Is The Narrative on Gun Violence All It Should Be?

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Our friends at Media Matters have just posted a new report on gun violence prepared and published by a California gun violence prevention (GVP) group, the Hope and Heal Fund, which looks at how the media has and hasn’t covered gun violence issues. The report, which can be downloaded here, looked at 218 newspaper articles and thousands of tweets in 2016-2017 in an attempt to develop a baseline understanding of the gun violence narrative in California, as well as making some suggestions about how the narrative might be changed.

hope-and-heal_LOGO              The researchers found that gun policies were the dominant conversation in print and social media, accounting for 40% of the total narrative, with mass shootings provoking another 15%, crime and policing covering 15% more. In other words, nearly three-quarters of the entire public discussion about gun violence in California focused on issues other than the issue which accounts for just about all gun violence, namely, the individual gun shootings – suicide, street gangs, domestic disputes – which account for nearly all intentional gun injuries both in California and everywhere else.

As to what the report calls the ‘messengers’ who were quoted on gun violence, again the data was skewed in favor of public policies because 40% of the people who had something to say about the issue were identified as politicians, whereas researchers, advocacy groups and victims each constituted 9 percent. Taken together, these three groups would constitute in broad terms the California GVP community, and what’s interesting is that as one group, the number of times they delivered a message about gun violence was more than twice as frequent as what the researchers identified as the ‘gun lobby,’ whose total participation in the public media discussion was 12 percent.

Maybe because it’s California and not Texas or some other gun-hugging state, I am nevertheless surprised that the gun-control contributions to the media coverage of gun violence is so much greater than what Gun-nut Nation was able to produce. You would think that given the fact that there have been major changes in California gun laws over the last several years, as well as highly-publicized gun ‘rights’ legal cases such as Peruta v. California, that the NRA and other pro-gun organizations would have been all over the social media world blasting about this gun issue or that. But this report tells a much different story about the relative strength of the two sides, at least in the Golden State.

Now we come to the part of the report which gives me some concern.  “Based on our findings,” says the Report’s conclusion, “we have developed the following recommendations for Hope and Heal Fund’s efforts to change the narrative on gun violence in California.” The recommendations involve: more attention to suicide, domestic violence and gangs; reminding people that much policy work remains to be done; highlight the words and deeds of community leaders; look to the public health area for more research; highlight personal stories about victims; and, “depoliticize gun violence by appealing to common values. Sidestep political opposition by crafting messages that emphasize universal values like safety, opportunity and freedom from fear.”

Sidestep political opposition? Who’s kidding whom?  The California gun-rights gang just got the Los Angeles City Council to end a ban on sale of ultra-concealable handguns (guns less than 6.75 inches long) although it’s not clear how many of the really little guns would meet compliance standards of the state law. But if anyone believes that people who are buying guns because they are afraid of crime or terrorists or whatever are going to be persuaded that there are other ways they can legally protect themselves, perhaps you could enlighten me as to what these non-gun options might be.

I’m not against any of the proposals for strengthening the gun-control narrative but I think there’s one proposal which the writers of this report appeared to have missed, namely, just get rid of the guns. Shouldn’t someone be doing some social media messaging on that?

 

Does The NRA Want To Compete With Amazon?

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So the NRA concealed-carry fashion show in Milwaukee has ended and the boys in Fairfax can get back to doing what they know how they do, which is to convince everyone living in the United States that protection against crime and terrorism is best accomplished by walking around with a gun. The only problem is that if gun sales continue to tank the way they have tanked over the last couple of months, the gun industry might find itself going the way that the print version of the Village Voice went this week.  And if nobody’s buying guns, then nobody’s going to join the NRA – so now what to do?

fashion              It would be misleading, however, to paint a dire picture of the NRA’s financial strength; in fact, America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ seems to be doing quite well in terms of revenues and cash in the bank. In 2014 they had $310 million in revenues, the number for 2015 was $336 million and they ended their 2015 fiscal with $75 million in the bank. They have 850 people on the organization’s payroll and Wayne-o pulled down over $5 million big ones in salary which isn’t chopped liver even in my way of doing things.

So if anything, the decision to get into fashion and other consumer programs is a logical step for the outfit to take, particularly since for the first time in their entire history, the NRA is being challenged for dominance of Gun-nut Nation not by the forces of evil (a.k.a. tree-hugging liberals, progressives, government do-gooders – all amounts to the same thing) but by another pro-gun organization which makes no secret about the fact that it wants to become a household word for anything and everything having to do with guns.

I’m talking about the United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA) whose founder, Tim Schmidt, is a true innovator in the field of ‘tribal marketing,’ which is shorthand for getting consumers to buy your products because they feel a special bond to everyone else who’s buying the same crap, and what could be a more special bond than the bond which exists between people who believe they need to walk around with a gun? Schmidt’s organization has had a spectacular growth; his concealed-carry insurance has been so successful that he was booted out of this year’s NRA show, he has now started a national training effort which has USCCA certified trainers in more than 20 states, and daily traffic to his website, according to SimilarWeb, is more than twice as high as the number of people who visit NRA.org.

It can’t just be coincidence that the NRA fashion show was held in Milwaukee, which happens to be in Schmidt’s back yard. From every honest source that I contacted, the show was a rather quiet and hum-drum affair, the Communications Director of the Wisconsin State Anti-Violence group, Anneliese Dickman, told me that social media venues which would usually be blasting pro-gun screeds if the NRA came to town were remarkable silent during the weekend affair. Incidentally, her group, known as WAVE, held a demonstration in front of the Convention Center while the fashion show was going on inside – the WAVE group does a great job of raising community consciousness about gun violence, and if you want to send them a donation, you can do it right here.

I get the impression that the NRA’s Milwaukee show was an effort to test two things: First, they may start producing a series of second-tier, regional shows in various venues throughout the lower 48, if only because many potential gun owners just can’t make the trek across the country to attend the big shindig each year. Second, I also suspect that this show was designed to test whether the new Carry Guard brand will attract merchandisers who want to align their products with the NRA.

The NRA is a tax-exempt 501C(3) organization because it started out as an educational effort. But who’s to say that training women how to carry a gun in their panty-hose isn’t the kind of training we all need today?

Trump’s Decision to Give Cops Military Equipment Means Absolutely Nothing.

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In his quest to make American great again, Donald Trump seems convinced that reducing crime should be at the top of the list. The fact that the murder rate is back down to where it was when Eisenhower was President and other categories of violent crime are less than half of what they were during the Reagan presidency doesn’t seem to matter in the Oval Office. Crime control has always been a big seller for Republicans, and law and order in places other than the Oval Office can always roll up the votes.

swat             In keeping with his pledge to be a crime-fighter without peer, Trump has just announced that he is ending the ban on sales of military equipment to the police, a practice that was curbed by Obama after the shooting in Ferguson of Michael Brown. The transfer of military equipment from the military to the police was actually started by Clinton back in 1996 in a program known as 1033, which allowed police agencies to grab surplus military equipment no longer being deployed for our troops.

According to the Defense Logistics Agency, more than $6 billion worth of vehicles, clothing, office supplies, tools, rescue equipment and weapons have been turned over from the men and women in camo to the men and women in blue, and more than 8,000 law enforcement agencies are enrolled in the program and can get their hands on equipment which the military no longer wants or needs.

When the cops squared off against the protestors in Ferguson, some of the officers were dressed in riot gear, others looked like they had just come from the set of the 1975 television series S.W.A.T. and still others were indistinguishable from National Guard troops that were called out to try and quell the riot which broke out after Brown’s death. When CNN ran a story about how National Guard commanders referred to the rioters as ‘enemy forces,’ Obama reacted by issuing restrictions against further militarizing of the police and shut down the 1033 transfers of gear.

Note incidentally, the use of the word ‘transfer’ as regards how the cops got their hands on this equipment, rather than using the words ‘purchase’ or ‘buy.’ The whole point of this program was to relieve local governments of some of the costs of outfitting their law enforcement agencies, even if what they were getting for free they would never have purchased anyway. The program has shifted ownership of a few HUMVEEs and other ‘tactical’ vehicles, but remember, these are ‘surplus’ items, which means they are too old or too beaten up to be used by the military any more. In other words, most of the equipment which has been provided through this program is the same moth-eaten clothing junk sitting in the Army-Navy store on Canal Street in downtown Manhattan.

Here’s the quote from the White House which sums it all up. Trump’s order “sends the message that we care more about public safety than about how a piece of equipment looks, especially when that equipment has been shown to reduce crime, reduce complaints against and assaults on police, and make officers more effective.” In fact, none of this equipment has been shown to do anything except reduce police budgets, but when all is said and done, this Administration’s crime-fighting strategy is basically a mixture of letting Joe Arpaio off the hook for breaking the law and making stupid jokes about slamming the heads of suspects as they are pushed into the back of a squad car.

Trump’s order has provoked the usual complaints about how police should be community guardians, not community warriors. But the violence in Charlottesville might have been avoided if the cops, who were all decked out in riot gear, had actually stayed around instead of going home. The decision to reinstate the 1033 program is nothing more than Trump pandering to his dwindling base. Police gain the people’s trust by how they behave, not how they are dressed.

He’ll Be In Cleveland on Sunday!

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nash

Let’s help Demetri continue his march towards DC.

Here’s the article:  http://wgntv.com/2017/07/31/prisoner-turned-activist-walking-to-dc-2/.

Here’s the GoFundMe link.

He’s getting to the DRury Plaza Hotel Sunday evening and set for a press conference on Monday.

Get there if you can!  Donate if you can or can’t!

 

Concealed-Carry: The Latest Marketing Gimmick.

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On August 25 – 27 you can go to Milwaukee and spend the better part of 3 days immersing yourself in the NRA’s new playland for gun owners, a.k.a. the first Carry Guard Expo which is being hyped as “an educational and interactive experience dedicated to Individuals interested in increasing their knowledge and skills within personal protection, concealed carry and defense tactics.”

clothing            This event has got to be the most infantile expression of arrested mental development ever put together by the gun industry and if this moronic and laughable shindig  portends the future direction of gun ownership in this country, nobody has to worry that the surge in guns during the Obama ‘regime’ will eventually result in every American walking around with a gun.

The NRA claims that this event features an exhibit hall with “hundreds of top companies” but the truth is that there are slightly less than 150 exhibitors, basically the usual suspects (Glock, Ruger, S&W) along with a quarter of the total exhibitor booth space occupied by various NRA programs, including the video-television group, the firearms museum and let’s never forget the ‘t-shirts and bumper stickers from the ‘official’ NRA store.

The NRA used to take itself seriously as a training organization, its revenues derived from membership dues, magazine advertising and some program dough from the annual show. Now the organization is becoming an aggressive vendor of goods and services, the goods being in the form of insurance and related products, the services being a new training initiative which like all training these days, relies heavily on digital instruction and internet demand.

In the process of transitioning from a training to a marketing organization, the boys from Fairfax have come to believe that the concealed-carry population represents a golden opportunity just waiting to be tapped. And if you go to the Carry Guard Expo, you’ll have an opportunity to see first-hand how American entrepreneurship is moving quickly and decisively into this new and exciting product realm.

Don’t miss the Femme Fatale booth at the western end of the hall. This company sells Elegant Concealed Carry Holsters for Women Created by a Woman. A few steps away we have another booth, Lady Conceal, which calls itself an In the Bag Boutique, and further down the hall stop in at Dene Adams, which carries Concealed Carry Solutions for Women – for $69.95 you can buy a ‘body shaping thigh holster’ which not only gives your thigh that svelte, 20-something look, but is the perfect spot to store your Glock.

Hey – I like that! ‘The perfect spot to store your Glock.’ Now all I need is a product to go with my slogan and I’m all set. In fact, there’s still plenty of exhibitor space available because according to the show management, “Tens of thousands of freedom-loving Americans will be walking the aisles, looking at the latest and greatest concealed carry guns and gear.” Know what? Even the ad copy being used to attract exhibitors is infantile, to say the least.

When I was 11 years old, my father bought me a Daisy Red Ryder so I could pretend to be John Wayne. Better than that, I took my Red Ryder into the back yard of our house in the middle of Washington, D.C. and now I was riding alongside George Armstrong Custer going through the Black Hills. I once was about the be scalped at The Little Big Horn when my mother stuck her head out the window and yelled that dinner was on the table.

If you think there’s any difference between my backyard fantasies and the fantasies promoted at the Carry Guard Expo, think again. Concealed-carry, armed citizen, self-protection and all that other messaging crap is just a new kind of marketing hype designed to create a consumer market which otherwise wouldn’t exist.

Next time you flick on your television watch how that Dodge Ram truck goes flying over those ruts and muddy curves and then think about the same, twenty- mile drive you do every day back and forth to work.

 

Now That Guns Aren’t A Health Risk, What About Lead?

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For the last twenty years, if not longer, the gun industry has steadfastly refused to consider the possibility that guns represent a public health problem. The fact that intentional gun deaths and injuries amount to more than 100,000 per year is of no concern because as we all know, it’s not the gun which creates the injury, it’s how some people use guns.

leadYou could also say the same thing about tobacco. It’s not the cigarette which causes cancer, it’s the person who decides to smoke. In other words, anyone who takes the ‘it’s the gun, not the person’ nonsense seriously probably believes that what Trump said last night about Afghanistan makes any sense.

Now that the argument over guns as a health risk is at least temporarily settled in favor of the guns, our friends in Fairfax have raised a new public health concern, namely, the crazy idea that lead is a toxic substance and therefore should also be regulated the same way that those stupid physicians want to regulate guns. What they are saying is that a new plan to regulate workplace lead drafted by the State of Washington will “impose complicated and expensive burdens on shooting ranges and retailers, potentially making it difficult for many to continue operations.” And if the local shooting range shuts down, how will gun owners gain enough practice time to practice in order to maintain their “constitutionally protected Second Amendment right to self-defense?”

I have an even bigger concern. Now that their President wants to jack up troop levels in Afghanistan (recall he was the candidate who complained that we shouldn’t have committed any troops over there at all) maybe some of those militia-types who were goose-stepping around Charlottesville will volunteer to go overseas. In which case they’ll need plenty of range time before they pack up their gear and leave. But what if the range has to shut down because it can’t afford to clean up the lead? So now the medical community is not only wrong about guns, but those dumb docs are messing with national security as well!

Bringing us back to reality, lead has been recognized as a toxic substance since the 1970s when it was realized that lead ingestion could have serious health effects on both children and adults – much more the former, hence the elimination of lead from things around kids, in particular paint and toys. But the fact that lead was identified nearly 40 years ago as a toxin doesn’t mean that the rules can’t change. Medicine is always updating its understanding of disease and risks to health – better testing, better lab work, better epidemiological analysis – it all adds up to better health.

But the NRA, one of our foremost medical research organizations, has decided that there’s no reason to change the rules covering lead contamination because no matter what science shows, we can’t do anything which might threaten those beloved 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ And in case you didn’t know, one of the most important 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ is the ‘right’ to make a buck selling guns and ammunition to all those guys who may be getting shipped overseas as well as the defenders of American liberty who choose to remain at home.

I actually took the trouble to read the new lead regulations being proposed in Washington State, and they are based on OSHA contamination rules which have been in existence since 1978. What has changed is the requirement that an employer who has employees working in a retail store which sells guns and ammunition or in a public range allow the employees to be tested for lead levels, which is a simple blood test that costs a few bucks.

If the employee shows a blood level higher than the OSHA standards (which are much higher than what the CDC recommends for children, by the way), then obviously there has to be follow-up, but in most cases the lead level can be reduced if employees wash their hands.

Unfortunately, the Constitution doesn’t protect clean hands. But it does protect guns.

 

 

Sorry, but walking around with a gun isn’t ‘free speech.’

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In the wake of Charlottesville our friend John Feinblatt wrote an op-ed piece last week calling for restrictions on the open carry of guns. He was obviously reacting to the dopes who showed up in their camo clothing lugging their AR-15 assault rifles which, according to Governor McAuliffe, made the local cops feel outgunned. On the other hand, insofar as Virginia is an ‘open carry’ state; i.e., the law allows folks to publicly tote guns, the cops just can’t tell someone to put their gun away.

charles             Let’s get one thing clear right now: Anyone who wants to walk around with a visible gun in an open-carry jurisdiction can say that he wants everyone to know he’s carrying a gun, he may also say that he’s carrying the gun because he likes to carry a gun. Fine. But if he says he’s carrying the gun because he wants to protect himself against crime or help keep the peace, then he better make sure that he only uses that gun if he’s attacked by someone else. And this is where the situation in Charlottesville gets a little confused, because the only people who suffered any serious physical damage, up to the point of loss of life, were people protesting the fact that some of the neo-Nazi and white supremacist supporters of their President were walking around with guns.

And I really think that in the interests of honesty, full disclosure and an attempt to sort out right from wrong, it’s time to quit indulging the alt-white in their bullshit about how they showed up recently in Charlottesville, Boston, Austin and a few other spots demonstrating in favor of free speech.  There’s no question that the 1st Amendment gives these jerks the right to march down the street with Nazi banners in hand. But the idea that a political movement which venerates Adolf Hitler would ever become a beacon of free expression is about as likely as the possibility that Fox News would ever be fair and balanced.

I agree with John Feinblatt that open carry is an invitation to violence or worse. But I think there might be a quick and easy solution whenever a so-called citizen’s ‘militia’ announces their intention to show up at a public meeting schlepping their guns. They can be told that their presence in or near the event will be illegal if they show up armed. And despite what you may think, such a temporary ban doesn’t violate their 2nd-Amendment rights at all.

Why? Because until and unless another gun case comes before the Supreme Court, right now the Constitution protects the right of Americans to keep a handgun in the home. That’s all it does. And the fact that this state or that state gives out permits allowing residents to take the guns out of their homes doesn’t mean that such licensing has any kind of Constitutional authority behind it.  In fact, it does not.

Eugene Volokh is a noted Constitutional scholar at UCLA who has championed many of the legal cases removing or reducing gun restrictions over the last number of years.  In a very detailed paper which was cited by Justice Thomas’s dissent when the Court refused to hear a challenge to California’s restrictive CCW permitting process (Peruta v. California), Volokh argues that gun bans in “places where people have a right to be” is a “substantial burden on the right to bear arms for self-defense.”

There’s only one little problem. The Heller decision limited where and how a gun can be used for self-defense, and it didn’t grant any Constitutional protection to someone who shows up armed at a public meeting, no matter why the idiot feels like showing off his AR-15. And even if we grant Volokh’s unproven assumption that having a gun on your person no matter where you are is the best way to defend yourself from a criminal assault, that’s not what happened in Charlottesville – that’s not what happened at all.

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