How Come Gun Violence Keeps Going Up?

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              I live in a tiny hamlet called Pelham, MA but I do most of my writing in an office space in Springfield. Yesterday about a mile from where I work, four people were gunned down in the street, and so far, one of them has died. It goes without saying that when the cops showed up, ‘nobody saw nuttin.’

              This shooting marks the 29th homicide in Springfield this year, which sets a new record, and so far gives the city an annual per-100K homicide rate of 18.23. 

              In 2021, the last year for which we have state-by-state homicide numbers courtesy of the CDC, the statewide rate for Massachusetts was 2.29, with only Idaho being slightly less at 2.16.  Of that statewide number of 160 homicides, 99 were caused with the use of a gun, which means that gun violence in Massachusetts was only 60% of all fatal violence, as compared to the national average which is around 70%.

              Either way, my friends in Gun-control Nation, both the advocates and the public health researchers, always point to Massachusetts as an example of how more restrictive gun laws results is less gun violence.

              What the numbers above really demonstrate, however, is that calculating gun violence based on statewide numbers simply creates an illusion as to what gun violence in the United States is really all about and how we should go about trying to reduce or (God forbid) eliminate the toll.

              The shootings in Springfield this week took place in a neighborhood known as the North End. How many people live in that neighborhood? Probably around 4,000, give or take a few. So, if you take a walk in that neighborhood, you are walking down streets where the gun-violence rate is around 600, because in fact, the North End isn’t as violent a neighborhood as the South End, which is where my office space happens to be.

              In 2020, El Salvador had the highest murder rate of any country in the world (or at least any country which attempts to count its annual homicides) with a per-100K rate of 61.8. Is it possible that there’s a neighborhood in any American city which experiences ten times the annual murders which occur in El Salvador?

              Not only is it possible, but I’ll bet that if I were to calculate the murder rate in the ten cities with the highest murder numbers in the United States, each of these cities would have at least one neighborhood which experienced homicides and gun violence with numbers that are no different from what goes on in Springfield every year.

              Why does a state like Massachusetts have the lowest rate of violence of all 50 states and yet has a city with a neighborhood which is more violent than the worst, most violent countries in the world?

              I’ll tell you why. Because one has nothing to do with the other.

              If I walk south from Springfield’s South End I can be in the adjacent town of Longmeadow which has a population of somewhere around 16,000. How many homicides have occurred in Longmeadow over the last five years? The same number as the number of homicides which have happened in Longmeadow in the last ten years, or maybe the last twenty years, i.e., none, as in zero, okay?

              Actually in 2022, someone was killed in Longmeadow in connection with a crime. The crime was reckless homicide, and the criminal was a local kid who was completely drunk, smashed a car into a tree and a female passenger in the car had her head smashed to bits.

              This is the kind of violence which occurs in towns like Longmeadow where the teenage kids drive around in new cars, smoke a doobie or two and then take their hands off the steering wheel to open a can of beer.

              Do we have very strict laws on DUI? Yep, we sure do. Does Massachusetts have the strictest gun control law in the United States? Yep, it sure does.

              And by the way, when gun violence shot up during the Pandemic, all the experts knew that the increase was caused by all the stressors of that disease, and such social pressures – unemployment, family violence – were much worse in ‘underserved’ neighborhoods which is why shootings kept happening at an accelerated rate.

              So, now there’s no Pandemic but gun violence rates are even worse. Oh well, oh well.

Do We Know What Causes Gun Violence?


              Although this comment may read like it’s a defense of Ron DeSantis, not to worry, it’s not. But when a media type asks a public official about gun violence and the questioner gets the issue all wrong, I feel compelled to state the facts no matter who ends up looking good versus who looks bad.

              On Sunday, DeSantis was interviewed on Meet the Press by Kristen Welker and after he touted his great job on reducing crime, Welker said, “Governor, actually, statistically speaking, the CDC says that the firearm mortality rate is actually higher under your administration then it was under your predecessor’s administration,” and then they started talking over each other.

              Welker was correct. In 2017, two years before DeSantis became Governor, the firearm mortality number in Florida was 2,724 and in 2021 it jumped to 3,142, an increase of 15%.

              Now, if DeSantis had his shirt together, he might have agreed with Welker’s gotcha’ about the increase in Florida gun deaths, but then he could have pointed out that the national increase in gun deaths from 2017 to 2021 was more than 20%, and in the neighboring state of Louisiana it was 30%.

              We don’t have any ‘official’ gun violence numbers from the CDC since 2021, but the Gun Violence Archive, whose annual numbers aren’t that far off from what the CDC gives us, says that in 2022, the gun deaths numbered 3% less than what they numbered in 2021, and from what I have seen so far this year, 2023 might end up outstripping 2022.

              But wait one goddamn minute! I thought the increase in gun violence during 2020 and 2021 was due to the Pandemic, or at least this is how the issue was explained by the usual media suspects writing about guns. And not only did overall gun violence get worse during the onset and spread of the virus, but the medical impact of the pathogen, like the medical impact of gun violence, fell disproportionately on the poor and the underserved who always take it in the ass.

              Since everyone talked themselves into believing that a public health threat from disease creates a public threat from behavior, maybe someone could explain to me how come the mortality rate from Covid-19 dropped more than 45% from 2021 to 2022, yet the gun violence rate hardly changed at all.

              And by the way, I have yet to see or read anything from any of these so-called experts on gun violence who knew ‘for a fact’ that the social stressors created by the Pandemic explained the increase in gun violence demonstrating the modesty to admit that maybe, just maybe, they had no idea what they were talking about.

              You see, the problem is that when we talk about something known as ‘gun violence,’ we are talking about a specific type of behavior which, if nothing else, will often produce an injury which is much worse and results in a death much more frequently than any other type of behavior in which someone decides to hurt themselves or hurt someone else.

              From 2016 through 2021, here are the numbers for the four most common methods which Americans use to hurt themselves or someone else:

              Guns – 251,930

              Choking – 122,020

              Blades – 17,416

              Clubs – 6,647

              So, if you want to kill yourself or someone else, you pick up a gun, or some rope, or a knife or a Louisville Slugger. How many studies have you read which are based on interviews with a bunch of individuals who used any of those methods to commit a fatal assault on themselves or someone else? I’ll give you the answer. Try zilch.

              How do you come up with any degree of a realistic explanation of violence when you have absolutely no idea why a small percentage of Americans pick up a gun, or a knife, or a piece of rope, or a two-by-four and commit an assault? And please, don’t indulge yourself in thinking that the guy who killed himself by putting a gun to his head and pulling the trigger or putting the gun to someone else’s head and pulling the trigger would have been unable to commit this behavior if we just had red flag laws in every state.

              And by the way, when we’re talking about homicide or aggravated assault, let’s remember that there are at least two individuals involved, and we don’t know why either of them behaved the way they did which led to one of them getting injured or killed.

              Back in the 1960’s Marvin Wolfgang studied more than 600 homicides in Philadelphia (Patterns in Criminal Homicide) by reading notes taken by the cops who investigated each case, notes based on interviews with either the perpetrator, the victim or both. What he learned was that in more than a quarter of these killings, the fatal assault was initiated by the behavior of the victim to which the perpetrator then responded with violence that caused a death.

              That was then, this is now. And now we know for a fact that violence increased because of the Pandemic, right? Yea, right.

Too Much Gun Violence? Let’s Hold a Meeting!


              Yesterday, the Mayor of Springfield, MA, where I live, called a meeting of the city’s Violence Task Force to figure out what to do about gun violence which this past weekend claimed this year’s 22nd victim. If not a single additional Springfield resident is gunned down by the end of the year, which is not a possibility, the city will wind up with a 2023-gun violence rate three times the national rate and equal to the murder rates in Nigeria and El Salvador.

              Great, just great.  I now live in the 3rd World.

              The Task Force, incidentally, has the same usual suspects which are always members of the Task Force: the Mayor, the Police Chief, the usual mélange of community, civic and religious so-called leaders, blah, blah, blah, and blah.

              Maybe they should also invite some one from the gun violence research group at Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health. These folks, along with public health researchers at Johns Hopkins and other academic sites, have a whole list of laws which they believe will reduce gun violence if and when these laws are implemented in all the states.

              The gun researchers know for a fact that what should be the legal infrastructure to surround the private ownership of guns are red flag laws, a.k.a., ERPO laws, safe-storage laws, universal background checks, mandatory safety training and discretionary issuance of gun licenses.

              Guess what? Massachusetts has all those laws on the books already. Massachusetts is also the only state other than California which requires that no gun can be sold by a dealer unless its design includes certain safety features and, it goes without saying, that Massachusetts is also a low-capacity state.

              Several years ago, the head of Harvard’s gun group, David Hemenway, gave an interview in which he said that all these laws make him feel a lot ‘safer’ living in the Bay State. And in fact, Massachusetts ranks at or near the bottom of gun violence for all the 50 states.

              And exactly what does all this safety mean for the residents of Springfield? Not one, goddamn thing.

              But of course, Professor Hemenway and his colleagues don’t live in Springfield. They live in lovely, suburban towns like Brookline, where all the nice people live.

              There’s a nice, safe, suburban town adjacent to Springfield too. It’s called Longmeadow and it has the 4th or 5th highest average family income of any town in the entire state. Longmeadow hasn’t had a shooting incident of any kind for as long as anyone can remember. Walk north a half mile from the middle of Longmeadow and you’re in Springfield’s South End.

              Actually, things have been rather quiet around the South End this year. There’s only been two murders and a handful of assaults. Gunshots go off all the time but when the cops show up, nobody’s seen nor heard nuttin.’

              Of course, if the issue of crime guns comes up during the Task Force meeting, no doubt the researcher from Harvard will inform the group that it’s very difficult to control gun violence in a state with strong gun regulations when other states have fewer laws and therefore become sources of illegal guns used to commit crimes in the Bay State.

              My friends in public health have been hocking about this one for years and fudge every single judgement about the efficacy of gun-control laws because after all, it’s very easy and commonplace for a crime gun to move from state to state.

              Meanwhile, if anyone were to take the trouble and look at the locations from which gun crimes in Massachusetts were first sold, they would discover in an ATF report that of the 3,687 crime guns in MA that the ATF traced between 2017 and 2021, 3,068 of them, that’s 90%, were first sold to residents of the Bay State.

              So, here’s what we have. The state with the lowest frate of gun violence of all 50 states also happens to have the strongest and most comprehensive gun-control laws of all 50 states.

              Which is about as much of a way to guide the discussions of the Springfield Gun Violence Task Force as a hole in the head.

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.

The Know-Nothings Talk About Guns.

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              So, today Trump the Shlump chimes in on the shooting at the Star Ballroom in Monterey Park, CA which killed ten and wounded ten more. Well, at least we were spared the usual ‘thoughts and prayers’ routine. Instead, what we got was something much more bizarre and much worse.

              Here’s the statement from a former President of the United States who is trying with great diligence to be remembered as the biggest public asshole of all time: “10 dead in California shooting, horrible gun wielding ANTIFA protest against our great police in Atlanta. Nothing will happen to them despite night of rage and destruction. Yet our January 6th protestors, over a Rigged Election, have had their lives ruined despite nobody killed except true Patriot Ashli B.”

              What’s he talking about? What does anything that happened at the Star Ballroom have anything to do with the bunch who ran up the Capitol steps on January 6th and then swiped the stationery off of Nancy Pelosi’s desk?

              As for what happened in Atlanta, opposition to a new police training  center has been going on for months, not because of any animus towards the cops, but because the facility is going to be built in what has been an 85-acre greenspace in DeKalb County which has generated the usual opposition from a bunch of tree-huggers who don’t want any development of any open space.

              One week ago the cops broke up what they called an ‘illegal occupation’ of the wooded area  by a group of activists which ended in a gunfight between state police and one individual who was shot and killed after allegedly opening fire with his own gun. Last night’s demo on downtown Atlanta was to protest the previous week’s violence, things got rough at some point, some store windows were smashed, a car was set on fire, five were arrested and that was the end of that.

              So how did any of this have anything to do with ANTIFA, or was Trump the Shlump just doing what he always does, which is to say whatever will get him mentioned by social media no matter how stupid he sounds?

              But wait just one goddamn minute. Trumpo-Shlumpo didn’t blame ANTIFA for the Atlanta riot out of thin air. He got this information from another public figure who has never, never said anything that wasn’t completely true and backed up by hard, cold facts.

              Who’s that? None other than Marjorie Taylor Greene, who had this to say about what happened in Atlanta: “It’s happening again TONIGHT in Atlanta. When will our federal agencies start taking left-wing TERRORISM seriously? ANTIFA/BLM = DOMESTIC TERRORISTS!”

              So, what we now have on one side when it comes to the issue of gun violence are the incomprehensible rants of Trumpo-Shlumpo on the one hand, and the hysterical lies of MTG on the other.

              But if my dear friends in Gun-control Nation think that the people speaking for them have any better grasp on the reality of gun violence, you might want to consider some remarks made yesterday on CNN by Nanette Diaz Barragan, whose 44th CD happens to be adjacent to the 43rd CD which is where the Monterey Park shooting occurred.

              Rep. Barragan happens to be a member of Gun Violence Prevention Taskforce, which was founded in the House of Representatives after Sandy Hook and now has 165 House members, all Democrats, of course.

              When asked her feelings about the massacre in the Star Ballroom, Congresswoman  Barragan said that the only way to prevent such violence was to pass much-needed laws, in particular universal background checks and prohibitions against private gun sales at gun shows.

              California happens to be one of the states which currently requires a background check whenever a gun is transferred or sold. And even if the transfer of a gun from seller to buyer occurs at a gun show, a background check must be accomplished before the transfer can take place.

              When all is said and done, I don’t think there’s really much difference between a sop head like Marjorie Taylor Blah Blah Blah finding an ANTIFA member under every bed, and the sober and careful statements about gun laws by a member of the House gun safety caucus which happen to be just as wrong.

              At the very least, you would think that someone who evidently takes the gun violence issue seriously would take the trouble to learn the gun laws in her own state.

              I must be asking too much.

If Guns Were Safer, Gun Violence Would Go Down, Right?


              Today is the tenth anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre and now the effort to reduce gun violence has morphed into its third phase. In the pre-Sandy Hook days, when we talked about how to deal with gun violence, we referred to the various strategies as ‘gun control.’

              Following Sandy, it was decided by the various advocacy organizations that the gun control movement would refer to themselves as the ‘gun violence prevention’ movement, or GVP.

              Now we have entered the third phase in an effort to win the hearts and minds of enough Americans to pass some more legal restrictions on how gun owners should behave with their guns and this is being called the ‘gun safety’ movement, which is analyzed in detail this week in a long article in The New York Times.

              The essay, written by a free-lance journalist, David Cullen, claims that the gun safety movement emerged after Sandy Hook and is led by two powerhouses – Everytown and Giffords – who “are run by data-driven professionals who employ polling, focus groups and election post-mortems to help candidates test and hone effective messages.”

              Cullen sees the growth in gun safety organizations in terms of more laws being passed in individual states, with 67 new state laws passed in 2019 alone. In 2022 another 45 gun-safety laws have been put on the books in various states, while the NRA has become the ‘walking wounded’ when it comes to what goes on in D.C.

              All of this sounds very nice, upbeat, and positive, except there’s only one little problem. What Cullen doesn’t mention is that not only is gun violence on the upswing, but the rate of shootings continues to climb even as the alleged reason for the recent upsurge – Covid-19 – is beginning to fade. Throughout 2020 we were told that gun violence was worse because: a) the Pandemic sparked all kinds of misery and fears, and b) so many people were buying guns.

              According to the CDC, weekly Covid-19 cases are now less than half of what they were back in July. As for gun sales, November 2020 background checks were 2 million, November 2021 were 1.5 million and November 2022 were 1.3 million. In other words, sales have dropped by 35% since the Pandemic was in full force. And Smith & Wesson stock, which was at $30 a share back in July 2021, is now trading at under $9 bucks.

              There is little, provable connection between how many Americans pick up a gun and use it to shoot someone else, and how many laws are passed which will mandate that Americans buy, own and use ‘safe’ guns. Know why? Because the guns which are used to kill and injure 100,000+ Americans every year can’t be used in a ‘safe’ way.

              Guns which are bottom-loading, semi-automatic pistols chambered for military-style ammunition aren’t designed to be ‘safe.’ They are designed to deliver lethal injuries to human beings, which is why they are carried by just about every military and tactical unit worldwide.

              Know why the United States suffers from the daily ravages of gun violence. Because the United States is the only country in the entire world which gives its residents free access to guns whose sole purpose is to end human life. And very few of these guns are actually used to kill or injure someone by a person who first acquired the gun and passed a background check.

              But when several million guns which fit into the palm of an adult hand get into the market every year, some will get lost, and some will get stolen, and some will be sold. And when that happens, these guns will remain usable for upwards of thirty years.

              Want to end gun violence? Stop the manufacture and sale of the guns which are used to commit that violence. And before you shake your head and tell me that we can’t prevent Americans from buying such lethal products because it’s a ‘violation’ of 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ I’ll save my response for another column, but let me say right here and now that banning the pistols made by companies like Glock and Sig wouldn’t be a violation of the 2nd Amendment at all. In fact, the Supreme Court has ruled on this issue more than once.

              Would it be such of what Grandpa would call a ‘gefailach’ (read: big deal) if David Cullen and all the other advocates for ‘safe’ guns would maybe just say in a whisper that the way to make a gun ‘safe’ is to get rid of the gun?

Why Can’t We Screen People for Guns like We Screen Them for Flights?


              All of a sudden, it seems, some of the more moderate, or responsible, or whatever you want to call the non-MAGA wing of the GOP, have begun quietly talking about the one issue which nobody in the GOP ever talked about until this year, which is the issue known as gun control.

              Oh…my…God! Republic(ans) supporting anything that would infringe upon our God-given ‘right’ to own guns? No. Not possible. And yet, such blasphemy is beginning to occur.

              I’m referring today to an op-ed in The Hill where the writer, identified as a Professor of Computer Science and expert in data-driven, risk-based decision-making argues that what we need to do to reduce gun violence is to pay the costs of reducing the risk of guns getting into the wrong hands.

              How are we going to do this? By implementing for gun owners a strategy and program to weed out the bad guys similar to the TSA Pre-Check program used to keep the nuts off of plane flights. The program would require that every gun owner engage in some sort of continuous vetting procedure which would be renewed on a regular basis and would be required for anyone looking to buy or sell a gun.

              This guy’s brilliant idea is actually just a riff on the whole idea of universal background checks, which Gun-control Nation has been promoting for years. And it has always been assumed, without the slightest bit of evidence by the way, that forcing every gun owner to only transfer ownership of a gun after passing a background check wouldn’t eliminate gun violence but would at least reduce the annual carnage down to more ‘acceptable’ levels.

              What the editorial in The Hill does is stretch the background-check strategy to cover not only every gun transfer, but to cover the behavior and mental status of gun owners, whether they are or are not buying or selling a gun.  Which is what the TSA Pre-Check program is all about because your ability to be enrolled in the program has to be renewed whether you are taking a flight somewhere or not.

              Yea, yea, I know about all those times that some drunk asshole made an idiot of himself on a flight by trying to slap around a stew who didn’t sell him another drink or punched another passenger who had just told him to shut the f*ck up.

              As Aunt Florence used to say, I got news for you. Passengers abusing other passengers on public conveyances has been going on since the days of the Pony Express.  The reason we are more aware of it today is because everyone sitting on an airplane has a droid with a video feed. And when the nightly news has nothing better to talk about, they’ll show a video that some passenger on a United Airlines flight sold the station when he got off the plane.

              But the real issue of safety in air travel has nothing whatsoever to do with the behavior of the passengers while the plane is in flight. It has to do with the fact that every commercial airline operating in the U.S. needs to be equipped with GPS, which it only took the TSA twenty years to implement. That’s not bad timing to get a government program running, right?

              The problem with using background checks to weed out the people who shouldn’t have guns is that nearly all the 100,000+ yearly events where someone uses a gun to shoot someone else are committed by individuals who could never qualify to purchase, own, or carry a legal gun.

So, what would a screening program like the one being advocated in this editorial accomplish to reduce gun violence to any significant degree? Not one, goddamn thing.

I am still waiting for my friends who do research on gun violence for Gun-control Nation to come up with the first research project which actually tells us how many gun assaults are committed each year by individuals who have no legal permission to own a gun, or how many such individuals are walking around with guns they shouldn’t be allowed to own.

When that research is actually accomplished, maybe just maybe we’ll be able to figure out how to create and manage gun-control regulations which actually work.

Remember, it only took us twenty years to figure out how airline accidents could be almost entirely eliminated by using GPS.

Is Gun Violence Worse? We Don’t Know.

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              Our friend Eric Fleegler and his colleagues at Harvard, Emory, Brown, and Montefiore have just published what may be the most comprehensive and detailed analysis of gun violence produced over the past 30 years. And as expected, the numbers have been growing at an alarming rate over the last several years.

              The research is not only important in terms of the demographic details covering all the victims of this carnage, but even more important, the data has been connected and aggregated at the county level, the latter issue extremely significant since even within specific states, gun deaths can vary enormously between urban versus rural locales.

              This article is getting plenty of notice in the media and digital outlets which promote and support more controls over civilian-owned guns. I consider myself a member of that group, but I also feel it is necessary to approach such research from a critical point of view, particularly when the researchers in this instance claim that what they have published “may inform interventions to decrease firearm fatalities by targeting populations in specific geographic areas who have higher rates of firearm fatalities from homicide or suicide.”

              In that respect, I am drawn to the comments in this study where the authors list the ‘limitations’ which might influence or impact the value of their work. First and foremost, the paper makes no mention of the degree to which any study of gun violence is sadly incomplete because the data covering such events can only be recovered and analyzed for fatal shootings, which are probably less than 30 percent of all gun assaults.

              If it were possible to collect, aggregate and analyze non-fatal shootings, would having access to such data change the profile of gun violence created only by using data covering gun deaths? We don’t know.

What we do know, or at least I know, is that the only difference between fatal and non-fatal gun violence events is that in the latter category, the guy who pulled the trigger didn’t shoot straight. As opposed to car accidents, where factors like speed, weather, time of day and chemical impairment of the driver will significantly determine the number of fatal versus non-fatal accidents, whereas no such environmental differentiations can or should be made when it comes to analyzing intentional injuries caused by guns.

The second limitation in this article which is not mentioned by the authors but is generic to all public health gun research, is the degree to which we learn an awful lot about the victims of intentional gun assaults, but nothing at all about the perpetrators. And since the goal of these researchers, as mentioned above, is to help develop more effective ‘interventions’ to deal with gun violence, how do you develop any interventions, legal or otherwise, when you have such limited information about the people whose behavior requires the development of more effective interventional strategies in the first place?

The good news is that, at least for the next two years, we will continue to have an Administration in place which is committed to seeking and implementing better controls over guns, particularly the types of guns which are used to commit the more than 100,000 intentional fatal and non-fatal gun injuries which occur every year.

Would it be asking too much for my friends in the public health-medical research community to sit down and try to figure out how to access data which would allow them to conduct the same kind of analysis about the shooting population which this article so productively presents about the population which is shot?

I would hope not.

What Does the New Assault Rifle Law Really Say?


            So, once again the country will be treated to yet another Congressional debate about guns, with one side saying we already have too many goddamn gun laws, and the other side saying that we can reduce gun violence by passing yet another law.

            The law being debated would ban certain types of new guns from coming into the market because these types of guns, known as assault rifles, are being used in shootings where twenty people or more get killed in the same place and at the same time. And when these people happen to be a bunch of little kids and the place where they are killed happens to be their elementary school, as Grandpa would say, that’s ‘nisht gut’ (read: no good.)

            Now, it turns out that if we were to take the total number of people killed with these assault rifles each year and deduct that number from the total number of people killed every year who get shot by guns, it wouldn’t reduce the overall fatal toll of gun violence by even one percent.

            But you got to start somewhere, right? And since we can’t seem to figure out how to stop forty thousand or so people from picking up a gun and using it to kill themselves or someone else every year, if we get rid of assault rifles, at least these really bad, mass shootings may disappear. Maybe they’ll disappear. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t.

            You can read a text of the House or Senate bills, which basically say the same thing, but I’ll save you the trouble and summarize them as follows. Once this law goes into effect, nobody in the United States will be able to buy a new rifle or handgun which shoots in semi-auto mode and loads with a detachable magazine that holds more than 10 rounds.

            There are a few more bits and pieces to the law, but what I said in the previous sentence is what this ban is all about. If you happen to own a gun like this now, you can keep owning it or you can sell it to someone else. Or maybe you can sell it to someone else. The devil is always in the details., and the Senate version of the bill has an interesting, little devil lurking within, namely, a paragraph which only allows the current owner of an assault rifle to dell the gun to someone else by taking the gun to a federally licensed dealer and having the dealer run a background check on the prospective new owner of the gun.

            The House bill also has an interesting little devil that so far has avoided any public mention, which is a provision that requires everyone who currently owns an assault rifle to store the gun in a way which would prevent anyone not legally allowed to access such a weapon to get their hands on it.

            The NRA has posted a review of the proposed ban which quotes the usual suspects from both sides of the gun debate who say that the law, once enacted, would have little impact on gun violence in the United States. But none of these experts have obviously bothered to read the text of these bills. Because if they did, they would have to see that by requiring universal background checks to transfer previously owned guns (the Senate version) or requiring safe storage of such guns (the House version) would move the gun-control needle strongly in the direction that gun-control activists would like the needle to move.

            And by the way, I don’t notice any of the pro-gun loudmouths in the House or the Senate taking notice of these provision as well. Jim Jordan, the GOP member from Ohio, one of the staunchest promoters of the idea that the 2020 election was ‘rigged,’ came out with a statement about the gun ban, calling it a ‘direct’ attack on the 2nd Amendment and would do nothing to reduce gun violence. Thank you, Congressman Jordan, for your insightful remarks.

            I would be very surprised if either version of this bill makes it to Joe’s desk because when it comes to anything having to do with guns, the moment someone mentions the word ‘ban,’ every member of Congress begins looking for cover, particularly those members who come from purple zones.

            On the other hand, if the bill does get to the Oval Office with either of those two provisions for background checks or safe storage in the bill, even though these procedures would only apply to assault guns, it would still mark a major step forward for our friends in gun-control – oops! – I mean gun ‘sense’ land.

            Maybe if we’re lucky, before voting, maybe nobody in either chamber will actually take the time to read the bill.  

Think California Is a Safe State? Think Again.


            Want to read a story about gun violence which gets the whole thing wrong? Take a look at this article in Time Magazine, which claims the whole country can learn how to control gun violence by looking at what has happened in California over the last several years.

            California, so the article says, “has one of the lowest firearm mortality rates in the country. Its residents are less likely to die from a gunshot than almost anywhere else in the country, and are 25% less likely to die in a mass shooting.”

            That’s very impressive, isn’t it? And in fact, in 2020, California’s gun mortality rate was the sixth lowest rate of any state, just behind Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

            What’s the story here? What’s the reason California is such a safe state? As usual, the explanation is provided by Garen Wintemute, an ER doctor in California, who heads the gun-research effort at UC Davis, and is always ready to explain what he thinks we need to know about guns.

            Wintemute says that the low gun-violence rate in California is due to the passage of various gun-control laws, in particular laws which closed down companies making cheap guns within the state, closed private-sale loopholes and restricted individuals convicted of a violent misdemeanor from owning a gun.

            Wintemute and his research group had a hand in all three of those new regulations, so I can’t blame him from taking a moment to pat himself on the back. That being said, maybe Wintemute or one of his colleagues might want to go back to this article and revise their remarks.

            Why? Because what they are saying and what the article is saying based on what they are saying, happens to be wrong. Not a little bit wrong. Completely wrong.

            Notice the article talks about gun ‘mortality,’ meaning any way that someone is killed with a gun. But the gun violence which has become so overwhelmingly evident in the last several years happens to be the violence which happens when someone picks up a gun and shoots someone else. Every day it seems we get yet another report about people getting shot in front of a mini-mart, or inside a shopping mall, or somewhere where they happen to be.

            The World Health Organization defines violence as the attempt to injure yourself or someone else. The most effective and efficient way to injure yourself is to shoot yourself with a gun. No other method even begins to compare. Ditto when it comes to trying to injure someone else.

            But the truth is that the demographics, causes and circumstances behind gun suicides as opposed to gun homicides are so completely and totally different, that to lump them together  into one statistical category, when the only thing they have in common is the use of a gun, is to create an explanation and/or a mitigating strategy which has absolutely no reality behind it at all.

            And yet this is exactly what has been done in the article which tells us that California’s response to gun violence is something that should be copied in all the other states, and it is exactly what Wintemute and his research colleagues promote as well.

            In 2000, California had a gun-homicide rate of 4.36.  In 2020 the state had a gun-homicide rate of 4.40. That’s a decline in gun violence over the last 20 years? That’s what Grandpa would call ‘vishtugadach,’ (read: not worth mentioning.)

            The states which rank lowest in suicide rates since 2000, regardless of how the victim chose to end his life, happen to be the same states which have the lowest rate of gun mortality. Gee, what a surprise.

            It’s no surprise because these are also states which are overwhelmingly urban and have all instituted various public health programs to identify and reduce suicide risk.

            What does this have to do with gun violence? Nothing, except for the fact that gun researchers like Wintemute can confuse two very different types of violent behavior and pretend that when it comes to solutions, they are both the same.

            And by the way, the gun-control laws which Wintemute cites as being what makes California such a ‘safe’ state have nothing to do with suicide whatsoever.

            It’s high time that my friends in the gun-control community stop pretending that the only difference between gun homicide and gun suicide is the direction in which someone points a gun.

            We can do better than that. We really can.

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