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.


The Best Gun Video PSA. The Best.

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There’s a new video floating around the Internet called Stop Gun Violence – PSA that’s making quite a stir.  Created by Rejina Cincic, it follows a teen-age boy who takes an unlocked pistol out of his mother’s bureau drawer, slips it into his backpack, walks into his class at school and, when there are no other kids in the room, plops the gun down on the teacher’s desk and says, “I don’t feel safe with this at home.”  And that’s it.

From viewer reactions, you would think that the NRA had posted a video telling gun owners to turn in all their guns.  I have never seen such vitriol, such anger and such cheap and snarky comments directed at any statement about gun ownership, and once the hoi polloi weighed in with their usual invectives, the pro-gun propaganda media known as the Washington Times came forth with their usual, nonsensical conclusion that the video “encourages” children to commit crimes, such as stealing the gun and then taking the weapon onto school property.  The Citizen’s Committee for the Right to Bear Arms, which is the other website belonging to the successful mail-order company known as the 2nd Amendment Foundation, declared that the video depicted six or perhaps seven different crimes.

1911                Know what crime wasn’t depicted in the video?  The crime that would have occurred if that same kid had taken his mother’s gun to school, walked into a classroom and opened fire at other students and adults.  How do you think that Jaylen Fryberg got his hands on the gun he used to kill four students at Marysville High School on October 24?  And it really didn’t matter how many other crimes Fryberg committed that day in order to bring the gun into the school because after shooting the four other kids, he then used the gun to kill himself.

This PSA video has provoked such an intense reaction from the pro-gun community because it strikes directly at their most sacred cow, namely, the idea that guns in homes make us more safe. The gun industry has been tirelessly promoting this crap for the last twenty years ever since they noticed that the traditional reason for owning guns – sport shooting and hunting – were beginning to fade away.  But if you can make people believe that the protection afforded by a gun far outweighs the risk of that weapon lying around, you’ve created a new and unending market for guns.

Let’s take a minute and look at some numbers about whether guns really keep us safe from violent crime.  The gun industry loves to tout the fact that there has been a 50% increase in gun sales while violent crime rates have declined by about the same amount over the last twenty years.  The only problem with this bromide is that 95% of the decline took place between 1994 – 2003, while the number of guns bought by civilians began to show major increases after 2004.

If that argument doesn’t work, let’s try another one.  According to the FBI, the number of felonies that were prevented by what is known as justifiable homicide using a gun runs around 225 per year.  Meanwhile, the number of non-justifiable gun homicides sits above 10,000 annually – wow, that’s quite a safety record for guns, right?  As for using a gun to prevent a crime, the NRA publishes a listing of such events on its Armed Citizen website, and the numbers run between 60 – 75 per year.

I happen to think that Stop Gun Violence is the best gun PSA I have ever seen.  It says what we all know, namely, that a gun in the home is a safety risk and an unlocked gun is a much greater risk.  I notice that all the critics who were busily counting up the felonies depicted in the film forgot to mention that in most states, leaving an unlocked gun around is not a crime at all. Shouldn’t we be talking about that issue rather than attempting to discredit a teen-age boy who showed a lot more common sense than the owner of that gun?







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Will The Bloomberg – Moms Merger Make A Difference?


Starbucks Touchscreen Storefronts

Starbucks Touchscreen Storefronts (Photo credit: DavidErickson)

The NRA better watch out.  There’s a new gun in town and it’s called, well, actually it doesn’t have a name but it’s a combination of two gun control groups – Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense which, according to their merger announcement, will “soon be stronger than any gun lobby.”  And who can argue with that claim when you put together Mike Bloomberg’s gazillions with the tireless energy of Shannon Watts and other moms, right?

The Moms claim they have more than 130,000 members and Bloomberg has enrolled more than 1,000 mayors in his club.  But who knows what those numbers really mean?  Moms also has 130,000 Likes on its Facebook page and when I went to their website it appeared that if I sent them an email with my name and address, that this made me a member.  As for Bloomberg’s membership, I took a quick look at the list for Massachusetts, my state, and guess what?  I couldn’t find a single Massachuetts Mayor who’s a Republican, but I did find Dominic Sarno, the Mayor of Springfield, where the gun homicide rate this year will probably top out at four times higher than the national average. Way to go, big Dom!

And since this new combination will soon be bigger than any gun lobby, let me tell you a little about that other lobby.  There’s been a lot of back and forth over the size of the NRA membership, with the gun organization claiming 4.5 million and various critics scaling this down to 3 million or a bit more.  I’m willing to cut both estimates in half and assume that they have somewhere above 3.5 million, even though even they admit that their recent increase was partially due to a one-year cut in dues paid by new members and it remains to be seen whether all these folks will re-enlist when they have to pay a higher price.

But the fact that Moms doesn’t have any dues not only makes me wary of their membership claims, but also raises the more important question of exactly how effective they can be.  Because it’s not very hard to use today’s social media to create the image of an organization whether something really exists or not.  The Moms group garnered lots of publicity when they showed up at Starbucks and sent a letter to Howard Schultz demanding that the company ban guns from all their stores.  But the company sidestepped the issue by issuing a statement ‘asking’ but not requiring gun owners to keep their guns outside, but even as strident (and usually stupid) a pro-gun outlet as the Washington Times covered the issue in very timid terms because it turns out that lots of gun owners didn’t want to risk the possibility that Starbucks might eventually get a little backbone and ban them permanently. After all, would anyone elevate the 2nd Amendment above that steamy latte?

Of course an advocacy organization can play an important role in any public debate regardless of its size.  But the trick is to figure out who you’re really talking to and whether or not they will listen to what you have to say.  If the Moms want to have a real impact in the argument over guns, why don’t they talk to gun owners and stop wasting their energy on convincing people who don’t need to be convinced?  And you don’t talk to gun people by throwing up a website or a Facebook page and just ‘invite’ them to post a comment or engage in a chat. Sometimes that strategy works when you’re selling a product, but it’s rank arrogance or simply stupid to confuse marketing a product with marketing an idea.

Every weekend there are dozens of gun shows all over the United States.  Each of these shows, on average, count 10,000 admissions. So do the math: if you went to one gun show every weekend, set up a booth, gave out a flyer and shot your mouth off, by the end of the year you would have talked to 500,000 gun guys (and gals.) And don’t think for one second that nobody would talk to you.  Gun folks love to talk – that’s why they go to those shows.

I’d love to walk into a gun show or some other gun-friendly place and see those Moms promoting their point of view.  Would they get an argument from gun folks? Sure.  Would the argument sometimes get nasty or offensive?  It might.  But if Moms or any other gun-control group believes they will make a difference by not going out and meeting the other side, they’re barking up the wrong tree.

What Does That NRA Small-Arms Treaty Really Say?


Case O' Guns

Case O’ Guns (Photo credit: Gregory Wild-Smith)

Last month the Obama Administration joined 114 other countries and signed the UN Arms Trade Treaty, immediately setting off howls of protests by the NRA and its Congressional supporters insisting that this was just another example of the Administration’s desire to disarm America and take away all our guns.  According to Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) the treaty undermines the 2nd Amendment guarantees of gun ownership because, among other provisions, it requires importers to identify end-users for whom small arms have been bought.

I have read every word of the treaty, it’s not a terribly lengthy document, and I think it would be worthwhile if I spend one post explaining what the treaty actually says.  Not that I’m assuming that anything I say will change anyone’s mind about the treaty, or the 2nd Amendment or anything else related to guns. But in all the hysteria that has been drummed up about this document by the NRA and its allies and friends, I have never seen the treaty text itself.  So here goes.

The treaty begins with a preamble that “reaffirms the sovereign right of any State to regulate and control conventional arms exclusively within its territory, pursuant to its own legal or constitutional system.”  This statement isn’t buried in some footnote; it’s found at the very beginning of the treaty itself.   Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t this mean that our government, and not the United Nations, gets to figure out how guns will be handled within the United States?

But what about the question of end users, because here’s where the NRA believes there lurks an attempt to create not just a national, but an international registry of all guns.  I quote again from the treaty text: “Each State Party shall maintain national records, pursuant to its national laws and regulations, of its issuance of export authorizations or its actual exports of the conventional arms….”  Now note what it says about imports: ” Each State Party is encouraged to include in those records: the quantity, value, model/type, authorized international transfers of conventional arms actually transferred, details of exporting State(s), importing State(s), transit and trans-shipment State(s), and end users, as appropriate.”

This is in fact no different than what U.S. exporters and importers must now do to comply with State Department and ATF regulations on export and import of small arms.  But the operative word here is encouraged; not required, just encouraged.  Signatories to this treaty are not bound by any requirements to either compile lists of import end-users (which we compile already) or deliver such lists to any international body.  The only required record-keeping involves the destination of exports, and correct me if I’m wrong, but only American citizens possess 2nd Amendment guarantees.

The NRA, the Washington Times, and all the other pro-gun stalwarts who make a living by ginning up the fears of gun owners every time that someone says anything even remotely connected to gun control might do us all a favor and stop concocting arguments out of whole cloth.  I know, I know, Obama’s a liberal which means he hates guns and he’ll do anything to  take them away.  But maybe it’s time to stop worrying about Obama and start thinking about how to convince rational and reasonable people that responsible gun ownership is the American way.

The real enemy of gun owners isn’t Washington and isn’t the UN.  The real enemy is any discussion in which facts and logic give way to noise and a lack of common sense.  I don’t need the NRA or Mayor Bloomberg to tell me about guns.  I can read as well as the next person and figure out what’s really going on. So can you.




The Dumbest Thing Ever Said About Gun Violence – 1st Of Many.

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Emily Miller

Emily Miller

I’m going to start giving out an award for the dumbest comment about gun violence.  I’m not yet sure how often I’m going to select a winner and I haven’t yet figured out a prize.  In fact, I invite all the readers of this blog to take the poll following the text to send me their ideas.  In the meantime, the first candidate for our Dumb Award is Emily Miller, a so-called “opinion writer” for the Washington News.  She gets on our list of possible award-winners for her column last week about mass shootings, in which she accused the President of  exploiting the fear of mass shootings to push his gun-control agenda, and noted that mass shooting deaths in America are a “rarity,” accounting for no more than 18 deaths each year.

Where does she get such crazy numbers?  Miller claims she got them from the Congressional Research Service although her link only goes to other Washington Times stories that mention the CRS.  But there is another source for this data, namely, the FBI which publishes something called Supplementary Homicide Reports each year.  Like most crime data, the reports are several years behind, the most recent covering 2011.  So our good friends in Mike Bloomberg’s shop took the FBI data covering 2009 – 2011 and added newspaper accounts covering 2012 and what’s happened so far in 2013.   If I saw a copy of the report then so did Emily Miller.  But you don’t ever mention the name ‘Bloomberg’ in the Washington Times other than to remind your readers that he’s a big clown.  Clown or not, here’s what the Bloomberg report says.

Between January 2009 and the Navy Yard massacre last week, there have been 93 mass shootings, defined by the FBI as events in which 4 or more people were killed.  In calculating the number of victims, incidentally, the FBI did not include the shooters who turned the gun on themselves, nor did they include shooters who were killed by responding police.  I included both categories because, frankly, I don’t see how you could leave them out.  And the grand total of dead people three months short of five years?  498.  Now according to Miller, the total should be slightly less than 90.  It’s not.  It’s 498, which is more than 5 victims per mass shooting.

Of the more than 100 shooters involved in these events (in some mass shootings there were also multiple perpetrators,) there were 25 who took their own lives.  Deducting this number from the overall victim count still leaves more than 470, or more than 90 per year.  And there’s no reason to exclude the 8 mass shooters killed by police because they wouldn’t have been shot if they hadn’t committed a mass murder in the first place.  And here’s the big news: for Emily Miller and the entire NRA gang who go around touting the preposterous idea that an “armed citizenry” will protect us against gun violence, there was not a single mass shooting since 2009 that was thwarted or responded to by a civilian carrying a gun.  Not one.

One other important point needs to be mentioned about mass shootings.  Despite the NRA’s contention that “gun-free zones” (like schools) increase the possibility of shootings, the overwhelming number of mass shootings took place exactly where most gun violence occurs, in or near the home of the victim.  This is true in two-thirds of the mass shootings, and for overall gun violence the percentage is about the same.  And a common thread appears in many of these domestic tragedies; i.e., they happened during holiday celebrations – Thanksgiving, Christmas – which is when lots of people are gathered in the same place.

Know what?  I really wish that Emily Miller wasn’t such an idiot.  I wish her numbers were correct.  If we only suffered 18 mass shooting deaths each year that would probably mean the overall number of deaths from shootings would also be substantially lower than the 11,000 that now occur.   Now

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In their never-ending campaign to rid America of gun violence by blaming it on people who want to control guns, the NRA has unleashed its latest weapon in the form of Emily Miller, previously a staffer with Tom DeLay and Rick Lazio, and now a writer for the Washington Times.  Miller has just published a book detailing the extraordinary difficulties she encountered in trying to get a license to purchase a gun in Washington, D.C., a decision she claims to have made after being the victim of a home invasion.

According to an interview in Politico, it took poor Emily four months and 17 “steps” to get her license, a process which not only made her the latest self-appointed expert on gun violence, but convinced her that gun control does nothing to reduce crime.  In fact, Emily told Politico, gun ownership is at its highest level ever, yet crime has been going down “every year” since 1991.  She made the same point in her recent Times column in which she noted that the gun homicide rate has dropped from 6.62 in 1993 to 3.27 in 2012.

Furthermore, according to Miller, it’s the President who’s really to blame for gun violence because he “selectively” talks about mass shootings but never draws attention to the daily killings in his own home town: “Why do you never hear him talk about the children who are killed on the streets of Chicago?” she asked during her Politico interview.

I’ll give the NRA credit for foisting Miller’s nonsense on the American public; this time they’re not even waiting for a debate to break out in Congress before beginning their barrage of untruths and half-truths designed to stifle any meaningful public debate.  And I guarantee you going forward that the sui generis script being used this week by Emily Miller will find its way into every public comment made by anyone else who enlists to do battle on behalf of the NRA.

The only problem is that what Miller is saying simply isn’t true.  And what is so disheartening about her false claims is that nobody – Politico, Anderson Cooper, anyone else – wants to even take the trouble to check her blatantly false recitation of the “facts.”

The truth is that the entire decline in gun homicide rates that began in 1993 ended in 1999. According to the Department of Justice, 18,253 people were killed by guns in 1993, falling to 10,828 in 1999, and rising back to 11,101 in 2011.  The unprecedented increase in gun sales and concealed-carry licensing has occurred since Obama’s first election in 2004.  There has been no diminution in gun violence since that date.

As for the President’s alleged failure to mention gun violence in Chicago, the truth is he explicitly referred to the shootings in his home town not once but twice in the last week alone.  First he mentioned it in the memorial service at the Marine Barracks (“And these mass shootings occur against a backdrop of daily tragedies, as an epidemic of gun violence tears apart communities across America — from the streets of Chicago to neighborhoods not far from here.”) and then again at a speech Wednesday night before the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (“Just two days ago, in my hometown of Chicago, 13 people were shot during a pickup basketball game, including a 3-year-old girl.”)

Miller’s an experienced journalist based in Washington, D.C.  She had to know that Obama made these statements and she had to have looked at the DOJ data before she made her comments about crime rates and guns.  The reason she and other members of the NRA noise machine get away with such egregious lying is because nobody’s bothering to respond from the other side.  The pro-gun folks are waging a continuous and effective campaign; the gun control folks are busy talking to themselves.

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