FIX NICS? Not A Bad Idea.

              The Mountain Shakes and Out Comes A Mouse ~ AESOP’S FABLES.

Is this how we should view the ‘FIX NICS’ bill introduced in the Senate today sponsored by Senators Murphy (D-CT) and John Cornyn (R-TX), the latter who’s also shepherding the national CCW-reciprocity bill through Congress and onto Trump’s Oval Office desk?

NICS

Or perhaps we should refer to this bill as ‘Better Late Than Never’ because it plugs some holes in a process which is only twenty-five years old.

Figures that the Wise Men and Women of the U.S. Senate would come up with something after the recent spate of mass shootings which seem to be breaking out with almost weekly regularity after almost a year’s peace and quiet following the inauguration of You-Know-Who. And by the way, don’t think for one second that John Cornyn didn’t get his marching orders from the folks he represents who work in Fairfax, VA even though he’s supposedly the senior senator from the Lone Star State. Because what the NRA doesn’t want their Faithful to know is that they have quietly supported laws which strip domestic abusers of their guns in Oregon, South Carolina, Wisconsin and several other states.

In short, what the Cornyn-Murphy bill creates is a process that will providing funding to states which develop and implement a better fail-safe system for sending relevant information to FBI-NICS, and also require the Justice Department to evaluate the extent to which every federal agency (read: Department of Defense), and state meets the compliance goals.  It also creates a new program which (I quote from the Press Release which accompanied the bill makes sure that, “states have adequate resources and incentives to share all relevant information with NICS showing that a felon or domestic abuser is excluded from purchasing firearms under current law.”

The phrase, ‘under current law’ obviously refers to the questions which must be answered prior to a background check by everyone who walks into a gun store and buys a gun. If you reply in the affirmative to any of these questions about your legal background, you fall into what is called a ‘prohibited category’ and in theory, the FBI will find you in their database and the purchase or transfer will be denied.  The whole point of the FIX-NICS law is to make sure that every jurisdiction sends forward all the information in their possession to keep the names of all ‘prohibited person’ accurate and up to date.

Generally speaking, you cannot get a gun if you are “under indictment or have ever been convicted in any court for a felony, or any other crime for which a judge could imprison you for more than one year.  You also are a ‘prohibited person’ if you have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.  But here’s where things get tricky. The NICS approval goes through if you were convicted of a misdemeanor other than domestic violence punishable by ‘’two years or less.”  And how many state felonies are plea bargained down to misdemeanors?  Plenty.

The good news about this bill is that any time the word gets around Gun Land that the government is ‘cracking down,’ don’t ask me how, don’t ask me why, but people become more serious about complying with the law.  I’m not saying that gun owners aren’t law-abiding. Of course they are. But if you live in state which doesn’t require a background check for a private gun sale, all of a sudden the number of such checks starts going up. If you have lots of guns lying around the house, maybe you buy a safe and start locking the bangers away.

The FIX-NICS won’t put the fear of God into anyone who wants to use a gun in an illegal or improper way. But it does bring government back into the issue of gun safety, and that is exactly where the government belongs.

 

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Do You Know How To Use A Gun To Protect Yourself From Crime?

Even though I write for Huffington Post, I have to admit that The Guardian frequently carries writing about guns and gun violence which should be read.  In fact, for several years they ran a superb open-source compilation about police use of lethal force, which my friend Frank Zimring used for a very important book on cops and shootings which also should be read.

ccw             Now The Guardian has announced a new effort, Break the Cycle, a series designed “to change the way the media covers American gun violence – and to challenge the orthodoxy that gun reform is a hopeless pursuit.” To that end, the very first story covers what The Guardian calls “ten recent victories in gun violence prevention,” most of which are of too recent vintage to determine whether these new initiatives will make a difference or not. But even if the jury is still out on whether or not such programs and laws will reduce the violence suffered from guns, at least the fear that all gun-control activity will wither and die during the Age of Trump appears to be misplaced.

I’m beginning to consider the possibility, in fact, that the defeat of Hillary, who based much of her campaign narrative on gun-control themes, may actually turn out to be a more positive event for the gun violence prevention (GVP) movement than if she had won.  Her victories in the several swing states she needed to grab the necessary 270 electoral votes would not have turned the Congress from red to blue, and facing the same hostile Congressional lineup that blocked Obama after his first two years would probably would have doomed any substantial gun legislation from moving ahead. On the other hand, one can argue that absent a Republican in the Oval Office that some of the crazy, pro-gun bills like national concealed-carry, would also never see the light of day.

But sometimes adversity becomes the incubator for new and compelling ideas, and the policy brief issued this morning by The Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research represents just such an effort to focus our attention on work which needs to be done. The report, Concealed Carry of Firearms; Facts Versus Fiction, covers the arguments used to justify national concealed-carry (CCW) reciprocity, and then gives a balanced and evidence-based analysis of each. The text begins with a summary of CCW laws currently in force throughout the 50 states: no CCW licensing requirements in 12 states, and a CCW license must be automatically granted in 30 other states if one meets the legal requirements for simply owning a gun. In 1986 there were 9 states that did not impose any CCW requirements if one passed a background check – now that number has climbed to 42.

I wouldn’t be so adamantly opposed to national CCW were it not for the fact that what this means is the current issuance of CCW in many states without any kind of training at all will now become an accepted norm in every state. Not that jurisdictions which require a pre-licensing gun course impose anything except the most slipshod and useless qualification process, and once you demonstrate that you actually know the difference between the stock and the barrel you never have to certify your ability again.

I’m not surprised when folks tell me that a gun will make protect them from crime, even if evidence-based research indicates otherwise. After all, emotions usually trump facts, even when we think we are using valid evidence to figure something out. But the continued drumbeat by Gun-nut Nation and the NRA to make people believe that using a gun for personal defense without continuous, qualification-based and mandated (i.e., required) training is just another attempt to appeal to the lowest mental denominator when it comes to talking about guns. The organization which was founded as a training organization in 1871 should be at the forefront of an effort to tell everyone how useless this national CCW legislation will be.

              I thank the Bloomberg gun-grabbers for this fine report.

 

 

Who Owns All The Guns? We Don’t Really Know.

One of the long-standing issues in the gun debate has been to calculate the number of guns actually floating around the United States.  This is an important number, if only because public health researchers have published very credible research which indicates that our elevated gun-violence numbers are directly related to a civilian gun arsenal which may now number more than 300 million guns.

traffic            We have a pretty good idea about the number of guns added to the civilian stash over the last 25 years thanks to the manufacturing reports published by the ATF.  And while this report is based on the number of guns made, not the number which the gun makers actually sell, it’s not necessarily an accurate number, but for purposes of this column it will do.  Since 1998 we also know more or less exactly how many new guns move into private hands thanks to the monthly background check numbers published by the FBI.

The real problem in coming up with a valid number for the total stock of guns is twofold: first, we have no idea how many guns that were manufactured between 1900 and 1990 were actually sold, and we also don’t know how many guns that were sold between 1900 and today are still floating around. Guns last a long time, that’s for sure. But they also break, they get lost, they get thrown away after Grandpa dies and Grandma moves into the nursing home; counting the civilian ‘gun stock’ is an inexact science at best.

Our friends at Harvard and Northeastern have recently come up with a pretty solid number based on the survey they conducted which at some point will be published by Russell Sage. Their current number is 265 million, which they derived by estimating overall totals from answers to their survey, then deducting a percentage for loss, wear and tear. Until some research group comes up with a new approach to figuring out the size of America’s gun arsenal, I’m content to stick with what the Harvard-Northeastern group would like to believe.

On the other hand, believe or not, if we are trying to understand the cause and effect relationship between the number of guns that are privately owned and the 115,000+ deaths and injuries caused by guns every year, I am yet to be persuaded that figuring out the number of guns in civilian hands is the right way to go. Because although 115,000 gun deaths and injuries is a shockingly-high number, it happens to represent a tiny fraction of the number of people who either own guns or put guns to the wrong use. And moreover, at least 80% of those deaths and injuries occur because someone shoots a handgun at themselves or someone else.

In addition to trying to figure out handgun ownership as opposed to ownership of all guns, there’s another problem which makes any attempt to develop public policies based on restricting or diminishing the number of privately-owned guns a risky business at best. At least two-thirds of the gun deaths and injuries that occur every year are criminal events, and even with our elevated gun-suicide rates, if gun crimes didn’t occur, our overall gun-violence rate would be no higher than the rest of the OECD.

How many of these 75,000 or more homicides and aggravated assaults are committed with ‘illegal’ guns? How many people possess a gun even though they cannot, under law, put their hands on a gun?  We have absolutely no idea. The NRA doesn’t miss an opportunity to consign all gun violence to ‘street thugs,’ but the truth is that we have no evidence-based research which necessarily proves the Boys from Fairfax to be wrong.

We have a pretty good idea about how many guns are legally owned – the information is found in all those FBI-NICS forms that everyone who buys a gun from a dealer has to fill out. But if we want to reduce gun violence, shouldn’t we try and learn something about the gun owners who don’t fill out those forms?

 

Thomas Gabor – How Did the Las Vegas Gunman Get His Hands on a Weapon of War?

On Sunday night in Las Vegas, a shooter opened fire on a concert from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay resort with what appeared to be an assault weapon. This is a devastating tragedy, and one that has unfortunately become a trend in the U.S.: There has been an average of one mass shooting a day in 2017 (defined as four or more people shot, excluding the shooter). This incident has eclipsed all previous mass shootings in U.S. history, as there are already 58 people dead and hundreds wounded.

LVWhat kind of weapon is capable of inflicting so many casualties, from such a distance, in a matter of 10 to 15 minutes? While we don’t know where the gunman got his weapons and precise information on them has not been disclosed, based on reports of the rate of fire, they were likely either semiautomatic or fully automatic assault weapons. Semiautomatic assault weapons (whose trigger must be pulled to fire each round) have a rate of fire of over 100 rounds a minute. These weapons were banned from 1994 to 2004 under what is commonly referred to as the “assault weapon ban,” and are now readily available for sale in all but six states. There are reports that the shooter might have fired an automatic weapon (one just presses the trigger and the weapon keeps firing until it is released), which can fire up to a thousand rounds a minute. These weapons are tightly regulated. Regardless of the rate of fire, many of these weapons can pierce a soldier’s helmet from a distance of 500 yards.

More than half of the deadliest mass shootings since 1949 have occurred in the last decade, I’ve found in my own research. This is despite improved emergency response and better surgical outcomes. The only credible explanation for the increased lethality of these incidents is deadlier weapons and ammunition. Assault-style firearms have been the weapons of choice in many of the deadliest mass shootings in recent history: Orlando, Fla., Newtown, Conn., and San Bernardino, Calif.

The incident in Las Vegas reveals the fallacy of the tired slogan, “Guns don’t kill, people do.” Yes, we need to address why so many Americans are attempting to kill a maximum of their fellows at random. At the same time, only a weapon designed for war could kill so many people from such a distance. High-capacity magazines capable of holding up to 100 rounds of ammunition only make that danger worse.

These weapons and magazines should never be in civilian hands and should be banned. Obviously, this is a tall order given the influence of the gun lobby on the Trump administration and majority party in Congress. But it’s not impossible. Existing weapons can be bought back from owners at a fair market price and destroyed. Australia melted down up to a third of its gun inventory following its deadliest-ever mass shooting in 1996, and has all but eliminated public mass shootings.

The gun lobby claims to champion freedom. Yet every successive large-scale mass shooting leads to an increasing demand for security and a continuing erosion of Americans’ freedom to use public spaces without fear. Citizens need to sustain their outrage over this incident and demand restrictions on ownership of assault-style weapons.

 

This article originally appeared in Fortune Magazine.

 

 

 

Dorothy Paugh: Empowering Family Members to Remove Guns from Suicidal Loved Ones.

 

After losing my father Edwin, 51 to suicide by gun in 1965 and my son Peter, 25 the same way in 2012, I have studied to find proven ways to reduce the number of Americans who shoot themselves— currently over 21,000 each year, overwhelmingly white males.  Family members are often the first to see signs their loved one is in crisis.  My Maryland state delegate has agreed to introduce a bill in 2018 to allow concerned family members to seek protective orders for law enforcement to temporarily remove their loved one’s guns.  Right now protective orders can only be sought against those who pose a danger to others.

suicide1The temporary removal of firearms from the home has saved many lives as Connecticut’s 17-year history issuing risk warrants to remove guns from the suicidal has demonstrated.  Indiana has had a similar law since 2006.  California, Washington and Oregon have recently enacted similar laws. But when I asked the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)’s national advocacy office and the state chapter to support the introduction of an Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs) or similar measure in Maryland, they declined to take a position.

In 2016, AFSP partnered with the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) to reach gun sellers, buyers and owners with suicide prevention messages.  Gun violence prevention organizations agree that for those who live with guns, we need to communicate the increased risks of suicide and the simple steps that can reduce those risks.  Guns are extremely lethal, and only one in ten will survive a self-inflicted gunshot wound.   A loaded gun triples the risk of suicide for all who can get their hands on it.

It’s not just small children that parents need to protect, it’s also their older children.  Firearm safety training doesn’t work when the act is intentional.  Most adults know a toddler with a gun is in danger, but fewer can comprehend that their teen might in a rash act end their own life.  Science has shown that keeping guns and ammunition locked away from minors can prevent impulsive youth suicides since most minors who shoot themselves do so with a parent’s gun.  Since 2007, youth suicide by gun has risen 60%.  Each year, nearly 500 American youth under 18 shoot themselves.   Minors should not have access to keys to either the gun lock safe or to the ammunition locked up in a separate container.

I understand what AFSP is trying to do based on the science behind effective communications.  In order for their suicide prevention messages to get through to gun owners, they must be conveyed to that audience by a trusted messenger.  NSSF gets them “in the door.”  But what I don’t see is how supporting a law to temporarily remove guns from a suicidal person would jeopardize their new partnership. There is no question that laws that allow the temporary removal of guns from suicidal adults have prevented many suicides. It’s solid ground, not a slippery slope. Dead men have no rights.

Like AFSP and NSSF, gun safety organizations want gun owners and those that live with them to stay alive and get the help they need.  Surely we don’t have to agree on everything to work together towards the goal of saving the lives of people in crisis.  We should meet, shake hands and walk “Out of the Darkness” as far as we can together towards the common goal of reducing gun suicides, which amount to nearly two thirds of all gun deaths in this country.

 

How Do We Help Victims Of Mass Shootings? Stop The Shootings.

In 2015, eight major medical organizations and the American Bar Association issued a joint announcement calling gun violence a national health crisis and calling for more aggressive intervention on the part of the medical profession.  Conspicuously absent from the list of medical organizations was the AAST, or American Association for the Surgery of Trauma, whose 1,200 surgeon members are on the front lines when it comes to doctors dealing with gun violence, because they happen to be the physicians whose skill and training come into play just about every time that someone is shot with a gun and at least is still alive when they are wheeled through the Emergency Room doors. And while the AAST called for restrictions on the sale of assault rifles after Sandy Hook, some of their fellows in the American College of Surgeons, which endorsed the manifesto in 2015, are now promoting an ingenious method to reduce gun injuries, or at least making it more likely that when someone is shot they won’t wind up dead.

bleed            The program, called ‘Stop The Bleed,’ was actually a brainchild of someone in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under the Obama Administration.  It is both an ‘awareness campaign’ and a ‘call to action.’ It encourages the public “to become trained, equipped and empowered to help in a bleeding emergency before professional help arrives.” This effort grew out of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, when the quick action of bystanders at the finish line may have prevented many badly-injured onlookers from ending up dead.

Most of these bystanders who swung into action after the bombs went off weren’t just Tom, Dick, Harry and Louise.  In fact, for the most part they were medical students and doctors, not necessarily with any trauma experience but certainly knowledgeable enough to understand that the bright, red liquid coming out of someone’s mouth was blood.  There were plenty of thing that non-medical personnel could do: moving barriers so that ambulances could arrive, keeping onlookers away from spaces where necessary emergency equipment was set down, and so forth.  But the bottom line is that there are six major medical centers in downtown Boston and staff from those hospitals happened to be either running or watching the marathon that day.

But this is America, and in America you can bet that any government program promoting anything will always be an opportunity for some entrepreneurial bunch to figure out how they can make a fast buck. And if you want to spend a fast buck on what you need to ‘equipped and empowered’ to lend a helping hand, take a look at the products offered by a company, Tactical Medical Solutions,’ and notice the picture which adorns their site.  What this crude attempt to cash in on how the military patrols a street in Afghanistan or Iraq has to do with whether a civilian can help a crash or burn victim is beyond me. But for just $29.95 you can buy a Tactical Tourniquet or the SOF Tactical Tourniquet for just $26.78.  And don’t worry about being prepared – for every product on the website you can download an instructional video that shows you everything you need to know in 4 minutes or less.

The guiding hand behind the idea that civilians can provide medical assistance in cases of trauma is Lenworth Jacobs, M.D., who directs the Trauma Institute at Hartford Hospital and got the American College of Surgeons on board to support this effort as well. Too bad that nobody in the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs didn’t have some of these life-saving products on hand, but I don’t notice Dr. Jacobs saying anything about what Americans need to do in order to respond to the next mass shooting event.

I always thought the role of physicians was to identify and reduce medical risk, at least that’s what the Hippocratic Oath tells them to do. The real risk at Sutherland Springs wasn’t the lack of tactical tourniquet kits – it was the existence of an AR-15.

 

Mike The Gun Guy Opens A New Page.

gun demo  sales

 

If I have promoted one theme in the 946 columns I have published on this website, as well as the nearly 250 columns I have written for Huffington Post, it is the idea that each side in the gun debate needs to understand the other side’s point of view or a reasonable and sufficiently evidence-based discussion will never take place.  In fact, what drew me to this endeavor was the degree to which I personally have a foot in each camp, and find myself quite comfortable walking through a rhetorical landscape where most gun violence prevention activists or gun-rights activists fear to tread.

But the truth is that I’m beginning to get a bit bored by always looking at my computer screen and seeing my own words staring me back in the face. So I have decided to change the format of this website somewhat, and in addition to what I will continue to say, open its pages to what other folks on both sides of the gun debate want to say as well.

Going forward, I have created an additional page to list Contributing Editors, which contains the names, pics and bios of people who contribute columns to this site. These blogs may have appeared on their own websites, they may be written to be published just here, but they will not be previously-published work which I choose to re-blog; the authors will have made a conscious decision to share their work with me.

I make no editorial changes in text of any kind because I assume that anyone who wants to appear as an author on my website knows the basic requirements that define acceptable public text; each CE’s first submission must be accompanied by a brief bio, a pic and a contactable email address in case readers want to direct a comment directly to the author, in the same way that readers can send a comment directly to me. If the CE also writes a blog, I’m happy to provide a link.

The first two CE contributions have been posted, and I am extremely pleased with the quality of these works. I am also honored  to highlight the background, experience and commitment of these two individuals to what they write and what they believe. But the Contributing Editor section is open to anyone who wants to add a commentary to the public discussion about guns.  As Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “In the public debate we are all entitled to our own opinions, we are not entitled to our own facts.”  With all due respect to the late Senator from New York, on my website anyone who wishes to contribute a column will be entitled to both.

Since 2012 I have been calling on everyone who is concerned about guns to stop yelling at each other, stop calling names, sit down and have a serious chat. So now everyone has an opportunity to do exactly that. But it won’t happen if you – all of you – decide salesit’s easier to just send someone else an email or a tweet. You’ll need to spend a little more time and energy (and words) to get your points across on my website.

And here’s your opportunity to do exactly that!

John Adams – How To Shoot A Pistol More Accurately.

If you’re a new shooter, shooting a pistol/handgun/revolver or whatever sort of weapon can be overwhelming, mainly due to the recoil of the weapon. The two biggest mistake made by gun rookies are looking at the target instead of the front sight, when the weapon is drawn out. Another mistake is that a new shooter will most likely jerk the trigger, thereby developing a bad flinch-mainly caused by the recoil of the gun.

dbackThe bad flinch in return would cause the shot to stray away from the target itself. Hence why, the key points on acquiring an accurate shot are mainly the side alignment and trigger control. Master both these aspects and you will most likely hit bullseye with every shot you take!

Basic Fundamentals for Good Pistol Shooting

 Stance

No matter how amazing your shooting skills are, the right stance will ensure that you have a stable shooting platform, therefore contributing to consistent as well as accurate shots. You can say that the stance is basically the foundation of the shooting platform.

Ever heard of the popular ‘Isosceles’ stance? For this type of stance, the shoulder and hip are both parallel to the target meanwhile both hands are extended out. These shoulder, hip and hand stance and orientation contributes to the name of the stance, ‘Isosceles’ because it resembles an isosceles triangle from a top-down look.

The Weaver stance on the other hand is another shooting technique, suitable for handguns. The plus point of this type of stance is that it manages recoil fairly well. For this stance, you have to blade your body, placing your foot on the firing side back while turning the support side aimed towards your target. With arms extended, you are entitled for a stable push-pull grip.

Therefore, proper stance is very important for excellent stability when firing the shot. That being said, both of your feet should be planted firmly on the ground. Your knees should be approximately shoulder width apart and one leg slightly back from the other to manage recoil a lot better. If you’re practicing sitting however, to test your skills for example, the shoulder holster makes it rather easy to draw the weapon when you’re sitting.

Grip

There are ample as well as varieties of accessories available in the market so you are able to customize your grip, in order to provide perfect fit for your hands, when holding the firearm. In terms of hand orientation, firstly you need to get high on the tang with your dominant hand. Have your finger pointing towards the target and the rest of your hand placed comfortably on the grip.

The weaker hand (less dominant) is then used to wrap around the dominant hand comfortably, therefore locking the gun in place for excellent grip and to manage the recoil, when the pistol is fired.

Sight Picture

The sight picture refers to the picture of the target you’re aiming at. For proper aim and shooting at your target, you need to firstly focus on the target so you can roughly position your weapon. When you bring your weapon up, you will notice that the rear sights will come into a blurry focus.

Therefore, you should focus completely on your front sight post before taking a shot.  An important tip is to make sure that the top of the front sight is properly and evenly aligned with the top of the rear sight. Once that is checked off your pre-shooting list, all you have to do is aim at the center of your target and voila, fire the shot.

Trigger Control

The main theory behind the trigger press is that you need pull the trigger straight back as smoothly as possible. I know it’s easier said than done, hence why you need to learn the right technique and apply the knowledge you know in the field during practice.

The smooth trigger pull will prevent bad flinching. For your information, flinching leads to the dropping of your muzzle and pulling of the weapon to the side. Having said that, your finger placement is the factor that mainly contributes in great trigger control. You shouldn’t place too much or too little of your finger on the trigger.

Putting the right amount of finger placement will ensure that the shot directly travel to the target. What happens if you put too little or too much finger? Well, your gun will swerve to either the left or right direction upon taking a shot, thereby causing your shot to stray from the target. Hence why, practice is essential so that you discover the right finger placement (vary according to the individual) when pulling your trigger.

Conclusion

Another extra tip! It’s better to bend or squat to retrieve your weapon because it would be rather slow to draw while standing so check out this ankle concealed carry to draw your weapon more efficiently. Once you have mastered all these fundamentals of shooting, you can improve the accuracy of your shot over time. Not only that, keep in mind that the two key points that influences the precision of your shot is the trigger control and side alignment. With all these techniques put into proper practice, you’ll surely become a great shooter.

Author bio: Meet John, an average man that enjoys everything outdoors. Check out his experiences and tips over at his blog!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tom Gabor – Blaming Mass Shootings on Mental Health Issues Alone is Disgraceful.

 

Just one month after the worst mass shooting in modern American history in Las Vegas, the deadliest mass shooting in a place of worship occurred at The First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The gunman, Devin Patrick Kelley, killed 26 people and wounded 20 others on Sunday with an AR-556 assault rifle.

texasPresident Donald Trump condemned the act as “evil,” and called it “a mental health problem,” not a “guns situation.” However, a study of 133 mass shootings has shown that, as in the Texas attack, most mass shootings have a domestic violence link, while in just 11% of the incidents were concerns about the mental health of the shooter brought to the attention of a medical practitioner, legal authority, or school official. That study also showed that when assault weapons or high-capacity magazines were used, an average of eight more people were shot, indicating the pivotal role of the weapon in increasing the carnage. Therefore, the prevalence of high-powered weapons in the U.S. is an enormous contributing factor to the growing frequency and lethality of mass shootings. The call to address the nation’s mental health issues is a familiar dodge of those seeking to avoid a discussion of gun policy.

If the president truly believes mass shootings are a mental health issue, why did his administration block the Social Security Administration from reporting mentally impaired recipients of federal aid to a national background check database? These are individuals on disability support who suffer from severe mental illnesses. President Obama had introduced an administrative rule to keep people with severe mental illnesses from purchasing guns, and Trump, demonstrating perhaps his support for the gun lobby’s agenda, signed a measure to overturn this policy.

The U.S. has 5% of the world’s population, but over a third of the mass shootings. Rates of mental illness, while somewhat higher than other countries, fail to account for the enormous gap in the number of mass shootings between the U.S. and other advanced nations. Countries such as the U.K., Germany, and Japan have at most a few dozen gun homicides, and no more than one or two mass shootings per year. By contrast, the U.S. already has had more than 300 mass shootings this year. Therefore, the gap in mass shootings is too great to be explained by more modest differences in the rates of mental illness.

Psychiatrist Richard Friedman writes that psychiatry cannot protect us from mass murderers. He states that while many mass shooters have a severe personality or psychotic disorder, they often avoid the mental health system altogether, as they are not interested in treatment and do not see themselves as ill. He adds that it is difficult, if not impossible, to predict which individuals will become violent. While millions of Americans have a mental disorder or a serious anger management issue, just an infinitesimal fraction will commit these atrocities. Friedman argues that the focus should not be on detecting mass killers in advance, but on the availability of lethal weapons. He points to Australia, a country that has virtually eliminated mass shootings since automatic and semiautomatic long guns were banned.

A greater propensity toward violence also does not explain the disproportionate number of these massacres in the U.S. International crime surveys show that the U.S. is in the middle of the pack with regard to violence in general. But it’s an outlier in lethal violence. This finding suggests that it is the greater prevalence of lethal weapons in the U.S. that leads more altercations to escalate to homicides.

 

Those seeking reform are likely to be frustrated once again by the absence of bold national legislation, such as that adopted by Australia. We have a president who believes that mass shootings are not a “guns situation,” and a Republican-dominated Congress that has no intention of defying the gun lobby. Recent polling shows that gun rights advocates are more likely to be single-issue voters who are politically active than are those who favor reform. Partisan gerrymandering has also contributed to a more polarized political environment in which representatives in Republican-controlled districts resist gun policy changes, fearing that more conservative candidates, backed by the gun lobby, will challenge them in the primaries.

In this environment, the disgraceful avoidance of this issue by lawmakers is likely to persist, and one wonders what type or level of atrocity will stimulate bold action on their part. When will our elected representatives place a higher value on the lives of their fellow citizens than on weapons of war designed for one purpose: to kill the largest number of people as quickly as possible?

Tom Gabor is a criminologist, sociologist, and author of Confronting Gun Violence in America.

 

 

Are We Finally Getting Sick Of Guns?

Thanks to a note from Mark Bryant, who founded and runs the awesome Gun Violence Archive, I remembered this morning to go and look at the monthly report from FBI-NICS, which details the number of background checks for every gun transferred over the counter by a federally-licensed dealer anywhere in the United States. I know, I know, background checks still don’t cover most private gun transfers, but since NICS does cover every sale of a new gun, the month-to-month comparison is a very exact way to understand the state of the gun industry and, by extension, the degree to which Americans want to own guns.

texas             The NICS numbers for October are probably the most important monthly numbers of the entire year because the hunting season gets going in the Fall and even though a majority of American gun-owners don’t engage in hunting, this is when big-box stores like Cabela’s start running sales, this is when the Outdoor Channel starts showing hunters trekking through the Great Outdoors (although most of them go out to their blind in an ATV) so this is when the talk about guns is in the air.  Bottom line: if you are a gun dealer and you don’t have a good monthly sales in October, you can kiss the year goodbye.

Ready for the October numbers? Hold on to the seat of your pants. Not only do the numbers for October show a remarkable lack of gun sales, the drop is much greater than what has been going on throughout the year. Everybody assumed that gun sales under Trump would never match what went on under the Kenyan, but to the great surprise of Gun-nut Nation, the drop-off following Trump’s inauguration was only about 10 percent. And given the extent to which sales during the Obama ‘regime’ were somewhat inflated due to the irrational fears pumped up by the boys in Fairfax about how all guns were going to disappear, dropping back to 90% of sales levels recorded in pre-Trump years wasn’t seen as all that bad.

On January 22, Smith & Wesson’s stock price was $20 bucks a share, yesterday it closed at $13.65.  The old joke is that if you want to make a million in the gun business, start with two million. The joke seems to be coming back – this time in spades!

Now here are the actual numbers from NICS. Total background checks in October 2016 were 1,267,000.  Background checks for last month were 1,037,628.  For the nine months ending September 30, 2017 the overall drop in NICS was somewhere around 10 percent.  For October it’s more like 20 percent!  And remember that October is the beginning of the gun season; yea, some season.  And by the way, the decline was greater in handguns than in long guns, and it’s handguns which now determine the health of the gun industry because everyone is supposed to be walking around armed, remember?

What the NICS numbers tell us is not just that the bloom is off the rose for the gun industry, but more important, that the attempt to promote gun sales by appealing to fears about crime and violence may be falling flat.  And I have to assume until someone tells me otherwise, that what happened in Las Vegas last month and in Sutherland Springs this week may have finally been a game-changer when it comes to believing that someone, anyone is safer if they’re walking around with a gun.

Gun-nut Nation can celebrate all they want about the ‘good guy’ in Texas who stood outside the First Baptist Church, put a couple of slugs into Kelley as he was driving away. What about inside the Church which, by the way, certainly wasn’t a gun-free zone? As horrible as it seems, it may take deaths and injuries to hundreds of people in Vegas and Texas to finally convince Americans that ‘good guys with guns’ don’t offer any real protection against violence or crime. Is this worth the lives that have just been lost?

Thanks again Mark.