Gun Violence Isn’t Just About Guns.


            Last year saw an alarming spike in gun violence, with many cities registering year-to-year increases of more than 30%. We were told these numbers reflected the stressors from the Covid-19 Pandemic, which was particularly brutal in underserved, inner-city neighborhoods which is where most gun assault also occur.

            So, this year the Covid virus seems to be getting under control, yet the increase in gun assaults has not only slowed, but in many locations seems to be getting worse. The number of gun homicides may exceed 20,000 by year’s end, which is almost double the average number of annual gun homicides for any year since 1981.

            The numbers on gun violence would be much worse if we also had data covering non-fatal gun assaults. But the CDC has stopped publishing those numbers since they admitted that the possibility for the annual estimates might be off by as much as 30%. The bottom line is that non-fata assaults appear to be roughly three to four times higher, on average, than the fatal assaults. Which means that the total gun assaults for 2021 might probably end up above 90,000 or even more.

            Why is this happening? How do we explain that gun injuries committed by one individual against another have reached numbers that are almost twice as high as they were twenty years ago, when the CDC says there were 17,000 fatal shootings and 41,000 non-fatal gun assaults?

            We are told that there are just too many guns around, maybe 350 million in private hands, maybe more. But the problem with the more guns = more violence argument is that most of these 350 million guns are in the homes of people who never commit any kind of crime. And the other problem with this approach is that most of these 350 million guns, or maybe it’s 400 million, or maybe who knows how many millions, are types of guns which are never used in gun assaults at all.

            Know how many bolt-action hunting rifles have ben manufactured by Remington, Winchester, Browning, Savage, Sears, and other gun makers over the last 50 years? Millions. Know how many guns like this are used when some idiot goes into a convenience store late at night and demands all the cash? None.

            I’m beginning to wonder whether when we think about gun violence that perhaps we should be thinking more about the word ‘violence’ than the word ‘gun.’ Back in 2015, I found myself in a conversation with Clarence Jones, who was Dr. Martin Luther King’s attorney and helped King write the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.

            We met in New York at the time when some early plans were being discussed for how to mark the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s death. So, I asked Clarence at some point how D. King would have felt about the progress in civil rights if he were still alive. And here was his response, which resonates very deeply with me to this day:

            “Martin’s priority wasn’t civil rights. It was non-violence. And if he were alive, he would not be happy because the United States is a much more violent country today.”

            The numbers bear Clarence Jones out. In 1999, according to the CDC, 148,286 Americans died from all violent injuries. The total has increased every, single year since that date, with the 2020 number being 278,345. The per-100K rate of violent deaths has increased from 53.28 to 80.83 over the same period of time.

            The per-100K violent death rate has increased by 65% since 1999, the per-100K gun-violence death rate has increased by 62%. And don’t make the mistake of thinking that it’s all those gun deaths that have pushed the overall violence number up. In 1999, gun deaths accounted for 7.3% of all violent deaths; in 2020 they were 6.9% of all violent deaths. More Americans are getting violently killed every year, but fewer of these deaths are caused by the use of guns.

            Violence is the only threat to the human community that we don’t understand and hence, cannot figure out how to control. We know what to do about hunger. We know what to do about disease. We even know what to do about global warming, although it’s the political will which is lacking, not the scientific understanding of why the polar icecaps continue to shrink.

            Incidentally, in 1993 there were 1,926,017 violent crimes committed, according to the FBI. In 2020, the number was 1,313,105. So, the violent crime rate has declined by more than 30%, but the number of violent deaths keeps going up.

I’m not talking about not understanding all kinds of violence, I’m talking about not understanding the worst and most threatening kind.

Anyone have an idea?

Do Gun Buybacks Work? They Sure Do.


              If I had a nickel for every time that someone who has absolutely no knowledge at all about guns either refers to himself as a gun ‘expert’ or writes a featured column in a major media outlet about guns even though everything he says is wrong, I really could spend all my time at my club’s golf course which, by the way, opened (yay!!!) today.

              The latest so-called gun expert to rear his head is a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, Peter Nickeas, who just did a piece on gun buybacks in Chicago for CNN. The Windy City’s Mayor, Lori Lightfoot, is trying to raise a million bucks to do two big buyback every year, but Nickeas knows that the buybacks won’t do very much to help reduce Chicago’s endless gun violence.

              How does he know this? Because he’s read all the so-called studies about gun buybacks done by all the other so-called gun ‘experts’ and the studies all show that gun buybacks don’t work, or at least they don’t take guns away from people who shouldn’t have guns.

              There’s only one little problem with this now-universal belief held by all the experts on how and why gun buybacks don’t work. Not one of these scholars understands how to judge the effectiveness of a gun buyback, so to make a judgement about the effectiveness of something when you don’t know how to define what you are trying to figure out, is an exercise in what Grandpa would call ‘bupkes,’ (read: nonsense) even if it gets you published in some academic journal and quoted on CNN.

              The latest piece of scholarly nonsense which shows that gun buybacks don’t work was published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) which is the research outfit required by Congress to determine when a recession starts and when it ends. So, when it comes to knowing how to use economic data, NBER knows what it’s doing, okay?

              This paper is chock-full of data – graphs, charts, statistical formulations, the whole bit. Too bad the research team has absolutely no idea how the value of a gun buyback should be judged. For that matter, they don’t even seem to know how to define a gun buyback because the first buyback they mention was the gun buyback which occurred in Australia in 1996, a nationwide effort which they claim had ‘mixed’ results.

              The Australian effort, however, shouldn’t be compared to any gun buyback that has ever occurred in the United States. In Australia, the government decided that certain kinds of guns that had been legally purchased could no longer be legally owned and had to be turned in – but here’s the kicker – with the owners given compensation at the fair-market price. In other words, the Australian buyback wasn’t a buyback as we use that word here; it was a forcible confiscation of legal property, which you can’t do in our system unless you pay the owners what that property is worth.

              How do you compare that kind of an effort to community-based programs where nobody is required to turn in a gun and when they do show up and hand over a gun they don’t want or need, they are given a gift card that can be redeemed at a local store? You don’t make such a comparison if you know anything about guns.

              The authors of the NBER paper then go on to use FBI crime data (NIBRS reports) to assess gun violence before and after339 gun buybacks in 277 cities between 1991 and 2015.

Looking at NIBRS numbers for a year prior to a year following each buyback, the overall results in gun violence was basically little or no change.

              All this quantitative and statistical analysis really proves is that we are a country which is obsessed with numbers and if you don’t use statistics to make or prove an argument, nobody takes you seriously and you’ll wait until what Grandpa would call ‘shabbos noch schvi’ (read: Saturday after a religious holiday) to get published in an academic journal and list the article on your CV.

              The value and importance of a gun buyback is simply this: It’s an opportunity to spread the word about gun violence and the risk of gun access in a city or a town. And believe it or not, there are lots of well-meaning people out there who don’t realize that the gun in their home represents any kind of risk.

The real value of a gun buyback can’t be quantified by the number of guns that are turned in or whether violent crimes crime goes up or down. Rather, it’s a question of changing community culture which is always a slow and difficult task.

Anyone who thinks that something as complicated and multi-faceted as violence committed with or without guns doesn’t know anything about violence and certainly doesn’t know anything about guns.

It’s Time to End Gun Violence.


              If the Russian invasion of Ukraine proves anything, it proves that the one threat to the human community that we have not been able to bring under control is the threat of violence. We know what to do about famine, we know what to do about disease, we know what to do about global warming.

              Now maybe we don’t have the political will to engage in activities that will mitigate or eliminate those threats, but we know what needs to be done.

              Were this only the case when it comes to violence. And I happen to believe that violence between national states, such as what’s happening right now in Ukraine, is just an extension of the violence which occurs every day between two people, or maybe more than two people, who can’t settle an argument or a dispute in a non-violent way.

              And this human propensity to commit violence isn’t just a function of poverty, or underdevelopment or any of the other social ills which allegedly are caused by lack of financial security, or lack of food security, or lack of something else.

              The three men who gunned down Ahmed Arbery in Georgia because he was jogging through their neighborhood weren’t poor, weren’t unemployed, weren’t unable to tell the difference between right and wrong. And I can say the same thing with the same degree of conviction about the more than 100,000 Americans, almost all men, who in 2020 (according to the FBI) picked up a gun and used it to attack someone else.

              Yea, yea, I know all about the Pandemic and how everyone’s afraid of getting sick, so they get easily riled up, get pissed off at someone else and out comes the gun. So, if this is true, how come many of these same individuals can’t be bothered to show up at a neighborhood clinic and get vaccinated against Covid-19? 

              I have been supporting the various national organizations that want to do something about gun violence for the past ten years. By and large these groups began operating after the massacre at Sandy Hook.

              Know what the annual rate of gun homicides was in 2012?  Try 5.88.  Know what it was back in 2012? Try 3.70.  That’s only an increase of 60 percent.

              Oh, I forgot. We had the Pandemic in 2020, right?

              In 2019 the gun-violence rate was 4.39. There was no Pandemic in 2019 but the gun-violence rate was still nearly 20 percent higher than in 2012. A 20-percent increase in 8 years? No big deal.

              I think it’s time that the leadership of organizations like Everytown, Brady and Giffords sit down and confront the fact that what they have been doing to confront gun violence hasn’t worked. And maybe in the course of discussion, they might want to take a chapter from the efforts of a group of physicians led by our friend Ira Helfand, who decided to do something about the greatest violent threat of all – nuclear violence – and was a co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility which received a Nobel Prize in 1985.

              The prize was awarded to PSR because of their efforts to champion the control over above-ground nuclear testing, an effort which then morphed into an international effort to stop the spread of nuclear weapons that earned Dr. Helfand and his colleagues a second Nobel Prize in 2017. This Nobel Prize was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a coalition of 635 organizations active in 107 countries worldwide.

              There is absolutely no reason why a campaign to abolish the ownership of guns used to commit violence needs to be any different from a campaign to abolish the use of nuclear energy for purposes other than peaceful means. If anything, such a campaign led by the one country which grants Constitutional protection to gun ownership would break down all kinds of barriers to the more effective control of guns.

              And if you think such a campaign would violate the 2nd Amendment, then you don’t understand the 2nd Amendment and you probably also believe that gun-control threatens your God-given ‘rights.’

              Want to live in a country that enforces ‘rights’ which come from God? Move to Iran, okay?

              Otherwise, perhaps you will join me later this year when I announce a campaign to ban guns which have no purpose whatsoever except to be used to kill human beings and thus maintain our devotion to violence on a one-to-one scale.

              You can see an early version of my website here: Home | Mysite 1 (bantheseguns.org). Please feel free to respond and yes, we will have an online store where you can buy a coffee mug.

              If you haven’t gotten your booster shot, go out today and get it done.

Are We a More Violent Country?

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              Back when Eric Adams was Borough President of Brooklyn, I did some work for him concerning guns. Eric had been a cop in Brooklyn’s 88 Precinct, done his twenty and now is Mayor of New York City.

              At some point I asked him how policing had changed since he first went on the job. His immediate response: “Today nobody backs down.”

              I think of this comment when I think about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Because even though Dr. King is considered America’s most foremost champion of civil rights, in fact his primary commitment was to non-violence, a commitment he maintained throughout his entire life.

              We have made remarkable progress in civil rights since Dr. King was murdered in 1968, progress not just for African-Americans, but also for women, for alternate genders, for alternate family relationships, for diversity of all kinds.

              So, we have come a long way in terms of fulfilling the civil rights dream that Martin Luther King preached on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.

              But what about non-violence? Are we a less violent society and a less violent culture now as opposed to back then?

              To the contrary. I believe we are a much more violent society and now I’m going to tell you why I believe this to be the case.

              What is violence? What does the word ‘violence’ mean?

              According to Merriam-Webster, violence is “behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.” The World Health Organization defines violence as the “intentional attempt to injure yourself or someone else.”

              Violence is usually, but not always considered to be a crime. And according to the FBI, the violent crime rate in the United States is about half as great as it was in 1994, although there has certainly been an uptick in the past two Coviod-19 years.

              Except I don’t define violence in terms of reported crimes. I define violence by whether we see violent behavior as a necessary and normal part of our lives. When Eric Adams said that ‘nobody backs down,’ he was talking about the acceptance of violence as a positive standard of behavior and belief.

              For me, what demonstrates how normal and natural violence has become is the fact that any American adult with a clean record can purchase, own, and carry products whose sole purpose is to be used to commit violence and to make it easier for people not to back down.

              I’m obviously talking about the several million handguns that are added to the civilian arsenal each year, guns which were designed for one purpose and one purpose only, namely, to inflict serious injuries on human beings. I’m sorry, but anyone who believes that a Glock or a Sig pistol is a ‘sporting’ gun is either lying or is what Grandpa would call a ‘vilde chaya,’ (read: damn fool.)

              The definitions of violence found in the dictionary or in medicine don’t differentiate between ‘offensive’ versus ‘defensive’ violence. You’re not less violent just because you shoot someone whom you believe is about to attack you.

              The idea that violence can be justified if it is used to achieve a positive end has been part and parcel of the American legal tradition since colonial times, and is now codified in the Stand Your Ground (SYG) laws in three-quarters of the 50 states.

Eric Adams wasn’t talking about a SYG law when he told me that ‘they never back down.’ New York State doesn’t have a SYG law. He was talking about the sixteen-year-old kids who walk the streets of the 88 Precinct in Brooklyn, many of them carrying guns.

Unfortunately, my friends in Gun-control Nation are as confused on this issue as the pro-gun advocates on the other side. These well-meaning folks also want to believe that somehow, we can find a way to support the 2nd Amendment because we are so in love with the other amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights.

Except the 2nd Amendment doesn’t give Constitutional protection to any kind of handgun; it protects whatever type of handgun the government decides can be kept in the home for self-defense.

Want to spend a little time thinking about how to reduce violence on the birthday of America’s foremost advocate of non-violence? Spend some time thinking about getting rid of the guns which are the means by which so much violence occurs.

It’s as simple as that.

How Violent Are We Today?

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              Several years ago, I had lunch with my friend Clarence Jones, who is currently Scholar in Residence at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute at Stanford University. He previously served as Dr. King’s personal attorney and also helped draft the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech which King delivered during the March on Washington in 1963.

              To that end, I asked Clarence what Dr. King would have thought about progress in civil rights over the fifty-plus years since his death. And Clarence responded with a statement I will never forget: “Martin’s primary commitment was never civil rights. His first and foremost commitment was to non-violence and this country has become much more violent over the last fifty years.”

              I was reminded again of this remark by Clarence Jones yesterday when I briefly watched the trial of three White men accused of killing an unarmed Black man, Ahmaud Arbery, who resisted what the defendants have claimed was their attempt to effect a ‘citizen’s arrest’ of Arbery for allegedly entering the property of a newly-built home in their neighborhood.

              So, here we have on national TV, two trials, one in Wisconsin and the other in Georgia. In one trial the victim who was killed was White, in the other trial he was Black. In the Wisconsin trial the defendant, who was also White, used his assault rifle to defend himself against individuals who he believed were going to assault him because he was protecting the private property of someone else. In Georgia, the shooter and his accomplices used a shotgun to defend himself from a man who allegedly attacked him because he and his accomplices were trying to defend the property of someone else.

              Let’s pause for a moment while I ask my readers a question. Have any of you ever been in the town of Skidmore, Missouri? I’ll bet you haven’t.

              I drove through Skidmore in 1989, when the population was around 350 people, of whom at least half lived on farms surrounding the town. As of today, the town’s population is probably down to 250, along with some dogs and cats. In other words, Skidmore is a rural dump.

              The town, however, became famous or better yet infamous in 1981, when just about every adult standing around the main street on a Saturday afternoon witnessed the shooting of Ken McElroy as he left a saloon and got into his truck. McElroy earned a living by rustling cattle from various farms or stealing equipment from unlocked barns.

              The previous year he had come into town and almost beaten to death the 70-year old owner of the dry goods store who was considered as the nearest thing to Mother Theresa because he extended credit to the local farmers on very generous terms.

              McElroy was convicted of the assault but didn’t serve one day in jail. When he showed up on a weekend day in July 1981 a crowd of 60-70 townspeople confronted him in the saloon and then he was shot by ‘persons unknown’ as he got into his truck.

              This murder, which occurred in daylight and was witnessed by more than forty adults, was never solved. The county cops investigated the shooting, but nobody talked, and nobody was charged. Then the state police showed up, conducted a second investigation,

and again, came up with a blank.

              This shooting then became national news when the FBI was called in. It was referred to in the media as ‘vigilante justice alive and well in the Old West,’ but the results of the FBI’s efforts were the same: no results. The case remains unsolved to this day even though it became the subject of a pretty decent book as well as a pretty crummy Hollywood flick.

              The shooting of Ken McElroy took place before we had cell-phones which took video and of course it took place before we had an internet news cycle which has an inexhaustible appetite for anything which can be described as ‘news.’ In both the current Kenosha and Georgia trials, videos of the shootings taken by onlookers or independent media producers have been shown in court.

              I don’t recall the last time that two trials in two different states were being held at the same time to determine whether defendants were legally protected from criminal charges because they shot and killed someone while claiming to be protecting private property which they didn’t own. In both instances, the shooters took it upon themselves to determine whether the person they killed represented a threat to them or to anyone else. And even if the victims were threatening to attack these self-made community protectors, why didn’t the men with the guns try to back down?

              I’ll tell you why. Because they had guns. And why did they have guns which allowed them to pretend that all they were really trying to do was protect the community from harm? I quote a speech given by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a month before he delivered ‘I Have a Dream’ in 1963: “By our readiness to allow arms to be purchased at will and fired at whim; by allowing our movie and television screens to teach our children that the hero is one who masters the art of shooting and the technique of killing,  we have created an atmosphere in which violence and hatred have become popular pastimes.”

              For all the people who were shocked by the video that shows Kyle Rittenhouse running down the street with his AR-15, just remember that his mother has already raised $460,000 on the internet to cover the costs of his legal defense, and yesterday she sent out a message asking people to donate $100,000 more. She’ll get it, I’m sure.

              Have we become more violent because we have so many more guns? Or do we have so many more guns because violence, pari passu, has become as American as the pie we’ll all gobble down next week? 

              To quote what I never hear from any of the online experts and pundits these days – I don’t know.

Want To Reduce Gun Violence? Just Ask Donald Trump How To Do It.


              Over the last ten years, the United States has contained roughly 4% of the world’s total population.  Every year, the per-100K homicide rate in the U.S. stands around 5.5, in the other advanced countries, the rate is somewhere around 3.5.

              How does the United States, with the fifth-highest per-capita GDP income in the OECD, wind up with a homicide rate that is almost twice as high as every other advanced nation-state?

              The answer has been supplied to us by our good friend David Hemenway at the Chan – Harvard University School of Public Health. And what David has been saying is that the difference between our rate of violence and what occurs throughout the rest of the OECD is basically caused by the three hundred, or maybe four hundred million guns that we have floating around. You can download and read David’s research right here.

              David’s work comes on top of the research published in 1993 by Art Kellerman and Frederick Rivara, who found an indisputable causal link between homicide and access to guns in the home.  You can also download and read this article here.

              The publication of the Kellerman-Rivara research ignited a firestorm on the other side of the debate, i.e., the gun industry and its supporters who didn’t like being told that their beloved toys represented a threat to public health. This bunch, in and out of academe, even got the CDC to stop funding gun research, although of late,  that funding has been restored. Fine. Good. Big deal.

              The reason I am skeptical of what might actually be the result of this new wave of gun research can be found in a lengthy and detailed document published by the World Health Organization and the United Nations back in 2014. Entitled, ‘Global Status Report on Violence Prevention, 2014,’ you can also download and read it here. But I suggest you give yourself plenty of time to download this report, which happens to be 275 pages in length and contains specific data from 133 countries, which in 2014 represented nearly 90 percent of everyone living on the globe.

              Why did the WHO-UN group conduct this research and publish this report? Because interpersonal violence, which they define as homicide, results in between 450,000 and 500,000 deaths every year, is the third-highest cause of death for males in the 15-44 years age group, and is usually preceded by non-fatal sexual or physical abuse which then leads to “lifelong ill health – particularly for women and children – and early death.” That sums it up kind of nicely, doesn’t it?

              The problem with this report, all the data notwithstanding, is that we aren’t given any real guidance for bringing the homicide rate in the U.S. down to where it would be equal or less than what occurs throughout the OECD. In fact, of the 52 specific legal and programmatic categories which the report covers for every country, the United States only lacks two specific violence-related laws, one which would make gang membership a specific criminal offense, and the other providing funds for victim representation in court.

              In other words, the country with the highest rate of homicide in the OECD also ranks highest in the number of laws and programs which exist in response to homicides which take place. And nowhere in this entire report is this anomaly pointed out. Nowhere. Thanks a lot.

              In fact, what makes this report so difficult for me to read or accept is that the data on U.S. interpersonal violence is lumped into a basked called ‘the Americas,’ which contains data from countries like Honduras and Guatemala, nice, peaceful countries like that.

              There is, however, one interesting comparison that can be made between the rate of violence in the United States versus the rate in countries both within and without the OECD. In the United States, the percentage of homicides committed with a gun is 68 percent. In the U.K., the percentage is less than 10 percent. In Italy, it’s 45 percent, Germany is 13 percent.

              Now let’s look at the other American shooting galleries – oops – I mean countries.. In Honduras guns are used in 83 percent of all homicides, the percentage for Guatemala is 82 percent. Mexico, however, is just like the U.S.- the use of guns in homicides is only 68 percent. Colombia, with all those drug cartels, has a gun-use percentage of 78 percent.

              Know what the percentage is in Cuba? Try zero. That’s right. None. But let’s not forget that Cuba, after all, is a Communist state and we know ‘for a fact’ that the first thing the Commies always do when they take over is they rid of all the privately-owned guns.

              The per-100,000 homicide rate in Colombia was 34. Our rate is 5.5. Cuba’s homicide rate is 4.8. Want to have guns or do you want to have murders? We seem to be the only advanced country which has both.

              The good news is that at least the voters in America had the sense to get rid of the very first President who claimed that he would do anything to make sure that Americans could own guns to protect themselves from crime. Except the data in the WHO-UN report completely contradicts that nonsense, but since when does Donald Trump ever base anything he says on evidence-based facts?

              The WHO-UN report says that the United States has laws which ‘regulate’ civilian access to guns, but the report also notes that the laws vary from state to state.

The bottom line is this: As long as certain kinds of guns are regulated and not banned, we will continue to experience a level of violence which makes us a 3rd-world country in this respect.

Don’t like what I just said? Go argue with the WHO and the UN, not with me. And while you’re at it, don’t waste your time with Trump.

What Do We Do About Gun Violence?


Having spent yesterday talking about why we don’t have a spike in gun violence because of all those guns being sold, I think it’s incumbent upon Mike the Gun Guy, or Mike the Know-It-All Gun Guy, to at least come up with a different theory as to why gun violence appears to be out of control. So here goes.

I have a friend, a Black guy, who was a street cop for 20 years in a very high-crime neighborhood located in one of the cities which has recently been experiencing a sharp increase in gun violence, especially random, sporadic shootings in the street. This particular city was a leader in developing anti-gun violence programs and until last year had an annual gun-violence rate which was among the country’s lowest for a city that size.

While my friend was on the job, he finished college. He also did law school and when he took his twenty, he became first a prosecutor, then a judge. Then he went into politics, ran once, and lost, then ran again and was elected to the city council where he still serves and has been mentioned as an up-and-coming mayoral candidate with the possibility of even going beyond to Governor, or Senator, or whatever position is available when he’s ready to run again.

Several years ago, before anyone ever heard of Covid-19, I happened to spend an hour with my friend talking over new and old times. I asked him if being a cop today was different from when he first went on the job. And without so much as hesitating for one second, he replied, “The difference today is that nobody backs down.”

I keep thinking about what my friend said to me that day. I also keep thinking about the growth of a culture which increasingly celebrates the idea that the only way you get any idea across is to plant yourself squarely in someone else’s face. And don’t make the mistake of thinking that this culture is just coming from Trump and the MAGA gang. It’s all over the place and has been out there long before anyone ever heard of Donald Trump.

Know what that schmuck from Florida, Ron DeSantis told a crowd in Pittsburgh back in May? He said, and I quote: “The way to win is to fight back and not take it anymore. Stand your ground!”

Want another version?  Try this video. Here’s a better one – right out of the ‘hood.

 My friends in Gun-control Nation have been lamenting the growth in Stand Your Ground (SYG) laws, claiming that such laws not only encourage people to carry guns, but have made it easier for someone who shoots someone else to claim self-defense. This is particularly true if the shooter happens to be White and the guy who was shot happens to be Black.

That’s all fine and well, but Gun-control Nation’s response to SYG laws doesn’t help us understand how and why such laws exist only in the United States. How come SYG laws only appeared in the United States and don’t exist in countries like Australia and South Africa that were also colonized by populations that brought the same Common Law legal tradition with them when they came from Great Britain and settled frontier zones?

Violence, whether it’s between individuals or between nation-states, happens to be the only threat to the human community that we still don’t understand or know how to prevent. We know how to slow down global warming, we know how to feed the world’s hungry, we know how to identify and eradicate disease. We may not have the political will necessary to respond to those threats, but we know what to do.

For reasons that I don’t know, this country is enamored of violence and this love affair is not going to end just because we enact another law to keep guns out of the ‘wrong hands.’

We need to begin replacing a culture of violence with a culture of non-violence. Easier said than done.

Another Plan To End Gun Violence.


I hate to say it, but sometimes there’s a certain arrogance which infects liberal academics who believe it’s their responsibility to inform us about what we need to do in order to create a better life for what Rush Limbaugh used to refer to as the ‘deserving poor.’

One such liberal prognosticator is Patrick Sharkey, whose book on urban violence, Uneasy Peace, made a big splash when it was published back in 2017.  He’s at Princeton, where he now sits in the sylvan campus glades and tells us how and what we should do to help all those poor, unfortunate residents of the ‘underserved’ world make things better for themselves.

Sharkey has just published a new advisory report for the uplifting of the inner-city folks, ‘Social Fabric: A New Model for Public Safety and Vital Neighborhoods.’ This is a plan to lift up the poor and downtrodden which weaves together “a social fabric composed of residents and community institutions, upheld by the social supports that government budgets are intended to nurture.”

Another version of the Marshall Plan writ large. I have been listening to my liberal friends express their belief about the ameliorative impact of public spending on social programs since Michael Harrington discovered American poverty back in 1962.  Every few years someone like Sharkey comes along, tells us that we need to spend more money but need to spend it in a different way and things will be just fine.

How does Sharkey want the money spent?  Various programs “that would iteratively shrink the uses of the criminal justice system,” such as after-school activities for the kids, summer employment, better lighting of public spaces, these and other programs of course being based on the “best science that we have.” The liberals always trot out science whenever they want to justify plans for social change.

The paper published by Sharkey and his colleagues is advertised as a ‘pilot project’ that should be conducted in New York City and then expanded to other urban, inner-city zones which experience high levels of violence and social distress. The whole point of this approach is to get various community groups to become more involved in street-level activities that will create social cohesion and allow the police to operate only when crime or violence gets out of hand.

What I find very interesting in this compassionate and hopeful approach to inner-city poverty and crime is a complete absence of any discussion at all about the two issue which are more responsible for creating and sustaining the violence endured by these neighborhoods than anything else: housing projects and guns.

The single, moist violent neighborhood in New York City is a neighborhood in Brooklyn called East New York. Back in the 1920’s, this area was a location for immigrant Jews, all of whom moved out during the decade following World War II. They were replaced by an impoverished Black population, many of whom had roots in the South.

Where did this new population live when they came to East New York? They were crammed into the single, worst, most disgusting housing ever invented for human beings, namely, the housing projects which still dominate the skyline in East New York. These projects were invented by liberal academics known as urban planners and I don’t notice that an urban expert like Professor Sharkey says one word about the existence of these vertical slums.

Yea, yea, I know that the word ‘slum’ is a word I’m not supposed to use.  What should I call these monstrosities?  Garden apartments like they have in Queens?

Then there’s the other little, unmentionable issue, which we refer to as guns.  Last week, there were 50 shootings in New York City, of which almost half occurred in Brooklyn, many in East New York. Does Sharkey and his colleagues at the Square One Project have a plan that can displace the cops when someone pulls out a banger and bangs someone else in the head?

Know what Professor Sharkey can do with his plan?  He can add it to his CV and use it as a script when he appears at TED.

What’s Wrong With Armed, Self-Defense?


              When I got into the gun business back in the 1960’s, if you wanted to buy a handgun, you bought a Smith & Wesson, a Ruger or a Colt. If you wanted a shotgun, you chose from Remington, Winchester, Mossberg or maybe Ithaca Arms. And if you needed a rifle to go out after a white tail, it was a Remington 700, a Winchester Model 70, a Savage, a Marlin or maybe you went high end with a Browning or a Weatherby just for kicks.

              That was then, this is now. And thanks to the invasion of polymer into gun manufacturing, which completely obliterated the distinctive finish and design of each brand, the only thing which determines what gun goes across the counter in the dealer’s shop is price. If you walked around a gun factory in the olden days, you saw a whole bunch of craft shops operating under one roof. Now what you see is one guy sitting in front of a computer, locking a trigger, hammer and barrel assembly into a frame, then carrying the gun from the finishing room into the range where someone shoots it two or three times and it’s good to go.

              Yesterday I received the monthly sales sheet from one of the national gun wholesalers, and I didn’t recognize the name of one company producing a gun being sold to retailers by this distributor at a ‘bargain’ price.  Ever hear of a gun company called TriStar? How about an outfit called Canik? Maybe instead of a name-brand assault rifle like Bushmaster you’d rather buy an AR receiver from Aero Precision, Anderson Manufacturing or a company called Spike’s.

              In all the hue and cry coming from Gun-control Nation, I have never understood why guns are the only consumer products which somehow escape being regulated both in terms of safety and use. Oh no, you say – we can’t regulate the gun industry thanks to the PLCAA law the gun industry received as a gift from George W. Bush in 2005. But as David Kopel has pointed out (and Kopel is no friend of the gun grabbers), PLCCA does not shield the gun industry from any liability if someone uses a gun in a ‘lawful’ way and injures someone else. In other words, after I pull out my Glock and shoot you in the head, I still have done nothing wrong if I can just convince the cops that I was protecting myself from a threat.

              This idea that we should all be carrying guns to protect ourselves has a long and storied history in the United States, going back to when we were still a bunch of colonies operating under British Common Law. But Common Law doesn’t recognize the use of violence to prevent violence unless you happen to be wearing a Crown on your head. And the idea that ‘stand your ground’ laws reflect how White men stole land away from indigenous tribes is total nonsense because White men stole millions of square miles from indigenous peoples in Australia and South Africa and neither country has ever promulgated a ‘stand your ground’ law.

              I am still waiting for the very first attempt by all my public-health researcher friends to explain how and why a majority of Americans believe that keeping a gun around is the best way to defend themselves from crime. As of last year, Gallup says that 37% of American homes contain a gun.  Meanwhile, a majority of Americans also told Gallup they believed the country would be a safer place if more people were walking around with guns. Think the NRA is the reason why even many non-gun owners believe in armed, self-defense? It’s the other way around.

              This country has a unique love affair with small arms, and I’m in the process of writing a book that will attempt to explain it but don’t hold your breath. I don’t even really understand why I’m a gun nut, so how could I possibly figure out anyone else?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Our friend Clarence Jones is Scholar in Residence at the Martin Luther KIng, Jr., Institute at Stanford University. He previously served as Dr. KIng’s personal attorney and wrote the initial draft of the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. Several years ago he and I had a conversation and part of what we said to each other went like this:

Mike Weisser: If Dr King were alive today, how would he feel about the progress we have made in civil rights?

Clarence Jones: Civil rights was not Martin’s chief focus or concern. He was first and foremost committed to non-violence and in that respect, if he were alive today, he would believe he had failed.

Mike Weisser: Why would he believe that?

Clarence Jones: Because we are a much more violent country today than we were in 1968.

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