enacted gun-control laws, which is why no other advanced country has the degree of gun violence which has become endemic to the United States over the past fifty years.

              What has also become endemic to American society alongside an endless cycle of gun violence is the existence and activity of national, gun-control advocacy organizations which compete for attention both in federal and state governments with the NRA.

              The most active group, Everytown, started up in 2013, and got a big boost when it combined forces with another group, Moms Demand Action, founded by a great lady, Shannon Watts, shortly after the horrific slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School at the end of 2012.

              The Brady Campaign started up in 1989, using the mail list of another gun-control organizations, Handgun Control, Inc., which had been more or less moribund from when it was founded in 1980. There’s also the group started and run by Gabby Giffords, which basically piggybacks on other organizations in lobbying the feds and the states for more gun-control laws.

              Now we have a new group, Research Society for the Prevention of Firearm-Related Harms, which appears to be an amalgam of various academic research efforts funded by the usual, philanthropic gun-control suspects like the Joyce and Arnold Foundations along with input from the government via CDC and NIJ

              This group held what they refer to as an ‘historic’ conference last year and are planning another conference in November of this year. The 2022 conference evidently generated 600 registration requests (although I can’t find an actual attendance number) and the conference showcased at least 100 different presentations developed by academic specialists from colleges and universities in every region, if not just about every state in the United States. 

              I am very impressed by the breadth and depth of the program, and if this conference reflects how the gun violence research field has grown in the brief of time since the government once again renewed financial support for such efforts, there is no question that gun violence has now taken its deserved space as an issue of significance in terms of academic research.

              Unfortunately, what this conference and the formation of this new gun-control organization also reflects is the degree to which the study of gun violence and the actual commission of gun violence exist in totally disconnected and completely unrelated spheres.

In 2001, the national gun homicide rate (per 100,000 American population) was 3.93.  In 2021, the last year for which we have CDC injury data, the rate was 6.62 – almost double the 2001 rate. One might suppose that the 2021 number needs to be seen in a different context because that was the first, big Covid-19 year.

So, let’s go back to 2019, which was when the virus had not yet invaded the United States. That year, the gun-violence rate was 4.57, only an increase of slightly less than 20% above the 2001 rate. From 2001 through 2021, there were only 4 years where the gun homicide rate was less than what occurred in 2001.

And by the way, it should be noted that the CDC has given up even trying to figure out the rate for non-fatal, violent gun injuries, but the only difference between fatal and non-fatal shootings is that in the latter category, the shooter didn’t shoot straight. How anyone can use the current CDC data on shootings to discuss gun violence is beyond me.

Now let’s look at some other data, namely, what Americans think and believe about guns. Back in the 1960’s, a majority of Americans (60% as polled by Gallup) believed that privately-owned handguns should be banned. The last time this poll was conducted in 2020, the pro-ban percentage was down to 25%, the lowest it has ever been.

So, here we have an academic meeting bringing together gun researchers from throughout the United States who spend several days talking about the risks and dangers of guns. Meanwhile, not one presentation discussed the fact that what these experts are saying to one another is totally and completely rejected by American society at large.

The truth is that the community of gun-violence researchers in this country exists to talk to themselves. Which wouldn’t be such a problem if we didn’t have gun violence numbers placing us up there with such ‘advanced’ countries as Paraguay, Guyana and the Dominican Republic.

Any chance that the upcoming conference will spend a bit of time trying to figure out how to get the results of their research into the heads of an American public which doesn’t see any risk from the ownership of guns?

The ‘Fair and Effective’ Approach to Gun Violence.

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              Back on January 18, I posted a column on the work that is being done by the RAND Corporation on gun violence, specifically the republication of a report in 2021 which carried a list of the more than 500 ‘experts’ who constitute the be-all and the end-all of expertise when it comes to helping RAND “establish a shared set of facts that will improve public discussions and support the development of fair and effective gun policies.”

              RAND has been helping America develop ‘fair and effective’ policies about various issues since the corporation was founded in 1948, and its tagline about producing ‘objective analysis, effective solutions,’ continues to guide the organization’s work in the many areas in which it gets involved, of which the most important areas – international affairs, national security, health, energy – are listed here.

              Gun violence hasn’t made it into the top tier of issues being studied by RAND but give it time. After all, we have only experienced a significant increase in gun fatalities over the last couple of years, with the 2020 number coming in at 44,000 and change. Before that, we were only running yearly gun deaths in the mid to high 30’s, so what’s the big friggin’ deal?

              I first heard about RAND in 1971, when The Failing New York Times published a series of articles based on documents known as the ‘pentagon papers,’ which had been swiped and given to the paper by Daniel Ellsberg, who had worked on a study of the Viet Nam War commissioned by the Pentagon but conducted by a team employed by RAND.

              The papers showed that the government had consciously and continuously lied about the war, in particular the fact that it wasn’t a civil war at all but was a military invasion of another country by the United States based on a strategy which was going to fail.

              In a 2002 memoir, Ellsberg claims he first began to doubt our role in Viet Nam when he attended an anti-war demonstration in 1969. I hate to break it to Ellsberg, but I got involved in anti-war activities in 1964, and I didn’t need a Ph.D. from Harvard or a fancy job at RAND to know that the presence and behavior of the United States in Southeast Asia was simply wrong.

              Not maybe wrong, but so wrong and so arrogant and so destructive, that the idea our decision to immolate tens of thousands, maybe several million Vietnamese and Cambodian peasants was something that could be made ‘right’ if we just changed our tactics a little bit here and there, only demonstrates how little serious research was conducted by Dan Ellsberg and his band of merry RAND men.

What RAND does with the money it gets from private donations and government research grants is to sit a group of so-called experts down in a room and get them to come up with ways to make it look like the government can plan and implement policies and programs which look more right than wrong.  

Come up with effective solutions to ‘pressing challenges’ facing the world today? Not one bit. Develop a storyline that will take the U.S. government off the hook for problems that the government creates? You’re goddamn right.

Ellsberg was part of the RAND team which in 1967 produced the first Viet Nam report. By the end of that year, we had lost some 20,000 men in combat, a number which would be exceeded by twice as many casualties over the next three years.

Know what was the conclusion of the RAND report? That the government needed to counteract media stories about how the war was being lost by promoting stories about all the good things we were doing in Viet Nam.

RAND’s so-called ‘fair and effective’ approach to solving problems reminds me of how Eisenhower used to answer questions at his press conferences: “On the one hand this, on the other hand that.” I can just see the experts hired by RAND develop a new plan to make the federal government look both like a protector of the public from gun violence while, at the same time protecting the gun owner’s Constitutional freedoms and ‘rights.’

Here’s how the new plan that RAND can promote which will not just reduce gun violence but get rid of it altogether. The CDC can stop counting the number of people who get shot with guns, and instead the Consumer Product Safety Commission can collect and publish data on how many guns are used in unsafe ways.

After all, why should guns be any different than skateboards or bikes?

Let’s Go to a Gun Show This Weekend.


              When I started writing about guns, the national gun-homicide rate was 3.55, the lowest since the CDC started keeping this number beginning in 1981. The rate started increasing in 2015 and hit 5.88 in 2020, an increase from 2015 of more than 60%.

              Meanwhile, by 2015 gun violence was routinely described as a ‘public health issue,’ which has now become an official proposition thanks to last year’s announcement by the CDC. And what does the CDC intend to do about this newly discovered threat to public health? They will provide more funds to conduct research and “applying science to identify effective solutions.”

              There’s only one little problem, however, with this approach. I have read, without exaggeration, just about every, single piece of gun research which has been published by scholars at leading universities all over the United States – schools like Harvard, Hopkins, University of California, Duke, places like that.

              With all due respect, I have yet to encounter the research of one, single scholar committed to figuring out how to reduce gun violence who happens to know anything about guns.

              So, I have decided that enough is enough. I am going to publish at least one column every week in which I raise questions about what I consider to be the shortcomings in this research, and I have further decided not to publish me remarks in a particularly polite way.

              Because if anything pisses me off about the so-called research being conducted by all these researchers who claim to be looking at ways to reduce gin violence, it is the degree to which this entire research community is obsessively afraid to ever engage in any public criticism of their own work.

              That being said, I’m going to start off by reviewing a scholarly article published in 2017 which is an attempt to explain how and why gun owners respond to the alleged stigma attached to their ownership of guns, and by so doing, “facilitate the unfettered exchange of potentially dangerous goods, promote the invisibility of oppressive structures, and normalize violence.” You can download the article right here.

              The authors of this brilliant piece, two academics at the University of Nevada – Reno, have structured their so-called research around something they call ‘collaborative event ethnography,” which means they wander around some public event, then sit down and compare what they saw, and then come up with some kind of explanation for what it all means.

              In this case, the researchers visited seven gun shows in three states which they believe showed how gun owners hide the ‘stigma’ attached to guns and in the process, ‘normalize’ violence which obviously results in more violence committed with the use of guns.

              When the team sat down to compare results, they decided that this normalization occurred in three different ways: “(a) adopting a casual attitude to their actions and the events as everyday activities; (b) juxtaposing innocuous items next to potentially dangerous weapons; and (c) making these events “family friendly.”

              The ‘casual attitude’ they observed was the fact that so many people were walking around the shows carrying guns. The ‘innocuous items’ were t-shirts, jewelry, and various bric-a-brac crap that vendors were trying to sell. The shows were all ‘family friendly’ because there were lots of kids running around.

              What were people supposed to bring to a gun show? Fishing rods? What were the vendors supposed to do? Hide their non-gun inventory under their tables when the whole point of renting a display table for 60 or 70 bucks was to go home with some cash in your pocket? And were the fresh-faced brats running around with cotton candy smeared all over their faces getting groomed to shoot someone with a gun?

              If the academics who published this nonsense had even the slightest degree of understanding about guns and the people who own guns, they would have gone to each gun show several times. What they would have discovered was that gun shows are no different from shows that feature the sale of any kind of crap – model trains, old tools, picture postcard collections – which otherwise just sits in the garage or the attic waiting to be thrown out.

              If these researchers had visited the same gun show several times, they would have also discovered that the same people show up both as buyers and sellers at every, single show. And guess what happens at these shows? Mostly what happens is that everyone stands around and talks – and talks, and talks, and talks.

              That’s right. You’ll see a rusted, old bayonet for sale which allegedly was taken off a ‘Jap’ soldier at Iwo Jima, you’ll be able to buy a holster which has a Nazi swastika engraved on its side, and of course you can always purchase a Purple Heart medal, complete with a little display case.

              Know why you can buy these items at a gun show? Not because the vendors are all a bunch of racists, not because the people who paid eight bucks to attend the show are trying to find some way to disguise their attachment to the ‘stigma’ of owning guns.

              You can buy these items because guns have always been part-and-parcel of the militaria retail industry and if you walk into an Army-Navy store just about anywhere in the United States, you’ll find posters advertising guns or maybe you’ll find some real guns to buy as well.

              I have visited hundreds of gun shows in maybe 20 or more states. I have exhibited at gun shows in Pennsylvania and New York, as well as at the national gun shows run by the NRA and the NSSF.

              If I could have one concession at the NRA show it would be the booth which rents out those electric buggies which people use to get around at the show because they’re basically too fat or too old to walk.

              These folks, and everyone else at the gun show, are much more concerned about which snack bar they are going to eat at than whether or not they can hide the stigma attached to their guns.

Are Guns ‘Good’ or ‘Bad?’ Both Sides Get It Wrong.


              I have been paying attention to the debate about guns and gun violence since I read the research published by Art Kellerman and Fred Rivara published in 1993, research which found that access to guns represented a risk to health.  This argument inaugurated a debate about the social utility of guns which is still going on.

              On the one side we have Gary Kleck, who published a study in 1995 claiming that individuals who brandished or occasionally fired guns, prevented several million crimes every year.

              On the other side, we have David Hemenway, who found that America’s fatal violence was 7 to 20 times higher than other advanced countries because Americans own so many guns.

              What we end up with is that guns are ‘good’ because they are used to prevent crime, versus guns are ‘bad’ because their presence results in more crime.

              It goes without saying that the two schools of research – ‘good’ guns versus ‘bad’ guns – are used to create and bolster the narratives of the organizations which advocate for more (ex. NRA) or fewer (ex. Brady) guns.

I believe both narratives are wrong to the point of being delusional because neither argument is based on a valid analysis of the data they cite, and both arguments end up telling the two, respective sides what these researchers want them to hear, which makes the arguments delusional, at best.

The tone of this brief essay may sound both arrogant and unyielding, but over the past 60 years I have been a retailer, wholesaler, certified trainer, importer, and manufacturer of guns. I have discussed guns with thousands of gun owners, including the twelve thousand who were students in the required gun-safety course I taught from 2003 until 2014. So, when it comes to guns, I know what I’m talking about. Now, back to how both sides in the gun debate get it wrong.

              Guns are good:  Kleck looked at how guns allegedly prevent crime by conducting several thousand telephone interviews, then took the percentage of gun-owning respondents who claimed they used a gun in self-defense, extrapolated to an estimate of how many gun owners were alive in the 1990’s, and came up with his results.

              People who were interviewed by Kleck’s team were asked all the usual questions about who they were, where they lived, when were they forced to use a gun in self-defense, and what happened as a result. They had to provide their age, their gender, their race, all the usual demographic stuff.

              But there was one question they weren’t asked: In the confrontation with the attacker, were they using a legally owned gun?

              How can you understand how people behave with guns if you don’t differentiate between legal and illegal guns? You can’t.

              Actually, you can, but your results will be meaningless for a very simple reason, namely, because it’s the guys walking around with illegal guns who are the guys that get into situations where they either are attacked or believe they are about to be attacked by someone else.

              Guns are bad:  Hemenway’s says the United States has so much fatal violence is because we own so many guns. No other country has a per-capita rate of gun ownership which exceeds more than one gun per person.

Except what Hemenway glosses over is that a large majority of those hundreds of millions of guns in the hands of American gun owners are never used in violent events. They are rifles used to shoot Bambi or shotguns used to knock a bird out of a tree.

              So how do you make an argument which correlates the number of guns with the number of fatal assaults when the number you are using to represent the available guns is probably three or four times higher than it should be? You can make that argument all you want, except the argument is simply wrong.

              The reason we have gun violence is that we are the only country in the entire world which gives residents free access to the kinds of guns designed specifically to be used in person-to-person assaults. Semi-automatic, bottom-loading pistols made by companies like Glock, Sig, Springfield Armory, Ruger, Smith & Wesson, et. al., aren’t ‘sporting’ guns. They are ‘weapons of war,’ and are carried by tactical and military personnel worldwide.

              And by the way, for all the talk about how Americans have a ‘right’ to own such guns thanks to the 2nd-Amendment decision written by Tony Scalia in 2008, his opinion specifically denied Constitutional protections for ‘weapons of war.’

              Want to get rid of gun violence? It’s very simple. Limit the carrying the guns used to commit gun violence to police and others who are required to carry a gun as part of their job.

              The day that any one of the gun-control groups says this out loud, we’ll actually have a chance to reduce the violence caused by using guns.

              That was a tough one, wasn’t it?

The CDC Funds More Research on Gun Violence. Yea – So What?


              Two years ago, Gun-control Nation exulted when the CDC put money into its budget to support research on gun violence and then awarded almost $8 million for grants to conduct studies on how and why Americans keep injuring themselves and others with guns.

              The CDC has just announced a second wave of research funding that will result in $2.5 million being spent on four new research projects, the monies to go “to improve understanding of firearm injury, inform the development of innovative and promising prevention strategies, and rigorously evaluate the effectiveness of strategies to keep individuals, families, schools, and communities safe from firearm-related injuries, deaths, and crime.”

              Taken together, these two funding efforts total slightly more than $10 million. Meanwhile, in the two years since the first dollars were expended, gun violence has reached levels that have never previously been achieved, with the 2020 number for gun-violence deaths more than 30% higher than annual counts in the years at the turn of the century and numbers for 2021 and 2022 promise to be higher still.

              Since Friday, 138 people have been gunned down and killed, which is probably about half the actual number because the media sources used by our friends at the Gun Violence Archive are, by definition, incomplete, plus a number of the victims who are hospitalized with gun injuries will be released from medical treatment when they are dead.

              Or better yet, some of the victims of gun violence will walk out of the hospital under their own steam and go home to resume their normal lives. Then they’ll come back to the hospital in a couple of months with some new medical problem which doesn’t appear to be connected to the gun injury they suffered but it is. Then they’ll dop dead.

              So, what are the issues that the new round of CDC research on gun violence will attempt to understand and then solve? We are told that these research efforts are designed to “improve understanding of firearm injury and inform the development of innovative and promising prevention strategies,” and “rigorously evaluate the effectiveness of innovative and promising strategies to keep individuals, families, schools, and communities safe from firearm-related injuries, deaths, and crime.”

              First up is the $643,000 that will be spent by Shannon Frattaroli to study the effectiveness of ‘red flag’ laws, which are the Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) laws that allow people to go into court and ask a judge to take guns away from someone who is exhibiting behavior which makes them a risk to themselves or someone else. Professor Frattaroli’s research will focus on “communities that experience high rates of gun violence.”

              There are currently 17 states with such laws: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.

              Now, here are the 17 states with the highest rate of gun violence from 2015 through 2020: Alabama, Alaska, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Wyoming, South Carolina, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Montana, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada.

              How many of the 17 states which have the Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) laws have high rates of gun violence? Exactly two – Nevada and New Mexico which, by the way, represent 1.5% of the total population of the United States and 3% of the total population of the ERPO states.

              The CDC is also giving a researcher in Missouri nearly 600 grand to study “how individual, social network, and neighborhood environmental characteristics are associated with firearm risks for youth experiencing homelessness and examine the role their social network may play in moderating these risks.”

              Exactly what social networks is he talking about? The social networks organized and managed by the gangs which supply the homeless kids with the dope they sell and the guns they use to back up and ‘moderate’ their sales?

              The third research grant will help a researcher conduct a ‘nationally representative’ survey of 2,750 kids and adults to identify such risk factors as witnessing gun violence, gun carrying, perpetration and victimization, and the fourth research project has something to do with suicide but the project itself isn’t described.

Oh well, oh well. So much for how the CDC bothers to edit its own website.

I have read just about every piece of gun-violence research published in what is referred to as ‘evidence-based’ journals over the past 20 years. Most of this research was funded by private sources like the Joyce Foundation, now the funding is provided by the CDC.

I have yet to see one, single piece of research on gun violence which goes beyond what Art Kellerman and Fred Rivara published in 1992 and 1993. Their research found an indisputable link between guns in the home and medical risk. They didn’t qualify their findings in terms of whether the guns were safely stored or whether the gun owner was behaving in a dangerous way. They simply found that guns are a risk to health.

Kind of like how tobacco is a risk to health, right? Or kind of like how eating potato chips and drinking full-calorie soda is a risk to health.

And how does medicine deal with risks from smoking or consuming too many calories every day? Get the cigarettes and the high calorie foods out of the house.

But we can’t get guns out of the house because, after all, Americans have a Constitutional ‘right’ to own a gun.

Know what? After I post this column, I’m going to get in my car, drive down to the local mini-mart and buy a big bag of Frito-Lay chips, which the Constitution’s commerce clause allows the store to sell and gives me the Constitutional ‘right’ to buy and eat.

Do We Still Need Research on Gun Violence?


              I have been writing about guns, the gun business and gun violence for early ten years.  I posted my first blog in May 2012 when I learned that the NRA, of which I am a Lifetime Endowment member, was pushing a law in Florida that, had it not been overturned by a federal appeals court, would have criminalized physicians who counseled patients about guns.

              I simply didn’t understand how anyone would be afraid of anything said to them by a physician, but I guess I’m kind of naive in that respect, considering how many people are still resisting the Covid-19 vaccine.

              My gun blog had a few viewers but that changed after the Sandy Hook massacre in December which created a media firestorm about gun violence and changed the public discussion about guns in several immediate ways.

              To begin, Obama came out with a new gun-control law which went nowhere but at least generated the beginnings of grass roots gun-control organizations to compete with the NRA. This was also the time that social media made it easier to form advocacy groups and promote ideas and strategies for gun control. Nobody has done this better than Shannon Watts and her girls.

              At the same time, the pro-gun groups or as they prefer to call themselves, the gun ‘rights’ folks, also started popping up on the internet, forcing the NRA to move towards the alt-right, partially to deflect criticisms from gun-control groups, as well as to protect its right flank from the real crazies like Gun Owners of America and the militia nut jobs who have emerged full flower before and during the Age of Trump.

              Meanwhile, if we go back to 2012 and try to understand what has happened with guns and gun violence from then until now, what we quickly realize that things haven’t gotten better, they’ve gotten worse. Know what the national gun-violence rate was in 2012?  Try 10.44. Know what the GV rate was in 2020, which is the most recent year for data from the CDC? How about 13.44. Gee, that’s only an increase of 28.7%.

              But wait a minute, you say. The 2020 number has to be taken with a grain of salt or maybe with a salt shaker because, after all, that was the first Pandemic year.

              Yea, right. Except it’s not right. The national violence rate from 2012 to 2020 went up by 17.4% – a little more than half the increase in the gun-violence rate.

              Now if you tap the average medical or public health gun researcher on the shoulder and ask for an explanation as to why gun violence has shown such a remarkable increase over the past eight years, he or she will tell you that nobody was able to do any CDC-funded research on gun violence over that period of time.

              Which is true, except that I’m not so sure that our inability to prevent or reduce gun violence has little, if anything, to do with research into the causes of this scourge at all.

              Back in the early 90’s, two very able researchers published research which definitively found that access to a gun in the home created risk for homicide and suicide. And by the way, this research did not qualify guns as to whether or not they were safely stored.

              I read these articles when they first appeared and I not only knew they both were correct, but I never understood why it was necessary to do any more research on the issue of guns, gun violence or gun risks.

Meanwhile, during the 1980’s and early 1990’s, the gun industry shifted away from the production of long guns – shotguns, rifles – to the production of handguns, in particular semi-automatic pistols which carried 15 rounds or more of military-grade ammunition.

Why did this product shift take place? Because new manufacturing technologies – MTM manufacture and polymers – doubled and sometimes tripled operating margins for companies that primarily produced handguns. For all the talk about how Americans wanted to own handguns because they needed to protect themselves from increased crime, the gun industry has never succeeded in convincing a majority of Americans that they need to own a gun.

We are the only country in the entire world which allows law-abiding residents to buy, own, and walk around with guns which are designed solely for the purpose of ending human life. I mean, you just don’t use a Glock or a Sig pistol to shoot a bird out of a tree.

Need more research to figure that one out? No, you don’t.

It’s About Time – The CDC Gets Back Into Guns.


              Now that everyone except Donald Trump and the craziest of the crazies have decided that Joe is really the President, we can start taking care of business that has languished for the last four years. And one piece of business in that respect is whether we need to pass more gun-control laws.

              To that end Joe recently put together a study group that will come up with an agenda for new guns laws which will no doubt include the usual proposals like comprehensive background checks, assault rifle bans, a national red-flag laws – regulations that have been floating around for years. These proposals and others were discussed at a recent White House meeting which included all the usual gun-control suspects – Brady, Everytown – you know the bunch.

              One good piece of news for Gun-control Nation is that the CDC recently announced nearly $8 million in gun-research grants, monies which are appearing in the CDC research budget for the first time in more than twenty years. The CDC was prohibited from sponsoring gun research in 1997 when an Arkansas Congressman, Jay Dickey, rode to the defense of America’s gun owners and stripped the CDC from supporting gun research.

              Now the research spigot has been turned on again and 16 research projects will now be funded under the category of Research Grants to Prevent Firearm Violence and Injuries. I happen to know many of these researchers as well as having studied and cited some of their previous work. They are all scholars whose research deserves government financial support.

              Most of these research projects evaluate either ongoing or planned efforts to ‘intervene’ in the behavior and activities of at-risk populations with the hope that such

 interventions will reduce the number of injuries suffered from guns. Many of these projects utilize internet-based programs, others promote face-to-face interactions, the point is to evaluate which types of activities could be most successfully spread throughout the gun-owning community as a whole.

              It’s also good to see that much of the research is aimed (pardon the pun) at figuring out how to mitigate the social and emotional issues which are experienced by individuals who don’t necessarily suffer gun injuries themselves but are aware of gun violence either where they live or in the neighborhood where they go to school. I am also glad to see that our friend Ali Rowhani-Rahbar has been funded to study gun culture and appropriate intervention strategies for rural youth, a population which is often ignored when gun violence issues are discussed.

              If you have been any kind of consistent reader of my blogs, you’re probably asking yourself when is Mike the Gun Guy going to stop saying all those nice, positive things about the current state of gun-violence research and say something that’s not so positive or nice?  Which is what I am going to do right now, notwithstanding again my heartfelt support for evidence-based research on guns or anything else.

              I don’t care what the results of any of these research projects reveal in the next two or three years. There’s only one intervention that will have any chance of reducing gun violence: Get rid of the guns.

              We don’t have to get rid of all the guns. I have no problem with keeping a slide-action shotgun for high-flyers returning from Florida this month or a bolt-action 30-06 to bag Bambi later this year. Want to keep a 6-inch, target handgun around for an occasional trip to the range? Go right ahead. Keep two of them if you like, or even three.

              On the other hand, anyone who believes that you can do anything to make my Glock 17 pistol with its 16 rounds of military-grade ammunition into a ‘safe’ gun, doesn’t know the first thing about guns. And as long as the United States is the only country which allows ‘law-abiding’ residents access to those kinds of guns, all the research and all the talk about ‘interventions’ to reduce gun violence are crap. Plain, unadulterated crap.

              Could I find another way to somehow mitigate my concerns about such crap? I can’t and I won’t.

Attacking John Lott Won’t Reduce Gun Violence.


              This past week, nine members of the Democratic Senate caucus sent a letter to the Attorney General requesting information “on the completed and potential conversions to civil service positions at the Department and its components.” You can read the entire letter here.

              The letter was sent by Dianne Feinstein and was co-signed by the usual gaggle of Senators who always co-sponsor Dianne’s annual attempt to get rid of assault rifles, a move that I suspect may actually get some traction in the upcoming Senate term.

              This letter, however, had nothing to do with assault rifles. Rather, it was an attempt to undo an appointment to the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, in this case the appointment of none other than the infamous and notorious John Lott.

              What makes John Lott such a lightning-rod for the anger and advocacy of the Gun Violence Prevention crowd, a.k.a., GVP? To quote from Feinstein’s letter, Lott is a “pro-gun advocate who claims that widespread gun ownership can reduce crime.” In other words, he’s the mastermind behind all those guns being bought during the Covid-19 year, he’s the reason why companies like Smith & Wesson can’t ship enough products to satisfy demand, he’s the pied piper of Gun-nut Nation leading the armed forces of liberty and justice forward in the MAGA crusade.

              Am I being somewhat too self-righteous in my description of how the GVP describes Lott?  I don’t think so. If anything, I’m actually being somewhat charitable in what I believe is nothing more than a cynical and mis-informed campaign conducted by gun-control advocates and researchers every time that Lott’s name appears.

              Here’s what our friends at The Trace have to say about Lott’s research: “Respected academics have repeatedly discredited Lott’s work.” Who are some of these ‘respected’ academics? One of them is John Donohue, who co-authored a paper claiming that the decline of violent crime in the 1990’s was due to the ability of inner-city women to abort unwanted kids. Another ‘respected’ academic is Daniel Webster, who along with the head of gun research at RAND, stated (under oath) at a Congressional hearing that he didn’t support national gun registration, even though he has supported this idea both verbally and in print.

              I’m not saying that John Lott’s research is flawless, I’m not saying that he isn’t promoting a pro-gun agenda. What I am saying is that the continued attempts to defame him personally and professionally is nothing more than a McCarthyite tactic indulged in by GVP advocates and researchers who have been unwilling to confront the fundamental issue which John Lott has raised.

              And that issue happens to be the degree to which, contrary research notwithstanding, a growing majority of Americans believe that their lives will be safer and more secure if they have access to a gun. In 1986, there were 8 states which issued licenses to carry firearms (CCW) without any ‘show cause’ requirement. By 1998, the number had increased to 30 such states.

              John Lott’s book, More Guns, Less Crime, which is what Feinstein’s letter incorrectly describes, (since Lott argues for a shift from violent to non-violent crime as opposed to a ‘reduction’ in crime) was published in 1998. One of the earliest reviews by David Hemenway, another ‘respected academic,’ faults the book for a statistical approach that yields “invalid results.”

              Neither Hemenway nor any other GVP researcher has yet to publish a single study which attempts to determine why more than one out of three legal gun owners also now holds a license to carry that gun.

I have given up trying to explain to David and his colleagues at the Harvard University School of Public Health that demonizing John Lott won’t do anything to reduce gun violence in the United States.  As long as John Lott continues to be the focus of the GVP debate, well-intentioned GVP researchers and GVP advocates will be talking to themselves.

Shouldn’t we instead be communicating correctly and cogently about gun risks to the folks who own all those guns?

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