Dave Buchannon – Guns And The Media.

I hate to be the one to break the news to you… but everything you see about guns on television, in movies, and video games is a lie.  EVERYTHING!

gun moviesTelevision and movie stories are born in the writer’s mind and are designed to spin a tale that compels you to buy a ticket or stay-tuned to see the commercials.  Actors portray the story on the screen.  Rarely do the writers or actors have any experience with guns, the military, or police work – other than getting a ticket or being arrested.  So, how DO they get it wrong?

Empty Holster Syndrome

Pick any police show on TV in the last ten years.  Every time the good cop shoots the bad guy, the cop gets back in the car and goes right back to work chasing other bad guys while someone else cleans up the mess.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

The real-life cop is met by the first responding supervisor who takes the cop’s gun away and leaving him standing there, all alone, with an empty holster.  The location of the incident is now a crime scene and the officer is the suspect in an investigation that may take several months to conclude.  Every police department, large or small, has written procedures for dealing with use of deadly force and none of them involve putting the officer involved back on the street the same day.  The State Police, District Attorney’s office, maybe even the U.S. Attorney and private consulting firms will take at least a month to review every aspect of a decision the cop made in a split second, all while the cop on administrative leave.  Oh, and the scripts conveniently leave out the part about the cop having to hire a lawyer to protect his house, savings, and retirement from the wrongful death lawsuit that is guaranteed to be brought by the deceased’s family.

I’ve never met a cop that went to work hoping to shoot someone – they are weeded out in the psych exams.  Most are men and women wanting to do a job they consider valuable, and who hope to just go home safely at the end of their shift.

Rules of Engagement

TV and movie “soldiers” fast rope from helicopters into impossibly dangerous situations where they always shoot the enemy before the bad guy gets off a shot.  Then the heroes silently enter a building to kill all the other bad guys without hurting the hostages.  Every mission is a success and the stars come home secret heroes because, of course, their missions are top secret.

Reality is quite different.  Soldiers follow ”Rules of Engagement” defining when force may be used.  They must be defending themselves or innocents before firing on the enemy and in some cases “lawyers” make the call while watching a mission unfold on a drone feed.  Many veterans who’ve engaged in close quarters battle are deeply affected and will carry those emotional scars for life.

 So, if you are thinking about carrying a gun for personal protection don’t use TV or movie examples as your model.  You also need to need to wrap your head around what happens if, God forbid, you are ever forced to use it.  I’ve known six police officers who had to use deadly force to save their own or other’s lives.  All were very deeply affected, they became Police Academy instructors so others could learn from their experience and learn how to effectively deal with the aftermath.

In a deadly force incident everyone loses, and you’ll never see THAT on TV or in a movie.

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Don’t Forget That Guns Are Different From Every Other Product That I Can Buy.

If there’s one thing that makes guns different from every other consumer product, it’s that the damn things just don’t wear out. And this lack of product obsolescence, planned or otherwise, impacts every aspect of the gun business and should alert my friends in the gun violence prevention (GVP) community to be careful when they promote policies and strategies that have worked to lessen risk and injury from other consumer products (ex. automobiles) but won’t necessarily work when it comes to guns.

westinghouse             I own a Colt 1911 pistol that was manufactured in 1919.  The finish is perfect and it works flawlessly. I even have about 10 rounds of 45acp ammunition made in 1920 by the Remington factory in Bridgeport, CT in the original 20-round box which was shipped with the gun as a promotion and the ammo still works too. In other words, I am still using a consumer product that was made and first sold almost one whole century ago!

How many cell phones have I owned in the past 15 years? Probably at least ten. How many new cars have I purchased in the past 15 years?  I’m on my fifth one.  How many bags of potato chips have I consumed in the last month?  I’d rather not say.  The point is that virtually everything we purchase either wears out or is consumed and therefore has to be replaced. And the companies which make those cell phones, those t-shirts, those crummy I-Pads and everything else know that if they can get me to buy their product for the first time, they are usually looking at repeat business for the remainder of my life.

Not true with guns.  Last year our friends at Harvard and Northeastern made the astounding discovery that roughly 3% of all Americans owned roughly half of the privately-owned guns. Which works out to an average of 17 guns apiece. But if you buy your first gun in your 20’s and now you’re in your mid-50’s, which happens to be the average age of gun owners today, this works out to a gun purchase every other year.  Which is basically the same rate at which I have purchased a laptop – one every other year. But the laptops are junk, so is my droid, so is my GPS.  They all break or simply one day don’t work.  Guns don’t break.

About five miles from my office is the rubble of a factory, Westinghouse New England, which was built in 1915 and produced nearly 1 million Moisin-Nagant rifles that were supposed to be shipped to Russia during World War I. Then something known as the Bolshevik Revolution occurred, the whole deal went south, and the U.S. government which had paid for the tooling was stuck with the bill. The Feds ended up selling off the rifles as surplus guns to civilians for three bucks apiece. I happen to own one of those guns and it shoots just fine. The factory is rubble.  See the pic above. Get it?

Gun makers have never figured out how to overcome the fact that unless your product needs to be replaced on a regular basis, sooner or later you’ll go broke.  The good news is that every other Presidential administration since FDR has tried in one way or another to get rid of guns. And the political effort to regulate (read: prohibit) gun ownership has become, for the gun business, what product obsolescence is for everything else that we own.

I don’t blame the gun industry for inventing the idea that a gun can protect its owner from crime. Because at least criminal behavior is a constant factor which never seems to go away. So if gun makers can make people believe they should buy this particular product because it’s an effective way to deal with crime, at least there’s a chance that sales won’t collapse even if the current Administration has no plans to take away the guns.

Thomas Gabor–The Myth of the Benefits of an Armed Citizenry.

Following the slaughter of elementary school children in Newtown (CT), Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the National Rifle Association, stated: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”  This statement was not only highly insensitive in removing the focus from the children and their grieving families, but was also cynical and dishonest, as LaPierre suggested that arming school staff was the only way to avoid such slaughters.  Every other advanced country has figured out a way to protect their children without turning schools into armed fortresses.

armedConsider the logic of arguing that more guns will reduce incidents of gun violence.  It is like saying that the best solution to opiate addiction is to make opiates more accessible or that our best means of tackling an influenza epidemic is to expose more people to the agent involved.

Following America’s worst church mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, much was made by gun rights advocates about the confrontation of the shooter by an armed resident as he left the church and the pursuit by truck of the shooter by the resident and another individual.  The church shooting was not stopped by the armed man but it has been claimed that the perpetrator may have harmed others had the armed citizen not intervened.  That is an unknown but the large-scale shooting (26 killed, 20 wounded) occurred before the armed resident became involved.

Previous incidents illustrate how infrequently armed private citizens intervene successfully to stop a shooting.   An FBI study of 160 active shooter incidents from 2000-2013 found that just one of these incidents was stopped by an armed civilian. By contrast, 21 incidents were resolved when unarmed individuals restrained or confronted the shooter.  Louis Klarevas, author of Rampage Nation, examined potential and actual mass shootings from 1966 to 2015 and found that just one twentieth of one percent (about one in every 2,000 cases) is successfully stopped by an armed civilian.

 

If arming civilians produced a net benefit with regard to public safety, we would expect places with more guns to have fewer crimes.  The US has about 90 civilian-owned guns per 100 people, the largest civilian arsenal on the planet.  At the same time, the US stands alone among high-income countries with a gun homicide rate that is 25 times that of the aggregated rate for other high-income countries. This pattern is repeated at the state level where states with higher levels of gun ownership tend to have more, not fewer, gun deaths.  In the five states with the highest gun death rates, half of all homes own a gun.  In the five states with the lowest gun death rates, just one in 7 homes owns a gun.

 

Each year, 90,000 US households are interviewed in the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS).  This survey, which does not cover homicides or suicides for obvious reasons, reveals about a half million gun crimes a year.  In addition, based on surveys of the prevalence of domestic violence, there are likely several hundred thousand gun threats each year against targeting domestic partners and other family members.  If the number is 200,000 (a conservative figure), the total number of harmful gun uses a year is in the 750,000 range.  The NCVS finds that the annual number of defensive gun uses against attackers is under 50,000.  Therefore, criminal and other harmful uses of guns likely outnumber defensive uses by a ratio of at least 15:1.

 

David Hemenway and Sara Solnick of Harvard used NCVS data to see examine the frequency and consequences of defensive gun uses in 14,000 personal contact crimes committed when the victim was present.  They found that fewer than one percent (.9%) used a gun in self-defense. They also found that using a gun for protection, as opposed to taking some other protective action, did not diminish the chances that a victim would incur an injury.

 

Genuine defensive gun uses are not just infrequent; gun carrying raises the risks of deadly mistakes and confusion during active-shooter incidents.  On July 7, 2016, an individual opened fire and killed five Dallas police officers.  The officers were on duty to provide security at a demonstration in which the killing of African-American men was being protested.  About 20-30 open-carry activists were also on the scene, carrying assault weapons and wearing fatigues and body armor.  Police Chief Brown stated that the armed individuals impeded the law enforcement response as they created confusion as to who the shooter was and whether there were multiple shooters.

 

Another side effect of an increase in gun carrying is more gun thefts from cars.  These thefts are skyrocketing—2-3.5 million firearms have been stolen in the last decade– and they are more commonplace in states in which more people carry firearms outside the home.  States in the South (e.g., Texas, Georgia, and Florida) with the most permissive gun laws are overrepresented among states with the largest number of guns stolen between 2012 and 2015.

 

Currently, 12 states do not require a permit to carry a firearm and this list has been growing.  Even in states requiring a permit, the vetting and training of permit applicants do not even approach the standards for law enforcement officers.  Since May 2007, concealed carry permit holders have killed more than 1100 people and have committed many other crimes, including 31 mass shootings and 19 police officer killings.

 

Joseph Vince is a former agent with the ATF for 27 years and is one of the leading experts on firearms and gun-related crime.  He and his associates state that for a citizen to carry a firearm, training should include mental preparation, knowledge of the law, judgment, as well as expertise and familiarity with firearms. They recommend basic initial training to receive a permit and biannual recertification to maintain the permit.  Both training and recertification should consist of decision-making during real-life scenarios, shooting accuracy in stressful situations, and firing range practice.

 

While half the states require some firearms training in relation to an application for a gun carry permit, most of the features emphasized by Vince et al. are seriously lacking in most states.  For example, Florida law does not specify the content of these courses, only the qualifications necessary for instructors.  There is no test for retention of the information covered about the law or the handling of a firearm, no test of marksmanship—a few shots are fired down the range or into a barrel—and no training with regard to judgment (when to shoot and not to shoot), no recertification, just an online renewal every 7 years.

 

Pete Blair trains law enforcement personnel to respond to active shooter situations.  Real-world scenarios prepare police officers for high-stress situations. Blair notes that one would expect people without training to “freeze up or not know what to do, and to have difficulty performing actions correctly.”  Research and police records show that even trained police officers miss their targets more often than they hit them during stressful combat situations.   Several analyses show that, in combat situations, trained officers miss the mark more than 80 % of the time.

 

Harmful and criminal uses of guns outnumber genuine defensive uses by a wide margin.  The average violent attack is over in 3 seconds.  Poor training makes it unlikely that a civilian without police or military training will use a gun successfully against an attacker and makes deadly mistakes more likely.  Poor vetting means that individuals who pose a serious risk to the public may gain access to arms through legal channels.  Yet the gun lobby and a certain segment of gun owners keeps trying to sell the fable of the armed citizen.  The evidence is clear that arming the average citizen seriously undermines public safety.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Khal Spencer Writes A Poem.

deer1Sitting quietly in the woods
Warmly dressed in blaze orange goods
Listening, observing, watching for that fleeting shape to appear

Out of nowhere I hear the familiar, cautious sound of crunching leaves
A face comes into view through the trees
It’s a four-pointer

As I raise the Ithaca to my eyes
The Williams receiver sight showing the deer through the trees
Not a good shot yet

The deer stops, uncertain
I hold my aim, waiting for it to show itself from the brushes’ curtain
But the deer freezes

It takes a step back, wary
I think I see a clear shot through a small clearing
A single shot rings out, the deer stumbles

Damn. A single small branch flies apart
The deer instead of dying has a shattered limb
It crashes into a ravine in a loud, long din

It takes me a while to reach his side
He is terrified, wounded, unable to rise
Writhing with terrified, wide eyes
Two final shots at a thrashing neck and his demise

I was stunned, shaken
At my bad shot taken
No animal should have to die in such a state
That was the last time I raised my rifle a life to take

A Must-Read Poetry Volume About Guns.

I have just finished reading a new and arresting poetry collection, Bullets and Bells, which according to the writer of the book’s Introduction, Colum McCann, is an attempt to use poetry as a vehicle “to start talking to one another, not with a legion of sound bites and statistics but with human texture and longing to at least lessen, if not eradicate, the violence that afflicts us.” The volume will be coming to your favorite bookseller next week.

bullet book             I am certainly no expert when it comes to poetry, so I certainly accept the editors’ judgements that poets like Billy Collins, Patricia Smith, Natalie Diaz, Robert Hass and 50 others represent the best of the best. On the other hand, I applaud the work and advocacy of the activists, public figures and gun-violence survivors who contributed commentaries following each verse. I read the poems as someone who can enjoy such works in a rather simple and emotional way; the commentaries from Shannon Watts, Dan Gross, Donna Dees-Thomases, et. al., are about what I would expect.

I couldn’t agree more that we need to find a way to create some kind of universal language or a set of expressions that will allow everyone to talk about guns and gun violence without the discussion invariably degenerating into a ‘you’re wrong, I’m right’ squabble from which nobody ever emerges with anything beyond their own ideas more strongly reinforced. And to the extent that artistic expression – music, poetry, painting – is universal, maybe there’s some truth to the idea that through something like poetic expressions about guns we might reach a common ground.

But with all due respect to the editors of this volume, I found the poetry collection incomplete. Because if the editors truly believe that a “vast majority of the people in this country feel the exact same way about one thing: they abhor violence,” then how come there isn’t a single poem written by someone who likes guns? It may be difficult for the gun violence prevention (GVP) community to believe what I am about to say, but the truth is that, generally speaking, gun owners do not feel any kind of responsibility for the 120,000 deaths and injuries which occur each year with guns. And more to the point, most of them also believe that their gun protects them from the violence committed by others.

Two weekends from now I am going to drive to a local gun show which is held in West Springfield, MA four times a year. The location for this show happens to be about one mile from the neighborhood across the Connecticut River in Springfield which has an incidence of gun violence equal to or above any other neighborhood on Planet Earth. If I were to walk up to someone at the show and ask whether he believed there was a connection between what was going on at this gun show and the people who would get shot in the South End of Springfield over the following several days, the guy would give me the deer-in-the-headlights look; he wouldn’t comprehend the question at all.

So in the interests of helping the editors of this fine, little volume, I have penned a brief series of couplets describing guns from a gun-owner’s perspective, and if the editors of Bullets and Bells decide to publish a second edition, perhaps they will include my verse as well:

Held my first gun when I was six years old, toy gun but I loved it just the same.
Wore it in my little leather holster, knew I was just playing a game.

Got my first real gun when I was twelve, gave a swamp rat in the Florida Glades fifty bucks.
A beautiful, Smith & Wesson K-38 revolver, great-uncle took it away – the memory really sucks.

Once I bought every Colt 1911 pistol model ever made stuck them in a closet, played with them once or twice.
Wanted to buy a bike after my divorce, the Colts more than met the Harley price.

Still have plenty of guns lying around, the wife sometimes looks in a closet and gives out a sigh.
She’ll never understand I’ll be a gun nut until the day I die.

Want To Make A Million In The Gun Business? Start With Two Million.

If you decided to invest in the stock market on June 15, the Dow that day stood at 21,359. The day after Thanksgiving it closed at 23,557. In other words, just about any stock you would have bought in June was probably up at least 10% over the following five months. Unless you made the mistake of buying Smith & Wesson stock, which was selling for $24 on June 15 and closed on November 24 at $13 a share. You would have done a little better with Sturm, Ruger, which was at $68 a share in mid-June and ended last week at $50, a nosedive of ‘only’ 25 percent.
stock prices

Talk about a Black Friday! The old joke used to be that if you wanted to make a million in the gun business, start with two million. That old joke seems to be coming true in spades! But if that’s the case, and I thank our good buddy Shaun Dakin for pointing this out, how come the FBI-NICS background check system set a new, single-day record for the number of received calls? They claim they were ‘flooded’ with 203,086 calls on Friday, which broke the single-day record of calls – 185,713 – set on Black Friday in 2016.
Before all my friends in the gun violence prevention (GVP) community start lamenting that America is once again becoming awash with guns, let’s remember that on average, more than 40% of the calls received by NICS are for license verifications, private sales and other issues which have nothing to do with the over-the-counter movement of guns. And when the FBI publishes their total monthly stats for November, I’ll take the short odds that retail gun sales will continue to show the same 15% slide that has been going on all year.
Want to see a really great investment opportunity in guns? Add some corporate debt bonds issued by Remington Arms, which has dropped from $65 to $14 over the last six weeks. And it appears that this trend will not only continue but may get worse, with Remington broadly hinting that a default on their debt may not be far behind. And the reason why their bonds are turning into junk is the same reason that prices for Ruger and S&W stock continue to fall, namely, that nobody’s buying their guns.
Incidentally, Remington happens to be the ‘flagship’ company for an outfit known as the Freedom Group, which was the brainchild of an amateur gun nut named Steve Feinberg who cobbled Remington together with Bushmaster, DPMS, Marlin and a couple of smaller companies to create what was described as the leading “innovator, designer, manufacturer and marketer of guns and ammunition” anywhere, anytime, anyplace. I’m quoting from the press release for what was supposed to be a big $200 million IPO in 2010. Now they can’t pay off their $275 million debt. Oh well, oh well.
I don’t follow the ins and outs of the stock market but I do know something about the price of guns. Right now I can buy a Smith & Wesson Shield pistol from Bud’s Gun Shop for $299. I can buy the same gun from the Grab-A-Gun website for $279. I’ll have to pay my local dealer a few bucks to do the transfer, but a year ago that gun was selling for $379. I can pick up a Ruger AR-15 for under 600 bucks; that man-killer used to sell for $899 or more.
In my lifetime I remember when every, single American kitchen had a Mixmaster next to the stove. I also remember when I first put my hands on the keyboard of an electric typewriter made by IBM. If the stock prices of S&W and Ruger continue to slide, those company names will wind up like Studebaker, Philco and Trump Air. Remember something called a pay phone?

 

The New Poster-Girl For Concealed Carry.

     I knew it was only a matter of time until Sarah Palin would try to salvage what’s left of her tattered political career by stooping to the lowest common denominator and appealing to the concealed-carry crowd.  And when you stop top think about it, what better way to make a headline then by combining the idea of armed, self-defense with the current media frenzy about sexual harassment in the workplace, the public park and just about everywhere else?

palin     Palin shot her wad yesterday in an interview with a reporter from MSNBC following a meeting in the U.S. Capitol with Rand Paul.  God knows what those two jerks are cooking up; probably an alt-right/white national ticket for 2020 now that Trump appears to have lost whatever claims he once had to represent the populist-nationalist-racist rantings of Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Roy Moore.

There’s no way that Palin’s comment, “a whole lot of people know I’m probably packing so I don’t think there’s a whole lot of people who would necessarily mess with me,” wasn’t rehearsed over the last couple of weeks. Because her PR firm knew that sooner or later the media would be so desperate to continue pushing the sexual harassment angle that they would get around to her. And notice how she repeats the phrase ‘whole lot of people’ just to make sure that: a) everyone knows how dumb she pretends to be; and, b) everyone else who is ‘packing’ can feel a real kinship with her.

This attempt to build some kind of special, personal relationship based on concealed-carry has been the stock-in-trade of every huckster and merchandiser who wants to promote some kind of product or service to the population that really believes they are protecting themselves by walking around with a gun.  It’s called ‘tribal marketing,’ and it’s based on the idea that consumers are linked together because of a shared belief about a particular brand. And in this case the brand is the ‘armed citizen,’ a phrase actually trademarked by the NRA, which has now been spun off into insurance, clothing, and of course, guns.

Take a look at Palin’s website. Prominently displayed is an ad for the Concealed Carry Association of America along with a ‘Free Guide To Choosing Your Best Concealed Carry Handgun,’ also courtesy of the CCAA.  Her website drew slightly less than 2 million visits over the last 30 days, so it’s not like her jumbled message about love, faith, God, and everything else is reaching any kind of a big crowd. All the more reason why she’s run the concealed-carry message up the media flagpole and hoping for a big response.

Here’s the real problem with using a celebrity like Palin to promote concealed-carry as a lifestyle kind of brand. You can’t carry a gun around unless you actually own a gun. And as gun sales continue to slide under Trump and the number of households containing a gun also seems to be on a steady decline, convincing more Americans that a gun may protect them may work in terms of public opinion, but it won’t help gun makers sell more guns.

WISHING EVERYONE A WONDERFUL AND SAFE HOLIDAY!