Gun Buybacks Work.

              Earlier this week the North Dakota House of Representatives passed a bill, HB1381, which earns those legislators this year’s award for the single, dumbest piece of legislation enacted anywhere in the United States. The bill not only outlaws taxpayer dollars from being used to fund gun buybacks, but also makes it a misdemeanor for any police agency to support a buyback.

              The supporters of the bill cited a study by Professor Scott Phillips, a former Houston cop who now teaches criminology at SUNY-Buffalo.  He published a paper in 2013 which basically said that gun buybacks don’t work. Why don’t they work?  Because in the city of Buffalo, where gun buybacks collected more than 3,000 guns in buybacks held between 2007 and 2012, rates of gun homicides, gun assaults and gun robberies showed no impact on reducing these crimes.

              Phillips concludes, “Gun buy-back programmes appear to satisfy a local administrator’s need for instant solutions to a problem, despite a lack of evidence demonstrating effectiveness as a violence reduction strategy. If we are to have a meaningful impact on crime,” he adds, “we must enact policies that are based on empirical evidence and not emotion.” Obviously, the North Dakota legislators voted with their heads, not their hearts, right?

              Wrong. Totally and completely wrong. So wrong that anyone who thinks that the value of a buyback can be reduced to a regression analysis comparing number of guns collected to number of gun crimes committed knows nothing either about guns or crimes committed with guns, or both.

              Take a city like Buffalo, where I once spent a lovely afternoon in Ralph Wilson Stadium (now called New Era Stadium) watching Bruce Smith totally demolish the Miami Dolphins offensive line. Last year, Erie County, a.k.a. Buffalo, had the highest gun homicide rate of any county in New York State. Know why there were so many shootings in Erie County? Nobody knows why, okay?  We can assume that one of the reasons for so much gun violence is that there are so many illegal guns floating around. How many illegal guns are floating around in Buffalo?  We have absolutely no idea. Not only don’t we know how many guns are floating around in the ‘wrong hands’ in Buffalo, we don’t know how many guns that might be used to commit a felonious assault are floating around anywhere else.

              If I wanted to do a study, for example, on the outcome of a smoking cessation campaign, I would simply compare the number of people smoking before the campaign started and after the campaign came to an end. But somehow this basic approach for designing a study on the effectiveness of gun buybacks disappears. The first measure of a gun buyback’s impact should be the degree to which the buyback reduced the number of guns. Without that measurement, comparing the numbers of guns taken off the street to the number of guns being used in the street is nothing more than an exercise in self-fulfilling statistical prophecy, or better said, self-fulfilling sophistry.

              I have been involved with a gun buyback program which is now in its 18th year. The program started in Worcester, MA and has now spread to 5 states. We conduct these buybacks in conjunction with Level 1 trauma centers in each state, the buyback sites staffed by medical students and physicians talking  directly to community residents who show up to get rid of their guns.

              What comes out of these interactions is the fact that the buyback gives people, without any threat of government intervention, the ability to decide for themselves whether a gun in their home represents a risk. Until and unless our culture begins to embrace the idea that guns constitute an unnecessary threat to safety, well-being and health, you can pass what Professor Phillips calls laws based on ‘empirical evidence’ and things won’t change worth a damn.

              To quote LaNyia Johnson, a young man who will spend his entire life in a wheelchair thanks to taking a bullet in the spine: “I wish you could have collected one more gun.”

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Florida Gears Up For An Assault Weapons Fight.

              Now that our Florida friends are moving forward to place an initiative on the 2020 ballot that would exempt assault rifles from protection under the state’s Constitution, the local gun nut gang will soon start gearing up to defend their gun ‘rights.’ Article I, § 8 (a) says: “[t]he right of the people to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves and of the lawful authority of the state shall not be infringed, except that the manner of bearing arms may be regulated by law.”

Note the phrase – ‘regulated by law.’ This phrase has been defined by the Florida Supreme Court to mean, “the right to keep and bear arms is not an absolute right, but is one which is subject to the right of the people through their legislature to enact valid police regulations to promote the health, morals, safety and general welfare of the people.”

If regulating a weapon used to kill and injure 34 people at Parkland on February 14, 2018 doesn’t promote the health, morals, safety and general welfare of the people, I don’t know what does. But leave it to my friends in Gun-nut Nation to pretend otherwise, and last Sunday they got some unexpected help from a seasoned news reporter who should have known better than to shoot his mouth off when he didn’t know what he was talking about.

I am referring to a roundtable on WPLG  in South Florida which included a discussion about the afroementioned Constitutional amendment, whose backers are busily gathering signatures throughout the state to put the issue to the voters next year.  Before I get into what was said by Politico’s Marc Caputo, let me just spend one paragraph explaining what the amendment does and, more important, doesn’t do.

Basically, the amendment follows closely the law passed in Connecticut after Sandy Hook, which prohibits assault weapons from coming into the state but grandfathers in guns already in the state as long as the owner registers such weapons with the state Department of Emergency Services and  Public Protection, a.k.a., the police.  Connecticut prohibited new assault rifles by enacting a general law, which in the GOP/NRA-dominated Florida legislature is about as likely to happen as me staying on my diet and losing the 20 pounds I have been trying to lose since I was a bar-mitzvah boy.

So here comes gun-expert Caputo who starts off by saying that the Amendment has no chance of passing even though early polls indicate that it’s a 50-50 split. And then Caputo says: “Basically, this amendment bans basically all types of semi-automatic rifles, except for bolt actions or ones that have a fixed magazine with a capacity of less than 10 rounds,” blah, blah, blah and blah.

Wrong. The amendment prohibits the purchase or ownership of assault rifles not currently owned. And while the registration of any type of weapon is always a bitter pill for Gun-nut Nation to swallow, Florida already requires that purchasing a gun from a dealer requires a 3-day wait so that the state police can do a background check; in other words, the Florida cops already know who owns or may own a gun.

I guarantee you that as soon as Gun-nut Nation realizes that the folks promoting this amendment are serious and have a chance to succeed, Granny Hammer and her minions will launch their usual assault consisting of some riff or another on the idea that ‘they’ are going to take away all ’your’ guns. And the gun nuts will promote this nonsense by playing the video of an experienced, mainstream  journalist telling his audience that this measure ‘bans all types of semi-automatic rifles’ when, in fact, it does not.

The amendment defines assault weapons as, “any semiautomatic rifle or shotgun capable of holding more than ten (10) rounds of ammunition at once, either in a fixed or detachable magazine.” Want the names of some semi-auto rifles that do not accept magazines with more than 10 rounds? Try Browning, Remington, Benelli, Savage, Winchester – okay?

It would be a nice change if Marc Caputo would make some effort to align his future reportage on this issue with the facts. In the meantime, I’m going to send the folks in Florida another Franklin to help speed their work. You should do it too.

Don’t Think For One Second That Trump And The Gun Nuts Can’t Win Again.

              My friends in Gun-control Nation certainly should be patting themselves on the back for their efforts that helped flip the House from red to blue in 2018. But before everyone decides that the 2020 election will see the end of Trump-world and a good chance to get a gun bill turned into law, we need to step back and ask ourselves whether gun violence is quite the wedge issue that some of the media thinks it might be.

              Trump’s election in 2016 was basically the result of flipping five states – MI, WI, OH, PA, FL – which together counted for 93 electoral votes; recall that his EV total was 304 to Hillary’s 227, which was 34 more than he needed to win. Now hold that thought.

              In 2018, the Democrats flipped 40 seats but only 8 of those red to blue seats were located in the 5 swing states. Overall, the GOP caucus will seat 48 members from those 5 states, the Democratic caucus will only seat 36.  And in not one of those states do the Democrats have a majority of House members now sitting in D.C. 

              Want some more unsettling news? The week after Trump was inaugurated, he was up or tied in terms of likability in 38 states. As of the beginning of February, 2019 he was even or ahead in only 17 states. But 3 of the states where he is still either 50-50 with or without the margin of error are OH, PA and FL, which together count for 67 electoral votes, which gets him over the top again.

              Now here’s the question: What do the states of OH, PA and FL have in common?  Answer: They are what we call ‘gun-rich’ states.  Now they aren’t as rich as states like Montana and North Dakota, but Montana and North Dakota don’t have any people, so their electoral votes don’t count for squat. But if Obama learned anything from the 2008 primary campaign, it was that if you said anything snarky about guns in a state like PA, you could doom your candidacy before you got out of the starting blocks.

              How many gun owners live in FL, Oh and PA? Nobody knows for sure, but I can tell you that when I managed a national gun wholesale business, we shipped plenty of guns to those three states. All three states issue concealed-carry on demand, and both FL and OH have enacted stand your ground laws which are to Gun-nut Nation what Friskies are to my cats.

              Until and unless someone comes up with better numbers, or Trump does something so stupid that even his die-hard supporters begin to fade away, the fact that he still commands a big chunk of followers in those three, crucial states, should give my Gun-control Nation friends some pause. Because if you want to run a political campaign wrapped around the gun issue, it’s a no-brainer in blue states like California, New Jersey or New York. But those states wouldn’t go for Trump even if he donated a million dollars of his own money to the ACLU. Will a slogan like ‘reasonable’ gun laws necessarily work in PA?  It sure hasn’t worked so far.

              I am still not convinced that the gun-control movement has developed effective messaging to convince gun owners that there’s any necessary connection between 125,000+ fatal and non-fatal gun injuries each year and the ‘right’ of any law-abiding American to own a gun. Because when all is said and done, our friends in Fairfax (a.k.a the NRA) have done a remarkable job promoting the idea that no law-abiding gun owner is in any way responsible for what the tree-huggers refer to as gun ‘violence,’ so why do we need any more gun laws?

              This happens to be a powerful message, it resonates very well with folks in Fl, OH and PA whose votes could keep Trump in the White House for five more years. My friends in Gun-control Nation still need to figure this one out.

So What If Gun Violence Is A National Emergency?

              Somewhat lost in all the fru-fru over Trump’s declaration of a national emergency was a statement by the real President of the United States, Nancy Pelosi, that Trump’s announcement would set a precedent for a Democratic President to declare a national emergency on the ‘epidemic of gun violence.’ Which, when you stop to think about it, is a political strategy that my Gun-control Nation friends need to take seriously over the next several years.

              The good news is that most, of not all of the announced or soon-to-be announced Democratic Presidential candidates are hard left when it come to the issue of guns. And given Trump’s continued effort to maintain a stance based on a combination of racism, far-right nationalism and just plain stupidism, there’s no reason right now why the 2020 Presidential campaign of the Democrats has to find some kind of middle ground on any issue at all. What we see again and again are polls which show that the same independent voters who have deserted Trump believe that guns need to be more tightly controlled. These are the voters who turned the House of Representatives from red to blue last year; these are the same voters who might just send fat-boy Trump to a permanent residence at Mar-a-Lago next year.

              Let’s not kid ourselves. The 2020 vote will get down to the same handful of states whose results determine every national race: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, Florida and one or two more. Nothing’s going to change the fact that guns aren’t popular in the Communist Northeast or West Coast states, just as nothing will change the fact that every resident of the dumb states (the South, the West, etc.) owns a gun. Which is exactly why declaring a national gun emergency just might be an important wedge issue in the states whose votes will determine whether Trump succeeds himself or not, assuming that (to quote Lizzie) he doesn’t run his 2020 campaign from jail. It wouldn’t the first time that a guy in jail was on the ballot – try Eugene Debs in 1920 and Lyndon LaRouche in 1992. 

              What could the President do by declaring a national gun emergency? For one thing, (s)he could direct the ATF to issue an emergency ‘stop-work’ order, serve it on Smith & Wesson, Glock, Sig, Beretta, Springfield and Kahr, which would effectively prevent more than 80% of the new handguns from entering the market, while the agency takes its time auditing every company to make sure that not one, single gun they manufacture ends up in the ‘wrong’ hands. The newly-elected President could also prohibit the manufacture of all ammunition on the same basis, and I note, by the way, that in all the talk circulating around right now about gun control, I don’t notice any of my friends in Gun-control Nation saying anything about regulating ammo sales – not one word.

              Under this national emergency, the President could also direct HHS to come up with a plan to require full and complete reporting injuries by every hospital receiving Medicare/Medicaid funds, which basically means every hospital in the United States. And this would quickly put an end to the kvetching on the part of all my gun researcher friends about how the data they use in their research doesn’t represent any kind of valid numbers on gun violence at all. Of course, God forbid the public health research community would stop using those bogus numbers to tell us about how this law and that law will reduce gun violence today.

              I think the answer to reducing gun violence is very simple – get rid of the guns. Notice I didn’t say I would support such an effort because I don’t take sides. What I am saying is that either gun violence is a national emergency or it’s not. And if it is, then let’s stop screwing around with a little of this or a little of that and tell it like it is – make Nancy Pelosi’s statement about a national gun-violence emergency the litmus test for which Presidential candidate deserves your support.

Can We Be Non-Partisan About Guns?

              Last week I had a brief exchange with a reporter from The Trace, and I happened to notice a statement on the group’s website that raised my eyebrows an inch or two. The statement said that The Trace is an ‘independent, non-partisan, nonprofit newsroom dedicated to shining a light on America’s gun violence crisis.’ To be sure, the online journal must follow certain rules in order to hold, which it does, a tax-exempt status and operate on the basis of donations received from here and there. Their editorial independence is explained in an editorial which to my untutored eyes, appears to cover this issue as well.

              My problem is the reference to the word ‘non-partisan,’ which seems to crop up in many of the descriptions that organizations connected to Gun-control Nation use to explain their work. Now I always thought that the term had something to do with politics and basically means that the work of a particular individual or organization wasn’t being conducted for the purpose of promoting a particular political party, or a particular political position, or anything having to do with a specific political activity at all. Which is all fine and well except for one thing.

              How can anyone or any organization doing anything related to guns and gun violence claim to be working in a ‘non-partisan’ way?  Such a statement, with all due respect to the very good writing and research that often appears in The Trace, simply has no relationship to reality at all. In fact, I can’t think of a single issue which has become in every respect more partisan than gun violence over the last several years. And if the editors of The Trace actually believe that they are presenting ‘non-partisan’ content to their readers, I simply must assume that these editors don’t read what is published in this online journal every day. Here’s an example of what can only be described as a ‘partisan’ report.

The headline reads: The Unchecked Influence of NRA Lobbyist Marion Hammer, and it’s a long story which appeared in The Trace in February of last year. The writing (by Mike Spies) is detailed, sources are identified and there are comments from both sides, including a quote from the Florida Congressman, Matt Gaetz, who gets the all-time award as the dumbest office-holder in the history of the Gunshine State.  But the subject of the story, Granny Hammer, refused to be interviewed, despite being described as bringing laws into existence “that have dramatically altered long-held American norms and legal principles,” including concealed-carry and stand your ground.

              Now let’s be honest, okay? Would The Trace have devoted several thousand words to a story about this old lady if what she was doing aligned with the journal’s mission to ‘shine a light on America’s gun violence crisis?’ The truth is that by even using the words ‘gun violence,’ The Trace is clearly demonstrating that it takes a very partisan position on the issue of guns. Don’t believe me? Listen to all those stupid videos on the NRA-ILA website and see if any of the talking heads promoting gun ‘rights’ use the expression ‘gun violence’ even once.

              Let me make it very clear that I am not in any way criticizing The Trace for what they say or what they don’t say.  They have a job to do and they do it well. And even though on occasion I publish correctives to what I consider to be their reportage which needs a more thorough look, I have never and will never raise the slightest concern about the basic value and legitimacy of their work. In fact, I think that after I post this column I’ll send them a hundred bucks.

              I just have a basic problem with my Gun-control Nation friends who bend over backwards to  appear even-handed to the other side. Gun violence is a partisan issue. Gun violence needs to be addressed in partisan terms. Shooting human beings is not the stuff of compromise, okay? It must come to an end.

P.S. I’m going to send this column to The Trace and if they choose to respond I’ll gladly print what they say.

Josh Montgomery: How Can Shooting Be Meditative?

Shooting is not a hobby that just anyone engages with – it’s not easy and requires a lot of concentration to do it properly. Many individuals are bothered by shooting, as they see it as something loud and violent. Thus, they decide to stay away from it.

However, did you know that shooting can work just the same way meditation does? Yes, it might be totally different compared to sitting down and thinking about life, but it can have just the same effect. That being said, you can do some practice for .308 rifles and meditate at the same time.

Are you wondering how can shooting be meditative, given its nature? You will find the answer to the question throughout this article.

What Is Meditation and How Does It Help?

You’ve most likely heard of meditation, but although many people are aware of its existence, not all of them understand what it actually means.

Meditation is all about training to observe things without judgment, and build awareness – thus, you get a healthy sense of perspective. That being said, it’s not meant to help you become a new person, and it doesn’t require you to turn off your thoughts. What it basically does is teach you how to look at things without being judgmental, thus being able to understand them.

Moreover, you’re not only learning how to observe these things, but you’re also getting to know yourself better as a person and be at peace with yourself.

Shooting and Meditation – What’s the Link Between Them?

It’s hard to think of shooting as a way to meditate. After all, aiming a dangerous object and firing with a powerful sound barely adds up to sitting down and trying to arrange your thoughts.

However, you’d actually be surprised to find out that shooting is not as far away from meditation as it seems. Basically, when you first get into shooting, you are required to be careful and reflect on each shot, like it’s the only one you’ve got.

Whereas many newcomers in the world of shooting focus too much on scores and the target, that’s not the best way to go about it. Where your shots go is not as important – what matters is learning and mastering the technique. And this is where the correlation between meditation and shooting comes into play.

Through a Zen perspective, shooting focuses on the idea of getting the perfect shot – in other words, The Shot. That being said, the most important thing is to reflect and focus on each shot. Once you begin to work on getting better with your technique, you encounter the “Seven Defilements” of mind. With that said, you need to set them aside, which can be done through the Zen Art aspect of shooting.

For this, you need to practice all the time, and soon enough, you will notice that it’s not you who’s shooting the target – the right mindset is doing it.

Your aim when shooting is to polish and cleanse your mind of the everyday routine. This is pretty much the same as meditation, which focuses on arranging your thoughts and looking at them from a non-judgemental perspective. So, you are not only trying to master your way of shooting at the target, but you’re rather polishing the mind.

Shooting – Not Only a Sport

Nowadays, it’s not hard to see that people pick up shooting to entertain themselves, seeing it only as a sport. Whereas it is indeed a way to have fun and quite a unique hobby, shooting is more than that. It is used by a lot of people as a way to develop their mental and spiritual discipline. With that said, many individuals who wish to re-discover themselves pick up shooting, as the mechanics, equipment, and atmosphere are attracting them.

It’s easy to look at shooting like it’s just a game that only needs some skill. Still, the mind needs to be used a lot to get a precise shot, and that’s when personal development begins, especially in the first stages of learning the skill. In addition, shooting can be a great way to give you some peace of mind by letting you feel in power and it also helps you overcome your fears.

Why Should You Consider Shooting as Meditation?

Shooting can be used not only as a hobby but also as a way of life. It’s something that could help you find yourself and strengthen your mind. So, you can simply choose some days when you want to be alone with your thoughts and your rifles, thus trying to put your thoughts in order while focusing on accuracy.

Basically, when you are aiming at the target, you feel powerful, and suddenly your fear is gone. In other words, it’s building a lot of self-confidence and reduces anxiety, so it’s a great way to come at peace with yourself.

Moreover, it’s a way that allows you to see your strengths, as well as weaknesses, in a much easier way. This could also be obtained through usual meditation. As a result, it will be an easier task to work on yourself and improve as a person.

Over time, you will be able to sit back and observe your progress, and maybe even begin to understand other people and see them in a new light without judging them. This is the power that a hobby like shooting could have on you.

Final Thoughts

Shooting is seen as an unusual and dangerous hobby that couldn’t offer anything of value to those practicing it, besides entertainment. However, that cannot be further from the truth, as shooting can have the same effect on you that meditation does. It opens up your mind, allows you to work on developing a technique, while it polishes your thoughts the same way meditation would.

All in all, if simply sitting down and meditating is not too appealing to you, maybe you can pick up shooting. It has the same effect, and you will have a lot of great things to gain from it.

Ban Assault Weapons in Florida Rocks!!

              I usually don’t get energetically involved in advocacy efforts of any kind, but there’s an effort just announced in Florida that deserves my support and your support as well.  I am referring to a group calling themselves Ban Assault Weapons NOW, which announced a petition drive to get an initiative on the 2020 Florida ballot that would amend the state Constitution and ultimately make Florida assault weapon rein.

              The effort has sparked the usual media coverage, some of which is inaccurate, some of which is simply dead wrong. So before I talk about whether getting rid of assault weapons will make a difference, let me just clarify what the proposed amendment would and wouldn’t do.  It doesn’t ban the ownership of assault weapons already in the Gunshine State. It does prohibit the sale or transfer of assault rifles into the state. And while Gun-nut Nation will no doubt do whatever it can do to prevent the initiative from getting on the ballot and/or becoming law, early polls indicate that, in fact, such a measure when put directly to the voters, might actually pass.

              The problem with this effort is, first of all, that collecting the required 766,000 signatures (the group has collected just short of 90,000) requires lots of cash, perhaps $5 million or more. That’s serious money, even considering that the group has access to some deep pockets, including Al Hoffman and several other real-estate biggies who announced their own gun-control effort last year.

              The other problem facing our friends pushing this Florida effort is the degree to which the whole issue of assault rifles has become something surrounded by more falsehoods than facts. Here’s a couple of the so-called facts about assault rifles which are nothing more than whole cloth:

  • The AR-15 isn’t an assault rifle because an assault rifle is a full-automatic weapon and the AR-15 only fired in semi-automatic mode. In fact, the current battle weapon carried by U.S. troops, the M4, can be set to fire in semi-automatic mode.
  • An assault rifle is no different from any other semi-automatic rifle, a design which hunters have been using for nearly a century in guns manufactured by Remington, Winchester, Browning, et. al. In fact, an assault rifle loads from a magazine inserted underneath the gun, which allows for magazine that hold upwards of 30-40 rounds. Traditional, semi-auto hunting rifles load from above the gun, which means their effective capacity is limited to 5 or 6 rounds.
  • The number of people killed and wounded by assault rifles each year adds a statistically-insignificant number to the 125,000+ Americans who shoot themselves or others with guns. Why prohibit law-abiding folks from owning a gun which has little or any responsibility for gun injuries that occur every year?

This last bubbe-mynsa deserves a paragraph all its own.The issue of assault weapons should never be considered in numeric terms – it goes far beyond that. After the massacre at Sandy Hook, the school building had to be torn down because its presence generated such terrible feelings of loss and anger for all town residents who drove or walked by. I understand that similar feelings exist amongst residents of Parkland and surrounding towns.

The point is that all gun violence creates both physical and psychic damage, but the latter injuries often go far beyond the families of gun-violence victims themselves. Newtown will never recover its sense of well-being and security following the terrible events at Sandy Hook. And the courts have long affirmed the notion that government has a ‘compelling interest’ in community safety precisely because we all want the place we live to be safe.

What the Florida initiative fundamentally represents is a community-wide effort to confront the gun industry over the lethality of its products, as well as to take issue with the nonsense promoted by Gun-nut Nation that we can all be secure and safe by just walking around with a gun.

I sent Ban Assault Weapons NOW a donation yesterday, they get another one today. And everyone who reads this column should chip in as well.  Here’s the link.

The N.Y. Times Thinks It’s Been A Tough Year For The NRA. I’m Not So Sure.

              “Politically, financially and legally, the gun-rights cause and, more specifically, the lobbying juggernaut that is the National Rifle Association have not fared well in the Trump era.”

              Thus speaketh this morning’s New York Times, and if The Times says it, then it must be true. Except, it happens not to be true. Or it’s certainly not as true as The New York Times Editorial Board would like you to believe.

              And the reason it happens not to be true is because the gun-control community, of which The New York Times considers itself to be a leading media voice, knows as much about the gun industry as I know about the structure of the atom. And I didn’t take physics or nuclear physics in college, so I don’t know anything about the structure of the atom, okay?

              The reason I can’t get on board with the judgement of the gun industry’s impending doom is because the gun-control community invariably defines the ‘power’ and ‘influence’ of the ‘gun lobby’ as based on the activities of America’s ‘first civil rights organization,’ a.k.a., the NRA.  And anyone who believes that the health and welfare of the gun ‘lobby’ should be measured simply by the bottom line of the NRA’s balance sheet, doesn’t know anything about the gun lobby or anything else connected to guns.

              The NYT editorial board cites as its proof that the NRA is on the ropes the fact that, for the first time, election spending by gun-control groups (read: Bloomberg) was higher than the dough spent by the pro-gun gang. But before our friends in Gun-control Nation jump for joy over this unique turn of events, the reportage by our friends at The Gray Lady needs to be nuanced a bit.

              To begin, even when the NRA was priming the electoral pump by giving pro-gun candidates as much campaign money as they could, the average federal office-holder, at best, could only count on the boys from Fairfax to provide 6% of what the candidate had to spend. So for all the talk about the financial ‘power’ of the NRA, after a candidate picked up the check from Wayne-o or Chris Cox, he still had to raise almost all the dough necessary to fund his campaign. What does an average House campaign cost today? Try around $1.5 million or more. How much money did the average pro-gun House member receive in each of the last two Congressional campaigns?  Try less than $5,000 bucks.

              Where the financial imbalance between the NRA and its competitors really shows up, however, is in the amount spent on lobbying activities once a candidate takes his or her Congressional seat. Except the imbalance is so much in favor of the NRA that the notion that Gun-control Nation is beginning to pull abreast of Gun-nut Nation in the halls of Congress is a joke.

              During the 115th Congress, 2017 – 2018, Bloomberg’s Everytown PAC spent just short of $2.5 million on lobbying activities.  In those same two years, the NRA spent more than $9.5 million bucks. In the 8 previous years when Obama was in office, the highest yearly lobbying amount spent by the NRA was $3.5 million. And The New York Times is telling us that the fortunes of Gun-nut Nation have suffered under Trump?

              Finally, when we look at FBI-NICS background checks on gun transfers to gauge how gun sales stack up, the news isn’t all that bad. Handgun-long gun transfers for December, 2007 were 925,000, for December, 2016 they were 1,700,00, for December, 2017 they were just under a million and a half. That’s a month-to-month drop of slightly more than 10% from the last year of Obama to the first year of Trump, but it’s still nearly a 40% increase over the final month’s figure for another pro-gun President named George Bush.

              I’m not saying that it’s been smooth sailing for my friends in Fairfax this past year. But if anyone is thinking that the Gun-nut patient is on its way to life-support, think again.

Get Guns Off The Campus!

              Stephen Boss teaches environment courses at the University of Arkansas, a lifelong interest that started when, as a kid, he rode his bike to Martinez, CA where he visited the home once occupied by John Muir. I always thought the most famous person to live in Martinez was Reggie Jackson, but you learn something new all the time. In any case, there’s actually a connection between environmentalism and keeping guns away from college campuses, which is what Stephen’s book is all about. Because as he goes on to explain, a college campus should be regarded as a ‘sanctuary,’ and guns have no place in sanctuaries, something we have always understood.

              Except we don’t understand the connection between sanctuaries and non-violence any more. It used to be the case, for example, that houses of worship, which have been sanctuaries since medieval times, were locations which didn’t welcome guns. The Virginia State Senate just passed a bill which repeals a law dating from Colonial times that makes it a misdemeanor to bring a gun or any other kind of weapon into a ‘place of worship,’ and several other states grant legal sanction to concealed-carry inside a synagogue or a church.

              It would be easy blame the rupture between non-violence and sanctuary on the NRA’s efforts to spread the gospel of armed, self-defense. Unfortunately, this is not the whole story by any means. Several of the worst, mass shootings over the last several years occurred in religious facilities – first in Charleston, SC then Sutherland Springs, TX and most recently in Pittsburgh, PA. And even though as many as 100 million Americans attend a peaceful religious service every weekend, when it comes to fears about gun violence, it’s never the numbers that count.

              What Stephen has done is take the data which is generated each year by the Clery Act, a federal law which requires that every college and university receiving any kind of federal aid, including federal loan monies received by students, report campus crime every year. He has examined this data covering college homicides from 2001 to 2016, and lo and behold, it turns out that colleges happen to be very peaceful places. In fact, over the period 2001 to 2016, there was an aggregate total of just slightly less than 370 million people (faculty, students, staff) on college campuses, of whom 279 were criminally killed.  Which means that the college homicide rate is somewhere around 76 times lower than the national homicide rate overall.

              Realistically, the number is lower than that. Because of the 219 incidents which resulted in 279 deaths, 40 of these homicides were the result of two mass shootings at Umpqua Community College and Virginia Tech.  Pull these events out of the overall numbers, precisely because they were so different from what usually occurs, and the degree to which college campuses are possibly the safest environments where large numbers of people gather is much greater still.

              Where I think Stephen’s book needs a somewhat wider perspective is understanding why Gun-nut Nation has been making such a big push to break down colleges as sanctuaries and give all those young kids the right to walk around their alma mater with a gun.

              To begin with, the Guns on Campus movement is part of the effort to eliminate all gun-free zones. And the reason that gun-free zones are so anathema to the gun industry is because a prohibition on firearms in a public space creates the impression that guns aren’t safe. And that’s the last thing that gun makers would want you to believe.

              But there’s a somewhat more nuanced issue about gun-free campuses, which is the fact that college-educated kids, for the most part, won’t become adults who end up owning or using guns. Try as they might, the attempt by conservatives to rid college campuses of the noxious weeds of liberalism hasn’t worked. And generally speaking, liberals don’t particularly like guns. If they did, the extremely scant numbers produced by Stephen Boss on college homicides would probably go way up.

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Fly The Friendly Skies With Your Gun.

Last week the Transportation Safety Administration celebrated its return to normalcy with the publication of an annual report on how many guns were picked up at the airports where TSA staff monitor security check-ins prior to flights. The report was issued the day after a Republican member of Congress, Matt Gaetz, may have made the single, dumbest, brain-dead comment ever made by anyone who has ever held a Congressional seat, when he told the parents of two children killed at Parkland that their concerns about protecting the country from gun violence didn’t come close to his concern about protecting the country from all those terrorists and criminals who come from Mexico because we don’t have a wall.

The TSA report, on the other hand, doesn’t represent a loony opinion on threats to public safety, rather, it’s a compilation of hard data on how many guns were taken from passengers who were in the process of boarding commercial flights anywhere within the United States. Next time you go through a TSA security checkpoint, count the number of times you see a sign telling you not to be in possession of a gun. Maybe three times? Maybe four? And yet in 2018, more than 4,200 passengers attempted to board aircraft holding carry-on bags that contained guns, of which 80% of the guns were loaded as well.

You have to be as dumb as a rock, maybe even as dumb as Matt Gaetz, to bring a gun onto a plane in a carry-on bag. Want to have a gun with you when you fly to Florida to visit Grandma in a nursing home? Pay the extra bucks, check a piece of luggage, declare that your suitcase contains a gun and you’re good to go. When you land in Miami or wherever the old lady has been stashed, an airline employee will even come up to you and hand-deliver your suitcase.

Of course the whole point of carrying a gun is to be ready, at an instant’s notice, to defend yourself and everyone else from one of those ‘street thugs’ who endlessly prowl around. There’s always a member of MS-13 just about to steal your car or break into your home. You can never tell when ISIS may choose to land an invasion force on the streets of your suburban town. The threats to life, liberty and the pursuit of a gallon of gasoline which costs less than two bucks are all around.

On a plane? Remember back in 2008 when David Sedaris had to choose between chicken versus dog-shit with cut glass as the entree for his in-flight meal? I’m sure our friend David ended up with the chicken, but what if the cabin attendant had screwed up and handed him the dog-shit with cut glass? Wouldn’t that have represented a clear threat to David’s life and limb which could only have been thwarted by the use of a gun?

Now let’s not go overboard about this problem, because the same group of TSA inspectors who found 4,239 guns at airport check-in lines also waved through more than 800 million passengers and crew who weren’t carrying guns. That’s an awful lot of people flying the friendly skies who didn’t need to have a gun in their carry-on bags.

The question I have, however, is this: If I have a gun in my carry-on and the gun is discovered and taken away prior to my flight, isn’t this a violation of my 2nd-Amendment ‘rights?’ After all, the Constitution doesn’t say anything about my gun-rights being abridged just because airplanes didn’t exist in 1788. So why should I ever find myself in a life-threatening circumstance just because some noodle-head bureaucrat in some federal agency thinks that I shouldn’t be able to protect myself on a flight?

Know what? I’m going to write a letter to Matt Gaetz and tell him to put together legislation, get it co-sponsored by the Freedom Caucus, that will definitively extend my Constitutional ‘right’ to protect myself with a gun to any and all commercial flights. And if he wants, I’ll go to the trouble of putting up a Facebook group which we’ll call ‘Americans for Freedom in the Skies.’

I mean, what else should I be doing since right now it’s too cold and wet to play golf?