Should Doctors Talk to Patients About Guns?


Dear Readers:

              Let me warn you that today’s column is longer than my usual 600-700 words. So, I hope you will set aside a bit of time to read the entire thing and spend a moment reflecting on what it says.

              Before I get into the specifics, I want to say that on at least two occasions, I had the great fortune to be able to talk candidly and completely with skilled and responsive physicians about disquieting medical symptoms which were affecting me and one of my kids. I couldn’t have gotten this kind of advice and foreknowledge from anyone else, and I will never (read: never) join with any of those shitheads, including a former President, who rant and rave about the ‘fraud’ of modern medicine or how immunizations should all be banned.

              However, I also believe that if doctors are going to deliver remedies to medical risks, then they need to understand what those risks really involve, and in the case of gun risk, doctors don’t know enough about guns to promote themselves as the professionals whose beliefs and treatments should be accepted in that regard.

              I refer to an article which just appeared in a medical journal, “Firearm Screening and Counseling in General Medicine Primary Care Clinics at an Academic Medical Center” and can be downloaded here.  The article’s authors asked 109 medical providers in 10 Michigan clinic sites to answer questions about counseling patients on gun risk and found “a generalized resistance from patients and providers alike to discuss firearm safety,” which is similar to other, similar studies on gun counseling conducted over the past years.

              For guidance in creating this survey, these researchers cite an article published by one of the gurus of gun violence prevention, Garen Wintemute, along with several other alleged gun  violence experts, an article which has become the non plus ultra resource for helping doctors learn how to talk about guns, and you can download that article here.

              How do Wintemute and his colleagues advise physicians to counsel patients about guns? First, they present an ‘epidemiology’ of gun risk, which is totally based on the demographics of people who are shot with guns. Now I’m not an M.D., I’m only a lowly Ph.D., but I always thought that epidemiology is a method which is used to help determine how a threat to health moves from one victim to another, which when it comes to gun violence, you won’t get even the slightest hint if your data only covers information about the people who get shot.

              The WHO defines violence as any conscious attempt to injure yourself or someone else. But when it comes to gun violence, less than 20% of all shootings involve the victim also being the person who shoots the gun. So, if you do research on gun violence and only look at the demographic profile of people who get shot with guns, you happen to be missing at least 80% of all gun violence events.

              The Wintemute group then goes on to tell us about why people own guns, the idea being that if you are going to counsel gun owners about gun risk, you need to deal with their interests, concerns and fears which made them go out and buy a gun. And what data is used to figure this problem out? The same data which has been used in virtually every research done on guns over the past twenty years that shows a majority of gun owners buy a gun in order to protect themselves.

              The next sentence is the single, most important sentence in this entire column, so please read it slowly, perhaps read it several times and spend a few moments thinking about what the sentence says, okay?

              There has never been one, single study produced by public health, physicians or medical caregivers about guns which asks gun owners to describe the type of gun which they own. Not one. Not one, single study.

              And unless you know what kind of gun(s) you are talking about, getting into a discussion with a patient about gun risk is a total and complete waste of time. Because even though all guns represent some degree of health risk once they are loaded with ammunition that really works, the difference in lethality of different kinds of guns can be extreme.

              You don’t buy a Glock 17 with a hi-cap magazine which holds 16 rounds of tactical ammunition (the word ‘tactical’ is a polite way of saying that someone might get killed) to knock a birdie out of the tree. You also don’t buy a 22-caliber, bolt action, single-shot rifle to walk around the neighborhood carrying a gun.

              Gun owners are very sensitive to this issue and love to walk into a gun shop and talk on and on with anyone else in the shop about the design and use of different kinds of guns. I know this because I have sold guns to somewhere around ten-thousand-gun owners in the gun shops I have operated in three states.

              Physicians admit in survey after survey that their reluctance to counsel patients on gun violence often stems from their lack of knowledge about different types of guns. Does Wintemute’s article or the study out of Michigan even raise this point or God forbid advise doctors to spend some time learning about the different types of guns? Of course not.

              There must be a couple of hundred books on gun design listed on Amazon. There are also YouTube videos, including this very informative, hour-long video by a clever, young man which could easily be converted into a one-credit CME online course, if one of the so-called medical gun experts would even mention anything about why doctors should learn at least a few specifics about the guns which create the risk about which they are so concerned.

              And what is the remedy for gun violence that these medical and public health experts promote clinicians to advance? Store those guns safely – that will do the trick. Now the fact that there has never been one, single study showing any change in gun violence rates after a control group of patients reports they are paying more attention to gun safety than before, big deal, right?

              Probably the most detailed study of how and why Americans own guns was published by the Harvard gun-research group in 2015. You can download that article right here. This piece goes into great detail about how many Americans own guns, what kinds of guns do they own, when was the last time they purchased a gun and when was the last time they sold or gave one of their guns to someone else.

              This article made all kinds of noise in the media because it identified a group of ‘super owners,’ representing just three percent of the adult population who together own half the country’s guns, for an average of 17 guns apiece.

              There was only one little problem with this article, a problem which basically renders the research totally meaningless for understanding or counseling on the risk of guns. Men and women who are legal gun owners by and large rarely commit violence of any kind with their guns. Maybe once in a great while some gun owner and his wife get into a brawl, and he decides to finally get the old lady out of his hair by popping her with a gun.

              But the reality of guns as representing a threat to health happens to be when someone who is unable to legally own a gun gets their hands on a gun. Who are these individuals and what kinds of questions do they need to be asked in order to determine whether they represent any degree of gun risk? You won’t find one, single word about this problem in any published research from the medical community which allegedly explains to clinicians how they should talk to patients about guns.

              Last point. I don’t see in any of the advisories about how health professionals should discuss gun risk any mention simply to get rid of the guns. Which, by the way, happens to be the one, guaranteed strategy that will reduce gun violence.

              Oh, I forgot.  My bad. Americans have a Constitutional ‘right’ to own guns. Know what? Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3 of the Constitution also gives Americans the ‘right’ to buy and smoke cigarettes. It’s called the ‘commerce clause.’

              So how come physicians have no trouble telling their patients who smoke to get rid of the cigarettes?

Should physicians talk to their patients about guns? Maybe they should first take the trouble to learn something about what they want to say.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So much for that evidence-based theory, right?

When Will Gun Violence Research Get Serious About Their Field?


              I have just finished the remarkable book by Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, which has been reissued in a 25th Anniversary edition. What Rhodes brilliantly describes is how scientists in various countries began developing a new branch of science – physics – in order to understand the behavior and structure of the atom, thus yielding a better insight into how our world and the universe functions around our world.

              Before World War I, these scientists lived and worked in Germany, France, the United States, and several other industrialized countries, but they kept track of advances in this new scientific field by coming together in public conferences where new research was discussed, criticized, and revised before any new consensus on an issue was accepted and then used to move the field forward as a whole.

              In that regard, I believe the scientific field known as gun violence research first got started with articles published by Philip Cook beginning in the late 1970’s and by Fred Rivara and Art Kellerman in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1992-93.

              Notwithstanding the absence of government funding for gun research from 1997 until 2019, the field has continued to grow, with research groups operating at numerous universities and private foundations throughout the United States. The academic collaborative website, ResearchGate, which is hardly an exhaustive listing, counts more than 50 articles and chapters on gun violence published this year.

              Yet with this newfound flurry of research into gun violence, one thing is still completely missing from the efforts of this scientific community to figure out what to do about a problem which kills and injures more than 125,000 Americans every year. As far as I know, and please correct me if I’m wrong, there is still no commitment on the part of this group to come together on a regular basis, present their research to others who are qualified in the same field, and to use the results of such discussions to invigorate and widen the knowledge within their own discipline and the scientific understanding of this issue.

              There are plenty of public meetings and events held each year which bring people together to think and talk about gun violence and what we should do to reduce the horrific human cost. But these meetings are not where the type of cross-fertilization and informed critiques occur that could create a more robust research field. In the main, they are events which advocacy organizations utilize to build more support for their cause.

              That’s fine for what it’s worth. But those meetings do not provide a suitable venue for public health, medical and other scientific disciplines to discuss critically and substantially the research which might ultimately provide us with the answers to solving gun violence which we still need.

              Back in 2020 and 2021, gun violence spiked at the same time the Pandemic was tearing through the land. I don’t have enough fingers on my two hands to enumerate all the statements that were made about how Covid-19 was creating a social environment which was conducive to more gun violence events.

              Sounded logical, right? A quick and easy answer was all very nice and well, but that’s all it was. Here we are in 2023, the Covid-19 virus is still around but is no longer considered a widespread threat, yet gun violence continues to occur on a level we have never seen before.

How did that happen? WTFK.

              I’m not pleased with writing about gun violence these days with having only the slightest understanding of what’s going on. But until and unless the gun violence researchers start coming together to exchange ideas, theories, and findings in an unrestrained, critical way, I’m going to keep reading and hearing the same old, same old about gun violence which has basically moved the field no further along than it was thirty years ago.

              And just to make it clear that I consider this issue to be as serious as the deaths and injuries caused by guns, I am willing to contribute $10,000 to any group of bone fide researchers who would be willing to organize and sustain such a commitment to their field on a regular basis. 

A New Book on Guns – By Me!

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              I am pleased to tell you that today I published my 17th book on guns, which is available on Amazon both in print and electronic editions right here. The book is brief, 80 pages, but it deals with what has become a very significant issue in the whole discussion about guns, which is the issue of Stand Your Ground (SYG.)

              Except my book is not an examination of this issue from a legal point of view. Nor is it an attempt to explain how or why SYG laws, passed first in Florida in 2005, have now spread to at least 35 states.  And it is also not a discussion about how the gun industry has promoted SYG as a way to sell more guns, in particular the types of handguns which Americans sooner or later will be able to carry from state to state.

              My book considers SYG to be a type of behavior which has always been a way in which the black community first tried to protect themselves from the worst depredations of slavery, then as physical challenges to their free status by the Klan, and then as the fundamental strategy to achieve full civil rights as developed by Martin Luther King.

              The basic point I attempt to share with my readers is the idea that SYG has always been a method by which people who are legally and socially considered to be inferior can redress that unequal status against others who believe themselves to be more superior.

And in the United States, even with all the recent legal activity which is attempting to bring everyone to an equal par with everyone else, the basic fault line on who is better and who is worse, is still a line defined primarily with reference to race.

The United States is the only country in the entire world which created and enforced a racially based slave system in which there were no manumission practices at all. The last slave ship arrived here from Africa in 1808, but when the WPA team went out 130 years later and interviewed more than two thousand former slaves in seventeen states (and I use some of these interviews as references in my book) they could not find one black man or woman who was born on the other side.

The fact that we ‘gave’ freedom to our black population has always been an important, and frankly adverse factor in how whites think and talk about blacks, because this also presumes that the ‘better’ members of our society finally realized that there were other members of our society who had it worse.

But the whole point about SYG behavior and culture is that black slaves who then became black Americans knew the difference between what they were given as opposed to what they really deserved.

I hope you read and enjoy my latest book.

Same Old Public Health Discussion About Gun Violence.


              Yet another article has just appeared which tells us for the umpteenth time that guns represent a threat to public health.  This particular article focuses on gun deaths in the pediatric and adolescent population and finds that gun violence continues to increase even in the wake of a disappearance of Covid-19.

              So, what else is new? Pardon me if I sound a bit cynical or just plain worn out from reading the same thing again and again and again. But what makes me really unable to find any real value in this research is, that typical of virtually all the work on gun violence published by the public health and medicine crowd, the single, most important issue for understanding gun violence is left completely unsaid.

              For all the talk by yet another group of experts based on discussions by even a larger group of experts, there is not one, single word in either this article or the reports and data on which it is based which mentions any attempt or even awareness of approaching gun violence from a perspective which cannot be ignored, namely, an analysis of what we mean when we use the word ‘gun.’

              Oops! The authors of this article wouldn’t feel comfortable using the word ‘gun’ because it’s just not educated or sophisticated enough to fit into the nomenclature of this highly educated group.  They prefer to use the term ‘firearm,’ as if this has some kind of scientific validity which the word ‘gun’ doesn’t have.

              Over the past 40 or so years since I opened my first retail gun shop in 1979, I have sold probably in excess of 12,000 guns to buyers who walked into my gun shops which were located first in South Carolina, then New York, then Massachusetts. Many of these buyers purchased more than one gun, so maybe I had direct contact with 8,000 different individuals to whom I sold at least one gun.

              I do not recall one, single person who ever walked into one of my shops and told me that he or she was looking to purchase a ‘firearm.’ Not one. And while you might think that I’m just making a silly and incidental point, to the contrary, the same ‘experts’ who feel comfortable using the term ‘firearm’ are also the same ‘experts’ who will always tell you they can’t seem to get all those gun owners to understand what they are trying to say.

              Aside from nomenclature, I also have an issue with the authors of this article who are conducting research on the health threats represented by guns but have decided that the threat can be fully understood with reference to less than 30% of all gun injuries. This selective vision occurs because the CDC has given up trying to figure out how many non-fatal gun injuries occur every year.

              The only difference, let me repeat that with emphasis, okay? The only difference between a fatal and non-fatal gun wound is that in the latter case, the shooter didn’t shoot straight. There is no other difference whatsoever in terms of who does the shooting, why they do the shooting, how and why they got their hands on a gun in the first place, or anything else related to this event.

              If the public health and medical researchers who claim to be studying guns – oops! – I mean firearm violence want to continue indulging the CDC in its annual publication of data which is so incomplete that it shouldn’t be published at all, the least these researchers could do is maybe just stick a little footnote at the end of their text advising the reader about this massive data gap.

              Anyway, getting back to the gun issue. This article draws heavily from a series of meetings by a panel of ‘experts’ convened by the NORC organization in Chicago with the idea of creating a ‘nonpartisan firearms database’ which will enable researchers “to consider the lack of basic firearms data and how to overcome this severe factual deficit so that all sides in the debate can find common ground.”

          First of all, the phrase ‘common ground’ is code used by public health gun researchers to pretend that no matter what they decide needs to be done, that all those crazy gun owners out there won’t feel their so-called 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ are being taken away. Like there’s a single gun owner in the United States who could be talked into believing that a panel which includes faculty from a public health program funded by Mike Bloomberg can be trusted to worry about whether they can keep their guns. Yea, right.

              But what is even more relevant to my concern about the work of this expert panel is the fact that in no less than five detailed reports, again there is not one, single mention of figuring out what to do about gun violence based on the types of guns which are used to commit that type of violence.

              Several years ago, The Trace gun magazine published a database consisting of some 9,000 guns picked up by various police agencies in 2014. The data gave the gun’s manufacturer, its caliber and the violation, crime, or reason that the gun was now in police custody. As far as I know, I am the only person who took the trouble to analyze this data and produce an article which can be downloaded here: Understanding Guns and Gun Violence by Michael Weisser :: SSRN.

              What I learned from this data, among other things, was the following:

  1. A large majority of the guns were types which never appear in reports about intentional gun injuries, i.e., hunting rifles, rear-loading shotguns, antique handguns.
  2. A substantial number of these 9,000 guns were at least 30 years old, which means that even if we were to impose a ban on sale of the types of guns which are used in gun assaults, we would still need to find a way to collect all the killer guns that are out there.

If the experts who conduct gun research would actually learn something about the guns which create the problem they are studying, perhaps they might begin to develop valid and effective strategies to respond to what the late Katherine Christoffel calls the ‘endemic’ problem of gun violence, or firearm violence, or whatever they want to call it.

As long as the researchers who are attempting to find a solution to gun violence continue to avoid discussing or understanding how and why certain individuals gain access to certain types of guns which are designed solely for the purpose of killing human beings, we will continue to get articles which earn a publishing credit for the authors but otherwise tell us what we already know and have known for many years.

Does Public Health Explain Gun Violence?

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              I have often told my friends who do public health research on gun violence that they are engaged in a sacred task. The reason I say this is because violence is first mentioned in Chapter 4, Verse 8 of the Old Testament: “and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.” (King James.)

              Over the centuries since the first human history was written, we have learned how to deal with every other type of threat to the human community: disease, lack of food, weather. We may not have the political will to respond to every threat, but with the exception of violence, we know what to do.

              Unfortunately, this is not the case when it comes to violence, and I believe that our failure to understand and respond to this problem has become worse ever since a consensus has developed which defines violence, particularly gun violence, as a problem that can and should be addressed by public health. 

              Public health researchers like David Hemenway at Harvard have been researching this issue for the past thirty years or so, but until very recently, public health gun research was stymied by a provision in the CDC budget which prohibited funding this particular public health problem.

              Now that the CDC funding spigot has been turned back on for research on gun violence, everyone’s expecting that some new answers to this age-old problem will emerge, a belief which first became mainstream when the idea of public health once again taking the lead in gun violence research was promoted by Nick Kristof and The New York Times back in 2015.

              I told Nick back then that I didn’t agree with his call for public health taking the lead in doing gun violence research, and what I told him then is what I’m going to discuss today.

              As I understand it, public health endeavors to figure out how to define and then protect the community from threats to public health, i.e., threats which affect a wide swath of population defined either by gender, or race, or behavior, or some other characteristic shared throughout the population.

              Obviously, something like violence, which creates 100,000+ deaths and injuries in the United States every year when the violence is committed with the use a gun, should be considered a public health threat. But using a public health research approach to understanding this problem is insufficient because it isn’t possible to create a valid epidemiological analysis of gun violence.

How do you explain why only certain individuals commit gun violence when if they commit the violence against themselves, they are overwhelmingly dead and if they commit the violence against someone else they either aren’t caught or if they are arrested, they are incarcerated and can’t talk?

Back in 1992-93, two medical researchers, Art Kellerman and Fred Rivara, published studies which found a causal link between homicide and suicide to guns in the home. But what their studies could not determine was the fact that even if homicide and suicide rates were higher in homes with guns, how come most homes occupied by gun owners didn’t experience any kind of gun violence at all?

What we get from public health gun research instead of epidemiology is a typical ‘profile’ of individuals who commit gun violence against themselves (depression, addiction, etc.) or against someone else (violent upbringing, addiction, etc.) But again, these studies don’t explain why most gun owners who exhibit such backgrounds or family histories do not use guns to shoot themselves or shoot someone else.

So, the result of this scattershot analysis of gun violence is the promotion by public health of various legal sanctions (background checks, safe storage, extreme risk protections) which may or may not have any impact on gun violence as long as we’re talking about gun violence that otherwise might be committed by gun owners who, generally speaking, obey the law.

Guess what? We have known since Marvin Wolfgang began publishing his studies on violence and crime in the 1960’s that most of the individuals who wind up committing violent crimes by the time they reach their 20’s, first started engaging in anti-social and delinquent behavior when they were twelve years old. And thanks to research by Al Lizotte, boys start getting interested in guns at the same age.

When and if my friends in public health gun research figure out a way to use their great skills and aptitudes to create an epidemiological approach to the study of gun violence, perhaps we will begin to develop a response to this problem which is often referred to as an epidemic in American society, but has certainly become what Kathy Christoffel calls endemic to our way of life.

How Many Americans Own Guns?


              I have just finished reading (for the second time) what has to be one of the most bizarre and misguided examples of research into gun violence that I have ever read. This article, which comes out of the New Jersey Gun Violence Research Center at Rutgers University, is an attempt to figure out how many Americans own guns, which has usually been set at somewhere around 30% of all households, but these researchers believe that the gun-owning households may be as high as 60%.

              How does one explain such a discrepancy? It is presumed that gun owners tend to be somewhat sensitive (read: paranoid) to any outside efforts to figure out whether they have guns because such efforts are viewed as a preliminary step towards the confiscation of guns.

              Now in fact, there has never been any jurisdiction in the United States which completely banned gun ownership, although the Illinois town of Morton Grove tried to do it in 1981 but quietly rescinded the ban in 2008. Several other places have banned the purchase of assault rifles, but only another Illinois town, Highland Grove, has passed a law compelling AR-15 owners to either sell their guns or move out of town.

              In other words, the two sides of the gun debate may argue endlessly about the details of gun ownership, like safe storage, permit-to-purchase, concealed-carry and other restrictions, but since 2008, the 2nd Amendment has given Constitutional protection to private gun ownership whether anyone likes it or not.

              On the other hand, it is assumed (without the slightest bit of real evidence, by the way) that the more guns owned by Americans, the more Americans will get killed or injured with guns. This argument was first made by our friend David Hemenway, who has published multiple articles which find a connection between America’s high rate of violent crime and the size of America’s civilian arsenal, with the former rate seven to twenty times higher than what occurs in any other advanced country, and it goes without saying that America’s per capita ownership of guns is also far beyond per capita ownership rates anywhere else.

              If we take the research published by David and supplement it with the work just published by the Rutgers group, the gun violence situation in the United States looks pretty glum. Not only are more guns being added to the civilian arsenal each year, but the absolute number of armed Americans is also getting larger. As Grandpa would say, ‘nisht gut’ (read: no good.)

              Given what I have just said, why do I refer to the research out of Rutgers as being misguided? For that matter, I could apply the same descriptive to Hemenway’s work and here’s the reason why.

              In 2021, the CDC says we had 47,823 intentional deaths from gunshots – 26,328 from suicide, 20,958 from homicide. The CDC has given up entirely trying to figure out how many non-fatal shootings occur each year, but the FBI says there were 146,886 non-fatal gun assaults in 2021.

              So, for the sake of argument, let’s say that the total number of fatal and non-fatal shootings where someone used a gun to try and kill someone else was somewhere around 166,000 in 2021.

              Now, if we put together the research by Hemenway and the Rutgers group, we may be looking at a national gun-violence rate of somewhere around 50, which would put the U.S. in the stratosphere when compared to other advanced nation-states.

              Except there’s only one little problem with the research cited above. Neither Hemenway nor the Rutgers group nor anyone else has ever attempted to figure out how many homicides and aggravated assaults are committed each year by individuals who do not have legal access to guns. And the idea that a guy who has a stolen gun that he bought on the streetcorner and now keeps it under the living room couch is going to admit ownership of this weapon to someone who calls up and says, “Hi, I’m from Rutgers and I want to know if you own guns,” is totally and completely bizarre.

              By the way, neither Hemenway nor the Rutgers researchers have taken the trouble to break out the different types of guns owned by all those gun-nut Americans, as if every type of gun represents the same degree of risk from gun violence. Several years ago I published an analysis of 9,000 guns picked up for homicide, suicide, theft and other violations in various jurisdictions throughout the United States.

              I stuck the entire list in Excel, and then did a word search using the names of the five most popular gun makers who market hunting guns: Remington, Mossberg, Browning, Winchester and Marlin. Together these companies alone have probably added at least 80 to 100 million guns to the civilian arsenal over the years. These names popped up less than 3% of all the entries, and the violations attached to them involved non-violent crimes, such as failing to renew a gun license or hunting without a hunting license.

              Here’s the bottom line, okay? Conducting a survey to help figure out how gun violence occurs without once mentioning the issue of crime, crime guns and criminals and asking gun owners to describe their guns is like publishing research on the transmission of the AIDS virus without asking about condoms or other safe-sex aids.

Too Much Gun Violence? Let’s Hold a Meeting!


              Yesterday, the Mayor of Springfield, MA, where I live, called a meeting of the city’s Violence Task Force to figure out what to do about gun violence which this past weekend claimed this year’s 22nd victim. If not a single additional Springfield resident is gunned down by the end of the year, which is not a possibility, the city will wind up with a 2023-gun violence rate three times the national rate and equal to the murder rates in Nigeria and El Salvador.

              Great, just great.  I now live in the 3rd World.

              The Task Force, incidentally, has the same usual suspects which are always members of the Task Force: the Mayor, the Police Chief, the usual mélange of community, civic and religious so-called leaders, blah, blah, blah, and blah.

              Maybe they should also invite some one from the gun violence research group at Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health. These folks, along with public health researchers at Johns Hopkins and other academic sites, have a whole list of laws which they believe will reduce gun violence if and when these laws are implemented in all the states.

              The gun researchers know for a fact that what should be the legal infrastructure to surround the private ownership of guns are red flag laws, a.k.a., ERPO laws, safe-storage laws, universal background checks, mandatory safety training and discretionary issuance of gun licenses.

              Guess what? Massachusetts has all those laws on the books already. Massachusetts is also the only state other than California which requires that no gun can be sold by a dealer unless its design includes certain safety features and, it goes without saying, that Massachusetts is also a low-capacity state.

              Several years ago, the head of Harvard’s gun group, David Hemenway, gave an interview in which he said that all these laws make him feel a lot ‘safer’ living in the Bay State. And in fact, Massachusetts ranks at or near the bottom of gun violence for all the 50 states.

              And exactly what does all this safety mean for the residents of Springfield? Not one, goddamn thing.

              But of course, Professor Hemenway and his colleagues don’t live in Springfield. They live in lovely, suburban towns like Brookline, where all the nice people live.

              There’s a nice, safe, suburban town adjacent to Springfield too. It’s called Longmeadow and it has the 4th or 5th highest average family income of any town in the entire state. Longmeadow hasn’t had a shooting incident of any kind for as long as anyone can remember. Walk north a half mile from the middle of Longmeadow and you’re in Springfield’s South End.

              Actually, things have been rather quiet around the South End this year. There’s only been two murders and a handful of assaults. Gunshots go off all the time but when the cops show up, nobody’s seen nor heard nuttin.’

              Of course, if the issue of crime guns comes up during the Task Force meeting, no doubt the researcher from Harvard will inform the group that it’s very difficult to control gun violence in a state with strong gun regulations when other states have fewer laws and therefore become sources of illegal guns used to commit crimes in the Bay State.

              My friends in public health have been hocking about this one for years and fudge every single judgement about the efficacy of gun-control laws because after all, it’s very easy and commonplace for a crime gun to move from state to state.

              Meanwhile, if anyone were to take the trouble and look at the locations from which gun crimes in Massachusetts were first sold, they would discover in an ATF report that of the 3,687 crime guns in MA that the ATF traced between 2017 and 2021, 3,068 of them, that’s 90%, were first sold to residents of the Bay State.

              So, here’s what we have. The state with the lowest frate of gun violence of all 50 states also happens to have the strongest and most comprehensive gun-control laws of all 50 states.

              Which is about as much of a way to guide the discussions of the Springfield Gun Violence Task Force as a hole in the head.

Are Some Guns Too Dangerous to Be Sold?


              What makes a gun nut a gun nut? He (and occasionally she) likes to play with his toys. Which are what guns are to gun nuts – toys.

              Forget all this crap about how people own guns for self-defense. Forget this nonsense about guns being an essential protection against the ‘tyranny’ of the state. That’s nothing but the gun industry trying to sell guns, okay?

              I started playing with toy guns when I was six or seven years old. My first gun was a plastic, silver Roy Rogers revolver, complete with holster and cowboy hat. I could outdraw and outshoot anyone with that gun.

              If I had been born after, instead of before the end of World War II, I could have graduated from toy guns to gun video games when I was twelve or thirteen. Either way, I started buying real guns when I was 21 or 22 and I haven’t stopped buying guns since.

              Right now, my personal collection is a little light. I live in a very small house and ‘the wife’ doesn’t want the ‘damn things’ around (that’s how the wife refers to guns) so I only have 20 or so guns stashed in a closet, under the couch pillows or in the trunk of the car.

              Several years ago, the so-called gun experts at Harvard’s School of Public Health published a study which claimed that 3% of American adults owned half the privately-owned guns, with these ‘super owners’ having, on average, some 17 guns lying around.

              This study provoked hysteria among all the gun-grabbing groups, even though there was absolutely no connection between how many guns were individually owned and whether any of these super gun nuts had ever committed any kind of illegal or improper behavior with any of their guns.

              The reason that gun nuts are gun nuts is because you can do all kinds of fun things with your guns – change the grips, add an accessory to the stock, stick a light or a laser onto the gun, or take the gun down and change an internal part.

              The one thing you don’t want to do is actually go out and shoot the gun because that usually requires a shlep to the range, standing around waiting for empty slot, making sure the gun is unloaded until you’re ready to fire, all of this and all of that. Better to sit on the couch at home, watch a movie like ‘Burn After Reading’ or ‘Fargo’ for the umpteenth time, and play with the guns.

              The latest attempt to keep gun nuts from playing with their guns is a case being heard in a Brooklyn courtroom (thank you Paula) where an outfit called Rare Breed Triggers is fighting a decision by a couple of ATF bureaucrats who claim that the part they are selling, called a ‘forced reset trigger,’ turns a semi-auto assault rifle into a full-auto gun.

              The company says its trigger may make the gun shoot quicker, but the shooting requires a separate trigger pull every time the gun is shot off. The bureaucrats are paid to say ‘no,’ which is what they are saying to the judge.

              In fact, technically speaking, an AR-15 with this doohickey inside is still a semi-auto gun, but the ATF is claiming that the rate of fire is still too dangerous and therefore the company is selling a product which needs to be regulated and controlled like a full-auto gun.

              I don’t really care how this case works itself out, but I do believe that the case may possibly move the philosophy which defines how we regulate guns in the direction which Gun-control Nation would like it to go.

              The United States is the only country in the entire world which regulates the private ownership of guns based on defining the proper behavior of individuals who want to own guns. In every other country which regulates the commercial gun market, the primary criteria for determining the degree of regulation is based on the dangerousness of the gun.

              If the gun is considered too dangerous for sale to the general public, the gun is not allowed to be sold. Incidentally, this was the criteria which was used to make Remington fork over $73 million to the parents of kids killed at Sandy Hook. This lawsuit, however, was brought using a state law, because under federal law, the case would have been thrown out.

              On the other hand, allowing the feds to come into court and argue that a particular type of gun is too dangerous to be sold could perhaps set a precedent that would ultimately stand American gun-control on its head.

              Would it be so terrible to talk about guns in terms of how they should be used even if they are being held in law-abiding, responsible hands?

These Petitions Need Your Support.


I am running two national petitions on Change.org and they can be seen right here:



You can also read some details about guns and gun bans right here: Home | Ban These Guns.

The reason I am running these two petitions is I’m sick and tired of how and why the two sides in the gun debate continue to promote their arguments without the slightest degree of reality behind what they say.

On the one hand, we have my friends on the pro-gun side who want you to believe that the country is a safer place if everyone would be walking around with a gun. On the other hand, we have my friends on the gun-control side who continue to promote various gun-control laws (e.g., safe storage) which have never been shown to have the slightest impact on gun violence rates at all.

Reducing gun violence to a tolerable level (which means accidents, not deliberate shootings) can be done by simply taking the guns which are designed only for the purpose of committing violence and getting rid of them entirely or putting them on the NFA list alongside machine guns.

Know when was the last time that someone was shot by someone else using a full-auto gun? Try 1947 or 1948.

Know when was the last time that someone was shot by someone else using a Glock or an AR-15? Try thirty seconds ago, okay?

The United States is the only country in the entire world which allows residents to walk into a gun shop and walk out five minutes later with a gun which if it then falls into the ‘wrong hands’ will be used to injure or kill someone else. And by the way, if you think that banning these kinds of guns would be a violation of the 2nd Amendment only proves that you have no ixea what the 2nd Amendment says and doesn’t say.

Do me a small favor, okay? If you don’t want to sign either or both of the petitions, don’t post some stupid, snarky comment just to demonstrate that you’re a real patriot or some other nonsense like that. Either sign or don’t sign and I thank you for taking the time to read and consider my request.

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