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The Dumbest Gun Law Passed This Year.

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              I used to think that the dumbest gun law ever produced came from Matt Gaetz who, when he was a State Senator in Florida, introduced a law (which went nowhere) that would have allowed patrons who were shot by someone in a gun-free zone to sue the owner of the property who had made his space gun free.

              But the Governor of Missouri, Mike Parson, is about to sign into law a bill which is even dumber than the law put out there by child-molester Gaetz. This is a law called the ‘2nd-Amendment Preservation Act,’ which prohibits the police in Missouri from enforcing federal laws which would be “considered infringements on the people’s right to keep and bear arms, as guaranteed by Amendment II of the Constitution of the United States.”

              Exactly what laws are they talking about? The most egregious infringements on gun ‘rights’ in Missouri would be any federal law which would result in “any registration or tracking of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition.”

              So, if a local police department shows up at a crime scene, let’s say a murder, and finds a gun next to the corpse which was evidently used to kill the guy, according to this new law the cops can’t ask the ATF to trace the gun in order to figure out who may have actually committed the crime.

              And why do the good people of Missouri need such a law? Because according to the Governor’s office, this law will “empower people to protect themselves.” The Governor’s spokesperson, Kelli Jones, actually said this. She actually stated those exact words.

              In 2019, the most recent year for which we have data, Missouri was one of 7 states with a murder rate in double digits, specifically the rate was 10.23 murders per 100,000 residents. There were only 4 states in 2019 which suffered from a higher rate of murders where the killer used a gun. So why not make it harder for the cops to figure out who pulled the trigger when they find a dead body on one side of the street with his head blown off and then find the gun on the other side of the street?

              Obviously, the guy who got his head blown off wouldn’t have been a murder victim at all if he had taken the trouble to ‘empower’ and protect himself, right? And how could this guy have empowered himself to make sure he didn’t get his head blown off by someone else?  That’s simple. All he needed to do was go out and get himself a gun.

              I can certainly understand why the head of Missouri’s gun-control group, MOMS, would issue a statement calling this law something with no benefit at all. But that’s not completely true, because after all, as the fear of Covid-19 abates and less people feel they can protect themselves from the virus by buying a gun, the guys who own gun shops in Missouri will need to find some way to boost sales.

              Know how many guns were purchased in Missouri last month? Try 40,192.  Know how many guns were sold in Missouri in April? Try 51,356.  In March it was 65,739.  So, over the last three months, gun sales in Missouri have dropped by almost 40%! That’s no good. No good at all.

              If it weren’t for the idiot state legislator, Jered Taylor, who sponsored this bill, and the idiot Governor, Mike Parson, who signed the bill, the gun business in Missouri might collapse, and then all those state residents who still need to empower themselves to keep themselves safe would be sh*t out of luck.

              Maybe what those poor folks would have to do is sneak into someone’s house when they’re not around and swipe one of their guns. And if the neighbor reports the theft to the cops and the cops want to trace the gun, then the local cops will also be sh*t out of luck.

              Missouri’s known as the ‘show me’ state. Want to show me a law that is dumber than this new gun law? 

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Another Gun Expert Joins The Debate And Gets It Completely Wrong.

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              It has to be my fault.  There’s simply no way that a media organization as sophisticated and professional as 24/7 Wall Street could do a story about guns and get it so completely wrong. So, I have to assume that although I have described what the FBI-NICS numbers mean at least two dozen times, obviously I’m doing it in a way that simply doesn’t allow the reporter who wrote about guns for 24/7 to get what I’m saying at all.

              Yesterday, 24/7 ran a story with a headline which said there was one state which already racked up more than 5 millions gun sales this year.  One state has already accounted for the purchase of 5 million guns?  In 2019, the total for all guns manufactured in the United States was 6.5 million, of which 200,000 were exported and the rest were sold here. Now I know the Pandemic increased gun sales exponentially in 2020, but how could one state, identified as Illinois, register more gun sales in five months this year than the total gun sales for the entire United States in 2019?

              In fact, it didn’t happen. It didn’t come close to happening.  So, I guess this means that for the umpteenth time I have to explain the meaning of those monthly FBI-NICS numbers that the reporter for 24/7 Wall Street didn’t understand at all. Here goes.

              In May, the state of Illinois connected up to the FBI-NICS call center 998,926 times. In April the number of calls from Illinois to the FBI-NICS desk was 955,439; March was 1,427,917; February was 902,029, and January was 1,002,118. Round it off and you get 5.3 million background checks for residents of Illinois.

              There’s only one little problem. Ready? Of those 5,3 million calls, roughly 245,000 (I’m rounding off) were for background checks covering the purchase of guns. The rest of those calls, the other 5.2 million calls, were for approval of new gun permits, rechecks of previously issued permits, and guns redeemed out of pawn. Illinois doesn’t yet require background checks for person-to-person private sales which in California, for example, accounts for another 7,000 – 8,000 background checks each and every month.

              What the FBI-NICS numbers really show, if the reporter for 24/7 Wall Street would like to know what he is writing about, is that the great 2020 surge in Pandemic gun sales is, like the Pandemic, beginning to slowly but surely fade away. In May 2020, Americans bought 955,278 handguns, last month that number dropped 20% to 767,314.

              The reason the reporter for 24/7 Wall Street made such a big goof is because he looked at the wrong NICS dataset published by the FBI. He based his story on the dataset which lists calls received by the NICS call center for each state but doesn’t break down the reason for the call: NICS Firearm Checks: Month/Year by State — FBI.  What he should have been referencing was the dataset which shows not only the number of calls per state, but the reason why the calls were made: NICS Firearm Checks: Month/Year by State/Type — FBI

              Unfortunately, the writer of this article is not just some kid reporter. He’s Douglas McIntyre, not only Co-Founder, Chief Executive Officer and Editor-in-Chief of 24/7 Wall Street, but “an expert on corporate finance, the automotive industry, media companies and international finance. He has edited articles on national demographics, sports, personal income, and travel.” A Magna Cum Laude graduate from Harvard College, obviously McIntyre’s choice of major at America’s oldest University didn’t include a course on guns.

              Am I surprised that someone as educated and professionally experienced as Douglas McIntyre could write a story about the gun business and get it so utterly and completely wrong? To the contrary, I have to assume that his sudden interest in guns reflects an awareness that with the current political alignment in D.C., we might actually see a gun-control bill debated and even passed on Capitol Hill.

              Let’s just hope that if such a debate occurs, that our Congressional friends supporting a new law to reduce gun violence will rely on sources more accurate than 24/7 Wall Street.

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Want To Fix The ATF? Don’t Ask The Trace What To Do.

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              Last week our friends at The Trace published a long article based on nearly 2,000 reports of gun shop inspections conducted between 2015 and 2017. The authors note that the ATF is coming under ‘scrutiny’ because a former ATF staffer, David Chipman, is going to start running the agency, and since he previously worked for Gabby Gifford’s group, he’s certainly going to change how the ATF operates and turn what The Trace considers a ‘toothless’ regulatory agency into a tough, go get ‘em outfit that will finally make a dent on violence caused by guns.

              Why do the authors of this totally contrived and error-filled article conclude that the ATF’s activities give gun dealers “immunity” from serious punishment and allows them to “enjoy layers of protection unavailable to most other industries?” Aside from the fact that these authors have obviously never worked for a bank or a brokerage house, the entire argument is based on this: “A single violation is enough to shutter a gun shop if ATF officials can prove that the store willfully broke federal regulations. In the vast majority of the cases analyzed by The Trace and USA TODAY, the ATF gave violators the lightest penalty available.”

              Of course, the so-called gun experts who wrote this nonsense never took the trouble to figure out how the ATF decides that a gun dealer has committed ‘willful’ violations in how he sells guns. And since the ATF only shut down 3 percent of the dealers who committed these horrible, willful violations, obviously gun retailers are being regulated by an agency which doesn’t know how to do its job.

              The article goes into great detail about some egregious examples of gun shops that were allowed to stay in business while they kept selling illegal guns. It starts off with a story about a West Virginia gun shop named Uncle Sam’s, which was allowed to stay in business despite numerous warnings about willful violations over multiple years while the shop operated as the “backbone of a sprawling gun trafficking scheme.” Obviously, the moment a gun dealer starts committing ‘willful’ violations, he’s another Uncle Sam’s and should be shut right down.

               My gun shop underwent a full ATF inspection in 2014.  The ATF team visited the shop numerous times, reviewed somewhere around 4,000 transactions of guns coming in and going out, they also examined hundreds of 4473 FBI-NICS background checks covering retail sales and other documentation covering guns sent to dealers, sold to tax-exempt agencies as well as the forms we filled out whenever anyone purchased multiple guns.

              At the end of this tedious and seemingly-endless exercise in the examination of thousands of pages of paperwork, it was determined that we could not produce requisite documentation on the transfer of – ready? – three guns. It doesn’t mean the paperwork didn’t exist. We just couldn’t produce the paperwork at the time the inspection occurred.

              Several weeks later, I received an inspection report from the ATF.  The report detailed the fact that the inspection team had found more than 1,000 ‘willful’ violations, each of which was considered a ‘threat to public safety’ and could result, under law, in shutting me down. On the other hand, if I showed up for a conference at the ATF, said my mea culpa’s and promised to do a better job, I could continue to operate my gun shop.

              The thousand ‘willful’ violations consisted of one violation repeated more than a thousand times: we didn’t write out the full name and federal license number of the same wholesaler from whom we purchased most of our guns. What made these violations ‘willful’ was the fact that when we received our license in 2002, an ATF agent delivered the license and also made some comments about how to fill out the forms. Incidentally, the two kids who ran the shop and had committed those thousand ‘threats’ to community safety weren’t even in the shop when the ATF agent showed up and allegedly delivered his spiel.

              I wouldn’t be so upset by this half-assed journalism if it weren’t for the fact that this story, reprinted in USA-Today, will become the new narrative used by Gun-control Nation to frame their demands for how the ATF needs to clean up its act.

              More on this tomorrow. 

Should We Get Rid Of PLCAA? Why Bother?

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              If there is one thing that all my friends in Gun-control Nation seem to agree on, it’s the idea that we have to get rid of PLCAA, a 2005 law which protects the gun industry against class-action (tort) suits. But even though it sounds like a good idea because, after all, no sane, rational individual would ever want gun makers to escape responsibility for the 125,000 victims of gun violence every year, I’m not so sure that getting rid of PLCAA would change anything at all.

              The law was the gun-industry’s counter-offensive to an attempt by the Clinton Administration to make the gun industry accept a plan (put together by then-HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo) which would have required gun makers to adopt a self-regulating program that basically would have ended the retail sale of guns in the United States. And because the plan required the gun industry to adopt and enforce the plan themselves, no amount of kvetching about the ‘loss’ of 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ would have done any good at all.

              Basically, the Clinton-Cuomo plan would have required every gun manufacturer to hire hundreds of people who would go around, visit every, single retail store that sold one of its guns once a year, conduct a full safety inspection of the premises, deliver a seminar on gun safety, and file a report on each visit which would then be forwarded to the government for review.

              In fact, because Smith & Wesson was owned by a British investment group which didn’t know a gun from a hole in the wall, the owners decided to adopt the plan, in return for which the Clinton Administration promised that S&W would be shielded from class-action suits. The resultant boycott by gun wholesalers and retailers almost shuttered the company’s doors except that some Palm Beach County votes were thrown out, Bush beat Gore, and that was the end of that.

              In fact, a class-action suit against the gun industry brought by the NAACP had been floating around Federal Judge Jack Weinstein’s courtroom for a couple of years, the real ‘civil rights’ organization (as opposed to the NRA’s nonsense) charging gun makers with consciously flooding inner-city, high-crime neighborhoods with their products, thus provoking too many deaths and injuries from guns.

              Ultimately, Judge Weinstein was forced to terminate the suit because the NAACP couldn’t demonstrate ‘standing’ in the case. And while Weinstein later said he believed the plaintiffs had a strong case, I’m not so sure that the guns which wind up being used to commit injuries in what we now refer to as the ‘underserved’ neighborhoods are being shipped into those neighborhoods when they leave the UPS truck pulls away from the factory loading dock.

              The reason that Gun-control Nation wants to get rid of PLCAA is because most gun-control advocates believe that by promoting the idea that a gun can protect its owner from being harmed, that the gun manufacturers are consciously and deliberately trying to deceive consumers into believing that guns aren’t as dangerous as many of us would like to believe.

              Unfortunately, the idea that the gun industry plays down the intrinsic dangerousness of its products is a myth which happens not to be true. In fact, gun makers are required to alert consumers to the potential danger, up to and including fatal danger, if their products are mis-used.

              The picture above is the front page of the safety manual which goes with every gun manufactured and sold by Smith & Wesson. The very first sentence of text says: “Read these instructions and warnings carefully. Failure to read these instructions and to follow these warnings may result in serious injury or death to you and others and damage to property.”

              If you believe for one second that the guys walking around with a gun because they want to use that gun to injure someone else don’t know how dangerous and lethal that happens to be? 

              Where do you live? In Fantasyland?

Why Are Americans Buying All Those Guns?

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              I just got done listening to an hour-long interview with an academic, David Yamane, who considers himself to be uniquely situated in the gun debate because he claims to be the only scholar who is interested in what he refers to as the ‘sociology’ of gun ownership. He’s not a criminologist, he’s not a public health researcher, he’s doing something very different from the academics in both those fields. He’s trying to figure out why, in many part of the country, guns are considered a ‘normal part of life.’

              What he believes he has figured out since he started the sociological investigation into guns is that roughly one-third of all Americans haven’t figured out how they feel about guns. One-third of Americans are strongly against guns; one-third are strongly in favor guns; and one-third, according to Professor Yamane’s sociological research, haven’t made up their minds one way or the other. Yamane explains this breakdown in an interview that you can access right here.

              This division of opinion about gun ownership, according to Yamane, explains the tremendous upsurge in guy sales that has occurred alongside the spread of Covid-19. Yamane argues that the demand for guns reflects not just current gun owners buying more guns, but members of the ‘I haven’t made up my mind about guns’ group buying their first gun.

              Like everyone else who writes about guns, I have also been trying to figure out who is buying all those guns over the past year. And since Yamane claims to be a scholar and a researcher, I assumed that somewhere I would find the research he has conducted to not only divide Americans into three groups in terms of what they think about guns, but I would also be able to look at his research which explains why so many new gun owners are buying their first guns.

              Unless Yamane has updated but not yet posted his academic CV on the Wake Forest website, which is where he happens to teach, his last scholarly article was published in 2018, which is well before the ‘Chinese flu’ came ashore.  He did publish an article in 2020 that covered the shift in gun advertisements in American Rifleman magazine from hunting to self-defense guns, but this article didn’t identify who was even reading those ads, never mind going out and buying all those self-defense guns.

              So how does Yamane know that the 2020 spike in gun sales can be explained because one-third of Americans who previously did or maybe didn’t like guns, all of a sudden decide that they wanted to own a gun? 

              First, Yamane went to some gun shows where he met people who told him they were buying their first gun. Then he accessed a really reliable source, the gun-industry’s trade group, the NSSF, which estimates “that 40% of all gun purchasers in 2020 did not currently own guns.”

              That’s how a tenured academic does sociological research which he claims is based on the demographics of people who buy guns? By walking around a couple of guns shows and then repeating an ‘estimate’ by an outfit which promotes the gun industry?

              Again, I’m not saying that Yamane’s right, or that Yamane’s wrong. But if he really wants to conduct some serious and valid research on what he calls Gun Culture 2.0, particularly on whether people previously uninvolved with this culture are now buying guns, there’s a very simple way to go about conducting such work.

              All Yamane has to do is walk into a few gun shops and tell the owner he would like to take a look at the store’s collection of 4473 forms. These forms contain the date of birth and the gender of every person who ever bought a gun in that store. You can even get the buyer’s height and weight. Most gun shops also keep their record in Excel, so Yamane could do a word search and quickly figure out how many customers bought guns in that shop for the first time.

              I’m still waiting for David Yamane or any other academic scholar to learn a little something about the gun industry before they go out to do their research.  As always, I’m happy to help them out.

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Why Do We Keep Buying So Many Guns?

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              Yesterday I wrote about yet another news article which represents the seemingly endless effort by my friends in Gun-control Nation to scare the bejesus out of everyone because Americans keep buying so many guns. Now the fact that the reporter overestimated the number of guns being purchased by maybe a factor of ten to one, oh well, oh well, oh well.

              Anyway, it occurs to me that whether someone believes that having a gun sitting around their home somehow reduces the risk of gun violence, even though the research shows such a belief to be absolutely untrue, is still a belief held by lots of Americans. It’s what my friends in academe would call ‘cognitive dissonance,’ and if we are ever going to come up with an effective strategy to reduce gun violence, we have to figure out why this widespread instance of cognitive dissonance actually exists.

              This issue has actually been studied in quite some detail by my friends in criminology, but their research rarely, if ever, gets mentioned in the current debate about gun control. This is because Gun-control Nation relies overwhelmingly on research conducted by our friends in the field of public health. And everyone knows that all the criminologists want to do about gun violence is to lock ‘em up and throw away the key, whereas public health is all about those ‘underlying’ causes of threats to health – poverty, family dysfunction – which can only be resolved with a more compassionate, enlightened approach.

              I happen to believe that we should not only look at research by criminologists about gun violence but make a point of spending as much time discussing that kind of research as we spend discussing the research conducted by our friends in public health. I say this for one, simple reason, namely, that even including suicides, at least 90% of all gun violence happens to be a crime.

              Now you may not like the fact that when some jerk walks up to someone, pulls a gun out of his pocket and shoots the other guy in the head, that he happens to have committed a very serious crime for which we have always believed that some kind of punishment must be meted out. Okay, okay, the shooter comes from a violent family, he’s got no job, he’s what my father would call a ‘poor, unfortunate.’

              But he just killed or injured someone else. And because he did it with the gun, the odds that he killed his victim are far greater than if he had attempted to injure that other person in any other way.  And in case you didn’t know it, the guns that are used in just about every assault are designed only for the purpose of killing or injuring yourself or someone else.

              I have just read four pieces of criminological research on why people believe they need a gun to protect themselves, which is what everyone says is the reason for the spike in gun sales since the appearance of Covid-19. You can download these articles from my website here, here, here and here,

              It turns out that people who buy or own guns often suffer from less fear than people who don’t. Maybe this has to do with other psychological factors which cause some people to become gun owners, maybe it’s access to a gun which reduces their fears. The research isn’t definitive either way.

              But what the research does seem to indicate is that much of the fear which may be driving the current spike in gun sales comes “when politicians pro[1]pose restrictive immigration policies, they employ menacing portrayals of immigrants, which are widely reproduced in the media.” Sound familiar? It should.

              The good news is that the biggest noisemaker in this respect has just been told that he won’t be coming back on Facebook any time soon.

On the other hand, when Trump first started his race-mongering about immigrants, gun sales actually went down. But let’s not forget that Covid-19 wasn’t a home-grown virus. It was, after all, the ‘Chinese flu.’

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Will We Ever Get Anything Other Than ‘Fake News’ About Guns?

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              Maybe the rate of pandemic infections is finally starting to go down, certainly there seems to be in most locations a clear drop in the number of patients being hospitalized with Covid-19. But one thing which hasn’t seemed to be negatively impacted by the pandemic are the stories about guns and gun violence which continue to be wrong.

              The latest nonsense came out yesterday in a story from WENY News in Ithaca, NY with the headline that has become all too common everywhere: ‘Gun Background Checks Soared in April.’ Let me tell you how they ‘soared.’

              FBI-NICS background checks for handgun transfers ‘soared’ from 1,392,677 in March to 961,947 last month.  Want to tell me how a month-to-month drop of 31 percent is some kind of soar? As for year-to-date sales, there were 984,872 handgun checks in April 2020, as opposed to 961,947 in April 2021. That’s only a drop of 2 percent, but it sure ain’t no increase at all.

              So, where’s all these soaring gun sales taking place? They are taking place, according to this story, in high-crime areas where people now feel they need guns to protect themselves from the hordes who are making the street unsafe. One such high-crime area is the town of Des Plaines, IL, where the owner of a gun shop says that he’s selling every gun in the place.

              Now the fact that the crime rate in Des Plaines happens to be 50 percent below the national crime rate average, so what? Obviously, this gun shop is being overwhelmed by all the people coming up from Chicago, right?  Meanwhile, the reporter who wrote this story could have asked the owner of the Des Plaines gun shop to scan through the FBI-NICS background check forms from last month just to see exactly how many customers who bought guns from him actually live in the Windy City. God forbid a reporter would actually attempt to verify what she is told by someone who has a vested interest in promoting the sale of guns.

              But the story gets better as we read down through the text. Demand for guns in Illinois may not be reflected just by counting FBI-NICS background checks in that state. The next-door state, Indiana, according to this story, had 187,000 background checks last month, the third highest in the entire U.S.A.

              In fact, this statement is so far away from being true that I really don’t understand how it got into the story at all. Background checks in Indiana for gun transfers didn’t even reach 50,000.  The reporter seems to believe that when the FBI-NICS phone bank does a background check on a gun license renewal that this should be counted as the transfer of a gun.

              Good. Let the reporter believe whatever she wants to believe. She can also believe that the Covid-19 virus actually came back from a secret mission to Mars, or maybe it’s another new weapon being tested at Area 51.

              I’m going to cut today’s column off a bit short, but I think you get the point. When it comes to disinformation floating around the last several years, you don’t need to get disinformed by watching Fox News or CNN. You can just go to Google, do a search for ‘guns,’ or ‘gun violence,’ and what will come up are endless stories from various news sources which are just as misinformed as the story published yesterday on WENY.

              In the interests of full disclosure (a phrase I love almost as much as I love the phrase ‘we are fully cooperating with the investigation’) I should add that the story contains this following statement: This story and headline have been corrected. An earlier version overstated the number of gun sales that have been recorded in Illinois.

              If the editors at WENY believe that the story is now accurate and true, all I can say is what Grandpa would have said, “Oy, zuch en vai,” I’d rather not say what it means.

Does Gun Violence Increase Because We Keep Buying Guns?

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              Once again, our friends at the ‘non-partisan’ gun magazine, The Trace, have promoted an argument about the relationship of gun ownership to gun violence which has no basis in fact. The argument has now been floating around for at least 20 years and is accepted as the non-plus-ultra explanation for gun violence in the United States. Unfortunately, the explanation doesn’t work,

              Why do we believe that our high level of fatal violence is because we have so many guns? Because our friend David Hemenway has been pushing this idea for years. And how does he explain the link between gun ownership and fatal violence? By doing a regression analysis using guns as the independent variable and then comparing the United States to other countries with similar demographics but much fewer personally owned guns.

              There happen to be two, actually three fundamental problems with David’s approach. First and most important is his definition of the word ‘gun.’ Because the fact that there are more than 300 million guns sitting around in basements, garages, underneath the living room couch and inside a toolbox out in the truck, doesn’t tell us how many of these guns are actually used in assaults.

              I looked at more than 9,000 ‘crime’ guns collected by police departments, and the types of guns which probably account for at least 75% of the civilian gun arsenal don’t show up on this list at all. Along with another 20 million or so gun owners, I own a Remington 700 bolt-action rifle. When was the last time a gun of this type was involved in a gun assault? As my grandfather would say: ‘shabbos noch schvee,’ (read: never.)

              The second problem with David’s approach is the assumption that there’s any connection between the number of guns owned by law-abiding citizens and the number of times that guns are used to commit crimes. And here is another issue I have with all the so-called gun experts who conduct public health researcher and or write for The Trace. Every time they talk about gun ‘violence’ they only refer to homicides and suicides, with the latter events being twice as great as the number of murders committed with guns.

              In fact, the only difference between fatal and non-fatal gun assaults is that in the latter category, the shooter didn’t shoot straight. Otherwise, everything that leads up to a confrontation that ends up as a fatal or non-fatal gun assault is exactly the same. More than 80% of all the gun injuries which occur in the United States every year are crimes. How come this issue is glossed over again and again?

              I’ll tell you why. Because if there were any degree of honest discussion about gun violence, (and this is the third problem with the more guns = more violence approach) it would have to be admitted that gun violence is a problem experienced in what we politely refer to as the ‘underserved’ population. And since this population is overwhelmingly minority – Hispanic and Black – to single out those two groups would be to inject the racial issue into the gun debate.

              After the last four years of being verbally abused by Trump, I don’t blame anyone for wanting to avoid discussions about social or political events which turn on the issue of race. On the other hand, why let facts get in the way of a good headline that will help gun-control organizations raise some more cash? And by the way, before yet another reader accuses me of being a shill for the NRA, I just renewed my monthly contribution to Moms Demand Action, okay?

              Last but not least, the whole issue of how guns move from ‘good’ to ‘bad’ hands is also a mess. According to the ATF, the average time between when a gun is purchased and when it is used in a crime (‘time-to-crime) is more than 9 years. So even though the number of handguns sold this year has doubled over the number of purchases in 2019, who says that this is the reason why gun violence has been going up? 

              There are all kinds of reasons why we are suffering from an increase in gun violence regardless of how many new guns have been purchased by law-abiding gun owners in the past year. God forbid our friends in gun journalism and public health research would stop trying to scare us with headlines and conduct some serious research.

How Big Is The Militia Movement?

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Ever since it took Donald Trump a few days to figure out how to denounce Nazis who marched through Charlottesville in August, 2017, the liberal media has been obsessed with the behavior and potential threat represented by ‘white supremacist’ groups. In particular, the mainstream media focuses much of its attention on the activities of the so-called citizen’s militias, particularly when people connected to such groups show up in a public space toting their guns.

The latest such concern can be found in a long article published in The New Yorker Magazine, which appeared previous to a bunch of militia-styled jerks getting themselves arrested for allegedly planning to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, a state that has been a focus of media attention since a  number of these ‘patriots’ began demonstrating against her lockdown rules.

The militia groups in Michigan first got noticed when it turned out that Timothy McVeigh was briefly involved with the Michigan Militia before he went down to Oklahoma City and blew up the Murrah Federal Building.  The resultant publicity put the Michigan group more or less out of business, but it has of late revived, calling itself the Michigan Home Guard. This new group told the author of The New Yorker piece, Luke Mogelson, that they count one thousand members, a claim that Mogelson made absolutely no attempt to verify or even check.

Much of the recent concern about these militia groups has aligned with a narrative about the surge in gun sales that has accompanied the spread of Covid-19. And the fact that these older-generation Boy Scouts show up in public with their trusty guns only tends to underscore the idea that the country may be facing the beginnings of a true, revolutionary movement representing whatever rhetorical nonsense these great patriots put together from a combination of Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.

Granted, there has been a surge in gun sales. For example, In my state, Massachusetts, a year-to-year comparison shows an increase in background checks for guns sold by dealers to consumers of somewhere around 80%.

Granted, there has also been a disturbing increase in homicides throughout the United States. But the guns that figure in most gun assaults, fatal and non-fatal, are rarely guns that are legally owned, and the average time between when a gun is first purchased and when it is used in the commission of a crime happens to be – ready? – more than 11 years.

I’m not trying to dismiss or downplay the fear and intimidation engendered by the spectacle of some guys walking down the street in their camo costumes and brandishing their AR’s. If nothing else, such displays of infantile stupidity on the part of adults always evokes memories and fears of mass shootings like the massacres at Las Vegas or Sandy Hook.

It’s one thing to acknowledge that the legal sale of an assault rifle to a nut like Steve Paddock or Nancy Lanza could result in community-wide trauma and multiple deaths. It’s quite another to foster the impression that behind a dozen or so middle-age schmucks who have nothing better to do than show up at a public rally and wave their guns, there lurks an unseen and  increasingly large army of like-minded dopes getting ready to declare a new civil war.

When a guy sells t-shirts and other crap to support the militia on his website tells you that his group numbers a thousand or more, shouldn’t you at least try to verify his claim? Fogelson’s article describes a gathering of some of these jerk-offs at the barbershop of a guy who refused to close down after Michigan’s Governor, Gretchen Whitmer, imposed lockdown rules back in May.

Guess who called up in the middle of this brief demonstration of patriotic lore? None other than Glenn Beck, who hoped he could score the same degree of media coverage that Sean Hannity thought he would get until Cliven Bundy began lecturing Hannity on ‘your Negro’ during the standoff outside his ranch.

What I’m suggesting is that the militia movement wouldn’t ever get beyond the weekend pizza and beer tailgate party except for the possibility that one of the gang might see his picture that night on Fox News. What I’m also suggesting is that the liberal media might consider not trying to compete  with the alt-right when it comes to taking those dopes seriously or discussing them at all.

Is There A Gun Culture?

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              Back in 2017 a group of gun researchers got together at the University of Arizona and held a symposium for what they referred to as an “open, interdisciplinary debate surrounding the social life of guns.” Following the get-together, three of the participants – Jennifer Carlson, Kristin Goss and Harel Shapira – edited the papers and published them last year in a volume, Gun Studies – Interdisciplinary Approaches to Politics, Policy and Practice.

              I suspect that I am the only person who is going to review this collection, and for that matter, I may also be the only person who actually bought and read the book in printed form, as the paperback edition costs nearly $50, with the e-book running $45. But how many times do you find articles in the same collection written by opposing scholars like Gary Kleck and David Kopel on the one hand, versus Frank Zimring and Phil Cook on the other? So what the hell, in the interests of academic diversity, why not blow a few bucks?

              The editors state that the purpose of this effort “promote empirical and theoretical understandings of how people live with, experience, and think about guns in their day-to-day lives.” To that end, the volume contains 18 scholarly contributions covering “the evolution of American gun culture from recreation to self-protection; the changing dynamics of the pro-gun and pro-regulation movements; the deeply personal role of guns as sources of both injury and security; and the relationship between gun-wielding individuals, the state, and social order in the United States and abroad.”

              What is culture? We usually define it as a set of beliefs held in common by a group of individuals which shape how these individuals think and behave about certain kinds of things. It is also a set of mental perceptions that are consciously transmitted from older to newer members of the group. So how did these scholars go about trying to figure this out?

              There’s an article about what kind of gun advertising appears in gun magazines; another two articles about how the gun industry develops marketing narratives to sell assault rifles and handguns; another article about marketing research techniques; several articles about advocacy groups both pro and con; several articles about gun culture in other countries which I didn’t bother to read; and various other research efforts on police shootings, gun injuries and guns used in suicide events.

              The editors state that together, these articles examine “difficult and timely questions through the lens of social practice, marketing and commerce, critical theory, political conflict, public policy and criminology. That’s quite a list.

              Unfortunately, there’s only one thing entirely missing from these articles, and its absence makes me wonder how this collection can be described as a contribution to ‘gun culture’ at all. What’s missing is any research which uses as its source or sources contact with individuals who actually own guns.

              I own a little gun shop in Massachusetts.  Between 2001 and 2014 I sold guns to more than 7,000 people who came into my shop.  I also sold ammunition, optics, and other crap to maybe another several thousand individuals who owned guns. I didn’t need to read a single one of those 18 articles to tell me how, what, and why individuals own and use guns.

              Of the millions of guns that were sold between January and August of this year, at least 75% of them were bought in small, independent retail shops just like mine. You’ll find a gun shop like my shop in just about every small town outside the big, urban metropolitan centers throughout the United States.

              Take a 300-mile drive on old U.S. Route 20, which was the major east-west road connecting Boston to Portland until I-90 was built. Once you get 50 miles away from Boston, there’s a small, slightly decaying  urban center about every 20 miles, and there’s a gun shop in just about every one of those towns.

              Want to learn about gun culture? Spend a day in some of those gun shops and just listen to what the customers say. Don’t conduct any interviews, don’t ask them why they are buying another gun, don’t ask what they think about their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ Just listen to how they talk to each other about their guns.

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