When Is An Assault Rifle Not An Assault Rifle?

              The gun industry better come up with a basic narrative to staunch what could be some serious financial problems, assuming that the AWB virus (read: assault weapons ban) begins to spread throughout the globe. Because it just doesn’t work to refer to a gun as a ‘modern sporting rifle’ when the so-called ‘sport’ results in 50 people getting killed. It also doesn’t work to refer to an AR-15 as a ‘tactical’ gun when you can hardly consider a high school, a synagogue  or a mosque to be a war zone.

              This search for a new excuse to continue making profits from the sale of .America’s most popular’ rifle’ was on full display yesterday with a really stupid op-ed in The Washington Examiner. The writerlikened allowing families of Sandy Hook victims who want to sue the gun maker to be just as ‘ridiculous’ as allowing someone to sue a company which manufactures kitchen knives after some ‘crazy person’ takes a knife out of the cupboard and sticks it in someone else’s head.

              Last week I bought a knife from an online seller whose advertisement claimed that for $69.95 I was getting my hands on the best, most versatile and most effective ‘tactical’ knife ever made.  The advertisement made a point of promising that with this knife in my pocket, I could defend myself from any and all threats. There was no mention of whether I could also use this knife to slice a loaf of bread.

Of course I could stick this knife in the same kitchen drawer where I keep the utensils which I use to prepare and eat food. But I can also go down to Wal Mart and buy an entire set of forks, knives and spoons, or a complete set of steak knives (in a nice, wooden knife-holder) for less than $69.95. And I would be the last person to argue that if my loony cousin Arthur escaped from the loony bin, showed up at my house, grabbed one of those steak knives and pushed it into my head, that my wife should be able to sue Wal Mart because they sold me a product that was designed to trim the side of my Porterhouse filet.

This is exactly why the argument against banning assault rifles falls apart. Because an assault rifle is designed to do one thing: deliver massive, military-grade firepower into a public space containing multiple human beings who are targeted by the guy who has the gun. And the fact that nearly everyone who owns such a weapon wouldn’t think of using it to hurt or injure someone else, doesn’t make this type of gun any less dangerous or any safer for civilian sale.

One of the most popular semi-automatic rifles ever manufactured is a gun made by Ruger known as the Mini-14. It fires the same type of ammunition as the AR-15 (.223 or 5.56) and bears a slight resemblance to the old M-1 carbine, which was the 30-caliber version of the storied M-1 Garand. It was designed by Bill Ruger specifically to be a lightweight, sporting gun that could be used to hunt varmints or just have some shooting fun.

When Ruger started shipping this rifle it came and still comes with a 5-shot mag. So here was a gun that looks like a military gun, feels like a military gun and shoots like a military gun except that Bill Ruger didn’t want anyone thinking they were buying a military gun. In fact, Bill Ruger first characterized his company as ‘Arms Makers for Responsible Citizens,’ but the factory now ships what they call a ‘tactical’ Mini-14, complete with hi-cap mags.

Could Ruger refit its Mini-14 with a non-detachable mag that only holds 5 rounds? Of course they could, but the gun wouldn’t sell. And this is the reason why the gun industry has become, to paraphrase Hamlet, hoisted with its own petard. Because they can’t have it both ways. Either we shoot for sport or we shoot to kill. It’s as simple as that.

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What’s The Best Way To Regulate Guns?

              Coming up shortly is a debate in the U.S. Senate about a bill which passed through the House extending background checks to all transfers of guns. At the same this issue wends its way through Congress, another approach to reducing gun violence is going through the courts in the form of the lawsuit against Remington brought by some of the parents of victims killed at Sandy Hook.

              These two initiatives represent different methods for making us safe (or at least safer) from a type of behavior which kills and injures more than 125,000 people every year.  This behavior which is referred to as gun violence because it occurs whenever someone picks up a gun, aims it at themselves or someone else and goes – bang!

              I happen to believe that the latter approach is a much more effective method for dealing with this problem. My proof for that statement lies in the fact that the gun-control method embodied in the DeSoto v. Remington case aligns itself with the way in which other countries deal with gun violence, which is the reason why other countries have gun-violence rates far below our own.

              We are the only advanced society which has decided that the most effective way to regulate a consumer product known as a gun is to regulate the behavior of the consumer who owns the gun. Therefore, in order to be a legal gun owner in the United States, you have to prove that you do not fall into a particular behavioral category which prohibits owning or buying guns. These categories are all listed on the 4473 background check form which is filled out when someone buys a gun, but they apply equally as well to owning a gun, no matter how that ownership status came about. The background check bill currently before the Senate basically extends the certification of ‘good’ behavior to any way in which someone gets their hands on a gun. But like the current system, it is still regulating how people behave with a particular consumer product, not how the product is designed or sold.

              The majority opinion in DeSoto v. Remington correctly understood that what is at issue in this case is not the behavior of the shooter per se, but the conscious effort by the manufacturer to advertise the product in a way that would attract consumers who wanted to use this gun to inflict injuries to other human beings. To quote from the decision: “The AR-15 and M16 are highly lethal weapons that are engineered to deliver maximum carnage with extreme efficiency.” Which is hardly how guns designed to be used for ‘sport’ can best be described.

              On the other hand, as long as a gun doesn’t fire in automatic mode, it can be bought and sold by anyone who doesn’t have a behavioral history indicating that the person  buying or owning the gun is at risk for using the weapon in a violent way. Adam Lanza, who shot and killed himself and 27 other kids and adults in Newtown, used his mother’s rifle but if he had waited a few months until he was 21, he could have walked into any gun shop in Connecticut and purchased the same gun himself.

              I’m not saying that extending background checks to secondary sales won’t have an impact on whether or not guns end up in the wrong hands. But as long as we continue to regulate this consumer product by believing that purchase and ownership of products as dangerous as an AR-15 require only meeting minimal standards for lawful behavior, the number of such guns floating around in private hands will continue to increase. And as the number of such guns goes up, the number used to commit violent acts will also go up.

              If a consumer product is dangerous because of the way it’s designed, either you change the design or the product can’t be sold. How do you make an AR-15 safer so that it can’t be used to mow down a classroom filled with kids? You can’t.

Why Do Some People Own Guns? A New ‘Scientific’ Explanation.

              Because I fervently believe that we must try to find some way to eliminate the scourge of gun violence, I tend to be somewhat more accepting of arguments for gun control than for pro-gun arguments made by the ‘other side.’ But every once in a while a narrative floats around Gun-control Nation which is either so dumb, or so arrogant or so both, that I feel compelled to respond with the same degree of hostility and dismissiveness that I usually reserve for the jerks who lecture about the sanctity of their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

One such narrative floating around gun-control land is an article in Scientific American that claims to be based on a ‘growing number of ‘scientific studies’ which explain why white men are stockpiling guns. If these articles represent science, Galileo must be turning in his grave, or in his tower, or wherever he ended up. In fact, these so-called studies are nothing more than junk science designed to appeal to an audience which may be committed to scientific inquiry, but also happens to be an audience that doesn’t know squat about guns.

The scientific approach to understanding gun ownership claims that guns are increasingly found in larger and larger private arsenals owned by white men “who are anxious about their ability to protect their families, insecure about their place in the job market, and beset by racial fears.” So says a sociologist who her study based on interviews with a whole, big sample of people who applied for concealed-carry licenses in Texas –  she talked to 20 men. That’s some definitive sample, I must say.

The most disturbing finding from this and other scientific investigations into the minds of guys who are stockpiling weapons is that many of them also harbor strong, racist beliefs and worse, often channel these beliefs into opposition to gun-control laws and support for conservative (read: Republican) politicians and right-wing political ideas.

Then there’s another foray into scientific research by two sociologists at Baylor University who claim to have uncovered a connection between white guys who use gun ownership to feel empowered after losing their jobs. Yet white women and minorities who suffered financial setbacks did not feel demonstrate the same affinity to guns, which obviously meant they had developed “other sources of meaning and coping when facing hard times.” Yea, they probably stuffed themselves with Fritos while sitting in front of the tv. Other sources – my rear end.

Let me break the news gently to all these intrepid researchers who are pushing the boundaries of scientific gun research to new extremes. White men have always owned most of the guns in this country. Gun owners have always been politically conservative and vote the Republican line. Gun owners also tend to be less educated because guns are most frequently found in rural areas where opportunities for higher education still lag behind.

In other words, all of these so-called scientific studies designed to explain why a certain group of people keep acquiring more and more guns, don’t tell us anything new about Gun-nut Nation and worse, completely ignore the way in which gun ownership has dramatically changed over the last several years.

You would think that, if anything, the alignment of the gun industry with the most reactionary and racist President of all time, a President who went out of his way to use the threat of gun violence as a motif for explaining his political success, would motivate all these conservative, GOP-voting, racist gun owners to stock up on even more guns. In fact, exactly the opposite has occurred. Gun sales continue to drift downward, there has yet to be a single month since Sleazy Don was inaugurated where NICS-FBI checks on gun transfers was higher than the same month of the year before. Back in 2015-2016 you couldn’t buy a new AR for less than a thousand bucks. America’s ‘favorite gun’ is now priced at $600 or less.

The Scientific American article isn’t science – it’s fake news. But since when do we need to rely on facts to develop or validate any idea at all?

Why Is The AR-15 Too Dangerous If It’s Just Another Semi-Auto Gun?

              I purchased my first assault rifle in 1977 or 1978. It was made by Colt, was listed in the product catalog as a ‘sporter’ and sold for around four hundred bucks. The only difference between my A-1 sporter and the M-16 that was issued to our troops, was that my gun contained a semi-auto sear which because it was a ‘pre-ban’ gun could easily be swapped out for a full-auto sear.

              This alleged difference between a gun which fires full-auto as opposed to a gun which requires a separate trigger for every shot has been the core argument used by Gun-nut Nation to turn back any legal challenge to what they now refer to as America’s ‘favorite’ gun. And since there’s absolutely no difference between all semi-automatic rifles, if you ban one of them you could ban them all, right?

              For the uninitiated, this is a pretty powerful argument, and the pro-gun noise machine buttresses their narrative by pointing out that not only is the ammunition which loads into the AR less powerful than the ammo used in many semi-auto hunting guns, but that most ‘mass’ shootings occur with handguns, not the AR-style of gun. You can find these arguments in an Amicus Brief filed in the Sandy Hook case by a group known as the Connecticut Citizens’ Defense League – I don’t have to tell you which side they’re on.

              There’s only one little problem with this statement from these learned protectors of 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ To be polite, they don’t know what they are talking about. To be a little less polite, they’re full of sh*t. And the reason I’m dispensing with polite is because this group is consciously trying to craft an argument to take advantage of a confusion found in just about every discussion about assault rifles, a confusion which hopefully this column will clear up.

              It has to do with how we define the phrase ‘mass shooting.’ Actually, there is no standard definition. The FBI defines a ‘mass murder’ as the indiscriminate killing of four or more persons in a public space whether a gun is used or not. Other definitions push the idea that a mass killing event may occur either in a public or private space, and still others count the number of bodies, usually but not always four or more, regardless of whether the victims are injured or killed.

              When a group like this Connecticut gun-loving bunch lumps together every multiple shooting with rampages which occurred at Columbine, Aurora, Parkland, Las Vegas or Sandy Hook, they are creating a category that is so vague they can basically say anything they want, regardless of the facts in each individual case.

              Of course most ‘mass’ shootings involve the use of a handgun, if you define a ‘mass’ shooting as any time that multiple victims are hit. Of course the AR ammunition load known as .223 caliber is much less powerful that many hunting rounds, because the round my long-distance hunting rifle takes, the .300 Winchester Magnum, is designed to smack down a muley at 400 yards.

              Talking about my hunting rifle, it’s a Browning BAR, which fires in semi-auto mode just like the AR. But there’s a huge difference between these two semi-auto guns which the Connecticut gun-nut group failed to point out. The magazine capacity of my Browning is 5 rounds and it loads shell by shell from the top. The AR loads from the bottom with magazines that can hold upwards of 30 to 50 rounds. If Adam Lanza had walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School with a Browning BAR, he maybe would have gotten off 4 or 5 shots. In fact because he used an AR, he banged nearly 100 rounds in 5 minutes or less.

              When someone walks into a school and tries to kill everyone in sight, he has destroyed an entire community, whether that was his motive or not. And the only legal gun which will achieve that result in less time than it takes for a school resource officer to run down the hallway and intervene is an AR-15.

According To The NRA, Sandy Hook Was Just A Frivolous Event.

              It took our NRA friends at Fairfax less than 24 hours to respond to the opinion published by the Connecticut Supreme Court after the Court deliberated Soto v. Bushmaster for more than 15 months. And what the boys from Fairfax said is what is always said by the alt-right when a legal decision goes the other way, namely, that it was the product of an ‘activist’ court; ‘activist’ being a code-word for any judicial opinion they don’t like.

              The reason Gun-nut Nation doesn’t like the decision is because it may start a trend around the country where busybody tree-huggers and other liberal types who hate guns will dig up some consumer-protection statute in their state which can be used to take away from the gun industry its beloved federal protection from torts, a.k.a. the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, a.k.a. PLCAA.  This law exempts the gun industry from the kind of lawsuits that have been plaguing the tobacco industry for years, namely, taking responsibility for damages from their product even when the product is sold in a lawful way.

              When PLCAA was passed in 2005, the law contained certain exemptions for state laws that gave consumers a basis for legal redress if the product’s use created an injury or a financial loss. Connecticut has such a law, known as the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practice Act (CUTPA), and it was this law which was used by the Sandy Hook plaintiffs to ague their case. It was also this law that the CT Supreme Court majority held to be applicable while a minority of the justices said it was not. I’ll deal with each in turn but first I have to mention a detail of the case that may prove difficult for some to read.

              On the morning of December 12, 2012 a 20-year old named Adam Lanza woke up, took a bolt-action, single shot rifle and shot his sleeping mother in the head. He then took an AR-15 rifle with multiple, hi-capacity magazines, drove to the Sandy Hook Elementary School and within five minutes killed 26 adults and children, then pulled out a pistol and took his own life.

              Adam Lanza didn’t own the AR-15. His mother had purchased the gun a year earlier, and at no time did she state that she had purchased the gun for him. This is the reason that the case could not go forward under the doctrine of negligent entrustment, because the plaintiffs would have been required to prove that the actual purchaser of the product had used it in an unsafe manner, which was obviously not the case.

At the same time, the CT Supreme Court majority held that the case could proceed under CUTPA, because that law “authorizes any person who has suffered an ascertainable financial loss caused by an unfair trade practice to bring an action,” no matter who committed the unfair act. The majority further found that the PLCAA law exempted CUTPA because even though PLCAA exempted only laws which specifically referred to firearm commerce, the CUTPA statute prohibited unfair or deceptive advertising in any kind of commerce, which would supersede the specific limitation found in PLCAA.

              What was the minority opinion which the NRA grasped like a veritable last straw? It was the idea that since PLCCA only covered state laws which contained specific reference to guns, that the CUTPA law couldn’t be used  by the plaintiffs in this case. And if there is any doubt about where the NRA stands on this issue, they applauded the minority dissent because it would protect the gun industry from – ready? – frivolous litigation, obviously a category which includes the Sandy Hook case.

              How many people have to get killed by someone wielding an AR-15 before such an act would’nt be considered frivolous?  Only 17 people were killed at Parkland, so I guess that one was even more frivolous an event than what happened at Sandy Hook. Maybe we should set the bar at 50 dead bodies, maybe 100, maybe more.

What Happened At Sandy Hook.

It took the Connecticut Supreme Court more than fifteen months to issue a ruling in the Sandy Hook case, but when the opinion was announced, it was a doozy. Not only did the Court reverse the Superior Court’s ruling and hold for the plaintiffs against the gun maker whose product was used to kill 26 adult and children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, but the decision got right to the fundamental issue which the gun industry has been trying to wish out of existence for at least the last twenty years.

When gun makers realized that hunting was going the way of the dial telephone, they came up with a brilliant marketing plan to keep the factories humming, namely, the idea of guns as being essential for self-defense. Now the fact that most Americans never find themselves in a situation where they need protection from a criminal threat isn’t at issue here. What is at issue is that enough consumers believed this malarky to keep the gun industry from sliding into the red.

With the advent of terrorism, non-ending battle engagements in the Near East and a generalize fear that something like 9-11 might happen again, however, the whole notion of armed, self-defense was transmogrified into messaging which blurred the traditional boundary between civilian and military weapons, with the gun industry finding its strongest new market in something called ‘tactical’ guns.

Of course the gun industry also knew, particularly after the Heller decision in 2008, that they couldn’t push this move into military-style armaments too far, because Scalia specifically refused to grant 2nd-Amendment protection to what he referred to as ‘weapons of war.’ So the industry invented the idea that guns like the AR-15 weren’t military weapons; they were ‘modern sporting weapons,’ meaning that the word ‘sporting’ could be applied to any gun which fired in semi-automatic mode.

The CT Supreme Court decision is quite lengthy, primarily because it deals not only with the state laws covering consumer protection (CUTPA and negligent entrustment) but it also explains in detail why the gun industry in this instance cannot use the federal tort immunity law – PLCAA – to shield itself from legitimate damage claims. And on Page 12 of the opinion, the rubber meets the road with the following accurate and very strong text: “The AR-15 and M16 are highly lethal weapons that are engineered to deliver maximum carnage with extreme efficiency. Several features make these rifles especially well suited for combat and enable a shooter to inflict unparalleled carnage. Rapid semiautomatic fire ‘unleashes a torrent of bullets in a matter of seconds.’ The ability to accommodate large capacity magazines allows for prolonged assaults.”

Folks – the CT Supreme Court got it right. The AR-15 wasn’t designed to be a ‘sporting’ gun, unless you want to define ‘sport’ as the ability to kill 26 human beings in 4 minutes or less. And if a shooter can deliver that amount of lethal firepower in such a short period of time, it makes the idea of differentiating between full-auto and semi-automatic modes a stupid and sick joke.

What happened at Sandy Hook is that someone used a product that is too dangerous and too lethal for civilian sale. Because the product was used precisely in the way it was designed to be used – to kill as many human beings as possible in the briefest period of time. In all of this my great regret is that in order to force the gun industry to acknowledge the lethality of this product, beautiful and precious lives had to be lost.

We Don’t Need A National Gun Registry Because The ATF Already Knows Who Owns The Guns.

              Last week three ‘experts’ on gun violence – Morall, Stewart, Webster – unanimously condemned the idea of creating a national gun registry to help control guns. In fact, these same three individuals have also supported comprehensive background checks (CBC), which would eventually create a national gun registry whether these experts know it or not.

              Here’s how. Every firearm in a gun shop is listed in the shop’s Acquisition & Disposition book, known as the A&D. When a gun comes into a shop, the gun dealer makes an entry in the Acquisition side of the A&D book which shows where the gun came from, along with the make, caliber and serial number of the gun. When that gun leaves the shop because it’s been sold, the dealer then fills in the Disposition side of the book, identifying the new owner of that gun. Before the Disposition information is entered, a 4473 FBI-NICS background check form is also filled out, and is linked numerically to the relevant entry in the A&D.

              Why will they know it? The ATF owns every, single collection of 4473 forms and every, single A&D book located in every gun shop in the United States. If H.R. 8 becomes law, then over time the whereabouts of every gun that has been transferred to anyone after the law goes into effect will be known by the ATF

              In the ‘olden’ days, a.k.a. pre-internet days, gun dealers kept their A&D book by hand. Now virtually every dealer maintains his inventory on disc, and the agency encourages dealers to digitalize their data because it makes it easier for the ATF agents to conduct an inspection without having to stand there and read through every page of the A&D. Incidentally, the idea that the ATF has been ‘handcuffed’ since 1998 because they can only do a trace of the initial sale of a gun happens to be a big, fat lie. If someone walks out of a gun shop with a piece and gives or sells it to someone else, obviously the movement of that gun from one pair of hands to another won’t be known. But walk into any gun shop and you’ll discover that upwards of 40% of the inventory consists of used guns.

A gun that was originally sold by that shop may end up being re-sold multiple times by that shop or other gun shops nearby. Every single one of those sales can be traced by the ATF. Why don’t they do it? Because they’re lazy and dumb. The ATF still sends out trace requests to dealers through manual fax. They haven’t heard of emails or online fax?  Oh no, not those guys who are now complaining that taking away regulating tobacco is nothing more than a bunch of bureaucrats trying to protect their turf.

I’m not saying that by creating a virtual network of all gun shops that we would then have a national registry of guns in the strict sense of the word. What we would have is the ability to do a much greater and more effective tracing process which would only become even more effective if CBC at some point became law. Given the average age of the gun-owning population and the continued weakness of sales, every year more gun owners are being subtracted for natural reasons from the gun-owning population than the number of new owners who appear. Which means that all the guns that are in the hands of Gun-nut Nation would also end up requiring a CBC transfer and thus would become data that could be easily accessed by the ATF.

Everyone, including those three experts on last week’s Congressional panel who disavowed a national gun registry know full well that the reason we have much higher levels of gun violence than any other country in the OECD is because the government doesn’t know who owns the guns. I’m suggesting there’s a very simple way to make a huge dent in this knowledge gap, which would only take a modest degree of initiative that the ATF evidently lacks.

The New York Times Discovers A New Bunch Of Gun Nuts.

              Last week The New York Times published a lengthy op-ed by an African-American historian, Tiya Miles, who from her secure academic perch known as Harvard University believes she has discovered  a new breed of gun-owner, namely the gun owner who happens to be Black and holds strong, positive views about gun ownership and also about the NRA. Her discovery appears to have come about when she visited a home in the hoity-toity Boston neighborhood known as Beacon Hill (where Ted Kennedy had an apartment) which had once been a stop on the Underground Railroad and now sports a NRA window decal right next to the front door.

              Professor Miles describes herself as being ‘anti-gun’ and a supporter of ‘strict gun laws.’ But after seeing an NRA logo on a house that is considered a monument to the history of civil rights, she decided to dig deeper into the history as well as the current situation covering Blacks and guns. Her review of how Blacks justified arming themselves both before and after Emancipation is judicious and sound. On the other hand, her understanding of how the present African-American community relates to guns borders on the absurd. Frankly, if Professor Miles had submitted the second half of her op-ed to me as a research paper in a graduate course, she would have received a big, fat ‘F.’

              To begin with, Miles bases most of her knowledge about the current situation on an article published by NPR which is, pardon the pun, shot full of holes. This article, which claims, according to Miles, that Black gun ownership has ‘surged,’ is based wholly on a single interview with Philip Smith, who heads an organization he founded called the National African American Gun Association. The NAAGA’s Facebook page contains a video of the group’s 4th Anniversary meeting this year which appears to have attracted somewhere between 10 and 15 folks. Smith told Professor Miles that his organization has 75 chapters in 30 states, a claim she repeats as if because he said it, then it must be true.

              The op-ed’s vision of a burgeoning Black gun constituency is bolstered by an interview with Sharon Ross, who claims to be involved in a movement known as Afro-survivalism, which appears to be an offshoot of the wacky, how-to-survive-the-end-of-the-world nonsense which Glenn Beck used to promote on his television show by hawking freeze-dried foods and other products that were essential to keeping us safe from whatever Armageddon was about to erupt. Sales of all this crap were particularly brisk after Obama was inaugurated in 2008.

              Actually, if you really are worried about the imminent collapse of Western civilization, you can purchase survival foods on Sharon Ross’s website, along with survival tools, survival medical supplies, survival this and survival that. What I really love is the disclaimer on the website which evidently Professor Miles didn’t bother to read: “Sometimes companies pay me, either in cash or free product, to write about them or their products. However, I only work with companies I can stand behind.” Ross calls herself an Afrovivalist – too bad the Khoi-Hottentot tribe in South Africa didn’t have Sharon around to help them when they were basically wiped out in 1850 after they rebelled against British rule.

              If The New York Times is now publishing op-eds based on such an egregious mix of nonsense, self-promotion and outright lies, then either the newspaper has abandoned any concern for responsible journalism or, as I suspect, they are only guilty of the usual condescendingnoblesse oblige which characterizes mainstream media coverage about Black ownership of guns.

              Every year somewhere around 40,000 or 50,000 African-Americans use a gun to shoot themselves or someone else. How come Professor Miles didn’t bother to interview some of those folks, all of whom would have told her that being Black and being armed was hardly a new state of affairs? Oh, I forgot. When it comes to the so-called surge in Black gun ownership, we’re only interested in legal guns – the others don’t count. Right – they don’t count.

Is America’s Love Affair With Guns Coming To An End?

              I have been connected to the gun business one way or another for more than sixty years, and for the very first time I am seeing something about the business that I have never seen before. What I am talking about is the fact that the latest release of background-check data from the FBI, the numbers for February, confirm that so far the sales slump which followed the inauguration of Sleazebag Trump has continued well past the 2018 election which brought about an abrupt change in gun politics on Capitol Hill.

              The very first thing that the new Democratic majority did (or maybe it was the second thing) after the 116th Congress convened on January 3rd was to pass H.R. 8, calling for universal background checks on the transfer of all guns. This was followed at the end of February with another bill extending the time for the FBI to complete a background check from 3 up to 20 days, Now the fact that neither of those bills will probably get through the Senate, and even if they do, will probably languish unsigned on Sleazy Don’s desk doesn’t alter a new political dynamic that has clearly emerged, namely, that gun control as a viable point of political discussion has once again reared its ugly  head.

              Now you would think that these developments would do for the gun industry what such developments have always done in  the past, which is to say, provoke a mad rush into gun stores to clean off the shelves before the dreaded government comes along and gets rid of all the guns. And despite what the ‘experts’ told a Congressional hearing last week (they weren’t under oath so they couldn’t be accused of lying to Congress), if you implement universal background checks for all gun transfers, sooner or later you wind up with total gun registration. And we all know what happens when the government can identify everyone who owns a gun, right?

              So how come gun sales continue to slide into the toilet, no matter how busy the gun-grabbers seem to be?  At the end of August last year, Smith & Wesson stock was selling for less than $10 a share. It closed at $13.60 the day of the election, it’s now drifting back down to under ten bucks. Before all the votes came in, the market was anticipating the possibility that the political return of the tree-huggers would produce a new surge in buying guns. The market has turned out to be wrong.

              We need to wait another couple of months before proclaiming the great de-coupling of fear and demand as the driver for the purchase and ownership of guns. But if things keep going the way they are currently going, from the perspective of America’s love affair with firearms, a new age may have definitely dawned.  There’s a website out there which sells ammunition delivered direct to your door. Right now they are advertising 500 rounds of the best, 22LR ammo on the market for $16.99.  I remember when you couldn’t find any 22LR ammunition because of the hoarding and over-consumption which occurred during the heady Obama days. The ammo is now so cheap that they can’t even give it away. And nothing is a more accurate barometer of the state of the gun market than the cost of 22LR.

              The one thing we continue to get from various public-opinion surveys is that the percentage of Americans who own guns hasn’t really increased; it’s more likely that the average gun owner now owns more guns. But at some point, even most of the die-hard gun nuts just can’t find the space, or the money, or simply the interest to go out and buy another gun. Remember when every kitchen had something called a Mixmaster? Maybe some day my grandchildren will visit the Smithsonian and walk past an exhibition of ‘vintage’ guns. I can just hear one of them saying, “Didn’t Grandpa used to own those things?”

Does Gun Registration Lead To Gun Confiscation?

              Perhaps the single most cherished myth floating around Gun-nut Nation is the idea that gun registration has always led to gun confiscation which then leaves citizens defenseless, allowing dictators like Hitler and Stalin to impose tyrannical rule. It’s a myth usually referred to as the ‘slippery slope,’ and it briefly appeared in last week’s Congressional hearing when Andy Harris (R-MD) asked the panel whether they supported national gun registration, and all three gun-control ‘experts’ said or mumbled ‘no.’ Had any of them – Morral, Stewart, Webster – been honest enough to respond to Harris’ question without first measuring their answers against what they believe is the politically-correct point of view, a national audience might have learned that the ‘slippery-slope’ argument has no basis in history or truth at all. So much for how we can rely on the practitioners of evidence-based gun research to align their advocacy with the facts.

              The slippery-slope fantasy was most recently in full display when Alaska’s long-time Congressman, Don Young, told an audience last year that the Holocaust happened because Hitler had disarmed the Jews. You can’t really blame Young for saying something that dumb; after all, the Republican Party briefly flirted with the idea in 2016 of running a Presidential candidate named Ben Carson who said exactly the same thing.

              If you think, by the way, that the murder of six million ‘defenseless’ Jews was originally the handiwork of some nut-job, far-Right conspiracy theorist like Alex Jones, think again. In fact, the argument can be found in a detailed, scholarly work by Stephen Halbrook, an attorney who argues many 2nd-Amendment cases for the NRA.  In this book, Halbrook argues that  the Nazi Regime used the gun-control laws previously passed by the Weimar Government to identify and disarm domestic ‘enemies’ like Jews and Communists, thus making it easier to consolidate fascism which led to both the Holocaust and World War II.

              Granted, the Nazis made full use of gun-control lists compiled by the Weimar Government after they took power in 1933. But what prompted the Weimar Government to institute a gun-control system in the first place were threats against the government’s authority posed by widespread political agitation from the Left, largely the handiwork of Germany’s Communist Party, which happened to enroll substantial numbers of Jews.

              Where Holbrook’s argument falls apart and the myth of an ‘armed citizenry’ as representing the first bulwark of protection against tyranny collapses as well, lies in the fact that the Weimar Government made no effort to disarm the Nazi Party’s street militia, known as the SA, which Hitler formed in 1921. Over the next 12 years, the SA became increasingly violent in its attacks on opponents. By 1931, its 400,000 members, mostly otherwise unemployed street thugs, were engaged in armed battles with government authorities, as well as committing physical assaults on political opponents and Jews.

              The point is that the SA armed itself not as a defense against tyranny, but as part of the Nazi strategy designed to create widespread distrust and anger against a democratic state. The disarming of the Left after 1933 wasn’t a slippery-slope at all. The Nazis imposed a military dictatorship with the support of the army and the help of a trained, armed and organized citizen’s militia known as the SA.

              Funny, but the only time the NRA and its apologists like Holbrook get concerned about protecting America from government tyranny is when the government happens to be in the hands of the gun-grabbing, tree-hugging liberals who most recently staged a coup d’état and took over what had previously been a bastion of freedom, a.k.a. the House of Representatives, on November 6, 2018. And worse, now they are trying to extend their coup by running a ‘legally-elected’ President out of town.  

              The only thing which will stop this mad power-grab are the patriots who stand fast with their God-given AR-15s to protect us from the tyrannical, liberal elite. They did it at Lexington and Concord, they can do it again.