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?

John Lott Doesn’t Cause Gun Violence.

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              The news that James Bennett has ‘resigned’ as Opinion Editor at The New York Times (nobody’s ever fired at  the NYT, they always resign) didn’t make it much harder for me to enjoy my morning coffee today. To the contrary, it’s a move long overdue. If nothing else, the way he characterized John Lott in an editorial back in 2018 told me that he was using the editorial page to make judgements and pronouncements that should have remained on the copy room floor.

              The editorial in question was a criticism of what appeared to be an attempt by Trump and his Congressional allies to sabotage the crime bill, even though ultimately Trump signed legislation that had bi-partisan support. The editorial cited a study by Lott about crime rates and immigrants, with Lott being described as a ‘disreputable economist’ who misused data “to suit his own ideological ends.”

              This idea that Lott is some kind of disreputable researcher has been floating around Gun-control Nation ever since he pissed off all my gun-control friends by publishing a book which argued that violent crime had gone down after the early 1990’s because more people were walking around with legal guns.  I have published my own critique of John’s work, but despite the hysterical attacks made against him by some gun-control advocates who have never done any research on their own, his book is basically just another contribution to the debate on why violent crime fell so dramatically after the early 1990’s and should be read and regarded in those terms.

              What the gun-control advocates who hate John’s work would like to ignore is the fact that a majority of Americans believe that a home containing a gun is safer than a home without a gun.  And since the number of homes that contain guns is somewhere around 30%, obviously a lot of non-gun owners also think that guns are more of a benefit than a risk. If everyone who buys into the idea that guns keep you safe owned a copy of John’s book, he wouldn’t need to ask people for a few bucks for the think-tank where he works.

              I have been asking my friends in Gun-control Nation to stop thinking that citing some data which shows that guns are a risk is an effective way to talk to gun owners about their guns. I have also stated again and again that the idea of lecturing gun owners on safe storage is a fool’s errand for two reasons. First, believe it or not, gun owners do safely store their guns, and when they don’t, it’s because they are human beings, and like all of us, sometimes they are careless and they forget.

The second reason that safe storage is a dead-end strategy is that there is not one, single study which shows that when gun owners safely store their guns, that gun injury rates go down. The studies on safe storage find that after gun owners are instructed about safety, more report that they safely stored their guns. But does this mean that gun-injury rates changed? It doesn’t mean squat.

My friends in Gun-control Nation can continue to rant and rave about John Lott but it such behavior will have absolutely no impact whatsoever on how America thinks about guns. And how America thinks about guns is how they will think about gun violence and how they will think about any so-called ‘reasonable’ measures to control guns.

Know why laws like comprehensive background checks and red-flag procedures are considered ‘reasonable’ to the point that even a majority of gun owners support such ideas? Because the truth is that such regulations won’t really prevent gun owners from buying more guns. And the further truth is that as long as Americans can walk into a gun shop and walk out with a little Glock, Kahr or Sig pistol that holds 15 rounds of military-grade ammo, gun violence isn’t going to decline at all.

Another New Study on Gun Violence Gets It Wrong.


Here we go again. A group of well-meaning but entirely ignorant researchers publish an article about gun violence in a so-called peer-reviewed medical journal and they get it completely wrong. Not a little bit wrong, not just a difference of opinion here and there. Completely and totally wrong.

The study, which has been done at least three other times using different dates but the same CDC-generated data, comes to the following conclusion: “States with stricter gun laws and laws requiring universal background checks for firearm purchase had lower firearm-related pediatric mortality rates.” Any study about the use or misuse of guns which refers to subjects above the age of 15 as ‘children’ is simply using an age-based, medical definition which completely distorts how, why, and when people of any age use guns.

In all 50 states, anyone above the age of 15 (in some states the age is 14) can take a safety course and then apply for a hunting license, which is granted without a background check because the individual is hunting with a gun, not buying a gun. The law doesn’t differentiate between hunting with a rifle or shotgun, or going out into the woods with Daddy’s Glock.

Why did the researchers find some kind of correlation between states with comprehensive background checks and states with fewer fatal ‘pediatric’ gun injuries? Because by and large, the states that have imposed comprehensive background checks happen not to be states with lots of residents who go out and try to bag themselves a Bambi every year. Of the 21,241 ‘children’ who died from gun injuries over the five years covered in this study, somewhere around 60% or more of these victims were at least fifteen years old.

Did the researchers ask themselves whether there might have been a connection between whether or not any of these kids had hunting licenses and ended up dead?  Of course not. The entire research team conducting this study happens to be faculty and staff from the George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C.  That’s a really big hunting area for sure.

I’m not saying these fatal accidents occurred when Grandpa or Daddy and Junior were out in the field. I am saying that in families that go hunting, every hunter in the family always has access to the guns. This happens to be a reality of gun ownership that none of the researchers who study gun violence acknowledge or even understand. But how do you study unintentional gun fatalities without taking this issue into account?

Not only don’t the researchers understand this issue, they also don’t recognize the extreme limitations of their research because the CDC data which they and every other gun-researcher uses does not give the slightest indication of how the fatal accident actually occurred. And I guarantee you that if they had such data, it would clearly indicate that the ‘child’ got shot for the same reason that just about everyone gets injured by an accidental discharge of a gun: “Duhhh, I didn’t know it was loaded.”

Over the fifty years that I have had guns in my house, I have shot off a gun accidentally at least seven times. One round went through the front door and out into the street. Another time I knocked a stack of books off a wall. A third time, my twenty-year old son picked up my 45-caliber pistol and blew a hole through our storage shed. Did I ever take the gun-safety course?  I teach the friggin’ course.

Until and unless my friends who do gun-violence research take the time and trouble to sit down with a couple of gun nuts and ask for some help and advice to help them understand the use and abuse of guns, we will continue to be treated to exercises in research that are nothing more than junk science and should be ignored.

I don’t mean to sound so belligerent or nasty, but right now there’s enough nonsense floating around about the COVID-19 problem. We don’t need any more misinformed ideas.

Why Do (Many) Americans Own Guns?


All my friends in the gun-control movement keep telling me that we can reduce gun violence by just enacting some ‘reasonable’ or ‘common-sense’ laws. I suppose that what they mean are laws that even gun owners will agree should be passed, like extending background checks to personal transfers, red-flag laws, ‘common-sense’ things like that. Our friends at the Hopkins group have published a big study which proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that most gun owners really do support those ‘reasonable’ laws.

That’s all fine and well except for one, little thing. If you asked the average gun owner what he thinks would be the best way to reduce gun violence, he’d probably say that we should get rid of all gun-free zones. Or maybe put armed guards in all schools. Or better yet, allow everyone who wants to carry a gun to carry it from state to state.

In other words, all these ‘common-sense’ gun laws whose benefits are touted by every gun-control organization are only considered ‘reasonable’ by people who, for the most part, don’t own guns. And if all those folks really want to find a way to communicate with gun owners in order to come up with some ‘reasonable’ regulations that might really gain Gun-nut Nation’s support, maybe they would start out by trying to figure out why people own guns. After all, a gun isn’t like a car- you don’t need to own a gun in order to get to work. And you also don’t really need to own a gun to protect yourself from ISIS, or a street thug, or even from gun-grabbers like Joe Biden or Crazy Bern.

Back in 2015, our friends at Harvard published a very detailed study on who owns guns in America and why they own their guns. What they found is that gun owners own handguns primarily for protection  and own long guns for hunting and sport. It took a whole study to figure that one out? After all, it’s not as if you can’t take down Bambi with a Glock, but that’s not the way it’s usually done.

If our public health friends want to really help us figure out how to talk to gun owners about how to reduce gun violence, they might ask whether just knowing that people buy handguns for personal protection really tells them anything at all. Colt began making and selling a self-defense pocket pistol in 1903, which was long before Dana Loesch got on NRA-TV to warn all America’s housewives to defend themselves against street ‘thugs.’

It’s not as if walking around with a Glock in your pocket is the only way people can protect themselves from crime. In fact, most people aren’t wandering around with a Glock and they don’t seem to feel any more vulnerable than the guys and a few gals who walk around armed. If public health researchers think they are really explaining anything when they publish another study showing that the number of people who actually use a gun to prevent a crime is somewhere between zero and zilch, maybe they should think again. The folks who come into my gun shop to buy a gun for ‘personal protection’ couldn’t care less what some egg-head from Harvard believes.

All I know is that the rate of violent crime across the U.S. continues to decline, but the percentage of the population which believes that having a gun around is more of a benefit than a risk continues to increase. How do we account for such cognitive dissonance when it comes to the question of guns?

We don’t. We simply pretend that somewhere, somehow we can create a magic formula that will get gun owners and non-gun owners on the same page. In the meantime, deaths from intentional shootings have increased by more than 25% over the last ten years.

Isn’t it about time we substituted the word ‘effective’ for words like ‘reasonable’ or ‘common -sense’ when it comes to promoting new gun laws?

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