The Washington Post Uses Science To Explain Violence Caused By Guns.


The good news is that many people, perhaps millions of people who otherwise never think about gun violence will be thinking about gun violence today. And for all the talk about this gun-control law and that gun-control law, gun violence will end when our culture stops accepting the idea that the best way to deal with violence is to use violence; i.e., the violence caused by guns.

march24             The bad news about today is that every liberal (i.e., gun-control) media outlet will feel it necessary to have some staff writer put out a nice, feel-good story about guns, by which I mean saying something either stupid or obvious about gun violence because if The New York Times says something, The Washington Post better say something too.

In that regard today’s WaPo has an op-ed by a kid named Robert Gebelhoff, who as far as I can tell, has never previously published anything about guns. And not only doesn’t he know anything about guns, but if you take the trouble to read the actual content of his piece entitled, “Opponents of gun control say nothing can be done. Science says they’re wrong,” you’ll discover he doesn’t know anything about science either, or at least he certainly doesn’t know what the word ‘science’ actually means.

I may be a little old-fashioned, or maybe just old, but to me the word ‘science’ means or at least implies that we base what we know on facts. Not just one or two facts scattered here or there, but on facts which come out of evidence-based research, not just out of hot air. And sadly, as I read through Gebelhoff’s piece, I can’t seem to find where the facts  begin and the hot air actually ends.

According to Gebelhoff, the first thing we need to do is “Ban weapons of war.” And his science behind this statement? “Based on the evidence we have, banning these weapons probably won’t do too much to curb overall gun deaths.” Some science.

The next thing we need to do is: “Keep guns away from kids.” And the way we do this is to make sure the guns are always locked up, because according to another bit of science quoted by Gebelhoff, “68 percent of school shootings are perpetrated by shooters who obtain a gun from their homes or the homes of relatives.” Except the study he quotes says absolutely nothing about whether the guns used by those school shooters were locked up or not.

Next? “Stop the flow of guns.” And the ‘science’ behind this idea comes from the ‘gun buyback’ in Australia, according to Gebelhoff, except that what happened in Australia wasn’t a buyback at all. It was a decision by the government to prohibit the ownership of certain types of legally-owned guns, which meant that owners of these products had to be compensated at fair-market value when they surrendered their no-longer-legal product; in other words, it wasn’t a buyback, it was a confiscation, that’s all.

Of course, when Hillary talked about Australia during the 2016 campaign, her so-called experts told her she would be accused of supporting a plan that would undercut the sanctified 2nd Amendment, so what happened in Australia was turned into a ‘buyback,’ as if she knew what she was talking about either way.  I’d like to thank Rob Gebelhoff for turning Hillary’s fiction into fact, of course using science to pave the way.

My concern about giving totally uninformed contributors like Gebelhoff space in the gun-control debate is that what they say will end up not just influencing the content of the debate, but will be used by the ‘other side’ to prove once again that people honestly concerned about gun violence are wolves in sheep’s clothing who just can’t wait to take all the guns away. And when a media venue as influential as The Washington Post allows someone as ignorant as Rob Gebelhoff to use terms like ‘science’ to shape the ideas of uninformed but otherwise-honest readers, the alt-right isn’t wrong when it refers to such shabby journalism as ‘fake news.’



Some Gays Think They Need To Protect Themselves With Guns. I Don’t Agree.


One of the things I like about July 4th is that everyone’s out there having a good time.  So I am going to have a good time, too.  And since what I enjoy doing more than anything is writing, I spend part of the July 4th holiday writing something that I know will piss some people off. Which is why I usually go after something having to do with Gun-nut Nation because it’s so easy to piss them off.  And today I’m going to go after a subset of Gun-nut Nation, which is the queer Gun-nut Nation, a.k.a. a phony little group known as the Pink Pistols, and I’m not going to be either polite or politically-correct in what I’m going to say.

guns gays           I think it’s a tremendous step forward that an alliance is forming between the Gun Violence Prevention (GVP) community and LGBTQ.  If nothing else, I hope it will allow me to stop spelling out the GVP acronym as this alliance matures and grows.  But as I have said previously, the strength that LGBTQ brings to the issue of gun violence isn’t just one of numbers, it’s much more one of organizational experience and smarts.  When it comes to changing hearts and minds about a serious issue, LGBTQ has been there, done that, more times and in more places than I could ever know.

But the bad news about this alliance is that once attention starts getting paid to the issue of gays and guns, you can be sure that everyone will try to get in on the act.  And the curtain was first raised by an article in the Washington Post which discussed the emerging GVP-LGBTQ connection but made a point, in the interests of course of fair and balanced journalism, to mention some LGBTQ ‘activists’ who have ‘vigorously embraced’ gun rights.  Four days later, WaPo ran a second, full-length article on a gay guy in Philly who has organized a Pink Pistols chapter with the help of a certified, NRA pistol instructor who also happens to be gay.

So I took a little time to read up on the Pink Pistols, in particular their 25-page organizational manual which tells you who they are, how they got started and what they hope to achieve.  And what they hope to achieve is a national movement that will respond to the ongoing anti-gay violence suffered by the LGBTQ community by getting every member of that community to walk around with a gun: “We are dedicated to the legal, safe and responsible use of firearms for self-defense of the sexual-minority community.”

This is a complete load of crap and because it’s a holiday weekend I’m being polite.  Sorry, but being ‘safe and responsible’ with firearms is an oxymoron that Gun-nut Nation has been trotting out ever since the issue of gun violence was first raised, and if you want to believe it, go right ahead.  You can also believe that Martians really did land at Area 51 or that Donald Trump will build a wall.

But the agenda of Pink Pistols doesn’t actually bear on facts or the truth, it’s nothing more than a warmed-over enchilada to get another non-gun population interested in joining and supporting the NRA.   Because if you take the trouble to read their manual you’ll discover that the only training they recommend is the NRA “Refuse To Be A Victim” course, which happens to be a course that doesn’t cover anything having to do with guns at all.  It’s basically a little seminar that builds on the idea that we are all vulnerable to crime, but the issue of crimes against the LGBTQ community isn’t mentioned once.  What a surprise.

Want to read something serious and honest about gays and guns? Take a look at the LGBTQ news blog The Advocate and, in particular, the article on ‘Gays and Guns,’ along with John Feinblatt’s commentary on what Orlando meant to him. Then have a safe and happy holiday – GVP/LGBTQ will get it on!!!

Glenn Kessler Checks Chris Murphy’s Facts And Gets It All Wrong.

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Just when it appears that the Senate may do the right thing and actually vote some kind of gun law, we are treated to an attempt by, of all publications, The Washington Post, to cast aspersions on the chief sponsor of the bill, Senator Chris Murphy, by subjecting his comments about gun violence and AR-15s to the so-called ‘fact checking’ process conducted by Glenn Kessler, who often writes for WaPo about guns.  I have had differences with Kessler in the past, but this particular effort reveals him to be a liar or a jerk or both, and if Jeff Bezos ever decides to throw Kessler out, he can run right down to Fairfax and work for the NRA.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT)

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT)

Kessler begins by taking Murphy to task for saying that states with more gun-control regulations have less homicides, and since Murphy referred to gun ‘homicides’ and not overall gun deaths, his statement, according to Kessler, contained ‘significant factual errors.’  And the great error, according to Kessler, is that by linking gun-control laws to homicides, Senator Murphy completely overlooked the fact that some states, particularly the Western states, have few gun laws and few homicides, but have higher rates of suicide.

To state, as Kessler does, that Murphy’s linkage between gun control and homicides is not factually based is a disingenuous and underhanded way of casting doubt on the value of gun regulations in general, hence, should cast doubt on Murphy’s current attempt to strengthen gun laws.  Hey Glenn, let’s cut the bullshit, okay? There is no doubt that states with stiffer gun laws tend to have lower rates of gun homicides and gun violence in general, and the fact that Western states have lax gun laws and few gun homicides is basically irrelevant because Western states, in case you want to take the trouble to check, also don’t have many people.  So in the overall scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter what the gun violence rate is in Idaho or Montana, understand?  No, of course Kessler won’t understand.

Kessler’s second attempt to smear Murphy is to cast doubt on his claim that there has been a ‘massive’ increase in mass shootings since the assault-weapons ban ended in 2004. This claim is also judged by Kessler as containing significant errors, or to quote Kessler, ‘problematic.’  And what does Kessler reference to disparage Murphy’s statement about the use of assault rifles in mass shootings?  A report published that covered all mass shootings between 1976 and 2011 which found that assault rifles were only used in 25% of mass shootings whereas handguns were the weapons of choice in nearly two-thirds of these attacks.

I’m going to spend a little more in responding to Kessler’s stupid and nonsensical garbage because, obviously, the issue of assault rifles is in the forefront of the current debate. In fact (hey Glenn, note the use of the word ‘fact’) the report used by Kessler defines a ‘mass shooting’ as any incident resulting in the death of four or more people, most of which happen to have been family-connected, domestic events. What in God’s name do such events have to do with gunning down 70 people in a movie theater, or 26 people in a public school, or 100 people in a club?  Nothing.  And guess what weapon accounted for almost 100 deaths at Aurora, Sandy Hook and Orlando?  Furthermore, Kessler’s ‘evidence’ aggregates data beginning in 1976.  Hey schmuck, did it ever occur to you that AR-15 rifles weren’t even sold on the commercial market until 1980 and didn’t become popular until the 1990s?

In writing about guns, I try to maintain a relatively civil and respectful tone, even when I am confronted by something that comes out of one of the crazy mouths representing Gun-nut Nation (read: NRA.) So I apologize for the tone of these remarks.  But my apology is aimed at my readers and not at Kessler or his employer.  His attack on Senator Murphy is shabby journalism at its worst – the absolute worst.


What Did The Now-Infamous Nine Seconds Of Silence In ‘Under The Gun’ Really Mean?

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Move over Dick Heller – Gun Nation has a new poster boy named Philip Van Cleave.  He happens to be President of an outfit called the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) and tomorrow he’s appearing on the Glenn Beck show at 10 A.M. This is hardly Van Cleave’s first brush with the media.  In fact, he was interviewed at length by Lesley Stahl for a 2009 segment on 60 Minutes called ‘The Way of the Gun.’  And when he was asked whether everyone should go through a background check, he answered: “How about nobody go through a back ground check?  After all, the 2nd Amendment doesn’t mention background checks.”

couric          So here we have in a nutshell the current approach of Gun Nation to the existence of gun laws, namely, there shouldn’t be any gun laws. No background check, no mandated training, no restrictions on open carry, no nothing.  Which is why I find the current brouhaha about Katie Couric’s alleged attempt to demonize the good VCDL folks both amusing and deplorable; amusing because of the effort by Gun Nation to deflect away any concerns about gun violence at all; deplorable because the response to Couric’s alleged mishandling of the editing process in her film says something serious about how the GVP community responds to challenges from the other side.

Was I surprised that when an audio surfaced which indicated that the film’s VCDL segment had been edited, that this would immediately become grist for the right-wing mill?  Of course not, and by the way, the criticisms of the movie from the pro-gun noise machine had been circulating well in advance of the appearance of the now-infamous voice tape.  But what did bother me was the snarky and mean-spirited coverage of the issue by media outlets that should have known better, including the Washington Post and the New York Times.  The NRA gleefully put up a link to the New York Times’ story which called Couric out for her editorial “slant.” And they also made sure to mention the WaPo story which accused Couric of fraud.

Now stop and think about it: When was the last time those two august publications ran stories about the false, deceptive and utterly fraudulent arguments about gun violence presented by the NRA virtually every day?  Do you think that the VCDL focus group in Couric’s movie made up the idea that the 2nd Amendment gave them unlimited rights to their guns out of thin air?  No – they said it because that’s what the pro-gun noise machine has been telling them for the past twenty years.  And this nonsense is presented by media outlets like The New York Times not as stupid, not as completely wrong, not as dangerous, but as legitimate expression from the ‘other side.’

I have been listening to the gun debate since the 1960’s, and what I find most interesting is the degree to which one side has been very consistent and the other side continues to change its stance.  GVP-land has advocated expanded background checks, limits on magazine capacities and research into smart guns; arguments that haven’t really changed at all since 1994, if not since 1968.  The pro-gun assembly, on the other hand, has morphed from automatic CCW licensing, to no CCW licensing, to open carry, all of which are sanctified by their so-called 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

The truth is that we haven’t had a debate about gun violence; what we have had is a conscious attempt by pro-gun advocates to advance their agenda by denying the existence of gun violence at all.  The nine seconds of silence that followed Katie’s question about how to keep guns out of the wrong hands was exactly the response that we get from Gun Nation every, single time the issue is raised.  And some of my friends in GVP-land seem to have forgotten that point in their rush to apologize for Katie’s terrible misdeed.

Know what the end result of this tempest in a teapot will be?  More people will watch Katie’s film.


Obama And The Conspiracy To Disarm America: The Washington Post Weighs In And Gets It Wrong.

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So for the very first time in the lifetime of everyone who is alive today, a President devoted an entire hour of prime-time media to a discussion about gun violence. And it was a discussion, I might add, that was largely shaped by a series of questions which, vetted or not, were asked by members of the audience at the Town Hall who weren’t particularly in favor of any of the President’s gun-control ideas.  Which was the whole point of this event, namely, to show the average American that Obama simply wants to have a sensible conversation about guns.

bomber              And in that regard, the President knew his stuff and spelled it out clearly and effortlessly.  He knew the difference between gun ownership and concealed-carry (the former regulated at the Federal level; the latter regulated by the states).  He knew and didn’t disagree with the notion that people wanted to own guns for self-defense.  He knew the difference between public and private sales.  In fact, I didn’t hear him make one, single statement during the entire event that couldn’t be supported by facts.

The moment that the event ended, of course, the ‘other side’ was rearing to go, with comments such as “law-abiding gun owners don’t trust Obama,” and Obama as “bully” flying through right-wing channels.  Not that any of the pro-gun, anti-Obama rhetoric was unexpected, because that’s what the digital news and political commentary environment is all about.  But what provoked the greatest amount of attention on both sides of the political spectrum was the discussion at the end of the event when the President derisively dismissed the idea of gun confiscation as a ‘conspiracy theory’ that had no basis in reality or truth.

Now here is where Obama was treading on a landscape that represents Gun Nation’s most sacred cow.  This notion that any kind of gun control is a harbinger of gun confiscation has gotten to the point that the NRA, for example, uses the phrases ‘2nd Amendment’ and ‘disarming America’ interchangeably; i.e., if you don’t believe in the former, the latter will surely occur.  And this has become the degree to which any attempt to talk about gun violence is debased insofar as any gun-control law by definition reduces protections afforded by the 2nd Amendment, which raises the possibility that you might lose your guns.

Now I don’t care and obviously Obama doesn’t care either if this nonsense about gun confiscation continues to generate an immediate backlash from the most committed members of the pro-gun crowd.  But when it’s taken seriously by liberal opinion-makers such as the Washington Post’s Max Ehrenfreund, it needs to be responded in kind. Ehrenfreund is a bright, young man, Yalie no less, who quickly produced a commentary on Obama’s talk about conspiracies based largely on some ersatz academic theories about conspiracies which basically argue that political powerlessness makes people prone to believing in conspiracies, which is why all those conservative-minded gun owners are susceptible to believing in conspiracies.  Right – politically powerless gun owners.  Yea, right.

When you run a daily blog you have to come up with new content every day. But I would hope that the editors of a Washington Post blog would occasionally ask themselves whether their contributors know anything at all regarding the issues about which they write.  Because the whole point about conspiracies is they usually grow from the ground up; somehow people start believing in something whether there’s any reality behind their belief or not.

Which is simply not what the gun confiscation conspiracy is all about. It’s about a concerted, organized and continuous effort to promote the sale of guns – an effort led and directed by the NRA and others for the past thirty years.  Ehrenfreud doesn’t perceive this at all, but Obama certainly does.  His dismissal of the confiscation theory as reflecting “political reasons” and “commercial reasons” demonstrates an understanding of the gun debate that even the Washington Post hasn’t figured out. Which is why Obama is President.  Thank goodness for that.


The Washington Post Does A Story About Gun Violence And Gets It Wrong Again.

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This is not a column that I am going to enjoy writing but what follows still needs to be said. And although I am going to appear to be very critical of law enforcement in the commentary that follows, please take my word for it when I say that I am extremely pro-cop.  And the reason I am very supportive of the men and women in blue is that I have witnessed on numerous occasions their willingness to be the first ones who rush into a location when God knows what is behind that closed door.  But nevertheless I still believe that what follows needs to be said.

postActually, I’m not going to be critical of law enforcement so much as I am going to say some pretty unkind words about a long article about police shootings that has just appeared in The Washington Post. The article claims to be a very detailed study of almost 1,000 police shootings that have occurred this year.  Turns out that the FBI’s annual report on what they call justifiable law enforcement shootings is like everything else that is published in the UCR, namely, a best-guess estimate based on what local law enforcement wants to report (or not report) to their federal friends in DC.  But the fact that the given by the Post is twice as high as what we get each year from the FBI makes me wonder about the credibility of any crime data published in the UCR.

Be that as it may, the very first headline of the Post’s story is that only 4% of all police killings resulted in the deaths of “unarmed” Black men shot by White cops.  The Post should be ashamed of itself for writing something so basically divisive, stupid, and in terms of its implication, simply wrong.  Because the report immediately linked this number to the protests that have sprung up about cops shooting blacks in many communities, the most notable of course being the shooting of Michael Brown. The report then goes on to say that although Black men represent only 6% of the U.S. population, they accounted for 40% of the unarmed men shot to death by the cops in 2015.  So the takeaway from all of this is that if there’s a racial problem in the issue of police homicides, it’s not so much that cops shoot unarmed Blacks so much as there is a disparity between Black males as a percentage of the overall population and the numbers of ‘armed’ Black men who are shot dead.

There’s only one little problem with this analysis and it makes me wonder whether the staff that created this report for the Post even took the trouble to look at the data on which the report is based.  Because when I started to read the details of the actual shootings themselves, what jumped out at me was the extent to which the definitions of what constitutes ‘armed’ versus ‘unarmed’ victims, Black or White, doesn’t add up to the same thing at all.

There were, according to the article, 70 police homicides in December, of which the victim in 47 cases had a gun.  There were also 15 shootings in which the victim had a knife and 9 instances in which the victim wielded some other kind of weapon, including a baseball bat, a “metal stick” and a brick.  Now don’t get me wrong.  If someone came at me with a brick I would certainly feel that I was being threatened with serious bodily harm.  But in fact the victim threw the brick at an officer, he didn’t actually hit him with anything at all.

Again, I’m not in any way attempting to impugn the dedication and hard work of our men and women in blue.  If anything, my concern here is with the obvious attempt by The Post to create a sensational story out of some buts of thin air.  But when it comes to stories involving guns, The Post usually gets it wrong.

Do Armed Citizens Know How To Protect Themselves With Guns? I Doubt It.

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For all the childish, macho crap the NRA keeps spreading about the use of guns for self-defense, the truth is that the gun industry and its supporters have never (never means not once), ever done a single study that tests, never mind validates the idea that a good guy can stop a bad guy with a gun.  And even though Gary Kleck, who first promoted the bogus idea that millions of crimes each year were prevented because people used guns for self-defense, has backed off from his nonsensical claims, the pro-gun lobby continues to tell us again and again that guns and gun owners protect us from crime.

The “evidence” that supports this nonsense isn’t really evidence at all.  It consists of a few anecdotal references to people who used guns to protect themselves or others, something which does happen from time to time.  But in a country whose civilian population owns somewhere above 300 million guns, the 80-90 armed citizen stories carried each year by the NRA doesn’t really count for very much.  The Washington Times, which slavishly follows the NRA game plan in virtually everything it publishes about guns, has several times run a feature about armed citizens protecting us from crime, a story based on eleven incidents that have taken place over the past seven years.

gun victims                I’m not saying that people don’t use guns to protect themselves.  Usually they back off, try to talk the attacker out of his plan, or dial 911.  What I am saying is that if we can believe that a majority of Americans now think they are safer with than without a gun, there might be an increasing number of people walking around with guns who have absolutely no idea of what to do if they actually had to pull out the banger and use it in self-defense.

We now have for the very first time a real-life test of whether or not an average gun owner knows what to do or how to do it when he or she finds themselves in a situation where being able to use a handgun might make the difference between an outcome that is good or bad.  This test was conducted by the National Gun Victims Action Council (NGVAC) which compared armed responses by police to armed responses by civilians in three training simulations that took place in the training simulator of the Prince George’s County Police.  You can read a summary of the results in The Washington Post, or watch the entire video which is based on a simulated carjacking, convenience store holdup and possible larceny caught in the act.  The bottom line in all three simulations is that the cops responded properly, the civilians gun owners either got shot, or used the gun when they shouldn’t have, or did nothing at all because they didn’t know what to do.

In addition to the video, the NGVAC has also released a very detailed study on self-defense training which basically finds that individuals who want to walk around armed should possess “a minimum skill with the use of a firearm in a stressful situation of self-defense.”  There are presently nine states that require any kind of tactical training for CCW, and none of these training requirements come close to meeting what professional law enforcement training experts consider the minimum training for police officers whose work, by definition, requires them to be able to protect themselves and others from dangerous crime.

And why do only 9 states have what is basically worthless self-defense training requirements and the other 41 states have nothing at all?  Here’s a little hint: it’s a three-letter acronym, the first letter is an ‘N’ and the last letter is an ‘A.’ I wouldn’t be so pissed off at the gun industry, the NRA or its self-appointed armed-citizen zealots if they would have the honesty to at least call for serious training before someone can walk around a gun.  But that would require passing another gun law and we all know that ‘good guys’ don’t need laws, they just need more guns.


Are College Students A New Market For The NRA? I Haven’t Seen It Yet.

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Michael Rosenwald is a reporter for the Washington Post who goes wandering across the 14th Street bridge into Virginia and finds something he believes to be new and different with guns.  Back in January he discovered a new attraction called Elite Shooting Sports located near Dulles Airport, which combines a gun range with a snazzy café, wi-fi lounge and various other Milennial-type amenities.  Rosenwald promptly found four or five other such establishments popping up around the country and – voila! – a new trend in shooting sports was born.

Last week Rosenwald went across the bridge to Virginia again, then to Reagan Airport and ended up at MIT in Cambridge, MA where he discovered yet another new trend, in this case, a significant surge in shooting clubs and shooting activities on college campuses.  Not just a significant increase in campus shooting sports, but according to Rosenwald, a “phenomenal” increase.  MIT’s shooting program, like many campus programs, is partially funded by the gun industry through grants from the NSSF, along with additional support from the Midway Foundation, which is owned and operated by a very successful shooting accessories company from whom I have purchased my share of gear over the years.

free school                In addition to evidently spending some time on the MIT campus, Rosenwald tapped into a cute blog on the MIT admissions website posted by a member of the team, Lydia, who describes herself as feeling “really, really badass” when she shot her 22-caliber rifle and won a certificate at the end of the semester for competing in the “Top Gun” competition.  According to Lydia, shooting has taught her how to deal with pressure and, in the words of the team coach, never to “give up on the mission.” I’m sure that Lydia’s parents are relieved to know that the $60,000 yearly tuition fee is helping their daughter tighten her groups on the rifle range, but if Rosenwald believes that this kind of undergraduate pitter-patter is creating new customers for the gun industry, once again he’s showing his lack of knowledge about anything that has to do with guns.

If you do a story on the growth of shooting sports on college campuses, you should try and figure out whether this new trend will have any long-term impact on the gun industry as a whole.  I should add, by the way, that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the gun industry promoting shooting sports in whatever venue they can find.  And notice that I say shooting ‘sports,’ as opposed to unending and nauseating attempts by the gun industry to justify its existence by pretending that armed citizens will protect us from crime.  If anything, college kids tend to be more liberal than the blue-collar demographic that usually owns guns; if Sarah Palin thinks she’ll get the same reception at the collegiate clay target championships that she receives at the annual meeting of the NRA, she’s may be in for a big surprise.

Back in 2012 I teamed up with GroupOn to offer a promotion on my range.  For a discounted price, folks could shoot 22-caliber and 9mm pistols at some zombie targets, and then get their picture on my Facebook page.  More than 400 GroupOn customers came to my shop, roughly half were women, they were mostly between 20 and 35, most had never shot a gun before, and the majority worked in medicine, engineering and IT.  Know how many guns I sold to this group over the following three years?  Exactly one.

College is the quintessential life experience which allows you to do lots of things that may or may not be important later on.  Which is why these students are having so much fun on the MIT rifle range.  But it’s a kind of fun that doesn’t necessarily turn them into shooters for life or even purchasers of a single gun.  And noisy campaigns to the contrary,  I don’t notice college administrations rushing to lift prohibitions against guns in classrooms or in dorms.

Amazon has it.

Gun Trafficking in America - cover

Glenn Kessler Tries Writing About Guns. He Should Stick To What He Knows.

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I certainly understand that any responsible journalistic enterprise needs to present a wide spectrum of opinion, so it’s no surprise when a liberal-leaning newspaper like the Washington Post publishes a commentary on guns from the pro-gun point of view.  But you would think that the editors would at least take the trouble to read what they publish, because in a recent column by Glenn Kessler, I’m not sure that beyond his own name I can find anything he says about Obama’s views on guns which happens to be true.

Kessler begins his litany of Obama’s “exaggerated” claims about guns by referencing the President’s remarks at Benedict College in South Carolina, on March 6, 2015.  Among other things, Obama stated that we had the “highest” homicide rate in the industrialized world which, according to Kessler, just isn’t true.  He’s right.  Of the 34 OECD countries that are usually considered to be the most economically-advanced, we rank second only behind Mexico, although ‘industrialized’ and OECD aren’t the same thing.  In fact, when we say ‘industrialized,’ we are usually referring to countries that experienced the classical industrial revolution between 1850 and 1890, which basically covers Western Europe and the United States.  Kessler pushes his dumb criticism to the edge of reality by noting that the U.S. homicide rate is only “above average,” which is a funny way of characterizing a number that is 5 to 20 times higher than the average of every other industrialized European state.

Best gun salesman ever!

Best gun salesman ever!

Kessler then goes on to score Obama for saying that there were neighborhoods where it was easier to buy a gun than to buy fresh vegetables, but his snarky, CYA attempt falls completely flat when he notes that nowhere in the United States are background checks required in order to buy fresh food. The point is that Obama got it right when he drew attention to endemic violence in inner-city neighborhoods by comparing the availability of guns to the non-availability of fresh vegetables and fruit.  It’s Kessler who’s doing his readers a disservice by pretending that the President’s verbal sleight-of-hand characterization of ghetto reality somehow calls into question the validity of his remarks.

I began reading Kessler’s column wondering why and how someone who usually writes about diplomacy and foreign policy all of a sudden gets interested in guns. Then a friend pointed out to me that none other than the gun industry’s most unabashed mouthpiece, John Lott, was taking credit for everything Kessler said.  On his website yesterday, Lott claimed that he was the “reader” who asked Kessler to examine Obama’s quotes.  Lott went on to add more ammunition to Kessler’s analysis, including challenging Obama’s call for comprehensive background checks by stating that “most gun purchases already go through background checks.”

I have to admit that the President and other NICS advocates create trouble for themselves by continuing to cite a 1994 study with a 40% NICS compliance rate when the entire NICS systems didn’t go operational until 1998.  But the truth is that the value of background checks as a process for reducing gun violence has absolutely nothing to do with whether 10% or 40% or 90% of individuals with guns submitted their acquisition of guns to the NICS.  The fact is that most people who commit serious crimes are legally ineligible to own a gun.  Lott’s comment about the near-universality of background checks has nothing to do with whether the NICS system deters crime, and if Kessler wanted to really make a contribution to the gun debate, he should devote a blog to checking the exaggerations and outright falsehoods of his new friend John Lott.

Know what?  I’m getting tired of digging up serious, peer-reviewed scholarship to refute the bromides of people like Kessler and Lott.  They aren’t interested in a forthright, honest discussion about guns.  Their only interest is in helping the gun industry sell more guns. And to show you how dumb they really are, I’ll bet that neither gets a commission from Smith&Wesson, Sturm, Ruger or Glock.


Does Shooting A Gun Turn Someone Into A Gun Owner? I Don’t Think So.

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The Washington Post can usually be counted on to carry an article now and again that challenges the gun lobby on issues related to gun ownership, gun violence, or other contentious topics related to guns.  Recall that it was The Post which carried a multi-part, detailed series on gun dealers who sold most of the crime guns in northern Virginia, reportage which no doubt helped guide the Brady Organization to start up its “rotten apples” campaign against rogue dealers in Chicago and other locations.

rangeNow the Post has turned around and given a large, online editorial space to Michael Rosenwald, who went across the Potomac River to Manassas and evidently spent some time at the Elite Shooting Sports range, and then wrote an article describing the emergence of a new trend in the gun industry, something which he calls “guntry” ranges that allow patrons to rent guns and bang away either on a membership or per-try basis.  Most shooting ranges have a collection of guns that can be rented or used by visitors (the real revenue at a range is from ammunition sales) but what makes ranges like Elite different, according to Rosenwald, is these enterprises cater to a “younger, more affluent, style-focused, increasingly female and even environmentally conscious” customer base, quite unlike the gritty, hard-core, blue-collar gunnies and trigger-heads that usually hang around the local gun range.

Rosenwald mentions other guntry locations in South Beach, Florida, and a few spots around the country, all of which are catering, according to him, to a “new breed” of shooter.  And he paints a pretty accurate description of what he refers to as these “shooting retreats,” which, by the way, are usually part of a complex that includes a cigar lounge, a high-end restaurant, catering venues and other amenities that draw younger folks with a buck to spend.

That’s fine as far as it goes.  But the moment that Rosenwald stops writing about what he knows – business – and begins writing about what he doesn’t know – the gun business – mistakes and misstatements abound.  The truth is that there has yet to be any connection between the development of this business model, successful or not, and a penetration of gun sales into the younger, more affluent and more diverse population groups.  Try as they might, the gun lobby has been unable to persuade racial minorities, women or more affluent/educated folks of the value of owning guns, and Rosenwald’s comment that gun sales are now “leveling out” is remarkably disingenuous.  Does he really believe that a 40% decline in revenues of gun makers like Smith & Wesson and Ruger, along with major job layoffs, constitutes simply a leveling out?  What it means is that once Obama-fear disappeared, the gun industry has not been able to attract buyers beyond the traditional White, older, blue-collar demographic, even if the kids on occasion want to stop playing video shooting games and try the real thing.

Rosenwald quotes the NSSF that Americans spend $10 billion yearly on target shooting, but he also says that the industry as a whole tracked up $15 billion last year in sales.  Is he claiming that 2/3 of the revenue of the gun industry comes from people who just go out somewhere, set up a target and shoot their guns? That’s all fine and well except that hunters spend more than $38 billion annually on their hobby, and if you’re going to include in target shooting such expenditures as the cost of driving back and forth to the range, don’t you have to compare this number to the cost of driving back and forth to where someone went to hunt?

An article about the gun industry based on the unqualified statements of the NSSF may fill an op-ed piece for The Post, but it doesn’t help us understand the current debate about guns.  If it were the case that gun makers were finding new markets, then perhaps the whole discussion about gun safety would need to change.  Rosenwald may have found a new way in which Millennials spend their money, but shooting a gun and becoming a shooter are two very different things.

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