The New York Times Weighs In On Crime Guns.

Now that The New York Times devotes a portion of its editorial space to gun violence, we are treated to the contribution of op-ed writer Charles Blow.  And what Blow has decided to talk about is what is truly the elephant in the living room when it comes to gun violence, namely, the issue of stolen guns.  Obama mentioned the issue twice in the official White House press release outlining his new EO agenda on guns, but he tied it to expanding background checks by bringing more gun transactions under the rubric of regulated sales.

atf              To his credit, Blow dug up Sam Bieler’s 2013 article which cites data from Phil Cook’s 1997 article which estimates that as many as 500,000 guns might be stolen each year.  And having discovered this incredible number, Blow then throws up several remedies for the problem which will have no real impact at all.  They won’t have any impact because registering guns or requiring insurance for their ownership simply isn’t going to occur.  As for the idea that gun theft will go down as safe guns enter the civilian arsenal, even if a few were to finally hit the market, we still have 300 million+ unsafe guns lying around.

On the other hand, there are some steps that could be taken right now that would, I believe, have a substantial impact on the ability of law enforcement to identify and trace crime guns, a process which right now occurs in the most slipshod or piecemeal fashion when it occurs at all.  And these steps wouldn’t even require any legislation or executive orders; they could be accomplished easily and quickly if someone, anyone, would make the regulatory division of the ATF do what it is really supposed to do.

Why does the GVP advocacy community put so much time and effort into pushing the expansion of NICS-background checks into secondary transfers and sales? Because the ATF has been whining for 20 years that they can only trace a gun through its first, legal sale.  This is a lie.  The fact is that every time a gun is acquired by an FFL dealer it must be listed in his Acquisition & Disposition book.  This A&D book, along with the 4473 forms used to conduct background checks, can be inspected by the ATF whenever they enter a store.  Now It happens that 40% or more guns that are sold by retail dealers are used guns, many of which were sold previously out of the same store. Or they were first sold by the gun shop in the next town. Can the ATF ask a dealer to tell them the particulars of the last, as opposed to the first sale of a particular gun?  Of course they can – they own the entire contents of the A&D book.

The ATF trumpets the development of time-to-crime data which, they say, alerts them to questionable dealer behavior because the average TTC right now is about 12 years, so if guns sold by a particular dealer have a much shorter TTC, that dealer must be pushing guns out the back door.  But the fact is that since 40% of the sale dates of guns used to calculate TTC might not represent the last, legal sale, the TTC numbers published by the ATF are, to be polite, meaningless at best.

The ATF still sends trace requests by fax; the rest of the world, including all gun dealers, has discovered email as a more accurate and certainly efficient way to communicate back and forth.  If the ATF required dealers to keep their A&D book in Excel (which they actually recommend,) the dealer could scan his entire book immediately looking for a particular serial number and the ATF and local police would have a better chance of figuring out how and when a crime gun moved from legal to illegal hands.

You don’t need a new law, you don’t an Executive Order, you don’t need anything except some basic knowledge about the gun business in order to figure this out.

Advertisements

Crime Rates Go Down And Of Course It’s Because Of All Those Guns.

Ever since the gun industry realized back in the 1990s that hunting was becoming a relic of the past, we have been inundated with the message that guns are necessary because they protect us from crime.  The ‘research’ which allegedly showed this to be the case was published in 1995 by Gary Kleck, who used telephone interviews with 213 respondents to argue that people walking around with guns were preventing two to three million crimes from being committed every year.

conference program pic              Kleck has recently admitted that even though his estimate of defensive gun use (DGU) may be too high, nobody else has come up with better numbers, so we might as well accept his numbers anyway.  In fact, David Hemenway and Sara Solnick have come up with better numbers because their research was based on 90,000 interviews, and what they found was that DGUs accounted for less than 1% of all victims protecting themselves from crimes, on the order of perhaps 70,000 instances every year. But Hemenway, like Obama, is from Harvard, so we know what he’s saying can’t be true.

The good news for the gun industry is that coincident with the idea that more guns equals less crime, beginning in the mid-90s, violent crime rates began to fall.  And they fell so dramatically that the national crime rate today is roughly half of what it was back in 1994.  Meanwhile, over the same twenty years, the size of the civilian gun arsenal has increased by somewhere around 50 percent.  And leave it to another pro-gun mouthpiece posing as a scholar – John Lott – to ‘prove’ that as gun ownership and concealed-carry go up, crime rates go down.

Everything else being equal, whenever I substitute a salad for a banana split at the dinner table, my weight goes down. But that’s because there is a proven connection between the number of calories I ingest each day and what then happens when I step on a scale.  There has never been any such connection ever demonstrated between crime rates and the legal ownership of guns.  But that doesn’t stop the gun industry from pretending otherwise, even if they have to misstate the data they use to support their case.

My father used to say that figures don’t lie but liars sure can figure, and here’s the latest example of that adage direct from the NRA. According to the FBI, violent crime in 2014 dropped another 0.9%.  This included a 1% decrease in murder and a 6% decline in robbery, the two of four violent crime categories in which guns are “more likely to be used.”   Assault increased 1.3%, but guns are less likely to be used in assaults, according to the NRA.  And not only are murders down, but the percentage of murders committed with guns also fell by 1.6%.

Actually, not only did aggravated assault go up, but so did the percentage of assaults committed with guns.  And the real reason that murder went down is because trauma centers are increasingly adept at saving the lives of gun-shot victims who previously would have ended up dead.  If the percentage of aggravated assault and the percentage of aggravated assaults with guns both go up, which they did, then the way in which trauma teams deal with gunshots is a much more compelling way to explain why gun murders go down.

The NRA and the NSSF can celebrate the alleged link between decreases in crime decline and increases in gun ownership all they like, but the real truth is that 95% of the drop in violent crime occurred between 1994 and 2003.  Since that time there has been a slight continuing downward trend, but it is also over the past decade that gun sales have soared.  Which means there may not be any necessary connection between gun ownership and protection from crime. But why let facts get in the way of a story that continues to sell?

 

 

 

Obama And The Conspiracy To Disarm America: The Washington Post Weighs In And Gets It Wrong.

So for the very first time in the lifetime of everyone who is alive today, a President devoted an entire hour of prime-time media to a discussion about gun violence. And it was a discussion, I might add, that was largely shaped by a series of questions which, vetted or not, were asked by members of the audience at the Town Hall who weren’t particularly in favor of any of the President’s gun-control ideas.  Which was the whole point of this event, namely, to show the average American that Obama simply wants to have a sensible conversation about guns.

bomber              And in that regard, the President knew his stuff and spelled it out clearly and effortlessly.  He knew the difference between gun ownership and concealed-carry (the former regulated at the Federal level; the latter regulated by the states).  He knew and didn’t disagree with the notion that people wanted to own guns for self-defense.  He knew the difference between public and private sales.  In fact, I didn’t hear him make one, single statement during the entire event that couldn’t be supported by facts.

The moment that the event ended, of course, the ‘other side’ was rearing to go, with comments such as “law-abiding gun owners don’t trust Obama,” and Obama as “bully” flying through right-wing channels.  Not that any of the pro-gun, anti-Obama rhetoric was unexpected, because that’s what the digital news and political commentary environment is all about.  But what provoked the greatest amount of attention on both sides of the political spectrum was the discussion at the end of the event when the President derisively dismissed the idea of gun confiscation as a ‘conspiracy theory’ that had no basis in reality or truth.

Now here is where Obama was treading on a landscape that represents Gun Nation’s most sacred cow.  This notion that any kind of gun control is a harbinger of gun confiscation has gotten to the point that the NRA, for example, uses the phrases ‘2nd Amendment’ and ‘disarming America’ interchangeably; i.e., if you don’t believe in the former, the latter will surely occur.  And this has become the degree to which any attempt to talk about gun violence is debased insofar as any gun-control law by definition reduces protections afforded by the 2nd Amendment, which raises the possibility that you might lose your guns.

Now I don’t care and obviously Obama doesn’t care either if this nonsense about gun confiscation continues to generate an immediate backlash from the most committed members of the pro-gun crowd.  But when it’s taken seriously by liberal opinion-makers such as the Washington Post’s Max Ehrenfreund, it needs to be responded in kind. Ehrenfreund is a bright, young man, Yalie no less, who quickly produced a commentary on Obama’s talk about conspiracies based largely on some ersatz academic theories about conspiracies which basically argue that political powerlessness makes people prone to believing in conspiracies, which is why all those conservative-minded gun owners are susceptible to believing in conspiracies.  Right – politically powerless gun owners.  Yea, right.

When you run a daily blog you have to come up with new content every day. But I would hope that the editors of a Washington Post blog would occasionally ask themselves whether their contributors know anything at all regarding the issues about which they write.  Because the whole point about conspiracies is they usually grow from the ground up; somehow people start believing in something whether there’s any reality behind their belief or not.

Which is simply not what the gun confiscation conspiracy is all about. It’s about a concerted, organized and continuous effort to promote the sale of guns – an effort led and directed by the NRA and others for the past thirty years.  Ehrenfreud doesn’t perceive this at all, but Obama certainly does.  His dismissal of the confiscation theory as reflecting “political reasons” and “commercial reasons” demonstrates an understanding of the gun debate that even the Washington Post hasn’t figured out. Which is why Obama is President.  Thank goodness for that.

 

At The CNN Town Hall Obama Hit The Nail On The Head.

Want to get to the absolute highlight of Obama’s Town Hall discussion about guns?  Go to the one-hour mark of the video and listen to how he responds to a question from Mark Kelly about the alleged desire on the President’s part to take away everyone’s guns.  I’m not going to tell you what he said, but I will say that his response effectively demolished one of the NRA’s most sacred talking-points, namely, the idea that any gun-control laws will lead to registration, which will lead to confiscation, which will lead to fascism, which will lead to God knows what. And the reason he demolished it was the same reason why he presented a remarkably-effective argument about gun violence in general; namely, because the entire event allowed him to focus everything he said on the average American for whom concerns about gun violence are, at best, a passing thing.

bomber                 When do most of us think about gun violence?  When there’s a horrific shooting at San Bernardino, Umpqua or Sandy Hook.  Beyond that, the 84 gun deaths that occur every day get little, if any attention at all.  And when there is a response from Washington, the pro-gun gang can ramp up the energies of the folks who believe that aliens landed at Area 51 and get them to yell and shriek about how nobody’s going to take away their guns. And if you think I’m overdoing it, take a look at Wayne-o’s video message which begins with the claim that the Federal Government “would disarm us during the Age of Terror.”

So it was really refreshing to hear Obama answer questions, a majority of which came from pro-gun men and women, all of whom politely told the President that they didn’t believe his proposals would necessarily achieve his own goals, namely, reducing gun violence by keeping guns out of the wrong hands.  And because he was answering questions from folks who clearly were not on the GVP side, this gave him the opportunity to reach out not to the community that is already convinced that guns pose a risk, but to the much larger community of folks whose minds may not yet be made up.

Of course the immediate response from the pro-gun gang, predictably, was that the President had once again failed to get anything positive done.  As the Town Hall was ending, CNN switched to a quick comment from conservative mouthpiece Hugh Hewitt, who called the President’s performance ‘disappointing’ and ‘divisive,’ and this was followed by Wayne-o’s lapdog, Chris Cox, who told Megyn Kelly that “this President’s no longer credible to speak to the issues of law-abiding gun owners.” I wasn’t surprised that the NRA declined an invitation to attend; about the last thing Wayne-o will do is debate, quietly and objectively, his loony claim about how America’s Number One Liberal wants to take away all the guns.

Again and again the President made the point that none of his actions would ‘solve’ the issue of gun violence; his actions would have small, incremental results at best.  The most powerful moment was when he said, “I know we aren’t going to end 30,000 gun deaths each year.  But what if we can reduce that number by two thousand?  Those are two thousand families that don’t have to bear the tragedy and heartbreak of losing someone to a bullet.”

This is when all the shrieking about the 2nd Amendment begins to lose its effect.  Because now the President is talking about something that the average person, gun owner or not, can understand.  CNN may have wanted the NRA to attend the Town Hall, but Obama’s couldn’t have cared less. He knows he’s wasting his time trying to convince the Area 51 crowd that he isn’t trying to grab their guns.  It’s the rest of us who want solid, believable answers and solutions to the problems we face every day.  When it comes to the problem of gun violence, Obama talked the talk.

Is There An Internet ‘Loophole’ For Gun Sales?

Now that the President has moved the issue of an internet ‘loophole’ for gun sales onto the front burner, perhaps it’s time to really figure out what and whether such a loophole actually exists.  As of this morning we have, as usual, John Lott talking for Gun Nation and telling us there is no loophole; on the other hand, The Trace claims there is an internet ‘loophole’ if you live in one of the 32 states that does not regulate private sales. But in fact, of the 18 states that require background checks for private gun transfers, only 8 states mandate background checks for every type of gun; the other 10 states allow for unregulated transfers of long guns which, the last time I pulled out one of my Colt H-BARs, looks like a pretty lethal weapon to me.

bomber              Actually, the ability to use the internet for legal, in-state gun transactions is more an issue of the extent to which the internet and websites like Armslist allow sellers to reach a much wider potential audience than would be the case if we were back in the pre-digital age when selling any personally-owned item was usually done by running a print ad in the local classified news. My state happens to regulate private sales, but there are no private sale regulations in four of the six contiguous states that border the state in which I live.

The reason that I would check the listings in these other states is that if I drive to one of those states and buy a gun from a private seller, I give him the money, he gives me the gun, I drive back home and that’s the end of that. And that’s the end of that because those states do not regulate private gun transfers which, in the case of long guns, happens to be true in more than 40 states. Will the seller of an out-of-state gun ask me to prove that I am also a resident of his state?  He might, but then again he might not.  Remember, if he lives in a state that doesn’t regulate private sales, he’s not breaking any law by selling me that gun.  And since he’s not a licensed dealer, he is under no requirement to ascertain whether I am legally able to own that gun, or even keep a record of the sale.  I’m breaking the law because I can’t bring an unliensed gun back to my home state.  But I didn’t want to submit to a background check anyway, remember?

The situation gets a little trickier with handguns because such transfers tend to be more strictly regulated in many states and folks who sell handguns are generally aware that handguns have a funny way of winding up in the ‘wrong hands.’ So if I want to buy a handgun without submitting to a background check, I probably will stay within my own state, assuming that my state doesn’t regulate private handgun sales.  Which is the real impact of the internet as regards the flow of private guns, because I can drive from one end of my state to the other within 3 hours, but could I know of the desire of some seller in another town within my state to get rid of a gun without going online?  Of course not.

When the internet first started up, you could find gun listings on Craiglist, other online classifieds including eBay, and you could pay for guns if you had a Paypal account. Those sites quickly banned guns because they decided the liability far outweighed the returns.  But I can’t imagine that websites like Armslist or GunsAmerica would voluntarily ban private sales, since that’s their reason for being in business in the first place.  As long as the internet operates as a giant flea market and guns are legal commerce, guns are going to be sold online, it’s as simple as that.

Why Did Bill O’Reilly Call For Comprehensive Background Checks?

Did I really hear what I thought I heard Bill O’Reilly say after Obama announced his agenda for additional controls on guns? So I waited until Fox posted O’Reilly’s remarks from his Wednesday night show and here is exactly what he said: “The NRA and the gun owners should be reasonable. The FBI should background check anyone buying a firearm in America. That just makes sense. If you are paranoid and believe the government is stockpiling information so they can come to your house and take your guns — that’s your problem, your problem.”

oreilly               Is this the Bill O’Reilly whose nightly talk show always leads the ratings for Fox News?  Is this the same Bill O’Reilly who has either excused or justified virtually every racist attack on Obama over the last seven years? Is this the selfsame Bill O’Reilly who, following the shooting at Umpqua CC, told Obama that he could “never change” the 2nd Amendment?  Yup, it’s the same, old Billy-boy, and while I wish I had been the first one to pick up on this remarkable statement, I have to admit that you can also see the clip on Salon and Media Matters, along with a quickie from Trump (on the Salon website) commenting on Obama’s speech by saying, “Don’t worry folks, they’re not going to take away your guns.”

So all of a sudden, after months of the most outrageous and pandering lies, the Republicans turn an about-face and decide it’s time to be reasonable as regards guns.  And don’t make the mistake of thinking for one second that Bill O’Reilly and Fox News in general can be counted on to get out in front and take a positon on any political issue that runs against the Republican grain.  If all of a sudden someone as influential as Bill O’Reilly dismisses the idea that background checks will lead to gun confiscation, if this dismissal is then repeated explicitly by Donald Trump, then what has happened is that the single, most important idea used by the NRA to block any kind of sensible gun regulation – regulation leads to confiscation – has just disappeared.

The NRA and other pro-gun organizations have been promoting this slippery-slope crap since the 1990s, if not before.  The NRA usually trots this bromide out in their fundraising pitch, but there are some quasi-serious scholars out there like the NRA counsel Stephen Halbrook whose book, Gun Control in the Third Reich, also argues that gun registration in Germany then led to gun confiscation with the utmost, tragic results. I knew that Ben Carson didn’t have the wherewithal to be a serious Presidential candidate when he stated and then defended the idea that millions of Jews were killed in the Holocaust because they didn’t own guns.  But he didn’t say anything different than what has been floating around gun circles for years.

So what’s going on?  How come people who until a week ago were promoting the sine qua non of gun stupidity by warning us about how the gun-grabbers are hard at work trying to take away our guns, are now lining up on the side of reasonableness, on the side of common sense?  Should the GVP community take O’Reilly seriously?  Should Mike Bloomberg offer to appear with Trump if The Donald is willing to repeat his promise that nobody’s going to lose their guns?

What’s going on is what I have been saying is going on in the period since Sandy Hook; namely, for the very first time since guns became a public issue, the terms of the debate are no longer being set by the NRA.  I’m not saying that the playing field is exactly level.  I’m saying that the GVP movement is finally forcing the other side to consider whether what it says will continue to sell.  Because you don’t change a thirty-year public stance because all of a sudden you see the light.  You change it because otherwise your own bulb might just burn out.

 

 

 

Is Investing In Gun Companies A Safe Bet? I Don’t Think So But Some Might Disagree.

I love when The New York Times, the so-called newspaper of record, publishes an interview with a quick-buck artist who bought shares of Smith & Wesson after the massacre at Sandy Hook and tells us that “some” Wall Street investors see gun companies as a good buy. Meanwhile, if you bother to read Julie Creswell’s entire article, you quickly learn that the real Wall Street money – institutional funds – are staying as far away from gun investments as they can.  And the reason for this is very simple, namely, that putting money into a publicly-owned gun company represents an investment in an enterprise whose value has little or nothing to do with the health and business prospects of the enterprise at all.

nyt logo              I recall that in September, 2012, there wasn’t a Republican who didn’t believe that all the polls showing Obama beating Romney had to be wrong.  After all, how could a President get re-elected with an unemployment rate that was holding at 8%? It’s the economy, stupid.  Remember that?  Meanwhile when voters went to the polls in 1992, the unemployment rate was 7%, so no way Obama was going to go back to the White House again. And there wasn’t a retail dealer in the country, including myself, who could figure out what to do with all the inventory that was sitting on our shelves, because we knew that if Romney got elected, gun sales would collapse.

Well Romney didn’t get elected and several weeks later we had the awful shooting at Sandy Hook.  And the result of that massacre was a spike in gun sales, and another spike when Obama started pushing a gun-control bill, and now another spike because Obama’s promoting his own gun-control initiatives regardless of whether Congress wants to go along or not.  Even the NRA, which has been peddling a paranoid vision of Obama doing something drastic in his lame-duck term, admitted that the proposals were fairly mild and didn’t add up to all that much.

But let’s go back to the NYT article and focus on the data used by Julie Creswell to drive her argument home.  The article contains a graphic showing how the stock prices of Smith & Wesson and Ruger have climbed over the last several years. Note that the S&W share price was around $16 in mid-2014 and then fell like a rock to under $10 at the beginning of 2015.  During roughly the same period, Ruger stock dropped from $75 a share to $35.  Both stocks began climbing again in the 2nd quarter of last year, but the price that is now attracting traders like Louis Navellier isn’t s reflection of the gun industry’s long-term health, it’s a classic bubble which, like all bubbles, will soon burst and the stock will die.

Why do I say that?  Because the collapse of those stock prices back in 2014 was the result of the gun industry discovering that even after Sandy Hook and Aurora, the ability of the gun market to absorb new inventory could only go so far.  It took gun makers a year to ramp up production once it began to look like a gun-control effort would succeed, but by the time all that additional product got through wholesale distribution and onto retail shelves, the mad rush into gun shops had slowed down.

The gun industry can talk all it wants about how fears of terrorist and/or criminal violence are creating a new customer base.  They can have Colion Noir pitching to the inner-city market and Dana Loesch speaking on behalf of ‘America’s Moms,’ but it just doesn’t work.  The only folks who remain convinced that you can protect yourself from gun violence by responding with gun violence are the folks who keep buying guns whenever they believe they won’t be able to buy guns.  The truth is that investors who put their money into gun companies aren’t really investing in the gun industry, they’re investing in fears that the industry won’t survive another Sandy Hook.  Maybe it won’t.

The ATF Issues A New Directive Defining Dealing In Guns But What They Say Is Not So New.

As someone who has sold more than 12,000 guns retail, which included selling guns at gun shows and over the internet, I think I know a little bit more about whether today’s White House announcements will have an impact on gun violence than does Mike Huckabee, who has already announced that he will “repeal” every one of Obama’s gun initiatives, even though most of what the President intends to do has nothing that could be repealed at all.

atf              Coincident with the White House news release and media blitz, the ATF has issued a new publication which attempts to define their notion of what constitutes being in the “business” of selling firearms, which is one of the key elements in the new Obama plan; i.e., people who sell guns privately at gun shows or online may now be required to operate as federally-licensed dealers, which means that they must conduct NICS-background checks on every gun they sell – unless, of course, the gun is transferred to another dealer.

I have read this publication with care, in particular a series of brief vignettes that give examples of people transferring guns as a business transaction as opposed to people transferring guns where no real business activity occurred.  In my judgement, this publication is totally consistent with relevant laws as well as a reflection of the approach usually taken by the ATF in regulating firearm sales: “As a general rule, you will need a license if you repetitively buy and sell firearms with the principal motive of making a profit. In contrast, if you only make occasional sales of firearms from your personal collection, you do not need to be licensed.”  And this rule applies to every venue that might be possibly used for selling guns – your store, retail space, trunk of your car, laptop computer or anywhere else.

I never had a problem complying with this rule when I sold guns at shows or over the internet because I was always a federally-licensed dealer; hence, every gun in my inventory needed to be identified as to where it came from and to whom it was then sold.  And since as a licensed dealer I could only sell to individuals after completing a background check, it didn’t matter what sales venue I used.  The ATF could (and did) inspect my documentation to insure that every gun in my inventory was properly acquired in and transferred out, and if I couldn’t produce the requisite paperwork for any particular transaction they would raise holy hell.

To provide some guidance as to what constitutes dealing in firearms, the ATF has appended 9 examples of different types of gun transfers of which 5 instances would require a dealer’s license and 4 others would not.  This is a pretty comprehensive series of examples which, to my mind, honestly reflect the basic requirements of operating with a federal dealer’s license as opposed to an individual who has a personal need or desire to transfer some guns. On the other hand, anyone behaving like the 5 ‘repetitively buying and selling’ examples who doesn’t currently have a dealer’s license should be prosecuted not just for illegal sale of guns, but for being a complete and unmitigated dope. And any current FFL-holder who sells guns to someone knowing or suspecting that this individual is engaging in repetitive, for-profit sales, is aiding and abetting straw sales – period, that’s that.

The truth is that most gun dealers buy from and sell to the same people all the time.  Even my internet sales, which were always dealer-to-dealer transactions, went to the same dealers because I trusted them and they trusted me.  Although the term ‘straw sales’ never appears in this publication, when someone buys a gun from a dealer intending to resell it privately to someone else, that’s exactly what constitutes a straw sale, and anyone who actually believes that this infringes on 2nd-Amendment rights, also probably believes that Mexico will pay for Donald Trump’s new fence.

 

 

What Matters Is Not What He Says, It’s That Obama Says Something About Guns.

The big news this week is the looming possibility that the Bomber will make good on his promise (or threat, depending on how you look at it) to issue an Executive Order on gun control, and already the Gun Nation is gearing up for the fight.  Trump has announced he will “veto” these orders (someone might want to give Trump the Shlump a quick lesson on Constitutional law), Christie has jumped on the Obama the Dictator bandwagon, and never to be outdone by any candidate’s attempt at gross stupidity, Rand Paul is drawing up legislation to block the President from issuing any Executive Orders about guns.

 

Best gun salesman ever!

I don’t know exactly what the President is planning to do, but he appears to be getting ready to say something on this issue during his State of the Union speech next week.  The President talked about gun regulations during his 2013 State of the Union speech, but these remarks were delivered less than two months after Sandy Hook.  There was no mention of gun control in his 2014 remarks, nor last year.  Now the issue if gun violence is back on the front burner, and it appears that he will try to do something about extending background checks by coming up with a more precise definition of what it means to be a dealer in guns.

As regards the current definition, I’m quoting from the relevant Federal code: “any person engaged in the business of selling firearms at wholesale or retail,” which is about as precise as the Man in the Moon.  The problem here is not figuring out what constitutes a firearm, but what the phrase “in the business” really means.  Part of the problem is the fact that guns, unlike most consumer items, don’t for the most part wear out, so acquiring and then re-selling them is part and parcel of what most gun enthusiasts like to do.  And despite the fact that private, non-NICS gun transactions are considered anathema by the GVP crowd, selling a gun to or through a dealer instead of directly to another individual means that the seller gives up a chunk of dough either because the dealer wants to make a profit in the re-sale or the buyer will have to pay the dealer to conduct the NICS background check.

The real problem is that the average gun owner, and most gun owners are, in fact, very law abiding (otherwise they really can’t own guns) and doesn’t believe there’s any connection between the way he transfers a gun and the gun violence that kills and injures more than 100,000 Americans every year.  I happen to live outside of Springfield, MA, whose gun homicide rate last year was somewhere around 15 per 100,000, about five times the national rate.  Less than two miles from the neighborhood where half these murders occurred is a fairground where a big gun show is held four times a year. If you walked up to anyone at this show and told him that the private sale he had just completed might result in another gun murder across town, he’d stare at you in disbelief.

I don’t think that folks who support the extension of background checks need to justify this policy by trying to prove that reducing private gun transfers will, ipso facto, bring the rate of gun violence down.  I also don’t think they need to fall back on the judgement of legal scholars (not that the judgement hurts) to support the President if he decides that this is what he wants to do.

I have been saying for the last three years that when it comes to the argument about gun violence, I simply want a fair fight using evidence-based data as opposed to promoting gun ownership out of fear. It doesn’t matter whether extended background checks will reduce mass killings or gun killings overall.  What matters is that we have a serious and honest discussion about gun violence and a State of the Union address is the perfect place to begin.

Here Comes Cliven Bundy Again To Protect Your 2nd-Amendment Rights.

You may recall back in 2014 that Arizona rancher Cliven Bundy briefly became the darling of the Conservative movement when a long-standing dispute with the Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) spilled over into an armed, but ultimately non-violent confrontation between Bundy’s supporters and the federal law enforcement crowd.  Bundy was on his way to becoming the poster-boy for the Right until he uttered a series of racist comments (“let me tell you about your Negro”) that got him condemned by Fox News and that was the end of that.

2A              Now he’s back in the public eye again because his three sons, along with as many as 150 other protestors, have taken over an unoccupied administration compound in Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to protest the jail sentences of two Oregon ranchers – Dwight and Steve Hammond – who were convicted of arson on national forest lands and now must serve five years in jail.  The Bundy boys claim they are members of a well-armed militia and are prepared to use force to maintain local control over BLM land.  As of Saturday night, the occupiers were feasting on chili brought up to them by friendly locals; meanwhile, the story is beginning to circulate on national media as well as the requisite Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Although the Bundy boys haven’t yet starting selling t-shirts, they make a point of referring to themselves and their merry band as a ‘militia,’ as well as making it clear that they are armed.  Ammon Bundy has been quoted as saying that he and the others will fight and even die to defend what he refers to as the ‘Constitutional rights of states’ to manage their own lands.  The occupation at Malheur is actually a spill-over from a Carson City rally led by Cliven Bundy to support a bill introduced by Rep. Michele Fiore allowing Nevada to seize and manage any federal property, even though there is no Constitutional provision that would actually allow for such a state of affairs. Fiore is the loony legislator who admits to bringing her handgun into gun-free zones because she claims to carry the piece in her bra, so what’s a girl supposed to do?

You can be sure that if this silliness at Malheur gets serious, we will see the usual liberal-conservative division of opinion that takes place whenever states’ rights versus federal authority hove into view.  And one of the issues that will surely be raised is the alleged willingness of this Bundy militia to use armed force if necessary, particularly when the President is making headlines by considering more regulation of guns.  Sooner or later we’ll be treated to a peroration by some gun nut about how these valiant freedom fighters are a living example of the sanctity of 2nd-Amendment rights.  There were hundreds of such comments floating around during the Bundy ranch standoff in 2014, and I’ll quote just one: “The Bundy Ranch standoff is but the latest example as to why the Founding Fathers codified this Right to bear arms.”

But rather than just dismissing this kind of talk as the usual, right-wing rant over 2nd-Amendment rights, my friends in the GVP movement should take a moment and ask themselves whose ox is really being gored.  Because when the SCOTUS decided in 2008 that Americans had the right to keep a handgun in their homes, it was liberals like Breyer and Stevens who dissented based on the idea that the 2nd Amendment only protected gun ownership in instances of military service completely disconnected from any kind of personal defense.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not defending the Bundy boys or the idea that anyone should walk around armed.  But if liberals want to believe that the 2nd Amendment reflects a tradition of resistance to government tyranny, then they need to be prepared to support such resistance, whether it comes from the Left or the Right.  On the other hand, perhaps it would be more consistent just to junk the 2nd Amendment itself.