Do We Really Know The Numbers On Gun Violence?

When our friends at the Gun Violence Archive (GVA) first started up, they were immediately attacked by Gun-nut Nation for all sorts of misdeeds, including the usual nonsense about undercounting all those instances when red-blooded Americans use a gun to stop a crime. But I notice increasingly that mainstream media sources now routinely reference the GVA and a pat on the back from Newsweek and The Washington Post, usually means you must be doing something right.

GVA             The problem that GVA has to deal with, of course, is that they generate all their data from what we refer to as ‘open sources,’ namely media and related coverage which appears online. The good news about such coverage is that it’s easy to do a search for online content, I have been using Google Alerts with keywords like ‘shootings’ and ‘gun violence’ for years. The bad news is that these sources can’t possibly cover all relevant events that would let us know the number of people who get shot every day

What we usually rely on for gun-violence numbers is the data produced by the CDC. After all, we assume that since medicine is a scientific exercise, at least since Louis Pasteur figured out that something called a microbe spreads disease, we also assume that medical science develops its practices using evidence-based facts. And what could be more of a fact than a dead body lying in the street?

Except there’s only one little problem.  When we take a look at the data on gun violence collected and published by the CDC, particularly when we go below the summary data which tells us how many people are shot and killed in the United States every year, all of a sudden we discover that the numbers not only aren’t so exact, but don’t even add up. Now you would think that something like gun violence, which allegedly costs us more than $200 billion a year in medical costs, lost wages and other various and sundry sums, would at least provoke some degree of concern about whether we actually are using valid numbers or not. Let me break it to you gently – we’re not.

In 2015 the CDC says that 35,476 people lost their lives because a gun went off and they didn’t duck; of this number, which is routinely reported by every gun violence prevention (GVP) group, homicides accounted for 12,979, suicides amounted to 22,018, another 484 were shot either by cops or armed citizens legal defending themselves, and 282 died but nobody’s sure how those deaths actually came about.

We know that the number of gun deaths that were ostensibly justified is probably undercounted by at least half. And let’s not forget the 489 unlucky folks who accidentally killed themselves or someone else with a gun, a number which is also probably well below the annual toll. But neither of those categories, even if doubled, would change the overall gun-death number by much. Let’s face it, gun violence in America is overwhelmingly a function of intentional injuries committed by the shooter against himself or someone else.

I have spent the last week comparing gun-death homicides furnished by the CDC to the numbers found in the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) which also happens to be an agency within the CDC, but draws its data from a wider pool of sources and is considered by scholars to be more reliable when it comes to counting bodies that wind up in the morgue. When we compare numbers, however, we discover that the numbers being used by the GVP community are perhaps 20% higher than the number published by the NVDRS.

The next time someone says that you can’t trust an online, open-source aggregator like the Gun Violence Archive, you might want to reply that the numbers we get from all those medical scientists might not be any more reliable, and in terms of accuracy, might even be worse. I’m as enamored of science as anyone else, but sometimes I wonder whether the science of gun-violence research actually exists.

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Welcome Back Pat The Tactical Guru.

The Tactical Guru

Be A Man. Be Tactical

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5.11 is the apparel brand that is there for you wherever your outdoor adventures may take you.

Reliable, durable, and trusted. The company started in 1992 with the production of their original 5.11 pants.

The FBI claimed these to be part of their official training uniform. Since then, the company has formed a lasting bond with law enforcement, first responders, and the military. These pants have also become a staple for those who lead a tactical lifestyle.

Why Buy 5.11?pat1

Besides the fact that this gear has a reputation as the premier name in tactical gear, why would you buy it? Their clothes work in many environments and will help you handle whatever comes your way.

Their apparel lines range from fitness, law enforcement, military, EMS and fire. They also have an industrial category of clothing.

They also care about basic human rights. 5.11 goes the extra mile to guarantee that where they source their material and labor from is high-quality and ethical. In this process, they use a third-party agency to audit and report on the environment in which their clothes are produced.

They set strict guidelines that will mitigate any child labor practices or human trafficking. That’s not something you’ll typically see with apparel brands.

The Best 5.11 Backpackpat3s

There’s a small chance that you’re reading this and wondering why you would even need a tactical backpack. But if you are, we’ve got a few for you. To start, if you’re not in the military or a first responder, there’s still plenty of reasons why it might be a good fit for you.

Most backpacks are durable and reliable. If you’re an outdoorsman or woman, it’s a great option for organizing your essential gear. Or if you have any sort of job that requires a lot of gear, a tactical backpack might be a great option. These bags are helpful if you want to avoid extra luggage fees or need to pack succinctly.

Now that you have a better idea of why tactical backpacks are useful, let’s talk about what to look for. As far as material goes, it’s best to find one that’s made with a durable nylon, like Cordura or Kodra.

The material may affect the weight since the heavier duty nylons tend to of course be – heavier. Chances are though, most people will sacrifice a little weight savings for a bag that won’t rip.

The next thing to consider is the size of the bag. 5.11 makes a variety of sized bags, from lighter “daypacks” to full-on multi-day backpacking bags, such as the Ignitor.

They put a lot of thought into how their packs will feel and how comfortable they will be. Bigger packs usually include hip straps and chest straps to keep the weight evenly dispersed.

Most of their packs include countless options for customization with a MOLLE strap system. This allows you to add external pouches on the pack for more storage options.

How Much Should I Expect to Spend on a Tactical Backpack?

This, of course, like any other consumer product, is going to vary. In the case of 5.11’s packs, the most modest one, the cross-strap Rush Moab 6, starts at $60.

Their most expensive pack, the 84 ALS EMS backpack, is filled with pockets and accessory options. This bag is priced at $230.

How Do I Clean My Tactical Backpack?

Once you’ve used your bag in the field, you might be wondering what the best way to clean it is without compromising the product’s integrity. Like most tactical bags, it’s best to hand wash it with cold, soapy water, rinse, and let it air dry.

What to Look for in a 5.11 Backpack

  • Backpack weight
  • Carrying capacity
  • Materials
  • Comfort of the backpack
  • Price

 

 Check out our selection of the best 5.11 Tactical backpacks here.

The Best 5.11 Shirts.

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The next item to note is 5.11’s shirts. They have a pretty diverse range of them that suit needs from tactical to casual. What makes a shirt tactical? We’re glad you asked.

They make shirts for working professionals that need their entire outfit to have the proper functionality, right down to the T-shirt.

The professional long sleeve shirt is made of a moisture-wicking cotton. This shirt is complete with a tapered fit, a bit of extra length and pen pockets on the left sleeve.

To contrast this shirt, there are 13 different button-down shirts that are designed for concealed firearms. These come with pen slots in the chest pocket, but the main feature is the loose fit around the stomach and waist for quick access to your concealed carry.

In contrast, they also make a tight fitted holster shirt, that wears like an undershirt. This shirt is designed with mesh pockets near the outside of your chest that should fit a pistol on one side and an extra magazine on the other. Ideally, you would wear a looser fitting shirt over this one.

They also have a line of uniform style blouses and shirts, including a MultiCam blouse. If you need something to relax in, they also have a huge T-shirt line with dozens of patterns.

You’ll want to narrow down the size and fit of the shirt. Most of their tops come in one of four fits – compression, fitted, regular, and classic. The regular fit will fit like a loose T-shirt and the classic fit is more on the baggy side.

What Materials Should I Look for?

The details and functionality of these shirts are planned down to the buttons. Melamine buttons on some of the tactical shirts won’t burn, crack, or melt.
Many of the shirts are also made with a material that resists the transmission of bloodborne pathogens as well as other stains.

It’s a good idea to check the tags if you do order a shirt or garment. The variety of clothing materials means that there is a variety of suggested ways to wash them.

How Do I Prevent My Shirt from Wrinkling?

For their tactile fabric, it’s suggested to wash it in cold water with a little bit of detergent and tumble dry on low. Like most high-quality shirts, it’s a good idea to iron the wrinkles out and use a wrinkle-resistant spray.

What to Look for in a 5.11 Shirt

  • Find the right style for you
  • Concealed pockets
  • Comfort
  • Price

 Check out 5.11 Tactical’s shirts here.

The Best 5.11 Tactical Pants

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Whoa, tactical pants, too? Yep. And they’re a step up from the baggy, cargo pants that we used to wear in the early 2000s. Style is, of course, important to 5.11, but form and function come first.

The nice thing about 5.11’s pants is that there’s a wide price range. The more modest priced pants start at $40. You’ll pay more than that for a pair of Levi’s, so that’s not a bad starting price at all. This $40 pair, called the Fast-Tac Urban Pant, comes with a water-resistant finish and much more.

Between the price range, one of their more popular pants, the Stryke, is $75. The Stryke is a tactical pant, through and through. It’s made of a rip resistant, Teflon fabric, 12 pockets, articulated knees and the front pockets are great for everyday items. The higher priced Urban Pant comes with more features.

If you need a tough pair of pants or khakis that aren’t going to rip at the knees or stain easy, go with the Urban Pant or the Defender-Flex jeans. They won’t break the bank and will last a long time.

If you need something with more options, more pockets, a tougher material and finish, then go with something like the Stryke or the Traverse. As the price goes up, so will the breathability, the material, and the strength of them.

All their pants are engineered to be tough, reliable, and made for the tactical lifestyle. Their pants, like the rest of the gear, are made to suit a wide range of customers, from police officers to construction workers.

What to Look for When Buying Tactical Pants:

  • Breathability
  • How fast they dry
  • Storage capacity
  • Material
  • Price

 Check out our selection of the best 5.11 Tactical pants here.

The Best 5.11 Tactical Boots

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It’s going to look a bit silly if you’re wearing tactical pants, shirts, and backpacks, but have a pair of Converse or a slippery-soled dress shoe on. That’s why 5.11 has the best gear to dress you from head to toe.

Whether you’re a U.S. soldier looking for lighter boots, or you’re an outdoorsman or woman that needs a low-top hiking shoe, there are many options.

This brand covers every option in their boot selection. There are low-top, black, leather boots, high-top boots, and nearly everything in between.

If you’re a police officer, firefighter, security guard or outdoorsman there’s a good chance you’ll find one of their boots of use. Be sure to check if the shoe is going to vent the way you want it to or that it will be moisture resistant.

All boots are made with traction and agility in mind. To give you an idea of their lighter side, 5.11 starts with the Ranger shoe. It’s geared towards all-day use and comfort and looks more like a hiking shoe.

On the flip side, the Apex boot has a Vibram MegaGrip sole, reaches up to your low shin and is made of a waterproof, polishable leather. It’s the boot that you want if you’re stranded in a flood or hiking in the wetlands.

How Do I Clean My Tactical Boots?

If you go with a pair of their boots, you’re going to want to take proper care of them. They aren’t cheap and the best way to get a long life out of them is to give them the proper care. The instructions for suede boots are to use a rubber eraser on the material to take off dirt and smudges and brush away with a boot brush.

If they get muddy, wait for them to dry. It makes a lot easier for the dirt to break away from suede. Make sure to brush them in the same direction every time and don’t use a wire brush. The boots are silicone sprayed for water resistance.

How Do I Break in My Tactical Boots?

Let’s talk briefly about breaking a new pair of boots like this in. Most heavy-duty boots like this have a reputation for being a bit of a pain when you first tie them up. But there are a few ways to make this process more comfortable.

First off, if you order them online, consult their sizing chart. Boots are meant to fit right. They shouldn’t be a little too small or a little too big. That’s a recipe for aches and pains down the road.

That said, the stiffness of the boot at first may still cause a few blisters, even if they are a perfect fit. This is natural. It’s not a bad idea to wear your new pair for a few hours at a time and then swap them out with your old pair to get fully accustomed to the new ones.

Something else that might help is wearing two pairs of socks to reduce friction over sore areas. It’s going to take a solid week or two, depending on how often you wear them to get a full break-in.

Be patient, it’s part of the process and when they are broken in, it’ll be worth it.

What to Look for in Tactical Boots:

  • Moisture resistance
  • Ventilation
  • Comfort
  • Material
  • Price

 Check out our selection of the best 5.11 Tactical boots here.

5.11 is one of the best apparel brands for those who want though, tactical gear. The only thing tougher than their apparel will be the decision between which items to buy!

 

 

What Do Gun Owners Think About An Assault Weapons Ban?

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In light of all the post-Parkland talk about an assault weapons ban, I thought I would ask the one group that would be most directly impacted by such a measure – gun owners – to share their thoughts on such a ban. So I put a little survey up and have so far collected roughly 400 responses, the survey runs another week, but I thought I would publish the early results now.

Actually, I first began with two surveys, one for gun owners and one for non-gun owners, but I deleted the non-gun owner survey because too many of the gun owners felt it incumbent upon themselves to answer both surveys, which skewed the results of the latter survey to a degree that I can’t trust the results.  I’ll deal below with the reasons why many gun owners who answered the survey behaved in such a childish fashion, for the moment let’s just put it down to a generalized case of arrested mental development which, unfortunately, tends to infect a small segment of the gun-owning community, particularly those members of the community who have anointed themselves as the public defenders of 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

Anyway, back to the survey.  To make sure that the survey was getting a representative response (I pay Facebook to run ads for my survey) I ask respondents to identify the region in which they live.  Here was the result:

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The survey is representative for gun owners nationally, particularly because from other surveys I have conducted, the region of residence tends to be the one demographic that influences attitudes about guns more than anything else.

So how do gun owners feel about an assault weapons ban?  They are against it – gee, big surprise.  And they are against a ban whether or not currently-owned assault weapons have to be surrendered or not – against either option to the tune of 95 percent.

I also asked survey respondents whether they actually owned an assault rifle and 70% said they did, but this numeric reflects the fact that the survey specifically referred to an assault weapons ban, which means that AR-owners would answer the survey in greater numbers than what they represent within the gun-owning population as  whole. On the other hand, nearly two-thirds of the respondents who identified themselves as owning assault riles said they used the rifle for hunting and sport shooting, with roughly 36% saying that they bought the gun for self-defense.  This is an interesting finding, given the degree to which the gun industry has been promoting black guns as the latest and greatest ‘tool’ for personal defense.

Overwhelmingly, to the tune of 90% or slightly higher, gun owners did not think that assault rifles are too dangerous for civilian ownership, nor did they want magazine capacity to be limited to 10 rounds. And last, roughly nine out of ten respondents said they would not comply with a gun ban, so much for the NRA‘s endless paeans to ‘law-abiding’ gun owners.

What this survey indicates, and I will publish final results next week, is that gun owners have little enthusiasm for regulating assault rifles, but this should come as no surprise. I have never been comfortable with national polls (e.g., Pew, Gallup) which show strong support among gun owners for additional gun regulations, such as expanding background checks or otherwise inhibiting the flow and availability of guns.

On the other hand, let’s recognize that within the gun-owning population, as within any broad-based group, we will always find a hard core who are particularly eager to jump on social media to express the most stupid and infantile beliefs simply because: a) they have nothing better to do; and, b) it’s fun.

What makes an assault rifle attractive to most of its owners is the degree to which you can pretend you are mowing down all the bad guys. Take an AR onto the range and you instantly become that kid you once were before adult life intervened. And if someone threatens to make it difficult for you to recreate those happy days, why not do what children always do when someone threatens to take away their toys?

Throw a tantrum. Why not?  Yelling a few curse words is almost as much fun as shooting a gun.

 

 

 

Why Should I Give Up My Smith & Wesson When The Rest Of The World Buys Guns From Them Too?

Last week the BBC ran an article in which the author tried to figure what would happen if we got rid of all the guns.  The article is entitled, ‘What If All Guns Disappeared?’  The author, a freelancer named Rachel Nuwer, has actually written some decent stuff on big-game hunting in Africa, including a piece on the decision by D.D.D. Trump to life the ban on hunting of certain trophy species, probably so that his idiot son can bring back a tusk or a mane to decorate the den.

AKNuwer’s article on getting rid of guns is, of course, music to gun violence prevention (GVP) ears. The only problem with her approach is that she focuses most of her argument on the situation in the United States, which is not really where the issue of gun violence rests.  Now how can I say that when study after study tells us that gun homicides in America are 2 to 7 times higher than in any other developed country? I say that because even our outrageously-high homicide rate connected to guns is a fraction of what goes on throughout the globe.

The best figures we have indicate that gun homicides outside the U.S. but including the Russian republics, Africa, the South American drug countries and various other non-OECD zones probably total 250,000 victims every year. Our annual gun homicide number is somewhere around 13,000, and with a rate per 100,000 of 4.2, we rank far below most of the other non-OECD countries whose numbers can be trusted at all.

What is missing in Nuwer’s article is a much more compelling fact, namely, that virtually all of the gun violence which occurs in places like Angola (gun killing rate of 19,) Central African Republic (rate is 29.3,) Malawi (36.0) and other unfortunate spots is a function of what happens here. And by ‘here’ I don’t mean how many Americans die each year from gunshot wounds. By ‘here’ I mean the fact that we, along with a few ‘civilized’ European nation-states supply these killing zones with all their guns.

We started mass-producing guns at the Springfield Arsenal in 1799. But by 1854, Samuel Colt had established his own gun factory and sold small arms to both sides in the Crimean War. He quickly found himself competing with British gun factories, which by the turn of the nineteenth century were shipping guns to various colonial areas to the tune of more than 50,000 per year.

This movement of small arms from industrialized countries to lesser-developed zones if anything has increased because we have technologies (e.g., polymers, metal-injection manufacturing) which reduce the cost of gun manufacturing to a fraction of what gun making used to cost. These technologies aren’t so readily found in lesser-developed zones, but the demand for products made with such cost-saving technologies is sky-high. Know why you see all those ISIS fighters brandishing their AK-47s? Because it costs next to nothing to stamp out the parts which can then easily be assembled by hand.

Know how many handguns and long guns we exported between 2008 and 2015?  Try 2.4 million and you’re just a tad below the total number which left the USA and shipped overseas. Of course that represents a tiny fraction of the dough earned by American companies that supply at least 36% of the arms and munitions we sold throughout the globe.

And you think we are going to convince our own gun-owning citizens that they should give up their guns?

 

 

Take A Survey On Assault Weapons.

 

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This is a completely anonymous survey which gives gun owners an opportunity to report how they feel about the ownership of assault weapons and current plans to regulate such weapons more strictly.  The survey can be completed in 2 minutes or less and we will post results on a weekly basis.

 

If you are a gun owner, take this survey.

Remember, this survey is completely anonymous. Even Survey Monkey doesn’t know who you are.

The World Changes – Even The Gun World.

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This is the South Congregational Church in Springfield, MA. The congregation first started meeting in 1842 and constructed this lovely building in 1875. The person who gave the largest amount of money to pay the costs of this now-historic structure was Daniel Baird Wesson, who happened to live across the street.

D.B. Wesson also happened to own a gun company named Smith & Wesson. From the front of the church you can see the eastern side of the S&W factory, which is located one block from the church on Stockbridge Street.  Here is what the factory building looks like viewed from the entrance to the South Congregational Church.

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The Smith & Wesson factory on Stockbridge Street no longer makes guns; the plant moved out to its present location on Roosevelt Avenue in East Springfield in 1968. The Stockbridge factory is now an apartment complex which looks like this:

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If Daniel Baird Wesson was still alive and walked out of his mansion on Maple Street and looked across the street at the church whose construction he endowed, he would see this sign on the front steps:

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This is a banner that members of the congregation displayed outside of the current Smith & Wesson factory on March 24, but were not allowed to leave behind at the factory gate. So they have turned it into a display in front of the church, where I happened to see it the other day.

The Stockbridge Street factory is gone, so is D.B. Wesson’s mansion, but the issue of gun violence remains. And as long as there are people willing to address the issue the way it is being addressed outside of the South Congregational Church, there is a chance that gun violence will be reduced.

Sign Up To Take This Survey.

SOcial gUn cuLture

Tell us your opinion on guns, gun violence and gun culture.

Please click here to take the survey

This CONFIDENTIAL RESEARCH STUDY examines the knowledge and attitudes regarding guns, gun violence and gun culture in the US. We do NOT collect personal contact information.

 

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Gun violence claims >33,000 American lives per year. Additionally, another 82,000 will be shot and will survive these injuries, only to suffer several health consequences including multiple hospitalizations, emergency visits, premature mortality and several other health and mental outcomes.

What we are studying:

This confidential research study documents and analyses what you think about guns and gun violence in the US, including:

    • Your exposure to gun violence
    • Your thoughts about personal safety and social responsibility
    • Your thoughts about gun ownership
    • Your understanding about gun violence in the US
    • Your thoughts about guns and gun laws

You are eligible to participate if you are:

  1. Currently living in the US
  2. 18 years of age or above
  3. Willing to tell us the year of your birth
  4. Willing you tell us the zip code and state you live in now.

What you may win:

$25 Amazon gift card upon completion of the survey

Please click here to take the survey

Scan the barcode below to take the survey

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A Different Look At America’s ‘Exceptional’ Gun Violence.

If there is one truism about gun violence which is subscribed to by everyone who is active in the gun violence prevention (GVP) movement, it’s the idea that the United States has a higher rate of fatal violence than any other advanced country because we have so many guns. The studies which confirm this notion first began to appear in the 1970’s, reappearing with regularity every few years. In addition to finding a link between fatal gun violence and the size of the civilian arsenal, a more recent study suggests the same link also exists between mass shootings and the number of guns in civilian hands, although the author of this study has made no attempt to give us even the slightest hint about the data he used to develop this idea.

gun violence everytown             If the defining characteristics of intentional gun injuries was similar to what we find in other injuries from commonly-owned consumer products (ex., automobiles, bikes) I would have no issue with this approach to understanding injuries caused by guns. But it’s not. Gun injuries are unique among all product injuries tracked by the CDC because in every other category, the person who commits the injurious behavior and the person who gets injured are one and the same. As for gun violence, and violent behavior in general, other than suicide, the injured party and the party who commits the injury are two different people, so we need to understand the behavior of both.

Additionally, gun violence is skewed in terms of where it happens and who is involved.  Of the 3,100 counties in the United States, more than half are not the locations for any gun homicides at all. And less than 2% of all U.S. counties are the locations for more than half of all fatal gun injuries each year.  Furthermore, within these high-risk counties, most of the perpetrators and victims of intentional gun violence are men between the ages of 16 and 34, a majority of whom happen to be from non-white racial groups.

Now let me make one thing very clear.  I am not trying in any way, shape or form to assign certain behavioral characteristics to any particular racial or ethnic group. Nor do I ever make judgements about the relative cultural values of one population group versus another. My approach to understanding gun violence is very simple, namely, the data either explains something or it does not. And the strategies that we adopt for reducing gun violence can either be justified by a rigorous analysis of the data or they can’t. In that regard, I am afraid that the way we analyze data on fatal gun violence, particularly when we use the data for cross-national comparisons, simply doesn’t work.

I have just posted a very detailed paper examining how we define and use data for cross-national comparisons about fatal gun violence that raises substantive questions about whether the accepted narrative about the exceptional rate of American gun violence leads us towards more effective GVP strategies or not.  The paper is available on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) and can be downloaded here.  You can also send me comments about the paper to which I will quickly respond.  This is the second paper I have posted and I am pleased to join more than 370,000 scholars worldwide who use SSRN to share research with other scholars in their field. Without such intellectual cross-fertilization, our body of knowledge would expand at a much slower pace.

Regardless of how we feel about guns, everyone has a vested interest in feeling secure and safe. And it doesn’t matter whether risks to our safety are felt more in one area or among one population group as opposed to another, either we share a commitment to the commonweal or we don’t. My only hope is that part of this commitment will rest on validated data culled from serious research.

 

 

Conspiracy Theorists Aren’t The Only Ones Who Got It Wrong At Sandy Hook.

I’m not sure that the defamation lawsuit against Alex Jones by Sandy Hook parents Pozner and Heslin is a good thing or a bad thing. Obviously, anything that would take a little wind out of Jones’ sails is a good thing; the bad thing is that Jones will promote himself as an innocent ‘victim’ and use the suit to inflame and widen his audience a little more.

jones             You should know that Jones is hardly the only conspiracy theorist to trot out the idea that the massacre at Sandy Hook never took place.  Another conspiracy theorist, James Tracy, lost a tenured position at Florida Atlantic University because he not only promoted the idea that the whole episode was a hoax, but was accused by one of the Sandy Hook families of harassing them in an attempt to dig up more details. A conspiracy video called ‘The Sandy Hook Truther – Fully Exposed,’ racked up over 5 million views within the first week after it aired on YouTube in 2013.

The problem with the conspiracy gang is that the main target of all their conspiracies, a U.S. President who was born in Kenya, is no longer around. So, it’s not clear the degree to which this kind of nonsense will maintain its audience share when the last thing that someone like Alex Jones will do is to accuse D.D.D. Trump of using the government to promote his nefarious ends. After all, it’s pretty tough to attack the guy whose entire political agenda is based on cleaning out the ‘deep state.’

But getting back to the issue of Sandy Hook, unfortunately, self-promoters like Alex Jones were aided in their efforts to push the conspiracy line by the mainstream media, whose representatives descended on Newtown like locusts in a wheat field and very quickly began screwing their news reports up, down, sideways and everywhere else.  Early that afternoon news reports began identifying the shooter by name, except the person who allegedly shot everyone wasn’t Adam Lanza, rather, it was his older brother Ryan who was on his way home from his job in lower Manhattan when he learned that he was being accused of killing a whole bunch of school kids.

How did the media blow this one so bad?  Because directly after the shooting scene was secured, the cops searched Adam Lanza’s car and found Ryan’s driver’s license which was in the car for reasons that were never made clear. During the search, a reporter grabbed one of the cops, asked him what they had found, and the cop said, “Oh, we know who it is because he left his driver’s license in the car.”  And once this news got out, every network and every media venue reported it all over the place.

Six days after the massacre, NPR ran a detailed account of the mistakes made by media in the initial reportage about Sandy Hook, and named themselves, The New York Times, CBS and the Associated Press among others who got it wrong before they got it right. The lack of early media diligence was explained by the hyper-competitive situation which now characterizes all media news, but the bottom line is that the moment that a mainstream media venue had to retract or change a story, this gave the conspiracy theorists all the ammunition (pardon the pun) they would need.

I would hope that our friends in the responsible media would learn from this episode, particularly because Sandy Hook parents like Leonard Pozner and others continue to suffer from this outrageous fusillade of lies while still trying to overcome their grief. But I am still waiting for the Las Vegas Police Department to explain how photographs from within Stephen Paddock’s hotel room appeared on the internet before the cops even confirmed the shooter’s name.

It’s easy to blame Alex Jones for pushing a false story about Sandy Hook. But are we so sure that we can trust our friends in the mainstream media to tell us what really happens when someone starts banging away with a gun?

Does Public Health Research Explain Gun Violence?

Now that the gun-grabbing, liberal elite has decided that the way to reduce gun violence is through a ‘public health’ approach, I thought I would summarize what we know:

  • 74% of all victims of intentional fatal gun injuries committed by one person against another are men and women ages 14 – 30, of whom 40% are African-Americans who account for less than 15% of all Americans within that age group.

public healthThat is what public health research can definitively tell us about gun violence.  The research does state many other things, such as the link between gun laws and gun violence rates; such as the connection between lack of safe gun storage and gun injuries; such as gun homicides increasing when permit-to-purchase procedures are replaced by instant background checks. None of those findings, however, are definitive, and when public health scholars refer to gun violence as embracing an epidemiological approach to the problem, they are surrounding their research with an aura of scientific nomenclature which it doesn’t yet deserve.

Not to worry, I’m not turning into a pro-gun curmudgeon who all of a sudden believes that gun violence prevention (GVP) goals and objectives need to be thrown aside.  To the contrary, thanks to the Parkland kids and the overwhelming revulsion of D.D.D. Trump, his pimp attorney Cohen and the rest of the merry band, there may actually be a chance for some effective and much-needed gun-control strategies to become law of the land. All the more reason why we need to scrutinize what we know and still need to know about gun violence with a fine-tooth comb.

And here is where taking a ‘public health approach’ to gun violence can make things fuzzy rather than clear. The first time an illness appears, it may be due to nothing other than some spontaneous, physiological event. But the moment it appears in more than one person, we need to figure out how it got from Victim A to Victim B – the transmission mechanism – which often requires us to figure out the identity of the carrier, even if that individual never exhibits the symptoms of the germ himself.  It didn’t take long to figure out that AIDS was found overwhelmingly in the gay community and amongst individuals who were addicted to injected drugs. But what was the exact manner in which it spread?

We face exactly the same problem with understanding gun violence because, as opposed to most injuries (cars, falls, etc.) in the case of guns it takes two to tango; the injured party and the person whose behavior resulted in the injury aren’t one and the same. So, while public health research tells us an awful lot about the victim of this medical event, we know next to nothing about why someone else transmits this medical condition by shooting off a gun.

Our friends at the UC-Davis Violence Prevention Research Program have put up a very comprehensive resource to can be used by health-care providers who want to identify gun risk amongst their patients and counsel about same. The website contains a basic checklist of symptoms which indicate risk (violent behavior, abusive parents, substance abuse, et. al.,) behavior which has been validated by endless public health research over the past 25 years.

There’s only one little problem – these symptoms are exhibited by people who commit violence whether or not they use a gun. And less than 5% of the individuals who try to physically injure someone else each year use a gun. How come the other 95% don’t? With 300 million guns floating around, it can’t be because there’s any great difficulty getting their hands on a gun.

Until and unless we focus on the shooters and not just on the victims, I am afraid that the ‘public health approach’ to gun violence will not necessarily provide the answers we seek. And if we don’t fully understand how and why people use guns in inappropriate or illegal ways, how do we craft effective public policies to make those behaviors change?