An Important Study on Gun Suicide.


              Our good friend Matt Miller, along with a team of researchers, has just published an important article on suicide and guns, which finds that when a woman who isn’t a gun owner cohabits with someone who becomes a gun owner, the odds that the non -gun owning woman will commit suicide using her partner’s newly-acquired gun goes up. The online article is available now.

              The data for this study comes out of California, which keeps some pretty accurate records on handgun purchases (at least legal purchases) and on mortality, combined with the state’s voter registration lists. Together, this information allowed Miller and his colleagues to come up with an accurate profile of when women commit suicide relative to when someone else in the residence acquires a gun.

              The intention of the study was to answer the following question: “Does risk of suicide among women change when someone with whom they live in a handgun-free home lawfully acquires a handgun?” And the answer to that question, based on looking at the data covering 9.5 million women who lived in California between 2004 and 2016 is – yes.

              Wow! What a surprise. Guns are lethal? Guns are dangerous? Guns kill people who live in homes which contain guns? To quote Grandma this time – can you imagine such a ‘ting?

              But all kidding and sarcasm aside, what’s important about this study is that it is one of the few before and after studies on gun violence and it confirms that bringing a handgun into a gun-free home has consequences that are not what legal gun ownership is supposed to be all about.

              You don’t go into the local gun shop and plunk down six hundred bucks to buy a Glock so that you can shoot the chipmunks that come around to nibble on the flowers you planted last year. You don’t come home with a Sig, or a Beretta because you want to knock little Robin Redbreast out of the tree.

              But hold on just one friggin’ minute. How’s about all those ANTIFA people burning down the place? How’s about all those BLM momsers running around for George Floyd? And what happens when ISIS lands a detachment on the Delaware River and invades Philadelphia? Or God forbid the ‘element’ takes advantage of the Pandemic and tries to loot my house. 

              Don’t I need a gun to protect myself from all that? And by the way, doesn’t the 2nd Amendment give me the ‘right’ to keep a handgun in my home to protect me and my loved ones from any kind of threat? Isn’t that what the Supreme Court said in 2008?

              The good news about this research published by Matt Miller and friends is that what they are really trying to do is inject a bit of reality into the gun debate. The truth is that for every time someone picks up a gun and uses it in an act of legal, self-defense, forty people or more pick up a gun and use it to kill themselves or murder someone else.

              But the real problem underscored by this new research is that it’s not just the owner of the gun who is facing a risk by having a gun, it’s the gun-owner’s domestic partner who also may be confronting a greater health risk because she is now living in a house where there’s a gun.

              And don’t make the mistake of thinking that the risk will be reduced by locking the gun or locking the gun away. Sooner or later the gun will be left around unlocked, or the non-gun owner will use the same secure space to store some jewelry she wants to wear.

              One of these days the medical community will hopefully stop pretending that having a gun around the house is like having a car in the driveway. All you have to do to keep the gun ‘safe’ is to lock it up or lock it away, right?

              To the credit of Matt Miller and his colleagues, they did not qualify gun access in terms of whether guns were locked, locked away or not locked and left out. The same finding about the risk of guns for increased suicide rates was published by Art Kellerman and Fred Rivara thirty years ago although their research did not differentiate between male versus female suicide.

              How much more research do we need to explain that if you take a loaded gun, point it at yourself or someone else and pull the trigger, the gun will go bang and you or someone else will either be terribly injured or dead?

              As Grandpa would say, ‘shain zeit’ (read: enough already.)

What Do We Really Know About Gun Violence?

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              I spent the weekend reading a wonderful, wonderful novel by Joyce Carol Oates. It’s The Gravedigger’s Daughter, which I read when it first appeared in 2007, but I chanced to pick it up again as I was looking for another book on one of my shelves, so I read it again. Wow.

              There’s a brief section in the text which describes how the gravedigger, an immigrant from Germany who came to the United States with his family in 1936, shoots and kills a man during an argument in the cemetery, then goes into the shack where he lives, shoots his wife, and then shoots himself. The episode is described through the eyes of his daughter Rebecca, who is twelve years old at the time.

              Her father had been a mathematics teacher at a very exclusive school in Germany where the family lived a substantial, middle-class life. He packed up everyone in 1936 and fled, no doubt running from the anti-Semitism of the Nazi regime, although this issue, like many issues within the family, is left unspoken and unsaid.

              They get into the United States, and the only job this educated, professional man can find is to take care of a small, Christian cemetery in a crummy, little, upstate New York town, where he is regarded as something of a weirdo, a loner, but at least the family has survived.

              As the years go by, the daughter’s father becomes more bitter, more anguished, more pissed off at how the world has not treated him the way he deserved. At some point he goes into town, takes his savings out of the bank, and buys a Remington shotgun and some shells. He tells the owner of the gun shop that he’s buying the gun to ‘protect’ his family from some kids who had painted swastikas on the cemetery walls.

              Rebecca has two older brothers of whom the eldest viciously beat up two of the kids who had vandalized the cemetery and he is now a fugitive with a warrant out for his arrest. The younger brother one day simply disappears. So, the family is in a state of gradual collapse – the father drinking too much, the mother increasingly withdrawn.

              One day two men come to the cemetery to visit a family grave and get into an argument with Rebecca’s father because they are pissed off at what they consider to be the lack of caretaking in the cemetery – the overgrown plots, the weeds growing on gravesites, the general lack of attention and care.

              Rebecca’s father goes into the tool shed, comes out with the shotgun, and blows one of the men away. He then walks into his little, stone cabin, kills his wife and then shoots himself dead. Rebecca is made a ward of the state and is taken in by her grammar-school teacher where she lives for the next four years.

              From the first page of this novel, you get the idea that something bad will happen to this family. You don’t know what it is, and when it finally happens, it’s not something you would expect. And when it does happen, it’s over and done with in about as much time as it takes to read the single page in this novel which describes the horrendous event.

              But this is exactly what happens in the United States more than a thousand times every year, what is called ‘murder-suicide’ almost always involving members of a family where things have just gotten out of control.

              I don’t know anyone who has ever written about this kind of event with the descriptive powers and observations employed by Joyce Carol Oates. But I have read endless accounts of families blown apart by this kind of behavior and until I read The Gravedigger’s Daughter I have never (read: never) been as overwhelmed by the suddenness and immediacy of such an event.

              Our friend Jennifer Mascia has just published an article about gun suicide in The Trace, where she makes the point that while we lead all advanced countries in our rate of overall gun violence, we are the country with the highest rate of gun suicides by far.  Rich or poor, it doesn’t matter – gun owners in the United States who want to end their own lives overwhelmingly do it with a gun.

              Mascia’s article goes into details about gun suicide, which each year claims some 30,000 lives or more. She mentions gun murder-suicides and quotes the publisher of the Gun Violence Archive, Mark Bryant, who gives a figure for annual murder-suicide events which may be about half as many of these events as actually take place.

              We don’t really know how many times someone shoots someone else and then turns the gun on himself. The reason we don’t is because the data on gun violence, regardless of the source (CDC, FBI, etc.) looks either at victims or perpetrators, but never at both. The FBI breaks out data on who commits gun violence using the standard SES categories: gender, race, age, etc. But we are left completely in the dark when it comes to tying the behavior of these individuals to the individuals they killed or how the actual killing took place.

              The World Health Organization defines violence as any intentional attempt by an individual to injure himself or someone else. Most violent behavior results in a non-fatal injury, the one exception being violence caused by using a gun.

              How will we ever figure out an effective strategy to deal with gun violence if we don’t know how, when, and why a life ended because someone picked up a gun?

Can Someone Commit Gun Suicide Without Using A Gun?


              Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m just too stupid to understand the guidance being put out there to help prevent people from ending their own lives with a gun. And gun suicide has become a serious issue among certain population groups, in particular veterans whose suicide rate is now at least three times higher than the suicide rate for non-veterans in the same age groups.

              Worse, veterans tend to use a gun more frequently than other people as a life-ending device and the problem with a gun is that the odds that it will put you six feet under are 95%. No other means of committing suicide has odds of better than 50% and people who survive a suicide attempt generally go into treatment and report that they are glad to be alive.

              So, recently the White House released a whole report on what the Administration is doing to reduce gun violence, and much of their activity involves working with the VA and other groups to address the issue of depressed veterans who have access to guns. And the report specifically cites a VA program called ‘Firearm Suicide Prevention and Lethal Means Safety,’ which you can look at right here.

              So, I looked at this effort and what I saw is either so screwed up that I can’t believe it reflects any rational thought at all, or perhaps as I said above, I’m just too dumb to figure things out.

              The program begins with a brief video which tells veterans that it’s okay to be pissed off at what people say to them about their military service because such comments usually don’t capture what a tour in some sh*thole like Iraq or Afghanistan is all about. But then the video goes on to show a Glock pistol and a voice-over which says, “A simple lock puts space between the thought [of suicide] and the trigger” while a cable lock is being affixed to the gun.

              How much did the VA pay some advertising agency to produce this video and come up with such a clever phrase? I can only guess but what I happen to know for a fact is that YouTube has a bunch of amateur videos which show such locks being picked open in ten seconds of less.

              You then go to a page which says that “a safe home environment can save lives,” and continues on with this statement: “most suicides occur in the home and involve firearms — by far the most common and lethal of the means used in suicides.”

              So, how does the VA suggest that you make your home safe? Here’s what you should do: “Safe storage practices include using cable or trigger locks, storing firearms in a locked case or safe, and storing firearms and ammunition separately and locked.”

              And if you need any further help to make your home safe from using a gun to commit suicide, the VA recommends that you consult the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) which has been promoting for years the idea that more guns in homes results in less crime.

              Incidentally, the NSSF is located in Newtown CT, which happens to be the town where the massacre of 20 children and 4 adults took place at the elementary school just nine years ago. And what kind of gun did the shooter use to commit this unspeakable act of mass carnage? An AR-15 rifle which the NSSF has been saying for years is just a ‘sporting gun.’

              This is the organization that the VA partners with to run a program on reducing gun suicide? Okay, okay, obviously I don’t get it. I’m just too dumb.

              Unfortunately, had the VA gone out and put together a program to reduce gun suicides by aligning itself with a medical society like the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) or the American College of Surgeons (ACS) they would have found scant difference between what these groups say about preventing gun suicides as compared to what is promoted by the NSSF. Want to keep people from shooting themselves with guns?  Lock the guns up. It’s as simple as that, according to ACEP and ACS.

              I guess I’m just too stupid to understand how you can keep guns around the home and not worry about someone getting hurt. The fact that solid, evidence-based research shows that guns in the home, locked or unlocked, represent a health risk, just proves that I’m not the only idiot out there. 

An Approach To Gun Violence That Works!

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              This past weekend we took a drive out in the country and passed by this billboard as we came into Cambridge, NY. The town is located on Route 22, which is the old, north-south highway between the Hudson River and Vermont.  It’s a beautiful road and meanders through a bunch of red-brick factory and farming towns, most now survive by becoming latte and gourmet bakery destinations for the weekend crowds.

              This area, Washington County, is also one of the prime hunting areas in all of the Northeast. It’s also an area which hasn’t voted for a Democrat since before I don’t know when. In 2013, when Andy rammed through a gun-control bill following Sandy Hook, lawn signs protesting the new law sprouted all over towns like Cambridge. As I drove up Route 22 this weekend, there were still some Trump2020 signs and banners around.

              In other words, Cambridge, NY isn’t Cambridge, MA, it isn’t Bethesda, MD. It isn’t Bryn Mawr, PA. It’s not where members of Gun-control Nation tend to live. To the contrary, it’s a place where most people believe that a gun in their home will keep them ‘safe.’ In fact, the only violence that occurs in towns like Cambridge is when someone picks up a loaded gun and shoots himself.

              Between 1991 and 2015, gun suicides in New York State dropped by 37%. But in Washington County during that same period of time, gun suicides have remained at a high rate of 7.2 per 100,000, the sixth-highest county rate in the entire state. In 2019, all of New York State registered a gun-suicide rate of 3.91, half as high as the Washington County rate.

              For all the talk about a national, red-flag law, or what is known as an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO), New York State has such a law. Anyone who has or has had the slightest familial connection to someone else can go into a local court and a temporary order removing all the guns from the home of a potentially dangerous individual (a danger to himself or someone else) can be issued that same day. And if you’re not in some way domestically connected to the person whom you believe might do himself harm, you can always get a local cop to act on your behalf.

              So, let’s say you live in a town like Cambridge. And let’s say your next-door-neighbor is an old man, a widower, the kids have long since moved away. And let’s say you knock on the guy’s front door because you haven’t seen him in a couple of days. And let’s say he opens the door, and you can tell that things just aren’t all that right. And let’s say that you know the old guy used to go hunting and he owns a bunch of guns. All you have to do to keep this guy from blowing his brains out in Cambridge is to make a phone call. That’s it.

              And what I don’t want to hear from anyone who reads this column is that ‘everyone has the right to decide how and when they want to end their life.’ I used to get occasional emails from the idiots who read previous columns about how suicide risk increases in the presence of a gun. I’m assuming that the people who sent me those emails are now hiding from the FBI following their attempt to invade the Capitol on January 6th.

              I’m really happy to see that the money I send Brady every month is helping to pay for that billboard on Route 22. I’d like to see that billboard outside of every town which finds itself losing residents because people make a quick and often thoughtless decision to end their lives with a gun. How long do many people think about gun suicide before picking up the gun? Maybe ten minutes, maybe less.

              Think that anyone living in Cambridge, NY will pay attention to a Congressional debate in D.C. about a national ERPO law? But you can’t miss that billboard on the way into town.

Dorothy Paugh: Empowering Family Members to Remove Guns from Suicidal Loved Ones.



After losing my father Edwin, 51 to suicide by gun in 1965 and my son Peter, 25 the same way in 2012, I have studied to find proven ways to reduce the number of Americans who shoot themselves— currently over 21,000 each year, overwhelmingly white males.  Family members are often the first to see signs their loved one is in crisis.  My Maryland state delegate has agreed to introduce a bill in 2018 to allow concerned family members to seek protective orders for law enforcement to temporarily remove their loved one’s guns.  Right now protective orders can only be sought against those who pose a danger to others.

suicide1The temporary removal of firearms from the home has saved many lives as Connecticut’s 17-year history issuing risk warrants to remove guns from the suicidal has demonstrated.  Indiana has had a similar law since 2006.  California, Washington and Oregon have recently enacted similar laws. But when I asked the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)’s national advocacy office and the state chapter to support the introduction of an Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs) or similar measure in Maryland, they declined to take a position.

In 2016, AFSP partnered with the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) to reach gun sellers, buyers and owners with suicide prevention messages.  Gun violence prevention organizations agree that for those who live with guns, we need to communicate the increased risks of suicide and the simple steps that can reduce those risks.  Guns are extremely lethal, and only one in ten will survive a self-inflicted gunshot wound.   A loaded gun triples the risk of suicide for all who can get their hands on it.

It’s not just small children that parents need to protect, it’s also their older children.  Firearm safety training doesn’t work when the act is intentional.  Most adults know a toddler with a gun is in danger, but fewer can comprehend that their teen might in a rash act end their own life.  Science has shown that keeping guns and ammunition locked away from minors can prevent impulsive youth suicides since most minors who shoot themselves do so with a parent’s gun.  Since 2007, youth suicide by gun has risen 60%.  Each year, nearly 500 American youth under 18 shoot themselves.   Minors should not have access to keys to either the gun lock safe or to the ammunition locked up in a separate container.

I understand what AFSP is trying to do based on the science behind effective communications.  In order for their suicide prevention messages to get through to gun owners, they must be conveyed to that audience by a trusted messenger.  NSSF gets them “in the door.”  But what I don’t see is how supporting a law to temporarily remove guns from a suicidal person would jeopardize their new partnership. There is no question that laws that allow the temporary removal of guns from suicidal adults have prevented many suicides. It’s solid ground, not a slippery slope. Dead men have no rights.

Like AFSP and NSSF, gun safety organizations want gun owners and those that live with them to stay alive and get the help they need.  Surely we don’t have to agree on everything to work together towards the goal of saving the lives of people in crisis.  We should meet, shake hands and walk “Out of the Darkness” as far as we can together towards the common goal of reducing gun suicides, which amount to nearly two thirds of all gun deaths in this country.


A New Partnership To Reduce Gun Suicides Which Might Help.


How many people die annually from gun violence?  If you’re a gun-control advocate, you’ll usually say that it’s somewhere around 31,000.  On the other hand, if you’re pro-gun, you’ll say it’s 11,000, give or take a few. The difference is whether or not suicide is considered a type of gun violence, because every year more than 20,000 Americans end their own lives by using a gun.  And if you want to meet your Maker before He wants to meet you, there’s nothing as efficient as pulling out the ol’ firearm, aiming it at yourself and – bam! Gun suicide is effective 90% of the time, no other life-ending behavior is half as good.

gun-suicide            According to the World Health Organization (WHO), violence is defined as someone who attempts to injure themselves or someone else.  So from a medical point of view, gun suicide is certainly a type of gun violence.  But the disagreement between pro-gun and anti-gun forces isn’t about medicine, it’s about politics, messaging and whether we need guns around or not.  Which is why until recently, the gun industry has preferred to keep discussions about gun suicide on the back burner, but that’s about to change.

Last year the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the industry’s lobbying and trade organization began talking to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) in an effort to find some common ground.  And what has emerged from these talks is a four-state, pilot program that will put suicide prevention messaging in gun shops and shooting ranges, a program that will then be widened with the goal of reducing gun suicides 20% nationally by 2025.  The project was officially kicked off with a press conference at this week’s SHOT show, and is publicly displayed on the websites of the AFSP and NSSF.

Predictably, the fringe elements in Gun-nut World were reluctant to jump on board unless this initiative and other similar programs would steer clear of any explicit or implicit attempt to use this activity to regulate guns.  Alan Gottleib, whose 2nd Amendment Foundation is really a cover for his very-profitable mail solicitation business, helped craft a bill before the Washington State legislature that establishes a ‘safe homes’ task force that will create messaging and training materials for ‘voluntary’ use by gun dealers. The Task Force membership includes Gottleib and a rep from the NRA. I don’t notice any representation from the groups in Washington State that pushed through an extension of background checks over the vigorous opposition of the NRA and the Gottleib gang.

This is the problem with the new suicide initiative announced by the NSSF and the AFSP, namely, that it’s a voluntary effort, which when it comes to educating about gun violence is where the gun industry always draws the line.  Gun-nut Nation’s phobia about government mandates is about as extreme as the phobia that some people have about immunizing their kids against disease.  And frankly, both phobias come from the same place; i.e., mistrust of government and a total misrepresentation of the facts. Fact: There is absolutely no connection between NICS-background checks and national registration of guns.  Fact: There is absolutely no connection between immunizations and autism, despite what Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. says.

If you walk into a gun shop today, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll see a ‘Don’t Lie For The Other Guy’ poster on the wall.  This is a long-standing partnership between the ATF and the NSSF to discourage straw sales at the counter-top, a project that is dear to the hearts of everyone in the GVP community as well.  In fact, displaying this message is mandatory, although ATF agents don’t check to see if the poster is hanging on the wall or not.

Of course we would like gun-suicide prevention programs to have some teeth. Of course we would like Gun-nut Nation to stop opposing sensible laws that would enable family members of at-risk individuals to remove their guns.  Of course, of course, of course.  But the NSSF-AFSP partnership is a good start.

How Many Victims Of Gun Violence? A Lot More Than You Think.


Now that we are getting down to crunch time, stories are beginning to appear about how HRC is beginning to look beyond the election and starting to plan how things will work once she gets down to work. So without giving November 8th the evil eye, maybe it’s time for Gun-sense Nation to start thinking along the same lines.  Because if she wins, and if the Senate turns blue, and if enough red seats in the House turn various shades of purple, a real, honest-to-goodness gun bill will wind up on her desk.

pulse            But in order to craft a good bill, the first thing we need to do is define the problem.  And the problem is very simple: too many people get injured with guns. More than 30,000 of these injuries each year are fatal, another 75,000 or so result in serious wounds.  Most of the injuries are intentional, some are accidents, but according to the CDC, the exact figure in 2014 was 114,633.

So if Gun-sense Nation wants to get behind a strategy that will, it is hoped, reduce gun violence, then we need to start with this benchmark figure in order to evaluate whether a new set of regulations will have much effect.  But using a figure like 115,000 gun injuries a year is actually a number that is much lower than the actual injuries caused by guns.  Which doesn’t have to do with the way we count injuries; rather, it reflects the way we define injuries, regardless of whether they are caused by guns or anything else.

When we talk about gun violence, what we really are talking about is violence of a particular type, namely, violence caused by a gun.  But what is violence in and of itself?  I think the best, most comprehensive definition is given by the World Health Organization (WHO), which says that violence is: “The intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation.”  Note that violence, according to the WHO, goes far beyond the physical injuries sustained when someone is shot with a gun. Because every time that someone is hit by a bullet, someone else sees them lying, bleeding in the street or within their home, someone sticks the victim in a car and drives like crazy towards the ER, and someone is standing there as the trauma surgeon comes out shaking his head.

Would it be wrong to assume that for every one of the 115,000 people who are physically injured with a gun each year that another several hundred thousand are psychologically traumatized and emotionally damaged even though the bullet entered the body of someone else?  And if you think that the psychological impact of seeing one person bleeding to death is horrendous, imagine if you end up witnessing a mass shooting, such as at Aurora, Virginia Tech or Sandy Hook. In 1991, George Hennard drove his truck into a Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, shot and killed 23 people, wounded another 27 and then shot himself to death. In the aftermath, a health team interviewed 136 people who were on the scene during the shooting or arrived after it began. Nearly one-third of them had to be treated for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.)  I thought that PTSD was a hazard of military deployment, not something that might break out in a cozy little town like Killeen.

So the bottom line is that we are making a mistake if our benchmark for evaluating how new gun regulations might reduce gun violence is determined by counting only the number of people who get shot. The truth is we don’t have any way of counting the number of people who witness gun violence and suffer extreme emotional pain. And they often bear scars that are just as deep as any physical wound made by a gun.


Taking Guns Away From At-Risk Individuals Does Save Lives.


When the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) announces that it is teaming with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) to reduce gun suicides, you know that something new and different is happening in the gun business.  Because until this moment, the gun industry has never shown the slightest interest in doing anything about the fact that 20,000+ Americans kill themselves each year by using guns, in fact, the party line has always been that guns and suicide have nothing to do with each other at all.

gun-suicideMeanwhile, close on the heels of this announcement comes a study (Dan Friedman has written a good summary in The Trace) by one of our most prolific and respected gun-violence researchers, Jeffrey Swanson, whose team evaluated the results of a Connecticut law which allows individuals and/or law enforcement to petition the courts for temporary removal of guns from someone who is believed would otherwise be at risk to harm himself or someone else.  The law, passed in 1999, has been copied in Indiana and California, and has always been a hot-button issue with Gun-nut Nation, which usually views any attempt to regulate guns for any reason to be an infringement on their beloved 2nd-Amendment rights.

Be that as it may, the fact is that suicide has been increasing of late, and while there has not been any causal link between service in Iraq and Afghanistan and suicide, military veterans of all ages are at greater risk for attempting a life-ending event than for the population as a whole. And everyone from the NRA to Obama to Trump tries to present themselves as the best friend that military vets ever had.

Which brings us back to Swanson’s study, which is the first attempt to look at the results of the Connecticut law in terms of whether or not temporary, court-ordered firearm seizures really do make a difference in preventing life-ending events with the use of a gun.  The CT law was actually passed not so much in response to suicide risk, but as a result of a terrible mass shooting incident where a pissed-off State Lottery employee stabbed and shot four of his bosses after he was denied a salary increase, then killed himself. But of the 762 cases of firearm seizures examined in this study, one-third were initiated out of concerns that the individual might try to harm someone else, while two-thirds of the seizure warrants were issued because it was believed that the affected individual was going to hurt himself.

Swanson’s team not only carefully reviewed the circumstances surrounding the issuance of these firearm-seizure warrants, but also attempted to follow the life paths of individuals who lost their guns.  It turns out that while the number of people who both lost their guns and still committed suicide was much greater than the normal suicide rate, not one of those suicides occurred during the 12 months that these individuals had their guns removed, and the number who later used guns was far below the usual rate for successful suicides using a gun. In other words, laws allowing a court to decide whether someone might harm themselves with a gun can, in fact, save lives.

I do have one major issue which is not intended as a criticism because it goes beyond the parameters of the article itself.  There were 762 firearm seizures ordered in Connecticut between 1999 and 2014.  But how many gun-seizure petitions were denied?  And how many people knew someone who was behaving in a way that made them appear to be a threat and yet decided that it wasn’t their ‘place’ to say anything or didn’t want to ‘get involved?’  There were people in San Bernardino who knew the two shooters were stockpiling weapons; there were people in South Carolina who heard an armed Dylann Roof make racist threats. Have we become so inured to violence that we need law to tell us that someone who exhibits great anger is someone who shouldn’t have access to a gun?


What Do The Gun Violence Numbers Really Tell Us? That Gun Violence Is Much Worse Than We Think.


. Earlier this year our friends at the Violence Policy Center published a report which showed that gun deaths were now outpacing motor vehicle deaths in 14 states, and if the trend continued, gun deaths would soon exceed car deaths throughout the entire United States. I think the comparison of automobile deaths to gun deaths, a basic GVP argument for why we need to curb gun violence, understates the real level of gun violence to a tremendous degree.  And this is because it doesn‘t take into account what Dennis Henigan, in a new book to be published in August, calls “exposure to risk.” Because the truth is that a gun only becomes a risk when it gets into someone’s hands.  And many of the 300 million civilian-owned small arms in America are rarely, if ever picked up at all.

conference-program-pic          Let’s play with some numbers. The average American sits in an automobile roughly 100 minutes every day and will drive 800,000 miles over the course of a life (thanks for the info, JM.)  The “average” American doesn’t actually own a gun, and of those who do, many are used occasionally for hunting or even less occasionally for target and shooting sports.  Gun Nation can jump for joy over the fact that millions of Americans have concealed-carry permits, but I notice that neither the NRA nor the NSSF has ever done a survey to find out how many of those folks with CCW licenses are actually walking around with a gun. For all the talk about how armed citizens are our first line of defense against the ‘bad guys,’ the FBI could find exactly one instance where a civilian armed with a gun actually intervened in an ‘active’ (multiple victims) shooting between 2000 and 2013.

So let’s do the numbers again and put our benchmark for auto deaths and gun deaths at 30,000, even though it’s slightly more for both.  What this turns into when we calculate the rate of motor vehicle fatalities versus gun fatalities is 10 per 100,000 for the cars, 33 per 100,000 for the guns. Of course Gun Nation will immediately scream that the numbers are manipulated (their current favorite ad hominem about Katie Couric’s brilliant documentary) because it’s the ‘bad guys, the ‘street thugs,’ the ‘wackos’ who do all the killing with guns.

But there’s just one little problem with this point of view.  Like just about everything that the pro-gun noise machine says to bolster gun sales, it’s simply not true. Two-thirds of gun deaths are suicides, and most, if not nearly all gun homicides involve people who know each other and can’t settle a dispute in more non-violent ways, and this is certainly the case in virtually every instance where a gun is yanked out during a domestic dispute which between 2010 and 2014 killed nearly 23,000 women and teenage girls.

Every single gun that is used to hurt someone, anyone, started out as the property of a legal gun owner.  Maybe they didn’t pull the trigger, but nobody would have been able to pull the trigger if the gun hadn’t gotten into the wrong hands. And that was the fault of the person who initially bought the gun. So I think it’s time for GVP-land to stop being so solicitous of all those legal gun owners who tell you that the problem of gun violence has nothing to do with them.  It has everything to do with them because absent their desire to own guns, the issue of gun violence wouldn’t exist.

And don’t get me wrong.  I went out today and bought a gun and I’m sure that over the next few months I’ll buy a couple more.  But what I won’t do is delude myself into thinking that some 2nd-Amendment, BS ‘right’ is being threatened because Hillary wants me to undergo a background check before I take possession of that little Glock.

Hoping that everyone has a safe and happy holiday.


Why Don’t We End Gun Violence? Because We Don’t Experience It.

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This year roughly 110,000 Americans will be killed or seriously injured with guns. And this is often referred to as an ‘epidemic’ of gun violence for which a solution has yet to be found.  But epidemics, like the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, have a beginning and an end. In the case of gun violence, to quote the brilliant insight of Dr. Katherine Christoffel, gun violence is “endemic” because it just goes on year after year after year.

How does an otherwise basically law-abiding, civil society let this kind of human carnage go on without being able to develop or even talk about developing a basic consensus on bringing this problem to an end? The usual response is that a small but determined coterie of special-interest groups led by the NRA and the NSSF have managed to stymie any serious efforts at political reforms and without changes in public policy, the overwhelming and continuous human toll from guns will continue without change.

conference program pic           To me, this is a rather facile argument which takes an obvious answer and turns it into an unquestioned formula to be trotted out by every GVP organization and advocate whenever they are asked to explain why their efforts to promote sensible gun regulations come up short.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the NRA and its acolytes in and out of politics don’t deserve their share of the blame. What I am saying, however, is that the failure of this country to respond properly to gun violence goes far deeper than simply assigning blame to the folks who own the guns.

When Black Lives Matter sprung up after the murder of Trayvon Martin, the focus was, and continues to be on “broadening the conversation around state violence to include all of the ways in which Black people are intentionally left powerless at the hands of the state.”  As regards gun violence, this conversation focuses on gun violence perpetrated by police against residents of the African-American community, of which there have been far too many instances over the last several years. Left unsaid is the degree to which gun violence committed by civilians against other civilians is also a feature of African-American life, with numbers and rates of gun homicides being seven or eight times higher among blacks then among whites.

Of course the GCP community, including African-American community leadership has an immediate answer to deal with this problem, namely, keep the guns out of the ‘wrong’ hands.  Which takes us right back to where we started, namely, the ability of the NRA camp to prevent sensible public policy reforms aimed at keeping guns out of the ‘wrong hands.’  No wonder we get nowhere fast.

Take a look at the racial breakdown for all causes of death for the age brackets 15 – 34.  From a gun-violence perspective, this is the killing zone par excellence, with black gun homicides accounting for two-thirds of all gun deaths whereas blacks are, at best, 15% of the overall population in this age bracket. The number cause of death in this age group is unintentional injuries and the numbers are: whites – 24,211; blacks – 3,488.  Second highest cause of death is suicide: whites 9,811; blacks – 1,111. Next highest is medical neoplasms (cancer): whites – 3,980; blacks – 901. Gun death victims aren’t just overwhelmingly African-American; it is the only cause of death in which the racial breakdown doesn’t more or less match the racial composition of society as a whole.

Want to know the real reason why we continue to put up with this obscene event known as gun violence?  Because more whites don’t get killed.  The Viet-Nam War ended because CBS News started flashing the body count on its national news every night, and those were American bodies and, loose talk to the contrary, most (85%) of those bodies were white. I’m not advocating killing or injuring anyone with guns; I’m saying that most of us don’t experience gun violence at all.

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