She’s Ba-ack! Dana Loesch Appeals To The Hard-Core Crazies Again.

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I just finished watching the 60-second screed from Dana Loesch which is getting all kinds of responses, most of them castigating her for appealing to violence in response to the resistance against Trump.  I have now watched this video three times, because I want to make sure that I don’t misunderstand or misinterpret anything she says. Not that it’s difficult to follow what she says –  Dana’s so friggin’ dumb and her rants appeal to such a low intellectual denominator that I suspect my wife’s 14-month old grandson could figure her out.

loeschnranews             Dana has been traipsing around on the alt-right circuit for a few years, she’s now employed both by Glenn Beck’s Blaze and the NRA.  Neither organization has a real interest in anything other than audience share, and if you’re offended by the tone and content of her remarks, you can chalk it down to the fact that the alt-right is not only having difficulty maintaining its audience now that the occupant of the Oval Office is someone they are supposed to support, but if anything, the momentum on social media now belongs to the other side.  Trump has 32.9M followers on Twitter, the Old Lady (a.k.a. New York Times) has 38.5M.  Get it?

Dana debuted on the NRA media channel back in September, 2015. She claimed that she represented America’s ‘moms,’ and just like ‘millions’ of other American women, because she is a mom, she also owns guns. She then went on to whine about how the media refuses to carry stories about women who defend their homes and their families from a ‘home-invading thug,’ but will always run a story on someone who was killed in their home because they didn’t do what Dana claims she does – own a gun.

Dana spent the next year basically huckstering the sale of guns to women, claiming in another video that ‘millions’ of women were flocking into gun stores and getting armed. There’s only one little problem – what she was saying about a surge in female gun buyers simply isn’t true. Even the NSSF’s vaunted marketing report which claims to show that more women are getting into guns contains some vague data about the number of women who ‘participate’ in gun events, but that’s a far cry from walking around strapped or having a gun in the house to, as Dana says, stick it into the face of a ‘thug.’

I have to admit that in the new video where Dana portrays herself and other like-minded folks as the protectors of freedom against all those resistance people being manipulated into blocking highways, burning trash cars and beating up on a Trump supporter, I didn’t see or hear any overt appeal to violence, even though at the end of her spiel, she says that ‘the only way we stop this violence of lies is with the clenched fist of truth.’  Dana lowers her voice a bit when she utters the last two words but at least she didn’t reach into her bra and yank out her gun.

What Dana’s video really demonstrates is the degree to which the alt-right, pro-gun messaging has become so muddled during the Age of Trump. After all, to accuse Obama of being a gun-grabber and therefore the 2nd Amendment protected us from government ‘tyranny’ was an easy sell because Obama was a gun-grabber, it’s not something he tried to hide. And Hillary was a gun-grabber, too.

But now we have a government being run by a guy who says that his supporters will remain loyal even if he would ‘shoot someone down in the street.’ Which makes it pretty difficult to promote an argument that says we should all be armed because otherwise the government can take away our ‘rights.’

I think Dana’s video should be seen for what it is: a desperate attempt to maintain support from a base which is increasingly becoming nothing more than a lunatic fringe. And this will only get worse as the ‘deep state’ tries to take back the government again.

 

Want To Help Figure Out What People Really Think About Guns? Take A Survey.

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Right now I am conducting two online surveys to get a better feel for what and how people think about guns. The surveys can be accessed here and if you have not yet participated, feel free to do so.  The surveys are actually sitting on the Survey Monkey website so I can only see answers to survey questions – there is not the slightest possibility that anyone’s identity can be captured, up to and including the I.P address of your machine.

survey1             I am also beginning to post some of the results of the surveys – they have attracted more than 650 participants to date. As of this morning, respondents to both surveys were residents of 43 and 44 states, so I think the information being received is a valid profile for how gun owners and non-gun owners think. I have also posted some initial results from the two surveys covering the gender and age of participants, with more results to come.

The surveys are designed to elicit information from two groups: (1). People who are involved or interested in gun violence prevention activities; and (2). people who consider guns to be important to them. The surveys are not mutually exclusive – if you are a GVP supporter/activist but also are a gun-nut like me, feel free to take both.

I am conducting these surveys because I have been saying for a long time that we need to find common language and common ground that will enable people on both sides of the gun issue to talk to each other in reasonable and reasoned ways. To do that, we need to know how you folks really think about guns, both pro and con, and we need to understand your thoughts as you really think, not as someone else tells us how you think.

Last week the Pew Research Center released their latest and greatest on how Americans think about guns. It’s a very detailed survey but again and again it asks respondents to answer questions that may or may not have much to do with what they actually think about guns. For example, respondents were asked how they felt about such policies as background checks and banning assault rifles with, of course, the non-gun owners favoring both policies to a greater degree than the folks who own guns. They were also asked about what they thought about gun-free zones. The gun-owners were opposed to it by a margin of two to one. Gee, what a surprise.

I think about my guns all the time – which one do I want to trade, which do I want to shoot today, what’s the next gun I’m going buy – thoughts like that swirl through my head all the time. Know when was the last time I thought about background checks? The last time I was contacted by Pew to answer questions in their poll. And since I’ve never been contacted by Pew, I don’t remember the last time I thought about background checks.

After I get done collecting enough responses to get a fairly good take on the basic demographics of the folks on both sides of the fence, I’m going to put up two more surveys and ask people to respond again. Incidentally, I recruit respondents to these surveys through Facebook promotions but again, I have no idea who is actually answering these promotions and taking the polls. Facebook simply tells me how many people click through the promotion and land on my survey page.

The next two surveys are going to ask gun owners and non-gun owners to tell me the questions which they would like to be asked about guns. And in this way what I hope to accomplish is to let the discussion between the two sides be based on what each side would talk about if they ever found themselves in a reasoned conversation with the other side about guns.

Who knows? Something new and interesting might actually emerge.

An Important Study On The Risks Of Guns.

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One of the longest-running arguments in the gun world is the issue of risks versus benefits of guns. The argument erupted in the late 1980s when the gun industry shifted its marketing from hunting and sport shooting to using a gun for self-defense. Chickens then came home to roost first with a survey published by Gary Kleck in 1995 and then a book published by John Lott in 1998.  The Kleck survey claimed that as many as 2 million violent crimes were prevented each year because the alleged victims were able to defend themselves with a gun. Lott took this idea one step further, claiming that in jurisdictions which began to issue concealed-carry licenses, homicides went down.  An entire academic cottage industry now exists which argues both for and against, an argument amplified by a lengthy and very detailed paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER.)  You can download the paper from my website here.

traffic             The lead scholar, John Donohue, has been chasing John Lott for at least 15 years, and has published (according to his Stanford University bibliography) at least 15 articles, op-eds and other comments about what he considers to be the methodological flaws and mistaken conclusions in Lott’s work. The NBER paper is the latest salvo coming from Donahue’s arsenal, and while my friend John Lott seems to be busy hopping from one alt-right radio show to the next, I suspect he’ll sooner or later post a response to what Donahue and his colleagues have said.

What they have said is that they extended Lott’s time-period from 2000 to 2014, and compared changes in violent crime rates between states which passed ‘right-to carry’ (RTC) laws and state that did not.  In the 9 states which never adopted RTC laws, violent crime declined by more than 40%, but in the 37 states which adopted RTC laws during the same period, violent crime declined by less than 10%.  In other words, people living in ‘shall-issue’ concealed-carry states are far less safe from violent crime than people that live in states where CCW is given out only with cause.

The NBER paper contains additional data which clearly undercuts Gun-nut Nation’s belief that, in and of themselves, right-to-carry laws reduce crime. But I have a much bigger issue with Lott’s ‘more guns = less crime’ approach that has nothing to do with statistics or data at all. Ultimately, Lott’s approach rests upon an assumption about the behavior of a certain class of human beings – criminals – that has absolutely no basis in truth or fact. And the assumption is that criminals who are thinking of committing a face-to-face crime (murder, assault) will decide instead to commit an anonymous crime if they believe that the victim whom they are thinking of attacking might be carrying a gun. He states this specifically on Page 6 of the 3rd edition of his book: “the criminals in states with high civilian gun ownership were the most worried about encountering armed victims.”

The idea that the unplanned, spontaneous and impulsive behavior resulting in homicide will be influenced or changed by some sort of rational, objective and planned decision simply flies in the face of reality and what we know to be the circumstances in which homicide and other violent crimes occur. Lott’s hardly an expert on homicide but Lester Adelson certainly is: “With its peculiar lethality, a gun converts a spat into a slaying and a quarrel into a killing.”

The response to Lott by scholars like Donahue may clarify both the validity of relevant data and how it is used, but no matter how sophisticated the statistical method brought to bear, regression analysis can ‘associate’ different trends, the exact causal connection between, say, gun homicides and issuance or non-issuance of concealed-carry licenses remains vague at best.

Legitimate scholars like John Donahue are motivated by the hopes that their research will provide evidence which can be used to fashion workable public policies to deal with the injuries caused by guns. I have a policy suggestion that doesn’t need any scholarly validation at all: get rid of the damn things.  That’s all you have to do.

The Supreme Court Isn’t Interested in Concealed-Carry, At Least Not Yet.

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There’s dancing in the GVP streets today because the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of Peruta v. California, which is the sine qua non of all legal cases covering what Gun-nut Nation calls ‘constitutional carry,’ i.e., the ‘right’ to carry a concealed gun outside the home.  Other than getting rid of the background check system altogether, this concealed-carry crap stands at the head of the wish-list for making America fully-armed. The case attracted more than 20 briefs and everybody who’s anybody in Gun-nut Nation submitted something about this case.

2A             What made Peruta so important for the promotion of gun ‘rights’ was the fact that California law grants concealed-carry issuing authorities, a.k.a., county sheriffs, determine an applicant’s qualification based not just on a background check, which is the policy in most states, but on the applicant’s ability to show proof that he would be in harm’s way unless he could walk around with a gun.  In other words, California still retains the ‘may issue’ approach to CCW with the emphasis on a very narrow definition of ‘may.’

I lived in South Carolina in the 1970s and the only way to get concealed-carry was to become a state constable, an appointment that came out of the Governor’s Office  based on a recommendation by the Chief of the State Police.  How did you get recommended by the Chief?  You knew the Chief.  And the system for granting CCW in South Carolina back in those days was typical of most states; as late as 1987, only six states gave out CCW on a shall-issue basis and 16 states had no CCW policy of any kind.  Other than the Communist northeast and California, every other state now has a shall-issue policy and 12 states don’t require any special licensing for CCW at all.

The problem, of course, is found in the 2008 Heller decision which reversed a long tradition of considering the 2nd Amendment to be operative only in connection with military service, and instead pronounced that Americans now had a Constitutional ‘right’ to own a gun. But the ‘right’ was limited in two ways: First, the case only granted Constitutional protection to the ownership of handguns, when Heller went back to Court and tried to get the same protection extended to his assault rifle, he was told to get lost. Second, the 2008 decision specifically protected handguns kept inside the home, in fact, there was no mention of carrying a gun outside the home at all.

In his dissent to the Court’s refusal to hear Peruta, Justice Thomas claims that the phrase ‘bear arms’ means that someone should be able to carry a gun on their person outside the home. And how does he justify this definition of 2nd-Amendment wording which, if correct, could be used to give constitutional protection to unlimited CCW?  He quotes Eugene Volokh’s UCLA Law Review article which, among other things, contains a remarkable defense of carrying guns into places which serve alcohol, which if not allowed places a ‘fairly substantial’ burden on the individual who wants to go into a saloon toting his gun.

The bottom line in the Thomas dissent, and the reason he relies so heavily on the idiotic propositions of Volokh, is because the Court’s refusal to hear the appeal of the 9th Circuit’s decision still leaves open the issue of whether the 2nd Amendment protects not just private ownership of guns, but the ability of private citizens to go outside their home with a weapon based simply on their qualification for gun ownership, rather than any specific need for self-defense.

You don’t have to read between the lines of the Scalia-Gorsuch dissent to know how they would vote if this issue were to come before the Court.  And even though the NRA’s pit bull in the Oval Office seems to have more on his mind than promoting gun issues, the national, concealed-carry bill is still alive and well. The fight to get constitutional protection for the nuttiness of concealed-carry isn’t finished, not by a long shot.

Does FBI-NICS Tell Us How Many Guns Are Sold By Gun Dealers? I’m Not Sure.

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What’s that about you learn something new every day? Well I just learned something from the NRA about the NICS-FBI background check system and if I didn’t know about this before today, I guarantee you that maybe nobody else in the GVP community knows it either.  And what I learned today is particularly important because I learned it just after reading the new Pew gun report which claims that both gun owners and non-gun owners support FBI-NICS background checks for ‘secondary,’ i.e., personal transfers of guns.

nics             It’s all well and good that 87% of non-gun owners and 77% of gun owners favor more comprehensive background checks. But if you live in one of 26 states on an official list published by the ATF and possess either a concealed-carry license or, in some cases, a gun license, you don’t have to undergo a FBI-NICS background check when you buy any gun at all. Think I’m making it up?  Click here.

I never knew this because my gun shop happens to be located in one of the 24 states which doesn’t exempt any over-the-counter purchase from going through NICS. And in fact my state not only requires dealers to get a NICS approval before the gun is transferred, but also requires the dealer to verify through a website link that the customer’s state-issued gun license is also valid at the time the transfer is made. Do many other states which exempt license-holders from NICS have a system which requires real-time verification of the state license when a gun is sold?  I doubt it.  That’s about the last expense that a legislature in Georgia or West Virginia is going to add to the state budget.

Right now there are somewhere between 12 and 14 million active concealed-carry permits in the United States. Florida leads the list with over a million but the Gunshine State does not exempt any gun purchase from NICS.  On the other hand, states like Kentucky and Louisiana do exempt CCW-holders from NICS, and together these two states alone have issued over 300,000 concealed-carry permits.  Kentucky’s an interesting state because they use the NICS system every month to check whether any resident who has a gun license shows up as a ‘bad boy’ in any state. Last month the NICS system ran almost 375,000 such checks for Kentucky, but state residents also purchased almost 8,700 handguns. And since CCW-holders are exempted from NICS checks in Kentucky, even if someone’s name showed up on the NICS state license check, how would a gun shop owner know that the guy standing in front of him couldn’t legally buy a gun? Last month more than 10,000 handguns were sold in Louisiana and there’s no indication that NICS checked the validity of the 136,000 active Louisiana CCW permits at all.

I just did a quick eyeball on the number of concealed-carry permits issued by states which exempt the holders of those permits from undergoing NICS background checks, and the total is somewhere between 5.6 and 5.7 million, give or take a few.  How many handguns were purchased last month in these same states with background checks? Somewhere around 185,000, give or take a few thousand here or there (sorry, but I’m not going to waste time adding up every single one.)

The folks who go to the trouble of getting a concealed-carry license in many cases also tend to be the folks who buy lots of guns. Kind of goes with the territory, if you know what I mean. Is there a chance that the numbers for NICS checks in these exempt states may undercount the actual number of guns sold in those states by as much as half? Yup, there is.

I’m not saying that CCW-license holders are a threat to safety, I’ll let the Violence Policy Center make that argument with their ‘concealed killers’ report. What I am saying is that there may be a lot more guns being added to the civilian arsenal each month, and the one thing we know for sure about gun violence is that more guns equals more gun violence, period, the end.

 

 

A New Survey Which Raises Issues We Need To Better Understand.

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The Pew Research Center is often considered to be the authoritative source for figuring out what Americans think about a wide range of social, political and economic issues. Its survey findings are also used by many groups and organizations to help develop or shape their strategies for the kinds of public policies and the messaging about those policies that should be put forth into the public domain. In other words, when Pew says something about an issue like guns, people tend to listen. But the question has to be asked: what are they hearing?

pew            This week Pew published, with appropriate fanfare, a detailed survey on what Americans think about guns. The results come from a “nationally representative panel of randomly selected U.S. adults,” whose answers are then weighted appropriately to take into account gender, age, race, region and the usual statistical blah, blah, blah which survey machers claim will make what they tell you to be more or less true.

I not only read every word of this report multiple times, I also closely read the detailed reports on each topic where I often found very important results that did not make it up to the overall summary of the report.  Like they say, ‘the devil is in the details,’ and I therefore urge everyone who reads this document to get as granular as possible and read all the fine print.

The survey on which this report is based was conducted in April, which means that it was taken before the shooting of Scalise and the others last week. I suspect that if that same survey was conducted today that some of the attitudinal findings would be different on both sides, in particular respondent attitudes about regulating assault rifles and hi-cap mags

I’ll forego a discussion of the overall findings of this survey because that information will no doubt be broadcast here and there. I understand why pew ties so much of its survey findings (in this and every survey they conduct) to political leanings, votoing behavior and such. But probably 60% of all guns in the civilian arsenal can be found in 13 Confederate states, 3 border states and the rural parts of 4-5 midwestern states. Gee, what a surprise that the white residents in those places always, always vote resoundingly red. That’s new news?

There is, however, a remarkably interesting finding peeping out in the details covering gun-owning demographics, namely, that the percentage of people living in safe or unsafe neighborhoods who cited personal protection as the chief reason for having a gun was roughly the same. At the same time, nearly three-quarters of all gun owners who said that ‘the world’ was less safe cited personal protection as a reason for owning a gun, and nearly seven out of ten survey respondents, gun owners or not, said the world had become a less safe place.

These findings tell me that the spread of gun ownership and, in particular, the ownership of highly lethal but concealable handguns is not so much a function of people worrying about their personal safety, as it is about safety fears in a more general, almost generic sense.  I’m not saying that people who buy or walk around with a concealed weapon are necessarily a threat to themselves or anyone else.  On the other hand, don’t ask me how or why, but somehow an awful lot of those little guns get stolen or lost and wind up in the street.

If the gun violence prevention (GVP) community is looking for some messaging that will make people think twice before assuming they can protect themselves with a gun, they might think hard and long about the mentalities detailed above and ask themselves how to respond to a daily media bombardment which makes the average person feel unsafe in some general way because this so-called War on Terror just drags on and on.

Is America’s continued infatuation with guns a reaction to the age-old fears about ‘crime,’ or is it because we do not yet fully understand how and why we think about the risk of terror attacks?

 

Where Did The Term ‘Gun Violence’ Come From?

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When we talk about the risk of guns, why do we use the term ‘gun violence’ and where did it come from?  In fact, this whole business started back in 1979 when the CDC decided that violence was a public health issue. Medicine had long since recognized that violent behavior was a threat to health simply because violence creates injuries, and an injury is usually a problem that brings the victim to the attention of the medical community, with more than 37 million people being treated for injuries each year in emergency rooms.

docs versus glocks              But what made violence not just a health issue but a public health issue was the awareness that certain forms of violence, in particular homicide and suicide, were consistently among the 15 leading causes of death in the United States. And in addition to overall numbers, these types of violent deaths were also concentrated in certain environments, as well as increasing dramatically in specific demographics; e.g., a 154% increase in homicide rates of 15 – 19 year-old males from 1985 to 1991. And once medicine decided that we needed to address violence the way we successfully addressed other public health threats such as polio, typhus and tuberculosis, then researchers began looking for causes which would the lead to pro-active measures to reverse and hopefully eliminate violence as a medical condition or disease.

When medicine began to focus on violence as a public health issue, it wasn’t difficult to make the connection between violence and guns, for the simple reason that roughly 60% of all homicides have been committed with guns every year since 1981. Since that date we have experienced 689,000 murders in this country, of which 460,000 have been deaths intentionally caused by guns. During that same 35-year period, England experienced somewhere less than 20,000 homicide deaths – talk about American exceptionalism!

By the way, the CDC didn’t come up with the definition of violence by pulling the veritable rabbit out of the veritable hat.  In fact, their definition comes right from the Magna Carta of medical definitions, a.k.a. the World Health Organization, which defines violence as “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation.” And this definition, copied by the CDC, also includes suicide, of which roughly half of all suicides in the U.S. are committed with guns.

Given the above, it’s clear that from a medical point of view, the gun violence prevention (GVP) community stands on pretty firm ground when they invoke the phrase ‘gun violence’ to argue about the risks and dangers represented by guns. The problem arises, however, when GVP goes beyond its own committed band of supporters and uses that kind of terminology when talking with non-advocates about the risks and dangers of guns. Because the NRA has done one heckuva job convincing not their own membership (who don’t need convincing, which is why they’re members of the NRA, duhhhh) but convincing Mr. and Ms. John Q. Public that even if guns are sometimes used in illegal or inappropriate ways, the positives of firearm ownership, in particular protection from crime, far outweigh the negatives in every respect. The idiot who represents the 27th C.D. in New York probably wouldn’t have been so quick to brag about how he’s going to ‘always’ carry a gun if public opinion polls didn’t show that a strong majority believed that having a gun makes you safe.

I’m not saying that GVP should drop the reference to ‘violence’ when they try to reach out beyond their own committed constituencies to discuss what to do about guns. What I am saying is that perhaps we need to make it clear that concerns about ‘gun violence’ aren’t based on value judgements about how people choose to live.  They are based on the same concerns that medicine has raised about violence as a health threat, an issue about which there is no disagreement at all.

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