What Should We Do About Gun Violence?

              Our friends at March For Our Lives have just issued an impressive document, A Peace Plan for a Safer America, which can be downloaded here. If the server traffic keeps you from pulling it off the cloud, you can also go to my website and download the report here. The document, or better yet the proclamation, begins like this: “The next President must act with a fierce urgency to call this crisis what it is: a national public health emergency.”

              The good news is that the Parkland kids and their allies aren’t operating under any illusion that the current Administration will get anything done. The only problem is that I’m also not sure that the ‘next’ President won’t be named Trump. Unless of course we are talking about 2024. But that’s a long way off, which means that in the interim at least another 185,000 or more Americans will massacre themselves or others with guns. So what should we be trying to do about it now?

              The Peace Plan lists what is called six ‘bold’ steps, none of which are particularly or different from what we have seen before. There’s Cory’s idea for a national gun licensing system, repeal PLCCA which is a standard gun-control demand, cut the gun-violence rate in half although Lizzie says she will figure out a way to reduce it by 80 percent, support community-based, anti-violence groups, and two new, rather clever ideas. The first is that the President should name a gun-violence czar who would coordinate all federal gun-control efforts as well as give out a much bigger chunk of research about guns; the second is to push for a domestic peace corps for gun violence that will be called the ‘Safety Corps.’  I like that idea; it’s actually different and new.

              What concerns me, and I trust what I now say will be taken in the same constructive manner in which I have read and evaluated this plan, is that the only mention of law enforcement is in a paragraph about the need to produce ‘better policing’ so as to cut down on gun violence committed by the cops. What about the fact that right now the odds of someone getting arrested for committing a non-fatal gun assault are roughly one out of five. Don’t the cops deserve some more resources considering the fact that probably somewhere around 75,000 people are gunned down every year and survive simply because the shooter didn’t shoot straight? 

              We seem to have a serious problem in this country when it comes to talking about gun violence because the discussion always ends up looking primarily at the victims (call them ‘survivors’ if you will) with scant attention being paid to the individuals who shoot the guns.  In fact, while gun suicides claim more than 20,000 casualties every year, the total number killed and wounded in felonious assaults is now probably around 90,000, although we really don’t know a good number because the CDC has decided that its estimates for non-fatal shootings can no longer be used. So much for the public health ‘approach’ to gun violence.

              The bottom line is that somewhere between 75% and 85% of all gun injuries happen to be crimes. And we can express all the concern we want about the root causes of criminal behavior, but when someone walks down the street and gets hit by a bullet that happens to be flying by, the injury isn’t going to be somehow less serious because that guy just spent the afternoon cleaning up a vacant lot. 

              Again, I want to make it clear that I share the frustrations and concerns of everyone in Gun-control Nation who would like to see us turn a corner and really do something meaningful and successful about the violence caused by guns. But as often as they make mistakes or give in to popular prejudices, when it comes to gun violence, the cops aren’t causing 125,000 gun injuries every year. And neither is it the fault of the crazies, not the guns, to quote Number 45.

              It’s the guns, stupid. The small, concealable handguns occasionally mixed in with an AR.

August 21: Flag Day And Ruby Ridge Day.

From our friends at Ammo.com.

The Siege at Ruby Ridge is often considered a pivotal date in American history. The shootout between Randy Weaver and his family and federal agents on August 21, 1992, is one that kicked off the Constitutional Militia Movement and left America with a deep distrust of its leadership – in particular then-President George H.W. Bush and eventual President Bill Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno.

The short version is this: Randy Weaver and his wife Vicki moved with their four kids to the Idaho Panhandle, near the Canadian border, to escape what they thought was an increasingly corrupt world. The Weavers held racial separatist beliefs, but were not involved in any violent activity or rhetoric. They were peaceful Christians who simply wanted to be left alone.

Specifically for his beliefs, Randy Weaver was targeted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) in an entrapping “sting” operation designed to gain his cooperation as a snitch. When he refused to become a federal informant, he was charged with illegally selling firearms. Due to a miscommunication about his court date, the Marshal Service was brought in, who laid siege to his house and shot and killed his wife and 14-year-old son.

Randy Weaver was, in many ways, a typical American story. He grew up in an Iowa farming community. He got decent grades in high school and played football. His family attended church regularly. He dropped out of community college and joined the United States Army in 1970. After three years of service, he was honorably discharged.

One month later he married Victoria Jordison. He then enrolled in the University of Northern Iowa, studying criminal justice with an eye toward becoming an FBI Agent. However, he dropped out because the tuition was too expensive. He ended up working in a John Deere plant while his wife worked as a secretary before becoming a homemaker.

Both of the Weavers increasingly became apocalyptic in their view of the world. This, combined with an increasing emphasis on Old Testament-based Christianity, led them to seek a life away from mainstream America, a life of self-reliance. Vicki, in particular, had strong visions of her family surviving the apocalypse through life far away from what they viewed as a corrupt world. To that end, Randy purchased a 20-acre farm in Ruby Ridge, ID, and built a cabin there.

The land was purchased for $5,000 in cash and the trade of the truck they used to move there. Vicki homeschooled the children.

The Weavers Move to Ruby Ridge

After moving to Ruby Ridge, Weaver became acquainted with members of the Aryan Nations in nearby Hayden Lake. He even attended some rallies. The FBI believed his involvement in the church was much deeper than it actually was – they thought he was a regular congregant of the Aryan Nations and had attended the Aryan Nations World Congress.

Both Randy and Vicki were interviewed by the FBI in 1985, with Randy denying membership in the group, citing profound theological differences. Indeed, the Weavers (who had some points of agreement with the Aryan Nations, primarily about the importance of the Old Testament) mostly saw their affiliation with the Aryan Nations as a social outlet. Living off-grid, the nearby members of the Aryan Nations were neighbors in remote northern Idaho.

Later, in 1986, Randy was approached at a rally by undercover ATF informant Kenneth Faderley, who used a biker alter ego of Gus Magisono and was currently monitoring and investigating Weaver’s friend Frank Kumnick. Faderley introduced himself as an illegal firearms dealer from New Jersey. Randy later encountered Faderley at the World Congress of 1987. He skipped the next year’s Congress to run for county sheriff, an election that he lost.

The ATF claims that in 1989, Faderley purchased two illegally shortened shotguns from Randy Weaver. However, Weaver disputes this, saying that the shotguns he sold Faderley were entirely legal and were shortened after the fact. The notes from the case show that Faderley purchased the guns and showed Weaver where to shorten them, which would constitute illegal entrapment. What’s more, the government preyed on the destitute nature of the Weavers, who lived in a small cabin in the woods with no electricity or running water.

The real purpose of the investigation was not to grab Weaver, but to use him to infiltrate a group in Montana being organized by Charles Howarth. In November 1989, Weaver refused to introduce Faderley to Howarth, and Faderley was ordered by his handlers to have no further contact with Weaver.

Randy Weaver Refuses to Turn Snitch

In June 1990, Faderley’s cover was blown. It was then that the ATF reached out to Weaver, stating that they had evidence he was dealing illegal firearms. They told him they would drop all charges if he would agree to become their new informant regarding the investigation of the Aryan Nations groups in the area. Weaver refused.

To coerce him into changing his mind, the Feds staged a stunt where a broken down couple were at the side of the road. Weaver stopped to help them and was handcuffed, thrown face down in the snow and arrested. He had to post his home as bond. Still he refused to become a federal informant.

The irony of the federal government’s desire to obtain informants within the Aryan Nations is that different branches of federal law enforcement and intelligence gathering occupied five of the six key positions in the organization. This means that the Aryan Nations were effectively a government-run shop, with agents spying on each other to ensure the integrity of an investigation – into an organization almost entirely run by the federal government.

The government had an obsession with the Aryan Nations due to Robert Jay Matthews, who was a member of The Order, a terrorist organization including members of the Aryan Nations. The FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team burned Matthews alive inside his own home.

Due to his ongoing refusal to snitch, Weaver was then arrested in January 1991, on illegal firearms sales charges. These charges stemmed from Weaver’s earlier “sale” of two shortened shotguns to Faderley, the undercover ATF agent – a sale which the feds later admitted constituted illegal entrapment.

Weaver’s court date was set for February 19, 1991, then changed to the next day. Weaver, however, received notice that his court date was not until March 20. He missed his February court appearance and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest. The United States Marshals Service wanted to allow Weaver the chance to appear for what he thought was his court date, however, the United States Attorney’s Office sought a grand jury indictment on March 14th – six days before his notice said he was due in court.

Already skeptical of the Feds after their repeated strongarm tactics, both Randy and Vicki saw this as further evidence that Weaver would not receive a fair trial. They increasingly isolated themselves on their Ruby Ridge farm, vowing to fight rather than surrender peacefully.

During the standoff, a voluntary surrender date was negotiated with the Marshals Service for October 1991, but the United States Attorney’s Office refused the settlement. The Deputy Director of the Special Operations Group of the Marshals Service, using evidence obtained through surveillance, believed that the best course of action was to drop the indictment, issue a new one under seal, and use undercover agents to arrest Weaver, who presumably would have dropped his guard. This recommendation was again rejected.

Shooting the Weavers’ Dog: The Siege of Ruby Ridge Begins

On August 21, 1992, six heavily armed, camouflaged U.S. Marshals went to the Weaver property with the purpose of reconnaissance. The Weavers’ dogs gave away the position of the Marshals, alerting their 14-year-old son Sammy and a 24-year-old friend of the family named Kevin Harris, who investigated what the dogs were barking at while armed.

Unsurprisingly, there are several accounts of how the shooting began.

The Weavers claim that the camouflaged Marshals fired first and refused to identify themselves. The Marshals claim that when they rose to identify themselves, they were fired on by Sammy Weaver and Kevin Harris. In yet another version of events, Marshals shot the Weavers’ dog Striker as he exposed their position and were fired upon by Sammy in retaliation.

Once the shooting began, Randy Weaver’s son, Sammy, was shot in the back by federal agents immediately after yelling, “I’m coming, dad!” as he ran back to the house. That is to say, he was fleeing the scene, not regrouping for another attack.

After this initial exchange, the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team – sometimes disparagingly called the “Hostage Roasting Team,” due to their proclivity to burn down buildings – was called in to assess the situation.

Sniper and observer teams were deployed by the Hostage Rescue Team. A sniper aimed for an instant kill shot on Randy, but Randy moved at the last minute and the shot entered his shoulder, exiting through his armpit. He then fled back to the house from the shed where he had been viewing the body of his dead son.

A second shot missed Kevin Harris and hit Vicki in the head, who was holding their 10-month-old daughter at the time in her arms, a powerful image often invoked in the telling of the story. This same second shot hit Harris after exiting Vicki. An internal investigation found that the second shot was out of policy and that the failure to request surrender was “inexcusable.”

FBI Sniper Lon Horiuchi fired through a door without seeing who was on the other side of it – at people who were fleeing and posed no threat. He was later charged with manslaughter in these deaths, but the charges were dropped. Horiuchi was also involved in the Waco siege, and Timothy McVeigh printed up cards for gun shows encouraging people to target him. Indeed, McVeigh considered targeting Horiuchi and his family rather than the federal building. In 1995, he pleaded the Fifth when questioned about the matter by the United States Senate. His whereabouts are currently unknown.

The rules of engagement were changed on the fly to effectively encourage shooting anyone on sight. This included the remaining Weaver children, who were known to carry weapons 81 percent of the time. Once the siege began, none of the Weavers fired a shot.

The standoff lasted ten days, and involved between 350 and 400 agents who cruelly named their camp, “Camp Vicki.” They would routinely call out “Vicki, we have blueberry pancakes,” but claimed to not know that she was dead. Supporters of the Weavers and opponents of the ATF and FBI formed a vigil.

Weaver’s commanding officer from Vietnam, James “Bo” Gritz (who was currently running for President on the Populist Party ticket) acted as a mediator between the family and government agents. Radio broadcaster Paul Harvey intervened, offering to pay for a robust defense for Weaver if he surrendered. This was what led Weaver to abandon the standoff and surrender himself to federal authorities.

The Aftermath of the Federal Siege at Ruby Ridge

Weaver was charged with ten counts, including the original charges, of illegal firearms sales. His attorney, Gerry Spence, successfully defended Weaver against a host of charges, including murder, by using a self-defense argument. Weaver was ultimately only convicted of the charge of failure to appear, for which he was sentenced to 18 months in prison and a fine of $10,000. He was credited with time served plus three months. Kevin Harris was acquitted of all charges. These were the longest deliberations in Idaho criminal history.

Weaver sued the federal government, which avoided a civil trial by awarding damages of $1,000,000 each to the three surviving Weaver children and $100,000 to Randy. Harris eventually received a settlement of $380,000 after several years of appeals against a government who claimed they would never issue any payment to someone who had killed a federal marshal.

It is worth noting that the federal government took active steps to cover their tracks after the Siege of Ruby Ridge. The chief of the bureau’s Violent Crimes and Major Offenders Section pled guilty to attempting to destroy all copies of the FBI’s internal report on the siege. Federal Judge Edward Lodge penned a lengthy list of misdeeds, including fabrication of evidence and refusing to comply with court orders.

Deval Patrick, then-Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights and later Governor of Massachusetts, later found that federal agents had not used excessive force.

One of the biggest changes after the Siege of Ruby Ridge was a change in the rules of engagement. In October 1995, the Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Government Information ordered all federal agencies to standardize their rules of engagement, particularly as pertained to deadly force. Randy and his daughter Sara wrote a book about the events in 1998 entitled The Federal Siege at Ruby Ridge. The family now live in Kalispell, Montana. Sara became a Born Again Christian in 2012, and forgave the federal agents.

There was, predictably, very little meaningful blowback on the United States Marshals Service or any other parts of the federal government. The Ruby Ridge Task Force delivered a highly redacted 542-page report. And the six marshals involved in the initial shootout were given the highest commendations awarded by the United States Marshal Service.

In 1997, the Justice Department declined to prosecute senior FBI officials for covering up the details of the case. Two FBI agents were prosecuted, one served 18 months in prison for destruction of evidence and the other had the charges dismissed. The second-in-command of the FBI was demoted and three other agents were suspended.

In 1996, Weaver offered his services to defuse tensions between the FBI and the Montana Freeman, however, this offer was declined. In 2000, Weaver visited the former site of the Branch Davidian Church that had been destroyed in another high-profile siege. He later offered support to Edward and Elaine Brown, who were resisting federal taxes at the time.

How It Could Have Gone: John Joe Gray

While it might be easy to take the cynical route and say that Ruby Ridge changed nothing (particularly in the wake of the Waco Siege, which took place a mere year after the Siege of Ruby Ridge), we have at least one example of the federal government admitting that it tread lightly to avoid another Ruby Ridge-like situation.

John Joe Gray is a sovereign citizen living on a 50-acre wooded ranch in Trinidad, Texas. During a traffic stop, he became involved in an altercation with Texas Trooper Jim Cleland. Cleland reached for a .357 in Gray’s car. His car was filled with anti-government literature, including pamphlets referencing bombing a bridge. After the altercation with the Trooper, he was charged with two felonies: taking a police officer’s weapon and assault on a public servant.

Gray promised to have no weapons while he was awaiting trial and posted bond. After the fact, a judge declared that his bond was insufficient. He then ordered Gray arrested. Henderson County Sheriff Ray Nutt stated that “This kook is not worth it. Ten of him is not worth going up there and getting one of my young deputies killed.”

So how long did local, state and federal authorities allow Gray to hole up on his ranch without any kind of armed confrontation? Just a few days shy of 15 years, in what was the longest law enforcement standoff in American history.

The charges were eventually dropped, under the premise that Gray had essentially served a 15-year house arrest term and that a militant confrontation in the style of Ruby Ridge didn’t benefit anyone.

While Randy Weaver’s stand might have made the Feds think twice about coming in guns blazing the next time they can’t strongarm someone – with an eccentric lifestyle and unusual beliefs – into turning informant, this is likely cold comfort for Weaver who lost his 14-year-old son and wife.

This is why those in the freedom, patriot, Constitutional, survival and Second Amendment movements remember this day. It is a chilling reminder of the predatory and aggressive nature of federal law enforcement.

Shouldn’t The Cops Be Leading The Charge Against Mass Shootings?

              Yesterday we were treated to a spate of reports covering the arrest of suspected mass shooters in Connecticut, Florida and Ohio. The incidents were unrelated, but all three suspects were arrested either because they made digital threats or had tried to purchase mass-shooting equipment online. What appears to have been the key ingredient in all three episodes was a heightened awareness of mass shooting possibilities by law enforcement agencies both at the local, state and digital levels.

              Yesterday I also received an email from a gun-control advocacy group alerting me to the September 25th hearing on the national assault weapons ban (H.R. 1296) before the House Judiciary Committee. The bill has picked up 201 co-sponsors; it goes without saying that not a single member of the GOP House delegation appears on the co-sponsor list.

              I’m going to pause my current-day narrative for a moment and go back in time.  Some may recall that a wave of arson which destroyed more than 145 Black churches in the rural South crested during the 1990’s and then abruptly came to an end. It’s still not clear to what extent these attacks were coordinated throughout nine Southern states, but we do know how the problem was ultimately solved.

              In June, 1996 the feds created a National Church Arson Task Force (NCATF) under the leadership of the ATF.  This was accompanied by the passage of a law, the Church Arson Prevention Act, which funded a multi-jurisdictional effort coordinating federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. In two years this effort, based on 670 separate investigations, resulted in 308 arrests and 235 convictions, including the arrest of 119 juveniles.  In the years which followed, there was almost a complete disappearance of Church vandalism, both for Black and non-Black houses of worship.

              I am beginning to think that in a less-organized or formal fashion, the same degree of cooperation and diligence may be at work in the arrests of these mass-shooting wannabes over the last several days. What is clearly happening, and it happened in the church burnings back in the 1990’s, was a similar copy-cat behavior which spread from place to place, from dope to dope, from messed-up kid to messed-up kid. It can’t be coincidence that the three young men arrested for possibly planning mass shootings were all in their early 20’s, were all in some way or another attracted to racialist beliefs, were all trying to attract attention to themselves through posts on various social media sites.

              Which brings me to a question that I need to ask my Gun-control Nation friends: Why do you think that an assault weapons ban that does not include a buyback will work better than setting up a national task force on mass shootings like the task force that was created in response to church burnings all over the South? One of the first things that the NCATF did was to create and publicize an 800 number which anyone could call with information about a threat, said information was then routed to the appropriate law enforcement agency along with follow-up monitoring by the NCATF group itself. Remember the law enforcement response to a phone tip about the guy who then murdered and wounded 34 teachers and students at Stoneman High? There was no response.

              I’m not trying to disparage or in any way undermine the efforts of dedicated, devoted activists who are trying to promote a national assault weapons ban. I have made it clear again and again that these man-killing products are simply not (read: not) sporting or hunting guns. But I also don’t understand the reluctance of Gun-control Nation to enlist the support and cooperation of law enforcement agencies who, after all, happen to exist for the purpose of preventing crimes. And the last time I checked, shooting up a school or any other public space happens to be a crime.

              As far as I’m concerned, every strategy to reduce or prevent any kind of criminal gun violence needs the cops to be in charge.

Active Shooter Drills Don’t Belong In Schools.

              There’s a guy out in Davis, CA named Bryan Malte, who runs an organization called the Hope and Heal Fund.  Bryan has been in and around the gun-control movement for almost 30 years, and after a long stint with Brady, he and his wife moved back to California where he runs this important effort to help reduce gun violence in California, although what he does obviously has application just about everywhere else.

              Last week Bryan published a very significant column on his website and on Medium about active shooting drills in schools. Since you already have a link to his website, here’s a link to the Medium piece as well. You might want to read his column on the Medium website, because if it gets enough traffic then it might become a featured piece which would get even more people to read what Bryan has to say.

              What he has to say is that a whole industry has now grown up around the idea of ‘hardening’ our schools to protect the teachers and children from someone entering the building with the intention of shooting the whole place up. The active shooting industry’s target customer base goes far beyond education – hospitals, workplaces – anywhere that might attract some jerk with a gun will sooner or later get solicited by a salesperson selling them a program to help them get prepared. Or as one of the leading companies calls it, moving the customer from a ‘passive to proactive response.’

              This is all pure, unadulterated crap and like the gun industry itself, what is being promoted is a response to fear. Bryan hits this one right out of the park when he notes that not only are schools about the safest places for kids and adults, but the active-shooter drills are themselves likely to cause fear. How do you think a bunch of schoolchildren are going to react when they witness a staged shooting “replete with fake blood and student-actors’ ‘bodies’ on the hallway floors?”

              Were it the case that merchandising the fear of schoolchildren was only being done by a cadre of fast-buck private outfits I wouldn’t be so concerned. After all, since when has American ingenuity not found a way to make money off of fear?  I don’t know if he’s still peddling freeze-dried food for your backyard bunker, but Glenn Beck has been touting moving your savings into gold and silver for at least the last ten years.

              On the other hand, when the huckstering is done by the one professional group whom he would like to believe only gives us advice on what we really need, then something is seriously wrong. I am referring to a program called ‘Stop the Bleed,’ run by the American College of Surgeons with a shopping cart on their website where you can purchase anything from a Personal Bleeding Control Kit for $69, up to a wall-mounted Bleeding Control Station for $800, the latter product can probably be attached to the hooks which used to hold the fire extinguisher in the hall.

              Along with the medical supplies a school district can also opt for training, which gives kids an opportunity to develop the same traumatic fears that might occur after they get done with the active shooting drill.  Come to think of it, why not give the kids a dose of both?  In the morning they can learn how to stand on a toilet seat so that the shooter won’t know if anyone’s in the john; after lunch they can see some pictures of how a person might bleed out unless they wrap a bandage around the injured arm.

              In 2018, the American College of Surgeons donated $841,780 to Congressional candidates, with members of the GOP getting almost 60% of the total. So far for the 2020 election, the GOP candidates are again slightly ahead. Every, single one of these GOP recipients shamelessly votes the NRA line. And these surgeons want us to believe that selling their crummy, little medical kits to schoolkids will make a difference when someone walks into the classroom with an AR15?

Sorry, But The AR-15 Isn’t Just Another ‘Sporting’ Gun.

              Back in 2016 the Massachusetts Attorney General, Maura Healey, issued an order which effectively made the Bay State assault-rifle rein. Not only did her ukase extend the state’s continued adherence to the extension of the Clinton assault-rifle ban, but it expressly prohibited the sale of assault-style guns which were jimmied around one way or another to circumvent the Clinton ban.

              The problem with the Clinton approach (which was actually copied from an earlier assault-rifle ban enacted in California) was that the definition of an ‘assault rifle’ was based largely on whether the gun had certain design features (folding stock, flash-hider, hand grip, etc.) which made it look like a military gun, but didn’t really make the gun any more lethal than many other semi-automatic guns. Which made it both easy and plausible foe Gun-nut Nation to attack the ban since, according to those savants, law-abiding gun owners would be deprived of owning what was just another ‘sporting’ gun.

              I happen to own a bunch of assault rifles, an AR, an AK and a couple of Mini-14s, and they are all fun to shoot. Set up some tin cans (or better yet some pumpkins) at the range, go prancing around blasting away a la Colion Noir and have a good time. But whenever I refer to these guns as ‘adult toys,’ which is what they are, I get all kinds of angry responses from my gun-nut friends who tell me in no uncertain terms that I’ve become a Judas Goat because I don’t understand that Americans need these guns to guarantee their sacred right to self-defense.

              Last week I received my annual dues notice from the local gun group which asked me to make an additional donation so that they can petition the Supreme Court to “take up our challenge of AG Maura Healey’s 2016 gun ban.” And why do they want to challenge the ban? Because according to them, “self-defense is a human right.” By the way, Maura’s ban was upheld by the First Circuit and I can’t imagine that in the current climate the SCOTUS would even consider hearing the case.

              The problem for Gun-nut Nation in fighting against an assault-weapon ban is that they are trying to have it both ways. On the one hand, they argue that since the AR is a semi-auto gun it is no different from any other semi-auto ‘sporting’ gun, which would make a ban on such a product clearly a violation of 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ On the other hand, they have also been promoting these guns as necessary for self-defense, and like the gun-nut brigade in Massachusetts claims, self-defense is a human right.

              Both arguments happen to be total and complete crap. The AR is designed to do one thing and one thing only, which is to deliver massive amounts of man-killing ordnance in a brief period of time. And even with my cold, not-yet-dead hands (to paraphrase Charlton Heston), I can get off 30 rounds with my AR is 15 seconds or less. As for self-defense, the idea that I need to protect myself with 30 rounds of military-grade ammo when that ‘street thug’ breaks down my back door is, if anything, an invitation to commit more harm than good. The round from an AR is lethal out to 500 yards or more; a shotgun blast travels 40 or 50 yards. Which gun would be safer to use if my house is located across the street from someone else?

              I understand why my gun-nut friends view the attempt to ban assault rifles with a mixture of fear and alarm. I don’t disagree with the idea that once you ban this kind of gun, it’s easier to ban another type of gun next time around. But sooner or later we must confront the fact that some guns are simply too lethal to be in anyone’s hands, law-abiding hands or not. And anyone who thinks that an AR-15 is no different from the 22-caliber Sears Roebuck shooter that used to go under the Christmas tree, doesn’t know anything about guns.

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ 2nd Amendment.

              I bought my first, real gun in 1956 from some swamp rat at a tag show in the Florida Glades. From then until 2008, when my friend Tony Scalia told me I had a Constitutional ‘right’ to own a gun, as long as it was a handgun and I kept it in my home, I probably bought and sold at least 500 guns. At an average of 10 guns a year, for a gun nut that’s no big deal.

              One of those guns was a Colt Single Action Army manufactured in 1886. Another was a beautiful, pristine Colt 1911 built in 1919. There was also a Walther P5 that I bought from a Lufthansa  crew member one night when we were all sitting around drinking in some Hofbrau Haus on East 86th Street in New York. At some point, I think I traded those guns and some others for a Harley Low Ryder. I then rebuilt my gun stash when I sold the Harley the following year.

              Not one of those transactions had any Constitutional protection at all. In not one instance when I either bought or sold a gun was I exercising any kind of Constitutional ‘right.’ Know what? As far as the Feds were concerned, there wasn’t a single one of those transfers that was against the law. Well, maybe I wasn’t old enough to buy that beautiful Smith & Wesson K-38 when I was twelve years old, but you get my point. Americans bought and sold millions of personally-owned guns, probably hundreds of millions before the 2008 Heller decision, and nobody cared.

              I have been writing about guns and gun violence since 2012, there are now nearly 1,400 columns on my blog, 10 books in print, profiles in The New Yorker and The (failing) New York Times. I have been consistent in my argument from first to last, namely, that guns should be owned for hunting and sport. Anyone who thinks they should be walking around defending the neighborhood with a gun in his pocket is concocting an argument that has no basis in reality at all. Unless, of course, he also happens to be wearing a shield, because that’s what he’s being paid to do.

              Every time I say the above in print I receive emails and Facebook posts from my friends in Gun-nut Nation accusing me of being a Bloomberg stooge, a liberal jerk pretending to be a ‘gun guy,’ or worse. When I first started writing I received some threats, but those seem to have stopped appearing since the internet has become somewhat patrolled. I never took the threats seriously, by the way, although our friend Shannon Watts is still obliged to hire protective services when she appears.

              The truth is that all this talk about 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ ramping up again as even Trump says something about supporting background checks, is nothing more than sturm und drang nonsense that has nothing to do with guns or gun ownership at all. The government is never (read: never) going to ‘take away’ everyone’s guns; the slide into Fascism that was accompanied by a restrictive gun law passed by Hitler isn’t going to happen here.

              Notwithstanding last week’s mass shootings and Trump’s encouragement of racist (‘send ’em back’) screeds, we happen to live in a remarkably law-abiding country, something which is often forgotten on both sides of the debate about guns. Most of the folks fervently supporting more gun laws happen to live in neighborhoods where gun violence rarely, if ever occurs. For that matter, all those armed vigilantes who fantasize going around and protecting their neighborhoods also happen to live in peaceful, quiet zones.

              So why is there such a big deal about 2nd-Amendment ‘rights?’ Because that’s how the narrative has been framed over the last ten years, and most folks find it easy and convenient to repeat what they hear from someone else without taking the trouble to think it through on their own.

              Remember ‘make love not war?’ Now we can say ‘make noise not war.’

When We Talk About Gun Violence, Aren’t We Talking About Crimes?

For all the talk about a new gun law which is sweeping across both sides of the Congressional aisle following the mass shootings of last week, there seems to be one response to the problem of gun violence which somehow never gets said. And this response would take into account the fact that more than 75% of all gun injuries happen to be crimes. That’s right – crimes. 

Here are the numbers from 2017, rounded off a bit: Unintentional injuries – 15,000; suicides – 21,000; homicides and aggravated assaults – 90,000. Oops, that’s only 72% but it’s close enough. 

I know all the reasons why so many guns wind up in the ‘wrong hands.’ I also know all the reasons why so many shootings occur in inner-city, what we politely refer to as ‘disadvantaged’ zones. The latter topic may not be as popular for trade books as why America is quickly becoming a Fascist state, but a new book on this subject has a way of appearing every year.

Our most eminent gun researchers, Philip Cook and Jens Ludwig, have begun developing a different approach to this whole problem which my friends in Gun-control Nation should spend some time thinking about instead of always promoting the ‘public health approach.’ According to Cook and Ludwig, the average arrest rate for aggravated assaults in major cities is somewhere around five percent.  In other words, if I’m walking down Blackstone Avenue in Chicago and I decide to yank out my Glock and shoot someone else in the head, even if I miss and only hit him in the shoulder, the odds that I’ll get away with the assault are better than nine out of ten.   

The good news for my intended victim is that like most people walking around with a legal or illegal gun, I don’t practice enough to hit what I’m trying to hit. So even using a very lethal round like a 9mm or an S&W 40, chances are my intended target will survive. The better news for me is that when the cops show up and ask the three or four people who witnessed the assault to give them a description of what I look like, what they’ll be able to broadcast over the radio is that they are looking for someone who ‘I didn’t see nuttin’ at all,’ is the way I’ll probably be described.

Know why so many street-corner shootings appear to be just random, drive-by events? Because the nabe knows that if they go to the cops to complain that someone dissed them or someone assaulted them or someone’s just being a pain, the chances are better than even that the cops won’t do anything at all. Yea, yea, I know all about community policing – tell that one to communities of color in Baltimore or Washington, D.C., where the gun-violence rates in both cities have lately increased by more than 30 percent!

Let me make it clear. Believe it or not, I’m very pro-cop.  I earn my living doing lethal-force certifications for local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, and I appreciate the fact that when police show up at a home that is burning down they will rush right in to make sure that all the occupants are safely outside, including the family cat. So the purpose of this column is not (read: not) to dump on the cops.

On the other hand, I don’t understand why anyone who shoots someone else isn’t charged with attempted murder, since the only reason it was attempted and not completed was because the shooter didn’t shoot straight. Unfortunately, according to Cook and Ludwig, that even when someone actually aims accurately enough to leave a dead body in the street, the arrest rate for capital gun crimes is less than 20 percent.

My friends who promote the idea of a ‘public health approach’ to gun violence might take some time to consider the implications of the Cook-Ludwig research. Somehow I just don’t buy the argument that crimes as serious as gun assaults should go unpunished because we don’t want to be ‘judgemental’ about life on inner-city streets.

Move Over Obama. There’s A New Gun-Grabber In The White House.

              Back in April, 2016 when Trump the Shlump showed up at the NRA show to be anointed as the spear-carrier for America’s gun-nut contingent, I thought (and said) that the boys at the Fairfax home office were making a big mistake.  America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ always endorsed the GOP Presidential candidate, but they waited until October to get the word out. By tying the organization to a guy who had never previously run for any political office of any kind, particularly this guy, Wayne-o and his buddies made a deal which bound them to someone over whom they would have no control.

              Whatever else you want to say about him, Trump’s a through-and-through New York guy. Which means that he’s about as connected to guns and gun culture as the man in the moon. For all his bluster and bull  about 2nd-Amendment ‘rights, he’ll say anything to consolidate his alt-right base. And if it ever suited his political fancy to throw the NRA leadership under a bus, get out the broom and start sweeping the street because that’s exactly what happened last week.

              Of course the minute bullets started flying around the Wal Mart in El Paso and then inside a Dayton bar, Trump yanked out the old ‘thoughts and prayers’ even though he thought the Dayton bar was actually located in Toledo. Not that his putative challenger, Joe Biden, did any better, because he got up and told everyone at a San Diego fundraiser how sorry he was about two mass shootings that occurred in Houston and Michigan. 

              Meanwhile, by the middle of last week it began to appear that we may have hit some kind of critical turning-point in the argument about guns. One of the Fox News anchors, Shepard Smith, delivered an impassioned commentary which could have been written for him by Everytown, and by week’s end Trump was openly promoting the idea of ‘intelligent’ background checks. He also made a point of saying that he had talked to both Pelosi and Schumer about going forward with a background-check bill, those two names being at the top of the most-hated list for Gun-nut Nation, no questions asked.

              Trump may be President but he’s also a 2020 Presidential candidate, and in that respect his support of a background-check bill makes him probably the 20th candidate to come up with some kind of gun-control scheme.  There’s Booker with his national ID card, Biden wants a national gun buy-back, Buttigieg wants an AR ban, Kamala wants dealers to be regulated more strictly, blah, blah, blah and blah. But the biggest and best plan was just unveiled by Pocahontas, except it’s not really a plan. It’s a pledge to reduce gun violence by 80 percent, although she admits she doesn’t have the faintest idea of how to make this actually work.

              All of this Democratic yapping clearly reflects the degree to which an energized and organized Gun-control Nation may have been an important factor in turning a number of red Congressional districts blue in 2018. And if anything, the public response to California, Texas and Ohio may well presage an even stronger Democratic result built around gun violence next year.

              Except there’s one little problem, a problem named Donald Trump. Because when all is said and done, his quick pivot on gun control and the reaction of Gun-nut Nation to his new-found gun concerns reminds me of what happened when Nixon went to China in 1972. If you were a Congressional Democrat after 1949 and so much as quietly hinted that we couldn’t ignore one-quarter of the world’s population, it was Nixon who stood up and called you a ‘pinko stooge’ or worse. If gun control becomes a political lightning-rod for next year, Trump’s fervent support of gun-nuttery gives him all the protection he needs.

What’s the NRA going to do if Trump signs a background-check bill? Tell their membership to vote for some Socialist who will take away all their guns?

When It Comes To A New Gun Law, Here’s How To Get It Done.

Now that the momentum appears to be building for a new federal gun law, my Gun-control Nation friends will no doubt get busy trying to figure out: a) what would be the best law to try and get passed; and b) how to go about getting it passed. The GOP has suddenly begun warming up to the idea of a ‘red flag’ law because such a measure would basically hand the gun-control problem over to the cops, which means that the NRA-toadies on the right side of the aisle can say support ‘common-sense’ gun laws and Blue Lives Matter at the same time.

Last year the Parkland kids spearheaded an event, March For Our Lives, which brought as many as 2 million people to DC and may have been one of the largest, mass protests of all time.  Which was exactly the problem with the event, namely, that it was a protest against gun violence rather than a guide to what needed to get done.

Want to know how to figure out what could or might get done? My advice is to heed the experiences and words of a woman who, when a definitive history of gun control finally appears, deserves to be considered as the Susan B. Anthony of the gun-control movement (we’ll make Shannon Watts the Elizabeth Cady Stanton), a.k.a., Donna Dees Thomases, who put together the first, national gun-control event in 2000 known as the Million Mom March.

Donna got going after she saw a news report about a shooting in a Jewish Community Center in California which wounded two adults and three children, although luckily nobody was killed. I want to pause my narrative for a moment and give a big shout-out to two women, Donna Finkelstein and Loren Lieb, whose children were wounded in the attack and who remain active in the local Brady chapter to this day. I just sent a contribution to Brady in their names and I urge you to do the same. Now back to Donna.

Last year following March for our Lives, Donna published a piece in which she uses her own activist experiences of the past two decades to state both some concerns and hopes for what Gun-control Nation might possibly achieve. Her biggest concern, and I share this with her in spades, is that the gun-control movement continues to be splintered into a multiplicity of groups which makes the whole issue of branding difficult to achieve. And in the age of instant media known as the internet, branding is not only essential, but it’s particularly important when you go up against Gun-nut Nation that gathers just about everyone under one brand – the NRA – which has been around for more than 140 years.

Now the fact that the NRA is at the moment having problems keeping its brand from coming apart at the seams shouldn’t lull any gun-control activist into some kind of dream-like fantasy that America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ is about to dry up and go away. The boys in Fairfax will wait until things quiet down, they’ll give Wayne-o and his team a graceful good-bye, and back they’ll come to continue the rhetorical shoot-out over gun ‘rights.’

Donna’s concern about the plethora of organizational efforts on the gun-control side is balanced by the fact that between herself, Shannon, Sarah Brady and others, women have played a leading role in the gun-control fight. And she makes a point of the fact that one of the strengths of Moms Demand Action is the red t-shirt which is easily identifiable at public events. Just imagine what it would look like if a million people showed up for another gun-control rally on the Mall and everyone was wearing the same shirt (hint, hint.)

Last but not least, and here I couldn’t agree more with what Donna says, which is that nothing happens overnight. Advocacy is always a long, difficult and often frustrating struggle so be forewarned and prepared. On the other hand, who ever said that important issues like human life don’t deserve a serious fight?

And you can also read an interview I gave yesterday about the attempt to put an assault-weapon ban on the 2020 Florida ballot – another tough, long fight.

Do Guns Protect Us From Crime?

              Now that the reaction to last week’s mass shootings has become yet another Twitter battle between Trump and the Democrats, the real issue behind the gun-control debate has receded into the background but I’ll try to put it front and center again. The real issue is not whether Americans should be able to own guns. The real issue is what kinds of guns should they be able to own.

              We suffer more than 125,000 fatal and non-fatal gun injuries each year because we are the only country with a gun-regulatory system which allows people to own weapons which were designed to do one thing and one thing only – kill human beings. You don’t shoot a bird out of a tree with a Glock. You don’t shoot Bambi with an AR.  But the guy who comes into my gun shop and buys some rusted, old shotgun to shoot a squirrel that’s eating his tomato plants jumps through the same legal hoops as the guy who walks in and buys a Glock 19 and a couple of high-capacity mags. And if he also buys an AR with some 30-round mags, we still do only one, 30-second background check.

              The reason that this absurd regulatory system continues to be seen as the cornerstone upon which we can somehow create policies that will reduce gun violence is because a majority of Americans are convinced that they need to own one of these man-killing guns in order to protect themselves from something, whatever that something happens to be. Is your home safer with or without a gun? The public opinion surveys indicate that the most frequent answer to that question will be ‘yes.’ 

              Another indication of the consensus about the value of gun ownership has been the growth of concealed-carry licenses, as well as the number of states which let people walk around with a gun without having to undergo any licensing procedure at all. There are now 15 states where anyone who can pass the FBI-NICS background check can walk around with a concealed gun. As for concealed-carry licenses, or what is usually referred to as CCW (concealed-carry weapon), the number is now somewhere above 17 million, and if we assume that there are (for the sake of argument) that there are at least 20 million gun owners in the ‘Constitutional-carry’ states, this means that probably somewhere around 40 million Americans can wander the highways and byways toting a gun.

              Our friend John Lott has calculated the per-capita number of CCW licenses and you can see a list of the 13 states where at least one out of every 10 adult residents has a license to carry a gun. I have compared the per-capita number of CCW-holders in those 13 states with the gun-homicide rate in those same 13 states and the results are here:

              Note that of the 13 states with the highest per-capita rate of  CCW, seven of them also have a gun-violence rate which is higher than the national gun-violence rate of 4.46. With the exception of Washington and Iowa, the states with lower gun-violence than the national average are all Western states whose CCW numbers obviously reflect a long history and tradition of personal gun ownership. On the other hand, the high rates of gun violence in states like Alabama, Indiana, Pennsylvania, etc., all reflect the overwhelming incidence of gun violence in inner-city zones within those states.

              To me, these numbers may indicate that Americans who consider owning a gun for personal protection may not just be buying into some clever marketing scheme (read: scam) of the gun industry. Many live in states where gun violence is more of a daily event than what is covered in the national media, and the opinions of these folks might be more sensitive to local news reports that hit closer to home.

              Thinking about guns as a response to fear may strike some as odd but we need to understand those fears if we are really committed to talking about gun violence with people who own guns.