Khal Spencer: How To Pass A Gun Law That Nobody Likes.

Laws work best when we believe in their fairness. It is advisable to build consensus when crafting legislation. In the case of New Mexico’s new universal background check (UBC) law, the opposite of consensus building occurred.  In an act that has been repeated elsewhere in the U.S., urban and rural constituencies have rejected each other’s thinking with polarizing results.

This latest round of discord has been covered in the Santa Fe New Mexican’s editorial page, to wit, the Attorney General’s admonishment to Second Amendment Sanctuary Counties to enforce the law. But I doubt more political posturing will bring people together. What, may I ask, could have? Here are several suggestions our legislators ignored.

Not all guns or gun transactions represent a credible threat. A recent Bureau of Justice Statistics report shows most guns recovered from criminals are handguns.  But the new law treats the exchange of a 22 rimfire rifle between country neighbors with the same gravity as selling a concealable Glock pistol to a perfect stranger in Albuquerque’s “War Zone”.

Its not clear that we even know how prohibited persons in New Mexico get their guns. National and state studies give us hints. In that same BJS report, and similar studies carried out by Prof. Phillip Cook and colleagues in Illinois, we see that the lion’s share of criminals obtain their guns from a combination of acquaintances, the underground market, or less likely, theft. The BJS report breaks it down into about a quarter from family or friends and almost half from the underground criminal market. Less than 1% get them from “gun shows” and a few from dealers.  The new law would work on that part of the market where law abiding citizens are exchanging guns only if we obtain buy in from the gun owning public. Instead, our legislative gun control advocates treated gun owners with disdain.

The bill was oversold.  Gun deaths often rise and fall independently of gun laws, most dramatically shown with century-long data in New York City, or when comparing recent trends in gun violence in New York City and Chicago, where enforcement and social networking differences far more than laws contribute to different trends in violence rates. Gun violence student Dr. Michael Weisser says that in Colorado, gun homicides rose after its 2013 UBC law went into effect. Judicial and sociological issues strongly influence violence rates.

Finally, one would hope your legislators care about your opinion. In 2017, I worked closely with my representative, Stephanie Garcia-Richards, trying to craft a background check bill with gun owner buy-in. I offered to do the same with my Santa Fe representatives this time and was met with studied silence or for the most part, cursory replies. I heard from a leader of the NM Shooting Sports Assn. that other gun owners met studied silence. Its not hard to figure out why. Although the NRA is the left’s boogeyman, Everytown for Gun Safety lavished almost $400,000 in campaign cash on our Legislature, dwarfing the NRA’s efforts, to ensure their voice drowned out everyone else’s.

A carefully written background check bill that hits the target of our violence problems while obtaining maximum buy-in from New Mexico’s gun owning public would be a great idea and could only help. What the bill’s supporters did instead was broaden the abyss between gun rights and gun control. The present political standoff was predictable and perhaps preventable.


Kamala Harris Knows How To Reduce Gun Violence – Carry A Gun.

              Our friends at the Violence Policy Center (VPC) have just updated their Concealed Carry Killers report which now shows that at least 1,313 people have been killed by shooters with concealed-carry (CCW) licenses since May, 2007. Of these events, more than 500 were suicides, which is far below what must be the real gun-suicide number because rarely do suicides, regardless of how they occur, make the news. And since the VPC report is based on open (mostly media) sources, by definition the numbers must be read and treated with care.

              But that’s not the point of this column. The point of this column is to address a statement made last week in Iowa by Kamala Harris, who told reporters that she not only is a gun owner, but owns her gun for personal defense. Now she didn’t say what kind of gun she owns, and she also made it clear that she supports ‘smart’ gun-safety laws; I assume she means gun-safety laws that work.  And with all due respect to my friends in Gun-control Nation who keep touting the idea that ‘reasonable’ gun owners support ‘reasonable’ gun laws, my response is this: So what?  Know what happened to the gun homicide rate in Colorado after comprehensive background checks went into effect in 2013?  It went up by fifty percent.

              When Harris announced she was going to run against Schumck-o Don in 2020, she became an immediate darling for the gun-control crowd, in part because as California Attorney General she incurred the wrath of Gun-nut Nation by arguing against unrestricted CCW in the Peruta case. This case was a test of this stupidism known as ‘Constitutional carry,’ which Gun-nut Nation considers to be one of the hundred-million Constitutional ‘rights’ given by God and protected by the revered 2nd Amendment.

              I’m not sure that gun control issues will be as important in 2020 as they might have been in 2018, but what I do know is that once again, the arguments on both sides are being fashioned and pronounced with little, if any relationship to the truth. Last week, Kirsten Gillibrand went on CNN and made a bunch of statements about the NRA which simply fly in the face of reality, chief among them a statement that the NRA is ‘largely’ supported by the gun manufacturers, which happens not to be true.

It’s not even close to being true. It’s simply false. The ‘truth’ was then immediately offered up by home-school queen Dana Loesch, who delivered one of her brain-dead video spiels for the ‘losing’ NRA-TV where she starts off in typical Dana Loesch fashion, which means throwing a series of personal insults at the person speaking for the other side.

Now let’s get back to Kamala and her attempt to stick herself into the middle of the gun debate. I don’t know whether she actually walks around with a gun or not, but her statement that she ‘needs’ to carry a gun as a protective device also happens not to be true. There isn’t a single study which even remotely proves that carrying a gun keeps you safe, there happens to be substantive research which shows exactly the reverse. To which my friends in Gun-nut Nation will immediately ask: So how come more than 15 million Americans now have the legal right to walk around with a gun? To which my answer is very simple: More than 30 million American adults smoke every day. Does that mean that those 30 million are healthier than people who don’t smoke?

Once again, my friends in Gun-control Nation are backing themselves into a corner by pushing the idea that we can reduce gun violence by the development and application of ‘reasonable’ laws. Obviously Kamala Harris considers CCW to be a reasonable gun law, at least when the cops have discretion to decide who can and who can’t walk around armed.

If that’s Kamala’s idea of how to reduce gun violence, welcome to another political campaign where the truth about guns and gun violence will take a whack.

Josh Montgomery: Buying Weapons – Crucial Advice for the First-Time Buyer.

BAt the moment, many people in the US are allowed to carry weapons. With a variety of stores that sell them, all you need to do is obtain your permit, after which you’re set. However, many newcomers are unaware of how to choose the right gun and might end up spending money on something that they don’t know how to handle.

If you’ve never been in a gun shop before or never bought a firearm, having some basic knowledge is crucial and will help you choose a suitable weapon. That being said, if you want to spend your money on a gun that’s able to meet your needs, here are some tips.

  1. Choose a Reliable Store

You will notice that there is a wide range of gun shops to choose from – and if you aren’t accustomed to visiting such places, knowing which ones are reliable is quite difficult. Anyone can sell weapons, but how many of these people have lived around them in order to have the proper knowledge?

Unless you personally know a reliable store or a guy that knows what he’s talking about in terms of weapons, it’s hard to rely on chain stores. You might end up being convinced to buy a gun by someone who doesn’t even know how to hold it, and that’s a no-no.

This is why you don’t have to feel compelled to buy a gun from the first gun store in your way. Moreover, don’t feel ashamed to ask the person behind the counter about their experience with guns. It’s all in your benefit, after all, because spending your hard-earned cash on something that doesn’t suit you is not the ideal thing to do.

  • Think About Why You Need a Gun

Why do you need a firearm? Is it for self-defense in case a thief decides to force his entrance in your home, or just to feel cool in your group of friends and assert dominance? Keep in mind that guns are not toys that you can flaunt around at your will – not unless you want those around you to form a bad impression and keep the distance.

Before you apply for your permit, you need to have a purpose. It could be for hunting, self-defense, target-shooting or anything else that has a deep meaning.

In addition, thinking about the reason why you are purchasing a gun in the first place will make it easier for you to choose the right type of gun for you.

  • Consider Whether You Are Able to Shoot

Before you go on with your decision and spend money on your first firearm, you need to ask yourself: “Am I able to pull the trigger and watch what’s in front of me get destroyed?”. For instance, if your intention is to buy a gun for self-defense, you need to be mentally ready to shoot and defend yourself without questioning your morality.

It’s hard to tell what you would actually do until you find yourself in that situation. Still, thinking about it might let you see whether you have doubts or not. So, imagine yourself in that scenario and figure out what would you do once the fight or flight state gets control of your body and mind.

  • Find a Proper Gun

Whenever you imagine yourself holding a gun, it is probably a particular type. In other words, the firearm might either be a revolver, semi auto, etc. Even so, you don’t know what’s right for you until you try them on spot.

Some guns have more power than others, requiring you to have more strength, whereas others are nice to feel and conceal. If you find a retailer that allows you to safely try the guns, you’ll be lucky enough to find a model that suits you. It’s important to find a gun that meets your needs and doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable while pulling the trigger.

  • Spend Your Money Wisely

Just like it happens with any product, you will notice that firearms, even if they’re from the same category, have a wide variety of prices. This can make it harder for you to know which one offers a better quality.

Think about it this way: if you are going to own a gun, your life will depend on whether this item is good enough. Considering the importance of quality in this matter, you can’t overlook the cost of a gun. That doesn’t mean you have to spend all of your life savings on this firearm, but don’t settle for something as cheap as dirt.

If the price is too low, that should make you question the quality, because the last thing you want is your gun failing you in a dangerous situation. Make sure the one you will end up with has at least a decent price, so you won’t have to fear that the frame will crack after a few rounds.

  • Choose a New Gun

Sure, purchasing a second-hand weapon might seem more convenient given the lower price. Even so, you should know that a used firearm might have issues you aren’t aware of. Moreover, unlike a new one, it doesn’t come with a warranty.

If you purchase a fresh gun from a shop and, for some reason, it malfunctions, you can always bring it back for replacement or reparations. On the other hand, a second-hand one might have been modified so that the warranty is invalid. At the same time, its warranty might have already expired.

Even if it means you have to wait for longer and save money, stick with a new and unused gun, as you will have more benefits.

Final Thoughts

It might be hard to choose a proper gun if you’re new to this field, which is why it’s even more important to get some guidance, so you end up with a firearm you can be happy with. Try to follow the steps in this article, and you can be sure you’ll spend your money wisely.

A New Report On Workplace Shootings.

              Sometimes when you do research, you have to chase the data. Other times, the data chases you. And a new piece of research coming out of the Johns Hopkins research group seems to be more of the second than the first. The paper covers gun homicides that occurred in the workplace from 2011 to 2015. It is drawn from data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics which tracks workplace injuries, of which there were 18,327 fatal injuries over this same five-year period. How many of these deaths were due to guns discharged in a workplace? 1,553, or eight percent.

              This happens to be half the percentage of gun injury deaths that are counted in all injury deaths for the same five years. Of 984,554 deaths from injuries listed by the CDC, 169,396 were caused by guns, or 17 percent.  The gun mortality number includes 105,235 self-inflected injuries – suicides – which aren’t covered by the workplace data at all. Pull gun suicides out of the overall gun numbers and we have 64,161 gun deaths where someone shot someone else, and the workplace percentage of all gun deaths drops to 2 percent.

              On average, there were slightly more than 300 workplace fatal shootings each year. The total daily workforce is roughly 150 million, of which some 7 million work at home. Which means that on the average workday, more than 140 million Americans are in a workplace of some kind.  In other words, on average, one out of 466,666 people at work might be killed with a gun. Know what the odds are for getting shot outside of the workplace if you are between the age of 19 and 34? Try one out of 8,570, a figure which would probably be one out of 4,000 if we just counted males. What would the odds look like if we calculated the gun-homicide rate for males, ages 19 to 34 in inner-city neighborhoods where the overall gun-violence rate is four, five or ten times higher than the national rate?

              What is missing from this paper is context, and what the context shows is that compared to other environments, when it comes to gun violence, the workplace environment is a pretty safe place. In a way, this paper reminds me of all the talk about arming teachers in schools, when what is overlooked again and again is that schools are much safer environments than the streets around the schools, particularly for the age-group that’s supposed to be attending school.

              On the other hand, using the data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries does allow this research team to grab details about gun homicides that provide a more nuanced assessment of why some conflicts between individuals in the workplace end up with one of them pulling out a gun. The researchers found that it’s not just an argument escalating into violence which brought about the appearance and use of a gun. The shooting might have been precipitated by a long-standing conflict between co-workers rather than resulting from a specific, observable event.

              If there is one data gap which I would hope can some day be filled, it is that the definition of a ‘workplace’ should include the size of the workforce and/or the number of workers in the workplace when the shooting occurred. More than half of the 250,000 firms classified as manufacturing companies have 9 employees or less, yet there are also nearly 15,000 companies that employ between 100 and 500 or more. How do you set up a program that could spot troublesome employee relationships in plants that vary so much in size? You probably don’t.

              Of course the simple answer is to prohibit guns in the workplace, right? Not so simple because as this study points out, nearly half the shooters who killed co-workers first had to go to some place other than where they were working in order to get their hands on a gun.

              Does access to guns in the workplace increase the risks of gun violence? Gee, what a surprise.

How Come All Those Guns Are In The South?

              I know it’s probably too early to start handicapping the 2020 Presidential race, but if any of my Gun-control Nation friends are thinking about which Democratic candidate might be the best bet for enacting a serious gun law, they might start paying attention to Beto O’Rourke. Why? Because if Beto grabs the brass ring and the Democrats shove Mitch McConnell and his Trump stooges out of the way, the political alignment will be exactly what worked to produce gun laws in 1968 and again in 1993-94, namely, a Democratic-controlled Congress at one end of Pennsylvania Avenue and a liberal Southerner in the Oval Office at the other end.

              What this little bit of history points up is the degree to which gun violence may be a national problem, but opposition to gun control is a regional problem because ever since Richard Nixon came up with a brilliant ‘Southern strategy’ and moved the South’s political coloration from blue to red, the self-appointed protectors of our beloved 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ can always find fertile grazing ground in states and regions where the phrase ‘federal government’ is a not-very-disguised code for ‘civil rights.’

              But don’t make the mistake of thinking that the argument against gun control that pop out of the moths of every GOP politician from below the Mason-Dixon line is just a cynical attempt to ‘hold the line’ against the encroachments against personal liberties by big-government in Washington, D.C. If one out of every three homes in America contains at least one gun, I can guarantee you that in the 13 Confederate states, the 3 border states and some rural swatches of the Midwest, the ratio is one-to-one.

              What the GOP is taking advantage of is not some special affinity that Southerners have towards guns. It’s the legacy of history and of historical conflicts that are still being played out. In this respect, the NRA and other Gun-nut Nation noisemakers (e.g., Sleazy Don) are playing to an audience which is large enough to maintain a critical political edge.

              In 1865, when the War of the Rebellion came to an end, the South was gun-rein.  Or at least the guns had to be kept hidden, because all small arms were confiscated by the Union Army which also enforced martial law. Beginning in 1866, however, with the emergence of white supremacy groups (Ku Klux Klan, Knights of the White Camellia) in response to Reconstruction and the ratification of the 13th Amendment which ended slavery, Southern whites began to rearm.

              When Southern states started imposing laws to undo Reconstruction by limiting Black suffrage, segregating public facilities and schools, these Jim Crow measures were often enforced by armed ‘militias,’ such as the South Carolina Red Shirts, who called themselves the ‘military arm’ of the Democratic Party and were particularly active in the election of 1876. Politically-speaking, this was the election that, de facto,  returned the South to the racialist divisions which had existed prior to the Civil War. I find the color of the MAGA hats to be very instructive in that respect.

              For all the nonsense about how today’s African-American community should arm itself because this would maintain a long tradition of Blacks defending themselves in the post-Reconstruction South, the threat to the Black community didn’t come from the federal government, it came from the armed hooligans and thugs who constituted a real-life form of domestic terrorism. Unless, of course, you would prefer to believe that the burning and bombing of more than 100 Black churches since the 1950’s was nothing more than an expression of religious freedom on the part of some misunderstood Southern Whites.

              There are plenty of legal gun owners in the South who keep guns around because they either hunt or enjoy sport shooting, or in some cases have simply decided that they feel better knowing they can grab the old six-shooter just in case. But what makes the South so gung-ho about guns is the degree of violence which this region has suffered for the last 150 years. And remember that guns and violence go hand in hand.

              Thanks to Eric Foner for pointing me towards certain key sources.

A Thought About Nipsey Hussle.

           Last week Nipsey Hussle was gunned down in front of his Los Angeles clothing store and an avalanche of praise and loving memorials poured forth. Before the body was even cold, he was being described as a ‘visionary’ and a ‘forward-thinking, inspirational entrepreneur,’ who used the money from his hip-hop empire to improve the lives of the less-fortunate members of Crenshaw and other minority neighborhoods in LA. Here’s what was said about him in The Washington Post, less than four hours after he died:  “He made us believe that we could make it out of low-income housing and succeed in an unfair capitalistic economy that far too often rewards privilege over work ethic.”

              Not to be left behind, Gun-control Nation launched its own series of plaudits for Hussle. I received emails from several organizations, along with a comment from The Trace, which echoed what was being said about Hussle from one end of the politically-correct spectrum to the other, namely, that the gun-control community had lost a good friend.

              The way Hussle has been lionized, you would think he was the Mother Theresa of South Central LA. And I don’t really care if everyone in Gun-control Nation finds what I am about to say both insulting and offensive to the memory of this fine young man, but it needs to be said.

              As far as I am concerned, people who want to do something to reduce gun violence are engaged in what I consider to be a sacred task. Why? Because violence happens to be the only threat to the human community for which we still haven’t come up with a solution that really works.  And it doesn’t matter whether the violence consists of dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima or putting a bullet into Nipsey Hussle while he’s standing in front of his store. We don’t and we shouldn’t condone any act of violence, no matter where or when it takes place.

             Think about it. We know how to erase poverty, even though the will to do so often isn’t there.  We know how to reduce global warming, again it’s a question of desire, not a lack of knowing what needs to be done. We have conquered just about every illness which used to reduce the average life-span by more than half. But we haven’t made a dent when it comes to the degree to which human beings are still threatened by violence, whether it’s one-on-one assaults or armies deployed by nation-states.

              What does all this have to do with Nipsey Hussle?  The answer is right here, and I note that in all the effusive accolades that he has been receiving, nobody has mentioned the artistic moment that launched him on his way. This video, Bullets Ain’t Got No Names, may be the single most offensive, disgusting and downright repulsive celebration of violence that I have ever seen.

             The reason we suffer from this particular kind of violence – gun violence – is because a lot of young men walk around with guns. Guns are cool, guns are hip, guns are where it’s at. How do you think this embrace of gun violence occurs?  Do you think it’s because these young people read the latest public health gun research? Do you think it’s because they just can’t wait to put on the red t-shirt given out by Shannon Watts and her MOMS?  Did Nipsey Hussle ever make a video in which he talked about sending a donation to Brady or Everytown and asked his fans to do the same?

             By the way, I happen to be a hip-hop fan; I started listening to Tupac in the early 90’s because his late mother was an early Black Panther activist, and in that respect, she and I had some mutual friends. But listening to any kind of music is one thing, promoting gun violence is something else. So when it comes to anything having to do with gun violence, the last thing my friends in Gun-control Nation should be doing is avoiding what needs to be said.

The American West: How Hollywood Promoted Guns and Then Promoted Gun Control.

From our friends at

West World: How Hollywood Misrepresents the Old West to Make Money & Advance Gun Control

Hollywood has a clever way of distorting our perspective on history, and a great example of this is Western film – a movie genre we’ve all come to love. Cattle rustlers, guns blazing, outlaws running loose, and vigilantes dishing out vengeance indiscriminately. These scenes have become more synonymous with the American Frontier than Winchester and their “Cartridge That Won the West.” But these fictional tales have produced more than entertainment for over a century; they’ve also contributed to an ongoing, subtle push for gun control, all while making Hollywood millions.

Revisionist history books tell us that the “Wild West” was an anarchic period of time that was not conducive to human prosperity. Images of a Hobbesian nightmare – a life that is brutish and short – are ingrained in our consciousness thanks to decades of public schooling and violent images on the silver screen which are light on actual history and heavy on creative license.

However, individuals who believe in liberty and developing their critical thinking faculties should be skeptical of most mainstream narratives regarding history, especially American history. After all, these narratives by and large have been created by Hollywood, a legacy institution that has historically advanced politically correct content with the support of Washington in order to perpetuate the cultural status quo.

When the curtain of political correctness that’s been draped over this particular period of history is pulled back, we see a much more nuanced picture of the American Frontier. In fact, research by historians such as Peter J. HillRichard ShenkmanRoger D. McGrathTerry Anderson, and W. Eugene Holland shows that this period was rather indicative of a “not so wild, Wild West.”

For the purposes of this article, the Wild West will now be referred to as the Old West. This is by no means a pedantic distinction, but rather an acknowledgment of the fact that this time period was not “wild” by any stretch of the imagination when compared to other chaotic periods in human history. Indeed, the Old West had its fair share of challenges for American settlers. But as we’ll see below, crafty settlers found ways through ingenuity and mutual cooperation – all done with very limited state interference – to create a stable order for generations to come.

So let us delve into the “not so wild, Wild West.”

The Not-So-Violent West

West World: How Hollywood Misrepresents the Old West to Make Money & Advance Gun Control

The Old West was not a paradise by any stretch of the imagination. There existed conflict between groups, such as American settlers and Native American tribes, once they came in contact in the Great Plains and other parts of the frontier. This was natural due to the cultural differences that existed between these groups and the lack of defined property rights in those regions.

However, in more settled towns on the frontier, there was not as much violence as the Hollywood flicks would like you to believe. One of the most important texts disrupting this depiction of the Old West was W. Eugene Hollon’s Frontier Violence: Another Look. Hollon argued that “the Western frontier was a far more civilized, more peaceful, and safer place than American society is today.” Additionally, historian Richard Shenkman makes the case that the popular depictions of the Old West belong more in a movie script rather than a real-life historical account.

Shenkman noted:

“Many more people have died in Hollywood Westerns than ever died on the real Frontier.”

Dodge City has become a landmark for Western movies, but its portrayal is more fiction than reality. Shenkman also dismantled the Dodge City myth:

“In the real Dodge City, for example, there were just five killings in 1878, the most homicidal year in the little town’s Frontier history: scarcely enough to sustain a typical two-hour movie.”

Larry Schweikart of the University of Dayton also pointed out that the infamous bank robberies that captivate movie audiences were not very frequent. His research uncovered that there were fewer than a dozen bank robberies in the frontier West from 1859 to 1900. In essence, Schweikart argues that there are “more bank robberies in modern-day Dayton, Ohio, in a year than there were in the entire Old West in a decade, perhaps in the entire frontier period.”

Arguably, the strongest and most concise text reclaiming the true history of the American West, Terry L. Anderson and Peter J Hill’s The Not So Wild, Wild West has forever changed the way Americans view the American Frontier. Anderson and Hill’s research found that the establishment of property rights was key in taming the American West. Indeed, this process took time, but it was well worth it. The Old West was a demonstration of human ingenuity and long-term planning that eschewed the quick fixes of modern-day politics.

In mining-related matters, American settlers found ways to peacefully adjudicate disputes, which Anderson and Hill noted:

“In the absence of formal government, miners in a particular location would gather and hammer out rules for peacefully establishing claims and resolving disputes over them.”

The authors went as far as to say that the “rules that govern western mining and mineral rights evolved literally from the ground up.” These developments in the Old West were no trivial occurrences, they set the stage for even bigger developments that the authors note below:

“Not only did the miners pave the way for mineral rights throughout the West, but they laid the foundation for western water law.”

This manner of peacefully settling property rights disputes carried over into other sectors, such as ranching and farming. There were obviously various roadblocks at the start, but settlers still found free-market ways of getting around these obstacles. In sum, Anderson and Hill’s findings demonstrated that the Old West was not so chaotic:

“In the mining camps and on the open range, the six-gun seldom served as the arbiter of disputes. Instead, miners established rules in camp meetings, and cattlemen used their associations to carve up the range, round up their cattle, and enforce brand registration. Though not all attempts at dispute resolution succeeded, institutional entrepreneurs found ways to define and enforce property rights that created, rather than destroyed, wealth. In short, the West was really not so wild.”

Such scenes of mutual cooperation on a voluntary basis are almost unheard of in today’s political climate. For many busybody politicians, all meaningful economic activity must be conducted under government supervision. As a matter of fact, had any of the problems in the Old West surfaced in present times, there would be instant calls for the government to step in and try to fix things. Once the unintended consequences of these interventions set in, the same calls for more government “help” would come back to life.

Thankfully, our forebears were much wiser in the late 19th century. By maintaining a relatively hands-off approach, the federal government allowed the unsettled American Frontier to naturally tame itself through the voluntary cooperation of settlers.

Understanding Violence in the American West

West World: How Hollywood Misrepresents the Old West to Make Money & Advance Gun Control

The most infamous images of the American West always consist of scenes of extreme violence and vigilante justice. Many history books have implanted in the minds of millions of students that gratuitous violence was a normal way of life in the American Frontier. It also does not help that Hollywood’s greatest Western films were laden with epic shootouts and cliche conflicts between outlaws and law enforcement.

Although there are some slivers of truth in these depictions of the American West, they tend to be exaggerated. Since the 1970s, a wide array of literature has challenged these common assumptions.

In Gunfighters, Highwaymen, and Vigilantes, historian Roger McGrath looked at notable western cities in California, Bodie and Aurora, to see how they stacked up to modern cities as far as crime rates were concerned. McGrath provided some context to famous scenes of bank robberies in the Old West:

“Next to stagecoach robbery, bank robbery is probably the form of robbery most popularly associated with the frontier West. Yet, although Aurora and Bodie together boasted several banks, no bank robbery was ever attempted. Most of the bankers were armed, as were their employees, and a robber would have run a considerable risk of being killed.”

Armed citizens also deterred the robbery of individuals, while armed homeowners and merchants discouraged the burglary of homes and businesses. So it’s clear America’s long established gun culture and civic responsibility of providing defense transitioned quite seamlessly to the American frontier.

McGrath provided some interesting statistics on robberies in Aurora and Bodie:

“Between 1877 and 1883, there were only 32 burglaries – 17 of homes and 15 of businesses – in Bodie. Again, Aurora seems to have had fewer still. At least a half dozen attempted burglaries in Bodie were thwarted by the presence of armed citizens.”

The historian then compares these numbers to American cities:

“Bodie’s five-year total of 32 burglaries converts to an average of 6.4 burglaries a year and gives the town a burglary rate of 128 on the FBI scale. In 1980 Miami had a burglary rate of 3,282, New York 2,661, Los Angeles 2,602, San Francisco-Oakland 2,267, Atlanta 2,210 and Chicago 1,241. The Grand Forks, North Dakota, rate of 566, and the Johnstown, Pennsylvania, rate of 587 were lowest among U.S. cities. The rate for the United States as a whole was 1,668, or thirteen times that for Bodie.”

Even general theft was not much of a problem in cities like Bodie:

“Bodie’s forty-five instances of theft give it a theft rate of 180. In 1980 Miami had a theft rate of 5,452, San Francisco-Oakland 4,571, Atlanta 3,947, Los Angeles 3,372, New York 3,369, and Chicago 3,206. Lowest theft rates among U.S. cities were those of Steubenville, Ohio, at 916, and Johnstown, Pennsylvania, at 972. The rate for the United States as a whole was 3,156, more than seventeen times that for Bodie.”

McGrath came to several powerful conclusions when observing Aurora and Bodie’s robbery rates:

“Institutions of law enforcement and justice certainly were not responsible for the low rates of robbery, burglary, and theft. Rarely were any of the perpetrators of these types of crime arrested, and even less often were they convicted.”

In McGrath’s view, armed citizens were the key factor behind low burglary rates:

“The citizens themselves, armed with various types of firearms and willing to kill to protect their persons or property, were evidently the most important deterrent to larcenous crime.”

West World: How Hollywood Misrepresents the Old West to Make Money & Advance Gun Control

This is consistent with findings that gun researcher John Lott uncovered in More Guns Less Crime when he analyzed states that liberalized gun laws during the 1980s and 1990s. Many of these states witnessed substantial decreases in robberies when citizens were allowed to not only defend their homes, but also carry firearms for self defense.

As far as rape was concerned, women were virtually safe from all occurrences of rape in Aurora and Bodie:

“Aurora’s and Bodie’s records of no rapes and thus rape rates of zero were not matched by nineteenth-century Boston or Salem. From 1880 through 1882, Boston had a rape arrest rate of 3.0 and Salem 4.8. A conversion factor of 2.6 – a figure consistent with FBI data in 1980 – gives the towns rape rates of 7.8 and 12.5. Nor are Aurora’s and Bodie’s rates matched by any U.S. city today, although in 1980 Johnsontown, Pennsylvania, had a rate of only 5.7.”

McGrath did concede that homicide rates were indeed high in the Old West, but there was a caveat – these cases of homicide were confined to fights between willing combatants, i.e., duels, as was common during this period where “honor culture” prevailed.

McGrath explained: 
“While the carrying of guns probably reduced the incidence of robbery, burglary, and theft, it undoubtedly increased the number of homicides. Although a couple of homicides resulted from beatings and a few from stabbings, the great majority resulted from shootings.”

When we think about it, this makes sense. Firearms are very effective tools in dishing out legal damage. Guns did facilitate homicides, but McGrath argued that there was some nuance to this:

“The citizens of Aurora and Bodie were generally not troubled by the great number of killings, nor were they very upset because only one man was ever convicted by the courts of murder or manslaughter. They accepted the killings and the lack of convictions because those killed, with only a few exceptions, had been willing combatants, and many of them were roughs or badmen. The old, the weak, the female, the innocent, and those unwilling to fight were rarely the targets of attacks. But when they were attacked – murdered – the reaction of the citizens was immediate and came in the form of vigilantism.”

Even in a relatively anarchic environment like the American Frontier, there was a tendency for society to police itself in some shape or form. When the weak were attacked, citizens in these towns responded in vigilante fashion, but McGrath showed it was not as chaotic as people think:

“Contrary to the popular image of vigilantes as an angry, unruly mob, the vigilantes in both Aurora and Bodie displayed military-like organization and discipline and went about their work in a quiet, orderly, and deliberate manner.”

All in all, McGrath concluded that the violence we see in major urban centers today bears very little resemblance to violence in the American West:

“The violence and lawlessness that visited the trans-Sierra frontier most frequently and affected it most deeply, then, took special forms: warfare between Indians and whites, stagecoach robbery, vigilantism, and gunfights. These activities bear little or no relation to the violence and lawlessness that pervade American society today. Serious juvenile offenses, crimes against the elderly and weak, rape, robbery, burglary, and theft were either nonexistent or of little significance on the trans-Sierra frontier. If the trans-Sierra frontier was at all representative of frontiers in general, then there seems to be little justification for blaming contemporary American violence and lawlessness on a frontier heritage.”

Because of nearly a century’s worth of historical misinformation spread in popular culture and schools, Americans have been led to believe that the American Frontier was the violent period in American history. On the other hand, progressive urban centers like Chicago and Washington, D.C. are held up as enlightened cosmopolitan hubs, when in fact, they have witnessed crime sprees in recent decades that were unheard of in other points of American history. These cities are in political jurisdictions that feature stringent gun control like universal background checks and make it nearly impossible for citizens to acquire firearms.

And it’s more than just the guns. These areas are already filled with a bevy of socialist policies like public schooling, minimum wage laws, and subsidized housing that create sub-optimal socio-economic outcomes. On top of that, many urban centers have questionable policing practices and criminal justice policies that don’t effectively apprehend criminals, nor prevent them from reverting back to their criminal ways once they’re back in normal society. In turn, many individuals resort to crime in these cities as a way of making a living. Adding gun control into the mix just makes things even worse.

Northfield, Minnesota vs. Tombstone, Arizona: A Tale of Gun Rights vs. Gun Control

West World: How Hollywood Misrepresents the Old West to Make Money & Advance Gun Control

Any proud gun owner should celebrate when an armed citizen steps up to defend himself against criminals. Researchers like Gary Kleck point to over 2 million cases of individuals using firearms in self defense. This is no recent phenomenon though.

Law-abiding citizens standing up to criminals actually occurred on numerous occasions during the Old West. The most notable case was the failed bank robbery attempt conducted by the James-Younger Gang in Northfield, Minnesota.

The James-Younger Gang gained national notoriety for waltzing into towns and coming out with all the loot through well-orchestrated robberies. With so many robberies under their belts, their next robbery attempt in the sleepy town of Northfield, Minnesota seemed like a walk in the park. On the fateful day of September 7, 1876, the gang of outlaws would be in for a rude awakening once they entered Northfield.

The last thing these criminals expected was an armed citizenry that was willing to stand up against their devious schemes. As the outlaws proceeded to carry out their robbery, Northfield’s citizens quickly realized what was going on. Instead of turning to law enforcement, they took matters into their own hands.

The armed citizens of Northfield fired back at the outlaws and successfully killed several members of the James-Younger Gang. This incident had its fair share of tragedy when members of the James-Younger Gang killed the First National Bank’s cashier Joseph Lee Heywood and Swedish immigrant Nicholas Gustafson. However, these deaths were not in vain.

After the smoke cleared, the rest of the James-Younger Gang bolted out of Northfield, which marked one of the biggest reversals in Jesse James’ criminal career. From there, James lost considerable prestige as a criminal and would later be murdered by one of his partners in crime, Robert Ford, in 1882.

Despite the chaotic nature of the Northfield incident, armed civilians made a positive difference to thwart this criminal act. Had these citizens been disarmed, Jesse James and company would have made their way out of town with a cool wad of cash. This is definitely one story American students won’t find in their history textbooks.

Gun Control Could Not Save Tombstone

West World: How Hollywood Misrepresents the Old West to Make Money & Advance Gun Control

Although the Old West was marked by high degrees of freedom, especially when compared to present times, it still had pockets of gun control throughout certain regions.

Take the example of the infamous O.K. Corral standoff. This shooting has become legend throughout American folklore and an integral part of Hollywood Western movies. However, there is much more to this story than meets the eye. When we look past the dramatic effects and scruffy gunslingers, we see a much more nuanced picture of this event.

What many people don’t realize is that the O.K. Corral shootout took place during a dispute over gun control legislation in Tombstone, Arizona. According to an 1881 law, it was “unlawful to carry in the hand or upon the person or otherwise any deadly weapon within the limits of Tombstone, without first obtaining a permit in writing.”

This law, however, did not deter the outlaw gang of Ike Clanton, Billy Clanton, Tom McLaury, Frank McLaury, and Billy Claiborne. For them, criminal behavior like cattle smuggling and horse thievery was a way of life. No law was going to stop them – above all, Tombstone’s gun control ordinance.

The gang of outlaws were ready to up the ante with their criminal behavior once they set foot in Tombstone. From the get go, they encountered resistance from the Earp brothers – Virgil, Morgan, and Wyatt – and Doc Holliday, who were ready to stop these outlaws in their tracks. The law enforcers even demanded that the bandits hand over their guns. But much to the law enforcers’ dismay, the outlaws could not have cared less about Tombstone’s gun control laws and continued to disobey them like any seasoned band of criminals would do.

Eventually, this conflict escalated when both sides drew their firearms and engaged in an explosive shootout. Once the smoke cleared, three of the outlaws died during this confrontation. Thankfully for the citizens of Tombstone, there was an armed law enforcement presence to push back against the outlaws. However, this just goes to show that laws are not enough to prevent criminals from committing heinous acts. Armed individuals are ultimately the best first responders againsts criminals.

Gun control laws like those in Tombstone were not the norm in the American Frontier. That being said, there is still a valuable lesson behind this experience – gun control legislation will not magically make criminal activity nor gun violence go away. Even in a not-too-distant past, gun control legislation could not stop criminals.

Why the American West Matters

West World: How Hollywood Misrepresents the Old West to Make Money & Advance Gun Control

In sum, the Old West has not received a proper historical assessment that is free of Hollywood dramatization and pro-government bias. Advocates of gun rights and other facets of limited government would be wise to closely examine the history of the American Frontier and restore it to its proper place. The United States is currently in a narrative war of sorts, where advocates of Progressivism will distort historical events to advance their agenda.

The misleading depiction of the Old West is a historical sleight hand that not only advances false history, but also associates foundational freedoms such as gun rights with sprees of violence that never even existed. That’s why it’s so important to think critically and do thorough historical research. Gun rights have historically served Americans well, providing them a means of defense against violent criminals while checking the state from embracing all-out tyranny as witnessed in present-day Venezuela.

We must remember that it’s not those who have the right ideas who win. It’s those who create the most compelling narratives who come out on top. Political outcomes are ultimately value neutral. The forces of good are not always guaranteed victory.

Americans have been misled about capitalism, Americans have been misled about the New Deal, and it’s become clear they’ve also been subject to many falsehoods about the Old West. History departments across America by and large have failed in providing their students with the right material to understand our country’s most cherished political practices. When institutions of higher learning drop the ball, it’s incumbent upon us to defend our history and culture by stepping up to ensure America has “an alert and knowledgeable citizenry” as President Eisenhower famously remarked. Learning the true story of the American Old West is one step in that direction

Two Valuable Articles on Mass Shootings.

              Two articles on mass shootings have just appeared which deserve some Mike the Gun Guy space. The first is an article by our friend Eric Fleegler, M.D., who hangs his hat and stethoscope in the Division of Emergency Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital where he’s seen his fair share of kids killed and injured by guns. You can download his article right here.

              In his article, Fleegler notes that more than three-quarters of all deaths in the age cohorts 16 to 34 are due to guns and that annual gun deaths are now almost 40,000, the highest rate in twenty years, the rate has increased nearly 20 percent in the last ten years alone.

              This continued surge in gun deaths is particularly interesting because it undercuts Gun-nut Nation’s basic claim that the more that are floating around, particularly the more guns being carried concealed, the more that crime and violence is supposed to go down. Now it’s true that the rate for all violent has dropped from the mid-700’s in the early 1990’s to less than 400 the last couple of years, the murder rate has also declined by roughly half over the same period of time. But the number of states which issued ‘shall-carry’ CCW in 1999 was thirty, the number today is forty-two. How come the murder rate since 2000 is basically unchanged?

              The other paper, downloadable here, is an addendum about mass shootings from Adam Lankford, whose original paper went to print in 2016.  In his initial piece, Lankford claimed that a review of sources showed that the U.S. experienced a level of mass shootings that was not only an anomaly for advanced countries but for just about every country worldwide. The problem with that paper, whose conclusions vaulted Lankford into the front ranks of researchers engaged in gun violence work, was that the journal which published this piece did not allow access to the data sources which he used.

At the time, I mentioned that the lack of source material not only created some doubt in my mind about whether his work was based on sufficient data to be considered true, but that such data needed to be made available to the entire research community precisely because accurate information about gun violence outside the U.S. is often quite difficult to obtain, never mind understand.

Lankford has mitigated both my concerns in this new piece which contains links to all the data sources he used to compare mass shootings in the rest of the world versus mass shootings in the U.S. Moreover, in talking about mass shootings he introduces a novel concept that creates a different, and I believe, an extremely substantive argument to differentiate between mass shootings which are simply the result of a nut-job who walks into a public space and shoots the place up, as opposed to the mass shootings which we consider to be the work of terrorists both here and abroad.

Basically, Lankford argues that mass shootings in the U.S. are entirely committed by one individual who usually plans and carries out the attack alone – perhaps the only exception being the massacre at Columbine, which occurred twenty years ago this month. On the other hand, mass shootings carried out by self-proclaimed terrorists (or announced to be the handiwork of terrorist organizations) are almost always events in which there are multiple shooters who operate in tandem for the purpose of using the violence to promote a political point.

I happen to believe that differentiating mass shootings based on the number of shooters, rather than the number of victims, is a very significant issue in defining the relative levels of violence between the U.S. and other both advanced and underdeveloped states. I’ll have more to say about this next week when I discuss Lankford’s argument with John Lott. In the meantime, studying mass shootings as a variation of the behavior which is responsible for just about all our gun violence, namely, someone pulls out a gun and – bang! – is a good place to begin.

It’s About Time! Shannon Watts Tells It Like It Was And Is.

              Well it’s about time. The Indiana housewife who revolutionized how America talks and thinks about guns has finally sat down and explained how she did what she did after hearing about the tragedy at Sandy Hook.  I’m of course referring to Shannon Watts, whose accounting of her journey from her kitchen to Mike Bloomberg’s office and back to her kitchen, with many stops in between, will shortly be published by Harper Collins and I hope will force Shannon to get back on her horse and do the requisite book tour.

              The book is entitled, Fight Like A Mother, and the sub-title, which I really like, is How a Grassroots Movement Took on the Gun Lobby and Why Women Will Change the World. The good news about this book is that while most folks write memoirs to sum up what they have done with their lives, Shannon is just getting ready to star in Act 2. Her first act, of course, was when she transformed a little Facebook group that she pulled together after Sandy into the first, truly grass-roots challenge to the NRA. And if anything, referring to her as the ‘NRA‘s worst nightmare’ is something of an understatement in this regard.

              I have been involved in the gun business in one way or another for over fifty years, actually for more than sixty years because my first connection was as a consumer when I bought a Smith & Wesson K-38 at a tag sale in Florida when I was twelve years old. Okay, okay, I know it was a straw sale. But in 1956 there weren’t any straw sales because there were hardly any laws covering gun ownership at all.

              When the feds got into gun regulation big-time, first in 1968 and again in 1994, the impetus for regulating the gun industry came not from the bottom but from the top. GCA68 was initially a response to the assassination of JFK in 1963; it was passed following the shootings of RFK and MLK in 1968. The gun law passed by the Clinton Administration in 1993 were also first introduced in 1991, although the idea behind the bill had been floating around since both Reagan and Jim Brady survived an assassination attempt in 1981.

              Not only did the 1968 and the 1993 laws pass muster without any great degree of grass-roots support, but in the aftermath of the 2000 election, when Al Gore couldn’t hold his home state because of pro-gun messaging from the other side, it became axiomatic in Democratic Party circles that the gun issue was best left alone.

              I am a Life Benefactor Endowment member of the NRA and I never thought that the organization’s alleged power and strength was such a big deal. Why not? Because I never met a single person who ever told me they would vote for the candidate supported by America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ who didn’t own a gun. And since a majority of Americana don’t own guns, how come everyone has always been afraid of the big, bad NRA?

              I’ll tell you why.  Because until Shannon went out there and began putting together a plan, the grass-roots movement to stop the madness known as gun violence didn’t exist. It was one thing to do what our friend Donna Dees Thomases did in 2000, namely, to fill the National Mall with nearly one million people for a demonstration against gun violence. It’s another thing to organize and sustain a national movement which puts out a coherent and continuous message every single day.

              Last month I attended a meeting of the Massachusetts chapter of MOMs.  Several hundred people filled a large room in a community library and listened to remarks from gun-violence survivors, community activists and other like-minded folks. What is most attractive about Shannon’s book is that it is not only a recounting of what she has accomplished over the last half-dozen years, it’s also a guide to building your own movement, to pushing your own community forward into making effective change.

              And by the way, with all due respect to the strengths of women in this regard, my male friends will profit from reading this book too.

Where Are All Those Concealed-Carry Killers?

              Last week our friend Ladd Everitt published an op-ed in The New York Post where he called on Bill DeBlasio to change a New York City gun-control law, the Sullivan law, that has been in effect since 1912. Basically, what this law does is to make it very difficult for a New York City resident to walk around with a gun. Additionally, it also prohibits transporting a handgun for which a city resident has a license outside of the city itself. For that matter, a resident of any other county in New York State outside of the five counties within the Big Apple, can’t bring a licensed handgun into the city.

              The law is being challenged by some pro-gun group which believes that if someone happens to own a home both within the city as well as another home somewhere else in the state, that it’s a violation of 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ to require said individual to have gun licenses issued by both jurisdictions in order to move from one location to another with said gun. After all, the same driver’s license can be used both in Da City and the rest of the state. How come we can’t enjoy the same ‘equal protection under laws’ when it comes to transporting our guns?

              For reasons that we will only learn if and when the SCOTUS publishes an opinion on this case next year, the great fear being bandied about in Gun-control Nation is that the High Court will use this case to strike down various state and local concealed-carry laws (CCW) and pave the way for one, national CCW that will let every armed American wander around anywhere he wants to go toting his gun.

              I happen to believe that the gun violence prevention (GVP) movement’s opposition to national CCW is correct. I also happen to believe, however, that the GVP opposition to CCW is based on arguments which have little or no validity at all. So before you get all hot and bothered that Mike the Gun Guy™ is once again showing his true colors as an NRA flack, read on.

              The opposition to CCW is based on the wholly-unsupported claim that CCW increases the possibility that gun violence rates will go up. Now you can always find an example of someone shooting someone else with a legal concealed weapon – the murder of  Trayvon Martin being perhaps the most notorious case in point. But one example is simply one example, okay?

              Our friends at the Violence Policy Center (VPC) issue an annual report on the number of times that folks with CCW kill someone by using a gun. In fact, of the 722 documented cases analyzed by the VPC between 2007 and 2017, it turns out that 45% were either non-criminal suicides or unintentional shootings.  In other words, over this eleven-year span, fatal injuries committed by CCW-holders averaged less than 40 per year. This country finds itself awash in intentional gun assaults which rack up more than 14,000 homicides a year, and the 40 or so people killed by CCW-holders constitutes a threat to public health?

              The reason I am opposed to national concealed-carry is the same reason I am opposed to all local or state-level CCW, namely, that I have yet to see a single jurisdiction granting CCW that actually imposes any kind of test to determine whether the CCW-recipient actually knows how to use a gun. Sorry, but sitting in a stuffy room, listening to some old guy drone on for a couple of hours about the ‘three rules of handgun safety’ and then firing a few shots at a fixed target doesn’t constitute any kind of ‘training’ at all. And for all the difficulty imposed by New York City to get a CCW license, there’s no training requirement whatsoever. Read: none.

              My problem with CCW is that it’s just another marketing scam to make guns as normal and useful as a droid. But guns aren’t just some household or business convenience. Guns are designed to kill. Get it?