Who’s Worried About The 2nd Amendment? Not The Gun Guys I Know.

For most gun owners, there is scant interest in the debates about the 2nd Amendment which break out whenever a particularly senseless act of mass gun violence occurs. The latest discourse started off last week when retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens published an op-ed calling for a repeal of the entire amendment, as if such an idea has even the slightest chance of ever taking place. Thank you Justice Stevens for filling up some space in The New York Times criticizing the 2008 Heller decision by repeating much of what you said in your Heller dissent.

constitution             But now another voice has emerged in the form of Laurence Tribe, not just a Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard, but the oracle whenever the Establishment feels that a constitutional legal issue needs to be to be explained to the unwashed, semi-literate masses like you and me. Professor Tribe takes issue with Stevens, noting that eliminating the 2nd Amendment would probably make it more difficult to pass specific gun regulations, noting further that the Heller decision already gives the government authority to ‘regulate’ gun sales.

Further, according to Professor Tribe, repealing the 2nd Amendment is a sideshow when the real problem is protecting our children from the carnage and the fears of carnage represented by events like Parkland and Sandy Hook. And what is the real problem says Professor Tribe? It’s the “addiction of lawmakers to the money of firearms manufacturers and other unimaginably wealthy funders.” So what he’s suggesting is not getting rid of the 2nd Amendment, but getting rid of the ability of gun companies and other ‘unimaginably wealthy funders’ to pay the costs of pro-gun, political campaigns.

And exactly what does Professor Tribe hope would happen if his solution to the problem of gun violence was actually invoked? Let me break the news to you gently, Professor Tribe, nothing would happen, nothing at all.

I bought my first, real gun in 1956 when I was 12 years old – bought it at a tag sale in Florida, thus engaging in my first ‘straw’ sale. Over the next 52 years, until 2008, I personally bought and sold 500 guns, at the rate of 10 guns a year isn’t such a big deal for a gun nut like me. During that same half-century, the arsenal of guns privately owned in this country probably grew by roughly 100 million guns, if not more.  Know how many of those millions of transactions were protected by some kind of constitutional shield? Not a single one.

I went to my first NRA show in 1980 held in a large auditorium in Philadelphia not far from Constitution Hall. I think Reagan came through and gave a quick speech because this was during his Presidential campaign, but I don’t recall that people walked away from the exhibits to listen to the Gipper, nor did anyone seem to care. It’s seductively easy to promote the idea that the reason we have so many guns around is because there’s this great, big conspiracy between the gun manufacturers, right-wing politicians, Conservatives with money and the NRA. But that’s not the reason why Americans own 300 million guns.

Last night I debated John Lott at Northern Michigan University in Marquette. We drew a pretty big crowd, perhaps half were local folks, many of whom came over from the nearby Upper Peninsula, which is about as strong a gun area as anywhere within the USA. I began by asking the gun-nuts in the audience to identify themselves, and a lot of older, white men raised their hands. They also smiled and laughed – they liked the idea that the guy who was about to lecture them on why we need more gun control also knew how to use the language they use among themselves.

If Professor Tribe believes for one second that these guys own guns because they want to be ‘free,’ – oops, I forgot. Professor Tribe’s a Constitutional scholar, but he doesn’t know anything about guns.

 

Advertisements

No Matter Why You Use A Gun, It’s Still Gun Violence.

skidspring

Yesterday I wrote a column pointing out that for the very first time in my lifetime (and I was born in 1944,) the gun-control movement finds itself on a level playing field with the other side. If anything, the field may even be tilted a bit in the favor of gun control.  Why do I say that? Because it’s pretty hard to convince the mainstream that these high school kids from Parkland are just a bunch of dupes being fed this lie and that lie by the Bloomberg-Soros cabal.

Just about everyone who is a parent knows the one thing you can’t tell a teenager is to follow the advice of his or her elders unless it’s advice they really want to hear. And let’s remember one other thing about these Parkland kids – they are veterans of a rampage assault, it really happened to them. And for all her blather and nonsense about how she’s always armed to protect herself and her loved ones from any kind of a threat, Dana Loesch has never, never found herself in a real-life situation where she actually used that gun.

We are now at the point when the gun-control community needs to come up with an argument that will convince mainstream Americans that the ‘good gal with a gun’ narrative isn’t a legitimate response to armed threats.  And with all due respect to my public health researcher friends, most people really don’t make up their minds because of evidence-based research.  As Daniel Kahneman has explained it, decisions about what to do both for the important and the unimportant things in life flow as much or more from emotions as from facts.

The scenes pictured above are where gun killings have occurred. The picture on the left is Skidmore, MO, in front of the saloon where the town bully, Ken McElroy, was shot down by several gun-wielding local residents while the rest of the townsfolk stood and watched. The picture on the right is Union Street in Springfield, MA, where someone is gunned down at least once a month.

Law enforcement spent six years trying to get someone in Skidmore to identify the killers of Ken McElroy, but nobody ever did. The cops in Springfield will tell you that what happens on Union Street is just a gang killing, and when they walk around looking for witnesses, nobody saw nuttin’, even when the shooting takes place at mid-day.

The murder of Ken McElroy is something we call ‘virtuous violence;’ i.e., using violence for positive ends.  After all, McElroy got what was coming to him, and what better way to even the score than to use a gun? On the other hand, the gang member who shot another gang member on Union Street is also committing an act of virtuous violence – the guy he shot may have welched on a drug deal, or may have tried to shake down a friend, or break into a neighbor’s house.

Murder is overwhelmingly an event that occurs between individuals who have some degree of connection to each other before the killing occurs.  Whether the connection is between people who live in the same small town or who hang out on the same corner makes no difference at all. To quote the brilliant Lester Adelson: “With its peculiar lethality, a gun converts a spat into a slaying and a quarrel into a killing.”

When the NRA talks about how ‘good guys with guns’ will protect us from ‘bad guys with guns,’ what the boys from Fairfax are really saying is that violence is the most effective way to respond to violence, and nothing could be further from the truth. If the gun-control movement wants to convince mainstream America that gun violence should not be an everyday affair, they need to address the issue of virtuous violence and argue that violence in any form, used for redressing any real or imagined threat, is a type of behavior which does not work.

Now That The March Is Over, What’s Next?

Now that the smoke is beginning to clear and the dust beginning to settle from Saturday’s remarkable events, we get down to the nitty-gritty and try to figure out what comes next. Because if the gun violence prevention (GVP) movement doesn’t figure out how to build on this past weekend’s display of genuine interest and concern by millions of people who never previously thought about the issue of gun violence, an opportunity which I have never previously seen in my lifetime will have come and gone.

march              I spent Saturday at a march in the toney, seaside town of Old Saybrook, where the organizers were expecting 500-600 people more or less, the cops ended up estimating the crowd at around 2,500, and there might have been even more. I spoke perhaps to 30-40 people, not one of them had ever previously been involved in any kind of activity dealing with guns. Not that these were hardcore gun owners, of course not; this is a wealthy town and the only hard-core you get around here are people whose trust funds together could probably pay off the national debt.

The point is that GVP activists and advocates have often felt themselves marginalized by the mainstream which gets concerned for a day or two when something really bad happens like Parkland or Sandy Hook, but then turn to other issues, allowing the NRA and the gun industry to define and set the terms of the debate. What was interesting this time was the degree to which the usual pro-gun noisemakers had little or nothing to say; the NRA rolled out a spiel from spokesman Colion Noir who pranced around but was basically ignored; the video of Emma Gonzalez allegedly tearing up the Constitution turned out to be a fake. Even Trump came back from hiding out in Florida and kept his mouth shut about what happened on the 24th.

It turns out however, that the NRA hasn’t been particularly silent, they’ve just decided for the moment to follow the lead of the Parkland kids and promote themselves on social media, particularly Facebook, where they spent an average of $47,300 a day on advertising, up from a daily average of $11,300 before Parkland took place. The problem for the NRA however, is it doesn’t matter how much they spend, they don’t have a message that can reach anyone beyond the folks they always reach. And the way they reach their audience is to mix together the usual bromides about freedom, 2nd-Amendment rights and protecting family and home with a nasty and shrill condemnation of the tree-huggers on the other side.

They were at it again last week with a series of video clips in which the usual NRA noisemakers (Loech, Stinchfield) discounted the impact of the demonstrations by running the usual ‘Bloomberg-Soros conspiracy’ up the flagpole and warning parents to avoid having anything to do with the ‘socialist’ efforts to brainwash their kids. Believe me, none of the people with whom I talked at the Old Saybrook march would be swayed by that kind of crap.

To Bloomberg’s credit, not only is he going out of his way to let everyone know that he’s putting his money on the line, but Everytown has just announced a million-dollar grant program to fund more “student driven advocacy” and spur more than 200 additional organizing events planned for the next couple of weeks. What the NRA doesn’t seem to realize is that demonizing Bloomberg doesn’t make a bit of difference to these kids and warning their parents about the evils intentions of gun-grabbers doesn’t fly at all.

The reason the NRA’s Eddie Eagle isn’t flying so high is very simple; a bunch of high school kids took advantage of funding from people like Bloomberg and showed everyone that you can’t sell violence by pretending that violence can be used to achieve good end. ‘Guns don’t kill people’ doesn’t work when a shooter walks into a high school with a loaded gun. The Parkland kids had no trouble figuring that one out.

 

What Happened On March 24th?

What happened is that a group of determined high school kids decided that they were going to do what nobody else has been able to do, namely, create a new, national narrative about guns. And they did it with dignity, with decency and with no ulterior motives other than to express themselves about why schools need to be a gun-free zones.  They’ll leave it to the ‘adults’ to figure out how to protect them from gun violence in a rational and disciplined way, but the one thing they won’t do is accept the idea that the best way to protect ourselves from violence is to use violence, which is why the ‘good guy with the gun’ nonsense peddled by Gun-nut Nation was drowned out.

march24Not that the NRA didn’t try to get their usual, nonsensical narrative out there.  Of course they did. But since the Dana Loesch rant went nowhere last week, this week they trotted out Colion Noir. And Noir did what he always does: a little hip, a little cool, a little bit of this and a little bit of that, all of which added up to his usual admixture of half-truths, total fabrications and just another primitive attempt to make people believe that what he says has anything to do with reality at all.

First Colion reminded the Parkland kids that they were using their 1st-Amendment ‘rights’ to attack the 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ of legal gun owners, as if any of the gun-control proposals floating around Congress threaten the 2nd Amendment at all. Then Colion managed to weave a complete fabrication into his spiel by lamenting the ‘fact’ that a deputy sheriff in St. Mary’s County received no media attention after stopping the shooter at a Maryland school. Of course Colion then wrapped this lie around an even bigger fable by saying that the incident at Great Mills High School was proof once again that ‘good guys with guns’ will stop ‘bad guys with guns.’ Except nobody in the gun-control movement has ever been against placing armed, law-enforcement personnel in schools; it’s the presence and behavior of armed civilians like Colion that we are worried about.

But let’s not waste any more time or space on the NRA; their job is to promote the ownership of guns, so how could they not come out with a narrative designed to do anything other than keep their members in line? On the other hand, even the NRA‘s best buddy (a.k.a) Donald Trump spent yesterday ducking for cover in Palm Beach, while also sending out a positive message to the Parkland marchers just in case. I mean, what else was he going to do? Tell the 50 pro-gun demonstrators who showed up at the Boston march that he had their backs in the face of the 50,000 who marched for the other side?

I have received a number of emails and Facebook messages from participants in yesterday’s event, some of whom tell me that they need more information in order to speak credibly about guns. Here’s a typical comment: “I am concerned with the people in the middle who could be supporters. We don’t do ourselves any favors when it appears we can’t do the research and understand what we are arguing for.”

So with all due respect to Colion Noir who wants you to believe that what he says about guns is really true, here’s a little resource which explains gun terminology which you can download right here for free. Or you can spend a few bucks and buy the fancy version on Amazon, for which I get a whole, big, buck twenty-five.  Either way, you’ll have the basic know-how you need the next time you go out and join a march.

And there will be a next time.  I guarantee it. I really do.

 

 

 

The Washington Post Uses Science To Explain Violence Caused By Guns.

The good news is that many people, perhaps millions of people who otherwise never think about gun violence will be thinking about gun violence today. And for all the talk about this gun-control law and that gun-control law, gun violence will end when our culture stops accepting the idea that the best way to deal with violence is to use violence; i.e., the violence caused by guns.

march24             The bad news about today is that every liberal (i.e., gun-control) media outlet will feel it necessary to have some staff writer put out a nice, feel-good story about guns, by which I mean saying something either stupid or obvious about gun violence because if The New York Times says something, The Washington Post better say something too.

In that regard today’s WaPo has an op-ed by a kid named Robert Gebelhoff, who as far as I can tell, has never previously published anything about guns. And not only doesn’t he know anything about guns, but if you take the trouble to read the actual content of his piece entitled, “Opponents of gun control say nothing can be done. Science says they’re wrong,” you’ll discover he doesn’t know anything about science either, or at least he certainly doesn’t know what the word ‘science’ actually means.

I may be a little old-fashioned, or maybe just old, but to me the word ‘science’ means or at least implies that we base what we know on facts. Not just one or two facts scattered here or there, but on facts which come out of evidence-based research, not just out of hot air. And sadly, as I read through Gebelhoff’s piece, I can’t seem to find where the facts  begin and the hot air actually ends.

According to Gebelhoff, the first thing we need to do is “Ban weapons of war.” And his science behind this statement? “Based on the evidence we have, banning these weapons probably won’t do too much to curb overall gun deaths.” Some science.

The next thing we need to do is: “Keep guns away from kids.” And the way we do this is to make sure the guns are always locked up, because according to another bit of science quoted by Gebelhoff, “68 percent of school shootings are perpetrated by shooters who obtain a gun from their homes or the homes of relatives.” Except the study he quotes says absolutely nothing about whether the guns used by those school shooters were locked up or not.

Next? “Stop the flow of guns.” And the ‘science’ behind this idea comes from the ‘gun buyback’ in Australia, according to Gebelhoff, except that what happened in Australia wasn’t a buyback at all. It was a decision by the government to prohibit the ownership of certain types of legally-owned guns, which meant that owners of these products had to be compensated at fair-market value when they surrendered their no-longer-legal product; in other words, it wasn’t a buyback, it was a confiscation, that’s all.

Of course, when Hillary talked about Australia during the 2016 campaign, her so-called experts told her she would be accused of supporting a plan that would undercut the sanctified 2nd Amendment, so what happened in Australia was turned into a ‘buyback,’ as if she knew what she was talking about either way.  I’d like to thank Rob Gebelhoff for turning Hillary’s fiction into fact, of course using science to pave the way.

My concern about giving totally uninformed contributors like Gebelhoff space in the gun-control debate is that what they say will end up not just influencing the content of the debate, but will be used by the ‘other side’ to prove once again that people honestly concerned about gun violence are wolves in sheep’s clothing who just can’t wait to take all the guns away. And when a media venue as influential as The Washington Post allows someone as ignorant as Rob Gebelhoff to use terms like ‘science’ to shape the ideas of uninformed but otherwise-honest readers, the alt-right isn’t wrong when it refers to such shabby journalism as ‘fake news.’

 

 

The New Yorker Magazine Figures Out Why People Like Guns.

Leave it to The New Yorker magazine, the most liberal of all liberal voices in the media marketplace, to figure out how to come up with a different view on the demonstrations and marches taking place on March 24th. Not that The New Yorker has published a single word about March 24th; but they can depend on the fact that their readership will overwhelmingly support that march to give some added credibility and exposure to a report from Dana Goodyear about how guns are viewed by kids who like being around guns.

skidmore1             The biggest flight from reality in this shabby piece of reportage is the opening statement which concocts a ‘parallel realm’ of young gunnies for whom guns signify “safety, discipline and trust.” And to drive this point home, Goodyear talks about how her photographer – Sharif Hamza – noticed that when he visited some 4-H clubs he noticed the difference in culture from what he observed in Brooklyn where kids play soccer or go off to ski, but never fool around with real guns.

What an amazing discovery!  My God, to think that you won’t find kids shooting guns in Brooklyn (at least not legally-owned guns) but you will find youngsters toting and shooting live guns at a rifle range in some hick town.  Of course, neither Hamza nor Goodyear has ever gone to a gun show in a Boston suburb like Wilmington, or in Kingston, which is less than 50 miles from New York, or in Lebanon, PA which is about 30 miles from Philadelphia’s Constitution Hall. Know who you’ll see wandering around at all these shows? Plenty of New York, Boston and Philly residents, who just don’t happen to live in a place where they can walk out the back door of their homes and shoot off a gun.

Should I be surprised that upper-class, Ivy Leaguers like Dana Goodyear don’t know the first friggin’ thing about guns?  Of course not. But what I am somewhat surprised about is the degree to which a so-called ‘responsible’ journalist writing for a so-called ‘responsible’ journal like The New Yorker would attempt to sensationalize, and in the process, distort something as mundane and inconsequential as the role of guns in small towns. Going into a  town like Lockwood, MO (population: maybe 1,000) and discovering a teenager like Cheyenne Dalton wandering around with her AR-15, is about as unusual as learning that 80% of the voters in Lockwood voted for Donald Trump. Does The New Yorker magazine have a single subscriber who lives in a community where four out of five voters went for Trump?

Lockwood is located roughly 240 miles away from Skidmore, where in 1981 the local bully, Ken McElroy, was shot to death by several town residents while the rest of the townsfolk stood there and watched. Shootings like this take place in inner-city neighborhoods all the time, maybe more than 20 times every single day. But when a shooting occurs in East New York, a Brooklyn neighborhood not far from where Hamza lives, it’s never referred to as a ‘vigilante’ event, even though such assaults are usually witnessed by multiple neighborhood residents who then shut up and go about their normal ways.

The point I’m making is that the reason this piece by Lockwood was published is because The New Yorker editors know they will get some readership mileage by talking about the March 24th demonstrations by not talking about them at all. If they had run an interview with David Hogg or Emma Gonzalez, it would have been no different from how everyone else in the liberal, gun-control media world has covered the events of March 24th.

There’s nothing like the shock value created by taking advantage of the fact that your audience has no earthly connection to what you are talking about. Which means you can say whatever you want, even if you are no less ignorant than the folks who will be surprised by what you want them to believe.

 

Rohan Krishnan – A Violent Connection: Mass Shootings and Domestic Violence

 

Mass shootings are increasingly becoming a fact of life in the United States. According to the FBI, a mass shooting is defined as a shooting where at least four people are killed, not including the perpetrator. America has significantly more mass shootings than any other comparable Western nation.

LV2The goal of my project was to explore if a causal relationship exists between mass shootings and domestic violence. Mass shooting data from multiple sources such as the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Reports, Congressional Research Reports, Everytown and Mother Jones reports etc. for the past 20 years (1998-2017) was extensively analyzed in this project. Each instance of mass shooting was validated through 10-12 supplementary articles in the media which provided additional information such as location, criminal and mental history, motive, relationship to victims etc. A custom Google Map was created to capture all the 74 mass shootings in a visual fashion. Each shooting was categorized into the following buckets: domestic violence, workplace violence, mental illness, vengeance, terrorism, race-related and gang-related violence. Detailed information such as the identity of the shooter, number of casualties, firearms used in the shooting and whether the guns were obtained legally or not is indicated on the map. The analysis leads to the conclusion that roughly 36% of these mass shootings had a strong correlation to domestic violence meaning that the shooting itself was either a case of domestic violence or the shooter had previously been reported for domestic violence against a spouse or a family member. The frequency of domestic violence related mass shootings has increased over this 20-year period, especially the last few years, which has witnessed a dramatic spike in shootings and casualties. The surprising observation is that the majority of the shooters in domestic violence related cases obtained their firearms legally. This demonstrates that the systems in place was not able to prevent these horrible abusers from obtaining deadly firearms legally.

In order to address this serious issue, a package of three legislative proposals, already implemented successfully in several states, is proposed as part of this research. These include the following:

  • ERPO (Extreme Risk Protective Order), a bill that essentially allows family members to notify police if a gun owner exhibits aggressive or dangerous behavior that may put themselves or others at risk and thereby allows law enforcement to confiscate their guns for a temporary period of time. Given that mass shooters and domestic violence abusers often exhibit signs of aggressive and dangerous behavior before the actual act of shooting, allowing family members to report such behavior to authorities can potentially prevent such familicides. ERPO has already been enacted in California, Oregon, Washington, Indiana and Connecticut. States where ERPO has been enacted witnessed one suicide averted for every 10 guns seized. Currently, ERPO bills are being considered in 19 states and Washington DC.
  • Secondly, the boyfriend loophole that originated in the Lautenberg Amendment allows those with a domestic violence restraining order against a partner with non-marital status or stalker to continue to buy or possess firearms. This loophole has not been closed in 29 states allowing dangerous abusers to keep their firearms. According to the Bureau of Justice, 48.6% of domestic violence victims are in dating relationships, which indicates that prohibiting these violent abusers from possessing firearms is imperative.
  • Although the Lautenberg Amendment prevented domestic violence offenders from obtaining guns, it did not give authority to the government to remove firearms already in their possession from these offenders. According to a Johns Hopkins University study, neither law enforcement nor the courts have been granted the authority to confiscate firearms from domestic violence offenders in as many as 23 states.

I firmly believe that these common sense legislative approaches which enjoy bi-partisan support can significantly reduce mass shootings related to domestic violence. None of these proposals call for a broad-based ban of firearms which allows law-abiding citizens to possess firearms while keeping them out of the hands of dangerous abusers. As a result, these pieces of legislation can be realistically passed in the near future with the potential to significantly reduce gun violence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s More To March 24th Than Just A March.

Now that March 24th is dawning and people from all over the country will be coming to DC to let themselves be seen and heard about the need to reduce gun violence, I thought it would be interesting to see what plans are afoot to for Gun-nut Nation to get out their message to the other side. What got my attention was a snarky comment yesterday from the mouth of fat-head Rush Limbaugh who tried to diminish the impact of the march by claiming that one of the Parkland activists, David Hogg, was behaving just like every other ‘mainstream’ media flack by blaming what happened at Douglas High School on the NRA.

march24            If the best that Gun-nut Nation can come up with is a 30-second blab between advertisements for food supplements and generic Viagra pills by Rushbo, they aren’t going to make much of a dent in the public debate on March 24th. And I also suspect that many of the self-appointed Trump noisemakers will also duck for cover, if only because nothing that Trump says about guns or anything else is necessarily valid before his next fusillade of tweets.

The NRA is talking about conducting some kind of event in DC on March 24th, but so far the only actually planning I have seen is a place on the NRA website where you can reserve a bus seat to go to Trenton, the capital of New Jersey, for a 2nd Amendment rally on Monday, March 26th.  Meanwhile, here it is March 20th and the rally organizers haven’t posted any information about where folks can actually get on a bus that is going to Trenton, and the website warns that trips may be cancelled and “seating cannot be guaranteed.”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ledger, the event on March 24th is actually shaping up to be an international event, with rallies and demos planned in most major American cities as well as at sites in at least 25 foreign countries, including China, Viet Nam and the Philippines. Can you imagine a gun-control demonstration in Manilla or Hong Kong? What is the world coming to? I’ll tell you what it’s coming to; it’s coming to a bunch of scrappy teen-agers who decided they would show everyone else how to use social media to plan and carry out an international event.  Right now the media is droning on and about how Trump or Hillary or Obama used social media to run their political campaigns. Which gives all those intrepid news-gatherers an opportunity to ignore the main event.

I’m not surprised at the degree to which the March 24th worldwide demonstrations have garnered so little coverage from the mainstream media, in particular the alleged, liberal media which always presents itself as being anti-gun.  Remember Occupy Wall Street? And by the way, Fox News and those other alt-right messaging services reacted to the Occupy movement in 2011 exactly the same way they are reacting to March for our Lives on March 24th: a bunch of stupid, misled kids who have nothing better to do.

Yesterday I received a 25-page research paper, complete with graphs, maps, notes and bibliography written by a high school sophomore and submitted to a local science fair.  The title of the paper: “A Violent Connection: Mass Shootings and Domestic Abuse.” I’m going to post this remarkable piece shortly, but in the meantime trust me when I say that this essay represents a significant piece of research and thought. Would this young man have done this work without what happened at Stoneman Douglas High? I don’t know. But what I do know is that high school students throughout the United States and all over the globe are right now talking about gun violence in a way they never talked before.

Don’t let anyone kid you – the marches, protests and events on March 24th are the real deal, and if the young man who wrote the paper on mass shootings is now thinking about something he previously didn’t think or care about, he’s surely not the only one.

 

Is The NRA Ready To Make A Deal on Gun Control?

In the aftermath of the shocking yet exhilarating electoral victory crafted by Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania’s 18th CD, I have seen numerous comments within the gun violence prevention (GVP) community raising concern about Lamb’s ‘pro-gun’ approach.  That’s understandable, given the fact that his very first television ad contained a snippet showing him blasting away with his beloved AR-15. Which presents something of a dilemma for the GVP crowd going into November, because they have tied themselves to a campaign to ban assault rifles, among other things.

lamb             Actually, Lamb isn’t the first post-Trump Democratic candidate to fashion a campaign around being pro-gun.  Last year a Republican, Greg Gianforte, overcame an assault of a reporter as well as the charge that he was a carpet-bagger to win a special election against Rob Quist, the latter beginning his campaign with a television ad showing him shooting what he claimed was his family’s trusty, ol’ Winchester to prove he was a Montana native through and through.

If I wanted to make a quick buck, I’d go downstairs to my private gun range (that’s right, I can get up from this computer, walk down a flight of stairs and bang away to my heart’s content) and do a couple of shooting videos that could then be sold to the DNC.  And every Democratic candidate running in one of those ‘soft’ red Congressional districts could splice a piece of video into their television ads to prove they are ‘pro-gun.’

Could control of Congress in 2018 depend on which party is better at selling a message about how much they love guns?  Whether or not this turns out to be the case, what I find interesting is how the NRA has suddenly begun to change its messaging in what is obviously an appeal to sell itself beyond its most extreme base. According to Chris Cox, the NRA is ready to engage in a ‘broad discussion’ about the ‘culture of violence’ which exists today. The purpose of this discussion is to “take action to prevent violence and protect 2nd Amendment rights,” including gun-violence restraining orders (GVRO) which the NRA used to oppose.

Even the NRA’s hard-and-fast opposition to expanding background checks all of a sudden appears to have changed.  Before last week, America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ opposed any extension of background checks, anywhere, anytime at all. But last week the narrative changed. Here’s Wayne-o’s latest message to the faithful: “We will oppose any attempt to make people engage in a background check to transfer a gun to a relative, neighbor or friend.” How’s about selling a gun to someone you just met? I didn’t notice that Wayne-o is saying that any and all gun transfers should take place without a NICS check.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that when the 116th Congress begins its 2019 session that the majority switches from red to blue. And let’s further say that a new gun-control is proposed expanding background checks to secondary sales. Right now the bill that has been filed by Senator Murphy (D-CT) basically prohibits the transfer of any gun to anyone without first doing a background check unless the person receiving the gun is a spouse, domestic partner, child, sibling or other relative of the person getting rid of the gun.

Guess what? Figure out how to define ‘friends’ and ’neighbors,’ add them to that list and you’ve got yourself a comprehensive, national background-check bill. But it takes both sides to come up with language which each side can sell to their constituencies as being nothing other than what they have always said.

Until last week the NRA opposed any extension of background checks – no ifs, ands or buts. All of a sudden, the tune has changed. I’m not saying the NRA is morphing into a gun-control organization. But it’s one thing to take a shot at the enemy, it’s quite another to sit down and make a deal. Is either side in the gun debate willing to see something like this actually occur?

Do Guns Make It Easier Or Harder To Commit Crimes? Donohue Versus Lott.

In the wake of a massive, unprecedented social media campaign by a bunch of high school kids, all of a sudden the gun industry finds itself facing a storm of protests over whether or not its products should be made or sold. Well, maybe not all of its products, but certainly the products whose use continues to produce enough multiple killings and injuries to ignite a debate about whether such guns should be around at all.

lott2Behind the argument about owning high-capacity, semi-automatic weapons is another debate which has been going on for nearly 20 years about what I call the social utility of guns, namely, do guns make us more or less safe, or to put it another way, do guns protect us from crime or increase crime?

This debate got started in 1998 with the publication of John Lott’s book, More Guns Less Crime, the title of which says what the book is all about. One of the early reviews of this book was by an academic, John Donohue, who also collaborated with Steven Levitt on a controversial study linking legal abortions to the post-1990’s decline in crime.

Over the years, Lott’s book has become something of a Holy Grail to the gun-rights movement, Donohue’s multliple critiques of this book serving in the same fashion for the gun violence prevention crowd, a.k.a, the GVP.

What I have always found interesting in this debate is the degree to which the criticisms of both Lott and Donohue flow directly from where the critics stand on the issue of guns. I have yet to read a single critique of Lott’s book by anyone who considers themselves to be a proponent of guns. Ditto, I have never found a single critique of Donohue’s work emanating from anyone who supports more controls over guns.  In other words, what we have here is an academic argument in which neither side can find a single, critical word to utter about the work with whose conclusions they agree.

This isn’t an academic debate. Frankly, it’s  nothing more than the same, old, tired and hackneyed argument about guns that has been going on for more than twenty years. It’s not driven by evidence-based work, it’s driven by emotions and advocacy that both sides always make.

What you can download here is a detailed paper I have posted on SSRN.  It is not an attempt to prove that Lott is correct and Donohue isn’t, nor the other way around. It is also not an attempt to come up with yet another statistical model which can be used to provide yet another regression analysis linking crime rates to guns.

Frankly, I have absolutely no interest in proving either Donohue or Lott to be correct. My interest is simply to take this long-standing, academic argument and look at it from the only perspective that really counts, and that perspective happens to be what I know about guns.  Which is something that neither Donohue nor Lott know very much at all.