Smart Guns Take A Giant Step Forward.

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The development of ‘smart’ guns has been flopping around for more than twenty years, largely because the gun industry regards the technology, with good reason, as something that might be imposed on them by the government, and if you think that any industry looks favorably at government regulation, spend some time around Wall Street and you’ll quickly discover that when it comes to government, the business community just wants to be left alone.  The gun industry faces a double whammy in this regard, because not only does the government regulate what kinds of products it can make and sell, it also regulates the behavior of gun consumers, because it sets the criteria for who can and cannot legally buy and own guns.

smart             But the long-time opposition to ‘smart’ technologies by gun makers and their supporters also reflects a more subtle but nevertheless powerful factor at work, namely, the perception created by the ‘smart gun’ community that guns are inherently a risk. Forgetting for a moment that numerous credible studies indicate that all categories of gun injury go up in households with access to guns, the gun industry has tried, with some success, to promote the idea that whatever small risk might be incurred by keeping a gun in the home, this is more than counterbalanced by the ‘fact’ that guns make us safe.  Actually, they don’t. But why quibble over facts when emotions can carry the argument any day, right?

Last year, a former NYPD officer turned State Senator and now Borough President of Brooklyn, Eric Adams, announced a ‘smart gun’ competition with a prize of one million dollars going to the team which submitted the best proposal; the entrants being connected to a college-level engineering program located in New York. Yesterday the five finalists presented their concepts to a press conference at Brooklyn’s Borough Hall, and the group from NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering walked off with the prize.

In the interests of full disclosure, as they say, Mike the Gun Guy was a member of the panel that chose the recipient student team which received the award. But it was a tough choice because all the submissions were serious, contained multiple technologies, and most of all indicated a great deal of thought and hard work. The fact that four teams did not win doesn’t mean that any of the student engineers will necessarily abandon the quest. In fact, there is no reason why the group from NYU wouldn’t profit from ideas generated by research conducted by other teams.

The truth is that making a ‘smart’ gun doesn’t mean that someone has to make a new gun. Most current handgun designs are modular, consisting of a frame, a slide, a barrel, a trigger and hammer assembly – stick the parts together like a jigsaw puzzle and, as my Uncle Ben (who was a gun maker) used to say, det’s it. If you want to add some smart technology, figure out whether you need an RFID chip or a print-reader or whatever will be used to authenticate the user and stick the components into the gun.

The real trick is not developing the technology itself, but making sure it really works. But here is where the student developers have a real advantage, because remember they are training to become engineers. And no matter what kind of engineering these students want to pursue, if it doesn’t work they might as well go back to school and learn something else. So becoming an engineer means not only designing a product, but also designing a valid test methodology which will move your idea from R&D to something sitting on a retailer’s shelf.

What safe gun development has lacked first and foremost is an industry standard which will define a safe gun and a test protocol that will validate that standard as a workable idea. The million-dollar award announced by Eric Adams is a major step in meeting those requirements which means that, yes Virginia, safe guns will appear.

What Happened To Hillary? Here’s What Happened.

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In April 1994, I drove across better than half the country and spent several hours each day listening to Rush. This was the first time I heard him and was also the first time I heard the beginnings of what we now refer to as the alt-right. The internet only sent brief messages without pictures or sound, Fox News as a cable network didn’t exist, Glenn Beck was enrolled in a sobriety program, Sean Hannity was working at a small, AM talk-show radio station in Georgia and Alex Jones was sitting in a classroom in Austin Community College twiddling his thumbs.

poster2              So here I am driving through Kansas, Nebraska and Illinois, and listening to Rush who talked endlessly about Whitewater without telling his audience that his entire story-line was picked up each day from the Whitewater coverage in the most mainstream of all mainstream publications, a.k.a., The New York Times.  The Times was obsessed with Whitewater, probably because they blew the Watergate scoop, and it was their reportage, particularly error-riddled stories written by Jeff Gerth, which provoked more than six years of government investigations that ultimately came up with nothing at all.

What was most interesting listening to Rush’s daily excoriation of possible Clinton malfeasance was what happened every time that Rush opened the phone lines and took a listener’s call. Just about every caller told Rush he was doing a ‘great’ job by exposing the Clinton’s dark side, but the real anger was directed at Hillary, not Bill. A story had just broken that Hillary cleared nearly $100,000 in commodity trading with an initial investment of $1,000 in 1978-79. Where was the story? In The New York Times. Rush never mentioned Whitewater without also talking about the commodity profits, reminding his audience that it was Hillary, not Bill, who profited from those trades. And the people who called in to voice their reactions to Rush’s daily riff always emphasized that Hillary was the villain, the evil force behind all the shady deals.

I was recalled this when I read Hillary’s new book, What Happened, which puts her back into the center of things thanks to a fifteen-city publicity tour. The book is actually about Hillary and what she likes and doesn’t like, eats and doesn’t eat, wears and doesn’t wear, along with an exhaustive list of the wonderful, talented and extraordinarily expert people who worked on her campaign. A little mistake here and there? What the hell, we’re human and we all make mistakes.

On the other hand, the chapter on the gun issue is very well done, perhaps the clearest and least self-aggrandizing section of the book. But here again, it wasn’t her, it was that damned NRA which has become “one of the most dangerous organizations in America” because Wayne-o saw Hillary as such a mortal threat.  Hillary admits that her gun-control rhetoric was particularly aimed at female voters in swing states. So how was it that in those critical swing states most of the Republican women stuck by the man?

I’ll tell you why. Because those female voters, along with many voters who switched from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016, didn’t vote against the message, they voted against the messenger who has been a toxic presence in the political arena since I started listening to Rush. I’m not sure how and why Hillary has been such an easy target for the alt-right/white, but the bottom line is when it came to going after her, the NRA couldn’t wait.

Hillary did the GVP community an important service by bringing the gun issue back out of the closet where it had been snoozing since the alleged impact of the pro-gun vote in 1994. But if we learned anything from the unthinkable success of You Know Who last year, voters are as much or more influenced by who says it than what they say.

Want to use the next election as a mechanism for promoting sensible gun regs?  Find a candidate whom the voters really like, not someone with a shopworn name.

 

 

When It Comes To The Armed Citizen, One Good Scam Deserves Another.

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Once upon a time there was an organization called the National Rifle Association, started out by two Civil War veteran officers who were concerned because most of the troops they commanded in the war didn’t know how to shoot. In those days the Federal Government built a national army by calling up militias from the states and these militias were comprised of volunteers who showed up with their own guns. So the idea behind the NRA was to prepare civilians for military duty before they were called up because we didn’t yet have a military draft and we didn’t stick new draftees in boot camps in order to teach them how to march, fire their weapons and other military things.

CG             Once we began maintaining a ‘standing’ army either with draftees or volunteers, the whole idea that we needed to train civilians in the proper use of firearms disappeared.  But just around the same time (post-1900) that hunters like Theodore Roosevelt and naturalists like George Grinnell realized that hunting was inextricably connected to conservation, America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ began combining safety training and marksmanship with sport and preservation of the outdoors as its primary goals.

These themes predominated in NRA messaging until the 1980s when open range started to disappear along with the hunters who took guns out to the country to engage in sport. In fact, the whole definition of ‘outdoor sports’ veered away from hunting and fishing to embrace hiking, camping, trekking and kayaking down a whitewater stream rather than sitting in a rowboat and casting a line into the pond.

If the gun industry and groups like the NRA hadn’t discovered a new reason to buy and own guns, there would be no gun industry.  And the new reason, as we know, is the idea of using guns for self-defense which previously had been nothing other than a marginal issue basically to justify the manufacture of the little teenie-weenie pocket guns like the Baby Browning or the 1908 Colt.

This is not the time or the place to discuss why some Americans have recently decided that the only thing which stands between their survival and complete annihilation is access to a gun.  Suffice it to say, however, that the armed-citizen subculture is invariably promoted by Gun-nut Nation and certain pro-gun sycophants as being much larger and more vibrant than it actually is (the lack of attendance at the recent concealed-carry expo in Milwaukee being a case in point.) Nevertheless, since concealed-carry appears to be the only issue that is keeping the industry alive, there’s no end to the new products being rolled out to meet market demand.

And one of those new product lines is the concealed-carry insurance program, Carry Guard, being sold by the NRA.  Today I just received an email from Carry Guard which gives me the opportunity to download a ‘free guide to lawful self-defense’ basically a come-on for selling me the insurance package that will ‘protect’ me in case I have to pull out the old banger and bang away.

The guide, written by ‘experts in the field,’ offers advice on such issues as: What to do with my gun after I shoot someone; how much should I talk to the police; what should I say to bystanders, etc.  In other words, the information in this guide is designed to protect me after I used my gun to protect me.

This guide is so stupid that either the NRA believes its members would score below the idiot level on an IQ test, or they really believe that people will always respond to any ‘free’ offer, or maybe both. If anyone spends one second considering any legal advice from anyone other than their personal attorney, then they deserve to get scammed. Which is exactly what this Carry Guard product is – a complete scam. But since the idea that walking around with a gun will protect you is simply not true, one good scam deserves another, right?

Now That Trump Wants Us All To ‘Work Together,’ Can The NRA Be Far Behind?

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One of the privileges of being a Life Endowment member of the NRA is that I get a daily email from either Chris Cox or Wayne-o asking me for dough.  You might ask, by the way, how come I give Gun-nut Nation so much dough?  It’s very simple, I like to be piss inside the tent even though I sometimes piss outside the tent anyway. But look what the boys from Fairfax will send me if I respond to this email with a check – a beautiful windbreaker embossed both with the NRA seal and the NRA-ILA logo. Just what I need to add to the pile of clothing that I will stuff into one of those supermarket bins one of these days.

NRA gift             What caught my eye about this little gift, however, wasn’t the windbreaker itself but the gear which you can load into the shirt – very interesting stuff. Hiking shoes, climbing equipment, walking sticks, a pair of binoculars and a nice outdoor tool.  What about the gun we are all supposed to be carrying when we step outside our homes? To be honest, this giveaway looks like it was prepared for people who belong to the Wilderness Society; i.e., one of those tree-hugging organizations which invariably comes out against guns. The NRA? What’s going on?

I’ll tell you what’s going on. The NRA has decided they have pushed their leadership of the alt-right about as far as they can, and like their guy in the White House, it’s time to start acting sensibly if they want to avoid being pushed out to the fringe. Notice how all of a sudden there’s no mention of the ‘failing’ New York Times? Notice how all of a sudden the ‘obstructionist’ Democrats have been replaced by Nancy and Chuck? Notice how all of a sudden Steve Bannon needs backslaps from a warmed-over Fox blabbermouth like Pat Caddell? And notice how all of a sudden all those neo-Nazis who were protecting all those Confederate statues seem to have crawled back under their rocks?

I’m not saying that Trump is done acting like an asshole and I’m certainly not saying that racism, anti-Semitism and hatred are relics of the past. What I am saying is that Trump’s approval numbers among Republicans (which are the numbers that really count) have started to edge back up slightly since he began promoting the idea that we all need to work together in order to get things done. Which is a message that won’t work if some of your most fervent supporters (read: NRA) continue to pretend that the only thing which keeps us from descending into total chaos are all those patriots marching down the street with their Confederate flags and their guns.

If I could run one concession at the annual NRA show each year it would be the concession which rents those motorized carts that people use who can’t walk. And the popularity of this concession isn’t due to the fact that so many members of Gun-nut Nation are in physical distress; it’s because you’ve never seen so many morbidly obese men and women in one location until you go to the NRA show. Believe me, if these folks use this very nice windbreaker which they will receive for responding to today’s fundraising appeal to store anything at all, it won’t be rappelling equipment or a flashlight or anything outdoorsy like that; it will be a sandwich, some potato chips, a bag of oreo cookies and a full-calorie drink.

If America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ goes back to its roots and once again becomes an organization devoted to safety, hunting and the outdoors, such a shift might cause some concerns for gun violence prevention (GVP) advocates who have lately, and with good reason, pictured the NRA as being in the vanguard of not just the alt-right, but the loony right at that.

Know what? My friends in the GVP community should always have such problems.

Want To Play A Live Video Game? Try NRA’s Carry Guard.

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Fast on the heels of their floparoo NRA Carry Guard expo in Milwaukee, the boys from Fairfax are now ramping up their promotion and huckstering of the insurance and training products that are aimed (pardon the pun) at what they believe to be the ‘armed citizen’ market whose potential will somehow make up for the fact that gun sales continue to go down.

training             The latest FBI-NICS numbers confirm that it ain’t that rosy in Gun-nut Land, with handgun and long gun background checks for August down 10% from August, 2016 and dealer sales of handguns for the first eight months of this year down more than 10% from the year before.  Meanwhile, the stock price for Smith & Wesson (oops, sorry, it’s now something called American Outdoor Brands) has now dropped to $13 bucks a share, having been up to more than $28 the day that You Know Who shocked the world by finishing in first place.

On an earnings call last week, S&W President Jim Debney announced some more bad news, saying that shipments of both long guns and handguns were way down in the last quarter and that quarterly revenue was off by 40% from the same quarter last year. Our friend John Feinblatt told The Guardian that the Springfield gun maker acquired Gemtech, an outfit which produces silencers, in order to bolster overall revenues. Let me break it to both John and Jim gently: When consumers stop buying guns, they also stop buying all the accessory crap and paraphernalia which goes along with guns.

So what do you do to boost revenues when your product market is saturated? You sell services which enhance the value or the utility of the products that are already owned. And here is where the NRA seems to be leading the pack by rolling out their new brand, Carry Guard, which so far consists of insurance protection and training for folks who want to walk around carrying a gun.

The Carry Guard insurance is advertised as ‘America’s Most Complete Self-Defense Insurance Program,’ but if you believe that hype, you probably also believe that Martians keep landing at Area 51.  Recently a writer for a concealed-carry blog posted a comparison between the Carry Guard insurance and the insurance offered by the United States Concealed Carry Association, and if the comparison is accurate, I can only say that the NRA product basically offers a lot less and costs more. The Carry Guard program also gives you ‘access’ to the training program but anyone can sign up for the ‘gold standard’ training courses whether you buy the insurance or not.

And what exactly are these new training courses? Here’s what they say: “The mission of the NRA Carry Guard instructors is to provide the skills, education and training necessary for today’s changing conflict space.” Would someone please explain the phrase ‘today’s changing conflict space?’  Are they talking about all those antifa people who are going to assault you while you’re strolling down the street?

You can sign up for a three-day, live-fire course which costs $850 but you must bring 1,500 rounds of ammo which will run another $300 or more. First you learn the ‘fundamentals,’ such as stance, grip, holster draw, sight alignment, blah, blah, blah. Then after shooting your 1,500 rounds (that’s 100 hi-cap magazines over 3 days) you get to play some ‘real world’ training scenarios with Airsoft guns (those are toys, by the way.) In other words, over a long weekend you’ll progress from a complete novice to an expert at protecting yourself with a gun, right?  See how well your hands hold up.

The NRA started as a training organization and as a trainer certified in six, different NRA specialties I can tell you that when it comes to defining how to shoot a gun safely, America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ has it down pat. But Carry Guard isn’t training, it’s video gaming with live guns. What do you expect, now that the video-game generation has come of age?

 

 

 

Do Gun Shows Promote Neo-Nazi Beliefs?

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Now that President Trump has decided to become a Democrat, you can’t tell me that the boys in Fairfax ever imagined they would fork over $30 million in television advertising to help elect a guy who then would turn right around and cut deals with ‘Chuck’ and ‘Nancy,’ two Democrats who have to rank at the very top of the list of politicians who are anti-gun..

On the other hand, you might want to stop shedding tears for the NRA and consider instead what Trump’s political pivot means to the other side. Because as long as the gun violence prevention (GVP) community has an unregenerate racist, fascist, white supremacist and all-around apostle of gun ownership sitting in the Oval Office they can always rally the troops around the idea that the worst is yet to come.

And the worst might be the pictures from Charlottesville of a rag-tag bunch walking down the main street, displaying Nazi banners, yelling anti-Semitic slurs and, of course, carrying guns. So now, thanks to the stupid Dana Loesch videos designed to appeal to the most infantile mentalities among us, we have a new narrative for GVP opinion-makers, namely, that guns promote not just gun violence, but the most extreme political views imaginable, in particular the agenda of the neo-Nazi gang.

The latest version of this cockamamie idea was a kerfuffle that broke out in a Westchester County suburb of New York City, where a gun show held in January featured some tables with Nazi ‘memorabilia,’ including copies of Mein Kampf, some flags, uniforms and probably some allegedly ‘original’ helmets and knives. Another stink was raised when residents of Saratoga Springs learned that the annual gun show in their town was going to feature an exhibit of what is claimed to be Adolph Hitler’s desk. The offensive exhibit was most upsetting to members of the Jewish synagogue, Temple Sinai, who helped organize a pro-immigration rally in Saratoga on August 24th.

To bolster the idea that gun shows are a particularly fruitful venue for recruiting membership in neo-Nazi and alt-right/white groups, the promoters of this narrative invariably turn to the research of Garen Wintemute, who claims to have visited 78 gun shows in 19 states mostly between 2005 and 2008.  Regarding the presence of far-right materials and products, Wintemute found a ‘high prevalence” of neo-Nazi materials at gun shows, but he also found that ”most vendors at general-purpose gun shows do not sell guns. Ammunition, parts and accessories, ammunition magazines, body armor, knives, and books on related topics are routinely on display.”

Tying gun shows to Trump campaign rhetoric which inflamed the most unregenerate DF’s among us to crawl out from underneath their rocks may be a good way to stir the passions of the gun violence prevention crowd, but it flies in the face of what guns shows are all about. I went to the Saratoga show back in the 1990s and Nazi, Japanese and American military memorabilia was all over the place. One vendor with a Nazi exhibit this year? Back then you would find twenty vendors selling all kinds of Nazi crap like helmets, bayonets, uniforms, books and flags because there were still a lot of WWII vets around and many of them liked guns.

Time marches on, the old army veterans are almost all gone, but how come the good folks from Temple Sinai never complained when vendors selling Nazi crap were all over the place in previous years? The truth is that the Mount Sinai congregants form their views about Gun-nut Nation based on narratives produced by the GVP, and in this case those narratives are simply wrong. Jewish and other Saratoga residents never cared about whether there was a gun show in their town. What they now care about, and for good reason, is an upsurge in anti-Semitism which Trump has fostered since he emerged on the national political scene. And that’s a much different issue than being worried about guns.

 

He’s In Pittsburgh!

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Here’s the latest news about Demetri’s walk and let’s not forget to help him with a donation.

 

The event in Pittsburgh was co-sponsored by CeaseFirePA.  A great group. Learn about their work here.

 

 

 

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