If We Can Correct The Record About Hillary, We Can Correct The Record About Guns.

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If there’s one thing more than anything else that has pissed me off about Trump, it has been his propensity to use the most low-level, stupid and pandering statements about guns as if they are facts.  He probably does this with everything, but I’m no expert on economic affairs or international politics, so when someone scores him for saying something dumb about the economy or trade deals, I often take the criticism with a grain of salt.  But I know something about guns, in fact, I know a lot about guns, and if Trump really believes that walking around with a gun makes you safe, then he’s saying something that is simply dumb.

Correct-The-Record-Logo-White-300x105           Where does he get it from?  He gets it from the NRA, the NSSF and all the other organizations and individuals who produce hot air for Gun-nut Nation.  Believe it or not, I don’t blame the NRA for foisting such stupids on the public; the folks in Fairfax are a marketing operation and that’s what marketing operations do – they promote their products as  best they can, and as long as their lawyers tell them that something they are saying won’t wind them up in court, why not say whatever you want to say?

But this time the NRA may wind up in court not because of something they said about guns, but something they are saying about Hillary, which is just a shorthand way they are now using to talk about guns.  I’m referring to the ad that the NRA is running in some ‘swing’ states which features a Benghazi veteran named Mark Geist, who was apparently at Benghazi when the ill-fated attack took place in 2012.  And the ad shows him standing at a veteran’s cemetery warning the viewers that it was Hillary’s behavior that resulted in some of his comrades ending up in that hallowed ground, rather than standing alongside him.

By coincidence (yea, right,) the ad aired the same day that U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) released his long-awaited Benghazi report, which was so lacking in any new criticisms of Hillary that Rush Limbaugh’s response was to sink into a paroxysm of ‘Hillary’s a liar’ shrieks because he couldn’t find anything else to say. And Trump-o couldn’t find anything to say either beyond the usual ‘crooked Hillary’ riff or some words to that effect.

But the Veteran’s Administration did have something to say about the ad, and what they said was that it’s illegal to use a veteran’s cemetery for film purposes without express permission and they had not received any request from the NRA for this or any other purpose.  The NRA of course denied it had broken the law, stating that it was filmed ‘outside’ a veteran’s cemetery, but in fact the ad includes footage of Geist actually stepping between cemetery headstones.

Incidentally, I was directed to the controversy over the NRA ad by the folks who run a website, Correct The Record, which is a research and rapid-response effort aimed at supporting the Clinton campaign. Given the shameful degree to which Trump and his narrow band of supporters have based virtually every campaign statement on whatever will appeal to his so-called ‘movement’ regardless of even the remotest connection to the truth, the folks at Correct have their work cut out for them and I wish them the best of luck.

But as I page through their website, and it’s a site everyone should bookmark and read, it occurs to me that this is exactly the kind of resource that the Gun Violence Prevention community sorely needs but doesn’t have.  I wrote a column earlier today pointing out that a Youtube huckster is promoting the idea of concealed-carry without any training whatsoever and his videos get hundreds of thousands of hits! You know the old saying about appealing to hearts and minds.  GVP does a great job of appealing to hearts but Correct The Record might be a model for how to appeal to the minds.


When Is An Assault Rifle Not An Assault Rifle? When Rush Limbaugh Says It Isn’t.

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So now we have it on authority from none other than Rush Limbaugh that the post-Orlando calls to ban AR-15 rifles are nothing more than another attempt to use a shooting incident to disarm law-abiding Americans because – get this – the shooter in Orlando didn’t use an AR-15.  And since he didn’t use an AR-15, according to Rush, there’s no earthly reason why the AR-15 should be banned from public sale.

mcx           In all the writing on guns that I have done (nearly 600 columns on my own website and nearly 200 columns on Huffington Post), nothing enrages the Gun Nut Gang more than when I use the term ‘assault rifle’ in talking about AR-15s or, for that matter, anything else.  Because the ‘assault rifle’ has become something of a sacred totem in Gun Nut-land since it’s a way of quickly figuring out whether someone is in favor or opposed to guns.

According to legend, i.e., the totally fictitious story created by the NSSF and circulated by the NRA, the term ‘assault rifle’ was invented by one of America’s chief gun grabbers, Senator Dianne Feinstein, who was the chief author of the 1994 law that temporarily banned certain types of rifles which should have been and are now once again allowed to be owned by so-called ‘law-abiding’ gun owners.  Sooner or later I’ll get deeper into the issue of what ‘law-abiding’ means or should mean, but for the moment let’s just say that if you are against ‘assault rifles,’ this makes you a bone-fide member of the gun-grabbing contingent, because everyone knows that it’s against the law to own an assault rifle, and gun owners are all law-abiding folks.

Why is it against the law to own an assault rifle?  Because according to legend, an assault rifle is a full-auto weapon, it keeps on firing with only one pull of the trigger, whereas all those look-a-like assault rifles are plain, old semi-automatic guns, one shot each time you pull the trigger, which have been around since God knows when.  Which is what makes an AR-15 a ‘modern sporting rifle,’ which means that it’s no different from any other ‘sporting’ rifle except that it’s more ‘modern’ because it looks like a modern military gun.

This is all total nonsense, by the way.  The fact is (note the use of the word ‘fact’) that the military uses what is referred to as a ‘selective fire’ gun, which means that it can be shot full-auto, semi-auto or three-shot bursts.  But the fact (there’s that word again) that fighting men and women have the option of using their battle weapon in semi-auto mode should tell you that one trigger pull, one shot, is an acceptable and often necessary way for how the military gun will be used.

If it were the case that today’s standard military rifle, now known as the M4, could only be fired as a full-auto weapon, then perhaps Gun Nut Nation’s anger over the alleged misrepresentation of the AR-15 as being an ‘assault weapon’ would have some basis in truth.  But when the NSSF says, for example, that an assault rifle can only be fired in full-auto mode, they are talking about a military weapon that is no longer being used by the military at all.  To follow their logic and their distortion of the facts (there’s that word again,) the NSSF would have to say that when a soldier selects semi-auto, he’s now carrying a modern sporting rifle into the field.  Carrying what?

The truth (another dangerous word) is that the folks who create talking-points for Rush Limbaugh and all the other apologists for gun violence don’t really care whether a gun shoots one shot or one hundred shots every time the trigger is pulled; what they care about is that Gun Nation doesn’t stop buying guns. And the one way that would make it most difficult for people to buy guns is the simplest way of all: get rid of the guns.


It’s Official! According To The NRA Mike The Gun Guy Hates Lawful Gun Owners.

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Last week I wrote a column about Amanda Gailey’s new button collection which, as I understand it, has sold out.  And it didn’t take long for the NRA to respond with a comment on one of their websites, which referred to my ‘hateful rhetoric against law-abiding gun owners’ and my hateful this and hateful that.  Which of course then spawned the usual torrent of literate and thoughtful emails from people who wanted me to know just how hateful I really am.

Here’s a couple of examples of the emails that I received:  “Letting all my friends and business associates know what a lying piece of crap you are.”  “Next time get your facts straight, asshole.” And from my Facebook page: “You must be a cowered [sic] and scared of guns. “What a dumbass you are.”  “Stupid ass racist” This last comment was posted against the column I wrote on Colion Noir.

hatred               I receive messages like this all the time.  They used to include some more threatening comments but the word has gotten around that the ATF and FBI routinely scan certain web venues looking for hints that someone is thinking of doing something stupid or dangerous with a gun.  But what I find most interesting about this correspondence, in a bizarre sort of way, is that allegedly I am receiving it because these folks are so offended by the ‘hateful’ rhetoric that I always employ.

Talking about hateful rhetoric, have you ever considered the fact that the only times you can listen to Rush doing a live radio broadcast anywhere in the United States is between 9 and 3? In other words, basically his audience consists of people who don’t work.  Oh yea, there are a couple of salesmen driving around in their cars and maybe an over-the-road trucker here and there, but I worked in corporate environments for years and you just didn’t sit at your desk with a radio that blared AM.

For all his talk about the virtues of hard work, free enterprise and profitable gains, the fact is that most of the people who listen to Rush are sitting on their rear ends at home.  And most of them are probably good and pissed off because they really have nothing to do.  My father spent the last ten years of his life sitting around getting increasingly angry about a world that he didn’t understand except the truth is that it was world that had passed him by. And if you listen to Rush, and I listen to him all the time because I like to keep my enemies closer than my friends, he’s always invoking a world that has somehow changed and no longer is a fit place for the kind of people who listen to his show.

The folks who send me those angry emails seem to be cut from the same cloth.  Let’s be honest. If you actually had time to sit down and email such nonsense to someone you don’t even know, isn’t this an indication that maybe, just maybe you have nothing better to do with your time? I once showed some of these messages on my Facebook page to a high-ranking official with the ATF who told me that I needed to consider some kind of personal protection; to which I told him that the odds of some jerk getting drunk and plowing his car into mine were much greater than getting shot by some guy who was upset by what I write.  First of all, in order to attack me, the guy would have to get dressed and come out of his house.

The NRA can accuse me of being an enemy of law-abiding gun owners, but what I am really opposed to is an organization that used to promote gun ownership for hunting, collecting and sport but now justifies its existence through appeals to fear.  What I’m saying is true, and if you need proof just take a look at the comments about me that crop up every time I say it again.


A New Gun Book That Is Different And Should Be Read.

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Firmin DeBrabander teaches philosophy at Maryland Institute College of Art.  Which makes him about the most unlikely person to write a book about guns.  But he has written a book about guns, Do Guns Make Us Free? Democracy and the Armed Society, and the title neatly sums up what the book is all about.  Actually, the book isn’t really about guns so much as it’s a discourse on political theorists and philosophers whose writings contain discussions about the role of arms in defining the relationship of the citizenry to the ruling or governing class.

tea                The text abounds with references to the classic writings of Locke, Machiavelli, Hobbes and more recently, Michel Foucault, John Dewey and Hannah Arendt. DeBrabander describes, in detail, how ‘freedom’ on the one hand and gun ownership on the other often appear to be conjoint concepts but, in fact, are often contradictory and work at cross purposes to each other. Basically the author argues that promoting the idea that guns keep us ‘free’ by protecting us from government tyranny, the gun lobby is, in reality, increasing the possibility that freedoms will be lost as the government finds itself facing an increasingly armed and potentially violent citizenry. He also paints a disturbing picture about how increased government War on Terror surveillance has largely passed unnoticed by the pro-gun community, notwithstanding their alleged concerns about loss of ‘freedoms’ when anyone talks about controlling guns.

This book is the latest attempt to examine the motives and thoughts of gun owners from a cultural point of view.  DeBrabander is aware of Dan Baum’s book, Gun Guys, A Road Trip, which he references at length, but he published too late to include Jennifer’s Carlson’s book, Citizen Protectors, The Everyday Politics in an Age of Decline, which takes up where Baum left off.  These two books share a common theme, namely, the idea that people who identify themselves through their ownership and use of guns are not just ‘nuts’ or ‘weirdos,’ but are making an objective and conscious choice to define their lives through immersion in the gun culture, which invariably means walking around armed.

All three books make the argument that members of the gun culture agree that carrying a gun is an expression of their ‘freedom,’ but DeBrabander’s book is the only contribution to this genre that attempts to view the concept of ‘freedom’ through a two-dimensional lens. One dimension is created by taking these gun owners at their word which basically means listening to a jumbled argument about the no-good government which is a mélange of Tea Party, Limbaugh and Fox News.  The other lens is the anti-government philosophical tradition that comes out of Locke, winds its way through populist political eruptions like Shays’ Rebellion and now is manifested in the rhetorical anger of the Occupy movement.

But what sets the pro-gun movement apart from other expressions of anti-government dissent, according to DeBrabander, is the fact that it is armed, and in that respect becomes a threat to the peaceful and orderly demonstration of free speech and free expression on which a true democracy depends. It is the potential for violence and the frequent calls for violence that lead DeBrabander to insist that guns make us less, not more free.  It’s an interesting and provocative thesis, and makes this book a different and much more interesting text than other books that try to explain gun culture to the literate (read: non-gun) crowd.

I’m going to give this book five stars but there’s one point that needs to be raised.  The NRA does a masterful job using the member’s love of guns to wrap their support around other socio-political issues, but there are many people who hate taxes, hate Obama, hate liberals, but don’t necessarily own guns.  To solve the problem of gun violence, we need to figure out why some folks do and some folks don’t.  Because people who believe that guns are the answer to their greatest fears need to see that those fears are shared by others who don’t need to pick up a gun.


Will Banning The Ammo Ban The Guns? Rush Thinks So.

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You know that something’s up in the gun business when Rush Limbaugh starts talking about gun control.  And what he was talking about today was the decision by the ATF to create a new standard for exempting certain kinds of so-called ‘armor-piercing’ bullets from the ban that Congress placed on such ammo in 1986.  The law was designed to prevent civilians from buying or carrying ammo whose bullets could penetrate body armor worn by police, but manufacturing exemptions were routinely granted if the ATF determined that the ammo was going to be used for ‘sporting purposes,’ which usually meant that it would be used in rifles, as opposed to handguns whose use usually served no hunting or sporting purposes at all.

The announcement by the ATF was picked up by Rush not because he cares a wit about guns, but because he could then go into a riff about how the ‘regime’ was once again using Executive actions to promote liberal policies which Congress would never pass.  By the time I turned off Rush off turned on my computer, the web was crawling with denunciations of the latest threat to 2nd Amendment rights, with the NRA calling the plan a “disaster” and the blogs following suit.  Because what the ATF is proposing is a ban on the manufacture of the 5.56×45 round, which just happens to be a cartridge designed for the AR-15.  Get rid of the ammo, get rid of the gun, right?

assault                The ATF might have left this whole issue alone were it not for the decision by gun makers to begin manufacturing handguns chambered for 5.56×45.  And this decision was based on the fact that AR-15 rifles, which had been a major part of the upswing in gun sales after the election of the Kenyan in 2008, can be turned into handguns by simply substituting a barrel of shorter length.  And since the determination of what constitutes a ‘sporting’ cartridge is based on whether it is designed primarily for rifle as opposed to handgun use, now that civilians can start walking around with AR-15 handguns, the exemptions for sporting use of the ammunition no longer hold.

What the ATF is now proposing are exemptions for this ammunition based on a much narrower definition of the kinds of guns for which such ammo would be used.  Basically, ammo manufacturers will be able to make and sell this cartridge only if it is loaded in a rimfire round (which is much less dangerous) or used in a single-shot handgun which, by definition, is rarely found in the hands of the bad guys committing all those crimes with guns.  Which doesn’t mean that AR-15 shooters won’t have anything to load into their guns, ipso facto they might as well throw the guns away.  What it does mean, however, is that the gun industry will finally have to fess up to the fact that AR-15 rifles, marketing campaigns notwithstanding, aren’t really sporting guns at all.

The AR-15 sold in the United States can actually take two rounds:  the 5.56×45 NATO cartridge with a 62-grain bullet, and the .223 Remington cartridge, normally loaded with a 55-grain shell. The difference, as you might suspect, is that the 5.56×45 penetrates more deeply, is significantly more lethal, and when loaded into a 5.56×45 chamber, tends to be a bit more accurate than the 223. The 5.56×45 was adopted by the military because of its lethality, and it’s a stretch to think of it as a ‘sporting’ round.

The gun industry is challenging the ATF ruling not because it will mean the end of ‘black’ guns, but because they want to have it both ways.  On the one hand they want to promote AR-15s as the newest style of sporting guns for hunting or just plain fun.  On the other hand, they also want to promote these weapons as the latest and greatest ‘tools’ for personal defense.  Either way, I guarantee you that the net result of Limbaugh’s rant will be a disappearance of all AR-15 ammo within the next couple of days.



More Guns Versus Less Guns: Americans Want It Both Ways

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Several weeks ago I posted a column about the latest Gallup poll which showed that, for the first time, 60% of respondents believed that home was safer with a gun.  I also noted that since the percentage of respondents reporting gun ownership was below 45%, that obviously many non-gun owners shared the belief that guns made people more, not less safe.  Philip Cook then sent me an article that raised interesting issues about the validity of gun polling data, so I went back and looked at all of the Gallup polls on guns, which number more than 40 different topics comprising nearly 300 separate polls, and what I said last week about a general trend to greater acceptance of guns by the public turns out to not really be true.

heston                It is true that more than 60% of Americans believe that a gun in the home makes us safer, but even though this number obviously includes a lot of non-gun owners, the poll results haven’t translated in new folks rushing out to buy guns.  Furthermore, the percentage of Americans who want stricter gun laws continues to run substantially ahead of those who believe that current gun laws need not be changed, and while groups like the 2nd Amendment Foundation and other rabid, pro-gun groups keep calling for less strict laws, the percentage of Gallup respondents who agree with this viewpoint has never risen above 15%.

Right after Sandy Hook, NRA totem Wayne LaPierre gave a speech in which, according to him, gun violence was caused by a breakdown of the mental health system, lenient sentences for criminals who got caught using guns, extensive media violence and, most of all, not enough guns in “good-guy” hands.  Two months before Sandy Hook Gallup asked the same question in a poll, and while respondents supported LaPierre’s views on defects in mental health reporting, they also cited as the second most important reason something the NRA always chooses to ignore, namely, “easy access” to guns.

The fact that Americans consider gun availability to be the second most important reason for mass gun violence shouldn’t come as a big surprise because the Gallup polls have consistently shown that more Americans want stricter gun laws than those who don’t, and this number spiked at nearly 60% right after Sandy Hook. The relationship between media coverage of shootings and public concern about guns is not easy to figure out, and I certainly don’t have the expertise to explore this issue in depth.  But I do note that every time Gallup asked about guns in the several months after Sandy Hook, general sentiment seemed to move every time towards more gun control and less guns.

Back in the 1980’s Americans resisted the idea that government should ban cigarettes even though we agreed that smoking was a risk to public health.  And even Rush Limbaugh begins to lose his audience when he launches a tirade about government restrictions on second-hand smoke.  If the Gallup polls demonstrate anything, it’s that we have reached a similar state in the argument over guns.  A clear majority of Americans feel there is no reason for them to own a gun, but they don’t want to prevent others from owning them, as long as ownership is controlled.

The rubber really meets the road when we get down to the definition of “control” and, in that respect, I have a little advice for both sides.  I think the gun-control folks should leave concerns about gun safety to people who own guns, and I think the gunnies should stop trying to convince everyone that an armed citizenry will make us more safe.  If we are going to be the only advanced country that allows its citizens free access to small arms, then gun owners should take responsibility for safety and not defer to phony safety programs like Project ChildSafe peddled by the NSSF.  At the same time, gun-control organizations shouldn’t back down from the idea that gun ownership is a serious risk, and you don’t lessen that risk by walking around with a gun.



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