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.

Want To Come Up With The Dough To Make A ‘Smart’ Gun? Here’s A Plan.

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With all due respect to Glock, we think of guns as an American phenomenon, from the origins of the first gun factory at Springfield Armory in 1777, up to now when Americans own more than one-third of all the small arms existing in the world today. If guns aren’t the best example of American ‘exceptionalism’ outside of Coka-Cola, I don’t know what is.

confiscated             But every once in a while someone somewhere else comes up with a really good idea about what to do with guns, and in this case the idea came out of Sweden last year.  The outfit who came up with this innovation is a relief and support organization called IM Swedish Development Partner, which is tied to a Swiss-based NGO called Humanium, which is connected to a United Nations sustainable development program which does relief and development work throughout the globe.  I know it’s a mouthful, but if you want to see what this project’s all about, just click here or continue reading below.

Basically what the program does is go out and collect illegal guns., then melt them down and use the metal for various mechanical and fabricating work in underserved communities; in other words, it’s basically a salvage operation, but in this case the metal which is being salvaged represents illegally-used guns.  So they aren’t promoting gun control as a response to gun violence, they are promoting recycling of products whose prior use has resulted in those particular products not being used for the same purpose again.

The outfit which announced this project, IM Swedish Development Partner, took their advertising video to Cannes last year and won the Grand Prize at the 2016 Innovation Grand Prix.  And don’t think they were competing against a bunch of slouches, because the runner-up was Google’s Tilt Brush, and prizes also went to agencies representing Apple and the iT Bra which can detect cancer simply by being worn.

Know how many illegal guns have been confiscated in New York City alone since 2013?  Try 15,000 bangers, okay?  Know how many guns the Chicago cops picked up last year? They took 8,300 guns off the street in 2016 and about 8,000 the previous year.  In Baltimore, the total haul last year was around 2,000 guns.

So the bottom line is that every year in the United States, the cops probably recover   at least 100,000 guns.  And how many of these guns get returned to their ‘rightful’ owners?  That’s a pretty easy number to figure out.  Like none. Get it? None.

I suspect that a majority of the seized guns are handguns and let’s assume that the average handgun weighs about 2.5 pounds. Now let’s add another half-pound to that number because many of the confiscated guns are long guns which obviously weigh a good deal more. In other words, every year we probably end up with somewhere around what would be 300,000 pounds of metal if these guns were all melted down.  How much is all that metal worth? Probably between $2 and $3 a pound, let’s say $2.50 to be safe.

What if we take $600,000 – $700,000 a year and give it away to some small, struggling entrepreneurs who are trying to get to market with a new product, in particular a product that might save some lives?  I think that what we could do with that steel is give it to the folks who want to manufacture ‘safe’ guns, you know, the guns which only shoot when the rightful owner puts it in his or her own hands.

I keep hearing that safe guns can’t get to market because nobody wants to put up the cash to move this kind of product out the factory door. But covering the raw material costs might be a good way to start.  And the fact that a safe gun might represent a recycled unsafe gun is certainly an added plus, don’t you agree?

All Of A Sudden, Talking Nicely About Gun Violence Is ‘In.’

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If Alex Jones was really the conspiracy expert which he claims to be, instead of just huckstering to the crowd that believes the aliens landed in Area 51, he would take a look at the way in which Gun-nut Nation develops and puts out its messaging, because he would discover that it starts and ends at the same place.  And that place happens to be the Oval Office at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, where Donald ‘I could shoot someone in the street’ Trump is trying to change his tune on violence and guns.

nugent             I said last week that Trump’s muted and respectful response to the shooting of Steve Scalise and others represented an awareness that his dwindling base doesn’t provide enough traction to get his political agenda through Congress, never mind keep him from getting burned by Russiagate.  And his foolish attempt to promote himself by posting a tweet about a Rasmussen 50% score, a poll result which went south the very next day, can’t hide the fact that unless he starts appealing to folks outside of his crazy base, he’s all done.

So now it’s almost a week since the ‘good guys’ with guns in Alexandria turned out to be cops instead of civilians, but that didn’t stop John Lott from going on a right-wing noise-making radio show and saying how important it was to have people with guns on the scene. And it really doesn’t matter whether those guns belong to cops who may actually be trained to use lethal defense, or belong to civilians who aren’t required to undergo any training at all.  And if the gun is in the hands of a ‘good guy,’ then everything’s going to be okay. I know, it’s as dumb as you can get.

But when it comes to real dumbness, this week’s award has to go to none other than Ted Nugent, who figured out how to prolong his career by creating a new standard for saying dumb and stupid things about violence and guns. And I don’t mean a high standard because here’s a guy who’s so friggin’ dumb that he posted pictures of gun-control politicians on his Facebook page, all of whom happened to be Jewish, adorned each pic with an Israeli flag, and then claimed he didn’t ‘know’ that something so tasteless would be taken as an anti-Semitic slur.

Anyway, this jackass has now publicly disowned every hateful and nasty remark he ever made, and has promised to tone down his remarks, become ‘more respectful to the other side,’ and if “it gets fiery, if it gets hateful, I’m going away.” What? The man who told Obama to suck his you-know-what is pulling back from the rhetorical venom which Trump imitated again and again during the 2016 campaign?

This can only be happening because the alt-right has realized that since they now own the White House, that their brand of hate won’t sell.  Oh, it will still sell to the ‘make America great again’ crowd that will line up at Trump rallies and buy the hats and other overpriced paraphernalia which generates revenues for the Trump Organization bottom line. But that’s not going to work with the rest of us, and it’s the rest of us who will ultimately determine whether Trump keeps his job or not.

So now we have a report that Chris Collins (R-NY) whose announcement that he will always go around with his gun marks him as one of the dopiest schmucks in the U. S. House, is now crafting a bill to protect lawmakers from getting shot, and he’s doing it with help from the NRA. Perfect, just perfect. The NRA, which wants no restrictions of any kind on concealed-carry, is going to help write legislation that will make it easier for jerks like Rep. Collins to walk around DC with a gun. But this is a ‘responsible’ way to react to a mass shooting, right? And ‘responsible’ is now what Donald Trump is all about.

Another Dope Shoots His Mouth Off About The Alexandria Shooting.

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Last month I gave an award to a State Senator in Florida, Greg Steube, for authoring the dumbest gun bill so far this year.  The bill would allow people injured by guns to sue the owner of the public premise where the attack took place if the location was a gun-free zone.  But today I want to give another award to a politician, in this case for writing the dumbest op-ed that I have ever read.  And the award goes to Congressman Chris Collins (R-NY) who put a piece in WaPo saying that as a result of the Alexandria shooting, from now on he’s going to go everywhere in public carrying a gun.

alexandria             New York’s 27th CD used to be represented by a Democrat, Brian Higgins, and he now sits in the 26th CD which was redrawn to cover the city of Buffalo, whereas the 27th now covers the Buffalo suburbs and some rural areas to the south and East.  The 27th also takes in the state prison at Attica, but Collins doesn’t have to worry about the prison’s location, because in New York State incarcerated felons can’t vote.  And in 2016, Collins got two-thirds of the votes, mostly from farmers and residents of suburbs and small towns.

Which is why, I guess, he’s decided to go around his district with a gun, because as he says in his op-ed, “But all of us [read: public officials] — including our families, our staffs and their families — expect and deserve to be safe from harm. After what we saw last week, it’s clear we need to do more to make sure that we’re protected.” And if you haven’t yet figured out where this idiot is going, the next sentence reads: As Americans in my district and across the country know well, responsible, legal gun owners have every right to protect themselves, and that applies to members of Congress as well. I’ve worked to make sure these core values, preserved in the Constitution, are upheld.”

There’s only one little problem with what this fervent upholder of the Constitution says, namely, the 2008 Heller decision only gives Americans the ‘right’ to protect themselves with a gun inside their homes. What a blowhard, what a buffoon and worse, he then goes on to say that he knows how to use and carry a gun because, and this is the best one of all, “My father taught me responsible gun ownership.”

Tell me this, Chris.  Did your father also teach you how to shoot a gun?  Do you go out from time to time and practice aiming and shooting a handgun at a human target, particularly one that might be moving around?  Did you even have to demonstrate any shooting proficiency at all in order to get your concealed-carry license which you claim has been in your wallet ‘for years?’ Don’t waste your valuable time answering those questions because I’ll give you the answers.  The answers are all ‘no.’  How do I know the answers?  Because if I had a nickel for every dope and loud mouth who says he’s going to protect himself, his family and everyone else with the gun he’s allegedly toting around even though he never (read: never) had to certify his shooting creds with any law enforcement official mandated to actually validate his claims, I wouldn’t have to sit here pounding out these words for a living.

I’m still waiting for the NRA, who probably helped Collins write his nonsensical op-ed, to live up to their own cock and bull about being America’s gun training organization and say what needs to be said, namely, that issuing concealed-carry licenses without mandated (i.e., required) proficiency validation is a guarantee that you’re not a ‘good guy’ if you walk around with a gun.  You may be a dedicated public servant, Representative Collins, but when it comes to the issue of guns and what you are planning to do to protect yourself, your family and your staff, you’re just a dumb jerk.

 

You Don’t Need A Gun To Protect Yourself From Bonnie & Clyde.

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We had a Bonnie & Clyde moment last week when two convicts murdered two prison guards who were taking them on a bus through Georgia, and over the next three days stole five different vehicles, robbed two homes, tied up and terrorized an elderly couple and led police on a chase where speeds reached 100 mph or more.  The whole deal finally ended up with the two jerks lying face down in the driveway of a home near the small Tennessee town of Christiana, where they were allegedly confronted by the homeowner and a neighbor, both of whom were allegedly wielding guns.

cons             Now you would think that the two brave homeowners would have been immediately flown to NRA headquarters to meet Wayne-o and the boys and, for that matter, brought to the White House for a one-on-one with the Commander in Chief.  But I checked Trump’s Twitter feed this morning and he was too busy whining about how Hillary isn’t being investigated for ‘obstruction’ while he is, I mean, after all, he needs to focus on the real affairs of state. Be that as it may, the news reports out of Tennessee sound and read like an advertisement for the concealed-carry gang, except there’s only one little problem, in subduing the escaped convicts, the two homeowners didn’t use guns at all.

You can view a brief video of the Tennessee State Trooper who reported that the two cons were ‘held at gunpoint’ by the homeowner who then was assisted by a neighbor, the headline on Fox said: “Hero homeowner holds escaped Georgia inmates at gunpoint until arrests,” except that’s not what happened at all.  What really happened is that the homeowner, Patrick Hale, was alerted that the two assholes were running around the neighborhood, he then loaded every gun in his home, called 911, stuffed his daughter into the family car and began to pull away.  At that moment, he saw the two inmates running towards him and waving their shirts as if signaling that they wanted to give themselves up.

Hale believed that the dopes thought he was actually a law enforcement officer because his car looks like a patrol vehicle, but at no time did he actually use his gun.  In fact, in a press conference at the sheriff’s office he said that what saved him was the prayers he offered as he was backing his car into the street. He then added that he didn’t understand why he was being called a ‘hero,’ since all he did was “dial 911 and explaining what happened and just backing up.” As opposed to the ‘real’ news from Fox, the ‘fake’ New York Daily News got it right with a headline which read, “Tennessee man loaded guns and prayed before capture of escaped Georgia inmates.”

We have a real problem these days when it comes to discussing gun violence, because if there’s one topic where the real facts rarely, if ever sees to break through the media noise machine, it’s the topic about violence caused by guns.  Whether they know it or not, just about everyone who considers themselves to be an expert in this area gets it more wrong than right.  And while much, if not most of the errors that pop up are the conscious handiwork of the pro-gun side, the ‘sensible’ gun people and their media allies also sometimes get it wrong.  Last week a noted GVP influencer went on a podcast and talked about the “ninety-three gun murders which occur every day.” Since when is suicide considered homicide? That’s news to me.

I’m the last person to accuse anyone else of making a mistake. We’re all human, we all make mistakes and I just hope that my misstatements don’t wind up as part of the gospel about gun violence or anything else. But some day if we work hard and remain committed, gun violence will be a thing of the past. And then, to quote Justice Felix Frankfurter, “history will also have its claims.”

It’s Not Guns That Cause Gun Violence. It’s Handguns.

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By the time I went to bed last night, the ether was filled with reactions to the Alexandria shootings, most of them reflecting the alt-right view of things about guns and violence, namely, that if there had been more good guys at the ballfield with guns, the bad guy wouldn’t have shot anyone at all. But at least one sane voice emerged belonging to Chelsea Parsons and her colleagues at the Center for American Progress (CAP) who put up a podcast, ‘Too Many Guns in America,’ and discussed the event.

cap-logo1CAP has been a mainstay in the effort to strengthen gun regulations, and much of their approach can be found in their report, America Under Fire, which makes a persuasive argument that gun violence and laws regulating gun ownership and access go hand-in-hand; i.e., more laws equal less injuries caused by guns. You can download the report right here.

Much of yesterday’s podcast was devoted to talking about the efficacy of different gun laws which exist in a minority of states, which also happen to be the states where less gun violence occurs.  In particular, the podcast mentioned universal background checks, regulating assault rifles and hi-cap mags, and preventing domestic violence abusers from getting their hands on guns. Chelsea and her colleagues made a point of saying that all three strategies enlist wide, public support, although you wouldn’t know that from the GOP-alt-right chorus that was braying last night.

I want to make it clear that I am four-square in favor of government regulation of guns. I don’t believe anyone should be walking around armed who isn’t either required to carry as part of a job, or can’t demonstrate skilled, appropriate and continuous proficiency. And that means real, live shooting evaluated by the public authority that issues the license for carrying a gun.

The problem which comes up again and again whenever the gun violence prevention (GVP) community talks about gun violence, is not how they define ‘violence’ caused by guns, which should include suicide because self-violence happens to be part of the definition of violence used by the World Health Organization; rather, how GVP defines a ‘gun.’  Because when it comes to the ten ‘indicators’ of gun violence cited by CAP to create the America Under Fire report, nine of those ten indicators contribute to the annual gun-death toll not because of the existence of guns per se, but the existence of handguns, which poses all sorts of different issues than the existence of guns overall.

Take gun trafficking for example.  Ever notice that when the cops bust a bunch of dopes for bringing guns from down South into New York that most of the guns are small, concealable pistols, Glocks and stuff like that?  Sure, there’s a rifle here and there, but what sells in the street are the little bangers – the shooter in Alexandria, the shooter at the Pulse, the shooter at Aurora, the shooter at Sandy Hook – they used assault rifles that were all legally owned.

What frustrated me about the CAP podcast was that neither Chelsea, Igor or Michele said one word about the discussion’s title, namely, the existence of too many guns.  And with all due respect to the work that has been done linking gun violence to lax gun laws, it’s the number of weapons floating around which is the numero uno reason why so many Americans get shot with guns. But even noted scholars like our friend David Hemenway gets it wrong when he says that our rate of gun violence compared to other ‘advanced’ countries is so much higher because we have so many more guns, because if he compared per capita ownership of handguns rather than all guns, the disparities between our level of gun violence and the gun violence suffered by other societies would be two or three times worse.

Sorry to repeat what I have said so many times, but we will continue to suffer an extraordinary level of gun violence until we get rid of the guns. The little ones. Those guns.

 

A Perfect Opportunity To Blame Gun Violence On The Left.

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In the immediate aftermath of yesterday’s shooting in Alexandria, VA, there was shock, concern and a rather dignified tone to the public reactions, up to and including the rather out-of-character remarks of the Commander in Chief. After all, here was ‘I could shoot someone down in the street’ Trump saying only that his thoughts and prayers went out to the victims, with Rand Paul thanking the Almighty for the presence of the police even though in his heart of hearts I’m sure he would have preferred if all the Members and their staffs had been armed.

newt2             But give it 24 hours, actually it took less time, and this event becomes just another chance to promote a political narrative which will end up pushing the idea that we all should be walking around with guns.  And who started the ball rolling this time? None other than Newt Gingrich who because he briefly served as Speaker of the House and has then been kept politically alive thanks to the graces of Fox News, is able to shoot his mouth off about anything and everything whenever the occasion might arise.  Here he was last night on a Fox roundtable, saying that the shooting was “part of a pattern, you’ve had an increasing intensity of hostility on the Left.” He then went on to say, “You’ve had a series of things which send signals that tell people that it’s OK to hate Trump, it’s OK to think of Trump in violent terms, it’s OK to consider assassinating Trump.”

Talk about the pot calling the kettle.  Given a Presidential campaign in which one candidate not only energized his audiences with frequent appeals to using violence, but even hinted that his opponent might find herself in the crosshairs of someone who wanted to protect their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ it’s amazing how a blowhard like Gingrich could take the argument used by the alt-right to condemn gun violence and stand it on its head.  And what I’m referring to here is the unequivocal assertion made by every pro-gun and alt-right noisemaker that all mass shootings are the work of ‘nuts, or ‘crazies,’ whose access to lethal weapons should in no way prevent all law-abiding Americans from getting their hands on guns.

Now, for the first time, Gun-nut Nation is changing its tune and blaming this latest episode not on a loony tunes, but on the same people who want to take away the guns, namely, the political elites who openly despise the attempts by #45 to make America great. What we have here is a remarkable argument which justifies the use of guns to ‘protect’ 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ but deplores gun violence when the guns are used to attack people like Steve Scalise who have been in the forefront of the gun ‘rights’ campaign.

But why should I be surprised when mass or high-profile shootings become the stuff with which political narratives are then made?  Our good friend Shaun Dakin just shared with me and others a piece in Esquire where the writer states that “Historically, mass shootings have been used as political opportunities,” and then goes on to mention how the NRA used both Sandy Hook and the attempted assassination of Gabby Giffords to promote fewer restrictions on guns. He concludes by saying that, “the NRA politicizes collective grief to advance its narrative to the benefit of those who would commit acts of violence.”

Excuse me but didn’t Obama tried as hard as he could to get a new gun law passed after the rampage at Sandy Hook? And wasn’t it a Republican-controlled House Committee that cancelled a hearing yesterday on a bill that would make it easier for Americans to put silencers on their guns?

Don’t get me wrong. When it comes to gun violence, I’m not excusing the NRA or the alt-right (which is my name for the GOP) for appealing to emotions over facts. But the argument over gun violence shouldn’t turn on emotions either way – we just have too many guns.

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