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Maybe We Need a New Memorial Day.

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Every year we are supposed to spend a day saluting the men and women who died in defense of our country, a tradition which started after World War I.

I was born and raised in Washington, D.C., and I can recall Memorial Day parades in the 1950’s with the veterans of World War I still able to march down Constitution Avenue to where they had some speeches and then everyone stood around and greeted each other.

We still have the parades except the old veterans are from the Viet Nam War. And instead of standing around after the parade, everyone goes shopping because that’s the way we celebrate what makes America great — buy some crap we don’t need and stick it in the garage along with all the other crap we don’t need.

Anyway, on Tuesday there will be a little ‘Orange Day’ event in Gloucester, MA where a brief ceremony will take place to remind everyone about the ongoing war that we have in our streets — the Gun Violence war which seems to be heating up more and more these days. More Americans have been killed by domestic gunfire in the last thirty years than were killed in every conflict since World War I, and we seem hell-bent to add another 30,000 or 40,000 to that total this year.

Maybe what we should do is put together a petition which will make Memorial Day a national holiday not just to remember the men and women who have been killed overseas, but also to memorialize the men, women and children who are gunned down on our nation’s streets or in our nation’s schools, or wherever they are being gunned down.

Enough with the ‘thoughts and prayers,’ okay?

How Do We Reduce Gun Violence?

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              Earlier this week I posted a story about a terrific new video produced by the Engagement Lab at Emerson College which featured a group of parents and friends who spent some terrible hours waiting to be told whether their child or their friend would survive a gunshot wound.

              What I am now going to say is in no way to be taken as a criticism of the Engagement Lab’s work. To the contrary, the video is awesome and if you haven’t watched it, you should watch it now. Or even if you have watched it, take 20 minutes or so out of your very busy day and watch it again.

              That being said, what also needs to be said is that the messaging about gun violence in this video is the usual way in which we frame the discussion about a type of behavior which kills and seriously injures more than 125,000 Americans every year, namely, the discussion invariably turns on the victims, their families, and their friends.

              But if we are ever going to do something meaningful and substantive about reducing gun violence, we have to approach the issue proactively, which means looking first and foremost at the individuals who commit gun violence and figure out ways to get to them before they pull out a Glock or a Sig and go – bang!

              And I’m not talking about all those wonderful and compassionate programs which give some inner-city kids a job, or some mentoring about a career, or any other life-fulfilling activity like that. Those gigs are all fine and well but by the time an adolescent connects up to them it’s usually too late.

              When do boys get interested in guns? According to Al Lizotte’s research, in their early teens. When do some of these kids start behaving in a way which eventually leads them to become the young men who commit the most violent crimes? Thanks to the research published by Marvin Wolfgang fifty years ago, in their early teens. So, the point is that when some distraught mother starts talking about how her son would have grown up to be a decent and dependable adult if he hadn’t gotten shot, there’s another mother out there who could also be asked to talk about what she did or didn’t do with her son before he became the boy who shot and killed the other kid.

              What I’m saying is that in the discussion about gun violence, we focus our attention on the victims, not on the ones whose behavior is the reason that gun violence exists. Because the simple fact is that you can’t commit gun violence without a gun. And getting to the point where you pull out a gun, load it, then point it at yourself or someone else and pull the trigger is not something which happens overnight.  It’s not like some kid who goes into the corner deli and swipes a little package of M&M’s.

              Back in 2015, a 13-year old was shot and killed in St. Louis because a man thought that the kid was going to assault him. The shooter got off because what he did was legal under Missouri’s Stand Your Ground (SYG) law. Why did the shooter believe that a 13-year old kid who had broken into the man’s car was going to attack him instead of running away from the scene? Because the shooting occurred at 1 A.M. and the man couldn’t see because there was no street light.

              The media lit up when the shooter was found innocent of the murder charge because how often does a 13-year old get shot and the shooter walks away scot-free? Then we were treated to the requisite interview with the poor, overwhelmed mother of the victim who acknowledged that her son was committing a crime by trying to break into the man’s car but even so, he shouldn’t have paid for his crime with his life.

              Did anyone bother to ask this woman why her son was riding around in the back alleys of St. Louis looking for a car to break into at 1 A.M?

              So, even when we focus on the victims of gun violence, we often don’t ask the questions we need to ask because in half of all fatal shootings, it was something done by the victim which precipitated the gun being pulled out and used.

              This kid in St. Louis was committing serious crimes when he was 13 years old. And what do you think he would have ended up doing if he had lived through that incident. He probably would have decided to get himself a gun.

              Either we start thinking about how gun violence affects the families and friends of both the shooters and the victims, or we don’t. And if we don’t, we can talk about gun violence all day long and that’s just what it is – talk.

Let’s Start a Militia Movement.

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              I have a great idea for what we can do to make a buck and also have a lot of fun. Let’s form a militia. We’ll call it, hmmm, the Citizen’s Liberal Militia, or CLM.  I’ll get my stepdaughter to design a logo because she’s a designer who trained at Parsons, no less.  I’ll get my son who’s an internet macher to design a website.

              Why do we need a militia?  That’s an easy one. We need a militia to protect us against all those enemies of the Deep State. And they’re out there, make no mistake about it. They’re getting stronger and are becoming more of a threat every…single…day!

              The CLM website, of course, will have an online store. We’ll start with t-shirts for $29.95, hoodies for $49.95, some swanky camo outfits that CLM troops can wear when we are forced to abandon home and hearth and bivouac out in the woods. And let’s not forget some two-way radios and other electronic gear. After all, the CLM has to be ready for any assault from the enemies of truth, freedom, and the American way.

              Of course, then we come to the tricky part, which is the issue of guns. I mean, you can’t be a militia that will be taken seriously unless you’re armed, right? There’s an outfit at Georgetown University Law School, the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (whew!) which just got a whole page of free advertising from our friends at The Trace. They submitted a brief to the SCOTUS in the case – New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Kevin P. Bruen – which may or may not allow Americans to cross state lines with a concealed gun.

              In their brief, the Institute for Constitutional whatever they are leads off by saying that “unfettered access to firearms poses a grave national security and public safety threat to the Nation.” They go on to cite two examples of how guns used by alleged terrorists killed scores of people in two mass shootings in California at a welfare center and in Florida at The Pulse. The shooters in these two events were about as much a pair of terrorists as my cat Leonard is a terrorist trained in the Near East.  The shooter in Florida was a domestic abuser, the guy in California had been fired from the staff of the organization, so then he went back and shot the place up.

              What I clearly recall from the January 6th riot was that all those so-called militia groups advised their members to leave their guns home. If Trump had done what he should have done and called out the National Guard to deploy in force while his schmucky fans were listening to his stupid speech before they began their march towards the Capitol, there would have been no riot, there would have been no insurrection, there would have been no attack.

              I spent a day with the now-famous Michigan Militia, some years after Timothy McVeigh showed up at several of their meetings before he blew up the Murrah Federal Building in 1995. I met them at a gun range where they were having a good time shooting off their guns. But what these overweight, overage Boy Scouts did for most of the afternoon was wolf down pizza and soft drinks, because as one of them told me, it was a public range, so beer wasn’t allowed.

              I think we can do better than that. Our militia will also give out food when we get together to shoot our guns, but we’ll have some real food, like a kale salad, a baked gruyere cheese pie with almond pieces, and maybe an espresso or a latte to sip.

              Rather eat a hot dog? Go join the Proud Boys.

              The militia movement is a bunch of nobodies hoping to get noticed by the media so that they can send a Facebook link back to Momma and Poppa or drive around in their Dodge Ram 1500 with a Trump flag fluttering out the back.

              To quote Joe in one of his better moments: “Want to take on the U.S. Government? Show up with an F-15.”  

Do Gun Buybacks Work? They Sure Do.

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              If I had a nickel for every time that someone who has absolutely no knowledge at all about guns either refers to himself as a gun ‘expert’ or writes a featured column in a major media outlet about guns even though everything he says is wrong, I really could spend all my time at my club’s golf course which, by the way, opened (yay!!!) today.

              The latest so-called gun expert to rear his head is a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, Peter Nickeas, who just did a piece on gun buybacks in Chicago for CNN. The Windy City’s Mayor, Lori Lightfoot, is trying to raise a million bucks to do two big buyback every year, but Nickeas knows that the buybacks won’t do very much to help reduce Chicago’s endless gun violence.

              How does he know this? Because he’s read all the so-called studies about gun buybacks done by all the other so-called gun ‘experts’ and the studies all show that gun buybacks don’t work, or at least they don’t take guns away from people who shouldn’t have guns.

              There’s only one little problem with this now-universal belief held by all the experts on how and why gun buybacks don’t work. Not one of these scholars understands how to judge the effectiveness of a gun buyback, so to make a judgement about the effectiveness of something when you don’t know how to define what you are trying to figure out, is an exercise in what Grandpa would call ‘bupkes,’ (read: nonsense) even if it gets you published in some academic journal and quoted on CNN.

              The latest piece of scholarly nonsense which shows that gun buybacks don’t work was published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) which is the research outfit required by Congress to determine when a recession starts and when it ends. So, when it comes to knowing how to use economic data, NBER knows what it’s doing, okay?

              This paper is chock-full of data – graphs, charts, statistical formulations, the whole bit. Too bad the research team has absolutely no idea how the value of a gun buyback should be judged. For that matter, they don’t even seem to know how to define a gun buyback because the first buyback they mention was the gun buyback which occurred in Australia in 1996, a nationwide effort which they claim had ‘mixed’ results.

              The Australian effort, however, shouldn’t be compared to any gun buyback that has ever occurred in the United States. In Australia, the government decided that certain kinds of guns that had been legally purchased could no longer be legally owned and had to be turned in – but here’s the kicker – with the owners given compensation at the fair-market price. In other words, the Australian buyback wasn’t a buyback as we use that word here; it was a forcible confiscation of legal property, which you can’t do in our system unless you pay the owners what that property is worth.

              How do you compare that kind of an effort to community-based programs where nobody is required to turn in a gun and when they do show up and hand over a gun they don’t want or need, they are given a gift card that can be redeemed at a local store? You don’t make such a comparison if you know anything about guns.

              The authors of the NBER paper then go on to use FBI crime data (NIBRS reports) to assess gun violence before and after339 gun buybacks in 277 cities between 1991 and 2015.

Looking at NIBRS numbers for a year prior to a year following each buyback, the overall results in gun violence was basically little or no change.

              All this quantitative and statistical analysis really proves is that we are a country which is obsessed with numbers and if you don’t use statistics to make or prove an argument, nobody takes you seriously and you’ll wait until what Grandpa would call ‘shabbos noch schvi’ (read: Saturday after a religious holiday) to get published in an academic journal and list the article on your CV.

              The value and importance of a gun buyback is simply this: It’s an opportunity to spread the word about gun violence and the risk of gun access in a city or a town. And believe it or not, there are lots of well-meaning people out there who don’t realize that the gun in their home represents any kind of risk.

The real value of a gun buyback can’t be quantified by the number of guns that are turned in or whether violent crimes crime goes up or down. Rather, it’s a question of changing community culture which is always a slow and difficult task.

Anyone who thinks that something as complicated and multi-faceted as violence committed with or without guns doesn’t know anything about violence and certainly doesn’t know anything about guns.

Want To Carry a Gun? Don’t Bother With Training.

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Yesterday, our friends at The Trace published an article by Jennifer Mascia on the Florida law requiring training for a resident who wants to walk around with a concealed gun.  The point of Jennifer’s research is that the law is written in such a way that as Grandpa would say, the training requirement is ‘nisht’ (read: nothing.)

According to Jennifer, who interviewed a group of gun trainers who do their thing in the Gunshine State, the law which requires that someone fire one ‘live’ round allows trainers to set up a little pipe filled with sand in a hotel conference room, stick the gun barrel into the end of the pipe and – bang!  Or the class participants can shoot one round of non-lethal ammunition into a water tank or some other simulated device.

So, here we have yet another example of how Americans are walking around with all those guns that they don’t really know or understand how to shoot, which is just another reason we have so much gun violence, right?

According to Jennifer, there are now 33 states which allow legal gun owners to walk around with guns whether they have undergone any training or not. One of the trainers she interviewed put it like this: “You miss your intended target, the bullet goes somewhere else. That could potentially kill somebody.”

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy.  It’s the Old Wild West all over the place.

Except there’s only one little problem, which is that the word ‘training’ is probably the single, most mis-used word in the entire gun world, perhaps mis-used even more frequently than the word ‘rights,’ which is also a word that is endlessly mis-used by both sides in the gun debate.

Jennifer’s article contains quotes from 7 different guys in Florida who call themselves gun ‘trainers.’ Know how you get to be a gun trainer in all 50 states?  Call yourself a gun trainer.

“Hi. I’m Mike Weisser. I’m a gun trainer.”  That’s it. Now I’m a gun trainer.

The gun industry is the only industry in the United States which makes products that are advertised as lethal and dangerous but does not have any (as in zero) industry standard for safety training at all. And in states which require some kind of training, the training requirement, like Florida’s one live round to be fired, is described, but the requirement to be the individual who confirms that someone fired that live round is never imposed by the gun industry itself. 

At best, anyone can become a ‘certified’ gun trainer or instructor by sitting in a classroom for a couple of hours while some old guy reads from a booklet published by the NRA, then you take a short-answer quiz which nobody ever fails, then you pay the guy who in turn gives you a piece of paper which says that you’re a ‘certified’ NRA trainer. That’s it.

Know what the word ‘training’ means?  It means you do a specific, physical task like shooting a gun or backing a 16-wheeler into a loading bay the exact same way every…single… time.

I was trained to shoot an M-14 rifle at Fort Gordon and what impressed me was how the Army could take a bunch of illiterate red necks and ghetto whoppers and in six weeks get them to clean, load, fire, and re-load a rifle even with their eyes closed. It helped, by the way, that if you couldn’t get through this drill without making any mistakes, you didn’t get chow.

That’s training. The so-called training conducted by all those so-called trainers who were interviewed by Jennifer Mascia is pure crap.

But the good news is that it probably doesn’t matter whether the people who take that training can hit the broad side of the barn or not. I have yet to see one, single piece of serious research which actually makes any kind of causal connection between all those legal gun owners walking around without any training and the 300 or so people who every day shoot themselves or someone else with a gun. 

Want to train yourself to use a gun?  Join the Army or the Marines.

The ATF Shuts Down a Gun Maker Because They Make Guns.

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              I got my start in the gun business in 1963 or 1964 when I spent a month working for my great-uncle in his junk yard and metal fabricating plant in North Carolina. His company was named the Imperial Metals Company, and he made a little, 22-caliber revolver which he sold to pawn shops for $25 and the pawn shops re-sold to customers for $40 or so.

              Every once in a while, one of Uncle Ben’s revolvers shows up on some website which sells guns, but even if the seller says the gun is ‘used,’ I can guarantee you that it has only been shot once.

              How do I know that? Because the gun was made so cheaply that it fell apart if you fired it twice.

              Uncle Ben’s gun was what we call a ‘Saturday Night Special,’ which is a thinly-veiled racist term applied to guns that were so cheap that they were bought and carried into Black-only honky-tonks on Saturday night and pulled out whenever some argument started up. 

              The 1968 federal gun law, a.k.a., GCA68, put Uncle Ben out of business, because the law set manufacturing standards for handguns to protect American gun makers from cheap guns coming in from overseas. The GCA68 also created our current regulatory system to keep guns out of the ‘wrong hands’ based on the activity and responsibility of the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms (and Explosives) agency, a.k.a., the ATF.

              The ATF’s regulatory activity consists of sending its agents around to inspect gun dealers and make sure that the federally-licensed dealers are following the rules on the transfer of guns to customers as defined by two federal laws: GCA68 and the Brady Bill of 1994. Both laws require a dealer to keep track of gun transfers to retail customers by filling out various paper forms for each transaction, which are then inspected for accuracy when the ATF agents carry out an inspection in a gun shop.

              Incidentally, for all the talk about how Gun-control Nation supports the Constitutional ‘right’ of Americans to own guns, as long as these guns are used in a ‘responsible’ and ‘safe’ way, I have never quite understood how a federal agency gets into the act of retail gun sales at all.

              Granted, I’m no Laurence Tribe when it comes to understanding the Constitution, but I always thought that the Constitution’s ‘commerce clause’ covered the sale and movement of goods over state lines (i.e., inter-state commerce) as opposed to the sale and transfer of goods between individuals who live in the same state (i.e., intra-state commerce). And since a gun dealer can only sell a retail gun to someone who lives in the same state where that dealer happens to be located, why is a federal agency like the ATF involved in regulating the gun business at all?

              Legal nuances aside, the ATF has just announced the revocation of a license to manufacture guns which is held by a company known as Jimenez Arms. This company makes a cheap pistol which keeps showing up in guns picked up by the cops, and apparently has frequently been used in crimes which occur in Kansas City, which sued Jimenez Arms in 2020 for creating a ‘public nuisance’ with their cheap guns. Between 2014 and 2018, the cops in Kansas City picked up 166 Jimenez Arms guns.

              What I want to know is this: How many guns manufactured by Glock did the Kansas City cops pick up between 2014 and 2018? How many guns did the cops in Kansas City pick up that were manufactured by Sig, or by Smith & Wesson, or by Kahr Arms? These companies don’t make cheap guns that retail for $150 bucks.  They make expensive guns that cost $500 or more. But it’s the guns made by Glock and Sig and S&W that are used in the nearly 250 gun homicides which occurred in Kansas City in 2021 alone. That’s not a public nuisance?

              If the government wants to shut down a gun maker based on how often that guy’s guns show up in crimes, going after an outfit like Jimenez Arms is chump change.

              Want to reduce gun violence in the United States? I’ll give you the names of at least a half-dozen gun-making companies that should be shut down today.

Taking On The 2nd Amendment.

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Last week I received an email from our friends at Americans Against Gun Violence (AAGV) asking me to spread the word about their annual High School Essay Contest which gives out $15,000 in prize money for the nest essays written by high school students about why the 2nd Amendment should be changed.

The AAGV is asking high schoolers to write 500 words or fewer about this statement by Chief Justice Warren Burger: “If I were writing the Bill of Rights now, there wouldn’t be any such thing as the Second Amendment…. This has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud – I repeat the word ‘fraud’ – on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.

As in past years, the best 12 essays will be given cash prizes and the deadline for sending in essays is April 16th. The problem this year is that there has been a noticeable drop-off in responses, even though news about the contest was sent to more than one thousand educators across the country, along with a flyer advertising the program which you can download here.

I really like the idea that AAGV is trying to engage high school students in this effort because it’s when kids are in high school that they most often get turned on by guns. So why not get high school students thinking not just about guns but what we need to do to reduce the violence caused by guns?

The problem, according to AAGV, is that many high school educators are intimidated by introducing anything in their classrooms which smacks of a negative attitude about guns. It’s not just that Gun-nut Nation is watching out to keep doubts about 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ outside of school, it’s that the whole issue of what is and isn’t taught in schools has become a political football thanks to the culture war being conducted by the GOP.

But I happen to think there’s another reason why raising the issue of gun violence in the classroom seems to be slowly fading away. And it has to do with the fact that many of the groups and individuals who are concerned about gun violence are just as, or even more concerned with protecting everyone’s Constitutional ‘rights.’

Back in 1989 our friend Sandy Levinson wrote an essay about the 2nd Amendment which appeared in the Yale Law Review. You can download the article right here, and if you haven’t read it, you should. What Professor Levinson basically argued is that if liberals want to defend those parts of the Bill of Rights that protect free speech and the free exercise of religion, they should be defending the free ownership of guns as well. After all, the Bill of Rights is a package deal, and you can’t slice or dice Constitutional rights to support only one point of view.

Levinson’s argument has become a standard narrative in the gun-control crowd.  In fact, the AAGV is the only gun-control organization which doesn’t explicitly proclaim itself to be supporting the 2nd Amendment even though these same organizations want gun ownership to be more tightly regulated and controlled.

The problem today is that the GOP has decided to wage an all-out assault on liberal Constitutional precepts and ideals, so what we thought were settled issues like gender and abortion have now come under fierce attack. After all, what else is the GOP going to complain about? The fact that nobody’s unemployed?

Last week the Governor of Washington signed legislation which bans hi-capacity magazines, as well as ‘ghost’ guns.  Laws requiring safe storage of guns were passed last year in Oregon and Colorado. But other states, like Texas and Kansas, have recently passed pro-gun laws.

When one of our two national, political parties believes that getting shot by a gun is a Constitutional privilege and not a problem for public health, the chances of any tampering with the 2nd Amendment are slim to none.

Of course, when Galileo was locked away in the tower he didn’t turn around and declare that the Earth revolved around the Sun.

Is The Wolverine Militia Our First Line of Defense?

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Meanwhile, the trial of the four members of the – ready? – Wolverine Watchmen paramilitary gang who are accused of plotting to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer in 2020 is going on in a Federal court in Grand Rapids, MI with opening testimony from two FBI agents who infiltrated the group. 

              The defense, of course, is claiming that the FBI agents were not only present when kidnapping plans were being hatched, but in fact were the instigators of the whole, crazy thing. It’s already been admitted in court that many of the conversations that were secretly taped took place while everyone in the room was getting high on a doobie. Next thing we’ll learn is that the FBI supplied the dope.

              The four guys charged in this case must have a collective, not individual IQ of 79.  Can there really be such schmucks walking around? And worse yet, can guys who are this friggin’ stupid walk into a gun store and buy a gun?

              One of the defendants not connected to the Wolverines but charged after January 6th was a kid named Anthony Antonio, who claimed he went to D.C. to storm the Capitol at Trump’s request. His attorney had a slightly different story to go along with his client’s ‘not guilty’ plea – in the courtroom he said that Antonio was a ‘dumb ass,’ but out in the street he was a little more precise, referring to his client as ‘dumb as shit.’

              Ever since Donald Trump decided to enlist groups like the Three Percenters and The Proud Boys as his shock troops for the 2020 campaign, there have been endless stories in the media about how paramilitary organizations, usually referred to as ‘citizens militias’ not only represent a threat to law and order but are actually planning to engage in a 22nd-Century version of the 19th-Century Civil War.

              These militia groups first got noticed when Timothy McVeigh hung out with the Michigan Militia before going down to Oklahoma City and blowing up the Murrah Federal Building in 1995. The Wolverine group is one of a number of militia groups which have sprung up over the past few years in Michigan and elsewhere. Their website is remarkable in that it doesn’t contain an online store. 

              What the website does contain, on the other hand, is a 36-page, single-spaced Handbook, which not only contains a very academic argument about the historic origins of militias going back to before the Revolutionary War (complete with footnotes) but references the usual hodge-podge of Libertarian philosophy (Hayek, etc.) as well as a listing of all the sins and transgressions of the national government, particularly the whole notion that any kind of taxes are both illegal and wrong.

              There is also a whole and very detailed section on the militia’s organization, starting at the top with a State Commander and staff, then nine operational divisions covering different regions of the state and specific officer titles including Air Operations, Ground Operations and Special Operations.

              Finally, the website also contains a calendar of upcoming training events, which includes a swap meet, something called Escape and Evasion and a day for Community Service although the actual service activity isn’t explained. For that matter, the calendar gives months and days but not a specific year, so who knows if any of this stuff is actually real?

              At some point, I don’t recall exactly which year, I found myself in Michigan with time to spare so I drove out to a shooting range where some members of the original Michigan Militia were shooting off their guns. I was impressed by two things:

              First, although I tend to walk around with an extra 20 pounds on my frame, I was a real slim-jim compared with most of the members of this group.  These guys weren’t just heavy, they were guys who really love to eat. And I happened to arrive at the range just in front of a car that was carrying a stack of fresh-cooked pizzas, along with potato chips, Fritos, and drinks.

              The second thing which impressed me about the group was that there was absolutely no talk at all about invasions or terrorist threats or anything else. There was talk about the weekend sale at the local Walmart and where someone had just bought a set of tires for their truck.

              Don’t get me wrong. I’ll let the jury in Grand Rapids decide whether those four schmucks are guilty of planning to kidnap the Governor or are guilty of just being loud and dumb. But if anyone thinks that the militia movement poses a threat to the government, like Joe says, they better show up with their F-15.

Let’s Send Some More Guns to Ukraine.

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              I guarantee you that sooner or later, one of the Gun-nut groups will issue a call for people to donate guns which can be shipped to the civilian population in Ukraine to help them fight back against the Russian hordes.

              The word will spread around to those stupid, alt-right chat venues like Parler, Gettr, and all that childish crap. Then the idea will get picked up by the Fake News – CNN will run a story and then the ATF will announce that any such shipments are a violation of this and a violation of that.

              Then to finish things off, two dopes from the Proud Boys or the Three Percenters will walk into O’Hare Airport with AR-15’s that they want to load onto some flight to Ukraine (even if there are no commercial flights to Ukraine) and they’ll be told to go home but someone will shoot a video, post it on Facebook and they’ve got their 15 seconds of fame.

              In fact, there’s actually no law which prevents someone from sending a gun to Ukraine or anywhere else. But there is a law which says that if you want to ship a gun to an address outside the United States, you have to first get an export license from the State Department whether you are shipping one gun or ten thousands guns.

              There’s a company in Florida named KelTec, which has been granted approval to ship 10,000 guns to Ukraine.  They make a gun, the Sub CQB, which is a small, 9mm carbine that folds in half for easier carry and has a built-in silencer to minimize the sound. Their best-known gun is called the Bullpup, a semi-auto job which ejects the spent shells down instead of up.

              Last week the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) sent a message out to all its gun-dealer members advising them how to initiate an ‘expedited’ application to the State Department to ship guns to Ukraine. I’m surprised, frankly, that the NRA hasn’t started a campaign to ship guns over there, but let’s not forget that there are some alt-right politicians (read: Marjorie Taylor Greene) who don’t believe that we should be involved with Ukraine. So, the argument that Gun-nut Nation should be sending guns to the civilians fighting the Russkies in Ukraine could cut both ways.

              On the other hand, I’m waiting for the emails from various Gun-nut Nation groups to start showing up in my in-box which will exhort me to remember that sending guns to people who are protecting themselves from government ‘tyranny’ or government ‘violence’ or government whatever you want to call it, is a perfect example of why we need to vigilantly protect our 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

              I can see it now. The NRA will create a new award to honor folks who go down into their basements, pull out one of Grandpa’s rusty, old pieces of shit shotguns from behind the hot-water heater and send it off to Ukraine. And if the Russian invasion of Ukraine is still going on over Memorial Day weekend when the NRA is holding their annual jamboree, there will be a special event at the meeting where Wayne-o will give out a medal or a t-shirt to honor members who have sent the Ukrainian freedom-fighters some guns.

              Of course, if the Ukrainian situation is back to status quo ante (hope, hope) by the time the NRA faithful gather in Houston at the end of May, the boys from Fairfax can scrap that part of the program and schedule instead a speech by Ted Cruz. 

              I love how Gun-nut Nation actually believes that selling some guns to anyone inside or outside the United States has anything to do with 2nd-Amdndment ‘rights.’ The last time I looked, the 2nd Amendment can be cited to justify keeping a handgun in your home for whatever reason you want to have the gun lying around. What that has to do with giving the Russian army a shellacking, God only knows.

              Why don’t we just get that lab in Wuhan to cook up a dose of the kung flu and send it over to Putin and some of his friends?

What Can Paul Farmer Teach Us About Gun Violence?

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              Yesterday I started reading Paul Farmer’s remarkable book, Pathologies of Power, and it occurred to me that while he doesn’t address the issue of gun violence, the way he approaches health and poverty (or better said, poverty and the lack of health) might be considered an exemplar for understanding or at least addressing the most pronounced disparity in the issue of who is affected by assaults committed with guns.

              We are used to thinking about gun violence as a pathology which overwhelmingly involves minorities and the poor. Most gun assaults occur in the inner cities; most of the individuals charged with gun assaults are minority males. Other than suicide, most victims of intentional gun assaults are also non-White males.

              So how come most intentional gun assaults in this country only occur in communities where the disparity between those who have and those who don’t have is the greatest of all? How come only 7% of the individuals who commit aggravated assault each year use a gun?

              The most penetrating aspect of Paul Farmer’s approach to medicine is his insistence that we need to go beyond simple numbers to not only understand why certain groups (viz., the ‘poor’) have worse health outcomes than the rest of us, but how and why the specific conditions of poverty result in poor health outcomes. He talks about this issue in terms of understanding poverty biographically, i.e., knowing life histories of individuals who make choices because they are poor which then lead to disparities in health.

              Farmer’s work was performed primarily in Haiti where he paid attention primarily to AIDS and sexual assault. His book contains biographies of women who died of AIDS even though they performed consensual sex with male partners who were carriers of the disease. Given a choice between starvation and risky sexual activity, many women chose the latter hoping that they might avoid becoming AIDS-infected because that was less of a risk than not being able to eat.

              As for contracting AIDS from earning money through sexual activity, women in impoverished Haitian communities had far less employment opportunities than men, either be cause they had young children whose welfare kept them at home, or they were just not able to secure employment outside of certain job categories (ex. domestic help) which often then resulted in sexual assaults.

              Farmer insists, and he’s absolutely correct in this respect, that if we are going to respond to health disparities in some positive and mitigating way, we not only need to know the numbers of poor people who live shorter and more desperate lives, we also need to understand and share their pain.  In other words, if we are going to do anything substantive about closing the health gap between people on the bottom of the social hierarchy and everyone else, we need to give poverty a ‘human face.’

              I could say exactly the same thing about how we discuss and try to understand gun violence which occurs at least 300 fatal and non-fatal times every day. When the issue is described on a personal basis, the description invariably comes from a family member or friend of someone who has been a gun-violence victim, usually a dead victim at that.

              Lucy McBath represents Georgia’s 6th District in Congress. She gave up a 30-year career as a Delta flight attendant and went to work for Everytown after her son, Jordan Davis, was gunned down while listening to music in a car.

              The shooter in this case, Michael Dunn, harbored all kinds of hateful and abusive thoughts about Blacks before this event occurred. You can get a good idea about what was going through his head by reading some of the letters that he wrote from jail. But as angry and vicious as these letters appear to be, Dunn had never been arrested for any violent act before the fateful night when he blasted ten rounds into an SUV.

              What made Dunn suddenly lose control to the point that he pulled out a gun and started shooting at three kids who refused to turn down the music that was blaring from their car? For that matter, why couldn’t the kids in that SUV just drive off instead of first getting into an argument with someone who was obviously pissed off and maybe a little bit drunk?

              These are the kinds of questions that are never asked when gun violence is discussed only in numerical terms. I just regret that someone like the late and sainted Paul Farmer has yet to focus our attention on what he called ‘bearing witness’ to the deaths and injuries caused by guns.

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