Guns Sales Have Tanked And Here’s The Reason Why

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Guess what?  The great surge in gun sales that started after Obama was re-elected and then spiked when a national gun bill was pushed (but defeated) after Sandy Hook has come to a jarring end.   Smith & Wesson just announced its results for the quarter ending July 31 and earnings dropped 45% with sales revenues off by more than 20%.  The biggest revenue tumble occurred in “black” guns, aka modern sporting rifles, aka Ar-15s, aka assault rifles which, according to company documents, accounted for 87% of the total sales decline.  But even more interesting was the fact that product inventory increased by more than 20% from the end of the previous quarter, which means that more and more guns are simply sitting unsold on factory shelves.

Smith & Wesson’s stock price shot up from $2.50 in September, 2011 to $16.68 in June of this year, an increase which reflected the surge in gun demand before and particularly after the massacre at Sandy Hook.  During roughly the same period, the value of Sturm, Ruger stock also increased more than four times. These were heady days in the gun business, with a demand outrunning supply for every type of gun.

assault                But that was then and this is now.  While the gun industry tried to explain this surge as due primarily to new customers (women, millennials, urbanites) coming into the shooting marketplace, the hard, cold facts are that most of the recent sales of guns ended up in the hands of people who already owned guns and were therefore more sensitive to the possibility that gun legislation might take their precious toys away.  The NSSF recently published the results of a membership survey which claims that target shooters are increasingly younger, female and urban-based.  But the report conspicuously avoids any discussion about whether the number of people participating in target shooting is going up or down.  Here’s a hint: Smith & Wesson’s quarterly report noted that the only type of guns for which sales increased in the last quarter were small, concealable polymer pistols.  You might want to take your new pocket pistol to the range once to make sure it works, but if the NSSF considers such people to be getting into “target shooting,” then I can say that I’m following my diet between meals.

The gun industry began pretending that assault-style rifles were “modern sporting rifles” because they were encountering resistance from family-oriented chains like Cabela’s and Dick’s Sporting Goods  who felt that black guns didn‘t have the wholesome image that stores which considered themselves to be family shopping destinations wanted to project.  I happen to be the person who, in 2009, donated the URL www.modernsportingrifle.com, which I owned, to the NSSF.  I gave them the rights to use the URL at the 2009 Shot Show and in our discussions that preceded the transfer their counsel made it clear that this was part of a marketing plan to align black guns with mainstream consumer tastes.  Given what has happened to sales of assault rifles in the last several months, it looks like the mainstream and the black gun stream have parted ways.

I’m not surprised at this recent turn of events as regards the sale of guns.  You can justify gun ownership as important for self-defense, as representing liberty and justice for all, as protecting hearth and home, but a majority of Americans don’t own guns, and the industry hasn’t been able to figure out a marketing message that explains to non-gun owners why they should change their views.  The real trick, however, is to get all the non-gun owners to be as committed about regulating guns as the gun owners are committed to making sure that more gun regulation doesn’t take place. Because there’s always the possibility that sooner or later there’s going to be another high-profile shooting and Smith & Wesson’s stock price will take off again.

 

 

Guess Who’s Joining Bloomberg’s Gun Crusade Now?

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Until recently, conventional wisdom had it that nobody could go up against the NRA and win.  They had too much money, too much clout, too many politicians doing their bidding and, most of all, a dedicated and energized membership that could swing public opinion and election results their way. They were so strong and so effective that in 2013 they even kept the mildest legislative compromise from getting through Congress after the horrifying tragedy at Sandy Hook.

gates                But that was then and this is now.  And the now I am referring to is the news that another billionaire named Bill Gates has teamed up with Mike Bloomberg to challenge the NRA in a Washington State initiative that would require background checks for all firearm transfers conducted within the state.  Now Bloomberg may be a pretty rich guy, make no mistake about it, but he’s still in the minor leagues when compared to Gates who is not only worth somewhere north of 60 billion real dollars, but has spent the last decade doing a pretty effective job of giving it away.  When he decides to get his money behind something, we’re not talking about the 50 million that Bloomberg is putting up this year to deal with guns, we’re looking at the 1.5 billion that the Gates Foundation spent last year on only one of four major initiatives – global development – alone.

In 2012, including a couple of million thrown into the pot by the Koch Brothers, the NRA spent slightly more than $25 million on donations to candidates and political ads.  That kind of money buys a lot of traction in Washington but it’s chump-change compared to what Gates could pony up if he decided that gun control was going to help makes his day.  And just so you don’t think that putting a hundred or two hundred million out there might strain Bill and Melinda’s cash flow, let’s not forget that their best buddy and Trustee of the Gates Foundation is none other than Warren Buffet, who might just be worth another 60 billion, give or take a billion here or there.

Sometimes it’s difficult to translate large sums of money into something that we can understand, but look at it this way.  The combined net worth of Gates, Buffet and Bloomberg, if considered as equivalent to an annual GDP, would make these three guys the fiftieth wealthiest country on Earth, somewhere around Qatar, Portugal or Peru.  According to the 2010 financial filing made by the NRA (the latest I could find online), the outfit had revenues of slightly under 230 million which represents roughly 20% of Microsoft’s revenues each week!  In 2014 Berkshire-Hathaway looks like it will have weekly revenues of nearly 4 billion and Bloomberg L.P. is also no slouch.  We’re not talking here about the nickels and dimes that the NRA carts off to the bank.  When it comes to putting up dough for whatever Gates, Buffet and Bloomberg want to promote, those guys are the bank.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not in favor of buying elections or using deep pockets to influence electoral outcomes either from the Left or the Right.  But the NRA’s biggest problem is they really can’t reach out to anyone who doesn’t own a gun.  Meanwhile, the gun control folks have suffered over the years from the waxing and waning of public concern about guns that usually only spikes upward when a horrifying or high-visibility shooting takes place.  Guess what?  The kind of money represented by Gates, Buffet and Bloomberg can go a long way towards funding ongoing, grass-roots activities that the NRA would find it difficult, if not impossible to match. In the last month, Bloomberg’s group  Everytown forced Target to declare itself a gun-free zone, and now they are trying to add Kroger to the gun-free list as well.  Notice any big retailers inviting open-carry activists into their stores?

All Of A Sudden The NRA’S Armed Citizens Aren’t So Armed

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Maryland was one of a number of states in 2013 that enacted gun control statutes in the wake of Sandy Hook, and last week a Federal District Court Judge upheld the state’s authority to ban most of the popular brands of assault-style rifles, along with limiting gun magazines to 10 rounds or less.  This is a very significant ruling for two reasons.  First, ,notwithstanding the fact that the NRA would like you to believe that armed citizens are the first line of defense against crime, the ruling affirms that government has a “compelling interest” in protecting public safety which allows for the regulation of guns.  Second, the ruling flies directly in the face of the gun industry’s effort to legitimize assault-style weapons as no different from any other type of gun that might be used for personal defense.  And while the 2008 Heller decision explicitly recognized the right of citizens to keep handguns in their homes for self-defense, it did not vacate the government’s right to regulate the types of weapons that might be used.

In their attempt to overturn the Maryland law, the plaintiffs, including the NSSF, argued two basic issues:  (1). Banning assault-style weapons was a violation of the 2nd Amendment because it deprived shooters of a product that was in common use; (2). Banning assault-style weapons and large-capacity magazines deprived individuals of a weapon that was frequently kept and used in the home for self-defense.  I found it interesting, incidentally, that the plaintiffs did not try to push the notion of AR-15s as “modern sporting rifles,” a totally phony nomenclature invented by the gun industry to overcome the resistance of big-box, chain stores like Wal-Mart who believed that such products interfered with their image as destinations for family shopping.

assault                As regards the argument that a ban on assault guns would deprive Maryland residents of an increasingly popular type of firearm, Judge Blake noted that while the total number of the banned guns was upwards of 8 million, this represented less than 3% of all firearms held by civilians.  Further, the Judge, using numbers from the NSSF, found that assault-style rifle ownership tended to be concentrated, with the average assault gun owner possessing more than 3 such weapons, meaning that less than 1% of the entire American population owned any assault weapons at all.  [Pages 19-20.]

As for the question of using an AR or AK rifle for self-defense, the ruling cited a report submitted by Lucy Allen, who has been called as an expert witness in other cases involving sales of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.  This report, based on data from the NRA, found that assault weapons are rarely used in instances of armed self-defense, nor did persons discharge more than ten rounds when using their guns in instances of armed self-defense.  The plaintiffs, in arguing against Allen’s evidence, claimed that she did not “independently verify” the data on which her report was based, a claim rejected by the Court since the evidence came from the NRA, which although not a formal party to the case, certainly was in favor of a decision that would uphold the plaintiff’s suit.

The NRA has been promoting the idea that armed citizens protect themselves and others with guns for as long as I can remember.  They now have an online repository for these anecdotes and you can submit a self-defense story, real or imagined, which is then edited and republished for all to read.  And yes, even if you don’t have a story, the NRA will send you an armed citizen bumper sticker.  The NRA claims that millions of Americans use guns in self-defense every year, but when someone uses the evidence posted on their website to contradict their claims about the self-defense value of AR-15s, all of a sudden the data is no good.  I really can’t imagine how Judge Blake wrote that part of her decision with a straight face.

 

 

 

Another Gun Violence Expert Tells Physicians How To Do Their Jobs

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While editorial opinion seemed to be running against the recent 11th-District ruling that reinstated Florida’s gag law, there were some notable exceptions, chief among them being an op-ed that appeared in the Pensacola News Journal written by Marion Hammer.  As a career NRA lobbyist, this lady has a long and courageous history fighting for the rights of gun owners in the Gunshine state, as well as for standing up for the oppressed in general, having been responsible not only for Florida’s concealed-carry law but also as the architect of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, the first of its kind in the U.S.

          Marion Hammer

Marion Hammer

Hammer begins her diatribe by reminding readers that the real agenda of physicians is to rid the country of guns, and she lifts anti-gun statements from the AAP website to support her case.  She then goes on to remind physicians that if they “genuinely wish to offer safety information [they] can simply hand out firearms safety and safe storage brochures to all patients. Interrogating parents and children about what they own or have in the home is not only an intrusion but is a violation of privacy rights.”

Now I know that the press is very sensitive to anything that even remotely smacks of censorship, hence, if someone wants to express their opinions the editorial policy usually means that the writer can say more or less anything they damn well want to say.  But if Hammer thinks she’s presenting anything other than a total fiction about the role and responsibilities of the physician in counseling patients, then either her own physician never went to medical school, or she simply doesn’t have the faintest idea about what physicians actually do.  Her statement that doctors are violating privacy by inquiring about items in the home is a mind-boggling distortion of the doctor-patient relationship and I only hope that she has the good sense to avail herself of medical care that’s a little more aware of the requirements of the Hippocratic Oath than she seems to be.

In a way I can’t blame her for promoting a vision of medical care that’s so at odds with the reality of doctor-patient relationships, because there’s even a physician out there named Robert Young, who basically said the same thing in an op-ed piece published by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Like Hammer, Dr. Young also believes that physicians should limit their concern about gun ownership to handing out gun safety brochures developed by the NRA, whose gun-safety program for children, Eddie Eagle, has never been shown to have any positive safety results at all.

I’m not surprised that Ms. Hammer would follow Dr. Young’s lead in advocating the distribution of gun safety materials to patients.  After all, she’s a lobbyist for the NRA and all their training courses emphasize safe use of guns.  On the other hand, the NRA avoids the issue of safe gun storage like the plague, because the last thing they would endorse are mandatory laws requiring gun owners to lock away their guns.   After all, if guns are locked away to keep them from the kids, how will the “good guys” with the guns stop the “bad guys” with the guns?

Physicians need to ask patients if they lock away their guns for the same reason they ask patients whether their children are constrained while sitting in the car.  Unlocked guns are a health risk just like unlocked seat belts, and if Marion Hammer wants to dispute the studies which link gun ownership to higher levels of child mortality and morbidity, she’s also has the Constitutional right to promote the idea that the moon is made out of cheese.

 

 

 

 

Why Should Doctors Talk To Patients About Guns? Let The NRA Do It.

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When the 11th Circuit re-instated the Florida gag law on physicians talking to patients about guns I knew that sooner or later we would hear from Timothy Wheeler and his gun-promoting group which believes that 19,000 gun suicides, 11,000 gun homicides and 50,000 (or more) intentional gun injuries each year shouldn’t concern physicians at all.  Wheeler is the doctor who began promoting the idea that doctors who inquire about gun ownership are their patients’ worst enemies, and his organization is rolled out by the pro-gun lobby whenever they need additional ammunition to keep America from adopting a common-sense approach to the issue of gun violence.

Wheeler’s organization, for which his claim of having thousands of members has never been verified in any way whatsoever, has just launched a small campaign to support the Florida gag law, at the same time that a coalition of medical associations and advocacy groups are going back to the 11th Circuit to ask the entire court, en banc, to overturn the recent ruling.  Which is exactly why Wheeler and his buddies in the gun-blogging community are trying to tilt public opinion the other way.

docs versus glocks                In the interests of full disclosure, I should state that I am married to an attending pediatrician, and am also a member and certified gun trainer for the NRA.  I have no issue with private ownership of guns but I take personally these indecorous attacks on physicians who are required to speak with patients about any matter which they feel might pose a medical risk, particularly involving something as potentially lethal as a gun.  The shabby attempt by physicians like Wheeler to pretend that guns do not constitute a health risk reminds me of the pathetic charades conducted back in the 1950’s by a few physicians and scientists who publicly disavowed any link between smoking and cancer.

Of course Wheeler and his cronies, in this case a psychiatrist named Robert Young, don’t want their audience to believe that they are against safe use and storage of guns.  After all, everyone’s in favor of safe gun use these days,  just ask the NRA and they’ll tout their gun safety program, aka Eddie Eagle which has “reached more than 26 million children in all 50 states.”  The same website that contains this information about Eddie Eagle also states that the NRA is “not affiliated with any firearm or ammunition manufacturers,” which is, simply put, a lie.  But Dr. Young seems oblivious to the requirement in his own medical profession to base clinical decisions and strategies on evidence-based information, since he advises his medical colleagues to use the Eddie Eagle handouts in contacts with patients who might or might not own guns.

I saved the best part for last.  Although Dr. Young believes in educating children in safe behavior around guns, he also wants to make sure that the safety of children is balanced out by the requirements for self defense.  And I quote:  “Even the sound practice of storing guns and ammunition in separate, locked places isn’t always right if they are intended to be used for emergency protection.”

This guy’s a physician?  This guy took the Hippocratic Oath which requires him to counsel patients about risks to their health?  There is not one single piece of credible research which shows that keeping a loaded, unlocked gun around the house creates protection from crime that outweighs the risks of injury or death from the existence of that gun.

People like Robert Young and Timothy Wheeler find media outlets for their destructive ideas because we really are committed to the idea of hearing “both sides” in the public policy debate.  But I don’t think that there are two sides when it comes to discussing a health issue which claims 80,000 or more victims each year.  Unless, of course, you’d rather believe that mortality and morbidity at those levels has nothing to do with health at all.

A Different Perspective On Docs Versus Glocks

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I’m going to paraphrase President Obama’s quip about Cliven Bundy at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner: If someone starts off by saying that doctors shouldn’t invade the privacy of patients by asking about guns, you don’t really need to know the rest of it. But an op-ed in the Pensacola News Journal caught my attention because the writer came up with a rather ingenious reason why gun ownership should not be considered a risk when compared to other, much more serious health risks that physicians don’t treat at all.  And what is the risk that physicians overlook in their obsession to take away all our guns?  Flat feet.

The author of this remarkable missive, a Pensacola resident named David Dodson, was reacting to the newspaper’s editorial which called on physicians, particularly pediatricians, to willfully ignore the law and continue to ask their patients about guns.  What drove Dodson to respond to the newspaper’s opinion was not just the invasion of privacy that occurred every time a physician asked a patient about guns, but his discovery that other, much more important medical issues were being ignored during examinations, in fact, were no longer part of the medical school curriculum.

The result of this negligence, according to Dodson, is s veritable “epidemic” (his word) that physicians have needlessly “thrust” on children by not treating their bad feet which then leads to “bad knees, bad hips, bad backs and lame adults.”  And how did it come about that such an important part of the human anatomy is completely ignored in consultations between physicians and children?  Because “the care of children’s feet is not taught in medical schools anymore.”

docs versus glocks                Dodson’s information on medical school curriculum was told to him by a “member of a national board of pediatrics” which, unfortunately, he neglects to identify or name.  This is too bad because if there is such an organization, it’s probably an offshoot of the medical board that allowed Rand Paul to certify himself as an ophthalmologist.  Maybe Dodson’s a podiatrist, maybe he’s just a nincompoop, and maybe he’s just one of these retired guys who strolls over to the local park every morning to engage the other, self-professed retired experts in whatever important news issues were discussed that morning on Fox.  Whatever he is, physicians and other medical professionals should be heartened by the fact that his op-ed piece was printed by the Pensacola News Journal as a response to its editorial about doctors and guns.

The way it works in the news media is that if an editorial board publishes an editorial on any given subject, they usually feel obliged, in keeping with the notions of balance and fairness, to publish something which gives the opposite argument to what the editorial actually said.  But since the readers don’t see every response to an editorial, we have to assume that the editors can pick and choose based on what they hope their readers will learn from being exposed to both points of view. And I have to imagine that in their decision to publish Dodson’s response, the editors of the Pensacola News Journal wanted their readers to understand exactly why the law criminalizing physician’s seeking information about guns was proof, as they said, that the Florida legislature was “sick in the head.”

Defending the Florida law as an “assault” on the 2nd Amendment, like Obama said about Bundy, just doesn’t go very far.  And anyone who talks about the issue on that basis will wind up talking only to people who don’t have a clue.  But here’s a guy who doesn’t want physicians to ask about guns because he knows that medical school anatomy cuts the human body off somewhere below the knees.  And if we don’t believe him, we can always trust his unidentified source. Now if this is the best that the gun community can produce to keep physicians from asking about guns, on this issue the physicians clearly have the upper hand. The Florid legislature may be sick in the head, but I doubt if the illness will spread all that far.

 

 

What’s The Difference Between Roe V. Wade and Heller vs. District of Columbia? Maybe Nothing.

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The right to bear arms, as stated in the 2nd Amendment and defined by the SCOTUS in the Heller and McDonald cases, got a boost this week from the most unlikely source; i.e., an abortion-rights case in Alabama where Federal District Court Judge Myron Thompson struck down a 2013 law that would have made it extremely difficult for women to receive abortion services unless they were able to travel long distances from home, thereby creating an undue burden and nullifying the right to an abortion guaranteed by Roe Vs. Wade.

The new law, similar to a measure that was voided in Mississippi, required physicians who performed abortions to be granted credentials in neighboring hospitals, but such credentials are only granted to physicians who live and practice within a limited distance of the particular hospital.  Three of the five abortion clinics in Alabama are currently staffed by physicians who reside in other states and travel to Alabama for the purpose of administering scheduled abortions.  Hence, they could not receive hospital credentials and therefore could not operate their abortion clinics.

  Judge Myron Thompson

Judge Myron Thompson

Judge Thompson heard testimony from numerous witnesses representing both the State of Alabama and the abortion providers, and nearly all of the 172-page decision is a very careful summary of what was said by parties on both sides.  Ultimately the weight of the testimony convinced the jurist that by reducing the number of abortion clinics from five to just two, the State was effectively blocking access to an abortion and therefore could not be reconciled with the rights of women to terminate their pregnancies as stipulated in Roe vs. Wade.

You have to wade through almost the entire decision, however, before you come to the point where women in Alabama seeking an abortion find themselves making common cause with Alabama residents who want to own a gun.  To quote Judge Thompson: “At its core, each protected right is held by the individual: the right to decide to have an abortion and the right to have and use firearms for self-defense.  With this parallelism in mind, the court poses the hypothetical that suppose the government the government were to implement a new restriction on who may sell firearms and ammunition, and further, only two vendors in the State of Alabama were capable of complying with the restriction.  The defenders of this law would be called upon to do a heck of a lot of explaining — and rightly so in the face of an effect so severe.”

Last year Alabama also passed a new gun law that made it easier for residents to receive a concealed-carry license and also allowed for concealed-carry of handguns into certain public events. Alabama has always been a gun-rich state, with per capita gun ownership well above the national norm.  Now I can’t imagine there would ever be as many women in Alabama seeking an abortion as there might be folks looking to buy guns.  But even though Judge Thompson was educated at Yale, he’s Crimson Tide through and through. Abortion might not be a popular issue in an Evangelical state, but when explained as a parallel to the 2nd Amendment, all those God-fearing, Bible-thumpin’ gun owners may just agree that what’s right is a right.

But Thompson’s decision is also a case in point for the folks who want more controls over guns.  Because ultimately in order to make their case for more gun control, people who don’t own guns are going to have to figure out how to talk to people who do.  The last few pages of Judge Taylor’s decision should be required reading for Brady, Everytown and all the rest.  Supporters of the 2nd Amendment and supporters of abortion rights may have more in common than we think.

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