Does America Have a ‘Gun Culture?’


              I love the title of last week’s article in Vox: ‘America’s Unique, Enduring Gun Problem Explained.’ In fact, the article doesn’t explain sh*t. What we get is what we always get from the Fake News when some high-profile shootings make it onto the front page, namely, some quick quotes from the same five or six experts who are always ready with their quick quotes: David Yamane tells us that Americans now buy handguns, the Harvard group tells us about those ‘supers owners’ with their stacks of guns, Michael Siegel talks about gun violence and weak gun-control laws, Jeff Swanson gives us a blip about gun violence and mental illness, and Robert Spitzer throws in his two cents as well.

              How come the writers of this piece didn’t get the usual twenty words or so from Garen Wintemute, the ER doctor out of California who always has something to say? And how come in a lengthy section on the Supreme Court’s Bruen decision there wasn’t a quote from Adam Winkler, the law professor and 2nd-Amendment expert out of UCLA?

              You’ll forgive me if I sound a bit less than enthusiastic about the verbal meanderings of the group whose quotes allowed the writers of this article to present themselves as competent journalists when it comes to the issue of guns. Not only did the authors of this piece simply string together a bunch of quotes without attempting even the slightest degree of critical review, but they even got the facts wrong, or at least the use of data to support their presentation of the facts.

              For example, the authors state, according to the FBI, that 45% of all murder victims were killed by handguns in 2019. Except that the percentage of handguns used in killings is probably much higher, because the FBI was unable to identify the actual type of gun used in 25% of all fatal gun assaults.

              Please don’t think for one minute that the purpose of today’s column is to call into question the research published by any of the gun ‘experts’ quoted in the Vox piece. They all do good and important work.

What I’m calling into question is the fact that whenever gun violence reaches a level where the Fake News needs to run a piece, invariably the persons who are given the task of throwing something together to meet the publishing deadline are nice, intelligent men and woman who know absolutely nothing about guns.

              And because the writers of this Vox article fall squarely into the category of journalists who know how to write but don’t know anything about what they are writing, invariably they’ll miss or misstate the most obvious points.

              And the most obvious point about gun violence which somehow keeps being vaguely understood but never really confronted, is the fact that virtually all the data we use to understand the gun ‘culture’ is data based on legal owners of guns, whereas gun violence is overwhelmingly and almost completely a function of behavior by individuals who do not have legal access to guns.

              Take, for example, the brief discussion about the Bruen case, where the Supreme Court has made it easier for Americans to walk around their neighborhood or drive across the country with a gun. According to this article, Bruen will result in a proliferation of street shootings, a judgement which has been repeated umpteen-thousand times by every gun-control group.

              Know what? For all the research that has been done on guns and gun violence and gun culture and gun everything else, there has yet to be one, single piece of research which tells us how many acts of gun violence are committed by individuals with legal access to guns, versus the number of gun assaults which are the handiwork of individuals using illegal guns.

              With rare exceptions, law-abiding gun owners aren’t the individuals who are running around committing upwards of 250 fatal and non-fatal gun assaults every day. Gun violence isn’t a culture, it’s a form of behavior which in more than 80% of all gun-violence events, happens to be a crime.

              The Vox article is largely based on what four researchers told the writers about guns. Not one of the experts consulted for this piece has any connection whatsoever with criminology or has ever published any research involving crime at all.

              Know why the gun-control community avoids the issue of crime? Because such an approach would lead into a consideration of race and the racial groupings not of the victims of gun violence, which is mentioned all the time, but of the shooters, would have to be addressed.

              In 2019, the last year for which we have complete data, the FBI says that 2,302 whites were arrested for homicide, for blacks the number of arrests was 3,282. Know what these numbers produce when we use them to create a homicide rate based on race? The white rate is 0.97%, the black rate is 7.01%. I am calculating the rates for each racial group by using the overall population for that group because homicide is overwhelmingly an intra-racial event.

              Know what happens when we compare homicide rates by race? The whole argument that has been circulating through gun control-land about how violent we are because of the existence of all those gun begins to fall apart. In fact, the gun-violence rate for white Americans is below the gun-violence rate in Great Britain, which is invariably touted as the safest country of all.

              And by the way, the white population in the United States not only has a very low gun-violence rate but is a population which happens to own maybe 400 million guns. So much for how the Supreme Court’s decision to allow law-abiding Americans to walk around toting a gun will result in a tsunami of bloodshed coming down the streets.

              Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to find some backdoor way to promote the gun business while pretending to be liberally inclined. I’m also not a Trump-ite in disguise. But this country has been cursed by racism since we justified bringing black slaves to America in 1619 or whenever the first black slaves appeared.

              And what the curse of racism creates is a situation in which any issue which touches on behavioral differences between the races is overstated by the alt-right and handled with kid gloves by the alt-left.

              Which is why the Fake News continues to lament about how gun ‘culture’ kills and injures countless Americans every day, without ever explaining why guns, gun culture and gun violence may mean very different things depending on who you are, where you live and the color of your skin.

Should Doctors Talk to Patients About Guns? Depends What They Say.


              Because of the importance of this issue, this comment is twice as long as my usual column posted on this page. Please give yourself a few extra minutes to read the entire column and responses eagerly expected and will be published as they come in (anonymously if you prefer.)

Back in 2011, the NRA got a law passed in the Gunshine State (Florida) which had the potential to criminalize doctors who warned patients about the risk of owning guns. The law sent shockwaves through the medical profession because the law potentially allowed non-doctors to set the terms for how physicians discussed medical issues with their patients, a practice which medicine fought long and hard to abolish more than one hundred years or so ago.

              The truth is that most physicians rarely raised the gun issue with their patients and the NRA’s promotion of this challenge to medical practice and authority was nothing more than a clever campaign to increase their public following and raise a few more bucks.

              That’s what you do when you’re a non-profit operation, which has been the status of America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ since the NRA was founded in 1871. You look for clever ways to increase public awareness about your existence, no matter whether that awareness has anything to do with reality or is just a clever advertising campaign.

              As the Florida gag law, a.k.a., Docs versus Glocks, made it way through the court system until it was finally thrown out in 2017, it also gave birth to a movement within medicine to promote more discussions and counseling between doctors and patients about the risks of guns. This took the form either of various medical societies issuing pronouncements about gun violence or attempts by medical groups to develop narratives which could be used in discussions about guns with patients, or both.

              Declaring gun violence to be a ‘public health problem’ was all fine and well, but in advancing strategies to respond to the problem, the various medical societies found themselves promoting all the usual gun-control laws (safe storage, universal background checks, etc.,) as if having an M.D. degree somehow gave them more or better license to pronounce on legal responses to reduce gun violence, which it does not.

              The role of the physician is to identify threats to health, figure out a medical response to the problem, and then get this response accepted and utilized by society at large. This is what every physician pledges to do before practicing medicine, a pledge which happens to be stated in the Hippocratic Oath.

              So, having decided that the proper response to gun violence was the adoption of certain legal procedures and regulations which have nothing to do with medicine at all, the medical profession then began to instruct itself on the best ways to persuade their patients to follow gun-control laws.

              Unfortunately, when doctors began to ramp up concerns about talking to their patients about guns, particularly after the Florida prohibition on medical gun counseling was thrown out, they discovered that most of their colleagues were reluctant and/or unable to conduct such clinical discussions, because they didn’t know much of anything about guns.

              Here’s an example of a recent attempt to educate doctors on guns, a curriculum developed by physicians at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) to teach new physicians – medical residents – what they need to know about guns and how to discuss risks to health with patients who own guns.

              The curriculum used in this training exercise is built around a series of ‘discussions’ between clinicians and a patient, Chris, who is a 35-year old married to Sam, and together they have a 4-year old son. They have two shotguns and a handgun in their home.

              The clinical encounters require that the clinician ask a series of questions about guns, including whether or not the guns are locked or safely stored, whether anyone in the home is suffering from depression, and whether the patient is aware of various laws which exist to help reduce gun risk, in particular laws which allow individuals to seek court orders for the removal of guns, known as ERPO (Extreme Risk Protection Orders) or ‘red flag’ laws.

              The treatment scenarios present the medical learners with narratives that can be used to discuss the various issues, along with taking care to always address the problem in non-judgmental ways, and how to respond if the patient exhibits any degree of anger or resistance when asked to talk about guns.

              Obviously, it is too early to determine whether such clinical encounters will have a positive impact on gun violence in the patient community which MGH serves. Nevertheless, I find these scenarios not only to be entirely insufficient when it comes to the medical reaction to gun risk, but the scenarios do not even follow from the most significant evidence-based research on gun risk, a protocol which physicians are supposed to follow in developing treatment practices to any medical risk or disease.

              The medical risk represented by guns was definitively stated in two articles published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which found a significant health risk from guns in the home. The articles did not qualify guns as to whether they were safely stored, or what types of guns were found in the home. The research simply stated unequivocally that guns represent a significant medical risk (homicide and suicide) and no serious medical researcher has ever denied the validity of this work.

              In the subsequent years since those articles appeared, there has not been one evidence-based study which shows any change in gun violence rates either through safe storage, or the other gun-control laws which have appeared on the books. Indeed, the studies which argue that states with more gun laws experience less gun violence do not, as a rule, compare violence rates before and after the laws were passed, because if they did, it would turn out that for every state which experienced a decline in gun violence after a gun-control law was passed, another state experienced an increase in gun-violence rates following the passage of a new law.

              The United States is the only country in the entire world which allows its residents to own and carry guns which are designed solely for tactical purposes (‘tactical’ being a polite way of describing the shooting of one person by another) and it is the existence of these guns –bottom-loading, hi-capacity, semi-automatic pistols chambered for military-grade ammunition – which is the reason we suffer from a gun-violence rate not found in any other advanced nation-state.

              If the medical community knew anything about guns – which they don’t (MGH teaching curriculum notwithstanding) they would address this threat to public health in the only way which it should be addressed, i.e., restrict the use and ownership of those highly-lethal, tactical guns.

              There is precedent for such a strategy by the way, which has been lawful procedure since the first federal gun law was promulgated in 1934. This law defined full-auto guns as too dangerous for commercial sale unless the buyer underwent a serious and prolonged review by both local and federal cops. A prospective buyer also could only purchase such a gun from a dealer who received clearance to sell such weapons, and there could be no personal transfer of such guns.

              Know the last time someone was killed in an assault where the attacker used a full-auto gun? Try 1947 or 1948.

              When the 1934 law was first proposed, the Attorney General, Homer Cummings, wanted handguns to be regulated in the same manner as machine guns were treated under this new law. The law was eventually passed without defining handguns as too great a risk for normal commerce and trade, but what’s stopping us from promoting this strategy again?

              And by the way, the fact that a ban on tactical handguns might be difficult, if not impossible to achieve, should not be the defining criteria for determining what physicians say and don’t say to patients about guns. Since when should physicians define health risks based on the vagaries of regulations and laws?

              If anything, the fact that our laws permit access to health threats of various kinds (e.g., tobacco) is all the more reason why physicians need to be particularly aware of how and what should be said to patients about the risk of legally acquired guns.

              Frankly, I am sick and tired of all these well-meaning physicians and public health professionals who honestly want to see this country no longer suffer the wholesale slaughter of our population with the use of guns but can’t bring themselves to promote or even mention the one, basic strategy that would bring gun violence to an end.

              And that strategy is to get rid of the guns whose use is responsible for most of the gun violence, or at least make the ownership of such weapons as highly regulated and controlled as we did with full-auto guns in 1934.

              To that end I am shortly going to announce the formation of a national organization which will first attempt to ban or tightly regulate semi-automatic handguns in various states, and as this effort gains traction, to begin pushing for a mandatory national buyback of such guns.

              I estimate that such a buyback would cost a minimum of $15 billion, or maybe $20-$25 billion at most. It is currently estimated that the bill for gun violence is currently around $300 billion every year.

              A one-shot payment of $20 billion to save 40,000 lives every year is chump change – wouldn’t you agree?

Another ‘Proven’ Way to Reduce Gun Violence.


              Back in 2021, you may recall that the Biden-Harris Administration announced a ‘comprehensive strategy’ to reduce violent crime, which is more or less a euphemism for gun violence. They took some dough out of the $1.9 trillion Covid Rescue Plan and set it aside to give various jurisdictions money to expand community policing and ATF enforcement activities, along with investing in ‘proven Community Violence Intervention Programs.’

              A good friend has just sent me an email from a group, CT Against Gun Violence (CAGV), alerting everyone to a new funding program from the CT Department of Public Health, which will cover costs of community violence intervention programs for one to three years.

              CAGV started its efforts in 2020, and this new initiative, which I suspect is using monies set aside from the Rescue Plan, is proof that CAGV’s work is “beginning to pay off.” You can learn more about CAGV’s history and efforts right here.

              Let me make it clear that what I am about to say does not represent some back-door method to spike the efforts of any group which promotes a program for effective gun control. Notwithstanding the fact that I am a Lifetime Patriot Benefactor Member of the NRA (which means I give them enough money so they can’t throw me out) I am foursquare in favor of controlling the ownership of guns which are used to commit 120,000+ intentional fatal and non-fatal gun assaults every year.

              On the other hand, I am also foursquare against gun-control programs which are designed to reduce the interpersonal violence caused by guns but avoid or ignore the principal reason why such violence occurs, which happens to be the manufacture, sale, and possession of certain kinds of guns.

              The United States is the only country in the entire world that grants law-abiding residents’ legal access to guns which are designed to be used only for the purpose of ending someone else’s life besides the life of the person with access to that gun.

Note I am not talking here about suicides, which are also a form of violence according to the World Health Organization. But individuals who suffer mental anguish to the point of wanting to end their lives will, for the most part, find a way to do it even if they can’t get their hands on a gun.

              Sweden’s basically an unarmed population but has a suicide rate higher than the suicide rate in the United States – ditto Japan, Norway, and Belarus.

              Thirty years ago, two brilliant researchers, Art Kellerman and Fred Rivara, published research which definitively linked guns in the home to the medical risk of homicide. This research did not qualify guns as being safely or not safely stored.

              The response of the gun industry to this research was to prohibit the CDC from supporting gun violence research for nearly the next three decades. Frankly, I couldn’t blame the gun companies for finding a willing Congressional toady – Congressman Jay Dickey – who sponsored the bill which kept the CDC from giving out the kind of research monies which had been used by Kellerman and Rivara to do their research.

After all, if you manufactured a product that has been around for 150 years and now you were told that the product was too dangerous to be sold, wouldn’t you try to find some sponsor in the government to bail out your ass and the asses of all the people working for you?

The CDC re-opened the gun research spigot two years ago, so the groups and organizations which support such work have now come up with a narrative which is used not only to justify figuring out what to do about gun violence but is an approach which neatly sidesteps all that messy talk about gun ‘rights’ and 2nd-Amendment ‘guarantees.’ After all, the word ‘intervention’ can mean all kinds of things, but the one thing it doesn’t mean is taking away the guns.

Unfortunately, to paraphrase the original 2021 announcement out of the White House about using monies from the Rescue Plan to reduce gun violence – ready? – THE ONLY PROVEN WAY TO REDUCE GUN VIOLENCE IS TO GET RID OF THE GODDAMN GUNS. Now I understand why Trump uses all caps for his tweets or his truths, or whatever he calls his daily/nightly rants.

I once asked the head of a community intervention program whether his staff would report that someone who had just agreed to step back from a violent, street-corner interaction was walking away with a gun in his pocket and here was his response:

“Oh no. Our people would never tell the police that someone who had responded positively to their request to refrain from violence had a gun. If our folks were identified as working with the cops, nobody would listen to them at all.”

If someone can show me a more serious threat to community health than a teenager walking down the street with a Glock in the seat of his pants, I’m all ears.

Does Anyone Care About Mass Shootings?


              Back in the olden days, by which I mean maybe just a couple of years ago, when someone pulled out a gun and shot a bunch of people standing around in the same place at the same time, it was a big, friggin’ deal. 

              Now it doesn’t even make the evening news.

              Yesterday there were at least 3 shootings which resulted so far in 6 deaths and 10 other people injured, and I had to download a spreadsheet from the Gun Violence Archive (GVA) to learn anything about these events at all.

              Incidentally, it’s a real comment on this situation that in order to even learn anything about the 328 mass shootings that have so far killed 385 and injured another 1,351 victims this year alone, I have to download the data from a private, non-profit outfit like the GVA. The government tracks things like the cost of this and the cost of that, but tracking the costs of gun violence? Yea, right.

              And by the way, note that I talk about the fatality number as if it’s not complete and might change. That’s because the fact that someone is brought to an ER with a bullet in their head and is still breathing, doesn’t mean they’ll leave the ER and still be alive.

              For that matter, even if someone is discharged from a trauma center after recovering from a gun wound, the indications are that this individual will not live out a normal lifespan even if he or she completely recovers from being assaulted with a gun.

              Way back in 2007, our good friend Kathy Christoffel published an article on gun violence (which can be downloaded here) in which she discussed how shootings, which were once considered to be an epidemic, had now become endemic in everyday life. But Dr. Christoffel wasn’t talking about mass shootings, she was talking about the random, everyday one-on-one shootings that occur all the time.

              Guess what? Today it’s the mass shootings, the shootings where four or more people are killed and injured at the same time, which have become endemic within our way of life.

              And what, to me, is most interesting about thus whole situation is the relative lack of concern about this issue coming from the gun-control side.

              I donate regularly to Everytown and Brady, and I also throw in some money to Giffords from time to time. I’m also a Lifetime Benefactor Member of the NRA because this way they can’t throw me out of America’s ‘first civil rights organization (as they refer to themselves) no matter what I say about guns.

              The NRA is all hot and bothered about Biden’s call for a new assault rifle ban – I get the emails, the texts, the letters from Wayne-o all the time.

              What do I get from groups like Brady and Everytown who you would think would be all up in arms (pardon the pun) about the current state of gun affairs? What Grandpa would call ‘gurnisht helfen’ (read: nothing at all.)

              The truth is that my friends who manage groups like Brady and Everytown find it a lot easier to get their donors all riled up about gun violence when the Oval Office is controlled by the GOP. Want to come up with a message which blames Donald Trump for doing nothing about gun violence?  Piece of cake.

              But when the guy who is your guy in the White House comes out and blames Gun-nut Nation for blocking a new assault rifles ban, what more is there to say?  It’s been said for your side, okay?

              Except it hasn’t been said because we could scoop up every single assault rifle personally owned in the United States and the number of shootings where four or more people are killed or injured wouldn’t change at all.

              We have mass shootings in this country for one simple reason – I’ll say it again in the same way as I have said it many times before.  Ready?

              The United States is the only country in the entire world which allows just about anyone to own and carry around guns that are designed solely for the purpose of being used to end human life.

              You don’t pop one into Bambi’s rear end with a Glock. You don’t knock birdie out of a tree with a Sig.

              Until my friends in Gun-control Nation stop worrying about the 2nd Amendment and drop their bullsh*t about how they all respect gun ‘rights’ as long as guns are used in safe and responsible ways, we will continue to experience the kinds of mass shootings which last weekend alone accounted for 46 deaths and serious injuries, and probably more.

              Too bad that gun violence, even mass gun violence, tends to be racially homogeneous – both the shooters and the victims tend to come from the same racial group. If gun violence was more frequently committed say, by whites against blacks, or blacks against whites, every night you would see a story about the latest shooting on the evening news.

              And the segment wouldn’t be stuck behind Lester Holt asking some fat, old white lady about why she’s still supporting Donald Trump.

Why Do (Some) Americans Buy Guns?

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              I have never understood how my friends in public health do research on gun violence when they don’t know anything about guns.  None of them are gun owners, none of them hang out with gun nuts, none of them are members of the gun industry’s trade group, NASGW, none of them go to the big gun shows, or the little shows, for that matter.

              Meanwhile, every time that a public health researcher publishes some research on gun violence, there is also a footnote about how the work is being done to help develop more effective approaches to dealing with guns.

              Would the SEC publish a new regulation covering the stock market without first passing it by Merrill-Lynch?  They wouldn’t dare.  Would the FDIC send out a new notice about banking rules without first consulting Bank of America or Chase?  Ditto.

              The most incisive analysis that public health and other gun-control researchers give us to explain how and why 300 million or 400 million guns are floating around America in private hands is the answer to the question asked in every, single survey conducted by Pew, RAND, Harvard, Hopkins, and everyone else: Why do you own a gun? 

              The survey respondents, if they are gun owners, are asked to choose between the following answers: (1). self-defense, (2). hunting (3). sport shooting.

              And the headline for these surveys is that Americans are increasingly buying and owning guns to protect themselves from whatever they believe might be a threat to them.

              Whereupon the researchers always note that violent crime has declined by half over the last twenty or so years, which only goes to prove that when gun owners tell you why they buy guns, they don’t know what they’re talking about.

              So, if you are trying to figure out how to talk to gun owners about the risks represented by their guns, how do you come up with an effective message when the population you are trying to reach doesn’t even know the real reasons why they like guns? 

              You don’t. But that doesn’t mean you can’t apply to the CDC or the Joyce Foundation for another research grant that will enable you to conduct the same survey in another couple of years.

              That all being said, and I have chastised my public health friends many times for their lack of knowledge about the industry which they want to regulate in more effective ways, I have just finished reading a remarkable study which sheds what I consider to be the most penetrating and profound insights into the contemporary gun-owning mentality, and you can download a copy of this research right here.

              The article is the handiwork of three faculty members at Oregon State’s College of Business, who conduct research into a mental and marketing mode known as ‘consumer responsibilization,’ which their discipline defines as “a moralizing, neoliberal governance process that leverages market logic—free choice, rationality, and individual responsibility—to shift responsibility for addressing social problems from the state to the individual, and, in so doing, create a responsible consumer.”

              Now if that hasn’t been the basic marketing strategy adopted and promoted by the gun industry for the past forty or so years, I don’t know a better way to describe why and how this industry has managed to compensate for the decline in hunting over the same period of time. In 1975, Americans bought 14 million hunting licenses. In 2015, Americans again bought 14 million licenses which allow them to go out in a field and take a whack at Bambi’s rear end.

              The population of the United States in 1975 was 214 million. In 2015, the number was 325 million.  The same number of hunting licenses were sold to a national population which has grown by 50 percent(!) over those forty years.

              Meanwhile, anyone who wants to see how the gun industry has reacted to the shift in gun owning culture and consumer preference doesn’t need to conduct an expensive, national survey on the internet or by phone. All you have to do is take a look at the annual report covering gun manufacturing published by the ATF and you’ll see the shift from hunting to armed, self-defense right there.

               I’m not going to analyze this repot from Oregon State University in detail, except to say that what it captures in brilliant clarity is the degree to which the decision by a consumer to purchase a consumer product known as a ‘gun,’ has many nuanced, variables attached to that decision which go far beyond whether the gun is being purchased for self-defense or sport.

              Someone who walks into a gun shop to buy a gun is no different than someone who walks into a boutique to buy some jewelry or an extra pair of shoes. Our economy is the world’s largest because so much of what represents economic activity results from the purchase of goods and services that we really don’t need.

              You don’t need to carry a gun in order to get to work. You need a car. You don’t need a gun in order to make the little brat a lunch for school. You need bread, some peanut butter, and some jam.

              If Gun-control Nation is ever going to convince the other side that guns first and foremost represent a risk rather than a benefit, they need to understand why gun owners buy guns and that understanding can be gained in this masterly piece of research.

A ‘New’ Way to Deal with Gun Violence.

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              Gun violence became an issue of public concern and public advocacy when a 20-ywear old kid shot his way into the Sandy Hook public school in Newtown, CT and killed 20 kids and 6 adults before killing himself. This event turned what had been a sporadic concern about gun violence into an ongoing issue, sparked partially by a failed attempt by Obama to get a new gun law passed, then a massive infusion of dough from Mike Bloomberg into gun-violence advocacy, and a stupid but unceasing attempt by Alex Jones to explain the whole thing as just another, liberal-led hoax.

              Behind these activities was an increased concern about gun violence as a threat to public health. And even though the CDC was prohibited from sanctioning research into gun violence from 1997 until two years ago, public health research groups at Harvard, Hopkins and other locations published plenty of research about how and why this country suffered from a unique health problem caused by the misuse of guns.

              What did all this public advocacy and research accomplish? Not one, goddamn thing.

              The CDC has just released injury data for 2021. The national rate for gun violence in 2001 was 9.95.  In 2021, it was 14.30. That’s only an increase just short of 50 percent. Big deal.

              What do we get from the so-called experts who do gun violence research? We are told that this increase is due to the stresses and strains of the Pandemic, even though the annual gun-violence increase became noticeable beginning in 2015.

              Now, if we want to put an end to this problem or at least show some degree of decline, these same public health experts roll out the same, totally incorrect nostrums and remedies they have been rolling out for years.

              At Harvard, we get the argument that America has so much gun violence because Americans own so many guns. Now the fact that many of those 300 or 400 million guns happen to be for the most part Grandpa’s old, broken shotgun sitting in the basement waiting to be turned in at a gun buyback in exchange for a gift card, oh well, oh well.

              The Hopkins group, on the other hand, tells us that gun violence would be significantly reduced if every state imposed a requirement that only allowed people to purchase handguns after they go through a specific licensing process for that gun, a process known as permit to purchase, or PTP.

              The Hopkins bunch uses as their ‘proof’ a study they conducted on what happened in Connecticut after that state imposed a PTP procedure in 1999. Except there’s only one, little problem. Connecticut doesn’t have a PTP procedure and never did. When I pointed this out to members of the Hopkins team, they were too busy to pick up the telephone and call any gun shop in Connecticut to inquire about the existence of PTP.

              So, here we have the two major public health research groups whose findings are used by all the groups advocating to reduce gun violence and the findings which these groups are using are totally and completely wrong.

              Incidentally, I send copies of every blog I post on my website to members of those two research groups, and if any member of either group would care to explain how and why they continue to promote strategies to reduce gun violence which are incorrect, I’ll immediately make a thousand-dollar donation to their respective schools.

              All that being said, there does seem to have been an interesting breakthrough in the efforts to reduce gun violence announced yesterday by the U.S. Marshall’s Service, whose teams arrested 95 fugitives, of which at least 60 had committed violent crimes using guns. The arrests took place in and around Baltimore, MD which has suffered from more than 300 annual homicides since 2015, which was years before anything known as what Donald Trump called the ‘king flu’ arrived on our shores.

              This operation finally gives all those public health gun researchers an opportunity to evaluate whether dealing with gun violence not as a symptom of inner-city stresses and strains, nor as the hopelessness of poverty, but as a violent crime, may actually yield some significant results.

              Of course, such an effort would also require these well-meaning, academic researchers to roll up their sleeves, get out into the streets and stop pretending they can figure out the ‘epistemology’ of gun violence by staring at their computer screens.

Do We Need To Worry About Concealed-Carry of Guns?


              Since it appears that guns will be an important issue in 2024, it seems to me that what my friends in Gun-control Nation should do is make sure they have all their facts straight about gun violence and gun control.

              In that regard, liberals often depend on reportage in The New Yorker Magazine, which has given us some very important and incisive perspectives on political issues (civil rights, Viet Nam, détente) over the years.

              One of the magazine’s noted reporters in this regard, Amy Davidson Sorkin, has just published a comment about guns in the May 29th Talk of the Town section, and I hate to say it, but when it comes to framing a proper argument about guns, gun violence and what to do about both, she just doesn’t get it at all.

              After correcting Donald Trump for his hideously-stupid comments that he made about guns during the CNN Town Hall (but that was par for the course since everything he said was hideously stupid) Sorkin then goes on to say that we are approaching “a particularly critical moment in the story of guns in America,” based on the easing of judicial restraints on owning and walking around with concealed guns, as well as allowing gun owners to carry concealed weapons without any specific licensing process at all.

              The notion that our high rate of gun violence is caused by the number of guns in civilian hands forms a bedrock belief of the gun-control community alongside the other fundamental assumption that guns carried around by civilians who legally own those guns is also a primary explanation for the 100,000+ fatal and non-fatal assaults caused by the misuse of those guns.

              The problem with the more guns equals more gun violence argument, however, is that most of those 400 million privately-owned guns are never used to commit any kind of violent assaults at all. The weapon of ‘choice’ for most shootings is a bottom-loading, semi-automatic pistol holding military-style ammunition, and while such guns are now added to the civilian arsenal at the rate of 3 to 4 million a year, they were basically unknown in this country until the 1980’s, when European companies like Glock and Sig began to ship their guns over here.

The other problem with the argument about the alleged impact of loosening gun-control regulations, is that there has yet to be one single study which attempts to determine exactly how many of those 100,000+ gun-violence events which have become a routine part of the American behavioral landscape are committed by individuals with legal versus illegal access to guns. Until we make at least some effort to figure out the actual connection between the legal status of guns which are used to commit all that carnage every year, what’s the point of even arguing about whether we should or should not be making it more or less legally difficult to walk around the neighborhood with a gun?

              Between 2007 and 2022, the Violence Policy Center (VPC) found open-source references which counted 2,240 individuals killed by persons with concealed-carry access to guns, of whom 1,271 were suicides. In other words, of the slightly more than 200,000 intentional fatal gun assaults which took place over those 14 years, roughly .005% (one-half of one percent) were committed by the types of individuals whose legal access to a concealed weapon makes Amy Sorkin and her gun-control colleagues convinced that gun-carrying Armageddon is near at hand.

              Granted, the data collected by the VPC is hardly comprehensive or exact. But even if we were to double, or triple, or quadruple the shootings committed by individuals who are legally armed, how do you begin to compare that problem to the hundreds of thousands of gun assaults committed by individuals who cannot qualify to be owners of guns?

              This excerpt from Billy Bathgate, is how the novel’s author, E. L. Doctorow, describes the feelings of a teenage boy who just got his hands on his first, real gun:

The gun means nothing until it’s really yours. And then what happens, you understand that if you don’t make it yours you are dead, you have created the circumstance, but has its own free-standing rage, available to anyone, and this is what you take into yourself, like an anger that they’ve done this to you, the people who are staring at your gun, that it’s their intolerable crime to be the people you are waving this gun at. And at that moment you are no longer a punk, you have found the anger that was really in you all the time.

              The kid in Doctorow’s novel who is thinking about how that newly acquired gun will transform him from being a punk to being a big, tough man represents what gun violence in the United States is really all about. And if Amy Davidson Sorkin wants to help us figure out how to deal with the real-life kids whose access to guns will ultimately result in hundreds of thousands getting wounded and killed every year, maybe she should spend a little more time thinking about how to prevent those kids from getting their hands on illegal guns, and a little less time worrying about how legal gun owners behave with their guns.

Can We Reduce Gun Violence by Reducing Violence?


              So, a week has gone by, and nobody has walked into a school or a supermarket and blown the place to bits. But I really don’t remember when we had such a spate of mass shootings, and I’m not talking about the pissed off ex-husband who shows up uninvited at a party thrown by his ex-wife and bang-bang-bang, two or three people are dead.

              I’m talking about the really big deals where the guy walks into some crowded space, takes out his trusty ‘sporting’ assault rifle and bangs away. The latest seems to have been down in Allen, TX where some nut job killed and wounded 15 people before the cops shot him dead. Now that’s a serious mass shooting, okay?

              And of course, you know that sooner or later we get a book which will explain what these shootings are all about, along with the requisite list of strategies we should adopt to keep such fearsome events from happening again.

              And here it is! The Violence Project – How To Stop a Mass Shooting Epidemic by two criminal justice academics who run a program in St. Paul, MN which claims to be a non-partisan research center ‘dedicated to reducing violence through research.’

              Before I get into some details about the book, I would appreciate it if someone would take the trouble to write and explain to me why all the various organizations and programs devoted to reducing gun violence always make a point of saying they are non-partisan in their approach to their work?

              Is there a partisan way to look at violence? Am I missing something here? Okay, back to the book.

              As far as I know, this book represents the first attempt to understand mass shootings by interviews with mass shooters themselves. The authors wrote to all the mass shooters living in prisons and five shooters responded positively and agreed to talk. They also then interviewed dozens of family members and friends of these five murderers, just to round things out. The purpose of all these discussions “was not the shooting itself but the perpetrator’s life story leading up to the shooting.” [Page 12]

              It turns out, surprise – surprise, that six out of ten mass shooters had some kind of mental health issue in the years leading up to the shooting event. Most also showed various symptoms of mental crisis (agitation, abusive behavior, depression, mood swings) in the days, weeks, months and even years prior to engaging in a shooting spree.

              Obviously, the one factor which somehow connected these behavioral issues with a murderous event was access to a gun. But the authors of this book have next to nothing to say about the fact that these mass killings wouldn’t have happened without access to a gun, and their only prescription for responding to this issue is to support the usual laundry list of gun-control measures (background checks, red-flag laws, etc.,) none of which have ever been shown to reduce gun violence or mass shootings at all.

There’s also the requisite plea to all gun owners to safely store their guns which, by the way, has never been shown to make any difference to the number or rate of gun violence events.

              The authors cite a 2018 survey which found that a “clear majority of Americans favor regulating the lethality of firearms available to the public.” [Page 167] Then they fall back on the idea of a ban only on assault rifles, which are used in an incidental proportion of gun deaths every year.

              God forbid these well-meaning authors/advocates would discuss or even mention the one strategy which would definitively erase gun violence as a behavior resulting in more than 100,000+ people getting killed or seriously injured by someone else every year. To quote Grandpa, would it be such a ‘gefailach’ (read: big deal) to call for the ban of those bottom-loading, semi-automatic pistols whose sale is the real reason that gun violence occurs at all?

              The reason that well-meaning and dedicated activists and scholars like Jillian Peterson and James Densley never go beyond what has become the standard prescriptions for reducing gun violence is very simple – they don’t know anything about guns. Which is true of the entire gun-control community as well.

              So, when these folks talk about ‘non-partisan’ or ‘consensus’ approaches to the problem, they are employing code words which mean they will try to deal with this problem in a way that will at least make it possible to have a discussion with pro-gun groups or advocates which doesn’t end up with a bunch of angry words being thrown back and forth.

              The evidence about gun risk is very clear: access to guns represents medical risk. When C. Everett Koop decided to declare smoking a medical risk, he didn’t try to find a ‘non-partisan’ way to create a narrative which would appeal to both the smoking and non-smoking sides.

              Mass shootings, defined in this book as an event where 4 people are together shot dead in a public space, has been going on for a lot longer than any other health epidemic has ever continued within the United States. To paraphrase Katherine Christoffel, gun violence isn’t an epidemic, it’s endemic.

              You don’t solve an endemic health problem until and unless you focus your energies first on figuring out why the problem exists.

              To paraphrase the 1992 Clinton campaign, it’s the gun, stupid.

Do We Know Anything About Gun Violence?

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              When I opened my third and last gun shop in 2011, a new Glock pistol ran about $500 bucks and a good assault rifle from Panther Arms cost about twice that much. Even at those prices, I sold plenty of both.

              Actually, I didn’t so much as sell them for the manufacturer’s suggested price. I sold them for about half the listed price because just about everyone who comes into a shop to buy a new gun brings in a used gun and makes a trade.

              Guns don’t wear out. And now that they’re made out of polymer, the frame doesn’t even rust. So, you buy a gun, shoot it a few times, then stick it away and take it out next year or the year after and trade it in for another new gun.

              That’s what the retail gun business is all about. It’s kind of like the car business except at some point cars end up being crushed into a square of rusted metal and shipped off to some big oven where they are melted down and the manufacturing process starts over again.

              I own a Colt 1911 pistol that was manufactured in the Hartford factory in 1923. The gun has gone through I don’t know how many owners, but it works fine. It even shoots some ammunition that was made at the Remington ammunition factory in Bridgeport sometime before World War II. 

              The Colt factory in Hartford is now an ‘innovation center’ which means the building’s just an empty shell. The Remington ammunition factory in Bridgeport is rubble. The gun is sitting in my son’s closet unless he sold it to someone else.

              Now according to my inflation calculator, a Glock which cost $500 in 2001 should cost $852 today. An assault rifle from Panther Arms with a retail price of $1,000 in 2001 should set a buyer back $1,705 and change.

              Meanwhile, I see dealers on the internet advertising Glocks for $400 and assault rifles for $600 and change. This means that in real dollars, the types of guns which show up in just about all the gun violence events which are happening today cost about half as much as they cost twenty years ago.

              If there’s a connection between the number of violent crimes committed with guns and the number of guns that are floating around, why should we be surprised when guns have become so much cheaper than they used to be?

              On the other hand, the truth is we really have no idea whether there’s any connection between all those guns floating around and how many crimes are committed by people who don’t have the legal authority to go out and buy one of those cheap guns. Instead, what we get from both sides in the gun debate is a totally unverified assumption that if more people own guns, then crime will either go up or go down, depending on whether all those guns are used either to commit crimes or to protect people from crimes.

              The latter argument, of course, is made by my friend John Lott, who has been saying that more guns equals less crime since he published a book with that title in 1998. The former argument connecting our elevated gun-violence rate to the size of the civilian gun arsenal is made by my friend David Hemenway, who has been making this argument in print since 2004.

              Lott goes around giving his lecture to friendly, pro-gun groups and Hemenway goes around spieling to groups who don’t like guns. Every few years Lott publishes a new edition of his book, Hemenway also updates his research from time to time. Neither Lott nor Hemenway, nor any of the other progenitors in these two cottage industries has yet to even attempt the one, basic piece of research which would definitively determine the link between violence and guns.

              What would that research be? It would be research that would determine exactly how many acts of violence committed with the use of guns are committed by individuals who have legal access to those guns.

              The only time the issue of whether a shooter used a legally acquired weapon is in cases of mass assaults, like last year’s mass shootings in Uvalde, TX or Buffalo, NY which together resulted in 31 deaths, with one shooter killed and the other taken into custody by the cops.

              But even though more than 100,000 Americans are killed or seriously injured by the random shootings which take place just about everywhere all the time, we have absolutely no idea where the guns come from which are used in most of those shooting events.

              I would be willing to take the short odds that less than 5% of all the men and women who are killed or injured each year by someone else who pops them with a gun are the victims of shootings committed by someone who is using a legally-acquired gun or someone who wouldn’t fail a background check even if the gun they used to commit an act of gun violence was acquired in an extra-legal way.

              So why do we continue to argue about laws to regulate the behavior of gun owners who know how to self-regulate themselves? Because the so-called experts who conduct research about gun violence don’t know anything about guns.

American Carnage – A Review.


              The purpose of this book is to provide an antidote to the misinformation which circulates in and around what the authors describe as the ‘intense and acrimonious’ national gun debate. The text is devoted to discussing 37 different ideas which create this misinformation, or what Tom Gabor and Fred Guttenberg refer to as gun ‘myths.’

              To their credit, G&G do an excellent job of describing each myth in clear and concise terms. They also have plumbed the research conducted and published which sheds some reality on each of these myths. If you find yourself in a discussion, debate or argument with a pro-gun advocate, the chances are pretty good that you will have to respond to one or more of the myths listed in this book and you can feel confident using the points made by G&G to provide a contrary case.

              That’s the good news about American Carnage – Shattering The Myths That Fuel Gun Violence. Now the other news, by which I don’t mean criticisms of what G&G have written. Rather, these are several concerns provoked by the book which perhaps require some additional thought. But the whole point of writing any book about a current debate is, after all, to widen the parameters of the debate. As Grandpa would say, ‘ze hais?’ (read: get it?)

              Concern #1. Early on, G&G argue that much of the misinformation about guns reflects the absence of research due to the Dickey Amendment, which prohibited the CDC from sponsoring evidence-based studies from 1997 until last year. But what is not mentioned is that the data on gun injuries produced by the CDC happens to be so insufficient and so lacking in both quantity and quality that our understanding of gun violence remains both minimal and misdirected, government research support or not.

              What I am referring to is the fact that the CDC only publishes estimates on the number of individuals who are killed with the use of guns, i.e., homicides and suicides. The CDC has yet to figure out how to derive and publish a valid estimate on the number of non-fatal gun injuries which occur every year, and my best guess is that this number, if estimated correctly, would increase the total annual gun carnage by two-thirds!

              How can you determine the efficacy of any law or strategy to reduce gun violence if you can’t figure out the number of gun violence events before and then after the law or strategy is put into effect? And let me make it clear that the only difference between fatal and non-fatal gun injuries is that in the latter instance, the shooter didn’t shoot straight.

Moreover, there are studies which strongly hint at the possibility that many of the victims of non-lethal gun injuries recover initially but then end up dying earlier than they otherwise would pass away. In other words, the actual fatal gun violence toll may be substantially higher than the number of deaths which occur in any given year.

My second concern, and again this is in no way of criticism of this fine, little book, is that G&G make no distinction between legal, as opposed to non-legal owners and users of guns. These lacunae aren’t their fault, because the absence of such a distinction is rife throughout the scholarly literature on guns. The United States isn’t the only country to sustain a regulatory system for private gun ownership, but it is the only country whose regulatory system is based on the behavior of gun owners, as opposed to a regulatory system which focuses primarily on the lethality and dangerousness of specific types of guns.

There’s a reason you can’t buy a semi-automatic pistol in Canada, which happens to be the same reason that you can’t buy an assault rifle in Britain or France. The only small arm whose ownership is restricted in the United States is a machine gun, but you can even own a full-auto gun if you’re willing to undergo two background checks, wait a couple of months to get approved and then ante up a $250 tax.

Not only do we try to respond to gun violence by looking primarily at the shooters and not at the guns they use to injure or kill themselves or someone else, in fact we have absolutely no idea how many gun violence events are committed by individuals who don’t meet the criteria we have developed to determine who can qualify to own a gun. G&G mention (p. 83) a California study of 18 million adults which showed that access to guns in the home resulted in a risk of fatal injury, but this study didn’t differentiate between legal and illegal guns.

We have absolutely no idea how many of those 400 million guns in the civilian arsenal are in the possession of people who cannot qualify for legal gun ownership. Hence, we have no way of actually determining the efficacy of the various gun regulations (ERPO, UBC, CAP, etc.) that G&G and the entire gun-control community believe, if enacted, will reduce the gun carnage which currently occurs in the United States.

Again, I am not raising these concerns as a criticism of G&G’s work. If anything, hopefully this book will give them a presence in the gun debate which will enable them to raise these issues in a meaningful ad influential way.

American Carnage deserves to be read.

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