Know Who You Are Protecting If You Walk Around With A Gun? Nobody.

11 Comments

If there’s one favorite Gun-nut Nation idea that I can’t stand, it’s the notion that we should all be out there protecting ourselves and everyone else by walking around with a gun. And a certain mystique has now developed about what is sometimes referred to as ‘citizen protectors,’ and while the concept has a certain cultish element involved in its spread, the truth is that it’s just a scam marketing strategy developed by the gun industry and promoted by scam media influencers to sell more guns.  And the reason I call all this self-protection with guns a scam is very simple; not a single one of the outfits which promote the idea of everyone becoming a ‘citizen-protector’ has ever backed the idea that carrying a concealed weapon should first require a proficiency test of any kind.

torso-target           Of course all these newly-anointed defensive gun-use instructors will tell you that it’s important to train, train and train. And they all back up this message about the importance of training with live training courses, online courses, CD-ROM courses, you name it and there’s a training product out there for you to buy.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying that people who walk around with a legal gun in their pocket represent a threat to themselves or to someone else. Gun owners in general tend to be very law-abiding; gun owners who apply for a carry-concealed license (CCW) even more so. What I am saying is that letting gun owners walk around thinking that they can protect anyone without first proving a high level of proficiency and then renewing that proof on a regular basis is nothing more than a fraudulent appeal to the most ignorant emotions that humans possess.  And when I say ‘proving’ proficiency, I’m not talking about letting someone stand in front of stationery, paper target and drill a few holes.  I was doing that at a Coney Island shooting gallery when I was twelve years old.

I currently teach the handgun safety course in my state that is required in order to apply for a license to own a gun.  The license without any additional coursework of any kind also allows concealed-carry of a gun.  So you can get a license, buy a Glock and stick it in your pocket without actually having fired your pistol, not even once.  And a most states grant CCW without a proficiency test of any kind.

I have a small range in my gun shop and even though the course does not mandate live fire, I make all the students shoot a pistol so that at least they will better understand the safety issues involved in handling a gun.  First every student fires a magazine of 22-caliber ammo with a Ruger SR-22.  Then they move to the other lane and shoot two rounds with a 9mm Glock.  They shoot the Glock on command and have two seconds to put at least one of the two shots within a 9-inch circle on a torso target fifteen feet away. If they get one of two rounds into the circle within two seconds they pass; otherwise they fail.  They still get their course certificates even if they fail this drill because, remember, my state grants CCW without proficiency certification of any kind.

Of the 131 students who have done this drill so far, 4 have passed.  That’s right, three percent of the folks who will be able to carry a gun around to protect themselves and others have demonstrated the most minimal ability to use a gun in self-defense. And the target that most of them missed completely was standing still.

So the next time that someone tells you that concealed-carry is a good thing, ask them how come the NRA and everyone else in Gun-nut Nation is opposed to these citizen-protectors having to prove their competency with a gun.  Oh, I forgot. Allowing the government to decide anything about how I use my guns is a violation of my 2nd-Amendment rights.

Sorry, But None Of The Arguments About Why We Need Guns Work For Me.

3 Comments

One of the true champions in the gun violence prevention (GVP) community is my friend Donna-Dees Thomases, whose Million Moms March in Washington on Mother’s Day, 2000, was a signal event in the growth and significance of GVP.  Donna wrote a book about her experience which is certainly worth a read, and she remains a committed and energetic persona (God – where does she get that energy?) to this day. She and I were recently going back and forth because I was telling her that I was unlikely to show up at a public event where I had been asked to debate someone from the ‘other side.’  And she quickly replied, and then gave me permission to quote: “I refuse to debate the other side.”

rampage           And the more I think about her comment, the better I feel about not getting involved in a ‘guns are good, guns are bad’ discussion with anyone from Gun-nut Nation, because the moment that you let someone tell an audience why they believe that everyone should carry a gun, or why the 2nd Amendment is a fundamental civil right, or why gun ownership is part and parcel of the American dream, you are basically admitting that such arguments deserve to be heard.

Many years ago I had the opportunity to attend a seminar taught by the brilliant economist Paul Baran, shortly before his death in 1964. He told us about a time in Germany in 1934 when he refused to debate a student who would later become a high-level functionary for the SS.  The way Baran put it, “a meaningful discussion of human affairs can only be conducted with humans; one wastes one’s time talking to beasts about matters related to people.” Which is how I feel when Gun-nut Nation trots out one of it noted authorities to argue in favor of gun violence because guns are what protect us and keep us free.

The reason that such arguments in fact promote gun violence is because guns were designed and manufactured to be instruments of violence, no matter how justified you want that violence to be.  And the fact that our society has decided that these weapons of war can be kept in every household, whether or not any member of that household is being called up to fight in a war doesn’t change the essential nature of these weapons at all.  Sure, guns can be used for hunting, sport or just for plain old fun.  That’s why I keep 50 or 60 of them around and fool around with a couple of them every day. But investing gun ownership in some of cultural charisma based on a pack of lies about how we need them for self-defense is to allow a discussion about human affairs to be shared with beasts.  Sorry, it doesn’t work for me.

If you think I’m being harsh and unyielding in my comments about people who promote gun violence, you might want to read a new book, Rampage Nation, whose author, Louis Klarevas, spent a year collecting and studying data about mass shootings that have occurred in the United States over the past 50 years. I have some quibbles with Professor Klarevas about some of the methodology he employs as well as his views on what he believes might reduce gun violence, particularly mass shooting violence, in the years ahead. But notwithstanding my slight hesitations about accepting everything he says, the bottom line is that when you finish reading this book, the most sacred arguments used by Gun -nut Nation to promote gun violence vanish into thin air.

Gun-free zones do not attract shooters.  Gun-toting civilians do not prevent crime. The data is solid, the analysis is convincing, the only problem is that this book won’t change the minds of Gun-nut Nation advocates, because to quote Paul Baran, such people aren’t interested in human affairs. But the good news is that people like Donna Dees-Thomases will use what Louis Klarevas says to recruit more people to GVP.  And that’s a good thing, it really is.

Mike The Gun Guy’s Greatest Hits: Five Must-Read Articles On Gun Violence

2 Comments

From time to time I think it’s important to alert Gun-sense Nation to publications that confirm one way or another what we all know, namely, that guns are responsible for the deaths and injuries of more than 100,000 Americans every year.  And while most of us consider gun violence to be both abhorrent and inexcusable, from time to time we encounter folks who don’t share that point of view.  And I’m not talking about card-carrying members of Gun-nut Nation who are today celebrating a jury’s decision to acquit the jerks who spent a week last year eating pizza up at the Malheur National Forest Range – I’m talking about a friend, a neighbor or a co-worker- someone who might profit from a serious discussion about gun violence prevention backed up with reference to research whose findings are incontestably true.
gvp2           So what follows is Mike the Gun Guy’s ‘greatest hits,’ i.e., what I think are recent studies on different aspects of gun violence that can and should be used to bolster the gun violence prevention point of view.  Because let’s not forget that Gun-nut Nation relies on a powerful network of pro-gun promoters who never miss an opportunity to broadcast the idea that guns in the home, on campus, in front of polling places and God knows everywhere else are the only things we can rely on to keep us protected and safe.  Think I’m indulging in a bit of hyperbole?  Take a listen to Wayne-o’s latest rant. Want to have information at your fingertips that can be used to deliver a more reasonable (and rational) point of view?  Here’s the list and you can download them all right here:

—–  Center for American Progress, America Under Fire.  This study matches gun violence data with the degree to which each state experiences gun violence and demonstrates that as gun regulations increase, gun violence goes down.  Gee, what a surprise. But what got this report on my ‘greatest hits’ list was a new approach to the definition of gun violence which aggregates ten different categories of gun violence so that different patterns can be seen in different states. DOWNLOAD

—– Azrael and Miller, “Reducing Suicide Without Affecting Underlying Mental Health.” An authoritative study on the links between suicide and access to lethal means which shows that restricting access to firearms can reduce suicide rates in countries which have free access to guns (read: the USA.) DOWNLOAD

——  Webster, et. al., “Firearms on College Campuses.” This recent study is actually more than what the title suggests, because the authors go after bigger game, namely, the whole question of gun-free zones.  And what they argue and prove is that gun-free zones do not attract shooters, nor are gun-carrying civilians a deterrent to gun-violence events.  DOWNLOAD

——  Hemenway and Solnick, “The epidemiology of self-defense gun use.”  The notion that guns protect us from crime is a centerpiece of Gun-nut Nation’s continuing effort to make Americans believe that it should be normal, natural and indispensable for everyone to walk around with a gun.  This article demolishes that argument – period. DOWNLOAD

——  Lester Adelson, “The gun and the sanctity of human life.” Why would I include an article published in 1980 in a list of recently-published works on gun violence?  Because this is the best, most prescient and profoundly scholarly article ever published on gun violence and if you don’t read it, sorry, but your understanding of gun violence is sadly incomplete. DOWNLOAD

One caveat about my list.  There are many other articles and contributions which I could mention so if you happen to be a gun-violence researcher please don’t feel offended if your article doesn’t appear here.  We all need to educate ourselves on a continuing basis, and I am always willing to alert my readers to any and all research which deserves to see the brightest light of day.  And while you are reading any or all of these articles, don’t forget something you must do on or before November 8th.

How Many Victims Of Gun Violence? A Lot More Than You Think.

2 Comments

Now that we are getting down to crunch time, stories are beginning to appear about how HRC is beginning to look beyond the election and starting to plan how things will work once she gets down to work. So without giving November 8th the evil eye, maybe it’s time for Gun-sense Nation to start thinking along the same lines.  Because if she wins, and if the Senate turns blue, and if enough red seats in the House turn various shades of purple, a real, honest-to-goodness gun bill will wind up on her desk.

pulse            But in order to craft a good bill, the first thing we need to do is define the problem.  And the problem is very simple: too many people get injured with guns. More than 30,000 of these injuries each year are fatal, another 75,000 or so result in serious wounds.  Most of the injuries are intentional, some are accidents, but according to the CDC, the exact figure in 2014 was 114,633.

So if Gun-sense Nation wants to get behind a strategy that will, it is hoped, reduce gun violence, then we need to start with this benchmark figure in order to evaluate whether a new set of regulations will have much effect.  But using a figure like 115,000 gun injuries a year is actually a number that is much lower than the actual injuries caused by guns.  Which doesn’t have to do with the way we count injuries; rather, it reflects the way we define injuries, regardless of whether they are caused by guns or anything else.

When we talk about gun violence, what we really are talking about is violence of a particular type, namely, violence caused by a gun.  But what is violence in and of itself?  I think the best, most comprehensive definition is given by the World Health Organization (WHO), which says that violence is: “The intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation.”  Note that violence, according to the WHO, goes far beyond the physical injuries sustained when someone is shot with a gun. Because every time that someone is hit by a bullet, someone else sees them lying, bleeding in the street or within their home, someone sticks the victim in a car and drives like crazy towards the ER, and someone is standing there as the trauma surgeon comes out shaking his head.

Would it be wrong to assume that for every one of the 115,000 people who are physically injured with a gun each year that another several hundred thousand are psychologically traumatized and emotionally damaged even though the bullet entered the body of someone else?  And if you think that the psychological impact of seeing one person bleeding to death is horrendous, imagine if you end up witnessing a mass shooting, such as at Aurora, Virginia Tech or Sandy Hook. In 1991, George Hennard drove his truck into a Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, shot and killed 23 people, wounded another 27 and then shot himself to death. In the aftermath, a health team interviewed 136 people who were on the scene during the shooting or arrived after it began. Nearly one-third of them had to be treated for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.)  I thought that PTSD was a hazard of military deployment, not something that might break out in a cozy little town like Killeen.

So the bottom line is that we are making a mistake if our benchmark for evaluating how new gun regulations might reduce gun violence is determined by counting only the number of people who get shot. The truth is we don’t have any way of counting the number of people who witness gun violence and suffer extreme emotional pain. And they often bear scars that are just as deep as any physical wound made by a gun.

 

It’s Not Just Keeping Guns Out Of The Wrong Hands, It’s Keeping The Wrong Guns Out Of Everyone’s Hands.

2 Comments

My first introduction to the gun business was 1965 in North Carolina working for my Uncle Ben.  Like all my immigrant relatives, Ben had been in the iron-mongering business back in the Old Country, so when he came to America he opened a junk yard where he traded scrap metal this for scrap metal that. At some point he started manufacturing a small, 22-caliber revolver which he sold to pawn shops for $15 bucks; the pawnbrokers then resold this little piece of junk for $24.95. This gun was a quintessential ‘Saturday Night Special,’ which might fire one or two shots before it broke.

 

            Glock 43

Glock 43

So here we are, fifty years later, and Uncle Ben’s cheap, little piece of junk for $24.95 has been replaced by, among other models, the Glock 43, which retails for somewhere around five hundred bucks.  But the Glock 43, which is actually smaller and more concealable than Uncle Ben’s crummy, little gun, isn’t a 22-caliber revolver with a capacity of six shots.  It’s an extremely-lethal 9mm pistol which holds seven rounds and with a magazine extension the capacity goes up to nine. If you’re not enamored with Glock, other gun companies like Ruger and Kahr make 9mm pistols which are basically the same capacity and size.

What has happened to the gun business over the last half century is the guns have gotten smaller, lighter, more concealable and much more lethal.  When Franklin Zimring did a study of the calibers found in 1,115 gun attacks in Chicago in 1970, he found that gun attacks with 38-caliber weapons were more than twice as fatal as attacks committed with 22-caliber guns.  When the California Department of Justice published a list of calibers that caused gun injuries in 2009, five times as many guns were used in high-powered calibers like 9mm, 40 S&W and 45 acp than guns chambered for the 22.  You simply can’t compare the damage to human tissue caused by a 9mm round as opposed to a 22-caliber shell. The latter can be lethal if, and only if the shooter is either extremely lucky or is a very good shot.  As for a 9mm or a 40 round, if it hits you anywhere except in your earlobe, you’re going down.

Back in 1968 and again 1994, we passed gun-control laws based on the idea that we could reduce gun violence by keeping guns out of the ‘wrong’ hands.  Which meant keeping guns away from people whose background and behavior indicated that they might represent a threat to public safety or themselves if they could get their hands on a gun.  The current effort to extend background checks to secondary sales is an effort to strengthen our ability to identify more ‘wrong’ hands, as are the strategies designed to tighten the regulatory environment in which gun dealers operate so as to keep ‘bad apple’ dealers from selling guns to people with ‘wrong hands.’

I happen to believe that this approach, while necessary, actually doesn’t respond to the primary cause of gun violence, namely, the degree to which most guns sold today are capable of being used to commit a much higher level of gun violence than ever before.  There is a bill before Congress that recognizes the lethality of assault rifles and is an effort to revive the assault-weapons ban that expired in 2004.  But while this law reflects concerns about the lethality of the AR-style gun, pro-gun advocates are not wrong when they say that, mass shootings notwithstanding, injuries caused by AR-15’s are relatively few and far between.

Know what causes most of the 115,000+ fatal and non-fatal gun injuries each year? It’s those small but powerful handguns which are increasingly the weapons of choice for most Americans who own guns. So instead of spending all our time, energy and money trying to keep guns out of the wrong hands, shouldn’t we also be trying to figure out how to keep the wrong guns out of everyone’s hands?

 

Do Guns Make College Campuses Safer? Not At All.

3 Comments

The Center for Gun Policy and Research at Johns Hopkins University has just issued an important report on guns and college campuses which is summarized in a Washington Post op-ed or you can download the entire report here. Basically, the report argues that, Gun-nut Nation’s claims to the contrary, allowing guns on college campuses does not enhance security or safety, but will result in more, not less gun violence in academic environments.

 

      The Texas Tower

The Texas Tower

The Hopkins report follows shortly after the University of Texas ended its ban on campus-carry, which makes it the eighth state to allow people with concealed-carry permits to bring their guns with them to school.  But there are also 24 states which grant colleges and universities a local option to allow guns within their campus domains, which leaves only 18 states whose college campuses are still gun-verein.  Some of the states where guns aren’t allowed in academic environments are heavily regulated states like New York, Massachusetts and Illinois.  But there are also some surprises on the no-campus list, including gun-rich states like Missouri, Georgia and the Gun-shine State most of all.  Gun-nut Nation tries year in and year out to open college campuses to guns in Florida, but so far common sense prevails.

In trying to assess whether guns are a risk or benefit to college life, the authors note that they are forced to rely on data which measures this question for society as a whole. But this approach still yields sufficient evidence to make a judgement about one of the cardinal tenets of Gun-nut Nation’s infatuation with campus carry, namely, the notion that educational settings attract the real gun nuts – the mass shooters – because colleges and universities tend to be gun-free zones.

The evidence that gun-free zones attract mass shooters comes from one place and one place only, namely, the alt-right media postings of my good buddy John Lott.  I enjoy following his rants if only because you can always count on John to invent a definition that will justify what he is trying to argue regardless of whether the definition bears any relationship to reality at all.  His latest attempt to promote the idea that gun-free zones attract mass shooters is to define a gun-free zone as any place where residents don’t have easy access to owning guns.  So even though mass shootings have never been a feature of New York City life, as far as John is concerned, the Big Apple is a completely gun-free zone.  Get it?

The real problem with any analysis of mass shootings is that we are forced to infer the motives of mass shooters because most don’t survive the shooting incident itself.  These events are usually, but not always, homicides followed by a suicide, thus our understanding of the how and why of such events is a function of looking for similarities in the circumstances surrounding those shootings, such as where they took place, who were the victims, and so forth. The one mass shooter who has supplied an overwhelming amount of in-person, forensic evidence is Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in Norway in 2011, but if you want to download, read and try to figure out his motives from the 1,500-page Manifesto he posted online prior to the event, good luck and Godspeed. Even the court-appointed psychiatrists who examined him prior to trial couldn’t figure him out.

While nobody can say for sure why gun violence, particularly mass gun violence, occurs in certain places and not others, the Hopkins report aggregates and summarizes enough research to state (beyond any doubt) that gun assaults and gun suicides occur much more frequently wherever guns are present, regardless of whether concealed-carry is sanctioned or not.  If John Lott didn’t exist, Gun-nut Nation would invent him, because there is simply no research which shows that our society, and particularly our college campuses are safer because civilians are walking around with guns.  But since when did the pro-gun argument have anything to do with facts anyway?

 

 

Trump May Believe That The 2nd Amendment Protects Gun Ownership, But He Happens To Be Wrong.

6 Comments

It only took about two minutes Wednesday night for the Hillary Clinton – Adolph Trump debate to get to the question of guns. And it was Adolph who raised the issue when he said he would appoint Supreme Court justices who would uphold the 2nd Amendment because it was ‘under siege.’  So Wallace then flipped he question to HRC and asked her to explain her comment that the 2008 Heller decision was ‘wrong,’ to which our candidate gave a fairly sensible and cogent response:

     “You mentioned the Heller decision. And what I was saying that you referenced, Chris, was that I disagreed with the way the court applied the Second Amendment in that case, because what the District of Columbia was trying to do was to protect toddlers from guns and so they wanted people with guns to safely store them. And the court didn’t accept that reasonable regulation, but they’ve accepted many others. So I see no conflict between saving people’s lives and defending the Second Amendment.”

2ALet’s not waste our time with Adolph Trump’s rejoinder because it was an incomprehensible ramble about how he was going to do this and that. The bottom line is he said what he needed to say, namely, that if she won the election, guns would be taken away.  Because to Gun-nut Nation, saying that the 2nd Amendment is ‘under siege’ is just code for saying that private gun ownership won’t be allowed.

Incidentally, I don’t care if anyone reading this column gets offended because I refer to Trump by the first name of a certain Fascist dictator who’s ass we finally kicked in 1945. This new guy has done everything he can to demean the democratic process, to pander to the worst, most violent and extremist elements of the far Right, and his narcissism and arrogance knows no bounds. So screw him, the horse he rode in on and the whole cavalry behind him.  I’m done being polite.

Anyway, as I was saying above.  So what we got from Hillary Wednesday night was a reasoned and sober attempt to balance the constitutionality of private gun ownership against the government’s need and legitimate interest in regulating safe behavior with guns.  But why is it necessary to worry about abiding by the 2nd Amendment?  Whose constitutional ‘rights’ are even threatened if the 2nd Amendment is ‘under siege?’

I bought my first, real gun in 1956 when I was 12 years old.  I was walking around a flea market in the Florida Glades, old boy had a Smith & Wesson blue box on the table with a 38-special banger inside, wanted 50 bucks for the gun which sounded like a good deal to me.  I wasn’t a Florida resident so for some reason that wasn’t explained, give the fifty dollars to ‘nuther ol’ boy standin’ down yonder at the end of the table and he gives me the gun. Things were much simpler in those days.

Between 1956 and 2008 I probably bought and sold 500 personally guns.  Sound like a lot? Hell, it’s less than ten guns a year.  That’s not a lot of buying, selling and trading if you’re a gun nut like me. Know how many of those transactions were protected by the 2nd Amendment?  Not one.  Know how many of those transactions made me legally vulnerable because I didn’t have the blessed 2nd Amendment protecting my back?  Not one. The Supreme Court ruled in 1939 that I did not have any constitutional protection for any of my personally-owned guns, and that ruling remained law of the land until 2008.

The truth is that all this crap about the 2nd Amendment is nothing more than a cynical and nonsensical attempt by pro-gun noisemakers to persuade gun owners like me to fork over our $30 annual dues to the NRA.  And while I’m at it, I can send a few bucks to the Adolph for President campaign. After all, without Adolph running things, maybe all my guns will be taken away.  Like all my guns were taken away before the Court handed down Heller in 2008.

 

Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: