Michael Moore Thinks He Knows About Guns & Trump. He Needs To Think Again.

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Ordinarily I wouldn’t write a response to something Michael Moore wrote except that his movie Bowling for Columbine, makes him something of a gun guy, or at least a self-professed observer of Gun-mob Nation, so I’m going to respond to the prediction he has just made that Trump will be elected President come November 8th. And the reason I am going to respond is that much of what he claims to be the harbingers of a Trump victory are based on what he believes are Trump’s appeal to the classic, gun-guy electorate, namely, the pissed-off older White men who think that it’s time to ‘shake things up.’

mooreI probably talk to a lot more guys who are going to vote for Trump than Moore has ever talked to, because I know a lot more guys who own guns. But you know what’s funny about all those older, pissed-off, gun-loving White guys who are going to vote for Trump? None of them ever voted for a Democrat no matter what.  They’ve always voted Republican and they always will.  And the fact that this year’s Republican nominee comes out and says in public what many older, pissed-off White men have been forced, until now, to say in private, doesn’t change the dynamic of this election one bit.

I love how Moore believes that ‘facts and logic’ won’t stop Trump because 16 Republican candidates tried the same thing during the primaries and they all lost.  Tried the same thing?  Rubio and Cruz ran campaigns based on facts and logic?  Was Michael Moore listening to the same speeches that I heard?  Come on, give me a break.

Michael’s absolutely correct when he says that Trump’s advantage lies in the fact that his supporters don’t need to be coaxed or pushed or even reminded to show up on November 8th.  But if he believes that Obama beat Romney in swing states like Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio just because minority voters figured out how to get themselves to the polls, then he doesn’t know anything about how a national election campaign organization really works. And if Hillary doesn’t put together a ground game (and God knows she has the money to do it) that will get her voters into the booth, then she doesn’t deserve to win.

Last year a sociologist at the University of Toronto, Jennifer Carlson, discovered a new gun ‘culture’ in the Rust Belt; in fact, she did her fieldwork in Michael Moore’s most favorite city, a.k.a., Flint.  And what she found in Flint by going to a shooting range were some guys who were dispossessed factory workers, rust-belt victims of the post-Industrial, Information Age, who were all into guns.  And the reason they all carried guns was because they didn’t trust the government to protect them, to keep them secure, to do anything for them at all.

Michael Moore made his bones in the movie business by romanticizing and, at the same time, deftly denigrating these dispossessed people in Rodger and Me, which was a movie about the collapse of Flint. So when he talks about the ‘carcass’ of the Middle Class in the Rust Belt coming out to vote for Mister Trump, he’s spent some time editing film that made his movies clever and appealing, regardless of whether they had anything to do with reality or not.

So here’s reality Michael.  With all due respect to the newly-emerging gun culture in the upper Midwest, most of the 100 million new guns that were added to the civilian arsenal during the administration of Barack Obama went to people who live in the Sunbelt. And to the extent that guns go to residents of states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan, most of them go to the same smaller towns and rural communities where they always have gone.

I’m not saying that Trump can’t win on November 8th.  I’m saying that he won’t win if he’s hoping a majority of voters are as pissed off as those gun guys up in Flint.

Want To Get More People Involved In Gun Violence Prevention? Go Where The People Are.

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MOMSCT

 

The picture above was taken at yesterday’s Summerfest in Ridgefield, CT.  Now I happen to know Ridgefield pretty well, because this swanky, little town is about an hour’s drive from where I live in AR-rein Massachusetts, and the town happens to contain a very nice consignment shop which is often a weekend shopping destination for my wife.  Unfortunately, it was really too hot yesterday for me to go anywhere, but it didn’t stop the Connecticut Against Gun Violence organization from setting up a booth at the Summerfest fair and promoting away.

Of course CAGV had to compete with the food vendors, the craft vendors, the crap vendors, et. al., but that’s just the point.   Because if you think that most Americans don’t have an extra buck in their pockets, if you think that America is going to buy Donald Trump’s hate-filled lies about how the national economy is on the verge of collapse, walk down the main street of just about any town during July or August and you’ll see the equivalent of Ridgefield’s Summerfest taking place.

Know how many Farmers Markets there are in the United States?  The Ag Department says the number is, ready? 8,400. Which means an average of 168 in every state.  Know how many adults visit craft fairs and art festivals each year?  Well in 2008 it was 55 million. There’s a website out there which posts art/craft fairs and right now lists 26,000 events. And by the way, for all the talk about how shoppers love a bargain, I don’t know about you, but the local Farmers Market near me has prices on cheese and allegedly home-baked breads that are out of sight.

Listening MOMS?  Listening Everytown?  Listening Brady?  I have an idea.  It’s my understanding that most of these fairs, markets, whatever they are will rent booth space for 100 bucks a pop.  And over the course of a weekend, a good arts/craft/food fair must draw 10,000 people and up.  So let’s say you set up a booth and half of the fair visitors walk by. Do the arithmetic, as Bill Clinton would say, and it cost two cents to get your message in front of each of these folks.  And if two hundred people stop, talk, discuss and share their feelings about guns and gun violence, it costs you 50 cents to connect directly and sincerely with people whose views on this issue probably aren’t much different from yours. And if you make up a hip and cool t-shirt or a baseball cap or something else they can buy, you’ll easily make up the cost of the booth, the cost of your travel to the fair and, most important, you’ll raise awareness and get new people to join the cause.

Every September there is something called the Garlic Festival nearby my town which features booths of organizations that “share the wonderful service, justice, environmental, education and health work they contribute to the region.”  I guarantee you that this festival will never, never rent a booth to the NRA.  And by the way, I am sure that the same weekend of the Garlic Festival I could also find a gun show in a nearby state or town.  Know how many gun shows there are each year?  The Violence Policy Center says the number is somewhere between 2,000 and 5,000; I think the higher number is probably closer to the truth. So it’s 5,000 gun shows versus 26,000 art/craft fairs?  Give me a friggin’ break.

I’ll donate $500 bucks right now to the first GVP organization which organizes an effort to establish its presence at craft/art/food shows on a regular, ongoing basis in different states. Because these events attract people who represent a natural constituency for GVP groups, and if there is such a strategy currently being carried out, please let me know about it so that I can promote and publicize the work even more. There’s simply no way that this shouldn’t or couldn’t be done.

A New Gun Survey Has Some Good News And Some Not So Good News Too.

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My job, as I see it, is to deliver the news about guns to the Gun Violence Prevention community.  I’d be happy to deliver the news to Gun-mob Nation as well, but they don’t seem very interested in what I have to say. Or I should say that if Gun-mob Nation is interested, it’s just to tell me that whatever I have to say isn’t what they want to hear. But occasionally I also have to tell my GVP friends some news that they would rather not hear.  But that’s my job.

18d107c334bf4dfdb66f20012db87ef4            And one bit of gun news that might not set well with people who are trying to figure out what to do about this curse called gun violence (and it is a curse) is contained in an AP poll that was published this past week. The poll was conducted by GfK, and what I like about this outfit is they not only announce the results of their polls, they also give you the detailed responses on which the poll results are based. Well, you know what they say – the Devil is in the details, and this poll contains some devilish little details that most of the stories about the poll overlooked.

And the reason these details were overlooked was because the big headline about this survey of 1,000+ Americans was that a strong majority said they were in favor of stronger gun-control laws.  In fact, nearly two-thirds said that gun laws should be made stricter, with only 11% saying that the laws should be loosened, and about one-quarter saying that the laws should be left as they are.

When you drill down to the specifics, the poll continues to register solid majorities in favor of tightening current laws: 73% ware in favor of universal background checks, 53% agree that high-capacity magazines should be banned, 57% say that AR rifles should also be banned and 65% favor criminal penalties for adults who violate Child Access Prevention (CAP) laws.

Obviously the poll results are skewed in the usual way; i.e., Democrats are stronger when it came to stricter laws, Republicans less so.  Women are less pro-gun than men; urbanites and suburbanites favor more controls, rural folks want less.  Not only have these profiles been consistent among all polls that survey gun attitudes, but this poll validated other studies insofar as gun ownership continues to remain at about one-third.  The NRA can talk all it wants about how declining gun ownership is a ‘myth,’ but I’ll give the Fairfax gang credit for being steadfastly consistent in their refusal to face the facts.

As I said earlier, however, this poll also contains some facts that the GVP community  needs to face. By a narrow margin (53 – 44) respondents to this poll favored a national concealed-carry law which would allow armed citizens to move from one state to another with the same reciprocal legal status which now exists for the license that every state issues to drive a car.  But at least all fifty states require a road test before you can drive. How many states impose a real competency test as part of the CCW process? None. Not one.

More worrisome is the response to Question 11: “Do you think that owning a gun does more to protect a person from being a victim of a crime or more to put their safety at risk?”  By a margin of 2 to 1, respondents said that owning a gun would protect them from crime.  Which means that even many non-gun owners believe Gun-mob Nation’s biggest lie, namely, that a gun is more of a benefit than a risk.

I would strongly urge my GVP friends to consider the implications of this last response. Because if nothing else, as long as a majority of Americans believe that a gun is a legitimate way to respond to crime, then Gun-mob Nation will find it much less difficult to prevent any change in gun laws. Which is exactly their plan.

Can We Create A New Way To Talk About Gun Violence? It Depends Whom You Talk To.

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Far be it from me to ever be critical of anything that Gabby says or does, because Jared Loughner was only exercising his 2nd-Amendment rights when he shot her in the head.  And I’m not being sarcastic since Gun-mob Nation will tell you that the 2nd Amendment gives Americans the right to protect themselves against the encroachments of government. And what could be more encroaching than a Member of Congress, a.k.a. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, standing in a supermarket parking lot and talking to her constituents about this and that?

giffords          And Gabby, along with her husband Mark Kelly, obviously recognizes that a bullet in the head notwithstanding, every gun owner still deserves their 2nd Amendment rights.  At least this is what they are saying in a new messaging strategy, Making Our Communities Safer, that has Gun-mob Nation all abuzz.  Actually, the buzzing started on Politico, which reported that Americans for Responsible Solutions held a strategy session for progressive public-policy organizations, labor unions, the usual mix, promoting the idea that the public discussion about gun violence should stress ‘gun responsibility’ instead of ‘gun control’ so that gun owners can be gently coaxed to slip away from the grasp of the NRA.

I suspect that the surveys and contact group sessions conducted by the Global Strategy Group for Mark and Gabby provided a reasonably-correct assessment for how Americans think about guns.  And if a reasonable and intelligent dialog about gun violence might develop by altering some of the language that was previously used, that’s all to the good, given that God knows we’ll certainly never get any reasonableness or intelligence from the other side.  And if you don’t believe what I just said about the kind of rhetoric that’s currently floating around Gun-mob Nation, just watch a political ad taped by Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson who, in case you didn’t watch, was featured in various interviews during the Cleveland Ku Klux Klan rally hosted by the Donald Trump and the RNC.

Which brings me to the problem I have with Gabby and Mark’s attempt to create a new lexicon for talking about guns.  I share, with no hesitation whatsoever, their concern that a meaningful reduction in gun violence will only occur if we effect a cultural change and changes in culture can only take place if we change the language through which that culture is expressed and understood.  And I further agree with Gabby and Mark that a new language has to be developed that does not cast aspersions on people who want to own guns.  Granted, gun owners should not be made to feel that there’s something wrong with them because they want to own guns.  Granted, keeping a gun in the home or even walking around with it doesn’t, ipso facto, make you a safety threat to yourself or anyone else.

But where I start getting nervous about the effort to develop a more meaningful gun lexicon is not the issue of the words that will be used in such discussions, but whether and in what fashion such conversations will take place at all.  Because if I have learned one thing in 50+ years in the gun business, it’s that there are really two types of gun owners, and these two groups don’t look at guns the same way at all.

On the one hand, most gun owners think about their guns the way we all think about the lawn mower out in the garage – it’s there when you need it, otherwise it just sits around.  But there’s a core group, probably 10% of the NRA membership, for whom guns are the be-all and end-all of their lives.  And this is the group that sends the emails, and makes the phone calls and loves it when Phil Robertson says that the country was founded on bibles and guns.

Want to start a meaningful dialog with these folks about gun violence? Better you should go lay brick.  It’s not going to happen, it can’t happen, and some other way will have to be found to get Gun-mob Nation to even admit that gun violence exists.

Sorry Gun-Nut Nation But Gun Buybacks Do Work.

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To celebrate the fact that Donald Trump has moved from being the presumptive GOP nominee to the actual (how in God’s name did that happen?) I am going to make one change in the nomenclature which I use for talking about guns. Going forward, when a pro-gun noisemaker, individual or organization, spouts a misstatement about gun violence, I am no longer going to say that they are incorrect, or wrong, or anything polite like that.  I am going to say that they are lying because the pro-gun mob has access to the same data and documentation that I read. And if someone (including me) can’t distinguish between facts and factoids, then they should keep their mouths shut.

buyback             One of the most common lies floating around Gun-nut Mob these days is the lie that gun laws won’t work because criminals don’t obey laws.  Now the truth is that there have been gun laws passed here and there which really didn’t work, or didn’t work all that well.  But that doesn’t mean we throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Of course criminals don’t obey laws.  That’s what makes them criminals, duhhh?

On the other hand, there are some gun regulations which, in terms of lowering gun violence, have worked very well.  And chief among those laws, believe it or not, is the idea of gun buybacks, in particular those buybacks which took certain types of highly-lethal firearms out of private hands. The presumptive Democratic candidate, HRC, has been targeted by the Gun-nut Mob because of comments she made about the gun buyback law implemented in Australia in 1996 and 2003.  But in fact, the result of this program, according to researchers, “seems to have been incredibly successful in terms of lives saved.” It should be noted, incidentally, that the Australian buyback was directed not at all guns, but primarily at high-capacity, semi-automatic rifles, the absence of which in Australia can be directly linked to the complete disappearance of mass shootings, which have become all too commonplace in the U.S. today.

The problem with using Australia’s buyback experience as a model, however, is that it really wasn’t a typical buyback program (cash for guns) because the government first declared certain types of legally-owned guns to be illegal, and thus had to compensate owners because otherwise it would have been a case of seizing property without compensation, which is something that democratic governments simply don’t do.  But I recently came across a study that analyzed the effects of a major, countrywide buyback program in Argentina that collected more than 100,000 firearms, paid compensation for each gun and guaranteed anonymity for everyone who turned guns in.  If you want to read the study, you can download it from my website here.

What the researchers discovered was that the Argentine buyback program, which occurred in 2007 and 2008, did not really change suicide or homicide rates involving guns, but did lead to a ‘significant’ reduction in unintentional deaths.  Did criminals turn in their guns?  The researchers did not believe they did.  Did the program reduce the civilian-owned gun stock by as much as ten percent which significantly reduced gun accidents?  The positive evidence here was clear.

Which brings us back to the big, fat lie endlessly promoted by the Gun-nut Mob that criminals won’t obey laws that seek to control guns.  The lie in this case is the fact that gun buybacks have anything to do with criminals at all. They don’t.  They are simply a mechanism for getting guns out of circulation which people don’t want or don’t need.  And you know what?  It’s the guns that people don’t want and are happy to give up for some cash that end up being guns that are used carelessly, or are stolen and are then used in crimes.  Because folks who use guns responsibly and safely don’t need to give them up. But there’s nothing in a home more lethal than a gun which is just lying around.

 

A Guide To Gun Lethality.

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                See link below for downloading this Guide. mcx

             Last week I uploaded a document that described the basic design and function of handguns, rifles and shotguns, with an eye towards giving GVP advocates some basic information on how guns work. But understanding the design and mechanics of guns is one thing, understanding their lethality is something else.  Because until the 1980s, a combination of manufacturing technologies employed by the gun industry and the perceived consumer market for guns kept most gun models very lethal for use in hunting small and medium-sized game, but were not designed to be highly lethal in situations where human beings were the targets that would be injured or killed.

This traditional approach to gun design and function began to change in the 1980s when Gun-nut Nation discovered that hunting and sport shooting were quickly becoming relics of a distant past; i.e., people who owned guns for hunting or sport were not being replaced as the older gun-owning generations died out.  So Gun-nut Nation came up with a new reason for owning guns, namely, the myth that guns were necessary to protect society from crime.  An in this respect the industry was not so much inventing a fanciful reason for gun ownership as it was responding to an increased and generalized fear that crime and the ‘criminal element’ was out of control.

The public concern about crime also coincided with new technologies, in particular the use of lightweight alloys and polymers that allowed guns to withstand higher pressures from more powerful ammunition while, at the same time, being designed and built on smaller and lighter frames. Polymer and injection-molding manufacturing has enabled all kinds of consumer products to be miniaturized yet made more durable at the same time; this miniaturization has gone hand-in-hand with personalization; i.e., the consumer becomes the ultimate arbiter for determining the design and function of the product itself.

In the gun industry, these two factors – social attitudes, manufacturing technologies – have combined to revolutionize the look, feel and use of guns.  The revolver that I purchased in 1976 looked, felt and weighed the same as the same gun manufactured seventy years before.  I can purchase that same gun today, but I can also purchase a revolver that is half as large and fires ammunition that is twice as powerful. Which means that if I want to get close enough to another person to shoot and hurt them I can now stick a little gun in my pocket, walk right up next to them with my unnoticed gun, and quickly deliver a very shot, whether I have practiced shooting the gun or not.

Taking all these factors into account, I have created a gun lethality scorecard which you can download here.  It contains my best guess for the lethality rating of 95 different kinds of guns.  Like the ‘guns for dummies” document that I posted last week, this document will also shortly be available in published form.

It’s About Time: Maura Healey Takes Aim At Assault Weapons And Scores A Bullseye.

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It took more than twenty years, but finally a public figure with brains, leadership and guts has demolished the NRA’s most sacred cow in one fell swoop.  I am referring to yesterday’s announcement by Maura Healey, the Massachusetts Attorney General, that assault rifle are no longer welcome in the Bay State.  If you own an assault rifle you can keep it (thank goodness because I own three,) but if you want to buy one from a dealer, or if a gun dealer wants to buy one from a wholesaler or manufacturer, that’s not going to happen any more.

AR2           The Enforcement Notice issued by Healey’s office restates the definition and description of ‘assault weapon’ incorporated into the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban law, but then prohibits guns from being sold in Massachusetts which meets either a ‘similarity test’ or an ‘interchangeability test’ which basically means an AR without a flash hider, a folding or telescoping stock, or a pistol grip; in other words, if it looks and acts like an AR, it is an AR, extra doo-dads or not. What the AG has done is fashion a legal directive based on the ‘I know it when I see it’ reasoning used by Associate Justice Potter Stewart for deciding pornography cases that came before the Supreme Court.

To understand the gist of Healey’s approach, however, you have to consider the history surrounding the original Assault Weapons Ban.  Because recall that the 1994 law expired after ten years, but states that wanted to maintain it could opt out of the expiration, of which Massachusetts was one of seven states which continued the ban. But the 1994 law didn’t ban assault rifles; it banned assault rifles that contained certain design features, such as pistol grips, bayonet lugs, flash hiders and so forth, none of which in any way reduced the lethality of these guns.

What makes the AR design so exceptionally lethal, what makes the AR a weapon of war, is that the manner in which the stock lines up against the bolt and the receiver, the manner in which high-capacity magazines can be dismounted and remounted within the gun and the manner in which the gun can then be charged after receiving a new, fully-loaded magazine allows the operator to get off as many as 60 shots of deadly military ammunition in one minute or less.

Why do I call the AR a weapon of war?  Because the AR used by battle-zone troops today can be shot in the same semi-auto mode that makes the gun legal for civilian sales.  Yes, the military gun also allows for three-shot bursts, and it is the selective-fire feature of the military rifle, the M4, which is touted again and again by Gun-nut Nation as the essential reason why the AR is nothing other than a ‘modern sporting rifle,’ which is no more lethal or dangerous than any other semi-automatic rifle lugged by a hunter or sportsman into the woods. So does this mean that if a trooper on the battlefield decides to set his rifle in semi-auto mode, that he’s now carrying a ‘sporting’ gun?

This totally fabricated crap about how the AR isn’t lethal has set the tone for Gun-nut Nation’s approach to all guns.  The issue of gun lethality, not just for the AR, but for all small arms, has been pushed aside in favor of an argument which tries to create the fiction that guns are only dangerous if they get into the ‘wrong’ hands.  When guns are carried by law-abiding, armed citizens, they represent an important, indeed indispensable tool for insuring safety and security of all.

Maura Healey’s announcement is a resounding shot across the bow because it sweeps away the rhetorical nonsense cynically foisted on the public to disguise the fact that some guns are simply too dangerous to be put in anyone’s hands. Which is why the AR is not a sporting rifle, because no sporting gun requires a magazine that holds 30 rounds.

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