Want To Know Why 50 People Died In Orlando? It Wasn’t Terrorism – It Was A Gun.


Here we go again.  Another act of ‘domestic terrorism,’ and this one left over 100 people injured or dead. The shooter, 29-year old Omar Mateen, broke the old record set by James Holmes, who shot 72 people in a Colorado movie theater in 2012, of whom 60 survived. And Holmes broke Seung-Hui Cho’s 2007 record of 49 victims at Virginia Tech, and on it goes back to Charlie Whitman, who gunned down 49 people from his perch in the Texas University Tower in 1966, although only 16 lost their lives.

There’s an unemployed academic out there pretending to be a researcher named John Lott, who actually tried to ‘prove’ that at least ten other countries have higher death rates from mass public shootings than what we experience here in the U.S.A. Which is not hard to do if a country has a fraction of our population and one mass shooting takes place.  But any rational, normal and semi-intelligent person who actually believes that mass shootings are an everyday fact of life anywhere but in the United States is either hopelessly delusional or is simply trying to burnish his shopworn credentials as an NRA flack.

ar            The bottom line is that there have been three horrendous shootings in the last seven months (Umpqua, San Bernardino, Orlando) which together have resulted in the loss of 74 lives, and I’m not even bothering to count the little mass shootings – a few bodies here, a few bodies there – which take place all the time. Our friends at the Gun Violence Archive count 25 shootings with at least 4 victims each time over the last – ready? – three weeks!

Maybe we haven’t figured out what to do about this seemingly unstoppable carnage, but what does seem to be emerging from the unending slaughters is a convenient way of ignoring the use of guns.  Because the problem isn’t the gun, after all, it’s the person who uses the gun, and that person is now invariably described as a ‘domestic terrorist,’ which I guess means someone who is somehow tied to some kind of terrorist organization but happens to permanently live and was maybe even born in the United States. Back in the old days, meaning before the 2016 presidential election cycle, the term ‘domestic terrorist’ was usually applied to an American who had actually been in contact with a terrorist organization, or had received or planned to receive training in terrorist activities, or in some other way was directly involved in terrorist behavior of some sort. In 2014, two young Americans from Minnesota were killed fighting with ISIS in Somalia and Iraq; home-grown terrorist bomb plots have recently been thwarted in Wichita, Boston and New York.

Of course depending on what political gains can be made from the anguish and fear that any mass shooting evokes in the general population, the presumptive Republican candidate, Street Thug Trump, wanders back and forth between condemning ‘domestic terrorism’ and ‘radical Islamic terrorism,’ but let’s leave Street Thug alone, because he’s incapable of understanding what the real issue is all about.

And the real issue runs like this.  Omar Mateen was young, he was stable enough to hold down a job, he was socially isolated and alienated but he was, and this is very important, he was able to get his hands on a gun.  And the gun he chose to carry into Pulse was what has become the weapon of choice for young men who want to kill lots of people in one place – an AR-15.

So it doesn’t matter whether this shooter was a ‘domestic terrorist,’ or a ‘radical Islamic terrorist,’ or a homophobic maniac or whatever else he was or claimed to be.  He walked into a gun shop and bought some guns.  And that’s the real reason that 49 patrons at the Pulse are now dead. It’s the gun stupid, it’s the gun.

Don’t’ forget to donate to the Orlando Pulse fund.  I just did.


Should Doctors Stop Talking About Gun Violence Because Medical Errors Cause More Deaths? No.

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Gun Nation is abuzz with the publication of an article in the British Medical Journal which finds an alarmingly high rate of U.S. hospital deaths due to medical errors.  Now why would the pro-gun noise machine care one way or the other about an article in a medical journal?  Because it’s been an article of faith amongst the gun faithful that physicians should stop wasting their time talking about gun violence when the number of people killed each year by firearms is just a fraction of the number who die due to medical mistakes.  And since the BMJ article states that medical errors account for anywhere between 200,000 and 400,000 avoidable deaths each year, and annual gun homicides only count around 11,000, why can’t doctors take care of really ill patients properly before they start making so much fuss about guns?

docs versus glocks           Marion Hammer, former NRA President who spearheaded Docs versus Glocks in Florida, says that docs should “do no harm” and keep their political opinions out of the examining room.  And in pushing for the gag law, Hammer distributed a document that listed ‘medical misadventures’ as three times more likely to result in deaths than accidental shootings.  Other sources, like media that promote natural healing, paint an even grimmer picture, with one expose claiming that guns kill 31,940 Americans each year (homicide/suicide/accidents) but the medical system accounts for783,936 deaths! By the way, this particular website also published a story that said the San Bernardino shooting had all the “signs” of a staged government operation, and this story rolled out more than 31,000 times.  Hmmmmm.

The problem is that the British Medical Journal isn’t an adjunct of the Area 51 gang, so when they publish something about morbidity from medical errors, it needs to be taken seriously, particularly if what they say ends up being injected one way or another into the gun violence debate.  Now let me make it clear that I’m not a physician and I have no medical training of any kind.  But I know how to read the King’s English and I can figure out whether data in a peer-reviewed journal aligns with the facts and conclusions on which the article is based.  In the case of the BMJ, I not only read the article detailing mortality rates from medical errors in U.S. hospitals, I also closely read the articles on which the BMJ article was based. Let’s start first with the BMJ.

In 2013, 611,000 Americans died from heart disease, 585,000 died from cancer and 251,000 died from medical error, this last being the third most common cause of death.  Since the medical profession doesn’t actually have specific medical errors as coded events in the ICD-10 coding system used almost universally as the primary indicator of health, the figure noted above is a best-guess estimate based on specific studies of in-patient outcomes throughout the U.S. The most comprehensive study from Medicare records, gave the total mortality for doctor errors as slightly more than 195,000 per year from 2000 through 2002, of which 75% of all deaths were attributed to something known as ‘failure to rescue,’ which means a diagnostic error leading to improper (or no) treatment, leading to the patient’s death.

But failure to rescue in a clinical context may have little, if anything to do with decisions made by physicians themselves. Many such deaths are attributable to mistakes in managing patient information, particularly for elderly patients who tend to suffer from multiple conditions requiring intensive and complicated care. A necessary treatment is omitted or delayed, vital signs begin to decompose, the patient is dying but his physician may be far removed from the scene.

To compare the ‘responsibility’ of physicians for patient deaths to the ‘responsibility’ of a gun owner who lets his gun get into the wrong hands, is to make a comparison with no basis in fact. But since when did Gun Nation respond to the issue of gun violence with any facts at all?


The New York Times Wants To Ban Assault Rifles And They Are Right.


In just three mass shootings – Aurora, Sandy Hook and San Bernardino – the final toll is 147 killed and wounded.  Think about that number: 147.  That’s three busloads of human beings, two completely-full Amtrak passenger cars. The New York Times, in an unprecedented front-page editorial, is calling it a “moral outrage and national disgrace.”  The purpose of this column is to explain why I agree with them and why, if anything, the editorial board’s call for a ban on civilian ownership of assault weapons deserves to be supported in the strongest possible terms.

The gun industry has been promoting the sale of assault rifles for the last twenty years by advancing a big, fat lie; namely, that assault rifles are just another type of ‘sporting’ weapon which is no more dangerous than the old Remington or Winchester that Grandpa and then Dad used to lug out to the woods.  Until the 1960s, just about all sporting rifles loaded ammunition by the manual use of a bolt or lever, both of which considerably slowed the speed at which the gun could be reloaded and shot each time.  When semi-automatic sporting rifles began to be introduced in large numbers, the speed at which the gun could be reloaded increased, but the standard semi-auto hunting rifle, like the Remington 700 series, still only held 4 or 5 rounds.

What makes the AR-style rifle so different, so lethal, and so non-sporting is not the fact that it looks like a military gun (which it is); not the fact that it might be fitted with a laser which makes it extremely accurate, particularly in indoor, low light; not the fact that the stock can be folded so that the gun can be easily carried or even concealed; not even the fact that the front barrel lug can also be fitted with a bayonet, just in case a little extra oomph is needed to finish the job.

ARnew              No, what makes the assault rifle an assault rifle and not a sporting rifle is one thing and one thing only, namely, that it fires ammunition specifically designed to kill or maim military combatants (who happen to be humans, not sporting animals) and it can easily deliver 50 or 60 high-powered rounds in 30 seconds or less.  This is not to say that mass shootings involving scores of victims can only be accomplished with an AR; in fact, Seung-Hui Cho killed and wounded 56 people at Virginia Tech in 2007 using a Glock 19. But Cho’s attacks were spread over more than three hours; Adam Lanza killed 26 with an AR in an assault that didn’t last ten minutes.  Better coordination and communication might have saved many lives at Virginia Tech; in San Bernardino the carnage was over in five minutes or less.

What the Times calls a moral outrage and national disgrace is more than that; the ability of private citizens to get their hands on these highly-lethal weapons fitted out with high-capacity magazines is a risk to the nation’s health.  When two cases of Ebola occurred in the same hospital where a patient stricken with the virus had previously died, it wouldn’t have taken more than one or two more confirmed cases and the city of Dallas would have ceased to exist.  But the risk was recognized by the CDC and the threat was quickly brought to an end.

I am suggesting that the same situation now exists in the United States as regards the ownership and use of AR-15s.  How many more senseless slaughters are we going to endure while politicians dither around and pretend that they are truly concerned about 2nd Amendment rights?  The Constitution wisely gives government the right to institute comprehensive public health measures when the health of an entire community is put at risk.  If 147 dead and injured human beings in just three assaults with AR rifles doesn’t constitute a risk, then let’s save the taxpayers some money and close down the CDC.

The NRA Calls It The ‘Age of Terror.’ Does The GVP Community Have An Effective Response?

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“You and I didn’t choose to be victims in the Age of Terror,” say Wayne-o, as he kicks off the NRA response to the San Bernardino event.  And you can be sure that as the NRA continues to ramp up their end-of-year fundraising drive they will continue to remind current and prospective members of the connection between the 2nd Amendment and the necessity to defend ourselves from foreign or home-grown terrorists whose attacks Obama and his muddle-headed bunch can’t or won’t do anything about.

lapierre               “But when evil knocks on our door,” Wayne-o continues, “Americans have a power that no other people on the planet share.” And what is that power? “The full-throated right to defend ourselves and our families with the 2nd Amendment.”  And in case you still don’t get what the message is all about, there’s a one-liner about how the NRA needs “your help.”

Which is all fine and well.  There’s no reason why the NRA shouldn’t be out there raising money and using a cockamamie slogan like Age of Terror to drive their message home. But the real point of the message, and we are going to hear it again and again from the pro-gun gang, is that we are all facing a threat that is much more serious than some guy who just tries to jimmy the lock on your back door.  Now we are dealing with “monsters” who dream of “inflicting more damage, more suffering,” and it’s not going to stop.

The revelation, even if only vaguely true, that one of the San Bernardino shooters had some connection to ISIS couldn’t have been dreamed up by any PR firm that helps the gun industry promote guns.  Stop and think about it – we’ve been engaged one way or another in military engagements against terrorism since 2001, but this is the first time since the attack on the World Trade Center that, as the saying goes, chickens have come home to roost.  And the good news about San Bernardino for the 2nd –Amendment crowd is that pro-gun politicians and promoters don’t even have to get into the sticky mess about gun violence and nuttiness; the assertions by experts like Liza Gold on the lack of any real relationship between gun violence and mental illness just won’t sway the conversation at all.

The fact is that owning and/or carrying around a gun has no real impact on whether and how we decide to make ourselves and our society safer from terrorist attacks. Despite a thirty-year NRA drumbeat on the values and virtues of an armed citizenry, the number of times each year that armed civilians prevent any kind of violence is slight.  It turns out that there was an armed civilian on the scene in San Bernardino – a shopkeeper who rushed towards the melee with his 45 pistol but quickly retreated beck into his store because he “couldn’t figure out” what was going on.

I’m not surprised that a brave young man who first ran towards the carnage with a gun decided to stop and then backed away.  The Police Foundation estimates that half of the current law enforcement officers in the United States don’t have sufficient training to deliver lethal force in a safe and effective way.  The NRA never stops reminding its members that they should always use guns safely, but if anyone suggests that having the right to respond with lethal force should require mandated training of any kind the answer is always that such requirements would be contrary to 2nd-Amendment rights.

I think we may be entering a period in the discussion about gun violence in which the GVP community may have to rethink some of its messaging about guns.  Because for most folks, emotions will trump facts just about every time.  We can say again and again that research shows guns are a risk, but the average person doesn’t care about research. Events like San Bernardino create fear. Does the GVP community have a message that tells people how to deal with fear in ways other than getting a gun?


The GOP Response To San Bernardino: Nearer My God To Thee.

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Want to know what the pro-gun crowd thinks about gun violence?  Or I should say, what the pro-gun crowd wants everyone else to think about gun violence?  All you gotta do is wait for a mass shooting to occur, then check the Twitter accounts of the so-called GOP Presidential candidates. I say ‘so-called’ because the idea that any of this bunch has demonstrated even a sliver of leadership, never mind the slightest attention to facts, makes me wonder how we could remotely imagine one of these clowns sitting in Oval Office after January 20, 2017. Anyway, back to the topic at hand.

san bernardinoI knew we were in for a know-nothing treatment of gun violence when, in putting together a game plan for 2016, the GOP decided that the 2nd Amendment would be the ‘values’ niche issue this time around. They used to have abortion and then gay marriage to gin up the base, but when Donald Trump started boasting about defending himself by carrying a gun, I knew the NRA’s wildest dream about defining the social agenda for America was finally coming true.

Then we had the shooting of two television journalists in Virginia, and while killing only 2 people is hardly worth mentioning in the same breath as dispatching ten victims in Oregon, nine in Charleston, never mind fourteen in San Bernardino, what was impressive in a bizarre way about the Virginia shooting was that the entire thing was caught on tape.  And the very next day, there was Trump telling us that the problem had nothing to do with guns, it was caused by the lack of mental hospital space which was needed to lock all the crazies away.

Once Trump defined the issue in accordance with the standard NRA lexicon that it’s not guns that kill people, etc., everyone else fell into line.  The next opportunity for the GOP pretenders came a month later in Oregon when the killing of ten faculty and students at Umpqua Community College unleashed a torrent of pro-gun commentary from the GOP Presidential field.  Once again Trump knew the nuts were “coming out of the woodwork;” Ben Carson called for better detection of “early warning signs,” and in case there was any doubt about why the shooting occurred, we had self-appointed gun fantasists like John Lott telling us that we couldn’t expect anything else to happen in a gun-free zone.

This time around, however, the Republicans might have overshot their mark. Because when Hillary spoke out about the Umpqua massacre, she made a point of tying it to enacting “sensible gun-control measures,” and promised to lead the effort after she took over the Oval office in 2017.  This was the first time that the Democrats made gun ownership a campaign issue, and it caught the GOP entirely off guard.  Let’s remember it was Hillary’s husband who decided that Democrats lost the White House in 2000 due to the power of the NRA. So I knew that, going forward, the GOP would have to come up with a revised game plan to avoid having to appear condoning gun violence while still keeping the gun-nut vote on their side.

And to the credit of their campaign PR teams, it seems to me that the Republican Presidential wannabes have indeed come up with an approach to gun violence which gets them all off the hook; namely, that gun violence is an act of God, so what can mere mortals do?  Here’s a selection of Twitter feeds from last night: Trump – “Good luck to law enforcement and God bless.” Cruz – “Our prayers are with the victims.” Bush – “Praying for the victims.” Paul – “My thoughts and prayers are with the victims.”

Any mention of guns?  Here’s Hillary: “We must take action to stop gun violence now.”  And what Hillary knows is what the pro-gun gang and its new crop of Presidential pretenders don’t want to imagine; that maybe most Americans are sick of the shootings, sick of guns, and fed up with the NRA.


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