Does Orange Make Hunters Safe? It Does If They Also Take A Safety Course.


So it’s halfway through #wearorange day and a quick perusal of the wearorange twitter site finds Hillary, Gloria Steinem, Tommy Chong, Spike Lee, Kim and more than 17,000 ‘likers’ getting behind President Obama to raise awareness about the violence caused by guns.  You can get a quick history of this movement on the #wearorange website, and while the color was chosen because it’s bright and draws attention, as a gun guy I wanted to think some more about how and why more than 40 states mandate the wearing of orange clothing when hunters go out in the field.

orange           Laws requiring hunter or what is often referred to as ‘blaze’ orange clothing to be worn are of fairly recent vintage, although the practice of putting on an orange vest or orange jacket before going into the fields or woods has been around for a long time.  Practically speaking, how much difference has it made in terms of safety since orange clothing was legally put into effect?  The best estimates are that the accident rate has dropped from 4 or 5 per 100,000 hunters to somewhere around .08.  In Texas, for example, there were 116 hunting accidents and 15 hunting-related deaths between 2010 and 2015; back in the 1980’s that was the average number for each year!  In Maine the yearly average of hunting accidents was around 37 per year in the 1970’s, this decade it is running 5 incidents per year.

Part of the reason for the decline in hunting accidents is also the fact that less people are hunting every year, a decline that started in the 1960’s as the country’s population became more concentrated in cities and suburbs and rural areas were left behind.  In 1970 Americans purchased 40 million hunting licenses, and even with a slight uptick the last several years, the annual number of licenses now sold is around 15 million or less. So it’s not the wearing of orange clothing that’s making hunters safer per se; it’s the fact that blaze orange is worn by less hunters which means, by definition, fewer accidents will take place.

But there’s another reason cited by experts as to why hunting has become safe, which happens to be the spread of hunter safety courses that are required before a first hunting license can be purchased and used for game or fowl.  Every single state requires some kind of hunter safety education, and by the way, in order to get a driver’s license you have to pass a brief driving test but you don’t have to present proof that you have taken a driver education course at all. Many states offer online hunter safety courses, others accept proof of a safety course taken in another state. But the bottom line is that if you want to go hunting anywhere in the United States besides your own back yard, you can’t do it unless you first have been educated on the laws and practices of hunter safety which means, by the way, safety laws and practices involving guns.

What’s most interesting about this universal safety education requirement, a requirement incidentally, that is mandated by government in every state, is that the NRA doesn’t seem to have a problem with these educational requirements at all.  Now you would think that the selfsame gun organization that blocks every attempt to mandate required safety courses for gun ownership would be consistent and try to undo safety courses that are imposed on anyone who wants to go out into the fields or woods with a gun.  After all, the whole point  of hunter safety instruction, the whole point of wearing orange, is the recognition that guns are extremely dangerous and nobody should be allowed to use them for hunting until they have been properly trained.

So would someone please explain to me how come it’s not dangerous to put a loaded pistol in your pocket and walk down the street?



The ATF Issues A New Directive Defining Dealing In Guns But What They Say Is Not So New.

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As someone who has sold more than 12,000 guns retail, which included selling guns at gun shows and over the internet, I think I know a little bit more about whether today’s White House announcements will have an impact on gun violence than does Mike Huckabee, who has already announced that he will “repeal” every one of Obama’s gun initiatives, even though most of what the President intends to do has nothing that could be repealed at all.

atf              Coincident with the White House news release and media blitz, the ATF has issued a new publication which attempts to define their notion of what constitutes being in the “business” of selling firearms, which is one of the key elements in the new Obama plan; i.e., people who sell guns privately at gun shows or online may now be required to operate as federally-licensed dealers, which means that they must conduct NICS-background checks on every gun they sell – unless, of course, the gun is transferred to another dealer.

I have read this publication with care, in particular a series of brief vignettes that give examples of people transferring guns as a business transaction as opposed to people transferring guns where no real business activity occurred.  In my judgement, this publication is totally consistent with relevant laws as well as a reflection of the approach usually taken by the ATF in regulating firearm sales: “As a general rule, you will need a license if you repetitively buy and sell firearms with the principal motive of making a profit. In contrast, if you only make occasional sales of firearms from your personal collection, you do not need to be licensed.”  And this rule applies to every venue that might be possibly used for selling guns – your store, retail space, trunk of your car, laptop computer or anywhere else.

I never had a problem complying with this rule when I sold guns at shows or over the internet because I was always a federally-licensed dealer; hence, every gun in my inventory needed to be identified as to where it came from and to whom it was then sold.  And since as a licensed dealer I could only sell to individuals after completing a background check, it didn’t matter what sales venue I used.  The ATF could (and did) inspect my documentation to insure that every gun in my inventory was properly acquired in and transferred out, and if I couldn’t produce the requisite paperwork for any particular transaction they would raise holy hell.

To provide some guidance as to what constitutes dealing in firearms, the ATF has appended 9 examples of different types of gun transfers of which 5 instances would require a dealer’s license and 4 others would not.  This is a pretty comprehensive series of examples which, to my mind, honestly reflect the basic requirements of operating with a federal dealer’s license as opposed to an individual who has a personal need or desire to transfer some guns. On the other hand, anyone behaving like the 5 ‘repetitively buying and selling’ examples who doesn’t currently have a dealer’s license should be prosecuted not just for illegal sale of guns, but for being a complete and unmitigated dope. And any current FFL-holder who sells guns to someone knowing or suspecting that this individual is engaging in repetitive, for-profit sales, is aiding and abetting straw sales – period, that’s that.

The truth is that most gun dealers buy from and sell to the same people all the time.  Even my internet sales, which were always dealer-to-dealer transactions, went to the same dealers because I trusted them and they trusted me.  Although the term ‘straw sales’ never appears in this publication, when someone buys a gun from a dealer intending to resell it privately to someone else, that’s exactly what constitutes a straw sale, and anyone who actually believes that this infringes on 2nd-Amendment rights, also probably believes that Mexico will pay for Donald Trump’s new fence.



When It Comes To Guns, Trump-o Is Either Lying, Or Dumb, Or Both.

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It only took The Donald a couple of hours to figure out how to use the Paris craziness to once again demonstrate that if there’s something worth saying in a totally outrageous way, he’ll figure it out.  And while the other Republican Presidential candidates initially kept to themselves about what happened in the City of Light, leave it to Trump to jump onto Twitter and let fly with what we now expect from him, namely, a comment that is obscenely stupid or totally false, or both.

In this case, along with making some statements about Syrian refugees that could have easily tumbled out of the mouth of the fascist politician Jean-Marie Le Pen, we were then treated to what has become the standard Trump-ism for dealing with all the world’s problems, namely, giving everyone a gun.  Here’s how he ‘analyzed’ the problem, in Paris:  “If they had guns, if our people were allowed to carry, it would have been a much different situation.

And to make sure that nobody would fail to make the connection between everything that’s wrong in the world and the Kenyan-born occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Trump went on to say, “You look at certain cities that have the highest violence with guns and shootings and killings – Chicago is an example, toughest gun laws in the United States.”

trump2 When you stop to think about it, however, why should we condemn Trump for reminding us about the dangers of gun-free zones, when the NRA has been saying the same thing for years?  Isn’t this what Wayne-o said one week after Sandy Hook? Isn’t this what red-meat noisemakers like Breitbart say every chance they get?  In fact, it appears that the tweet put out there by Trump-o was actually a replay of what he tweeted back in January after the Charlie Hebdo attack.  One way or another, the phrase ‘gun-free zone’ has become a standard part of the American political lexicon and Trump-o can’t be blamed just because he gives it yet another digital whirl.

On the other hand, if Trump is going to talk about the negative results of gun control in the city whose current residents include the President of the United States, sooner or later someone from the media might actually try to earn a day’s salary by asking him about gun-control efforts in his own city, in this case not his adopted home town, but the place where he was born, which happens to be New York. Because, in fact, New York boasts the country’s toughest gun-control statute known as the Sullivan Act, which went into effect before World War I. And the result of this law is that The Big Apple is, to all intents and purposes, a totally gun-free zone.  If you’re willing to plunk down $434.95 and wait six months, you might be allowed to keep an unloaded gun in your home, but as for concealed-carry, unless you’re Donald Trump, fuggedabout it, which means, don’t waste your time.

Now it just so happens that this gun-free zone containing 8 million people has a gun-homicide rate of 2.2 per 100,000 residents, which makes it far and away the safest city –  in terms of gun violence -in the entire United States. Chicago’s gun homicide rate is 4 times higher, Los Angeles comes in at 3.52. And the neighborhood where Trump-o himself lives has not seen a single gun homicide or any kind of homicide for the last several years.  And don’t think for one second that there aren’t plenty of opportunities for the bad guys to bring guns into New York; the city of Newark right across the harbor just recorded its 44th gun homicide in 2015 which works out to an annual rate of nearly 16.

Want to understand the connection between gun-free zones and gun violence?  It’s about the same as the connection between the crime rate in New York City and the gun that Trump claims he maybe carries around all or maybe some of the time.

Want To Play Fast And Loose With Facts? Follow What The NRA Says About Guns.

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If it weren’t for the fact that the NRA continues to make public statements that are at such variance with the truth, I would probably cease responding to their continued efforts to persuade America that more guns are good, less guns are bad.  Because all their talk and all their noise hasn’t convinced an increasing share of Americans to own guns, even if public opinion polls indicate that a majority of Americans believe that gun ownership makes us safe. The NRA’s latest flight from reality is their response to Obama’s speech delivered in Chicago to the annual meeting of the IACP.  As usual, the President lamented the failure of Congress to pass new gun-control laws, and since the NRA would prefer there were no laws regulating the sale or ownership of guns, if Obama says yes, they have to say no.

The NRA’s nay-saying began by actually agreeing with the President when he said that crime rates had fallen to historic lows.  I suspect, incidentally, that when the crime numbers are published for 2015 (Obama was referring to crime stats for 2013), we will see the downward trend reversed.  According to my friends at the Gun Violence Archive, the number of gun homicides this year has already surpassed all of 2014, and we have a couple of months still to go, plus the GVA has no choice but to understate the actual number given that it compiles real-time data from unofficial (i.e., media) reports.

Best gun salesman ever!

Of course whatever the true gun violence number turns out to be, the NRA will remind us that the number would be much higher because the current downward trend is due to the ownership of all those guns.  One can’t argue the fact that there has been a 50% reduction in violent crime over the last twenty years, a period that has also witnessed somewhere around 150 million new guns getting into civilian hands.  But the NRA has never been one to caution its supporters that coincidence and causality are two very different words, and the Brennan Center’s very careful study of the causes for the decline in crime found “no evidence” that increased gun ownership or the issuance of concealed-carry licenses made any difference at all.

But I want to say something here that I have been saying to my GVP friends again and again; the effort to promote gun regulations both at the federal level and within individual states is grounded in the notion that public policies should flow from a commitment to evidence-based information, or what we call ‘facts.’  Not that both sides necessarily agree on the facts, but at least there should be some acknowledgement on both sides that facts are an indispensable component in any public-policy debate.

The problem is that, generally speaking, the NRA could care less about facts.  After all, they are in the business of promoting gun ownership and as long as what they say about guns doesn’t create legal threats to their welfare, it really doesn’t matter whether what they say bears any relation to the truth.  I’ll give you a couple of examples from this NRA-ILA screed.

The NRA states that the President insulted the intelligence of the American people by ‘ridiculously’ asserting that “it is easier for young people in some communities to find a gun than to find fresh vegetables at the supermarket.”  What’s so insulting about that?  Inner-city neighborhoods are notoriously devoid of fresh, nutritious foods; they are also notorious for the ease with which one can pick up an illegal gun.  In contrast, according to the NRA, a law-abiding individual has to undergo a background check and fill out a “six-page federal form.”  Actually, the buyer fills out one page, four of the remaining five pages are instructions and boilerplate always attached to all federal forms.

I’m not saying that the GVP community should detach itself from a commitment to facts.  But they should not operate under any illusion that fact-based arguments will yield a fact-based response from the other side. Don’t worry – it won’t.



Glenn Kessler Tries Writing About Guns. He Should Stick To What He Knows.

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I certainly understand that any responsible journalistic enterprise needs to present a wide spectrum of opinion, so it’s no surprise when a liberal-leaning newspaper like the Washington Post publishes a commentary on guns from the pro-gun point of view.  But you would think that the editors would at least take the trouble to read what they publish, because in a recent column by Glenn Kessler, I’m not sure that beyond his own name I can find anything he says about Obama’s views on guns which happens to be true.

Kessler begins his litany of Obama’s “exaggerated” claims about guns by referencing the President’s remarks at Benedict College in South Carolina, on March 6, 2015.  Among other things, Obama stated that we had the “highest” homicide rate in the industrialized world which, according to Kessler, just isn’t true.  He’s right.  Of the 34 OECD countries that are usually considered to be the most economically-advanced, we rank second only behind Mexico, although ‘industrialized’ and OECD aren’t the same thing.  In fact, when we say ‘industrialized,’ we are usually referring to countries that experienced the classical industrial revolution between 1850 and 1890, which basically covers Western Europe and the United States.  Kessler pushes his dumb criticism to the edge of reality by noting that the U.S. homicide rate is only “above average,” which is a funny way of characterizing a number that is 5 to 20 times higher than the average of every other industrialized European state.

Best gun salesman ever!

Best gun salesman ever!

Kessler then goes on to score Obama for saying that there were neighborhoods where it was easier to buy a gun than to buy fresh vegetables, but his snarky, CYA attempt falls completely flat when he notes that nowhere in the United States are background checks required in order to buy fresh food. The point is that Obama got it right when he drew attention to endemic violence in inner-city neighborhoods by comparing the availability of guns to the non-availability of fresh vegetables and fruit.  It’s Kessler who’s doing his readers a disservice by pretending that the President’s verbal sleight-of-hand characterization of ghetto reality somehow calls into question the validity of his remarks.

I began reading Kessler’s column wondering why and how someone who usually writes about diplomacy and foreign policy all of a sudden gets interested in guns. Then a friend pointed out to me that none other than the gun industry’s most unabashed mouthpiece, John Lott, was taking credit for everything Kessler said.  On his website yesterday, Lott claimed that he was the “reader” who asked Kessler to examine Obama’s quotes.  Lott went on to add more ammunition to Kessler’s analysis, including challenging Obama’s call for comprehensive background checks by stating that “most gun purchases already go through background checks.”

I have to admit that the President and other NICS advocates create trouble for themselves by continuing to cite a 1994 study with a 40% NICS compliance rate when the entire NICS systems didn’t go operational until 1998.  But the truth is that the value of background checks as a process for reducing gun violence has absolutely nothing to do with whether 10% or 40% or 90% of individuals with guns submitted their acquisition of guns to the NICS.  The fact is that most people who commit serious crimes are legally ineligible to own a gun.  Lott’s comment about the near-universality of background checks has nothing to do with whether the NICS system deters crime, and if Kessler wanted to really make a contribution to the gun debate, he should devote a blog to checking the exaggerations and outright falsehoods of his new friend John Lott.

Know what?  I’m getting tired of digging up serious, peer-reviewed scholarship to refute the bromides of people like Kessler and Lott.  They aren’t interested in a forthright, honest discussion about guns.  Their only interest is in helping the gun industry sell more guns. And to show you how dumb they really are, I’ll bet that neither gets a commission from Smith&Wesson, Sturm, Ruger or Glock.


Everytown Vs. NRA: The Slugfest Begins

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When former Mayor Mike Bloomberg first announced that he was ponying up $50 million to fund gun control, it didn’t take the NRA long to react.  They quickly published a long commentary on their NRA-ILA website that basically accused Bloomberg of buying his way into grass-roots advocacy by creating the illusion of a mass movement through “slickly-produced” television ads and other media-driven appeals.  The NRA glossed over the fact that some of Bloomberg’s money would go to augment the work of Shannon Watts and her Moms Demand Action campaign which has certainly become a national advocacy organization, even though the size of its membership doesn’t yet compare to the NRA.

I wrote a column on this blog when Bloomberg’s new campaign hit the wires in which I poured some cold water over his plan to fund political activity that would result in new gun control laws, particularly laws that widened the scope of background checks. But I focused more on whether the data on background checks really proved that it was an effective way to deal with gun violence, which I happen to believe is not the case.  I didn’t think it was yet time to judge the degree to which fifty million bucks, no matter how it was spent, might tilt the gun-control playing field away from the NRA.  But now I’m beginning to see the direction in which things seem to be going and I don’t think the news for the NRA is all that good.

bloomLast week Bloomberg’s newly-funded campaign, Everytown for Gun Safety, released a report on school shootings since Sandy Hook.  The report painted a grim picture of more than one shooting per week, and within 24 hours this statistic was repeated by President Obama and immediately went viral on Youtube and everywhere else.  The reaction to Obama’s comment was so intense on both sides was so intense that Politicfact.com ran one of its Pulitzer Prize-winning fact checks on the Everytown report and concluded that it “contained some elements of truth” but was “mostly false.”  Their judgement was based on the report’s counting of every gun incident whether it involved shooting at unarmed students or school staff at all, even including shootings that took place on school playgrounds at night after the school was closed.

Yesterday I received an email letter from the NRA that linked to a story about the Everytown report that is now posted on the website of the NRA-ILA.  And it was this email that made me begin to think that, when all is said and done, Bloomberg’s fifty million could make a difference in turning the advocacy tide against the NRA.  Because the problem with the NRA’s response to the school shootings report is not that what the NRA said was incorrect (it wasn’t,) nor that they quoted other sources who are generally pro-NRA (they didn’t.) The real problem is that unless you are a member of the NRA you’ll never even read their response, and successful advocacy ultimately gets down to who will listen to you and who won’t.

Despite all the nonsense about internet “democracy” and the ability of grass-roots movements to use the “free” digital environment to promote their points of view, the fact is that when Bloomberg says something that’s repeated by Obama and goes into overdrive on the internet, the former Mayor of New York is getting his message out to a much wider audience than any group which listens to the NRA.  Energizing gun owners to take sides in a pro-con debate over gun rights is a no-brainer that the NRA wins every time out. But getting non-gun owners, who are a majority of Americans, to understand and support the 2nd Amendment is a very different kettle of fish.  The NRA better figure out how to do it or Bloomberg will get his control agenda on the cheap.

Which Republican Will Win The Concealed-Carry Vote?

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I haven’t yet had time to listen to the speeches delivered at the just-concluded NRA meeting in Indianapolis, but within the next few days they will probably be posted by the NRA.  I won’t bother to listen to Palin and Oliver North because they are just show up for a speaker’s fee, but I will pay attention to Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum, because this trio are prominently mentioned as potential Republican standard-bearers in 2016.  I did find a report on Rick Santorum’s speech on a CNN blog, which quoted him as saying that he was in complete agreement with the NRA as regards using guns to protect all of us from crime.  In fact, Santorum came up with a catchy little phrase which I suspect he’ll trot out a few more times before the election really begins to take shape.  At the NRA show and again on a Sunday television interview he said, “a well-armed family is a safe family, a well-armed America is a safer America.”

Wayne LaPierre

Wayne LaPierre

And if you want to know who all these well-armed Americans are protecting us from, a complete list was furnished the NRA audience by America’s chief crime-fighter, Wayne LaPierre, who painted this portrait of a society on the edge of chaos and collapse because the following people are running around: “terrorists, home invaders, drug cartels, car jackers, ‘knock-out’ gamers, rapers, haters, campus killers, airport killers, shopping mall killers, and killers who scheme to destroy our country with massive storms of violence against our power grids or vicious waves of chemicals or disease that could collapse as a society that sustains us all.”

I can’t think of a more effective way to stop chemical attacks or the spread of the plague than a loaded .38 on my night-table or an assault rifle propped up behind the front door.  Okay, so Wayne-o is given to a bit of hyperbole when he gets up in front of the faithful, and he knows he won’t get air-time unless he says something that’s just a little bit beyond belief.  The only problem is that the NRA is staking out such an extreme position that to wind up as the most pro-gun candidate in a field of pro-gun candidates is to push yourself so far to the edge that there’s no way to go but down.

At one point LaPierre rhetorically asked the audience whether they would trust the government to protect them and of course the answer was a resounding ‘no.’  But while the NRA only ramps up its anti-government rhetoric when the government happens to be controlled by the Democrats, the notion that we all have to walk around with guns because, as LaPierre says, “we’re on our own” in facing this terrible, crime-ridden world, cuts both ways.  The truth is that if you get elected President, the first thing you have to do before moving into the White House is to take an oath in which you promise to defend America against its enemies.  What’s Santorum going to do if he’s standing there with his hand on the Bible? Ask Wayne LaPierre to serve as Secretary of Defense?

The NRA’s been able to grow its membership and flex its political muscle for one reason and one reason only: there’s a very liberal, very progressive politician sitting at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue who doesn’t buy the argument that walking around with a concealed weapon makes you safe.  Even if the NRA could produce a legitimate study that showed this to be the case, which they haven’t, by the way, it probably wouldn’t change Obama’s mind anyway.  But Obama’s out of here in slightly more than 28 months, and we could wind up with a President who really does believe that the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center could have been shot out of the sky if someone in one of the twin towers had been armed with a gun.  Which will make it rather difficult for the NRA to pretend that we need to arm and protect ourselves because the government isn’t up to the job.

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