Don’t Lie For The Other Guy – The Campaign Takes A New Twist

dont lieThe National Shooting Sports Foundation has been running an anti-gun trafficking campaign for many years called, Don’t Lie For the Other Guy. The campaign reminds gun owners that it’s a federal crime to go into a gun shop, lie on the background check form and then give the gun you’ve purchased to someone else who can’t purchase the gun themselves.  Most gun shop owners proudly display a campaign poster like the one in this blog, and just about every gun shop owner does a good job in supporting the campaign.

But in the wake of the Navy Yard shooting this campaign has taken on a new twist because one after another, NRA sympathizers and NRA-based pundits are lying like hell for the other guy, in this case, the NRA.  What are they lying about?  The alleged cause-and-effect between shootings and the existence of “gun free” zones.  This first became the NRA mantra after Newtown, when LaPierre called for a replacement of gun-free zones in schools with armed guards, a statement he repeated after the Navy Yard.  Now we have the same nonsense being promoted in the wake of Navy Yard shooting that took place on a military installation which was “de-gunned” by an Executive Order issued by President Clinton in 1993 (although the policy had been in force at many military bases unofficially under George Bush I.)

The latest version of the lie was produced last week by none other than John Lott, whose book on gun violence was based on data that he couldn’t actually produce, so I guess we can say that he probably doesn’t know when he’s lying or not.  In any case, he went on a TV talk show and said the following about mass shootings in ‘gun-free’ zones: “With few exceptions,  they’ve occurred where guns have been banned.”  He repeated the same comments in a Fox News blog.

He’s wrong.  The FBI data on mass shootings (4 or more victims) clearly shows that two-thirds of all mass shootings occur exactly the same place where all homicides occur – at or directly nearby the home of the victim.  What a surprise, that the location of mass shootings is basically the same as the location of all shootings.  But since most gun homicides start off as drug-related crimes or domestic arguments, where else are they going to take place?  In a school?

Maybe John Lott’s not lying for the NRA.  Maybe he hasn’t looked at the Uniform Crime Reports.  After all, he only touts himself as a leading expert on gun violence.  And once you’re a self-declared expert you don’t need to look at anything.  All you have to do is keep shooting your mouth off (pardon the pun.) But if Lott doesn’t know this data he doesn’t even deserve amateur status in the argument about guns.  if he does know the data, then he’s just lying for the other guy.

 

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

Emily Miller

Emily Miller

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

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

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

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

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

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

take the poll.

 

 

Gun Violence: Let’s Stop Researching And Start Yelling, Or At Least Talking

Chantilly, VA gun show

Chantilly, VA gun show

You may have noticed in my last several blogs that I am dismayed by the extent to which the pro-gun crowd completely owns the public debate about guns.  They get their message out endlessly and continuously, and they get it out regardless of whether anything they say is true or not.  If you think I’m over-stating the case, take a look at the recent analysis of Emily Miller’s pro-gun book by Media Matters.  Miller is the latest in a long line of NRA sycophants who masquerade as “objective” journalists or researchers, but in reality just parrot the NRA-NSSF  line.

So Miller publishes a book promoting the idea that women should buy and carry guns.  And she’s immediately interviewed by CNN and Politico who allow her to make false statement after false statement without the slightest attempt to push back or discern whether what she’s saying is actually true.  And the reason she published the book?  Because while sales of small, concealable handguns have created a new market for gun manufacturers over the past decade, the increase in female ownership of guns has lagged far behind.  And the truth is, that with the percentage of families that actually own guns decreasing, the only way that sales can continue strong is to find new sales opportunities within existing gun-owning families, women over 21 being the most underrepresented group.  Want an example?  Take a look at the photo at the top of this blog.  It’s a gun show in Chantilly Virginia and if you want a larger view just click the last-cited link. Or just take my word for it that of the 20 or so customers lined up in front of the tables, every single one is a man.

So the NRA relentlessly pushes its agenda without regards to facts.  And who can blame them?  After all, their job is to help the gun industry sell guns.  They may promote themselves as a training organization, as a public-interest lobby, as a charitable and educational effort, but they don’t operate, shall we say, for the common good.  They are basically a marketing group, and they have developed a very successful marketing campaign.

It’s particularly successful because they’re up against nobody on the other side.  When was the last time you heard of the Brady Campaign doing anything besides sending their lobbyists up to Capitol Hill?  And Brady’s the best of them.  Everyone else in the gun control camp is busily hacking away at this piece of research or that which they read to each other and then basically throw away.  In the last two weeks alone gun control scholars have issued several serious and detailed reports about the link between gun ownership and violence.  One report came out of the School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, the other led by medical researchers at NYU.  Both reports added additional evidence to support the idea that maybe, just maybe, there’s a link between 250 million guns floating around and high rates of violence with guns.  Both reports received the usual, 30-second mention in various liberal media outlets and blogs.  Both reports went no further than that.

Had these reports been issued before Newtown and the Navy Yard the NRA would have immediately dispatched one of its academic hirelings to refute them in detail.  This time around these reports were ignored.  At the same time that these reports were issued, Emily Miller was hosting a book-publishing party in Washington, complete with accolades from Rick Perry, Ted Nugent and Donald Trump.  There’s no longer a give-and-take between the pro-gun and the anti-gun crowd.  There’s a pro-gun crowd out there celebrating success after success and a pathetic group of gun control researchers talking to themselves.

Anyone ever hear of a group called the Violence Policy Center?  They have published a remarkable series of studies about gun violence, all of which are available for everyone to read.  The studies are meticulous, detailed and true.  And I’m willing to bet you that there’s not a single person reading my blog who’s ever read one of these reports.  But why should you bother?  After all, you’re not in the business of academic research.  Going to a book-publishing party would always be more fun.

DON’T THINK THE NRA IS HIDING BECAUSE OF WHAT HAPPENED AT THE NAVY YARD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Should Physicians Advocate for More Gun Control? Of Course They Should

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A remarkable article on gun safety advocacy by physicians has recently been published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.  Written by three public health specialists, it calls for physicians and other health care professionals to be more aggressive in advocating measures to cut gun violence.  What’s remarkable about the article is not what it says, but the fact that it has been published at all.  Because despite the overwhelming evidence that the existence of several hundred million guns is coincident with the highest levels of gun violence of any advanced country, physicians of late have been reluctant to play the role of advocates in the gun violence debate.

The self-imposed constraint on gun safety advocacy goes back to the firestorm that was ignited by physicians who were one of many groups that called for stricter gun controls, if not some degree of outright abolition of guns, during the public debates that led up to the passage of the assault weapons ban and Brady laws in 1993-94.  In retaliation, the NRA launched a successful campaign to defund the CDC from sponsoring gun research, and continues its barrage of nonsensical claims about the inherent value of guns to protect us from crime and violence.  Worse, many of these so-called “studies” are the handiwork of individuals who use their alleged medical credentials to promote social and political agendas that go far beyond any rational discussion about guns or anything else.

One of the latest salvos is the handiwork of an Arizona internist, Jane Orient, who recently published a survey of gun control research in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, an organization which can best be described as “libertarianism meets medicine.”  Now don’t get me wrong.  Physicians have as much right to organize and advocate for any political position as anyone else.  They also have the right to publicly criticize any and all government policies that affect their work as physicians.  But there is a difference between using your status as a medical professional to challenge medical procedures or policies, as opposed to promoting a political agenda based on unproven claims masquerading as medical research.

There is simply no valid proof to the continuous claims made by NRA-leaning researchers that a positive correlation exists between private ownership of guns and decreases in crime rates.  The best the pro-gun crowd can offer are studies that show a decline in gun violence coincident with an increase in concealed-carry licensing.  But what do they say when a jurisdiction like New York City sees a significant drop in violent crime while, at the same time, refusing to relax its stringent gun control laws at all?  The silence is deafening.  The truth is that Dr. Orient and her followers are opposed to gun control because they are opposed to all government regulations, not just as they might apply to guns, but as they apply to environment, financial activities and, of course, the practice of medicine itself.

On the other hand, when serious research on gun violence is done by serious medical and public health researchers, they need to put as much time and energy into publicizing the results as they spend in doing the research itself.  Sending a press release to the gun control lobby, like the Brady Campaign or The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence does nothing to mitigate the pro-gun advocacy work of Jane Orient and her like-minded friends.  But if the American Academy of Pediatrics decided it wanted to tell the world about a new study on school bullying, I guarantee they would send something to every PTA.  I’m really glad that a few voices are finally speaking up for the necessity of more physician advocacy about guns.  Like I said yesterday, I just want a fair fight, and for that to take place, the medical community has to get back into the fray.

Too Many Guns Equals Too Much Gun Violence: Still Arguing About That One?

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What a surprise!  We are treated to yet another piece of research, this time in the American Journal of Medicine that tells us that the ownership of 250 million guns results in more gun violence.  To me, the surprise is not the conclusion of the study, but the fact that medical and public health researchers continue to indulge themselves in trying to prove something which, analytically and logically, is so obvious.

Why is it obvious?  Because the possession of a gun, by definition, creates a risk that disappears if the guns aren’t around.  Now you can go on and on about mitigation strategies – mental health, background checks, enforcement  – but to suggest that reducing something which is harmful should be based on increasing its availability is to engage in an Alice-in-Wonderland argument totally divorced from reality or common sense.

Which is exactly what the NRA has been doing for the past thirty years.  And ever since they were able to end CDC funding of gun violence gun research, they’ve flooded the public domain with pro-gun bromides that not only deny the link between gun ownership and gun violence, but even claim that more guns in private hands protects Americans from gun violence.  The “proof” that guns are a deterrent to gun violence is the assertion that gun homicides have dropped by more than 50% since the mid-90s, while gun ownership and concealed-carry licensing has doubled in the same twenty-year span.

The problem with this argument, however, is that more than 90% of the annual decline in gun homicides took place prior to 2000, while the increase in gun ownership and concealed-carry licenses largely took place after that date.  In fact, gun homicides have slowly increased since Obama took office, exactly the period when gun sales and the number of concealed-carry licenses both showed significant growth.  No matter how you analyze the data, the numbers since 2000 simply don’t support the NRA claims that more guns equals less gun violence.

Despite what readers may believe, I’m not against guns.  After all, I make my living by selling them and training people how to use them.  But I believe in informed public debate and, as Senator Moynihan used to say, “we’re entitled to our own opinions but not our own facts.”  The CDC ban doesn’t prevent anyone from using the data, it simply doesn’t allow the CDC to fund research.  In that regard physicians and medical professionals who want to contribute to the gun violence debate might take a page from the history of another physician-based organization that made a significant contribution to understanding and limiting violence of a much more dramatic type.

I’m referring to Physicians for Social Responsibility, a physician-led organization founded in 1961 that focused public consciousness about the health threats from nuclear war.  PSR first began advocating test bans, arsenal reduction and non-proliferation during the height of the Cold War and faced an opponent – the U.S. Government – whose powers to persuade the public about the necessity of an arms race was far beyond the persuasive abilities and resources of the NRA.  In 1985, largely based on its anti-nuclear work, PSR shared the Nobel Prize.

The role of physicians is to lessen harm.  This not only means treating a patient after harm occurs, it also means developing pro-active strategies to diminish harm before the unhealthy event takes place.  Physicians shouldn’t be in the slightest bit defensive about wanting to end gun violence, nor do they need to justify their commitment to healthy outcomes because the gun industry wants to keep selling guns.  It’s time for physicians to move from research to advocacy and level the playing field between themselves and the NRA. I don’t care who wins the argument, I just want an even match

When It Comes To Mental Illness & Guns, The NRA May Be Crazy Too

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In the wake of the Navy Yard massacre, the argument about gun control has shifted away from background checks and now has landed on fixing the mental health system.  This is my second blog on mental illness and gun violence and I’m going to write several more.  But here’s my latest thoughts on the subject so follow my drift.

I am an NRA-certified trainer and, as such, spent the weekend with a group of NRA trainers qualifying in a new training certification recently developed by the NRA.  Two things impressed me about the training. First was the character and caliber of the other trainers.  Many are active law enforcement or military personnel, all are ‘first responders’ and would think nothing of charging into a burning building to rescue me. Second, the NRA training course, like all NRA courses, mentions gun safety and gun responsibility on every page. Anyone out there who thinks that the “average” gun owner doesn’t know and understand the basic rules of gun responsibility doesn’t know any average gun owners and certainly hasn’t been paying attention to the endless calls for gun safety voiced by the NRA.

But when it comes to moving from rhetoric to reality, in particular the issue of mental health and gun safety, the NRA’s behavior is so at odds with their own rhetoric that they seem to be suffering from a new form of organizational schizophrenia that may only be found in the gun business and perhaps Wayne LaPierre can become an expert on this type of mental illness as well. He certainly seems to be an expert on mental health issues that lead to mass shootings, at least he never misses the opportunity to call for “fixing” the mental health system as a way to eliminate the kind of tragedy that just occurred at the Navy Yard in DC.

But here’s where the schizoid behavior of the NRA sets in, because at the same time that they call for more effective ways to identify and treat the mentally ill, they’re also try to make it impossible for medical professionals to figure out whether a patient who reports mental illness symptoms, such as depression or anxiety, is a threat to engage in gun violence at all.  Why?  Because the NRA, believe it or not, wants to prevent physicians and other medical professionals from responding to the earliest warnings about gun violence provoked by mental illness by criminalizing any attempt to discern whether a depressed or anxious patient has access to a gun.

In 2011 the NRA backed a law passed in Florida that made it a felony for any physician to inquire about the existence of guns in the home even if the patient reported symptoms of mental distress.  The rationale behind this stupidity was that such a question (not that a patient ever has to answer any question during a consultation) was an invasion of the patient’s right to privacy under the 2nd Amendment, as if the 2nd Amendment says anything about privacy at all.  In the arguments before Federal Judge Marcia Cooke, the NRA-backed attorneys rolled out their ‘slippery slope’ defense which basically says that any kind of gun regulations will eventually lead to total confiscation.  How do we know this is will happen?  Because the NRA says it will happen.

The good news is that Judge Cooke permanently blocked the legislation, but the NRA claims it will appeal the decision to the 6th Circuit Court.   But while the issue meanders through the appeals process, physicians and mental health professionals in Florida and elsewhere (similar bills sat in various state legislatures waiting to see what would happen to the Florida law) will actually have the opportunity to notify both the mental health system and the requisite law enforcement authorities when and if they learn that a gun-owning patient might do harm to himself or someone else because he exhibits or admits to mental distress.  Isn’t that how we should begin to “fix” the mental health system?  Sounds fairly logical to me even though mental health expert Wayne LaPierre will probably disagree.