Where Do Mass Shootings Occur?

guns-mass-shootings

One of the issues which has dogged gun-violence research has been the difficulty in retrieving valid data from any countries outside of a small grouping of the most advanced nation-states, a.k.a, the OECD.

For that reason, I was pleased to join John Lott in his attempt to measure mass shootings on a worldwide basis, particularly since I was not able to find the data allegedly collected by other scholars whose work on this issue has been circulating throughout the mass media, as well as within the gun violence prevention community, a.k.a., the GVP.

John and I have substantive disagreements about many issues which form the core of the gun-violence debate. But where we come together is on the absolute and unquestioned requirement that scholars should always be willing to share access to the data which they use to define and support their research. Either we debate and argue on the basis of facts or we don’t – it’s as simple as that.

Here is our op-ed in today’s New York Post.  The data can be accessed here.

 

 

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Gun Control in America: A Historic Guide on Major State Acts.

Original Content Posted at Ammo.com

The Second Amendment guarantees American citizens the right to bear arms, but both federaland state governments determine how citizens may legally exercise that right. And while both federal and state gun control laws regularly change, laws at the state level change more frequently and often without the media coverage that surrounds changes at the federal level.

ammo  This results in a constant challenge for gun owners to keep up with the latest state laws, especially for those who carry their weapons across state lines. Because while some states have more restrictions than others, state gun control policies across the country are diverse and can change quickly – too easily putting responsible gun owners on the wrong side of the law.

This guide is a timeline of major state gun control acts throughout the history of the United States – not only to help gun owners understand the state laws that have influenced our nation, but also to showcase how one state’s gun laws can set an example for others, creating a domino effect of gun control policy for the entire country.

Colonial America: Slavery Versus The Second Amendment

Pre-Constitution, the original Articles of Confederation established that “every State shall always keep up a well-regulated and disciplined militia.” The Bill of Rights’ Second Amendment holds that “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” However, those rights were at that time granted specifically to white males.

Fear of slave and Native American uprisings prompted many colonial states to establish laws banning “free Mulattos, Negroes and Indians” from having firearms. By the antebellum period, southern states like South Carolina, Louisiana, Florida, Maryland, Georgia, North Carolina, Mississippi and even Delaware all had various laws denying guns to people of color and allowing search and seizure of weapons as well as punishment without trial. Crucial to all of this was the Supreme Court case Dred Scott v. Sanford.

Previously a slave, Dred Scott sued for freedom based on the fact that he’d lived in the free state of Illinois and a free area within the Louisiana Territory for a decade. When his suit was unsuccessful in Missouri, he appealed to the federal courts. The contention was whether “a free negro of the African race, whose ancestors were brought to this country and sold as slaves,” was a citizen with protections under the Constitution. The Supreme Court decision on Dred Scott v. Sanford in 1857 denied “a free negro of the African race” citizenship – a milestone its issuer cited as “the most momentous event that has ever occurred on this continent,” excluding the Declaration of Independence. In that moment, those denied citizenship were also excluded from any of the rights associated with it.

After The Civil War: The Postbellum Era, Emancipation, Reconstruction, and the Black Codes

While President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed all slaves, President Andrew Johnson’s failing leadership brought with it all the struggles of the Reconstruction Era. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court Dred Scott decision still denied people of African descent citizenship.

Former Confederate states enacted Black Codes to define and restrict freedmen’s positions within society. Along with mandating legal responsibilities, land ownership rights, contract labor wages and harsh criminal laws, nearly all the Black Codes effectively and pointedly banned “persons of color” – anyone “with more than one-eighth Negro blood” – from possessing firearms. Mississippi, South Carolina, Louisiana, Florida, Maryland, Alabama, North Carolina, Texas and Tennessee all enacted Black Codes, attempting to maintain the status quo and deny weapons to people of color.

The 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments banned slavery, provided all citizens equal protection under the law and ensured voting rights for all citizens. The 14th Amendment was particularly important, as it defined citizenship as “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” overturning the Dred Scott decision, establishing people of color as citizens and overriding state statutes denying them the right to possess firearms based on their heritage.

Jim Crow South: The Supreme Court Cedes Gun Control to the States

In the following decades, a second civil war ensued as freed slaves sought to embrace their citizenship and formed freedmen militias to protect black communities and maintain political footing. The Jim Crow South, however, was equally intent on keeping firearms out of the hands of black Americans. The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was founded in 1866 as a “social club,” and the Knights of the White Camelia and the White Brotherhood quickly followed. These white supremacist groups swept the South, their foremost demand that freedmen surrender their firearms.

Despite attempts to pass a federal law making the specific seizure of firearms “without due process of law, by violence, intimidation, or threats” a felony, the language of the resulting Enforcement Acts was instead diluted to encompass obstructing civil rights, and the terror continued.

Tensions came to a head in 1873 in Louisiana, when armed white Democrats overpowered Republican freedmen militia at the Grant County Courthouse in what came to be known as the Colfax Massacre. Three whites died, but estimates indicate as many as 150 freedmen were killed – possibly more – most in the hours after they’d surrendered. Initially, three white men were prosecuted under the Enforcement Acts. But in 1876, the Supreme Court decision on the case – United States v. Kruikshank – dropped all charges, ruling that the power to protect citizens from private actions like those of the KKK resided with the states, not the federal government.

Southern states were quick to pass Saturday night special laws limiting handgun ownership through financial requirements that retained a racial bias. Tennessee had already enacted “An Act To Preserve the Peace and Prevent Homicide” in 1870, but simply reworked it for 1879’s “An Act to Prevent the Sale of Pistols.” It set the precedent by banning all handgun sales except expensive Army and Navy model handguns.

Arkansas followed in 1882 with an identical law, while in 1893, Alabama placed a heavy tax on handgun sales. In 1902, South Carolina limited handguns to law enforcement – often Klan members – while Mississippi followed a subtler path, requiring firearms dealers to maintain records available upon demand for handgun and handgun ammunition sales (with the intent to allow race-based confiscation). In 1907, Texas, like Alabama, decided to adopt a tax aimed at preventing both poor whites and blacks from being able to buy handguns.

Prohibition Era: Immigration, Organized Crime and Concealed Carry Laws

Concealed weapons of any kind have long been a controversial issue. As early as 1813, Kentucky law controlled concealed weapon carry, to include Bowie knives, sword canes and pocket pistols. Laws in Louisiana, Georgia and Tennessee, for example, also retained language to control “how arms may be borne.” In 1897, the Supreme Court case Robertson v. Baldwin determined that laws controlling concealed carry did not violate the Second Amendment, stating “the right of the people to keep and bear arms (Art. II) is not infringed by laws prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons.” Recently, the Ninth Circuit Court once again confirmed that ruling in Peruta v. County of San Diego.

The New York City of the early 1900s had no such laws, but was marked by European immigration, Tammany Hall, extensive organized crime and gun violence of all kinds. A newspaper article from the time cited the example of a grief-stricken Italian father fatally shooting the truck driver who’d accidentally run over his son. However, January 23, 1911, proved the tipping point when Fitzhugh Coyle Goldsborough used a concealed .32-caliber automatic pistol to assassinate novelist David Graham Phillips midday in Gramercy Park for an imagined slandering of his sister.

Supported by the Tammany Hall apparatus and effective August 31, 1911, the resulting Sullivan Act of 1911 mandated discretionary police-issued licenses to possess a handgun and made carrying an unlicensed concealed weapon a felony. While gun violence in fact escalated right into Prohibition, these two criteria formed the basis for many other states’ “may issue” gun laws requiring discretionary police-issued licenses to restrict gun ownership.

By 1987, only one state had unrestricted concealed carry – while eight were “shall issue,” 25 “may issue” and 16 “no issue.” In 2016, 10 states have unrestricted concealed carry, while 32 are “shall issue” and eight “may issue.” New York remains one of the few “may issue” states, and the Sullivan Act remains on the books as New York Penal Code Section 400.00 after more than a century.

Civil Rights Movement: The Black Panthers and Loaded Carry Laws

Ironically, the event that is ultimately credited as the cause of banned loaded carry took place in California without a single shot being fired. In 1960s America, civil rights issues were escalating. The assassinations of both Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X in 1965 left black communities fearful, and torn between peaceful resistance and self-defense “by whatever means necessary.” Abusive, racially motivated policing practices in Oakland, California, gave rise to the Black Panther Police Patrols and their mission to monitor and challenge that brutality. Since citizens were by law permitted open loaded carry of registered guns, the Black Panthers patrolled armed.

When a predominantly white jury ruled the police killing of Denzel Dowell a justifiable homicide, it was perhaps the last straw. The first issue of The Black Panther Black Community News Service on April 25, 1967, focused not only on the killing of Denzel Dowell, but also other police atrocities. It questioned how a previously injured Denzel could have fled a police officer who knew him well enough to call him by name, why he was shot 10 times, and why the newspaper announced the verdict two hours before the jury did. It also listed three other police murders of black men and two police-administered beatings of a black woman and a 14-year-old black girl.

Meanwhile, dubbed the Black Panther Bill, the Mulford Act sought to ban loaded carry specifically to end Black Panther armed patrols. However, on May 2, 1967, 30 Black Panthers – 24 men and six women armed with a written manifesto and loaded weapons – gathered on the California State Capitol steps and entered the building, their destination the General Assembly to protest the impending legislation. They were admitted only to the legislature’s official viewing area and then were asked to leave, but they left with their guns still loaded.

While the event remained nonviolent, cities across the nation were experiencing intense race riots. The California legislature fast-tracked the Mulford Act, and then-Governor Ronald Reagan signed it into law on July 28, 1967, as California Penal Codes 25850 and 142-181. It prohibited individuals from publicly carrying a loaded firearm on their person or in a vehicle in an incorporated city or other prohibited areas. The act authorized peace officers to examine any firearm to determine whether it was loaded and deemed any refusal to comply as probable cause for arrest. It also prohibited anyone but law enforcement from possessing loaded firearms or deadly weapons within the Capitol.

The Cold War and the Advent of “Assault Weapons”

The latter half of the 20th century brought with it global conflicts – Vietnam, Korea and Iraq – and assault rifles. The easily recognizable AK-47s, AR-15s and Uzis became the weapons of choice for military forces around the globe, their characteristics highly desirable to firearms enthusiasts.

While the guns take a lighter caliber bullet and typically fire with less range and power than a rifle, they offer valued traits like folding stocks, pistol and forward grips, large-capacity removable magazines and the capability of switching firing modes. With time, semi-automatic rifles have appeared as many different makes and models, often surprisingly affordable. Most notable is that with each ban and limitation, semi-automatic rifles become more popular.

The 1989 Stockton Massacre and California’s AWCA Response

Out of all the states, California is recognized as having the most restrictive gun laws. One of the primary catalysts was the Cleveland Elementary School shooting on January 17, 1989, during which Patrick Purdy used an AK-47 semi-automatic rifle to spray a playground full of children, killing five and wounding 32 before killing himself. Despite former weapons and robbery offenses, Purdy had easily bought the assault weapon in Sandy, Oregon, and brought it across state lines to the Stockton, California, schoolyard.

The Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989 (AWCA), effective January 1, 1990, was California’s response and the first assault weapons act. It ultimately defined assault weapons within three categories, banned any transfer of the listed prohibited assault weapons, and required registration of any already in possession by the end of 1992. Any weapons not registered by that date were to be surrendered to law enforcement.

The 1993 101 Massacre and California’s Firearms Safety Act

Despite the legislation, on July 1, 1993, Gian Luigi Ferri entered the law firm of Pettit & Martin on 101 California Street in San Francisco to avenge his alleged loss of $300,000 in a land deal. Armed with two 9mm semi-automatic machine pistols, a .45-caliber semi-automatic handgun and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, Ferri killed eight and injured six in a 16-minute rampage before killing himself.

While the event was the impetus for the 10-year Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 to 2004, in California, the effects have lasted much longer. Seeking to end gun manufacturer workarounds like changing model numbers, the state amended the Roberti-Roos Act’s assault weapons categories in 1999 by banning the manufacture, import or sale of semi-automatic rifles or pistols with certain characteristics as well as the transfer of magazines able to hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, effective January 1, 2000.

That same year, California limited handgun purchases to one during any 30-day period; Maryland, New Jersey and the District of Columbia have similar laws. It also passed the Aroner-Scott-Hayden Firearms Safety Act of 1999 to require child-safety locks on all guns, set handgun safety standards that dealers must meet, and repealed the immunity previously protecting gun manufacturers from victim lawsuits.

The 2012 Sandy Hook Massacre and New York’s SAFE Act

Reminiscent of the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, appalled the nation as an armed gunman once again took out his rage on school children. Adam Lanza killed his mother at home and then fatally shot 20 children and six staff members at the school before killing himself. He was armed with his mother’s AR-15 Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle and two of her handguns – a Glock and a Sig Sauer.

On January 16, 2013, New York became the first U.S. state to act after the shooting when its legislature passed the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act. It required universal background checks for all firearms purchases, expanded its definitions of assault weapons, created a state database for handguns, and banned the sale or purchase of magazines that could hold more than seven rounds of ammunition.

On April 4, 2013, Connecticut and Maryland both enacted new restrictions to their existing gun laws: An Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety and the Firearm Safety Act of 2013, respectively. Connecticut, too, required universal background checks for firearms purchases and banned magazines that could hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Maryland banned assault weapons and magazines that could hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

The 2012 Aurora Massacre and Colorado’s Response

On July 20, 2012, James Eagan Holmes fired into an Aurora, Colorado movie theater showing of The Dark Knight Rises premier, killing 12 and injuring 70 amid tear gas from grenades he’d launched. He was armed with a 12-gauge shotgun, a Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 semi-automatic rifle fitted with a 100-round magazine, and a .40-caliber Glock. Holmes had bought all three guns legally between May 22 and July 6, from three different firearms stores – two Gander Mountains and One Bass Pro Shop.

Following other states’ earlier actions, on March 20, 2013, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper also signed into law three bills to prevent another mass shooting event. HB 13-1224 banned large-capacity magazines that can hold more than 15 rounds of ammunition. HB 13-1229 required universal background checks for all firearms sales, and HB 13-1228 directed that applicants pay for the cost of the checks.

2013: 10 New California Gun Control Laws

Also in 2013, California Governor Jerry Brown signed 10 more different firearms-related bills:

  • AB-500 Firearms: DOJ checks.
  • AB-48 Firearms: Large-capacity magazines.
  • SB-683 Firearms: Firearm safety certificate.
  • SB-140 Firearms: Prohibited persons.
  • AB-1131 Firearms: Mental conditions.
  • SB-127 Firearms: Mentally disordered persons.
  • AB-231 Firearms: Criminal storage.
  • SB-363 Firearms: Criminal storage: Unsafe handguns: Fees.
  • AB-170 Assault weapons and .50 BMG rifles.
  • AB-539 Firearm possession: Prohibitions: Transfer to licensed dealer.

These bills extended weapon transfer waiting periods, added storage safety conditions and strengthened storage negligence laws, banned conversion kits for large-capacity magazines, required safety certificates for long guns, extended mental health-related prohibitions for firearms from six months to five years, made assault weapon permits individual-issue only, and prohibited individuals denied firearms from storing them with dealers.

SB-140 also appropriated $24 million to the Department of Justice to address the backlog in the Prohibited Armed Persons File database tracking more than 20,000 individuals prohibited from owning firearms.

2016: California’s “Gunpocalypse”

As 2015 drew to a close and the holidays approached, the tragic San Bernardino shooting stunned California residents and the nation. Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik killed 14 people and injured 22 more at a Christmas party thrown by Farook’s employer at the Inland Regional Center on December 2.

Farook and Malik were armed with two .223-caliber semi-automatic rifles – a DPMS A-15 and a Smith & Wesson M&P15 – two 9mm semi-automatic pistols, at least four high-capacity magazines, well over a thousand rounds of ammunition and a pipe bomb. The incident ended with the homegrown terrorists’ sworn loyalty to ISIS’ leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a police vehicle chase, and a final shootout that left both perpetrators dead.

While Farook had legally purchased his handguns, another individual, Enrique Marquez, had purchased the rifles legally in 2011 and 2012, as Farook had reportedly feared he wouldn’t pass the background check needed for them.

The two rifles, however, were altered after the purchase in flat violation of California law: the Smith & Wesson for automatic fire and the DPMS to accept large-capacity magazines. Investigation of the couple’s home yielded a stockpile of another 4,500 rounds of ammunition, a dozen pipe bombs, and tools for making them.

Almost immediately, California assemblymen and senators introduced a packet of legislation. On July 1, 2016, California Governor Jerry Brown signed six new gun control bills into state law, each seeking to close a firearms loophole: Assembly Bills 1695, 1511 and 1135 as well as Senate Bills 880, 1446 and 1235.

AB 1695

AB 1695, also known as “The Stop Illegal Gun Sales Act,” was an effort to stop the practices of “straw purchasers” – individuals able to pass background checks who procure guns for ineligible individuals, then report the firearms as lost or stolen to avoid accountability.

California’s penal code already listed falsely reporting to a member of law enforcement as a misdemeanor or felony. However, the bill specifically makes falsely reporting a firearm as lost or stolen a misdemeanor and imposes a 10-year ban on firearm ownership for those convicted of the offense. Violation of the 10-year period carries up to $1,000 in fines and up to a year in prison.

AB 1511

While the vast majority of firearms loaned from one person to another must go through a licensed dealer under AB 1511, prior to this bill Californians could lend a firearm to individuals they knew personally for infrequent periods of less than 30 days. The new bill has the same loan period limitations, but it restricts the lending of firearms to “a spouse or registered domestic partner, or to a parent, child, sibling, grandparent, or grandchild” related by “consanguinity, adoption, or steprelation.”

SB 880 & AB 1135

California passed two bills, SB 880 and AB 1135, that are substantively the same with minor wording differences like “specified attributes” as opposed to “several specified attributes.” Essentially, the new law closes the bullet button loophole. First, it redefines a “fixed magazine” as “an ammunition feeding device” that “cannot be removed without disassembly of the firearm action.” Then, it extends the definition of assault weapons banned to any “semiautomatic centerfire rifle or a semiautomatic pistol that does not have a fixed magazine,” and has at least one of the previously established assault weapon attributes – such as a thumbhole stock for rifles or a second handgrip for handguns.

Much like previous legislation, the law prohibits the sale or transfer of assault weapons lacking a fixed magazine and mandates that all weapons already in possession up to and including December 31, 2016, must be registered with DOJ by January 1, 2018, for up to a $20 fee. Violation of the law is a felony punishable by up to one year in jail.

SB 1446

While the previous law prohibited the sale, gift or loan of large-capacity magazines, SB 1446 bans them altogether. Any manufacture, sale, transfer, gift or loan of a magazine able to hold more than 10 rounds is punishable by up to a year in jail. Possession of a large-capacity magazine entails a $100 fine for the first offense, $250 for the second and $500 for the third.

In addition, regardless of when the magazine was purchased, the owner cannot keep it in California. The magazine must be moved out of state, sold to a licensed dealer, destroyed or surrendered to law enforcement.

SB 1235

An interim and supersession measure prior to voter adoption of the Safety for All Act of 2016, SB 1235 is legislation to control all ammunition through an Automated Firearms System. Starting July 1, 2019, all sales and transfers of ammunition will be subject to checks of the purchaser’s presented identification against the Prohibited Armed Persons File as well as the Automated Firearms System, and must be reported to the Attorney General.

The legislation also requires, with some sporting club exceptions, a vendor license for all ammunition sales. Prior to this, controls – including mandatory face-to-face transactions – had been limited to handgun ammunition. However, handgun ammunition was changed to ammunition, and ammunition was redefined to be all-inclusive with “one or more loaded cartridges consisting of a primer case, propellant, and with one or more projectiles.” Any person or business who transfers ammunition to someone ineligible to receive it is subject to $1,000 in fines and up to a year in prison.

Vetoed Bills

Governor Brown did, however, veto four submitted bills:

  • AB 2607 would have expanded the pool of individuals able to petition for a gun violence restraining order.
  • AB 1674 would have applied the 30-day handgun delivery limit to all firearms.
  • AB 1673 would have redefined firearm as any “frame or receiver blank, casting, or machined body” clearly part of a functional weapon.
  • SB 894 would have tightened reporting regulations for lost or stolen firearms.

The Second Amendment Stands Strong

Since 2013, successful federal gun legislation has been limited to the renewal of the Undetectable Firearms Act, and states have taken note. While more restrictive states have continued to identify and attempt to close every loophole, many others have instead passed laws to strengthen the Second Amendment.

In 2015, the Law Center To Prevent Gun Violence tracked “1,323 bills related to firearms in the states.” Many of these laws related to hotbed social issues of today: domestic violence, background checks, guns in schools and on campuses, and concealed carry.

Domestic terrorism is another serious concern driving the debate about gun control. If history is any guide, attacks by “homegrown” terrorists will lead to stricter gun control measures as legislators try to calm the nation’s outrage and sense of vulnerability with more laws – despite terrorists already breaking existing laws.

The challenge for lawmakers at all levels is to ensure that rational wisdom prevails over emotion. We can close every loophole. We can regulate and litigate. But ultimately, unbalanced malcontents or violent terrorists may still win simply because they don’t play by any rules. And even the most well-intentioned laws may have unintended consequences.

Meanwhile, the Second Amendment, crafted by America’s Founding Fathers, stands quiet and powerful, with 27 simple words worthy of defining billions of others in our nation’s Supreme Court:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

 

Should The ACLU Defend The NRA?

The decision by the ACLU to defend the NRA against an attack by Andy Cuomo raises a significant issue that needs to be considered and understood by everyone involved in the debate about guns. What I am referring to is the brief filed by the ACLU supporting the NRA’s lawsuit against Andy who sent a notice to banks and other financial institutions telling them to avoid doing business with the NRA, a strategy which the NRA claims is not only  a financial disaster for America’s ‘first civil rights organization,’ but is also a violation of the 1st Amendment right to free speech.

Republican National Convention              One quick word about the relationship between Andrew Cuomo and the gun industry which I have yet to see mentioned in any media coverage of this case. In fact, it was Cuomo who, as Secretary of HEW under Clinton, cobbled together the infamous deal that would have allowed Smith & Wesson to avoid any and all tort claims, in return for adopting a code covering the behavior of its dealers which would have basically ended the company’s ability to make and sell guns. So, Cuomo is not only a real bête noir for Gun-nut Nation, he’s basically at the top of the list. Is there any chance that Andy may have been motivated to pursue this gambit because he was feeling some electoral pressure from Cynthia Nixon, an actress and activist who was putting together a primary challenge from the Left?

Evidently there has been a significant amount of turmoil within the ACLU of its decision to give the NRA a helping hand. Which is hardly a new situation within the ACLU, given its long history of defending the free speech of various right-wing groups, including the American Nazi movement which had ACLU representation when it went to court in 1977 to secure a permit to march through Skokie, a Chicago suburb whose residents included a substantial number of Jews.

In the current confrontation between Cuomo and the NRA, the organization and its ACLU defenders are basically saying that if a public official can use his authority to intimidate and/or punish the gun-rights group for their offensive speech, then what would stop another public official from using the same bully pulpit to go after a group like Black Lives Matter, or any group with which the official disagreed? The argument is a little specious, if only because BLM isn’t out there selling insurance and other financial products to its members, nor does it rake in two hundred million bucks every year from membership dues. But the 1st Amendment protection does not and cannot be applied only to groups who are vulnerable because of their small checkbook balances; the ‘rights’ stand by themselves regardless of whose ox gets gored.

On the other hand, our friends down in Fairfax at NRA headquarters have a rather interesting approach to the question of how they promote and affirm their support of free speech. Because they aren’t just defending someone’s right to get up and shoot his or her mouth off about the ‘right’ to own and use a gun. The NRA also defends and strives to promote the idea that gun owners can also show up at public events openly carrying their guns. After all, isn’t this the essence of the NRA’s demand to abolish gun-free zones?

Don’t give me any nonsense about how the idiots who stood in front of the 2016 Republican convention with their ARs at the ready were exercising the ‘right’ to free speech. They were reminding the media that a Presidential candidate was about to be nominated whose campaign would receive an unprecedented load of cash from the NRA.

I have no problem with the boys in Fairfax supporting Sleazy Don. I do have a problem with anyone who walks around toting an AR in a public space. That’s not free speech. That’s childish and stupid behavior, neither of which has ever been protected by the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.

 

New Jersey Makes It Easier To Trace Crime Guns But The ATF Could Make It Easier Still.

A serious and long-overdue step has finally been taken in New Jersey with a decision by the State Attorney General to require that every law enforcement agency participate in the ATF’s data-sharing program on gun traces known as eTrace.  What this means is that when any agency in Jersey asks ATF to run a trace on a gun, unless otherwise directed for reasons of confidentiality, the information will be shared by every police department throughout the state. The purpose of this new procedure, according to the directive sent out by the AG, is to enhance law enforcement’s ability to combat gun violence and trafficking by “identifying statewide patterns in sources and types of guns, as well as unlawful purchasers and firearm traffickers.”

ATF logo             The good news about this directive is that it serves notice on every agency in New Jersey that conducting a trace request is now a mandatory activity, not just something that a police department may or may not choose to do. The biggest problem with enforcement of gun laws is that the ATF, which has total regulatory authority over the gun business at the federal level, has no authority to tell a local law-enforcement agency what it can and cannot do with guns picked up at a crime scene – some agencies run traces, others don’t, it’s a typical hodge-podge which reflects the federal-state division of authority that has been the hallmark of our legal system since a bunch of guys sweated through a hot Philadelphia summer in 1787 and produced the Constitution of the United States.

That was then, and this is now.  The 2nd Amendment notwithstanding, you couldn’t just walk into a gun shop in the olden days and buy a gun.  There weren’t any guns and there weren’t any gun shops. Most Americans owned some kind of gun back then, but for the most part these guns were old-style muskets manufactured one at a time and useful for protecting livestock from Mister Wolf or Mister Fox, but not much more.

In 2016 there were 375 homicides in New Jersey, most of them because of illegal guns. And don’t for one minute think that this violence was only a function of the inner-city ghettos like Newark and Camden; the Jersey shore county, Ocean, was right up there too. New Jersey has one of the strictest permit laws for buying a handgun, but the state suffers from an unusually-high number of crime guns which were first sold in other states. In 2012, four out of five guns traced in New Jersey came from some other state.

The problem with this eTrace program, however, is that even when the Jersey cops learn that a crime gun was first sold in Pennsylvania or Virginia or wherever, they still have no idea how the gun got from there to here. So, the idea that giving all police departments access to the same trace information about a particular gun doesn’t really solve the problem of determining the extent and flow of crime guns.

If the ATF is really serious about helping local law enforcement agencies combat gun crimes, I have a simple suggestion that could be implemented without requiring the cooperation of a single police department at all. Let’s not forget that the ATF has total regulatory authority over the behavior of every, single gun dealer whose shops are the initial source of every, single gun that is ever traced. And many guns that are stolen and trafficked from one state to another, often wind up back in a gun shop because gun dealers are always willing to fork over some cash and buy a used gun.

What the ATF should do is require that any dealer who wants to take in a used gun must first make sure that the weapon hasn’t been previously reported as a stolen gun. It’s not a foolproof system, obviously, but at least it would reduce the extent to which gun dealers play a role, unwittingly or not, in the movement of crime guns. Giving licensed dealers access to eTrace is long overdue.

 

Gun Control in America: A Guide to Major Federal Acts.

Original Content Posted Here at Ammo.com.

For Americans, the crux of gun control laws has been how to disarm dangerous individuals without disarming the public at large. Ever-present in this quest is the question of how the perception of danger should impact guaranteed freedoms protected within the Bill of Rights.

Not only is such a balancing act difficult as-is, but there are also two additional factors that make it even more challenging: America’s federal government is constitutionally bound by the Second Amendment, and politicians notoriously take advantage of tragedies to pass irrational laws when emotions are at their highest. As President Obama’s former Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, once famously remarked:

“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”1

This line of thought is not new to American politics. From the emancipation of enslaved Americans and the organized crime wave of the 1930s to the assassinations of prominent leaders in the 1960s and the attempted assassination of President Reagan in the 1980s, fear has proved a powerful catalyst for appeals about gun control.

Below is an overview of the history behind major federal gun control legislation, capturing how we’ve gone from the Founding Fathers’ America of the New World to the United States of the 21st century.

Second Amendment in America’s Bill of Rights
First and Second Militia Acts of 1792
Colonial Gun Regulations
Militia Act of 1862
Fourteenth Amendment
National Rifle Association
National Firearms Act of 1934
Federal Firearms Act of 1938
Gun Control Act of 1968
Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act of 1986
Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988
Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993
Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994
Supreme Court Case District of Columbia et al. v. Heller
Supreme Court Case McDonald et al. v. City of Chicago
The Rights of an American Citizen

Second Amendment in America’s Bill of Rights: Ratified December 15, 1791

Congress added the Bill of Rights to the Constitution of the United States specifically “to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers.” The Second Amendment is the foundational cornerstone of every American’s right to bear arms, stating:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The right to bear arms was second only to the first – the most vital freedoms of religion, speech, the press, the right to assemble and the right to petition government for redress of grievances. Meanwhile, conflicting views have left government and personal interest groups struggling to reconcile technological advances, isolated but significant violent anomalies and the constitutional mandate protecting the natural right to self defense and this most basic aspect of the Bill of Rights.

First and Second Militia Acts of 1792: Passed May 2 and 8, 1792

The U.S. Congress passed the Militia Acts of 1792 less than a year after the Second Amendment’s ratification. The first act’s purpose was “to provide for the National Defence, by establishing an Uniform Militia throughout the United States.” This measure established the need and command structure for a state-based militia. The second act defined conscription parameters for those militias, limiting armed service to “each and every free able-bodied white male citizen” 18 to 45.

Colonial Gun Regulations

Even today, the majority of firearms laws are state-based and vary considerably. While California, Connecticut and New Jersey have the most restrictive laws, Arizona, Vermont and Kentucky have some of the least stringent. For more than a century, the young United States relied primarily on “state” laws:

  • The earliest came from Virginia, the result of fear of attack by Native Americans. The 1619 law imposed a three-shilling fine on able-bodied men who failed to come armed to church on the Sabbath.
  • By 1640, slave codes in Virginia prohibited all “free Mulattos, Negroes and Indians” from bearing arms. In 1712, South Carolina enacted a similar law.
  • Throughout the Antebellum South, Louisiana, Florida, Maryland, Georgia, North Carolina, Mississippi and even Delaware all passed multiple measures denying guns to people of color, requiring court-issued permits, and allowing search and seizure of weapons as well as punishment without trial.

Militia Act of 1862: Passed July 17, 1862

Often overlooked, the Militia Act of 1862 was highly significant because for the first time, a U.S. government in wartime need called upon “persons of African descent” for military or naval service. Granted, the soldiers were paid less than their white compatriots and were at first primarily laborers. However, the act guaranteed freedom for soldiers and their families in exchange for service. By late October, black Union regiments raised from Kansas, Louisiana and the South Carolina Sea Islands were in the field. President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, and in May of that year, the War Department established the Bureau of Colored Troops, which would represent nearly 185,000 soldiers during the Civil War.

Fourteenth Amendment: Ratified July 9, 1868

Even as 1863’s Emancipation Proclamation freed all slaves within the United States, racially biased gun control continued through Black Codes in states like Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama. Internationally, the Paris Anti-Slavery Conference of 1867 condemned the practices, highlighting that in “the States,” even “freedmen” were “forbidden to own or bear fire-arms, and thus were rendered defenceless against assault.” Congress abolished this discriminatory gun control with the most controversial of the three Reconstruction Amendments. While the Thirteenth abolished slavery and the 15th forbade racial discrimination in elections, the Fourteenth Amendment provided “to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Finally, the Fourteenth guaranteed all Americans, regardless of color or appearance, their Second Amendment right to bear arms.

National Rifle Association: Founded November 17, 1871

Originally founded to improve the marksmanship and firearms skills found lacking in troops during the Civil War, the National Rifle Association(NRA) sought to “promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis.” Since then, it has become a complex organization, with its own Legislative Affairs Division, Institute for Legislative Action, Political Victory Fund and NRA Foundation as well as numerous publications.

As “America’s longest-standing civil rights organization,” the NRA is a “diligent [protector] of the Second Amendment.” It actively supported the National Firearms Act of 1934 and Federal Firearms Act of 1938, supported portions of the Gun Control Act of 1968 and was instrumental to the Firearms Owners Protection Act. It opposed renewal of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban and backed 2005’s Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Actand 2006’s Disaster Recovery Personal Protection Act, which became part of 2007’s Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act. In 2013, it opposed expansion of the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988. The NRA has also been an active protector of the Second Amendment in numerous legal cases involving gun owners’ rights, including 2010’s landmark Supreme Court case McDonald v. Chicago.

National Firearms Act of 1934: Signed Into Law June 26, 1934

Signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the National Firearms Act, Public Law 73-474, sought to control specifically the types of weapons typically involved in organized crime and violent gangland incidents: automatic weapons like machine guns and easily concealed but wide-impact, short-barrel firearms, such as sawed-off shotguns, as well as mufflers and silencers. Rather than banning them, the act instead placed a financial premium on them and allowed tracking of them by requiring that:

  • Importers, manufacturers and dealers register and pay an annual tax: $500 for importers and manufacturers, $300 for pawnbrokers and $200 for dealers.
  • Transferors pay a $200 tax per transaction.
  • Intended recipients complete an application and submit identification, including fingerprints and a photograph.
  • Importers, manufacturers and dealers maintain records of all transactions.
  • All transfers as well as all previously owned firearms be registered, including the firearm’s identifying marks; the owner’s name, address and place of employment; and where the gun was to be kept.
  • Any violation of the act be subject to a $2,000 fine and up to five years in prison.

The National Firearms Act has not been updated since, and importers, manufacturers, dealers and buyers still pay the same fees. Accounting for inflation, the $200 transaction tax would now be the equivalent of more than $3,500, and the $2,000 fine would be more than $35,000.

Federal Firearms Act of 1938: Signed Into Law June 30, 1938

The 1930s were tumultuous years. FDR’s New Deal was rebuilding a struggling America in the face of a well-armed wave of organized crime. John Dillinger was one of the most infamous criminals of the era who used not only machine guns, but other assorted weapons on a crime spree that spanned eight states. Between 1933 and 1934, John Dillinger and his so-called Terror Gang robbed a dozen banks, stole more than $500,000, nearly $9 million in 2016 dollars, killed 11 people and managed to escape from prison on three separate occasions. The crime spree finally ended on June 30, 1934, when federal agents tracked Dillinger to a movie theater in Chicago. Dillinger drew his Colt .380 in an attempt to escape and was cut down by a hail of gunfire from law enforcement. On the fourth anniversary of Dillinger’s death, Congress passed Public Law 75-785, the Federal Firearms Act of 1938, which expanded recordkeeping and accountability for all firearms importers, manufacturers and dealers and placed restrictions on gun ownership. It expressly aimed to regulate interstate and foreign commerce in arms and encompassed not only the guns themselves, but also any silencers or mufflers, ammunition, cartridge cases, bullets and propellant powder. It stated that:

  • Only dealers or manufacturers possessing a license could transport, ship or receive firearms or ammunition in interstate or foreign commerce. The license was $25 per manufacturer and $1 for dealers.
  • Dealers and manufacturers could not ship or transport firearms to anyone under indictment, convicted of a crime or considered a fugitive from justice.
  • Trade in stolen firearms or guns that have had the manufacturer’s serial numbers removed was illegal.

Gun Control Act of 1968: Signed Into Law October 22, 1968

Three decades passed. Then, over five years, four major assassinations took their toll: President John F. Kennedy; racial activists Malcolm X and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; and Senator Robert F. Kennedy. As for the assassins, Lee Harvey Oswald had purchased his rifle through a popular mail order company under an alias, Talmadge Hayer had a criminal history of stolen guns, James Earl Ray was an escaped convict, and Sirhan Sirhan had purchased his unregistered handgun from a private individual. The response was a major overhaul of restrictions on how guns could be bought and sold.

Signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the Gun Control Act of 1968, or Public Law 90-618, soon became known as Title I, repealing the Federal Firearms Act of 1938 and relegating the National Firearms Act of 1934 to Title II. Its stated purpose was “to provide support to Federal, State, and local law enforcement officials in their fight against crime and violence.” To that end, it:

  • Mandated licensing for all importers, manufacturers and dealers of firearms and ammunition involved in interstate or foreign arms commerce, and set license fees for “destructive devices” at $1,000 a year.
  • Prohibited using falsified information to acquire a firearm.
  • Set the general purchase age for handguns and handgun ammunition at 21.
  • Prohibited dealers and manufacturers from selling firearms to indicted or convicted individuals, fugitives from justice, drug addicts and mentally incompetent individuals.
  • Required registration of all firearms with the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record.
  • Prohibited the possession of firearms on which the serial number has been altered, obliterated or removed.
  • Controlled containers, markings and chains of custody for shipped firearms, eliminating mail order delivery to unlicensed individuals.

Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act of 1986: Signed Into Law August 28, 1986

A brutal Miami shootout in April 1986 between two bank robbers and eight FBI special agents left two agents dead, three seriously wounded and two injured. The criminals’ weapons – a Ruger Mini-14 semi-automatic rifle loaded with .223 Remington rounds, a shotgun and two .357 caliber handguns – were notably “more powerful and their rounds could penetrate even the armored vests that some of the agents were wearing.” In the aftermath, the 99th Congress decided “to regulate the manufacture, importation, and sale of armor piercing ammunition.” Public Law 99-408:

  • Made the manufacture and importation of armor-piercing ammunition illegal; the only exceptions are for governmental use, authorized testing and export.
  • Established an annual $1,000 license fee for armor-piercing ammunition manufacturers and importers and the government’s right to revoke that license for violations of the law.
  • Required special markings and packaging for armor-piercing ammunition.
  • Mandated five years in prison without suspension, probation or parole for individuals possessing armor-piercing ammunition and a firearm while committing a violent crime.

Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988: Signed Into Law November 10, 1988

The use of lightweight yet durable polymers in the popular and reliable Glock 17 – a “plastic” semi-automatic pistol – first raised security concerns about the possibility of mass-produced guns passing through metal detectors unnoticed. In response, President Ronald Reagan signed Public Law 100-649 prohibiting all firearms that are not detectable by walk-through metal detectors – that are less than 3.7-percent steel. It also banned firearms with major components that fail to “generate an image that accurately depicts the shape of the component” on standard airport imaging technology. Originally passed for a 10-year term, the act was extended in 1998, 2003 and – most recently – 2013 for another 10-year term as Public Law 113-57.

Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993: Signed Into Law November 30, 1993

In 1981, John Hinckley, Jr.’s attempt to assassinate President Ronald Reagan first injured Reagan’s press secretary, James Brady. Hinckley’s first shot entered above Brady’s left eye and left the nation shaken by “The Bear’s” new role as a wheelchair-bound gun control advocate. Within 16 minutes of the incident, Hinckley’s gun – a .22-caliber Röhm RG-14 revolver – was traced to a Dallas pawn shop. Hinckley had no criminal or mental records at the time, but he did use an old Texas driver’s license and fake address.

The Brady Act, or Public Law 103-159, was first introduced to Congress in 1987, but it wasn’t passed until 1993. The key provisions amended the Gun Control Act of 1968 by:

  • Mandating a five-day waiting period before a licensed dealer, manufacturer or importer can sell, deliver or transfer a handgun to an individual.
  • Establishing a “national instant criminal background check system to be contacted by firearms dealers before the transfer of any firearm.” However, this provision applies only to states that don’t already have acceptable background checks for handgun purchasers. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Improvement Amendments Act of 2007, or NCIS Act, introduced conditional but optional financial incentives and grants for establishing or upgrading state reporting systems.

The Brady Campaign continues to advocate and lobby for tighter gun controls “To Prevent Gun Violence.”

Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 (a.k.a. Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act of 1994): Signed Into Law September 13, 1994

Two notable events precipitated 1994’s assault weapons ban. First, a gunman using TEC-9 handguns with Hellfire trigger systems, a Norinco NP44, and both standard and hollow-point ammunition killed eight people and wounded six in 15 minutes in San Francisco’s 101 California Streetskyscraper. The second was the siege of the Branch Davidian complex in Waco, Texas, a 51-day government standoff with a fiery ending that left 82 Branch Davidians and four ATF agents dead. More than 300 Davidian-owned firearms and nearly 2 million rounds of “cooked off” or spent ammunition included fully automatic AK-47 and AR-15 assault rifles, .50 caliber semi-automatic rifles and antitank armor-piercing ammunition.

In answer, President Bill Clinton signed Congress’ Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act – Title XI of Public Law 103-322 or the Federal Assault Weapons Ban – “to make unlawful the transfer or possession of assault weapons” for 10 years. It prohibited the manufacture, sale and possession of specific types of semi-automatic firearms with military-style features and large-capacity magazines. This included many weapons with folding stocks, flash suppressors, barrels threaded for silencers and detachable magazines that held more than 10 rounds. However, pre-ban weapons were grandfathered, exempt from the new law.

2004 Expiration of Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994

In the ensuing decade, the results of the ban on assault weapons did not align with the intent of the law. Cited by both sides of the gun control issue, An Updated Assessment of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban: Impacts on Gun Markets and Gun Violence 1994-2003, ultimately found that “Although the ban has been successful in reducing crimes with AWs [Assault Weapons], any benefits from this reduction are likely to have been outweighed by steady or rising use of non-banned semiautomatics with LCMs [large-capacity magazines], which are used in crime much more frequently than AWs.” While states like New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey retain their own assault weapon laws, attempts to re-introduce federal legislation banning assault weapons have been unsuccessful.

Supreme Court Case District of Columbia et al. v. Heller Decision: Decided June 26, 2008

D.C. v. Heller was a highly debated landmark case that addressed disparities between local and federal law. At debate was whether a D.C. special policeman had the right to register and keep a handgun in his home without a trigger lock despite D.C.’s prohibition on handguns and unregistered firearms. District law also required that even registered weapons must be unloaded, disassembled or bound by a trigger lock.

Heller maintained that he had the right to accessible self-defense in his home. Despite dissenting opinions, the court ruled in his favor, acknowledging that handguns are common arms choices for “defense of self, family and property.” The court added that imposing a trigger lock requirement prevents ready self-defense and declared the condition unconstitutional. The District was instructed to allow Heller to register his gun and issue him a license to carry it in his home.

Supreme Court Case McDonald et al. v. City of Chicago, Illinois, et al.: Decided June 28, 2010

Just two years later, the Supreme Court heard McDonald v. Chicago, clarifying the decision reached in D.C. v. Heller by expanding the right to bear arms within the home to all U.S. states. The case centered on Chicago’s ban on handguns versus petitioners who lived in high-crime neighborhoods and – like Heller – also wanted the right of “defense of self, family and property.”

This time, however, the plaintiffs based their argument on the Fourteenth Amendment – resolution to the Black Codes and guarantee for equal protection under the law – and its inclusion of Second Amendment rights. Once again, the Supreme Court ruled that private citizens retain their Second Amendment right to self-defense in their own homes regardless of locale or state and went on to confirm that the Fourteenth Amendment does in fact secure the Second.

The Rights of an American Citizen

The work of the Founding Fathers, the Second Amendment is uniquely American. They were men who had to fight for their freedom from tyranny, and who intended that the means for that fight should never be taken away from American citizens.

Over the last two centuries, however, the United States and its people have sought to strike a balance between the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment and the mayhem created by guns wielded by unhinged individuals. In that balancing act, outrage and fear have been powerful forces pushing some Americans to call for more firearm laws in order to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, assassins and terrorists.

As this balancing act continues, it is worth remembering the unshakeable connection between American citizenship and the right to bear arms from an American once denied that right:

“Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters, U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder, and bullets in his pockets, and there is no power on earth which can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship in the United States.”

Frederick Douglass

 

Gun Violence And Violence: Always The Same Thing?

Our friend Daniel Webster recently sent out a tweet which said: “Folks interested in violence prevention should read this.” And in this case, the ‘this’ refers to a long, detailed report by Thomas Abt, who says that by blending concepts from the fields of public safety and public health, he has created a “new conceptual framework for responding to community violence among youth.” So obviously, Gun-control Nation needs to follow Webster’s advice and take Abt seriously, if only because this report is partially based on the evaluation of many programs which attempt different kinds of interventions to reduce the violence caused by guns.

unicef             To set the overall context for this report, Abt cites a UNICEF study which says that at least 95,000 children (0 to age 19) are fatal victims of violence each year. However, if you go down into the details of the UNICEF report, you find that the death rate among children in the United States is roughly one-sixth the rate in Latin America and West/Central Africa, one-third the rate in Eastern and Southern Africa, and half the world rate as a whole. [p. 34]

Do these differentials mean that other countries have higher rates of gun violence than the United States? Actually, what it really means is that the UNICEF researchers aggregated country-level violence based on all types of violence suffered by children, most of which has nothing to do with gun violence at all. In fact, children suffer violent deaths for all kinds of reasons beyond physical assaults: bullying, parental neglect, sexual attacks, punishment, etc. The authors of the UNICEF report indeed caution the reader to understand that “the terms ‘abuse,’ ‘violence’ and ‘maltreatment’ are used interchangeably throughout this report for easier reading,” categories that have little to do with violence connected to guns.

Abt never claims that his study is the basis only for a better understanding of the kinds of interventions that reduce gun violence. On the other hand, many of the intervention programs he evaluates turn out to be programs, like Chicago’s Cure Violence, which focus not exclusively but certainly primarily on violence connected to guns. And the problem with using the outcome of such programs to develop a typology for responding to violence sui generis, is that gun violence is of a very different type from all other violent behavior because of the existence of – the gun!

The U.S. falls into a category whose average per-capita violence rate is so low because the other countries in that group – the OECD countries – have next to no gun violence at all. According to the WHO, the U.S. death rate from interpersonal violence (per 100K) is 6.1, Great Britain is 2.1, Spain is 1.4, Netherlands is 1.2, Japan is 0.6 and so forth. And that’s because we have all the guns. Trying to use the outcome of violence-suppression programs in the U.S. to determine how to reduce violence in countries like Lesotho or Mali is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

Want to become an expert on interpersonal violence? There are two very distinct paths you can take. You can develop a facility in statistics, mine mountains of data and then analyze the data to produce this conclusion or that. Or you can do what Lester Adelson did, namely, become a big-city coroner and study first-hand the results of violent behavior itself. Out of which Adelson produced an article on gun violence that I still believe sets the standard for linking the most violent type of violent behavior to one thing and one thing only – the existence of a gun: “With its peculiar lethality, a gun converts a spat into a slaying and a quarrel into a killing.”

What Thomas Abt tells us is that the way to reduce gun violence is to prevent the spat or the quarrel from taking place.  I think it’s much more effective to let the kids argue all they want as long as they can’t get their hands on those guns.

I Would Still Like To Know Why Gun Owners Love Their Guns.

Despite what some of my dear Gun-nut Nation friends may think, I have no ego invested in explaining why some of the beliefs they share for reducing gun violence or explaining gun violence are simply wrong. Nor have I decided to go over to the ‘other side’ and make common cause with Wayne-o, Chris Cox or John Lott. Folks should understand that pointing out what may be errors in GVP policies or research supporting those policies isn’t a backhand effort to justify violence caused by guns.

NRA showI joined the NRA in 1955. At that time the organization focused on the use of guns for hunting and sport. There was a bit of talk about 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ but nobody within the organization believed that the occasional gun-control bills introduced in Congress reflected the coming of Armageddon or any attempt to turn America into a Fascist state. Even the Gun Control Act of 1968 was a half-hearted attempt, at best, to pretend that dividing the population up between good guys and bad guys would help the cops in their fight against crime.

Obviously, the world has changed in many respects over the intervening sixty-plus years. But I still believe that guns play a positive role in my life because I enjoy buying them, selling them and even occasionally shooting them since those activities usually afford me the opportunity to get together with other gun nuts like me. And don’t ask me how and don’t ask me why, but I always have a good time talking to other gun nuts about guns.

On the other hand, I will not and cannot accept the idea that we should ever assume that armed citizens can or should take the place of police in keeping the community safe. Sorry, but listening to someone drone on for a couple of hours and then shooting a few rounds into a non-moving, paper target doesn’t qualify anyone to either walk around with a self-defense gun or even think they are prepared to use that gun in a proper and effective way. I’m not saying there aren’t instances, documented or not, where a gun-owner picks up his/her gun and prevents some serious crime from taking place. But handguns and assault rifles are designed to do one thing and one thing only, namely, to shoot someone else. And to quote the great novelist Walter Mosley, “If you walk around with a gun, it will go off sooner or later.”

Notwithstanding my implacable and determined stance against self-defense guns, I am still waiting for someone in the GVP research community to explain how and why a remarkable example of cognitive dissonance exists when it comes to how America feels about guns.  Ready?

In 1959, a Gallup survey found that 60% supported a ban on private ownership of handguns. Not more restrictive licensing, not some kind of permit-to-purchase, but an absolute ban. This number has now dropped to slightly above 20%. At the same time, public health researchers have published endless studies showing that guns increase risk. And since less than 40% of American adults own guns, obviously the idea that a gun is not a risk but a benefit, is shared by many non-gun owners as well.

I cringe every time a GVP-leaning outfit produces a survey showing that Gun-control Nation and Gun-nut Nation agree on various ‘reasonable’ gun regulations (example: comprehensive background checks) because these so-called ‘reasonable’ policies invariably reflect the agenda of folks who want more regulation of guns, not the other way around. How come these surveys never include ask the two sides how they feel about getting rid of gun-free zones or a national, concealed-carry law?

This is the first time that the noise being made by Gun-control Nation seems to be matching, if not exceeding, the noise made by the other side. But arguments need to be based not just on noise, but on facts. I’m still waiting for my GVP research friends to supply some of those much-needed facts.

 

Want A Good Conspiracy Theory About Mueller? Try Sandy Hook.

Today our friend Charles Blow has a column comparing Trump’s reaction to Mueller to how Nixon and Clinton responded to Watergate and Lewinskygate in previous years. The difference, however, is that Mueller’s investigation has yet to uncover a specific connection between the Russians and Trump. And until or unless such a connection is found, is Trump all that wrong when he says that Mueller’s work is just a big ‘witch hunt?’

jones2   On the other hand, it takes one to know one, and if there’s one person out there who knows how to fabricate a conspiracy based on unproven assertions, it’s the guy sitting in the Oval Office whose public persona was nourished on conspiracy theories, beginning with the ‘birther’ conspiracy, which Trump continued to peddle even after Obama released a bone-fide birth certificate proving his live birth in the United States.

Trump’s infatuation with conspiracy theories took a big jump forward when he appeared on InfoWars and told Alex Jones that he wouldn’t let Jones down. This was several years after Jones first began promoting the idea that the Sandy Hook massacre was a government-organized hoax, a continuing signature story that eventually got him sued for defamation by parents of some of the children who were shot and killed.

What gave a bit of credibility to the Sandy Hook conspiracy theorists was, unfortunately, the fact that the national media who invaded Newtown right after the massacre began releasing information that again and again turned out to be wrong. The first mistake was made by CNN, which identified the shooter not as Adam Lanza but as his older brother whose driver’s license was found in the car that Adam drove to the school. The ‘honor roll’ of news organizations that had to go back and change something they initially said, included CNN, CBS, AP, The New York Times and NPR. Once these seasoned reporters admitted that they were wrong, their admissions of wrongdoing made it easy for the conspiracy gang to claim the whole thing was a mis-managed, government affair.

I can’t think of a more delicious irony than the idea that the Mueller investigation is just another conspiracy theory, this time peddled not by the Right but by the Left. Because the truth is that the liberal mainstream still can’t believe that someone as seasoned, as professional, as experienced, as deserving as Hillary Rodham Clinton, could have lost this election to a know-nothing, rabble-rousing racist and moronic loudmouth like Donald Trump.

Now the fact that she spent twice as much money on her campaign as he did on his, the fact that she couldn’t be bothered to make a campaign stop in Michigan where she lost the whole state  by less than 16,000 votes; somehow these kinds of facts seem to have vanished from the post-election narrative being peddled by Hillary’s friends. And please, please do me a favor and shut up about the so-called need to change the Electoral College, okay?  I didn’t notice anyone complaining when Bill Clinton won the 1992 election with a whopping 43% of the popular vote, thanks to the presence of Ross ‘I’ll talk to my people and you talk to your people’ Perot.

The big difference between the Mueller conspiracy theory and the Sandy Hook conspiracy theory is that the latter was based on the idea that the government created something out of nothing in order to push through some kind of ban on privately-owned guns. The funny thing about Obama’s attempt to pass a gun-control bill, which went nowhere the following year, is that it was backed by a guy named Trump, who five days after the massacre, tweeted his support for Obama’s stand.

If Trump really wants to pull the rug out from underneath Mueller, what he needs to do is figure out some kind of connection between Mueller’s investigation and the continuing efforts of David Hogg and the Parkland kids to generate support for a national, gun-control bill. Run that story on InfoWars and Brietbart and it will take on a life of its own.

 

More Guns Equals More Gun Violence: A Response From David Hemenway

murder  Yesterday I wrote a column in which I argued that using the gun-ownership rate in the U.S. as the ‘driver’ for gun violence is flawed if we count all guns, rather than only counting handguns which are involved in nearly all gun violence.  The esteemed gun-violence researcher, whose book, Private Guns – Public Health, sets a standard for research in the field, sent a response and has given me permission to post it here:

Dear Mike.

    I beg to differ.  Three of the key factors which makes the US such an outlier compared to the other high income countries with regard to firearms are that (a) we have the weakest gun laws, (b) we have the most guns per capita, and (c) our guns are disproportionately handguns.  By (c) I don’t mean to imply that most of the guns in our gun stock are handguns, though the US handgun/long gun ratio has been growing.  Instead I mean that we have a far higher percentage of handguns in our gun stock compared to the other high-income countries.  For example, Canada has a sizeable number of long guns, but fairly few handguns.  So if we calculate per capita handgun ownership for developed countries, the U.S. becomes even more of an outlier.  And we know that most violent crime involves handguns rather than long guns; handguns are much more likely than long guns to be used in violent crime.  

    We could disaggregate handguns still further into those more (vs less) likely to be used in violent crime in the US, and if we did, I suspect that the US would become even more of an outlier compared to the other high income countries (in terms of the number of the “type of handguns likely to be used in violent crime” divided by the country’s population) –but I don’t have data on how many of the type of “handguns likely to be used in violent crime” are in the gun stocks of the other high-income countries, so I can’t prove my suspicion.    

     Cheers,

         David

Want To Reduce Gun Violence? Go After The Guns Which Cause The Violence.

If there is one argument that has found its way into every, single comment ever made by every, single gun-control organization, it’s the idea that the U.S. suffers from an extraordinary high level of gun violence because Americans own so many guns. The basis for this argument is research published by our good friend David Hemenway, who explains the fact that the U.S. homicide rate is 7 times higher than other advanced countries, driven by a gun-homicide that is 25 times higher, thanks to all those guns we have floating around.

chicago cops             Since we don’t require universal or even partial gun registration (no mater what Gun-nut Nation says) we actually have no idea how many guns are in private hands. The estimates go from a low of 270 million to a high of nearly 400 million, so let’s say that the real number is somewhere in between. Nevertheless, whether we take the high or the low estimate, we are still the only country whose per-capita gun ownership number approaches or exceeds one, even if the percentage of Americans who actually have a gun in their residence is somewhere between 30 and 40 percent.

The only problem is that while it appears to be an obvious argument bottom line that our fatal violence rate is a function of the existence of all those guns, the argument happens to be wrong. Why? Because most of the guns sitting around in basements, garages or even in living rooms or bedrooms happen to be guns that are just lying around.  And if a particular type or model of gun doesn’t play any role in the events which we refer to as ‘gun violence,’ then why should the existence of this type of gun be counted as having anything to do with gun violence at all?  It shouldn’t, but it is.

The more guns = more gun violence argument is undercut by some data published by our friends at The Trace, who analyzed the types of guns recovered by the Chicago cops in 2014. Of the total 4,505 guns picked up by the cops that year, nearly 40% (1,757 guns) appear to be the most popular handgun models, and while less than 4% of the confiscated weapons were shotguns, the total number of assault rifles was exactly five. How many bolt-action hunting or target rifles were picked up? None.

Of the 1,757 most popular handguns confiscated by Chicago PD, most of those models, like the Smith & Wesson VE and the various Glocks, didn’t even exist prior to 1985.  And 1985 is an important year to use as a yardstick for estimating the size of the civilian gun arsenal, because that was the year, according to Gary Kleck (Point Blank, Guns and Violence in America) that the number of weapons in private hands approached or exceeded 200 million guns.

Since 1985, the gun industry has manufactured another 140 million guns, of which roughly half are shotguns and rifles, the latter including at least 10 million or so assault rifles, which are rarely picked up by the cops. What this all boils down to is that the total number of civilian-owned guns which wind up contributing to gun violence is somewhere around 70 million or less. It’s certainly not the 300 million figure that is bandied around by Gun-control Nation and their research friends in public health.

If we calculate per capita gun ownership based on the guns used in violent crimes, rather than all guns held within the civilian population, the U.S. gun-ownership number drops from being way ahead of everyone else to somewhere in the middle of the pack. Would a per-capita gun ownership number which would be a fraction of the number currently used change the degree to which gun ownership could explain our excessively high rate of fatal crime? It would.

Want to use laws to reduce gun violence?  Base the laws and regulations on a better understanding of how guns are and aren’t used in violence and crime. It’s not like the data isn’t there.