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

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              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.

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              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.

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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?

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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?

Should The CDC Sponsor Gun Research?

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It has been more than 30 years since the CDC eliminated gun violence from its research budget, but the hiatus may be coming to an end. The Democrats have stuck $50 million into the CDC budget, whether the line item will survive the usual horse-trading between the House and the Senate remains to be seen. Nevertheless, the fact that the funding of gun research is even being discussed by all the Democratic Presidential candidates is a development which many of us believed we would never live to see.

That being the case, I find myself in something of a dilemma because I am not sure that any of this research will necessarily yield positive results. Why do I say this? How can I afford to disagree so radically from a time-honored narrative supported by virtually everyone who wants gun violence to come to an end? After all, public policies should always be based on valid research, and who can provide such research about gun violence except my friends in public health?

 There’s only one little problem. Which is that the research activity on gun violence done by public health scholars to date lacks one, fundamental element that should be present in all evidence-based research, namely, a self-imposed requirement that the point of publishing research is to invite, indeed demand public critiques from other researchers in the same field.

Unfortunately, public health gun research is the only field of academic research which can’t seem to ever produce public debate of any kind. If I had a nickel for every gallon of ink spilled by public health researchers on the so-called mistakes made by John Lott, I could stop working for a living, go down to Delray Beach and buy a condo at King’s Point. On the other hand, if I had a nickel for every ounce of ink that public health researchers have spilled criticizing the work of themselves or their peers, maybe I should go down to Lake Okeechobee and rent an unfurnished trailer at Canal Point.

And by the way, I’m not so sure that Lott’s thesis about more legally-owned guns resulting in less crime is necessarily all that wrong. If you eliminate the words ‘legally-owned’ from his argument, what he says may be more correct than not. The problem with John’s work is that he assumes something about the spread of concealed-carry laws (CCW) which probably isn’t true; namely, that criminals intent on attacking someone else usually commit violent crimes against law-abiding folks.

In fact, most victims of violent crimes happen to be the same kinds of people who commit those crimes; younger, minority males living in inner-city neighborhoods being the most typical types of people treated in the ER for gun injuries, fatal or not. These young men don’t have CCW but probably more of them are now walking around with illegal guns. For all we know, Lott’s thesis that armed, self-defense may be an effective deterrent to violent crime might be correct, even if this deterrence factor is most frequently found within the criminal-prone population itself.

I began thinking about the ‘more guns = less crime’ argument from this perspective after reading research on gun violence published by criminologists, scholars for example like Marvin Wolfgang, whose studies on both teen-age delinquency and homicide have never been surpassed. Of course Wolfgang, considered by some to be the ‘most influential criminologist in the English-speaking world,’ is persona non-grata in the public health field since he had the audacity to suggest that maybe Gary Kleck’s research on armed, self-defense should not be simply dismissed.

I simply do not understand how anyone can claim to be conducting ‘evidence-based research’ when the evidence is never subject to public, critical review. Of course I hope the CDC restores funding for gun research, but I would also hope that the resumption of such funding be tied to some degree of critical, self-analysis by the public health research community itself.

I may be the smartest person I ever met, but there are plenty of folks who would disagree. Which is why anyone is free to post a comment on what I write.

Should Doctors Base Their Response To Gun Violence On What Everyone Wants To Hear?

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              Yesterday the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on an assault-rifle ban, and what made the headlines was the testimony of a former cop, Diane Muller, who told Jerry Nadler and the other Congressional gun-grabbers that she wouldn’t give up her gun. Muller says that she is the organizer of The DC Project, which describes itself as a ‘nonpartisan initiative to encourage women to establish relationships with their legislators, and reveal the faces and stories of real firearms owners and 2nd Amendment supporters.”

              This ‘organization’ is nothing more than an online shopping cart selling the usual retail crap (clothing, concealed-carry purses, etc.) with some exhortations about personal safety, getting involved, protecting civil rights, the whole nine yards.  Websites which focus on female self-protection as a vehicle for selling gun-related junk keep popping up, but no matter how they slice it or dice it, the gun industry has never been able to persuade women to buy guns.

              Diane Muller’s claim to be running a ‘non-partisan’ advocacy organization is about as truthful as my claim that the 45th President is smarter than Leonard Mermelstein, who  happens to be my cat.

              I don’t really care if hucksters like Diane Muller pretend to be committed to views from both sides. The fact that someone with so little real presence in the gun world would be representing the 2nd-Amendment bunch in front of a Congressional committee says an awful lot about the gun ‘rights’ movement during the waning days of Donald Trump. On the other hand, when physicians get together to talk about gun violence and also claim to be ‘non-partisan’ in their approach, this doesn’t just rankle me, it really gets me pissed off.

              Physicians aren’t supposed to be dealing with a medical crisis like gun violence by finding a ‘non-partisan’ cure. But it has now become fashionable in medical circles to talk about a ‘consensus’ approach to gun violence, which is how the ‘historic’ Chicago summit meeting in February of 43  medical organizations promoted their Magna Carta for reducing gun violence.  In fact, what they produced was nothing more than the same load of recommendations which the medical community has been using to chase after its gun-violence-prevention tail for the last twenty years: expanded background checks, safe storage, red flag laws, blah, blah, blah and blah. Oh, and let’s not forget the all-important research money from the CDC.

              Now we have a new medical group on the scene, courtesy of a $5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, which calls itself FACTS, a.k.a., Firearms Safety Among Children and Teens Consortium. Most of its members are the same research crew which show up everywhere else, and they also promise to take a consensus-based approach to understanding violence caused by guns. The consensus in this instance is provided by a single individual representing gun owners who runs something called Gun Owners for Responsible Gun Ownership, which like the DC Project, is just a website but doesn’t yet have anything for you to buy.  I’m sure a shopping cart will appear in time. The odds that what this guy references as ‘responsible’ gun behavior could ever remotely pass muster with most people who own guns is about a great as the odds that #45 is smarter than Seymour Sliperman, who happens to be another one of my cats.

              Doctors who promote the idea that their research represents some kind of consensus are doing nothing more than hoping that if the CDC starts giving out research monies on guns, they can pretend that their work is not intended to be used for gun-control advocacy because, after all, what they will say reflects the views of both sides.

              The day that physicians all agree that treating disease should be based on remedies which meet everyone’s interests and concerns, is the day I stop going to the doctor and hope for the best. This is nothing more than cynical pandering at its worst and physicians should know better than to engage in such nonsensical crap.

There Really Is A Way To End Gun Violence.

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              One of the favorite games played by members of Gun-Control Nation (myself included) over the last couple of years was to look at the monthly background check report issued by FBI-NICS and announce with glee that the number of checks for gun transfers each month was going down. We all figured that if the slide continued through four years of Trump (and God forbid eight years if he won again) that the problem of gun violence would take care of itself because as a consumer item, the guns would simply go away.

              Guess what? We forgot that gun sales have always been pushed or pulled by the fear that guns might disappear. And now that virtually every 2020 Democratic candidate has promised to do ‘something’ about gun violence, the fear has returned within the ranks of Gun-nut Nation and the virus is beginning to spread.

              When it comes to gun retailing, August is always the slowest month of the year. Guns can’t compete with the beach. By the time you pay for that beach house rental, buy some sand toys for the kids and eat at the Clam Shack every night, the five hundred bucks you stashed away because you just have to have that little walkaround Glock, is money that has been spent.

              It turns out that not only did the August NICS numbers show a 15% increase over the August numbers for 2018, they were the highest numbers for any August going all the way back through the years of the hated Obama regime. The increase was strongest in the ‘other’ category, which happens to be the category which usually designates ‘black’ guns, a.k.a., AR-15’s. In Florida, where our friends are trying to get a Constitutional ban on assault rifles on the 2020 ballot, the increase in ‘other’ background checks was 48.7 percent.

              The good news for gun nuts is that this spike in sales has not yet generated any upward movement in prices for either ammunition or guns. One of the big online resellers, Cheaper Than Dirt, is listing quality 22LR ammunition for five cents a round, which is a price in adjusted dollars out of 1975. Another outfit has fully-assembled AR’s for less than $500 bucks. When Obama was turning America into a Muslim state, you couldn’t find a black gun anywhere for under a thou.

              My friends in Gun-control Nation who are busily promoting an expansion of background checks or Red Flag laws or some other type of ‘reasonable’ restriction that will keep guns out of the ‘wrong’ hands, need to remember that every, single one of the more than one million NICS checks done in August represents a gun being transferred into the ‘right’ hands. How do any of those new additions to the civilian gun arsenal wind up being used by someone to blow someone else away, which happens to be most of the gun injuries which happen every day?  We have absolutely no idea.

              Back in 1993 and 1994, Art Kellerman and Fred Rivara published research which definitively found that access to guns increased homicide and suicide risk. And by the way, these studies didn’t differentiate between guns that were, or were not safely stored. These studies got the gun industry to push their friends in Congress to delete gun research from the budget of the CDC, a budget item that my friends in public health are now clamoring to restore.

              If there had been a grass-roots movement for gun control in the 1990’s, the findings by Kellerman and Rivara might have been translated into a law to strictly regulate the ownership of assault rifles and semi-automatic pistols. This kind of law exists in every other advanced nation-state, which is why they don’t suffer from gun violence and we do.

With all due respect to my liberal friends who remain enthralled by the 2nd Amendment, we don’t need no stinkin’ research,  we don’t need no stinkin’ reasonable laws.  We just need to get rid of certain guns which were never designed for hunting or sport.

Gee, that was a tough one to figure out.

It’s Time To Learn Something About Guns.

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              Last week our friends at the Hopkins-Bloomberg school put up a website with an twelve-hour, online course about gun violence which can be accessed right here. The course covers all the essential issues swirling around the gun-violence debate today, including reviews of relevant laws and comprehensive discussions of what we know and what we still don’t know about the behavior that kills and injures more than 125,000 Americans every year.

              This is, as far as I can tell, the first attempt to create a serious and comprehensive effort not only to explain gun violence, but to give both specialists and advocates a clear roadmap that can be used to understand what gun violence is all about. And it couldn’t have been done at a more germane time, given the degree to which gun violence has become something of a litmus test for every wannabe 2020 Presidential candidate, at least on the Democratic side. Whether there will be more than one GOP candidate remains to be seen, ha ha ha.

              In addition to classroom presentations by members of the Hopkins faculty’ along with some invited academic guests, each subject also contains a very detailed bibliography of relevant published research. This is the first time any group has mounted a serious effort to create a collection of documentation on gun violence which can be used to further inform the gun-control community about the research that lies behind our understanding about violence caused by guns. The bibliography contains more than 125(!) separate references, and can be printed out or saved for further use. Frankly, this resource alone is a reason why every gun-control advocate or activist should enroll and take this course.

              As of this morning, the course registration stands at slightly more than 2,000 hardy souls. That number is an embarrassment, it’s a joke. It tells me that what I have said (and gotten criticized for saying) about the gun-control movement, or how they refer to themselves as the gun violence prevention movement or GVP, namely, that most of the folks who claim to be so concerned about gun violence are no more interested to understanding the issue than the bunch promoting 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ on the other side.

              When Art Kellerman and Fred Rivara published their formative articles on gun violence back in the early 1990’s, the pro-gun movement responded by launching attacks on this effort which, from a scientific point of view, were nothing more than errant nonsense or worse. Public health research on gun violence was derided as fake, un-American and designed to be used by government to take away everyone’s guns. If anything, this campaign set the tone for the more recent iteration of the alt-right’s response to science and scientific research known as ‘fake’ news.

              I would be much less concerned about the gun lobby’s strategy to eliminate or downplay the need for gun research were it not for the fact that most of the folks on my side of the fence do not seem all that concerned about absorbing the lessons that can be derived from such research themselves. Last year I mounted a survey which asked gun-control activists to answer 12 questions about gun laws, all the questions covering basic information being used by advocacy groups to define their strategies about violence caused by guns. The little quiz has been taken by several hundred folks and the average score has been six correct; in other words, a big, fat flunk. Given the fact that most GVP activists (like 90 percent) hold post-graduate degrees, the lack of basic knowledge in the GVP community is a deplorable state of affairs.

              I think that gun-control organizations like Brady and Everytown should not only be actively promoting the Hopkins gun-violence course, but should be telling, indeed insisting that their members and supporters register and sign up for the course – now! To quote Terry Goodkind, “Knowledge is a weapon and I intend to be formidably armed.”

              Armed with a gun or armed with the facts. Which do you choose?

Here’s Your Opportunity To Study Gun Violence. Don’t Miss It.

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              Our friends at the Hopkins-Bloomberg school have produced and published what I believe is the first attempt to create a comprehensive curriculum on gun violence. This is a very impressive online effort and should be viewed, used and studied by everyone who would like to see gun violence come to an end. In fact, if I were running a group which advocates gun control, I would insist that every member of the group register and go through the course. For that matter, I would post the course on my Facebook page and suggest that other FB admins do it too.  In fact, I’m posting and pinning the course on my FB page right now.

              The good news is that the entire curriculum is video-delivered by members of the Hopkins faculty, all of whom know how to stand up in front of a classroom and deliver lectures in a clear and organized way. The better news is that the website is user-friendly and the lessons can be easily accessed even by users with only a slight degree of digital skills. Finally, the lessons are all on video, but you can also refer to text, and there are reading lists attached for further study, as well as a review quiz at the end of each lesson.

              If you take the program seriously, watch every lecture, read the relevant assignments, do all quiz exercises and give feedback, you are looking at more than 11 hours of study time.  In other words, this is serious stuff and the entire effort is obviously meant to be taken seriously. Incidentally, along with four members of the Hopkins faculty, there are lessons provided by outside experts, including our friends Jeff Swanson and Adam Winkler, and of course the website includes forums so that every student also gets a chance to shoot his or her mouth off. God forbid there would actually be a website out there which doesn’t afford everyone the opportunity to make some noise, right?

              If my last sentence reads in a somewhat sarcastic vein, it’s not by accident. One of the reasons I like this effort is because it is advertised up front as being based on ‘evidence;’ i.e., the content is tied to relevant research in the field. Now that doesn’t mean that all the research is totally correct or that more research needs to be done. But the whole point here, it seems to me, is to inject fact-based knowledge into the gun debate, rather than just creating another digital forum for opinions, a.k.a. hot air. The gun-control movement has come into its own since Sandy Hook; if anything, when it comes to the argument about the role of guns in American society, for the first time gun control appears to have trumped gun ‘rights.’ All the more reason why the discussion needs to proceed on evidence drawn from serious research, not opinions out of thin air. 

              Talking about evidence, I have only one suggestion to make to the faculty that created this course, and it’s a suggestion which obviously flows from my own background when it comes to the issue of guns. If it were possible to revise the curriculum at some point, I would ask the faculty to consider adding a section which explains the meaning of the word ‘gun.’ After all, if we want to learn about a certain kind of violence which is defined by the use of a certain object which we call a ‘gun,’ shouldn’t we make sure that all our learners know how to define that object in terms of how it’s designed, how it’s manufactured, how it works and doesn’t work?. I see too many instances on various gun-control forums, FB pages, and questions directly asked of me which indicate a knowledge deficit on both sides of the gun debate about the product which causes the violence itself.

              That’s a minor quibble.  I hope the Hopkins faculty will take seriously the work they have done and promote its access every chance they get. And when you finish reading this text, go to the website and sign up for the course.

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