How Come (Some) Americans Love Their Guns?


              Last week I found out that Smith & Wesson is shutting down its factory in Springfield, MA and moving the entire operation down to Tennessee.  S&W moved some of its warehousing to Tennessee last year, and now the entire company, which started producing guns in Springfield in the 1860’s, is relocating to the South.

              The small arms industry emerged in various sites along the Connecticut River, thanks to the decision by George Washington to fund a government arsenal in Springfield to produce military rifles after the Revolutionary War. Washington justified the arsenal’s location because the Connecticut River above Hartford, CT was too shallow for British warships to come up and bomb the facility to smithereens. But the real reason the arsenal was located in Massachusetts was as a payoff to Washington’s good friend, Henry Knox, who was a Massachusetts resident and became the country’s first Secretary of War.

              Knox was the man whose remarkable effort to bring heavy cannons from Ticonderoga to Boston in 1775 broke the British siege and probably saved the Revolution. The arsenal, which opened in 1777, spawned a host of smaller gun makers up and down the Connecticut River Valley, which became known as Gun Valley, and was the location of such iconic gun companies as S&W, Colt, Ruger, Marlin, and Winchester, none of which are operating in their original locations today.

              So, the gun companies have all disappeared from where they were first located, but all these companies and lots of other gun makers are still producing and selling weapons in the United States and abroad. In 2019, American gun companies produced 7 million weapons and accounted for 35% of all small arms exported throughout the world.

              How and why does the United States have such an overwhelming devotion to small arms? After all, you don’t need to make a small, semi-automatic rifle or handgun in order to manufacture an F-35. Many countries have suitable, well-armored military forces without extending the ownership or use of weapons to the civilian side.

              And by the way, thanks to the incisive reportage by Mike Spies, for all the talk several years ago about how the National Rifle Association was on its last legs and Wayne LaPierre was on his way out the door, I just sent in an extra donation for my Golden Eagles membership and received a nice thank-you letter from Wayne.

              I had three hobbies as a kid: toy trains, toy soldiers and toy guns.  My mother got sick of tripping over the train tracks on the floor, so the trains were boxed up and given away.  I stopped collecting toy soldiers when they were no longer made out of lead because the plastic soldiers were just too crummy and cheap. But I switched from toy guns to the real thing when in 1956 I bought my first Smith & Wesson in a straw sale in Florida when I was twelve years old.

              The manufacture of small arms was one of the principal commodities which emerged in the early decades of the Industrial Revolution, both in the United States and abroad. Guns were easy to make, parts could be quickly fitted together on a primitive assembly line, and the whole technology of creating a gaseous propellant by igniting some dry chemicals had been known since 10th-Century Chinese times.

              But the reason why guns became a fixture of commonplace life in America was because we were the only country which experienced its industrial revolution at the same time that its frontier was being opened, settled, and turned into farmland to produce edible commodities for urban life.

              The first modern guns were manufactured in Europe, particularly in Italy, around the 14th Century, with the technology quickly spreading into France, Central Europe and beyond. The frontier in these zones had been entirely eradicated nearly one thousand years previously as the Roman legions came up from the South and the Germanic tribes came down from the North.

              When was Paris first settled? Try somewhere around 225 B.C.  Not A.D., okay? B.C.

               Most of the land mass which today covers the habitable regions of our Lower 48 was transformed into living and farming space less than a century ago. When the Census declared that the frontier was ‘closed’ in 1890, this mean that at least one person had a permanent habitation located within one mile of someone else.

              If you wanted to be one of those early settlers in most of the Lower 48, you needed a plow, a saw, and a gun. And thanks to the Industrial Revolution, all three objects were cheap and readily available for anyone to purchase and use.

              In other words, guns truly are as American, if not more American than apple pie. And the idea that a bunch of highly educated, urban professionals are going to convince a majority of their fellow citizens that guns represent some kind of risk is like saying that Dirty Harry was a movie character about some detective who used a 44-magnum revolver to chase the bad guys around in England and France.

Do Guns and Social Media Mix?

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              I have been a fan of Vivek Murthy ever since that fake physician Rand Paul put his first nomination to be Surgeon General on hold back in 2014. Paul was doing nothing other than pimping for Gun-nut Nation which opposed Murthy’s nomination because the incoming SG had the audacity to raise the possibility that 100,000+ fatalities and serious injuries from guns represented a public health threat.

              I therefore looked with great anticipation at the advisory just issued by Murthy’s office on the health effects of social media access by children and adolescents, since so much social media content promotes the presence and use of guns.

              It also should be understood that access to guns which are used to commit violence (as opposed to guns used for hunting or sport) begins to show up when boys are in their teens, and by the time boys (and a few girls) reach the age of 20, more than 2,500 of these young persons have killed someone else with a gun.

              Unfortunately, the Surgeon General’s advisory on social media stays only within the boundaries of mental health, with the issue of social media and violent behavior left entirely undiscussed – you can download the report from my website right here. The report defines social media as follows: “internet-based channels that allow users to opportunistically interact and selectively self-present, either in real-time or asynchronously, with both broad and narrow audiences who derive value from user-generated content and the perception of interaction with others.” [Pg. 21]

              The report then goes on to say: “For the purposes of this product, we did not include studies specific to online gaming or e-sports.” [Pg. 21]

              But online gaming is where the violence, the violent behavior and the use of guns occurs. And most of the shooting games can be played with multiple players at the same time. That’s not interacting with others?

              The most popular shooting game right now is something called Free Fire, an app which can accommodate as many as 52 players at the same time. There are 15 different game modes, with such names as Team Deathmatch and Clash Squad. The most popular mode has up to 52 players landing on an island without weapon which they must then arm themselves by stealing or scavenging guns.

              How does a player win this game?  By killing all the other players and being the last man standing.

              The winner is then given a ranking, kind of like the way that people who play online chess can also achieve rankings which can be used to register for online chess tournaments, except in chess games, nobody’s getting killed.

              In 2021, it is estimated that revenues for Free Fire in the U.S. alone topped more than $100 million. This figure represents about 15% of the game revenues worldwide, with the game being played each day more than 150 million times worldwide.

              But here’s the difference between shooting games like Free Fire being played in the U.S. as opposed to being played anywhere else.

              Ready? The United States is the only country in the entire world where the kinds of guns which are used in video shootouts can also be purchased and used in real time.

              Notice in the picture above the young lady in black holding an assault rifle with a hi-cap mag? In most states, that young lady at the age of 18 can walk into a gun shop and buy that gun.

              Notice the girl slightly above and to the right of the girl with the AR? In her right hand she’s holding a Glock. Or maybe it’s a Sig. Either way, this game which was not considered relevant enough to be included in the SG’s advisory on social media, is giving gun companies like Glock and Sig one helluva free advertising ride.

              Back in 2015, the American Psychological Association (APA) adopted a resolution which called for more research on the connection between violence and violent video games. You can download and read the report right here. The resolution was amended slightly in 2018, but the conclusion remained the same: “APA endorses the development and implementation of rigorously tested interventions that educate children, youth and families about the effects of violent video game use.”

              Given the recent surge in gun violence, much of it committed by young men who are just above adolescent age, I simply don’t understand how the Surgeon General could issue an advisory on the effects of social media and ignore the issue of how social media and gun violence are wrapped around each other in a way which promotes both.

              Unless, of course, Dr. Murthy and his colleagues believe that a 16-year-old walking down the street with a Glock in his pocket doesn’t represent a threat to public health.

              But of course, they do.

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.

Does Gun Control Lead to Gun Confiscation?


              If there has been one new addition to the political lexicon over the last several years, it’s been the phrase known as ‘conspiracy theory,’ which is mentioned by just about everyone who says anything at all about Donald Trump. Here’s a guy who’s still peddling his conspiracy theory about the ‘stolen’ 2020 election, which he trotted out again for a national TV audience last week on CNN.

              But I happen to know another conspiracy theory which has much longer legs than Trump’s claim about election ‘fraud.’ This is the theory that any kind of gun-control regulation represents the beginning of a ‘slippery slope’ that will eventually wind up with the entire American population being disarmed.

              This theory has been floating around Gun-nut Nation for at least the past 50 years and is thrown out there by the NRA and all the other pro-gun groups whenever a mass shooting creates a brief, but noisy chorus about how we ‘have to do something’ about all those guns.

              It turns out, of course, that not one, single gun-control group like Everytown, Brady or Giffords has ever promoted any kind of confiscation strategy at all. In fact, these groups go out of their way to avoid the issue of any connection between private gun ownership and gun violence by promoting bland and seemingly innocuous narratives like behaving ‘responsibly’ with guns.

              And don’t make the mistake of thinking that the ‘slippery slope’ resistance to more gun-control laws is only a product of the NRA and like-minded groups. One of the earliest attempts to promote this conspiracy theory can be found in a 2013 issue of Forbes, which is hardly known to be a no-holds-barred supporter of privately-owned guns.

              It seems that just about every day, President Joe says something about gun violence, usually lamenting how with a ‘divided’ Congress, there’s only so much he can do. And we all know that since the GOP controls most of the Southern and Midwestern states where just about everyone owns a gun, as long as the GOP also can determine which proposals go forward in one branch on the Hill, what Joe is saying is probably true.

              Except I’m not so sure that the issue of gun control necessarily comes down to a struggle between gun owners and people who don’t own guns. And to test my own theory about who believes the ‘slippery slope’ conspiracy theory about gun control, I have just run a national survey which was answered by 547 respondents in 41 states, which you can download here.

              Over the next several weeks, I plan to analyze the results of this survey in depth, but be advised that along with the standard questions about age, location, race, gender, income, occupation and so forth, I also asked respondents if they or someone they lived with owned guns, whether they supported the 2nd Amendment ‘right’ to own guns, and – here’s the biggie – whether gun-control laws are the first step in government confiscation of all guns.

              Like I said above, I’ll get into more details from the survey results over the next couple of weeks, but in the meantime, I just wanted to share one very interesting result from this survey with you today.

              It turns out that the number of respondents who are gun owners versus the number who don’t have any connections to guns was about 50-50, which is actually somewhat higher for the gun-owning side than what other recent surveys have found. But my survey may be the first which takes into account the recent splurge in gun buying which occurred during Covid-19.

              In any case, you would expect that just about all the gun-owning respondents would line up in favor of a theory which promotes the idea that any new gun law is just the beginning of an attempt to not just regulate but to ban guns.

              Ready for some preliminary results? Of the 272 respondents who don’t own or aren’t in a household where someone owns a gun, 113 respondents (41.5%) believe that new gun laws will ultimately result in the confiscation of guns. Of the 275 respondents who are either gun owners or live in a household where there are guns, 88 respondents (32%) do not believe in the ‘slippery slops’ conspiracy theory about how gun laws will eventually pave the way for taking away America’s privately-owned guns.

              These results, and again they are preliminary, are exactly the reverse of what one would expect. Because if 40% of households which don’t contain guns are also households were someone resides who believes that more gun laws will become a ‘slippery slope’ eventually resulting in all guns being taken away, maybe these are folks who want gun-control to eventually disarm the gun-owning population, or maybe these are people who buy the pro-gun paranoia about gun laws, whether they want guns banned or not.

              Either way, the early and most preliminary result of our survey reflects if nothing else that we need to be extremely careful in making any assumptions about how gun owners think about their guns.

              Stay tuned for more thoughts and analysis about our survey.

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.

Why Do Republicans Love Guns?


              You would think that in the aftermath of the recent horrific, mass shootings, which even have occurred in Southern states, that at least a few members of the GOP House caucus would find some way to join with the other side and come up with some kind of mild measure to cut back on the violence caused by guns.

              Maybe those stalwart defenders of the 2nd Amendment aren’t quite ready to abandon one of their most cherished beliefs, so we shouldn’t expect them to jump onto the assault rifle ban bandwagon quite yet. But isn’t there some other, less dramatic way that the GOP can figure out to demonstrate some degree of worry for the seemingly endless shootings that are taking place?

              According to Gallup, more than 60% of American adults are dissatisfied with the gun-control laws we now have on the books and would like to see gun regulations increased. And while 54% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are satisfied with current gun laws, this number is a drop from the 69% who were satisfied two years ago.

              Think the gun-control issue won’t be an electoral concern in 2024? Think again. I get weekly emails and snail mails from the NRA and the gun-control groups like Brady and Giffords, and next year’s election is mentioned almost every time.

              Even after the killing of three adults and three children at a Christian school in Nashville, the House GOP Majority Leader, Steve Scalise, refused to talk about any kind of gun -control legislation in positive terms. Meanwhile, back in 2017, Scalise took a bullet in his rear end during a practice session of the GOP House baseball team.

              How can we explain or even just understand the complete and total refusal of the GOP House caucus to acknowledge the unending spate of gun violence which, if you recall, was blamed on the life stressors caused by Covid-19 in 2020-2021, but the Pandemic has now receded while gun violence seems to be getting worse all the time? The truth is that we can’t explain it, but given the fact that the ten states with the highest current rates of gun violence all send a majority of House members to the GOP side of the aisle, there would be at least a slight murmur about this issue from the red team.

              To the contrary, the GOP’s reaction to gun violence has been to introduce a bill in the House – H.R. 1095 – which would make “an AR–15 style rifle chambered in a .223 Remington round or a 5.56x45mm NATO round to be the National Gun of the United States.” I’m quoting from the text of the bill.

              So far, this bizarre piece of legislation only has five sponsors, including (of course) Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert and George Santos. Can you imagine something this crazy as representing the response to shootings in Uvalde, Nashville, and a few other supermarkets and public sites?

              But before you take what I have written so far and consign the GOP to the nuthatch of history, let’s not forget that the primary reason that someone sits in a Congressional House seat is because he or she wants to get elected again. And to keep a seat in a legislative body where everyone has to face the voters every two years, you better make sure that what you say and what you think is what those voters want to hear.

              The Rand Corp. recently published research which breaks down household gun ownership on a state-by-state basis, and I happen to think that this particular study (as opposed to many others) is pretty good. Rand estimates that 32.4% of American households contain at least one gun. But of the 25 states which gave Trump a plurality in 2020, you would find a gun in more than half the households in 14 of those states. Only 2 states which gave Joe a plurality, contained gun-owning households above 50%, and they were Oregon -.508% and Vermont – .505% respectively.

              Let’s not forget that what matters in Congress is which party has the majority and this number increasingly reflects the outcome of elections in just a few states for the Senate and just a few CDs for the House.

              In that respect, no matter how devastating gun violence may prove to be, it may be an issue which the GOP has no choice but to ignore.

How Do We Stop an Epidemic Which Is Endemic?

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              So, to keep things from getting out of control on the gun-control front, the GOP unleashed Vickie Spartz, a House caucus member from Indiana, who explained why locking her guns up or locking them away didn’t make her feel more safe. In fact, the way she put it, she needs her guns close at hand because she never knows if or when the cops will show up.

              This is something of an interesting balance act for the GOP, so to speak, because on the one hand they present themselves as the only think standing between them and those liberal hordes who want to defund the police. On the other hand, if you need to sleep with a gun under your pillow because you can’t be sure if the cops will respond to your call for help, then why should we be paying the folks in blue?

              That being said, the attempt by Congressperson Spartz (no, she’s a Congresswoman) to undercut a cherished idea of Gun-control Nation reflects just how much the GOP needs to keep itself in fighting trim for the gun ‘rights’ gang,  but it also unfortunately reflects the lack of reality in the strategies being promoted by gun-grabbing liberals (which is an oxymoron if there ever was one) to reduce or at least control the current spate of violence caused by the availability of guns.

              Yesterday, according to the Gun Violence Archive, there were 102 deaths and injuries from shootings, of which 30 victims ended up dead and the other 72 are still alive. At that pace, this year would find us at around 11,000 homicides from shootings, which is actually substantially less than the number of individuals murdered with guns over the last several years.

              On the other hand, since 2001, there has only been one year (2014) when less than 11,000 victims were intentionally shot to death, and the number that year was 10,945. To quote our friend Dr. Kathy Kristoffel, we don’t have a gun violence epidemic, because epidemics come, and epidemics then go. The U.S. has gun violence as an endemic condition, which has become as constant and unchanging as the daily replacement of the sun by the moon.

              Unfortunately, cynically stupid politicians like Victoria Spartz, can get away with the nonsense she spouts because the programs and strategies proposed by the gun-control crowd haven’t done much good and worse, don’t even reflect the reality of why and how gun violence actually occurs.

              There is not one, single study, including the research referenced by Idiot Spartz, which goes any further than assuming that maybe there would be a change in gun-violence rates if laws which required locking up the guns were put into effect. Sorry, but telling a gun owner that you believe he maybe might be safer if he locks up his guns, is like telling him that he doesn’t need to worry if he just drinks or smoke a little less.

              My state, Massachusetts, happens to have the strongest and most comprehensive law mandating safe gun storage of all 50 states. If you leave a gun out where other household members can even just touch it, you have committed a felony punishable by five years. The law was passed in 1999 and gun-violence rates went up, not down, over the following four or five years.

              Know why the U.S. has an endemic gun violence problem? Because we are the only country in the entire world which allows residents to own and walk around with guns that were designed specifically to be used to commit gun violence.

              I’m not talking about assault rifles, even though they are usually the weapon of choice when someone wants to blow through a movie theater or a school. I’m talking about my semi-automatic, bottom-loading Glock pistol with a 16-round mag.

              My Glock 17 wasn’t designed to be a ‘sporting’ gun. My Glock wasn’t designed to pop a cap on Bambi’s rear end. My Glock, and virtually every other semi-automatic pistol which together are used for most of the fatal and non-fatal shootings every year, was designed to kill human beings.

              And by the way, for all the chatter out there about how a gun makes you ‘safe,’ the World Health Organization defines violence as a conscious attempt to hurt yourself or someone else. And the WHO, as opposed to that other public health organization known as the NRA, doesn’t differentiate between violence which is ‘good’ and violence which is ‘bad.’

              Meanwhile, I don’t notice one, single public health researcher who has ever said that we can reduce or (God forbid) eliminate gun violence by simply getting rid of the types of guns which show up again and again and again in gun-violence events.

              Which is why I referred above to the lack of reality embodied in the statements and strategies of the well-meaning organizations and researchers who work to reduce violence from guns.

Do Guns Make You Safe?


              So, once again a series of really nasty, mass shootings has opened up the debate on guns, a debate based on a very simple division of opinion, namely, whether a gun makes you more or less safe.

              Obviously, the pro-gun people promote the idea of a gun as being a very effective way to protect yourself, the anti-gun people arguing the reverse.

              Now it turns out that research on this issue definitively shows that access to a gun creates a risk to health. But since when do most people make decisions based on what some article published in a medical journal wants them to believe?

              So, here we go again with the same old, same old which means that the gun-control crowd has to figure out a narrative which will convince gun-owning Americans that they need to re-think how they feel about their guns.

              And by the way, since roughly 40% of Americans own a gun, and 60% believe that a gun represents safety and self-protection more than it represents a risk, there are a lot of non-gun owners out there who also buy the idea that having a gun around protects you and makes you safe.

              So, what do we do to figure out an effective response to the idea that guns are ‘good’ things to keep around?

              Well, the first thing we have to do is figure out why gun owners’ own guns. And for this information, the gun-control gang turns to their friends in public health who run what they refer to as ‘nationally representative’ surveys to figure out what’s on the brain of the people who need to be taught that they don’t need to own guns.

              Unfortunately, the so-called experts who design these surveys, know as much about guns as I know about nuclear fission, and the idea that well-meaning advocates for gun control would use the so-called research of this public health bunch to develop any narrative which would capture the attention of gun owners is a major reason why gun-control laws don’t result in any change at all.

              I can’t remember the last survey of gun owners by public health researchers which didn’t ask respondents why they own a gun? And when the survey is published, invariably the researchers trumpet the idea that they have discovered a fundamental shift in the mentality of gun owners who used to own guns for hunting and outdoor sport, but now own guns for armed, self-defense.

              Of course, you could learn the same thing by simply reviewing the annual report issued by the ATF on gun manufacture, which breaks down the number of handguns and long guns produced every year. In 2020, the gun industry produced 6.5 million handguns and 3.1 million rifles and shotguns. Think any of those handguns were used to pop a cap into Bambi’s rear end?

              But the issue isn’t whether gun owners are stocking up on self-defense guns rather than sporting arms; the real issue, which not one, single public health survey has ever asked, is how many of these folks who went out recently and bought a self-defense gun were already gun owners and decided to switch from guns used for sport to guns used for self-defense?

              Notwithstanding all the exultant crowing by the gun industry PR folks like the NSSF about all these newbies have been streaming into gun shops to buy their first gun, how come not one, single public health researcher has ever taken the trouble to ask a gun dealer (like me) to estimate the number of customers who come into their shop to buy a handgun as their first gun?

              Here’s my answer to that question. Ready? Almost none.

              That’s right. I stopped doing retail in 2015, but between 2002 and when I shut down my retail sales, I probably sold 2,800 handguns. And since my gun shop, like just about all gun shops, sold guns to the folks who lived in my town and the surrounding towns, I knew just about all my customers, and they were either folks who already owned guns or had been raised in a household where guns were around.

              The point is that when and if the gun-control community (of which I happen to be a long-time member) finally sits down and tries to figure out a narrative that will resonate to the other side, as opposed to figuring what to say to each other, they better be prepared to talk to people for whom guns have always been part of their lives, as well as the lives of their parents and probably further back on the family tree.

              Until and unless Gun-control Nation understands and accepts the essential commonality of gun ownership, we will simply continue to sit here arguing about this law and that law and going nowhere fast.

The Best Gun Book Of All Time.

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              I have just finished reading (for the second time) what is the best book on anything having to do with guns that I have ever read.  The book, Mooney’s Manifesto, is written by Greg Gibson, who previously published among other books, a non-fiction account of the murder of his college-age son.

              This book is what I would call a fictional memoir, mixing descriptions of various events in the life of a man named Joe Mooney, who is more or less Greg Gibson under a different name and with a story line and an ending which leaves the reader – at least this reader – both deeply disturbed and overwhelmed.

              What makes this book so remarkable is that it is the very first attempt to figure out gun violence by getting inside the heads of people who actually commit that violence, rather than giving us the razzmatazz about poverty, violent family life, lack of education and all the other reasons which explain why a small percentage of the individuals who can’t control their anger demonstrate their lack of control by shooting someone else with a gun.

              Because the real problem in our ongoing discussion about gun violence is that the people who discuss this issue – the researchers and advocates and legislators who create the ongoing burbling of anti-gun violence noise – would never themselves ever imagine picking up a gun and using it in any kind of violent way.

              Most of the people in the gun-control community, in fact, have never even touched a gun. Which was true of Joe Mooney up until the his son was killed as the boy walked across the campus of the liberal arts college where he was enrolled at the time he was shot.

              In fact, Greg Gibson wrote a spellbinding, non-fiction book, Gone Boy, about his son’s murder and subsequent events, which largely focused on his inconclusive struggle to get the administration of his son’s college to own up to their own failings in terms of recognizing the warning signs that another student would commit armed mayhem with a gun. Of course, the book didn’t sell because gun books never sell.

              But whether it sells or not, this new book is different because what the fictional Joe Mooney does in this book is quite unlike what happens to people who suffer a personal or familial loss from gun violence.

              For the most part, relatives and friends of gun victims often attempt to deal with their grief by getting involved with one or more of the advocacy organizations which promote strategies to reduce gun violence. They come to a meeting and tell the audience how their relative or friend got shot, they become activists and try to spread the word about reducing violence from guns, they even use their advocacy activities as a springboard to running and winning a Congressional seat (viz. Lucy McBath.)

              In this fictional portrayal of what Joe Mooney does to deal with the grief of losing a son, he also gets involved with the gun-control advocacy movement, attends meetings, works tirelessly to promote the correct ideas, meets some interesting individuals, and also gets involved with a woman whose nuttiness results in Joe having to separate himself from the gun-control crowd.

              What does he do?  He starts visiting the kid who shot his son, now locked up in jail for life. I’ll let you follow this narrative to see where it goes, but suffice it to say that I don’t know of any other attempt to describe what someone thinks and feels as he’s planning to shoot a public space apart with a gun.

              But then Joe Mooney does something else, which is the most riveting part of the book – he goes out and buys a gun. In fact, he buys two handguns and tries to become something of a shooter with these deadly weapons.

              What does he end up doing with his guns?  I’ll let everyone who buys this book figure it out, but the narrative and style of this text drags us excruciatingly towards what has to be the ultimate and obvious end.

              Want to know what Joe Mooney does with his guns? Buy the book.

Don’t Count the NRA Out Quite Yet.


              Ever since Mike Spies did some great reporting on the various flim flams at the NRA, the liberal media and Gun-control Nation have been touting the collapse of America’s ‘first civil rights’ organization.

              The group was going down the tubes because the Executive Vice President, Wayne LaPierre, was outfitting himself in the boutiques on Rodeo Drive. Then Ollie North was going to take over the organization until he was kicked out. Then NRA-TV shut down and the advertising agency which thought up that brilliant idea – Ackerman-McQueen – was sued, then a bankruptcy and move from New York to Texas didn‘t go through, blah, blah, blah and blah.

              Worst of all, was the news that the NRA’s membership was going to hell in a handbasket, with even some Board members walking away. And since the NRA’s operating budget depends on dues, if the membership numbers decline, so does the inflow of cash.

              We now have the latest missive about how the NRA is going to fold up and disappear, in this case the leak of an internal memo which shows that things haven’t gotten any better, they’ve only gotten worse. The memo shows that dies receipts are down from what was expected to come in, ditto donations to the political action fund, ditto membership renewals, ditto, ditto and ditto.

              This report got a headline on The Trace, whose staff writer, Will Van Sant, noted that when a Democrat is in the White House and talk about gun control, this is usually exactly what revs up fundraising and member support for the NRA.

              But that’s not happening this time around, because as one pissed-off Board member says, “They [meaning LaPierre and management cronies] have destroyed the NRA brand, they have lost credibility. In our society, firearms ownership is expanding, and these new gun owners are not joining the NRA, and it’s because of the brand.”

              I am a member of the NRA, in fact, I’m a Lifetime Endowment member, which means I give the organization enough money each year so that they won’t throw me out no matter what I write or say. I just received the March issue of the American Rifleman magazine and if the NRA is on the verge of collapse, you wouldn’t know it from what the magazine is all about.

              There’s the usual editorial about how the 2nd Amendment is under attack, another editorial complaint about this or about that misguided anti-gun talk, and a somewhat disjointed article about the anti-gun ministrations of the CDC. Nobody who gets the magazine each month bothers to read that crap.

              What we do read are the excellent articles on the history of different guns which puts the Smithsonian to shame, as well as some technical data on reloading different calibers and some tests of the Chapuis line of French shotguns which having been acquired by Beretta, are finally going to be appearing over here.

              Next time you go into Barnes & Noble, take a look at one of the magazines on the store rack which is devoted to model trains. Now the difference, of course, is that nobody’s trying to ban model trains, and there has yet to be any research which shows that access to a model train represents threat to public health.

              But leaving aside the several pages devoted to gun-control hysteria, American Rifleman reads just like any other magazine which covers a particular hobby which is what guns are really all about. Yea, yea, I know all about how guns protect us from the bad guys out there, but I have personally bought and sold at least a thousand guns since I joined the NRA in 1955, and I will continue to buy and sell guns and read American Rifleman for the simple reason that I like guns.

              The NRA’s real problem is that the same people keep buying all those guns, even when more guns are bought than were bought the year before. Next time you’re in a big shopping mall, take a look at the number of customers inside the Apple store. Get it?

              The NRA will be around as long as there are people like me who had model trains, toy soldiers and toy guns when they were kids. The model trains and toy soldiers were given away but the toy guns became real guns and thus remain.

              So, the average gun owner will get older, and the NRA will get smaller over the next twenty to thirty years. Dollars to doughnuts, the organization will still be around even when The Trace stops focusing on guns and becomes a fashion magazine.

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