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Let’s Go to a Gun Show This Weekend.

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              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.

Want To Go to The NRA Show?

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              So, yesterday I get an email from the boys in Fairfax telling me that the NRA is once again doing their annual meeting which will be held in Houston this year.

              Hey! Wait just one goddamn minute!  I thought the NRA was out of business.  I thought that between the scandal with Russia, the fight with Olllie North, the big investigation by the New York State Attorney General and Wayne-o buying millions of dollars of clothing at some shop on Rodeo Drive, that America’s ‘oldest civil-rights organization was ka-put. 

              As Grandpa would say, vus machts-du? (read: what’s going on?)

              I’ll tell you what’s going on. What’s going on is that you don’t take an organization which does care and feeding of its membership the way the NRA cares and feeds its membership and assume that things are going to hell in a handbasket just because they’ve had a couple of bad years.

              I’m also a member of the Audubon Society, the Wilderness Fund, and the National Parks Conservancy Organization, or whatever they call themselves.  When was the last time I went to a national meeting of any of these organizations and said hello to people who I have seen at other meetings over the years? Never. These organizations don’t have meetings.

              I also make monthly donations to at least three national, gun-control organizations. I guess this makes me a member of those organizations as well. Except there’s no real membership relationship to these organizations at all, unless you want to call it a ‘relationship’ when I get an email asking me to send them more cash.

              I went to my first NRA national meeting in 1980.  It was held in Philadelphia, believe it or not. Ronald Reagan showed up and gave a speech – big deal. I spent all my time at this meeting talking to gun writers like Elmer Keith and Skeeter Skelton whose stuff I regularly read in the monthly NRA magazine, American Rifleman, whose articles on gun history put the Smithsonian to shame.

              Since that first show, I have gone to NRA national meetings in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and a few other states. Since I am a Lifetime Endowment member (which means they can’t throw me out no matter what I say) there’s always a special lounge where I can relax, have a cup of coffee, and say hello to Wayne-o when he drops by.

              Not only can I go to a national show ever year, but I can also go to gun shows every weekend which are sponsored by the NRA. The only difference between those shows and the national NRA show is that I can buy and sell guns at a local gun show. At the national NRA show all I can do is play with the guns.

              Several weeks ago I posted a column on Shannon Watts and her MOMS where I pointed out that her group had more activities coming up than what was listed on the NRA website. But the great work being done by Shannon focuses almost entirely on appearances before state legislators considering new gun-control laws. They aren’t social events per se, and this is where the NRA has everyone in Gun-control Nation completely beat.

              When I was in college, I had a girlfriend whose father never missed going to New Orleans for the annual Shriners jamboree. The fact that the Shriners operated these wonderful hospitals around the country was taken for granted and was entirely beside the point. This guy never missed the national binge so he could get together with all his Shriner friends.

              For those of you in Gun-control Nation who think the NRA is one step away from being good and dead, you better think again. If you’re a gun nut, and there are plenty of us still around, being able to wander through 14 acres of gun displays and gun-related crap is a joy to behold.

Get Ready. The NRA Show Is Almost Here!

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Guess what came in my email this morning? My invitation to the NRA Annual Meeting, which is happening Labor Day weekend in Houston.  More than 14 acres of guns and gear, 65,000 square feet of exhibit space chock full of all my favorite adult toys, plenty of food, plenty of t-shirts to buy, plenty, plenty, and plenty.

Since I am a Life Benefactor Member, I’ll even be able to relax in a private lounge, meet some of the celebrities and politicos who will no doubt show up, and maybe get a chance to congratulate Wayne-o for staying on as Executive V.P.  Will Marjorie Taylor Greene come by to say hello?  Where else would she be that weekend?

I have been going to the NRA get-together since 1980, and from time to time I even bump into a few folks who have been coming to the shindig even before I first began showing up. Going to NRA is kind of like making the pilgrimage to Mecca – you do it because you have to do it. You don’t ask whether or not you should make the trip.

For all the talk over the past year about how the NRA was in a state of collapse, how they couldn’t even pay their legal fees, how the members were leaving in droves, I have a funny feeling that the Houston show will be just like every other NRA show – lots of guns, lots of people playing with guns, lots of reminders that gun owners are the good guys and the good girls.

This may come as something of a shock to my friends in Gun-control Nation, but the last thing anyone thinks about while they’re walking around the beautiful displays of products from Smith & Wesson, Sig, Beretta, Kahr, Taurus, Colt, et. al., is that these companies make and sell products that are used to kill and injure 125,000 men, women, and children every year. You would never guess from the festive atmosphere at the annual meeting that these products caused more intentional deaths in 2020 than in any year since 1995.

Hey – just wait one goddamn minute! It’s not the guns that cause those deaths. It’s the people, the bad guys, who use those guns in ways they shouldn’t be used. If a gun is used ‘responsibly’ and ‘safely,’ two favorite words of my friends in Gun-control Nation, nobody would get hurt from guns at all. Or at least almost nobody except for the occasional dope who tries to clean his gun before he checks to see if it’s loaded or not.

There’s only one little problem with this fanciful scenario which is repeated by every Gun-nut Nation zealot whenever they try to ‘explain’ why there’s no difference between a gun and any other consumer product like a bicycle or a droid – you’ll hear this spiel again and again at the NRA show.

The whole point of using a gun ‘responsibly’ is to use it to inflict a serious, often fatal injury on someone else. What do you think the gun was designed to do? Do you think that Gaston Glock wanted to design a product that could be hung up on the wall behind the stove and used for making scrambled eggs?

Last week a friend who works for the Brady Campaign told me that he is planning a public meeting in my state that will be held in mid-September, right when I get back from the NRA show. The program will feature several speakers, including a survivor of gun violence and a police officer who will talk about safe storage of guns.

Isn’t that just wonderful how everyone on both sides of the gun argument now agrees that all we need to do to get rid of all those unfortunate shooting events is to make sure that guns are used in a safe and responsible way?

Which only goes to prove that you don’t have to go to the NRA show to have a completely unreal view about guns.

Is There Something Called ‘Gun Culture?’

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              I went to my first gun show in 1976 in Charlotte, NC.  Since then, I have probably been to 200 gun shows in maybe 20 states.  I like gun shows. I wander around, talk to a few dealers and gun nuts, maybe buy something I don’t need, always have a coffee and a bite to eat.

              Do you suppose that going to these shows makes me part of gun ‘culture?’ I hear that phrase all the time on both sides of the gun debate. Gun-nut Nation uses it to set themselves apart from folks who don’t own or like guns; my friends in the gun-control gang use the same phrase when describing their fears about whether or not gun violence will increase.

              I happen to think that the phrase has about as much to do with reality as the veritable man in the moon. The word ‘culture’ means a set of beliefs and traditions held in common by a group of people which define how these individuals think, act, and behave. Know what gun owners have in common? They went out at some point and bought themselves a gun.

              I have had retail gun stores in three different states. I opened my first shop in South Carolina in 1978, my second shop in New York in 1985 and my third shop in Massachusetts in 1991. Together, I probably sold guns to more than 12,000 customers and if I ever asked any of those customers why they  just bought a gun, I can guarantee you the answer would have been, “because I like guns.”

              Now if a GVP-minded gun researcher happened to be in my shop and asked one of my customers the same question, the response would have been something having to do with needing a gun for self-defense, or wanting to maintain 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ or some other answer that would appear to reflect at least a minute’s thought. After all, the guy who just plunked down six hundred bucks isn’t about to tell a gun researcher that he just spent that kind of dough for the hell of it, right? And he doesn’t want to look like a fool because he knows that such a question would only be asked by someone who doesn’t own guns. If you believe that a gun guy would ask another gun guy why he’s buying a gun, then you don’t have the faintest idea about anything having to do with guns.

              If I went into a shoe store to buy myself a pair of Merrell shoes, would anyone say that I was part of ‘shoe culture?’ Of course not. I buy Merrell shows because I like the way they look and feel.  I need another pair of Merrell shoes like I need a hole in my head, but I like Merrell shoes. And the fact that Merrell shoes cost more than other brands of similar shoes, so what?

              Know those guys who have been tromping around lately protesting lock-down orders with their AR-15’s strapped to their backs?  They’ll tell you that the gun is what keeps them free. And that’s what they really believe, or at least they say it’s what they believe. But those jerks aren’t part of any ‘gun culture’ because if they didn’t own a gun, they would still stand in front of the government building and wave one of those stupid, ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ flags.

              About 20 miles from where I live, there’s a fairground that’s the location of a gun show every three or four months. It’s also the location of a model train show twice a year. Are the folks who go to the model train show part of some kind of ‘model train’ culture? No. They’re simply men and boys who like model trains.

              And that’s guns. Men and boys like guns. If the two sides in the gun debate would stop taking themselves so seriously, they might sit down and have a cogent discussion about how to reduce the injuries caused by all those guns.

Let’s Go To A Gun Show.

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              Yesterday I went to the gun show that is held every three months at a location about 20 miles from where I live.  The show has been running for at least twenty-five years and I see the same vendors and visitors year after year. It’s a medium-sized show as gun shows go, maybe 150 vendors selling all kinds of guns and gun-related stuff, maybe 300 – 400 folks wandering around at any one time. The most popular location, of course, was the deli which features the usual hot dogs and fries, there was also a Dunkin’ Donuts kiosk where a cup of coffee ran three bucks.

              I’m not saying that I conducted any kind of scientific survey, but it’s not that difficult to get a pretty good read on who goes to a gun shows these days. The people walking up and down the aisles were almost all older White men, probably in their 60’s and above. The men outnumbered the women by at least ten to one – so much for all the talk about how women are ‘getting into’ guns. Did I see any Brothers wandering around even though the show’s location is less than ten minutes from a medium-sized city which is at least fifty percent non-White?  No.

              As for the people who were sitting behind the vendor tables, most of them were as old or older than the folks who came to the show to look at guns. Of the 150 vendors, probably about one-third were selling guns but only a handful were dealers with real gun shops, the rest were collectors who are licensed as dealers but don’t actually run a real business of any kind. It’s easy to spot the collectors as opposed to the real dealers, because the collectors display guns that are at least a hundred years old. A 1903 Springfield rifle, for example, may have been manufactured prior to 1919, and I saw at least 30 of these World War I vintage guns on vendor tables here and there.

              Of the 100 or so vendors who weren’t selling guns, about half of them sold optics, holsters or knives, the other half were selling all kinds of junk including jewelry, military-surplus clothing, books, targets and other kinds of crap. I bought a nice, handmade leather holster for my Glock 17; I also got into a lively discussion with a guy who knew ‘for a fact’ that every Democratic Presidential candidate, all 20 of them, had received large payments from some oligarch in the Ukraine.

              Ten years ago gun shows always had a couple of vendors selling military memorabilia, in particular World War II medals, uniforms and helmets, including stuff allegedly worn by Japanese soldiers on Iwo Jima or the Nazi SS.  Those items have disappeared from the gun show circuit, not because of political correctness, but because nobody remembers or even knows anything about a war which ended more than 70 years ago.

              And yes, the NRA was at the show because America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ usually has a booth at every gun show. For all the talk about how the NRA is going down the tubes and Wayne-o is such a big crook, the NRA rep seemed to be having a good time handing out applications and a list of upcoming NRA events.

              One big change: I didn’t see a single vendor selling MAGA hats or t-shirts extolling the virtues of Donald Trump. In fact, for all the talk about how gun owners are the bedrock of the alt-right, the show was decidedly non-political in every respect. If anyone was walking around with a petition calling on Nancy Pelosi to ‘open up’ the impeachment process, he was keeping very much out of sight.

              This show takes place three miles away from an inner-city neighborhood where shootings are a daily part of life. Perhaps someone can explain to me how closing down this show would do anything to reduce gun violence in that nearby neighborhood or anywhere else.

It’s Time To Stop Talking To Ourselves.

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              Here’s the takeaway from last week.  The NRA dumped Ollie North, who turned out to be a very good fundraiser for himself, and replaced him with a woman best known for her involvement with a group which preserves a Confederate memorial that graces the side of a mountain considered sacred ground by the Ku Klux Klan. On the other side of the ledger, the House Appropriations Committee put $50 million for gun research into the  budget of the CDC. 

              In the greater scheme of things, neither of these two events will make a big difference in how we try to deal with the 300 intentional gun injuries that we suffer from each day. But they do symbolize, to quote a Nobel-prize winner, as something ‘blowing in the wind,’ and the wind seems to be getting a lot stronger every day. Maggie Astor got it right yesterday in the ‘failing’ (ha-ha) New York Times, when she said that the national gun-control movement has now built “an infrastructure that had previously existed only on the conservative side of gun policy.”

              I see evidence of this infrastructure in terms of the number of fundraising emails I receive (and I get them from both sides), in terms of media coverage where outlets like The New York Times now seem to carry a feature about guns and gun violence seemingly every other day, and most of all, I see it in the pronouncements by the 20-odd candidates who have announced their intention to chase schmuck-o Don out of Washington, D.C. Just four years ago, conventional wisdom still considered it to be a big risk if you ran for public office and were anti-gun. That bit of received sagacity has disappeared. Fartig (read: finished.)

              Before you read further, let me make one point. My perspective on gun control and gun violence doesn’t date back to Sandy Hook and 2012. It doesn’t date back to 1999 and Columbine or 1994 and the Assault Weapons Ban. It dates back to 1966 when Chuckie Whitman climbed to the top of the Texas Tower and began blasting away. That’s when I first started paying attention to gun violence, okay? So when I say that we are in a very new and different state of affairs as regarding what to do about America’s love of guns (including my love of them) I’m taking the long view, probably longer than any of you. And my long view tells me this.

              Sooner or later, if you want to make a real dent in gun violence, the gun-control community is going to have to start talking to gun owners not as enemies but as friends. And this doesn’t mean just coming up with some ‘reasonable’ gun laws which allegedly garner support from both sides in the debate. What it really mean is talking to gun owners about why the ‘good guy with the gun’ narrative is a myth.

             So here’s my challenge to my friends in Gun-control Nation. There are somewhere between 2,000 and 4,000 gun shows held in the United States every year. This means that on any given weekend, there are probably 100 locations where 5,000 to 10,000 bone-fide gun nuts get together to play around with guns. I’m going to a nearby show next weekend, in fact. Here’s a calendar of upcoming shows.

              I am willing to pay the costs of renting a table at one gun show a month for the next 12 months. I’ll send a check to the show’s sponsor which will be in the name of the gun shop that I own. And then you come to the show, sit behind the table, maybe give out some literature or whatever, and engage the gun owners who attend the show in a discussion about their guns.

              I don’t care what you say. I don’t care which organization you represent. Or maybe you’ll just represent yourself. Fine with me. But let’s stop talking just to ourselves, okay? Let’s see what happens when we talk to the other side. And by the way, I have been to hundreds of gun shows and the food is always great.

It’s Time To Stop Worrying About The NRA.

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Now that the NRA is about to celebrate the importance of gun ‘rights,’ in Indianapolis, it’s not by accident that an energized Gun-control Nation has started throwing as much dirt as possible at America’s ‘defender of freedom,’ or ‘America’s first civil rights organization,’ or whatever the boys from Fairfax are calling themselves these days.

It wasn’t that long ago that the annual NRA meeting attracted almost no attention at all. However, if you’re a gun-control advocacy group, it’s become almost de rigueur to jump on the bandwagon and energize your membership by revealing yet another scandal that can be laid at the feet of the NRA.

The piece written by Mike Spies concerning various financial flimflamming by Wayne-0 and his friends has been ballyhooed all over the place, but in terms of serious financial violations, it doesn’t really amount to a row of beans. The fact that Everytown has sent a letter to the IRS claiming that the tax-exempt status of the organization needs to be reviewed is also, to quote my beloved grandmother, hai cock and a bubba, which means it doesn’t mean anything at all.

In that regard, my friends at the Center for American Progress (CAP) have joined the parade by issuing a report, “Guns, Lies and Fear, Exposing the NRA’s Messaging Playbook,” which claims that the way the NRA promotes gun ‘rights’ is no different from the “authoritarian and undemocratic political regimes around the world that deploy disinformation campaigns to secure control over public discourse,” strategies employed by, among others, Erdogan in Turkey, Orban in Hungary and Putin in what we used to call the U.S.S.R.

The demagogue communication playbook now being used by the NRA consists, among other things, of constructing an ‘us versus them’ political identity, creating an atmosphere of crisis, controlling media and vilifying the opposition. So by dint of gun owners versus gun grabbers, the ‘slippery slope,’ the NRA-TV videos and the demonization of every office-holder who doesn’t parrot the NRA line, Wayne-o now takes his place alongside some of the worst, most anti-democratic political drek-meisters floating around these days.

Let me make one thing very, very clear. Despite the fact that I have been an NRA member since 1955 and currently hold the membership status of Life Patriot Benefactor which means I get multiple fund-raising emails from Fairfax every day, if I were to receive a letter from Wayne-o tomorrow telling me the NRA is kaput, I couldn’t care less. I’ll always be a gun nut, I’ll always enjoy going to a gun show or wandering into a gun shop, and if I could drive to the NRA show in less than 10 hours, I’d be there this coming weekend because the show’s a lot of fun. But I have made it clear again and again and again and again that the NRA‘s promotion of armed, self-defense is simply wrong and has no basis either in logic, safety or effective self-defense. For that matter, this whole notion that our Constitutional freedoms rest on the 2nd Amendment has about as much basis in reality as my decision this morning to go back on my diet.

That being said, I also have to say that the CAP report comparing Wayne-o to some tin-horn politicians in various banana, goulash or halvah republics is simply nothing but crap. The only reason the NRA is considered such a formidable political lobby is because until Sandy Hook, when it came to lobbying for or against guns, they were the only game in town. The so-called demagogue playbook which CAP believes has been used so effectively by the NRA, actually reads exactly like the messaging strategy of a certain New York landlord who, if we are lucky and work hard, can drag his fat ass back to New York City in 2021.

In the meantime, let’s stop pretending that the NRA is the enemy when, in fact, one-third of American adults are legal gun owners but two-thirds believe that a gun keeps you safe. Are my friends at the CAP and other advocacy organizations ever going to explain that one to me?

Khal Spencer: How To Pass A Gun Law That Nobody Likes.

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Laws work best when we believe in their fairness. It is advisable to build consensus when crafting legislation. In the case of New Mexico’s new universal background check (UBC) law, the opposite of consensus building occurred.  In an act that has been repeated elsewhere in the U.S., urban and rural constituencies have rejected each other’s thinking with polarizing results.

This latest round of discord has been covered in the Santa Fe New Mexican’s editorial page, to wit, the Attorney General’s admonishment to Second Amendment Sanctuary Counties to enforce the law. But I doubt more political posturing will bring people together. What, may I ask, could have? Here are several suggestions our legislators ignored.

Not all guns or gun transactions represent a credible threat. A recent Bureau of Justice Statistics report shows most guns recovered from criminals are handguns.  But the new law treats the exchange of a 22 rimfire rifle between country neighbors with the same gravity as selling a concealable Glock pistol to a perfect stranger in Albuquerque’s “War Zone”.

Its not clear that we even know how prohibited persons in New Mexico get their guns. National and state studies give us hints. In that same BJS report, and similar studies carried out by Prof. Phillip Cook and colleagues in Illinois, we see that the lion’s share of criminals obtain their guns from a combination of acquaintances, the underground market, or less likely, theft. The BJS report breaks it down into about a quarter from family or friends and almost half from the underground criminal market. Less than 1% get them from “gun shows” and a few from dealers.  The new law would work on that part of the market where law abiding citizens are exchanging guns only if we obtain buy in from the gun owning public. Instead, our legislative gun control advocates treated gun owners with disdain.

The bill was oversold.  Gun deaths often rise and fall independently of gun laws, most dramatically shown with century-long data in New York City, or when comparing recent trends in gun violence in New York City and Chicago, where enforcement and social networking differences far more than laws contribute to different trends in violence rates. Gun violence student Dr. Michael Weisser says that in Colorado, gun homicides rose after its 2013 UBC law went into effect. Judicial and sociological issues strongly influence violence rates.

Finally, one would hope your legislators care about your opinion. In 2017, I worked closely with my representative, Stephanie Garcia-Richards, trying to craft a background check bill with gun owner buy-in. I offered to do the same with my Santa Fe representatives this time and was met with studied silence or for the most part, cursory replies. I heard from a leader of the NM Shooting Sports Assn. that other gun owners met studied silence. Its not hard to figure out why. Although the NRA is the left’s boogeyman, Everytown for Gun Safety lavished almost $400,000 in campaign cash on our Legislature, dwarfing the NRA’s efforts, to ensure their voice drowned out everyone else’s.

A carefully written background check bill that hits the target of our violence problems while obtaining maximum buy-in from New Mexico’s gun owning public would be a great idea and could only help. What the bill’s supporters did instead was broaden the abyss between gun rights and gun control. The present political standoff was predictable and perhaps preventable.

Will Gun Shows Go The Way Of The DoDo Bird? They Just Might.

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I have lived most of my 73-plus years on the East Coast, but whenever I go out to the West Coast, as a confirmed gun nut I try to schedule my trips when a Crossroads of the West gun show is being held in the city where I’m going to be. I can’t purchase a gun at these shows unless I’m willing to wait 10 days for the dealer to ship the piece back to a dealer back home, and my rule of thumb is that if I see a gun I really like, I want to walk out with it right then and there.

shows             Notwithstanding this serious limitation, I like the Crossroads shows because there are lots of guns, lots of good food concessions and the atmosphere is enjoyable, homey and nice. If I have to choose between the stuffy, pretentious San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where if you speak above a whisper someone immediately tells you to shut-up, versus going up and down the aisles at the Cow Palace looking at endless piles of guns and sharing a joke with another gun nut or an ATF agent, it’s no contest at all.

But the world, even the gun world, does change, and right now it appears that the Crossroads of the West gun show at San Francisco’s Cow Palace may be going the way of the Passenger Pigeon, the Dodo Bird and the dial phone.  The next show is scheduled for June and it will go on as planned, but if several state legislators have their way, these events will come to an end in 2019. A bill has just been introduced that would end gun shows at the Gun Palace in 2020, and while the last such effort was vetoed by Jerry Brown in 2013, I wouldn’t bet my bottom dollar on these shows continuing given the new, post-Parkland attitude about guns.

When the Governor Abbott of Texas – Texasannounces that he will convene a roundtable on gun violence that will include school officials, victims and relatives of victims, gun rights and gun control advocates; when he says, and I quote, “We need to do more than just pray for the victims and their families,” there’s something new and different going on. And it turns out that California now has their own version of Parkland’s Emma Gonzalez in the form of Erica Mendoza, a 16-year old who led the Parkland walkout at Jefferson High School, a building which just happens to be located 2 miles from where the Cow Palace gun show takes place.

If the proposed gun show ban becomes law, the biggest, single loser will be a nice guy named Bob Templeton, who started Crossroads in 1975, and now operates more than 50 shows each year in all the Western states. Bob just published an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, his basic argument being “the closure of the show will not prevent criminals from obtaining guns from the sources where they have always obtained them.” And just so you don’t think that Bob is some kind of red-neck entrepreneur with blood on his hands, his column approvingly quotes none other than the sainted, gun researcher Garen Wintemute, whose criteria for how a gun show should be operated is not only met but exceeded by procedures followed at all Crossroads shows.

It should be admitted that Templeton’s article does indulge in a bit of both historic and analytical whimsy because his statement that there have been “no known incidents of gun violence resulting from activities at the show” is kind of true but only in a very narrow sense. In fact, a show visitor accidentally shot his friend at a 2015 Crossroads show in Phoenix, and there is simply no way to determine how many guns purchased at any Crossroads event eventually wind up in the wrong hands.

If California passes a law banning gun shows, I guarantee you it will spread. After all, let’s not forget that what has ruined gazillions of cups of coffee – half & half – also started in the Golden State.

Why Own A Gun? Because It’s Fun.

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Back in 2006 one of GVP’s stellar researchers, Kristin Goss of Duke University, wrote a book in which she tried to explain why there was no mass movement for gun control in the United States. As opposed to mass movements which sought to end the Vietnam War, or reduce drunk driving, what she found after mass shootings like Columbine was the following pattern: “collective outrage, followed by a momentary flurry of unorganized calls and letters and donations from thousands of individuals, and then a quick return to the status quo.” Otherwise, the issue of gun violence would lie dormant between the random, high-profile shooting events.

gun-sales             Goss argues that the pro-gun folks were much more successful than the gun-control crowd in building a mass movement for two reasons: they were funded both by industry and private sources whose resources the gun-control groups couldn’t match; they took advantage of a fragmented, federalist political system which rewards political initiatives at the local level but frequently restricts the implementation of national policies even when such policies gain broad, popular support.

Is it time to revise Kristin’s argument about the lack of a mass movement for gun control given how the landscape appears to have changed in the ten years since she wrote her book? To some degree yes. Despite the sycophantic utterings by Forbes and various other pro-gun media outlets, the decision by Mike Bloomberg to pour 50 million bucks into gun-control initiatives each year isn’t chopped liver, and money like that always has an effect. There has also been a shift in the tactics of gun violence prevention (GVP) organizations towards a greater focus on state-level gun issues rather than only thinking and organizing in national terms; an example of this being the spread of laws which force persons served with a domestic abuse order to turn in their guns.

Of late there also appears to be some parity developing between the two sides on social media venues which have become an important, indeed necessary venue for how organizations connect with the folks they represent.  Right now on Facebook, the NRA page has 630,000 Likes, the Moms Demand page has 570K.  As for website traffic according to SimilarWeb, the NRA site registers around 300,000 visitors a month, visits to Everytown are around 200K every thirty days. How many years has the NRA been around? At least 150 years longer than Everytown or Moms – I would say that the numbers for those GVP sites are pretty substantial and pretty good.

On the other hand, over the last five days I received six email communications from the NRA, including three messages offering to sell me clothing, backpacks and all kinds of other consumer crap. During that same five-day period I received only three emails from the GVP, and every message consisted of asking me to donate money to the cause.  Several of the NRA emails were also straight out of the organization’s fundraising kit, but overall the NRA messaging did one thing that the GVP messaging didn’t do – it conveyed the idea that being involved with the NRA is not only important but also fun.

The idea that you can have a good time by being a member of America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ is an important aspect of the pro-gun messaging strategy that I’m not sure the GVP community understands. It certainly isn’t mentioned or analyzed in Kristin’s book. But later today I’m going to drive over to Marlborough where the semi-annual gun show is going on, and the reason I’m going to the show is the same reason that millions of people attend gun shows all over the country every weekend – the shows are fun. I can wander around, play with lots of guns, eat a hot dog and wash it down with a full-calorie drink and buy a Make America Great Again baseball cap for under five bucks.

Spending money on some useless junk may not be the preferred method for raising political awareness within the GVP, but it sure works for the NRA.

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