When It Comes To Open Carry Or Concealed Carry, Neither Protects You At All.


Considering the fact that Texas now joins 44 other states in allowing its residents to openly carry handguns into public venues like restaurants, shopping malls and so forth, why has the Texas open-carry issue become such a big deal?  I’ll tell you why.  Because the argument over the bill was loud and intense, and the opponents of the new law have vowed to vigorously pursue an opt-out strategy into the new year.  The Texas law, as opposed to other states, gives merchants and other property-owners the right to post a notice saying that open-carry is not permitted on their premises, and a new website has just popped up that carries an impressive list of businesses that want the open-carry nation to leave their guns at home.

open carry              Most of the now-45 states that have passed open-carry laws do not grant local option as to whether someone can openly carry a gun onto their property or not.  Just this week the Denver Museum of Science and Technology announced that they would permit OC to conform with the Colorado OC law passed in 2003.  The Colorado OC law, like most such legislative initiatives is very broad, granting OC just about anywhere – restaurants, educational facilities, shops – because it tacks OC onto a previous law that made it easier for Coloradans to acquire the right to concealed-carry (CCW) based on something referred to in the CCW law as the “constitutional right of self-protection,” which, as far as I can tell, happens to be a Constitutional right which doesn’t exist at all. You show me where the words ‘self-protection’ appear in that storied document and I’ll send you a gift certificate to Amazon, TJ Maxx or Best Buy, your choice.

The reason I raise this last point is because when you enter the world of gun laws, particularly laws which make it easier for folks to buy, own and carry around guns, you enter an Alice-in-Wonderland world of laws that purport to make it easier for Americans to defend themselves with guns, but in fact have nothing to do with self-defense at all.  What they have to do with is making it easier for the gun industry to sell more guns by promoting the utterly false notion that folks make themselves and others safer by walking around with a gun.

The notion that armed self-defense makes us all safer is false for the following reasons: 1) there is not a single, credible study which shows this to be true; 2) only a tiny percentage – less than 1% of all violent crime – is actually prevented by people walking around with guns; 3) not a single state which allows its residents to carry guns either concealed or openly requires lethal force training that would even remotely prepare someone to properly respond to any kind of criminal threat.

Of the 37 states which require some kind of training certification prior to owning guns, most of them mandate, at best, the gun safety training courses developed by the NRA.  These courses were designed to teach people safe-handling techniques when they are cleaning their guns at home or shooting them on the range.  They have nothing to do with training gun owners to use their guns for self-defense, and they do not require any real proficiency training at all.  I’m sorry, but shooting a few rounds at a paper target doesn’t qualify in my book for anything remotely connected to the use of lethal force.  If anything, it just gives folks a false sense of security because they now can walk around with a gun.

Most states that allowed OC did so as adjuncts to hunting laws when, by definition, you need to openly carry a gun.  But that was then and this is now, and now we face a gun industry that promotes OC because they want to sell more guns. It’s time to put away the Alice’s looking glass and base gun laws on common sense.

Want To Know Why You Should Carry A Gun? Ask Governor Abbott.

1 Comment

For twenty years I have been listening to the nonsense about how ‘armed citizens’ make us safe.  And alongside this fantasy has been the companion stupidity, namely, that it’s not just that carrying a gun is a good thing, but carrying a gun in plain sight is even better.  Be advised, incidentally, that there is not a single piece of credible research which proves either of these safety strategies to be true.  But where is it written that a public policy or the statements of a public official need to be backed up by credible research?  Or any research, for that matter.

Just this week the Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, assured the good citizens of the Sovereign State of Texas that he would personally make sure that an upcoming military exercise called Jade Helm, was not, in fact, an “invasion” of Texas by Federal armed forces.  You can’t blame Texans for being worried about the Federal government coming in with troops to do whatever they are planning to do.  After all, remember Waco?  And since Abbott’s predecessor, Jim Perry, used to regularly shoot his mouth off about plans for Texas to secede for the second time, who knows?

         Greg Abbott

Greg Abbott

Getting back to Abbott, as I said, he’s been a leading proponent of open-carry laws and just last month signed a bill that allows Texans to openly display handguns in most public places throughout the state.  The law exempts college campuses from open carry, but a bill that would close this loophole will probably be passed later this year. Earlier this year the NRA actually demonstrated a brief moment of sanity by advising its members to ‘stand down’ and stop openly carrying guns in restaurants and other public places; this brief display of fortitude, however, was reversed within two days with a public apology from the NRA to all its gun-totin’ members in the Lone Star State.

If Governor Abbott believes that pandering to the open carry crowd is going to keep Texas from moving politically from red to blue, he might be in for a big surprise.  The increase of Hispanics in Texas has become so great that they could represent a majority of the electorate in 2016 – assuming that every eligible voter actually registers and shows up to vote.  And when it comes to gun ownership, Hispanics don’t seem to be enamored of the 2nd Amendment in a way that bodes positive for the gun industry in Texas or anywhere else.  Despite an endless barrage of noise about how “new” shooters like women and minorities are swelling gun-owning ranks, the fact is that gun ownership is still concentrated in the same demographic where it has always lived, namely, older White men in rural areas, second-tier cities and smaller towns.

Which is why I found a tweet by Abbott sent to me by a friend last night so interesting and deserving of a comment today.  Because for the first time since the whole ‘armed citizen’ rubbish started being promoted twenty years ago, someone has finally come out and explained the real reason why the NRA and the gun industry want you to walk around carrying a gun.

Abbott’s tweet, pasted up on July 8, was in response to a message from a guy named Rupert Ellis announcing to the world that he was about to open his first gun shop in Texas, although it appears that the shop won’t probably be open to the public for another few months.  But sending an announcement to the Governor is a clever way to drum up some publicity, particularly when the Governor actually responds!  And here is Abbott’s response:  “Welcome to the gun business.  I hope open carry boosts sales.”

Bingo! Greg Abbott has finally done what no single pro-gun organization or gun nut has ever done, namely, admitted that the real reason for promoting the notion of the ‘armed citizen’ is to boost the sale of guns.  Congratulations Mister Governor, you’re the only honest one out there.

A Tale Of Two States: Vermont And Texas Debate Gun Bills.

Leave a comment

There can’t be two states in these United States more different than Vermont and Texas, right?  The Green Mountain State is quintessential New England, with picturesque town squares, maple sap running from the trees and let’s not forget America’s only Socialist, aka Senator Bernie Sanders, who just might try to run for President in 2016. And what can we say about the Lone Star State?  Remember the Alamo, the best doggone chili and barbeque this side of the Pecos and the Rio Grande, and a former Governor named Rick Perry who might also try to run (again) for President in 2016.

  Sen. Bernie Sanders

Sen. Bernie Sanders

But despite the clear contrasts between these two states, in one way they are very similar, and the similarity was on display last week when the two State Legislatures held public hearings on new laws about guns.  In the case of Vermont, the bills being considered would have tightened gun regulations, bringing in background checks on private sales and setting standards for taking guns away from people at risk to others or themselves; in the case of Texas the bills will allow open carry of handguns and end the long-standing practice of considering college campuses to be gun-free zones.

        Gov. Rick Perry

Gov. Rick Perry

Two different states, two different types of gun bills, but one thing in common, namely, the degree to which the pro-gun community was organized, turned out in force and made arguments which, rightly or wrongly, shaped the public debate.  In Texas the push for open carry was led by an organization called Open Carry Texas which gained notoriety last year when its members publicly disavowed the NRA after the latter organization denounced gun-owning ‘extremists’ who were parading around with their guns.  Last week in the run-up to the legislative hearings on the new laws, a group of open carry agitators not only openly threatened a gun-owning state legislator in his office, but also showed up at the hearing and loudly denounced anyone who would commit ‘treason’ by  not voting the right way.

In Vermont, the debate over a gun bill occasioned the largest turnout at the State House since the debate over civil unions in 2000, and while supporters of the legislation cited personal anecdotes about a family shooting or the psychological damage caused by schoolchildren having to undergo active-shooter training, the prevailing sentiment during the debate was summed up by one female gun enthusiast who said, “If I’m being assaulted on a city street, I’d rather have my .38 with me than a copy of Senate bill 31.” Much of the credit for packing the gallery with orange-shirted gun owners should be given to Gun Owners of Vermont, which says it’s committed to a “no-compromise position against gun control” which is ironic since Vermont has no state-level restrictions on gun ownership or CCW at all.

This is not to say that folks who took a dim view of the proposed gun bills didn’t show up. There’s a group in Vermont  known as Gun Sense Vermont, whose members appeared at the hearing and voiced their concerns.  In Texas, the open carry gang got a little taste of their own tactics when a bodyguard hired by Moms Demand Action allegedly tried to stop Open Carry’s C.J. Grisholm, from filming an interview with a Moms activist by grabbing his phone.  This brief incident occasioned all kinds of heated rhetoric on right-wing blogs about how the Moms group (behind which, of course, is the sinister Watts-Bloomberg combine) has no respect for the 1st Amendment, never mind the beloved 2nd.

I don’t know who is going to win the legislative contest over gun laws in either state, but the pro-gun forces clearly won and continue to win the argument in the public, and certainly the internet space.  The plain truth is that fear-mongering sells, while reasonable and earnest debate gets little or no airtime at all. For that reason, the gun-sense community may need to re-think the manner in which they present their point of view.  In the public argument about guns, opinions seem to trump the facts every time.

Buy it on Amazon.


It’s A Win-Win When The NRA Backs Laws Against Domestic Abuse

1 Comment

While the NRA continues to fiddle away with its good guys with guns tune, they seem to have missed the boat from the perspective of gender.  The truth is that women are 15% of all gun homicide victims each year, and they are overwhelmingly shot during domestic disputes.  And what the NRA has not been able explain is how all these good guys will protect us from the bad guys when the bad guy happens to be a husband, or an ex-husband, or an angry boyfriend who gets into an argument with his wife or girlfriend and then pulls out a gun.

Until recently, the NRA and its allies usually resisted efforts to tighten laws that made it easier to take guns away from people (overwhelmingly males) who were engaged in domestic disputes, arguing sometimes with good reason that the issuance of a domestic restraining order often had little or nothing to do with whether the guy receiving the order was a danger or not.  Giving the cops wide latitude to make such a determination and arbitrarily seize someone’s guns was not only a violation of the 2nd Amendment, but also ran contrary to Constitutional guarantees protecting us from unlawful search and seizure and due process.

pink gunBut the tide seems to be turning and the NRA in a slow and deliberate way is beginning to show signs that resisting any efforts to mandate government controls over firearms might not be such a good thing.  Working largely the scenes, the NRA quietly helped sponsors in Washington State to change a law that now allows for confiscation of guns if someone is charged with a domestic abuse misdemeanor, whereas previously the NRA only consented to such actions of an individual was charged with a felony.  The NRA is also backing similar laws in at least three other states and seems to be taking its cues from a recent Supreme Court decision that resulted in someone losing his guns because he was convicted of domestic abuse in Tennessee, even though the state’s definition of abuse was not as clear as the federal definition which had previously been applied to instances where abusers lost their guns.

There’s some thought out there that the NRA is modifying its stance on this issue as part of its recent campaign to get women more interesting in buying and owning guns.  But even if this is true, it doesn’t change the fact that gun owners may find themselves supporting an organization which has belligerently campaigned against any changes in gun control laws at all.  And from a symbolic point of view, the biggest change may be shortly coming in Texas, whose recent image as a gun-loving state has been tarnished by the antics of some gun-toting dopes who “invaded” some retail chains openly displaying their AR-15’s.

Texas has a statute that bans domestic abusers from keeping guns, but the law is rarely enforced, which basically means that there’s no law at all.  Recently a Dallas judge who handles domestic cases appointed himself to head an initiative that will oversee and more strongly enforce the gun ban.  The judge, Roberto Cañas, has already taken steps to strengthen the law’s enforcement, including getting other judges on board with the plan and convening a meeting of all county judges who deal with domestics to chart a new course.  A state Representative, Rafael Anchia, has announced plans to introduce new legislation on this issue in next year’s legislative session.

Legislation or procedures that deprive anyone of their access to guns has to be crafted carefully.  But the NRA could take a giant leap forward if they used their devotion to family as a rationale for openly supporting limiting gun access in cases of domestic abuse.  They would make a lot more friends among female voters by coming out of the shadows on this issue rather than letting vendors into the annual show who sell pink holsters and brassieres.  It may be difficult for the NRA to convince some of the members that backing government gun controls is sometimes more right than wrong, but leadership, even leadership of a gun-rights organization, always demands some risks.

The NRA Apologizes – Kind Of.

Leave a comment

I began to get the feeling, after the shooting in Santa Isla, that the patience of Americans to continue to put up with the gun industry’s resistance to any degree of new regulation was coming to an end.  Don’t ask me why, don’t ask me how, but the meek and almost non-existent comments reminding us about the sanctity of the 2nd Amendment were decidedly less strident than what the industry and their supporters were saying after Sandy Hook.  Now I’m not talking about loudmouths like Joe the Plumber, whose rant about the relative importance of his guns versus the unimportance of human life is just a reminder that the 24-hour information cycle will make room for anyone who wants to shoot his/her mouth off, no matter how stupid or uninformed their comments happen to be.  I’m talking about the comments from various right-wing politicians who, like Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst, refused to explicitly exonerate the gun industry even though her campaign ads show her shooting at a target while a voice-over intones how she’s going to “take aim” at waste in DC.

Yesterday I received a digital letter from the NRA-ILA, which represents the NRA in legislative battles in Washington and in the individual states.  The letter didn’t mention the Santa Barbara massacre per se, instead it covered episodes in Texas, where 2nd-Amendment supporters demonstrated their reverence for their Constitutional rights by showing up at Jack in the Box and Chipotle outlets openly carrying AR-15’s.  In both cases the restaurant managers told them to take their gun rights out of the stores, which of course provoked the usual flurry of on-line yelling about how the poor gun owner is always misunderstood. But the NRA, to my utter amazement, didn’t side with the idiots who walked into those restaurants waving their AR-15’s.  In fact,  they characterized the behavior of the gun-toters as “weird,” which is the first time I can ever recall the NRA saying anything negative about any gun owner at all.

lapierreBut what was really interesting was the explanation given by the NRA for why the behavior of the Texas dopes didn’t add up.  And here is what the letter says:  “If we exercise poor judgement, our decisions will have consequences.  These consequences could be simple and transitory, such as watching a trophy buck bound away into the woods after a missed shot from an improperly sighted rifle. They could also be lasting and consequential, such as turning an undecided voter into an antigun voter because of causing that person fear or offense. In ways small and large, we are all in this together, and we all have a role to play in preserving our cherished freedoms for ourselves and future generations.”

The truth is that if a bunch of raucous kids storm into a Burger King with loaded AR’s, one of the damn things might just go off, which could be a much more “consequential” result of mis-behavior with guns than anything having to do with changing a voter’s mind.  But in more than twenty years of listening to the NRA, I have never heard them ever make an appeal that had anything to do with changing or influencing the opinions of people who don’t own guns.  The NRA has enlarged and motivated its membership by indefatigably adopting an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ approach to every public discussion about guns.  Gun owners are the ‘good guys’ and everyone else is, well, everyone else.  Believe me when I tell you that this communication marks a very dramatic change.

I suspect the gun lobby quietly understands that their belligerent and ‘take no prisoners’ approach to talking about gun regulations may be coming to an end.  The Republican optimism about the upcoming elections has faded; even Rand Paul is trying to appeal to the mid-stream.  For that matter, the great upsurge in gun sales has also come to an end, which doesn’t augur well for continued growth in the membership of the NRA.  It will be interesting to see whether they can figure out how to talk to people who don’t bow down and scrape every time the 2nd Amendment is used to excuse bad behavior with guns.

When Is A Homicide Always A Homicide? Try Using A Gun.

Leave a comment

One area in which behavior that results in serious medical conditions has remained largely outside the purview of public health regulation and research concerns injuries caused by accidents with guns.  Most gun injuries that result in deaths aren’t accidents.  They were caused by people who consciously decided to use a gun on themselves or someone else.  Together. suicides and homicides account for 98% of annual gun deaths; accidental or unintentional deaths account for only 2% of the total.  At least this is what the numbers look like that are published by the CDC.  In 2010, the last year for which we have complete numbers, gun suicides were 19,392, gun homicides were 11,078 and unintentional gun deaths were 606; the last number, as Ralph Cramden used to say on The Honeymooners, a mere “bag of shells.”

But now we have a very different argument being made by Michael Luo and Mike McIntire of the New York Times, who believe that the way in which coroners and other public health officials treat and report fatal gun injuries seriously undercounts the number of accidental gun deaths that occur each year.  In their article, published last September, the reporters dug into specific, coroner-level gun death reports in four different states and discovered that as many as half of the gun mortalities that were reported as homicides were, in fact, unintentional or accidental, a finding which if true for the entire country, would make a substantial difference in the ratio of homicides to accidents and might undercut a major argument on gun safety promoted by the gun industry and the NRA.

Why is there such a discrepancy in how gun deaths occur as opposed to how they are reported?  Because in many states and localities, any shooting of one person by another, regardless of age, is considered a homicide.  Or sometimes the same office will rule one accidental shooting as a homicide and the next one as an accident.  Luo and McIntire give examples of both, including a “homicide” in Texas where a 9-month-old was killed when his two-year-old brother opened a dresser drawer next to the crib, pulled out a gun and banged away.  Now I can’t imagine that even in Texas they could figure out how to execute a two-year-old for murder, but I also suspect that the parents weren’t charged with neglect, or abuse, or anything else.  Texas, along with a majority of other states, has no law requiring that guns be locked or locked away in the home, remember?

childsafeOf course if you listen to the NRA touting it’s Eddie Eagle program or the NSSF promoting its ChildSafe safety kits, you would think that the entire decline in unintentional gun injuries was due to them.  And in fact there has been a decline in accidental gun deaths over the last decade, from 726 in 2000 to 606 in 2010 (although the rate of gun injuries over the same period has gone up.)  But the question that emerges from Luo and McIntire’s reportage is whether the morbidity data that the gun industry uses to  pat itself on the back for its safety initiatives really tells us whether gun owners are being safe, or whether coroners and other medical workers are just playing fast and loose with different definitions of how gun accidents really occur?

These issues might be resolved and we could finally understand the true degree to which Americans suffer from unwise use of guns if politicians like Rand Paul would stop pandering to the NRA faithful and withdraw their cynical opposition to guns and public health.  I don’t blame the NRA for trying to hold the line against physicians or anyone else who might seek to limit or regulate the market for guns.  After all, they represent the gun industry, and when was the last time that any industry came out in favor of government controls? But it’s nothing short of disgraceful when a politician who also happens to be a licensed physician could pretend that public health should play no role in how Americans use their guns.  Note:  I didn’t say that public health should make the rules.  But public health should be able to explain gun accidents when there are no rules at all.

%d bloggers like this: