Josh Montgomery: Top Elements to Consider When Looking for a Good Pistol.


So, it’s your first time buying a gun, but you don’t know what to look for and you feel overwhelmed. That’s normal, but choosing a handgun is actually not that hard if you consider some key factors. There are a lot of things to take into consideration, each of them contributing to the functionality of the gun itself, as well as how you will use it.

Guns are not toys, and this means that you can’t just easily pick one and start playing with it. They need to be carefully chosen and handled, so safety is ensured. So, if you don’t know what to look for in a good pistol, here are some tips to help you throughout the choosing process.

  1. Quality

Quality is one of the most important aspects when choosing any type of item. You want something that works properly and doesn’t pose any type of danger.

When it comes to handguns, the price rule could apply, depending on the model. That being said, it’s a case of “you get what you pay for”. If you buy a very cheap one, you might end up having issues with it later on, which is not something to long for. After all, it’s an object that’s meant to offer you protection, not cause you trouble. Also, why spend money on an unreliable firearm that doesn’t help you feel safe when you could spend more and end up with a high-quality one?

Generally, a good quality gun is around $500. If you think that a gun would make you feel much safer in your household, then you should really consider spending money wisely. Trying to protect your life with something cheap that barely works may only end badly on your behalf.

  1. Purpose

This aspect should be self-explanatory, as you must have a good reason for purchasing a handgun in the first place. Is it for self-defense, or because you want shooting to become a hobby? Regardless of your answer, this could help you choose the right type of gun only based on what you want to use it for. Therefore, make sure you have a clear picture of it in your head.

  1. Smooth Trigger

The trigger of the gun is really important, mostly because it needs to offer you control and accuracy when you shoot. Having said that, it’s relevant to have a trigger that’s smooth enough to make you feel in control.

Therefore, a smooth trigger can only help you shoot better in case of an emergency, not being in your way or making you feel unsure.

  1. Caliber

Each gun has a certain caliber, and it all comes down to what you’ll be using the gun for. As such, don’t expect a handgun to have the same caliber a hunting gun would have. For instance, if you only want a handgun that fits your pocket and will be used for safety only, you will look for a .380. Conversely, if you want something to accompany you when hunting, you should look for something bigger, like a .45ACP caliber gun. As you can see, it all comes down to the purpose of the weapon.

  1. Thumb Safety

Safety is an important factor when you’re looking for such a dangerous item, which is why you shouldn’t overlook the thumb safety either. It may feel way more comfortable to have a handgun with a mutual thumb safety as opposed to a trigger one. This all depends on the person, though, so it’s not a rule.

Therefore, regardless of the features that your weapon comes with, you should always remember to pay attention to the safety features. It contributes to the way you use the gun while reassuring you that you and those nearby will be safe in any situation.

  1. Grip Size

The grip is one of the most important factors too because you can’t just go with the first handgun you set your eyes on. It needs to have a grip of the perfect size, so you can operate it properly.

The only way to choose the perfect grip is when you actually pick up the pistol. It would be hard to know any other way. It’s one of those things that you are only able to discover once you experience them.

Basically, if the gun fits in your hand just right, then the grip is perfect. You should also know that there are handguns with replaceable backstraps and grips, thus allowing you to somehow adjust the grip. If you happen to have larger hands, it might be harder dealing with smaller weapons, as you will have a more difficult time finding one that fits.

  1. New or Second-Hand?

Would you rather buy a new gun, or save some money by buying a used one? This comes down to your personal decision, but it also depends on your buying habits and overall budget. There may be problems with it too, such as possibly buying a gun that doesn’t perform very well. For that reason, you should always take a good look at the seller, price and the gun itself before buying.

  1. Cleaning Ability

A pistol needs some cleaning every now and then, so you shouldn’t overlook this fact. It is important to choose a model that will be relatively easy to clean. You will also need a cleaning kit and some supplies that go along with your weapon. So, if you want it to function properly for a long time, you need to make sure it’s clean too.

Final Thoughts

Don’t go out there and purchase a gun like it’s a child’s toy. As you can see, there are many things to take into consideration, some of which were described above. Make sure you take a good look at any pistol before you buy and see if it could serve you for the right purpose before you spend your cash.

As such, whether you will choose a sub 1K pistol or not, you will be able to know if it’s the one that works the best for you.

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Want To Contribute To This Blog?

Last year I began posting content on this website written by people other than myself. To date, readers have been able to enjoy columns by 14 men and women who can all be seen on the Contributing Editors page. I wanted these contributions to reflect my commitment to listening to voices on both sides of the gun debate because until and unless we learn how to communicate across the great divide between pro-gun and gun violence prevention (GVP) communities, we won’t get anywhere at all.

I believe that my website is the only online venue which gives visitors an opportunity not only to read commentary which agrees with what they believe, but to also access commentary which disagrees with their beliefs. Which is exactly the point.

For all the talk within the GVP about how they are committed to ‘reasonable’ solutions to gun violence, I have never seen a GVP venue which hosts a single, ongoing discussion between the two sides about what the word ‘reasonable’ really means. Or what it should mean. Every time that GVP advocates jump for joy when a survey shows that a majority of gun owners support comprehensive background checks, I wonder how the GVP would react if they knew that these same gun owners also support eliminating gun-free zones.

On the other hand, the pro-gun movement has certainly never demonstrated any interest in hearing from the gun-control crowd. At best, the 2nd-Amendment gang usually dismisses all talk about gun controls of any kind as nothing more than a Bloomberg-Soros hoax. At worst, I won’t bother to mention the worst, okay?

I am not only very pleased that 14 writers have contributed to my blog – the purpose of this column is to reach out and solicit more commentary from people on both sides. I do not make editorial judgements of any kind, the writer can discuss any subject he/she likes, there is no limit as to length and I ask only that the content does not contain any profanity or personal attacks. Otherwise, what you send to me is what you will see posted on this blog.

By the way, of the 14 contributing editors whose work has been published here so far, I would consider 8 of them to be from the pro-gun side and 6have views are aligned with the GVP. That’s an interesting breakdown, insofar as the majority of my readers tend to be more pro-GVP than not.

Anyway, please feel free to become a Contributing Editor on Mikethegunguy.com.

How Much Does Gun Violence Cost?

              Our friends at the Giffords Law Center have just published a disquieting study which claims that gun violence in Missouri costs $1.9 billion a year, and that’s a conservative estimate, to say the least. The estimate is based on taking the average number of homicides, suicides, accidental shootings and gun assaults, and then multiplying these numbers using a gun-violence costs analysis developed by researchers who helped Mother Jones produce a study in 2015 which set the national cost of gun violence at $229 billion every year.

              If we were to take the Missouri numbers, which average out to roughly $1 million for every fatal and non-fatal gun injury, the national cost would now be somewhere around $140 billion. Which means that the Mother Jones figure was too high or the Missouri costs o gun-violence calculated by the Giffords Center is too low.

              On the other hand, by taking the Missouri figures and assuming they are representative for the country as a whole might also be an exercise in fake news or at least fake statistics, because we can’t assume that the breakdown between various gun-violence categories (homicide, suicide, etc.) in Missouri is similar to how gun injuries occur in other states. Either way, it’s a lot of dough. The only problem with these numbers, however, is they may not really tell us anything about the financial costs of gun violence owing to the methodology utilized to estimate those costs.

              Most of the costs calculated in the Giffords study to represent the financial toll of gun violence are actually estimates of what the victim would not have lost had he or she not been shot by a gun. In other words, we are asked to believe that from the moment someone is injured they would have made choices about work, family, lifestyles and other social factors which they can no longer make. The estimates for lost income, for example, make assumptions about how much someone’s income will change over the course of their lives from what their income was at the moment the injury occurred. But in the case of gunshot victims, probably at least half of the 85,000 young men assaulted each year with a gun have never actually held a job. How do you reasonably estimate what the lifetime earnings of these victims might be?

              Philip Cook and Jens Ludwig have been looking at the issue of gun-violence costs much longer than anyone else, and they published a good book on this subject in 2000 which, sad to say, is now out of print. The good news is you can still get the book on Amazon in a used edition for a couple of bucks. Where Cook and Ludwig construct a refreshingly and unique definition of costs, is by calculating what people would be willing to pay to avoid gun violence, either 9through higher taxes for better protective services or by simply moving to a neighborhood which is safer than here they currently live.

              The Giffords report actually implies something of the same awareness between safe and unsafe because it notes that more than 60% of all gun violence in Missouri occurs in just two cities, St. Louis and Kansas City, which together count for less than 15% of the population of the ‘Show-Me” state as a whole. And within those two cities, of course, most of the gun violence is confined to specific neighborhoods, the polite term now used is neighborhoods which are ‘underserved.’

              It seems to me that if the state of Missouri is losing $1.9 billion a year because of gun violence, what could the state do with that money if it wasn’t flushed down the gun-violence drain? Could they build some health stations to provide inner-city neighborhoods with better medical care? Could they strengthen technical and vocational education so that young people could qualify for solid, high-paying jobs?

              Let’s not just sit around and bemoan the cost of gun violence. Instead, let’s calculate the value of getting rid of the guns.

Locked Up: How the Modern Prison-Industrial Complex Puts So Many Americans in Jail

From our Friends at Ammo.Com.

Where you find the laws most numerous, there you will find also the greatest injustice.

Arcesilaus, Greek philosopher and student of Plato on power and personal sovereignty

There’s no two ways about it: The United States of America and its 50 state governments love putting people in prison.

The U.S. has both the highest number of prisoners and the highest per capita incarceration rate in the modern world at 655 adults per 100,000. (It’s worth noting that China’s incarceration statistics are dubious, and they execute far more people than the United States. Indeed, the so-called People’s Republic executes more people annually than the rest of the world combined.)  Still, that’s more than 2.2 million Americans in state and federal prisons as well as county jails.

On top of those currently serving time, 4.7 million Americans were on parole in 2016, or about one in 56. These numbers do not include people on probation, which raises the number to one in 35. Nor does it include all of the Americans who have been arrested at one time or another, which is over 70 million – more than the population of France.

For firearm owners in particular, the growth in this “prison-industrial complex” is troubling because felons are forbidden from owning firearms and ammunition under the 1968 Gun Control Act. As the number of laws has grown and the cultural shift for police has gone from a focus on keeping the peace to enforcing the law, more and more Americans are being stripped of their 2nd Amendment rights (not to mention other civil rights like voting– as of 2017, 6.1 million Americans cannot vote because of their criminal records). All told, eight percent of all Americans cannot own firearms because of a felony conviction.

For American society as a whole, the prison-industrial complex has created a perverse incentive structure. Bad laws drive out respect for good laws because there are just so many laws (not to mention rules, regulations, and other prohibitions used by federal prosecutors to pin crimes on just about anyone). How did we get here?

History of Incarceration in the U.S.

United States law is, of course, based on English common law. Thus, no history of incarceration in the United States can start without first discussing the history of incarceration in the Kingdom of England and later the United Kingdom of Great Britain.

The prevailing notion of where crime came from in the old country and the colonies was idleness. Punishments often involved sending criminals to workhouses, which were quite distinct from the prisons we know today. Rehabilitation and reform weren’t strong currents in the English and later British penal system until the 1700s. Reformers sought to improve the criminal and to make him not want to offend.

Another historical fact worth noting is that incarceration is a relatively recent innovation in punishment. Historically, criminals were punished by shaming, corporal punishment, mutilation, exile and death. The purpose was generally not to make the criminal better, but to deter him from offending again while simultaneously providing the community with some awareness of his crimes for the purpose of allowing them to take measures to protect themselves (for example, branding a “B” on the forehead of a burglar). Where criminals were incarcerated, it was generally a temporary measure prior to trial or post-trial punishment, not a punishment in and of itself.

Remember, a significant portion of early American settlers were convict laborers. This convict labor was not incarcerated, but rather freely mingled with the general population. For the safety of the non-criminal elements, they had to be quickly and easily identified. However, the early American colonies were in no position to expend resources to house, feed and clothe criminals who were not providing productive labor – which is why incarceration made about as much sense as cutting off a criminal’s hand. Only four types of criminals were prohibited from being shipped across the ocean from England: murderers, rapists, burglars, and witches.

Prison became the primary means of punishment for felonies in the years leading up to the American Revolution. Two systems emerged: One where prisoners were incarcerated alone and another where they were incarcerated in groups. For what it’s worth, most prisons were in the North. Throughout the South, crime was largely viewed as a northern problem. Rather than prison, the Antebellum South relied heavily on extra-judicial violence and honor culture to keep their crime rates low.

Prison labor has been a feature of prisons going back to days of English and British colonial rule. However, the convict lease system changed this qualitatively in the late 1880s. This is when prisons began to be paid for the labor of their convicts. Many times, convicts were put to work on plantations. Building railroads and coal mining were other common uses of convict labor during this period. Death rates were high. In Alabama, a full 40 percent of convicts used for leased labor died in 1870.

The convict lease system gradually died out. However, it was replaced with systems not terribly distinct from convict labor. The chain gangs and prison farms closely identified with southern punishment throughout the 20th Century are examples of what began to replace the convict lease system. While there were rumblings about bringing back the chain gang system in the 1990s, it never amounted to much.

Overcriminalization = Less Civil Liberties

One of the fundamental principles underpinning our Constitutional republic is that the citizenry should not accept “trust me” as an answer from the federal government. Yet in one of our most Orwellian of federal departments – the Department of Homeland Security – a surveillance state is growing as our private information “trusted” to the government is used against us.

This surveillance state is made possible by Fusion Centers, police intelligence agencies that allow different police agencies to share intelligence with one another. It is, in effect, theintelligence-gathering method of the burgeoning police state. And the information gathered, received, analyzed and disseminated by local and state police agencies is then shared with the federal government.

Fusion Centers aren’t the only way police surveil citizens. Cell-site simulator devices – known as Stingrays – mimic wireless carrier cell towers to connect to nearby mobile phones and cell data devices. These controversial devices can extract data, intercept communications, conduct denial-of-serice attacks, find encryption keys, and more. It’s a serious threat to Americans’ privacy and civil liberties, first conceived during the War on Terror and now trickled down to local police departments and their militarized approach to enforcing the law.

Of course, while we’re assured that protections are being made for privacy and civil liberties, there is very little reason to trust the federal government – including the growing number of vague laws.

It’s easy to blame the War on Some Drugs as the reason for the explosion in the prison population, however this is simply not an adequate explanation. The real reason is a broad expansion in the total number of laws on the book and the vague manner in which they are written. What’s more, the concept of intent has largely disappeared from our national legal lexicon, meaning that simple mistakes are often enough to land a person in prison.

66-year-old George Norris provides a case study. He was greeted by three pickup trucks filled with six officers outfitted in flak jackets. He was held for four hours while the police searched his house, eventually seizing 37 boxes of his things with neither warrant nor explanation. He was indicted for orchid smuggling under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and for (what else) making false statements to an officer for a simple paperwork error. While being held for trial, he shared a cell with an accused murderer. He was facing five years for the original charge and five years for conspiracy. Because he couldn’t afford his legal bills, he plead guilty and was sentenced to 17 months in prison.

Another broad example is civil-contempt imprisonment. This is where people are put in jail or prison for failure to, for example, respond to a bench warrant for an unpaid parking ticket. This is what Anthony W. Florence was arrested for while riding as a passenger in his family’s car with proof that he had paid the tickets. He spent seven days in jail where he was strip searched twice. Guards also watched him shower and subjected him to a delousing. People have also been imprisoned for failing to pay debts in accordance with court-ordered settlements, which carries the specter of the return of debtors’ prisons with it.

The Principle of Minimum Necessary Force

Minimum necessary force is a concept dating back to Plato, but has recently found expression in Dr. Jordan Peterson’s book 12 Rules for LifeBasically, the idea is that when someone wrongs another person, the correct course of action is always the one requiring the least force. This is why, for example, we can say that the Islamic practice of removing a thief’s hand is somehow objectively unethical – it is a punishment grossly out of proportion to the crime committed.

The secondary aspect to the principle of minimum necessary force is the notion that the best way to go about laws is to have as few as are necessary. While not strictly speaking “libertarian,” it’s sort of “libertarian adjacent.” Laws are, ultimately, a type of force. The more of them we have, the more force we have in society.

The present state of criminal justice in the United States violates both principles. Not only do we have far more laws than we need (criminal asset forfeiture, for example), but the punishments are frequently far out of sync with the crime committed. Is prison time really an appropriate response to someone smuggling orchids into the United States?

The Rise of Private Prisons

You cannot have a discussion on the prison-industrial complex without discussing private prisons. As of 2018, private prisons housed 8.41 percent of incarcerated persons in the United States. While private prisons date back to the colonial days, the modern privatized prisons as we think of them only date back to the 1980s. This was initially due to the explosion of prison population and resulting prison overcrowding that some have tied to the War on Some Drugs.

This spike in incarceration, however, is far more closely tied with the rise of private prisons. Between the years 1925 and 1980, the prison population in the United States remained constant as a proportion of the overall population. In 1983, however, two things happened: First, the first private prisons came into operation. Second, the prison population as a proportion of the overall population began to explode.

The first modern private incarceration company was Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), founded in 1983, and is currently known as CoreCivic. Their first contract was for a facility in Shelby County, Tennessee. This was the first time in American history when a government-run jail was contracted out to a private third party. The company made quick headlines when it offered to take over the entire prison system for the state for the sum of $200 million. The state, for its part, was quite ready to make a deal, but the backlash among the public, the prison guards union, and the state legislature ultimately squashed the deal.

This was hardly the end of the for-profit prison system. Fully 19 percent of all federal inmates are housed in privately owned and operated prisons. A comparatively lower 6.8 percent of all state inmates are housed in private prisons.

Since its founding, CoreCivic has seen a 200-percent increase in its profits. So it’s no surprise that the marketplace for private prison companies has become a bit crowded. Companies like the GEO Group, Inc. (formerly known as Wackenhut Securities), Management and Training Corporation (MTC), and Community Education Centers compete in a marketplace that took in $500 billion in 2011 alone according to Matt Taibbi’s book The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap.

The book further points out that major Wall Street money has flowed into this industry. Wells Fargo alone has $100 million invested in GEO Groupand another $6 million in CCA. Fidelity Investments, The Vanguard Group, General Electric and Bank of America are likewise heavily invested in private prisons.

Some other numbers give a bit of shape to the scale of private prisons: CoreCivic has 80,000 beds in 65 different facilities. The GEO Group has 49,000 beds spread out over 57 correctional facilities. Most private facilities are in the West and the Southwest, where state and federal prisons freely mingle with one another.

Private Prisons Are Not Safe

Private prisons are, by virtually every metric, a worse place to hang your hat than government prisons. A United States Department of Justice report in 2016 found that private prisons were less secure, less safe, and more punitive than government-run prisons. The DOJ stated that it would cease the use of private prisons. However, soon thereafter, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it would renew its contract with CCA operation of the South Texas Family Residential Center, an immigration detention facility. Stock prices for private incarceration firms spiked upon the election of Donald Trump. President Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions overturned the previous ban on private prisons.

The lax culture of safety and security in private prisons is not just a problem for the inmates. It’s also a problem for the people in the communities where the prisons are located. For example, three murderers escaped from a minimum/medium security prison – Kingman Arizona State Prison – in Mojave, Arizona. This resulted in a murder, robbery and carjacking before the men were captured. The state Attorney General, Terry Goddard, laid the blame at the feet of the private prison system, which he said was not adequate for the task of incarcerating these kinds of hardened criminals.

The state did an extensive report on this prison after the jailbreak, which found a number of problems with the privately-run prison:

  • The prison’s alarm system sent off so many false alarms that prison guards simply began ignoring them.
  • Eight of the floodlights used on the prison yard were burnt out.
  • Prison guards weren’t properly armed, nor were they properly trained with firearms.
  • 75 percent of all inmates in the facility did not have the appropriate identification.

While it’s certainly true that government-run prisons are far from perfect, and often have budgetary issues, it’s hard to ignore the potential corner-cutting that may have led to this escape and the subsequent deaths.

Then, of course, there was the “kids for cash” scandal. The short version of the story is that two judges in Pennsylvania were receiving kickbacks for sending children to private prison facilities. Millions of dollars were processed to the two judges for giving out prison time for such offenses as mocking an assistant principal on MySpace and trespassing in an abandoned building. The two judges were sentenced to a combined 45.5 years in prison. Every juvenile offender who appeared before the judges had their convictions overturned, and a class action lawsuit is currently pending.

Unsurprisingly, cost-benefit analysis of private prisons tend to have a “both sides” feel about them. Studies funded by the industry frequently tout the cost benefits of private operation. Studies funded by state-funded institutions, such as universities, tend to paint private prisons as bloated and inefficient.

Prison Guard Unions and Private Prisons Lobbying Elected Officials

Anywhere government money is being spent or the state is picking winners and losers, there you will find lobbying. Like the military-industrial complex, private prisons are no exception to this rule. The two largest private prison corporations have put more than $10 million into electing favorable candidates since 1989, and more than $25 million into lobbying.

Marco Rubio is an excellent example of the power of the private prison lobby. He has very close ties to the GEO Group, the second-largest for-profit prison company in the United States. GEO was the recipient of a state contract for a $110 million prison during Rubio’s tenure as the Speaker of the House in Florida. This right after Rubio hired an economic consultant with close ties to the company, which has donated nearly $40,000 to his various political campaigns as of 2015. This makes him the politician with the closest financial relationship to the private prisons industry.

The private incarceration industry has stepped up their lobbying game during the Trump Administration, with the GEO Group spending $1.3 million on lobbying between January and September 2017. That topped the total from the previous year, which was $1 million.

The timing of the increase in lobbying funds is worth considering. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was looking to build five new detention centers at the time. Unsurprisingly, companies started lobbying hard to be the ones to build and operate these new facilities. That’s over 54,000 beds. What’s more, ICE is the number-one customer for the GEO Group, which is based in Florida.

Rubio is hardly the only politician to receive funding from private prison companies – which claim to never attempt to influence policy in any way other than trying to get contracts for private prison operation. Chuck Schumer has received over $100,000 in donations from both the GEO Group and CCA.

While private prison operations companies claim they do not attempt to influence public policy beyond trying to get those lucrative contracts, the same cannot be said for prison guard unions. The California prison guards union spent $100,000 in 1994 trying to get the three strikes law passed. This was the first of its kind, but quickly became the gold standard across the nation. 28 states have such laws as of 2018. The same union spent over $1 million to defeat Prop 5, which, if passed, would have reduced sentences for nonviolent crimes and created more drug addiction treatment resources in the state. Another $1 million was spent to defeat Prop 66, a measure designed to reduce the number of crimes carrying mandatory life sentences.

Modern Prison Labor

Because compulsory, unpaid prison labor is not prohibited by the United States Constitution, some have argued that prison labor is a continuation of chattel slavery.

However, prisoners are not owned by the state. What’s more, they are generally paid – albeit between $0.12 and $0.40 per hour. Prisoners, when taken as a whole, represent the third largest labor pool in the world. And while they engage in all kinds of labor, it tends to be manually intensive, low-skilled, deeply unpleasant and highly profitable for the corporations who are able to take advantage of it.

The days of prisoners making license plates and breaking rocks are long gone. Employers now receive a substantial tax credit ($2,400) for work-release labor. There’s even a euphemism for private companies who take advantage of prison labor – “Prison insourcing” – and it’s becoming increasingly popular with large firms. The list of organizations with significant prison labor include popular brands like Whole Foods, Target, Starbucks, Victoria’s Secret, McDonald’s, IBM, Honda, Texas Instruments, Boeing, Nordstrom, Intel, Aramark, AT&T, BP, Microsoft, Nike, Macy’s, Wal-Mart and Sprint.

Prison labor is not without its benefits for the prisoners or for society at large. It can be a valuable outlet for prisoners, keeping them from getting into trouble and teaching them new skills. What’s more, many inmates have never had a legal job before. This means they have to learn the most basic aspects of holding down a job – like showing up on time, working with others as a team, and listening to instructions from a supervisor. Many studies show that prison employment leads to reduced recidivism rates.

While companies profit from prison labor, they’re also cleaning up in other ways. JPay, which began as a way to wire money to people on the inside, has seen rapid success with a monopoly on how prisoners’ friends and family can communicate with them inside some state prison systems. All told, JPay had contracts with 21 state correctional facility systems and a number of private facilities as of August 2018. With no paper mail allowed, JPay charges per electronic message – making the company millions, and making prisoners the ultimate captive audience.

The First Step Act: President Trump’s Prison Reform Bill

Few would have expected a Republican president to spearhead prison reform. Then again, President Trump isn’t just any Republican.

Overwhelmingly passed by the Senate – 87 to 12 – in December 2018, the First Step Act is the Trump Administration’s bipartisan victory to save money by reducing prison sentences. While some Republicans feared this vote would reflect as being soft on crime, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Charles E. Grassley stressed that Trump “wants to be tough on crime, but fair on crime.” Shortly after the vote, Trump tweeted that his “job is to fight for ALL citizens, even those who have made mistakes” and that this bill will “provide hope and a second chance, to those who earn it.”

The reform in this criminal justice bill is pretty significant. It reduces mandatory sentences, cutting a collective 53,000 years off existing sentences over the next 10 years. It creates sentencing disparity between powder and crack cocaine, and reduces recidivism rates. And it decreases the “three strikes” penalty for drug felonies from life to 25 years.

But not everyone thinks this reform bill is a “first step” in the right direction. Since it doesn’t apply to local jails or state prisons, those skeptical of this new legislation have pointed out that it only affects about 10 percent of the country’s incarcerated population – hardly a dent. Many also disagree with the fact that this bill will release high-risk inmates and offenders.

Libertarian magazine Reason is in favor of more reform. A 2016 article asked the question “Should Felons Get Their Gun Rights Back?” The argument is roughly the same as that of restoring voting rights to felons: Once people have served their time and been released, society assumes that the ledger has been balanced. If someone cannot be trusted to own firearms once they have been released from prison (presumably because they are dangerous), why are they out on the street and not in a cell?

For those interested in Second Amendment freedom, all of this is important. In a sense, the gun grabbers are getting through our prison-industrial complex what they cannot get through either the legislature or the courts – a disarmed populace.

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ 2nd Amendment.

              Now that H.R. 8 has been filed, I am beginning to see the outlines of the campaign narrative that Gun-nut Nation will employ in an effort to beat back any attempt to implement universal background checks, a.k.a. UBC.  Judging from the emails that have come flying in plus comments on various pro-gun blogs and forums, the anti-UBC strategy will embrace two, basic ideas:

              (1). Giving the government the power to control what I do with my private property is a violation of the 5th and 14th Amendments, which protect private property against unlawful seizure.

              (2). Making every gun transfer subject to a background check will create a national gun registry which will lead to confiscation and is a violation of the 2nd Amendment.

              As to the first argument, that people should be able to do whatever they want to do with their private property, I only wish that this had been true when I sold my house in South Carolina but first had to shell out four thousand bucks to Harold and Willy. Who were Harold and Willy? They were two guys who showed up after the house was inspected and informed me that the house couldn’t be sold until they went around and killed all the termites in the walls and the floors. In other words, we have long accepted the idea that you can’t just sell your private property to someone else if in so doing, the sale creates a risk. And even the nuttiest of all gun nuts agrees that selling a gun to someone who has committed violent crimes creates a risk. That was the easy one. Now here comes the hard one.

              Incidentally, I’m hoping that my friends in the gun-control movement will use what follows to prepare themselves for the arguments they might get from the other side. I still have a survey on my website which asks gun-control advocates 12 simple questions about gun laws (there is the same survey for people who considers themselves pro-gun advocates) and to date, I have received 87 responses and the average score of correct answers is 6. So I hope you’ll read what follows here.

              The 2nd Amendment means what the SCOTUS said it meant in the 2008 Heller decision, the majority opinion written by a dear, departed friend. And what it means is that keeping a handgun in the home is a Constitutional ‘right.’ Which means that a state government can pass any gun law it wants, as long as it does not prevent someone from owning a handgun, assuming they are not considered a risk to themselves or to anyone else. Who determines whether someone’s ownership of a handgun might create a risk?  The government. Who determines whether the existence of a particular type of handgun might create a risk?  The government. And that’s it. That’s what the 2nd Amendment means.

So, for example, if you live in New York City and a handgun is found in your home and you cannot produce the requisite paperwork which takes the NYPD Licensing Division about six months to issue on your behalf, you will be convicted of a felony because New York City decided back in 1912 that you can’t keep a handgun in your home for self-defense, or any other reason, until the NYPD says it’s okay. If you go into Court the day of your sentencing and tell the judge that New York City is abridging your 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ because you would have to wait six months to get a permit, I strongly urge you to bring your toothbrush because you ain’t going home.

Between 1966, when I bought my first gun, and 2008 when Heller was decreed, I probably bought and sold at least 500 personally-owned guns. Not one of those transactions had any Constitutional protection at all. So what? My friends in the gun-control movement should stop worrying about whether something as timid and non-intrusive as UBC is a violation of any kind of rights, Constitutional or otherwise. It’s not, and you can take that one to the bank.

Don’t Count The NRA Out.

              Now that the gun-control movement finds itself in an alliance with the House majority, instead of the House minority, joy abounds. And why not? How long has it been since Nancy wielded the gavel? Wow! And not only do we have friends in high places, so to speak, but the vaunted Trump-NRA combine which first reared its ugly head back in 2016, now seems to have collapsed.

              Granted, banning bump stocks is nothing more than a cosmetic attempt to pretend that something is being done to reduce the toll of gun violence, but you can’t tell me that anyone in Gun-control Nation would have predicted that even this mild rebuke of the joy of shooting was going to occur under the Trump regime, right?

              But even more to the point, when was the last time you picked up a copy of The Trace at your friendly internet news stand and not read a story about how the NRA is being accused of illegal campaign contributions, or how the NRA is going broke, or how a Russian ‘spy’ used the NRA to infiltrate America’s political elite. Just my luck, I give America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ money to set up an endowment, and it goes down the drain. But to all my friends in Gun-control Nation, do yourselves a favor and don’t start dressing for a big funeral at Fairfax just yet, okay?

              Yesterday I received my daily email from Friends of NRA ( I also receive daily emails from Everytown and Brady, just to balance things out) which invited me to “Join Second Amendment Supporters in Your Community for an Evening of Fellowship, Firearms, and Fundraising for the Shooting Sports!” The email then goes on to list social events that are already planned in New England between March and September in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont. How many evenings of fun and fellowship are on the calendar so far?  Try 20 events. That’s twen…ty events, not five or ten. Twen…ty.

              And by the way, although folks in New England tend to stay indoors in January and February, the national gun show calendar lists 79 weekend shows just between January 18th and January 27th in other parts of the country, and I guarantee you that by March, there will be a gun show every weekend in at least one New England state.  Does the NRA do a booth and sign up members at every gun show? Does the bear sh*t in the woods? Is New York a city? No – it’s a jungle! Anyway….

              The point is that anyone who believes the NRA is on the verge of collapse is whistling Dixie, believe it or not. Because the one thing they have going for them, actually the two things, are: 1) they are a real membership organization in a way that none of the gun-control groups can even begin to compare; and 2) this membership shares one, very fundamental trait, namely, they love to get together and talk about their guns.

              Groups like Everytown and Brady attract supporters who agree that something needs to be done to reduce the violence caused by guns. Fine. But believe it or not, people don’t join the NRA because they want to show their support for 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ Yea, that nonsense goes with the package when you get your membership kit, and Wayne-o will get up at the 2019 national meeting in Indianapolis and whine that ‘our God-given ‘right’ to defend ourselves is under attack.’ You think any NRA member who comes to the show because he has been coming to the show every year really cares?

              If you ask the average NRA member whether his organization bears any responsibility for the 125,000 Americans who are killed or injured each year with guns, he’ll stare at you as if you just landed from Mars. And this is the reason why the NRA right now may be down, but I wouldn’t count them out just yet.

Want An Internet Loophole For Guns? Try The Dark Web.

              Right after the new House of Representatives convened, we took a small step towards aligning our gun-control laws with countries that don’t have to worry about the so-called 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ with the introduction of H.R. 1. And what this bill does, is expand background checks to secondary gun transfers, a procedure that has been a signature GVP demand since the FBI-NICS process went live back in 1998.

              I haven’t see the text of the bill yet, but I understand that it basically says that in order to sell or give a gun to someone else, the gun owner must make sure that an FBI-NICS background check occurs before the transfer takes place. The idea behind this law is that expanding background checks will make it more difficult for people who couldn’t pass a background check to get their hands on a gun.

              The reason I call this measure a ‘small step’ forward in the regulation of guns is because in countries like England, France, Germany, in other words, in the rest of the advanced world, what really keeps gun violence at minimal rates is the vetting process which is required before someone can buy or own a gun. Most important to this process is: a) all guns are registered, so the cops know who has them and who don’t; b) getting permission to own a handgun is not only onerous and time-consuming, but often results in the request being turned down.

              Here’s the bottom line. We suffer a level of gun violence which is seven to twenty times higher than any other advanced society because we give our citizens free access to handguns; with the exception of a few jurisdictions, we impose no greater legal requirements for handgun ownership than we impose for someone who wants to own a rusted, used, single-shot shotgun that I sell in my shop for fifty bucks.  Last year I published a study in SSRN where I did a word search on more than 350,000 crime guns confiscated by the cops, and words like Remington, Winchester, Marlin and Savage, guns which are only hunting guns, came up 3% of the time or even less.

              But at the same time that we may be pushing ourselves more towards the European model in terms of gun control, it now appears that Europeans may be starting to push themselves in the direction of our current regulatory environment, namely, by showing a greater interest in owning handguns. An article has just appeared in the Wall Street Journal which indicates that residents in various European countries are not only getting more interested in owning handguns, but in carrying them around.

              At the same time that legal gun ownership as well as concealed-carry appears to have increased by as much as 10% over the last several years, there has also been what experts refer to as a ‘surge’ in illegal, unregistered guns. According to the Small Arms Survey, of the estimated 77 million small arms floating around Europe, more than 60% are illegal guns, many of them smuggled in from war zones further east, or purchased from U.S. dealers on the dark web. Dark web gun sales were discussed in a RAND report published in 2017, and while the authors focused only on gun sales within Europe, the implication of this report should be considered in terms of the U.S. gun market as well.

              The problem is that regulating any product doesn’t necessarily reduce demand. And if 90,000 Americans really want to use a gun to hurt someone else every year, which is the reason we suffer from gun violence, they will find a way to circumvent the regulations, no matter how well-intentioned those regulations might be.

              I’m not saying that we shouldn’t implement a background check on all transfers of guns. I’m saying that in solving one problem we may be creating another for the simple reason that we continue to avoid the fundamental issue which creates gun violence, namely, the existence of the gun.

How Come The Gun Violence Numbers are Wrong, Wrong and Wrong?

              I know full well the pressures of finding enough content to publish a daily blog, but sometimes bloggers create stories which aren’t necessarily ready for prime time just yet. And an example of this, and I’m not besmirching the motives or talents of the blogger involved, is a story put out by our friends at The Trace about the downward drop in gun violence this past year.

              According to Jennifer Mascia, it looks like overall gun deaths in 2018 will be roughly 7% lower than the previous year, in this case deaths count fatal injuries other than suicides, which may in fact end up being higher in 2018 than in 2017. The data comes from our friends at the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), which posts a daily listing of shootings based on whatever comes over the digital transom, a.k.a. open-source feeds from all over the World Wide Web.

              The GVA readily admits that its data does not include gun suicides, because rarely, if ever, do these events get any digital mention at all. I am just as happy that the GVA doesn’t include gun suicides in its daily report, because I have all kinds of problems with considering suicides as ‘gun violence,’ even though the World Health Organization defines violence as an attempt to injure either yourself or someone else. Everything connected to suicidal behavior is so different from any other type of violent behavior (most of all our continued reluctance to deal with suicide) that it may make gun violence appear to be a more serious threat, but it shouldn’t be used to justify any changes to the system we use to regulate guns.

              Getting back to intentional injuries committed by one person against someone else, the good news is that the GVA number for gun homicides is close to the number published by the CDC, but the number for non-fatal assaults is so far off from the annual CDC count as to have no real meaning whatsoever. The head of GVA, our friend Mark Bryant, is quoted in The Trace article as putting this discrepancy down to “issues with the CDC’s methodology.”

              C’mon Mark and Jennifer, you can both do better than that. In 2016, the most recent year for numbers on non-fatal injuries for the CDC, the agency said that 95,195 people were the victims of non-fatal gun violence. That same year, according to GVA, there were 30,645 non-fatal gun assaults. So we’re not talking about a discrepancy that can simply be put down to an issue of methodology, we’re talking about a discrepancy which is so great as to render any discussion based on either number null and void.

              In her article, Jennifer says that “we don’t know what has caused the apparent drop in gun violence,” noting that fatal shootings have gone up in Philadelphia and D.C. With all due respect, I don’t think there’s the slightest chance that we will ever know why gun homicides go up or go down as long as we continue to think of fatal shootings as somehow different from the non-fatal ones.

              They’re not. They are exactly the same. The only difference between the guys who end up dead and the guys who get stitched up is that the guy who shot the latter types didn’t shoot straight. I just re-read Jimmy Breslin’s classic book, The Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight, and if there’s one thing that Jimmy captures better than anyone else who has ever written anything about guns, it’s the idea that banging away at someone other than yourself creates the overwhelming possibility that you’ll miss.

              But if we are ever going to reduce gun violence, we have to understand why less than 10% of the people who really want to hurt someone else, try hurting them with a gun. And you simply can’t understand this, or figure out what to do about it, if you don’t have the faintest idea where, when or how this kind of violence really occurs. Sorry, but fatal gun violence isn’t the whole story by any means at all.

There’s More To Gun Violence Than Meets The Eye

How many different schemes are out there to end gun violence? Let’s see, we have the expanded background check scheme, the safe-storage scheme, the red flag scheme, the AWB scheme – you name it for ending gun violence, there’s a scheme being promoted by someone. But all of these schemes are aimed (pardon the pun) at reducing gun violence by focusing on the primary victims of gun violence, namely, people who either shoot or get shot with guns. Now a story out of Portland reminds us that, in fact, the impact of gun violence goes far beyond the individuals directly involved.

The story involves a young woman, Emmie Sperandeo, who’s asking her landlord to let her out of her lease without penalty because she spends more time hiding in a stairwell ducking bullets than she spends sitting in her living room watching tv. The reason she doesn’t sit in her living room is because the other night, a bullet flew through the living room, and it wasn’t the last time she heard gun fire coming from the alley next to where she lives.

So far, the management company has refused her demand probably because there’s nothing in the lease that says anything about whether they are responsible for keeping tenants from getting shot. But it occurs to me that if we are really serious about being a country founded on the concept of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,’ right now, Emmie is being deprived of all three. In addition to feeling that her life is threatened by the bullets flying around (strike one) she claims it is impossible to leave the building given guns going off in the street. If she can’t leave her apartment, obviously she’s lost her liberty and can’t pursue any happy activities at all (strikes two and thee.)

When we think about gun violence, we think about people who are killed or injured with guns. So the use of the gun is only depriving the shooter and his victim of life, liberty and happiness pursuits, and we have ways of responding to that. The shooter is arrested, the victim goes to the hospital, society compensates for what happens when a bullet hits a human form.

But what happens when, as in the case of Emmie Sperandeo, the violence represented by the gun isn’t directed specifically at her? The extent to which gun violence in a particular community impacts quality of life has received its share of concern. Here’s a summary from our friends at Everytown: “Children exposed to violence, crime, and abuse are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol; suffer from depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder; fail or have difficulties in school; and engage in criminal activity.”

So the evidence is clear that what I call ‘second-hand gun violence,’ has health effects similar to second-hand’ smoke. People who live in a home with a smoker don’t necessarily suffer the same degree of illness as the person who lights up. But they have a greater propensity to suffer the same degree of tobacco-related health issues than people who live in smoke-free homes. Even Rush Limbaugh, who can spot a liberal conspiracy before it even exists, has shut up about secondhand smoke.

So who should be responsible for dealing with second-hand gun violence, the kind of violence which doesn’t injure or kill anyone, but makes someone like Emmie Sperandeo afraid to go outside? In a recent survey, more than half the residents of Miami and Chicago said that gun violence was a serious issue. Would you like to live in a neighborhood where half your neighbors believed that there was a serious, quality-of-life problem which hadn’t been solved?

I think we need to define who is responsible for reducing secondhand gun violence. Would I sign on to a lawsuit against the Mayor of Springfield because the city in which I live has a gun-violence rate that is out of sight?  I sure would.

Michael Siegel: Why Did Wisconsin Physician and Emergency Physician Groups Combine with the NRA to Fight Universal Background Checks in Wisconsin?

They say that politics makes strange bedfellows, and here we have a perfect example of that. Two of the major physician groups in Wisconsin—the Wisconsin Medical PAC and the Wisconsin Emergency Medicine PAC—joined the NRA in financially supporting the gubernatorial campaign of Scott Walker over his challenger, Tony Evers, who was opposed by the NRA primarily because he supports state legislation that would require universal background checks for gun purchases in Wisconsin. Despite the best efforts of the NRA and these Wisconsin physician organizations, Evers defeated Walker and so the prospect of meaningful firearm violence prevention legislation in Wisconsin remains alive.

In addition to the NRA, which gave Governor Walker an A+ rating in 2014, other major contributors to his gubernatorial reelection campaign for the 2018 cycle, according to an open secrets project run by the Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, included the Wisconsin Medical PAC, which represents the Wisconsin Medical Society, and the Wisconsin Emergency Medicine PAC, which represents the Wisconsin chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP).  

Given that physician organizations such as the American College of Emergency Physicians, have been boasting about their commitment to preventing firearm violence and that individual physicians are orchestrating a campaign (#ThisIsOurLane) to convince the public that gun violence prevention is appropriately in our domain, it is shocking to see that behind the scenes, these physician organizations have been fighting against the very causes they purport to champion. While ACEP, for example, has endorsed universal background checks, Wisconsin ACEP has been working against the implementation of this policy by contributing to the NRA A+ rated Scott Walker, who Wisconsin ACEP knows would never sign such legislation. And while most major national physician groups purport to champion gun violence prevention policies, the Wisconsin Medical Society has also worked behind the scenes to help ensure that these policies never see the light of day in the state of Wisconsin.

What could possibly explain this level of hypocrisy?

As I teach my public health students, when you see organizations sacrificing their stated principles like this, it usually amounts to one thing: money. In fact, the major reason why physician organizations in Wisconsin and throughout the country are supporting NRA-backed candidates is that at the end of the day, these candidates will protect physician salaries by opposing wholesale adoption of universal health coverage or mandated insurance coverage systems that might otherwise pose a threat. And clearly, these groups are placing a higher priority on protecting physician salaries than on fighting gun violence.

By the way, I have no problem with that decision. I do not begrudge anyone or any organization the right to place a high priority on self-protection of their financial well-being. HOWEVER, what I do not accept is for those organizations to make such a decision and then tell the public that they are working to fight gun violence. You can’t have it both ways. Either you make fighting gun violence a priority, or you don’t. And if you don’t, then you can’t come out here and tell the public that you are a public health champion when it comes to preventing gun violence.

If gun violence prevention is truly “our lane,” then in 2019, there is a course of action that every national and state physician organization should take. And every physician who is promoting the #ThisIsOurLane movement should put pressure on their national organizations and state chapters to take this action.

The action is simple: pledge to never again make financial contributions to any political candidate who takes NRA money. Divest from NRA-backed candidates. This would send a powerful message to the public. It would show that medical organizations are willing to put their money where their mouth is. It would demonstrate that physician organizations will no longer act like hypocrites and say one thing while doing the exact opposite behind the scenes. Most importantly, it would have a profound effect on the NRA’s ability to influence public policy.

Federal policymakers receive more money from medical and physician organizations combined then they do from the NRA. If it became clear to federal candidates that by taking NRA money, they would be sacrificing their ability to receive any donations from physician groups, they would seriously think twice about accepting that money. The physician groups have a tremendous amount of leverage with their campaign contributions.

This is why I am working with several other physicians to initiate a campaign in 2019 to encourage all physician organizations to pledge to discontinue financial contributions to candidates who take NRA money.

This idea is not a new one. Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, a former Baltimore City health commissioner, state of Maryland health department secretary, and deputy FDA commissioner, who is now a Professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, published a paper with his father – Dr. Steven Sharfstein – in 1994, criticizing the American Medical Association for contributing to federal candidates who opposed handgun regulation, supported federal subsidies to promote tobacco sales, and promoted a ban on abortion counseling at federally funded clinics. Dr. Sharfstein went on to write an article promoting divestment of physician PAC contributions from political candidates who took money from Big Tobacco.

If we as physicians want to be able to sincerely claim that gun violence prevention is our lane, then the first step is to ensure that the organizations that represent us – all national and state-level physician associations – stop giving money to politicians who are financially backed by the NRA and who we know will oppose any and all gun violence prevention policies. Enough is enough. We can’t have it both ways any longer.

Michael Siegel, MD, MPH

Professor

Department of Community Health Sciences

Boston University School of Public Health

801 Massachusetts Avenue, 3rd Floor

Boston, MA 02118