In Virginia The Gun Guys Won With Or Without The NRA.

              If I had a nickel for everyone who has predicted the demise of the NRA since the national meeting back in April, I wouldn’t have to go out today and watch a bunch of cops try to hit the broad side of the barn with the guns they haven’t cleaned since the last time they tried to punch some holes through the broad side of the barn. And until last week, between closing down their video network and stumbling through a lawsuit against their own advertising agency, there was every good reason to believe that Wayne-o and the boys from Fairfax were just hanging onto the ropes, if not down for the count.

That was then, this is now. And now happens to be what took place at the State House in Richmond, VA where America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ demonstrated that any thoughts about their impending demise might be a bit immature.

              Let’s not forget that in June there was a really bad mass shooting at Virginia Beach. And let’s also not forget that it wasn’t all that hard for gun-control groups to show up at Richmond in force because Virginia’s capitol city is less than 100 miles from Washington, D.C. But what we also shouldn’t forget is that once you leave the affluent, liberal-minded DC suburbs of Virginia and travel through the hinterland, you’re in the old South, and the old South still has folks who own lots of guns.

              The gun-control proposals promoted by a Democratic Governor who is up for re-election, included the usual comprehensive background checks and regulating assault rifles and hi-cap mags, along with a law that would have re-instated a 30-day waiting period between the purchase of handguns. And while the Democrats control the Executive Mansion at the moment, the legislature is still in GOP hands. Which means that Governor Northam’s proposals went nowhere fast.  Zilch. Finished.

            The NRA‘s strategy to defeat the gun bill was the group’s usual concoction of anti-crime rhetoric combined with support for 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ Here was their post-session statement: “We commend the House and Senate Republican leadership for renewing the focus on putting violent criminals behind bars and a much needed refocus on mental health initiatives.  The discussion before the Virginia Crime Commission should focus on solutions that provide strong due process and put a stop to the continued politicization of law-abiding individual’s constitutional rights.”

In other words, gun violence is caused by criminals and nuts, not by lawful gun owners exercising their Constitutional ‘rights.’ And this happens to be a very powerful argument, given the fact that a majority of Americans not only believe that violent crime is always and has always been on the rise, but that having access to a gun is a foolproof solution to the problem of crime.

Yesterday I was up in New Hampshire and drove through Swanzey, which is one of those old, red-brick factory towns which saw its best years sometime before World War II. The local propane dealer had a sign offering a starting salary of $55,000 for someone to make home deliveries – you can rent a nice, one-bedroom in the next town for $700 a month.

These are the kind of guys who can and do walk into a gun shop any time they want, plunk down five or six hundred bucks and walk out with another gun. And while they may have heard something about problems at the NRA with Wayne-o outfitting himself at Zegna or Chris Cox opening his own lobbying firm, it’s my friends in Gun-control Nation who pay attention to such headlines; those gun guys couldn’t care less.

On the other hand, those gun guys vote and they have actually met their local government reps at the annual Knights of Columbus bar-b-que or at the gun show held up the road every few months. Until and unless my friends in Gun-control Nation figure out how to communicate with those guys, what happened in Richmond last week will continue to happen in other places as well.

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How To Properly Clean A Gun.

From DiamondK Brass,

How to Properly Clean a Gun

Being a responsible gun owner means taking care of your guns. This isn’t just a matter of keeping your guns safe – it’s also a matter of keeping your guns clean. Dirty guns have reduced accuracy and are more prone to failure, and failure to keep a gun clean can reduce its useful lifespan significantly. If you want to make sure that you’re getting the best performance from your guns as long as possible, make sure to follow these basic cleaning steps.

Step One: Gather Your Materials

The first step in cleaning your weapon is gathering all of the right materials. You’ll need a cleaning rod, lubricant, patches, and a brush at the bare minimum to get the job done right. Don’t go cheap with any of these materials – you’ll want to ensure that you use high-quality lubricants and tools to avoid damaging your gun during the cleaning process.

Step Two: Ensure Your Safety

The next step is to make sure that your gun is safe to clean. Make sure that it is completely unloaded, that there are no rounds chambered, and that you still have the safety on when you’re cleaning. There’s no such thing as being too safe, after all. Even after you’ve unloaded your gun, follow the best safety practices by still treating the weapon as if it is loaded.

Step Three: Clean Individual Parts

You’ll want to break your gun down as much as possible before you start cleaning. Once you’ve got it disassembled, you can clean each part. It’s generally recommended that you grab some kind of gun brush (or even a toothbrush) to clean those parts that are too hard to reach. Never skip cleaning a part – guns are precision machines and every part plays a role in ensuring that your gun works up to its specifications.

Step Four: Wipe it Down

Take some time to wipe every metal part of your gun down with a well-oiled rag. This is a necessity if you want to protect the metal and prevent damage from occurring due to heat or moisture. You don’t have to spend much time on this step, of course, but you should make sure that you do it every time you clean your gun.

Step Five: Clean the Bore

Your final step should be to clean out the bore. There are a number of tools made specifically for this process, including brushes and patches. You’ll want to use each to make sure that the bore is clean and maintained. Make sure to rub down the bore with your cotton patches to finish the job. Be careful during this process, though, as even a small bit of damage to the bore can have a huge impact on your weapon’s accuracy.

Once you’re done cleaning, make sure that your weapon is put away safely. The amount of time you need to spend on cleaning your weapon is going to vary greatly depending on the weapon itself and how it is stored, so choosing a temperature-controlled, dry area will always be the best way to reduce your maintenance. Make sure you clean your guns after using them, and always take your maintenance seriously. If you follow the basic instructions, you’ll have a weapon that shoots more accurately and that lasts much longer.

Why Do People Like Guns? Because They Like Guns.

              Earlier this week one of my readers sent me a link to the video of a debate I had at Northern Michigan University with John Lott.  The event was held in a large auditorium on campus and the place was filled with students, faculty and nearby residents, many of whom were gun nuts.  How do I know they were gun nuts?  Because at the beginning of my remarks I asked all the gun nuts in the audience to identify themselves by holding up their hands, and then I asked some of them to prove their gun-nuttiness by telling me and the audience how many guns they actually owned.

              As I recall, the guys who were willing to ‘fess up about the size of their gun collections said they owned somewhere between 10 and 30 guns.  I laughed in response to every single answer and then told the audience that I currently owned around 60 guns, give or take a few, and that at the moment my private collection was kind of ‘light.’

              I speak to pro-gun groups all the time. I’m something of a contrarian and I enjoy telling people what they don’t expect to hear. And when someone tells a group of gun guys that he owns 60 guns but would like to see a more serious effort made to reduce the 125,000 gun injuries we suffer every year, I can say without fear of exaggeration that this is an argument that Gun-nut Nation doesn’t often hear. I make it clear that I don’t buy into the nonsense about how all those ‘good guys’ with guns can protect us from all those ‘bad guys’ with guns. I also say that just because someone sits in a room for a couple of hours and falls asleep while someone else reads through some boring text about gun ‘safety,’ that this experience doesn’t meet even a minimal qualification for using a gun.

              What I don’t do in my public appearances is talk about the research on gun violence which has been published on both sides, for the simple reason that I don’t believe that the average person makes up his mind or even thinks about making up his mind based on data or facts. At least not the average person who owns a gun.  Why do I say this? Because I happen to have sold guns to more than 10,000 residents of Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont over the past 17 years; I have also taught the required gun-safety course to more than 7,000 residents in Connecticut and Mass., and I earn my living now by doing lethal-force certifications for local, state and federal law-enforcement agencies. So I know a heckuva lot more about how gun owners think about guns than anyone else in either Gun-control Nation or Gun-nut Nation, that’s for sure. And here’s what I know.

              People who buy and own guns do it for one, simple reason. They want to buy and own a gun. They may tell you that they need a gun to defend themselves, or they need a gun because it’s their 2nd-Amendment ‘right,’ or maybe they need a gun because pretty soon they won’t be able to buy a gun. I had a female customer, an educated business executive, come into my gun shop two weeks before the 2016 Presidential election who told me she ‘knew’ that if Hillary was elected, that she wouldn’t be able to own a gun.  How did such a crazy idea get into her head?  By the same token, I love how some gun-control advocates tell me about the ‘debunked’ research published by John Lott. As if they’ve ever read his research. Yea, right.

              I’m going to continue talking to pro-gun audiences and gun owners as often as I can. I wish that some of my dear friends in Gun-control Nation would spend a little less time talking to each other and try talking to the other side. Who knows? They might actually learn why people like their guns.  

Want To Argue About Nothing? Try Concealed-Carry Or Gun-Free Zones.

One of the issues which can always get everyone hot and bothered on both sides of the gun debate is the issue of gun-free zones. On the one hand, proponents of armed, self-defense (John Lott, et. al.) argue that denying folks the right to carry their self-defense gun into a public space makes that space a likely target for any nut who wants to commit mass mayhem using a gun. On the other hand, maintaining and/or expanding gun-free zones is seen by Gun-control Nation as a fundamental strategy for reducing the 125,000+ injuries that we suffer each year from the use/abuse of guns.

I happen to believe that both arguments are bunk and do not, in any way, shape or form, align with the relevant facts. This is because we don’t know the relevant facts, nor has anyone even attempted to figure them out. But making arguments without any factual underpinnings is hardly a new approach when it comes to advocating for or against anything, particularly when it comes to advocating an issue as emotionally-laden as the issue of guns.

It just happens to be the case that most public spaces are gun-free zones, and that’s not about to change. The reason that John Lott says that most large-scale shootings occur in gun-free spaces is because prohibitions on carrying personal firearms are typical of shopping centers, auditoriums and stadiums, which happen to be the places where many people congregate at the same time. Federal law also designates all public K-12 schools as gun-free zones. 

The other problem in the gun-free zone universe is that the issue is confused because it’s often attached to a second gun argument which is equally mis-stated on both sides, namely, the issue of mass shootings which, by definition, occur in places where lots of people congregate at the same time. The commonly-accepted definition of a ‘mass shooting’ is an event in which four or more persons are killed, but this usually excludes shootings in private residences or shootings in the street between rival gangs. So, for example, the gunfire which erupted on May 17, 2015, between two motorcycle gangs in a Waco, TX restaurant parking lot wouldn’t necessarily make the mass-shooting hit list, even though 18 bikers and bystanders were injured and another 9 ended up dead.  And by the way, how come we don’t hear about this event as being the ‘proof’ that armed citizens can prevent crimes when just about everyone standing outside the Twin Peaks Restaurant that day was carrying a gun?

On the other hand, what makes my friends in Gun-control Nation crazy about expanding gun-free zones is that invariably this proposal is tied to the increase in concealed-carry licensing, which is on its way to covering more than 20 million gun owners at last count. But if you want to argue that an increase in armed citizens leads to an increase in gun injuries you’ll find yourself facing two facts which don’t bear this out.

First, although the latest numbers of CCW puts the national figure at 17.5 million, this figure may represent more than five times the number of people actually walking around on a regular basis with a loaded gun. Do these 3 million gun-toters represent a serious threat to community safety and health? To answer that question we turn to our friends at the Violence Policy Center whose report, Concealed Carry Killers, found that between 2007 and 2017, roughly 1,000 people shot themselves or others with legally-carried guns, the division between homicide and suicide about 50 percent. Over that same eleven-year period, more than 350,000 Americans overall died from gun homicides and suicides. Ok? Get it?

Nobody has yet to come up with a definitive explanation for whether or not shooters, particularly mass shooters, are attracted to gun-free zones. But as far as I’m concerned, the whole issue of concealed-carry and gun-free zones is a side-show when compared to figuring out what to do about the daily, run-of-the-mill shooting events that each year now claim more than 40,000 lives.

The Supreme Court Just Shattered A Favorite Pro-Gun Belief.

              Talking about adding insult to injury. Last week the Supreme Court jumped on the ‘let’s get rid of the NRA’ bandwagon with a decision which undermined one of the basic tenets of the pro-gun movement; namely, the idea that the best way to reduce gun violence is to lock ’em up and throw away the key. America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ never talks about gun owners without referring to this population as ‘law abiding,’ the idea being that as long as ‘good guys’ own guns, they will protect us from the ‘bad guys’ who own guns.

              Congress went along with this marketing scheme for selling more guns by passing a law in 1986 which gave federal judges undefined authority to increase penalties if someone was convicted of a crime in which they used a gun. So if a guy robbed a mini-mart by brandishing a knife he might be sentenced to prison for so-many years, but if he pulled out a gun, his time in jail could be many more years. 

              Giving judges arbitrary authority to impose stiffer sentences for gun crimes is not the same thing as mandatory sentences for using a gun during a criminal event.  The latter legal strategy exists in many states, but these statutes usually spell out exactly how much additional jail time will be tacked onto the sentence pronounced by the court.  In the case of the 1986 federal law, the statute is silent regarding the specific additional penalty that a criminal earns by using a gun, and these arbitrary punishments can be tacked onto the harsher penalties stuck into the federal criminal statutes by Clinton in 1995.

              There has been a lot of back and forth over the years about whether criminal charges for violating gun laws make any real difference when it comes to how we try to deal with violent crime. For the most part, tacking an additional criminal charge onto a case of armed robbery doesn’t change the fact that the offender invaded someone’s convenience store and tried to take away money or goods with force. In fact, the studies on whether longer sentences for gun crimes reduces violence shows little, if any connection between sentencing and crime rates at all.

              Studies aside, there’s always been some kind of nostalgia for the idea that at some point in the distant past, we were tougher on crime and criminals than we are today. And much of this nonsense is peddled by the same hot-air balloons who are quick to remind us that everything has gone down the drain since we let the ‘element’ move into our neighborhoods, get more welfare and food stamps and vote multiple times so that a guy born in Kenya could end up living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for eight long, miserable years.

              That’s right. The bottom line on all this talk about getting ‘tough’ on crime and particularly gun crime, is the issue of race. Because when Dana Loesch goes on NRA-TV and loudly proclaims that she uses her gun to protect herself and her family from ‘street thugs,’ she’s not talking about guys who happen to be White. The good news is that even though Dana blocked me yesterday from her Facebook page, a small legal issue between the boys in Fairfax and the PR mavens at Ackerman-McQueen, has now blocked her from appearing on NRA-TV.

              Know why my friends in Gun-control Nation didn’t mention or even notice the SCOTUS decision to redress what has been a hallowed argument by Gun-nut Nation for reducing violence caused by guns? Because the 5-4 decision found the 4 liberal justices joined by none other than one of Trump’s main guys, Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch. Remember when he was confirmed that all the gun-control noisemakers were saying that he would tip the balance of the Court towards a more aggressive protection of 2nd-Amendment ‘rights?’ Yea, right.

              This decision is exactly in line with what Gun-control Nation has been arguing for years. The silence is remarkable in this respect.

Mike The Gun Guy Goes On Trial.

              On Friday, July 19, I am going to be a defendant on trial in Las Vegas; I can only hope I will be found innocent of all charges and allowed to go free. The main charge against me is that I am against the 2nd Amendment, and the prosecutor is none other than the ‘hated’ John Lott. There will be a judge, there will be a jury and I suspect that when the trial comes to an end, I’ll be found guilty as charged.

              The event is actually taking place at the Paris Hotel and Casino, and it is a featured presentation of this year’s FreedomFest, billed as a conference where “free minds meet to celebrate ‘great books, great ideas and great thinkers’ in an open-minded environment.” If you haven’t figured it out yet, FreedomFest is the libertarian equivalent of TED or Aspen, a place where folks can learn about one important issue or another while really getting together to cut a deal.

              This isn’t the first time I’ve shot my mouth off before a pro-gun group, nor is it the first time I’ve had a public debate with the ‘hated’ John Lott. Increasingly, I go out of my way and will even endure a crummy, five-hour plane ride if I get a chance to say what I have to say before a group which fervently believes in 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ After all, why would I want to fly out to Seattle to appear before a meeting of Grandmothers Against Guns?  I love how some of my friends who do public health research on gun violence will only speak in front of gun-control groups. What’s the point of that?

              There are also some folks in Gun-control Nation who are so childishly screwed up that they attack me for being a renegade, a turncoat, a troublemaker and a not-so-secret NRA partisan by appearing on the same stage as the ‘hated’ John Lott. After all, as a good friend who happens to be a leading public health scholar once lectured me, “You’re just giving him credibility which he doesn’t deserve.”

              I am not only pleased to be invited to talk at FreedomFest, I’m hoping that my appearance will lead to more speaking invitations from like-minded groups. And if those appearances involve sharing the stage with John Lott, just as well. When John appears before a meeting of the Federalist Society or some other politically-conservative group, he’s not converting a single person in the audience to his point of view. On the other hand, when I talk at a get-together sponsored by the NRA (and since I’m an Endowment Patriot Life member they can’t kick me out no matter what) someone always comes up, thanks me for coming and says, “Gee, that’s the first time I’ve heard what you had to say.”

              To my friends in Gun-control Nation, we’re not going to challenge America’s gun culture by talking to the folks on our own side. We’re not going to convince the majority of Americans who currently believe that a gun protects them from crime, by telling them about some public health study which shows the idea to be untrue. The last time that Gallup asked whether a gun made a home more or less safe, the ‘more’ outnumbered the ‘less’ by two to one, and 79% of gun owners told Pew that having a gun makes them feel safer than not.

              I happen to disagree with these views. I have watched more than 7,000 people run through a live-fire drill on my range and even with some practice now and again, hardly any of these folks would ever be able to protect themselves with a gun. When I talk to a gun-rights group and tell them to find other ways to deal with the fears which drive them to buy and own guns, I’m telling them something they won’t hear from John Lott.

              Gun-control Nation should spend a little more time thinking about why the ‘other side’ clings to their guns and a little less time promoting their self-righteous beliefs.

If anyone is terribly offended by what I just said, they can have all the space they want on my blog to reply in kind.

Independence Day: What It Really Meant When It Was First Celebrated.

From Ammo.com.

Every American knows what Independence Day is. Alongside Christmas and Thanksgiving, it’s one of the few holidays that hasn’t fallen prey to having to be celebrated on the closest Monday, rather than the actual day it falls on. However, less known is the history of the Fourth of July as a holiday. How did the celebrations emerge and what is the history of this, America’s birthday?

Few know that the 13 Colonies actually legally separated from the mother country, the United Kingdom of Great Britain, on July 2nd, not July 4th. This was the day that the Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence. After voting in favor of independence, the Congress then turned toward the actual drafting of the resolution, which we known today as the Declaration of Independence. It was on July 4th that Congress approved the resolution.

For his part, John Adams believed that July 2nd would be the day to be celebrated throughout the ages in the United States. While his prediction was two days off, his prediction of how the day would be celebrated is pretty close to the mark:

“It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

Independence Was Radical

In 1775, when independence first became discussed in the Congress, total independence was considered a very radical option among many. “Common Sense,” by Thomas Paine, however, radically changed the political mood of the country. If independence was “radical,” then Paine was successful at radicalizing a significant portion of the incipient country. It was on June 7, 1776, that Richard Henry Lee, the delegate from Virginia, first introduced the motion to declare total independence from the United Kingdom. A vigorous debate ensued, the final result of which was a five-man committee (Thomas JeffersonJohn Adams, Benjamin FranklinRoger Sherman and Robert  R. Livingston) charged with drafting a document detailing the causes of separation.

When the time came to vote on the Declaration of Independence, the vote was nearly unanimous – every state voted in favor, except for the delegate from New York who abstained, but later voted in favor, of the resolution.

What’s more, while it’s commonly believed that the Declaration was signed on the 4th, it’s actually more likely that it was signed on August 2, 1776, despite the recollections of Thomas Jefferson and some of the other signatories. Only two of the signers eventually became President of the United States: the aforementioned Adams and Jefferson. Calvin Coolidge is, thus far, the only President to be born on the Fourth of July, in the year 1872.

Early Independence Day Celebrations

It didn’t take long for the newly independent nation to begin celebrating its birth. In 1777, Bristol, Rhode Island, became the first town to celebrate the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. At dawn and at nightfall, 13 gunshots were fired in remembrance. The July 18th edition of The Virginia Gazette notes a celebration filled with feasting, gun salutes, music, parades and, yes, fireworks. Ships were decked out with red, white and blue bunting for the occasion.

Another early celebration took place in 1778, when General George Washington issued a double ration of rum to his soldiers, as well as an artillery salute. Meanwhile, in France, there were celebrations as well. John Adams and Benjamin Franklin held a celebration for the Americans living in France while on their ambassadorial duties. While we generally celebrate Independence Day on whatever day of the week July 4th falls on, in 1779 when it first fell on a Sunday, celebrations took place the following Monday.

July 4th was first officially declared a statewide celebration by Massachusetts in 1781. This set the precedent of states declaring that it was a day to be celebrated. In 1783, Salem, North Carolina, held what it claims to be the first public celebration of the holiday, with a suite of music by Johann Friedrich Peter. This was documented by the Moravian Church, and there are no earlier records of public (i.e., government) celebrations of the holiday prior to this event.

In 1870, Congress declared that Independence Day would be an unpaid holiday for all federal workers. Some 58 years later, in 1938, Congress changed the holiday from unpaid to paid.

It was the War of 1812 that saw Independence Day celebrations becoming widespread and common. This was due to an overall upsurge in patriotism and nationalist fervor during what was effectively a Second War of Independence against Great Britain.

Thomas Jefferson, who was not born on the Fourth of July, but died on it, was invited to a 50th anniversary celebration of Independence Day in the nation’s capital. Jefferson was extremely ill at the time and declined the invitation in what would be his last letter ever. In doing so, however, he stated his belief that American independence carried significant weight not just for the United States, but for the entire world, writing:

“All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. …For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.”

Unlike other patriotic holidays like Memorial Day or Veterans’ Day, there is no underlying spectre of loss, sacrifice and death with Independence Day. July 4th is a day of celebration for its own sake. So has it always been. There’s nothing wrong at all with partaking in the revelry of fireworks, hot dogs and (if you’re on a capable military base) gunshots. The Founding Fathers, if they fought for anything, wanted you to have at least one day where you could revel in the excess and largesse provided by their struggles.

Some Memories For The 4th.

              One of my best friends, if not my very best friend, was my old hunting buddy in South Carolina, Sherrill Clement Smith.  Smitty, as he was called, or ‘SC,’ as he was known to his close friends, which were me and a South Carolina Highway Patrolman name of Pat Patterson, was acknowledged to be the best white-tail hunter in a state where a lot of pretty skilled guys hunted white-tail deer. And in a state where the legal deer season ran from August 15 until December 31st, that was a lot of guys.

              But make no mistake about it, Sherrill was the best. And he was the best for three reasons: First and foremost, he started going out in March or April ever year to scout for deer.  Some years we ended up hunting in dense, hilly woodlands around Rion, the county seat of Fairfield County. Other years we were down in the low country alongside some bean fields near the Santee. Sherrill never had trouble finding some Black sharecropper who would let us hunt his property in return for getting half the meat.  In a state where many Blacks and even some Whites still didn’t have enough money to eat store-bought meat, having Sherrill Smith as your provider was not a deal you were likely to turn down.

              The second reason that Sherrill was the best white-tail hunter in Carolina was that once the season opened, he was out there every day. He didn’t just go out one or two weekends with some friends, set around for a while drinking some beers. Sherrill was a switchman for the Southern, as the Southern Railroad was called, and it was simply understood at the yard that between mid-August and end of December, once the whistle blew at 3 PM, you didn’t ask Sherrill to stick around.

              Third and last, if Sherrill could see the animal through his 3X9 Weaver scope set on top of his Winchester Model 70 in 30-06, didn’t matter whether the creature was 100 yards or 500 yards away, that buck was going down. So Sherrill didn’t have to take just any old deer, he could wait and wait and wait on the biggest old white-tail to come around.  One year he only took four, but I guarantee you that every animal would have easily made the Boone & Crockett list.

              One of the reasons Sherrill was such an accurate shot was because he made his own ammunition from scratch. This activity occupied him for much of the Winter months before April rolled around, which is when he started tracking deer. I never shot Sherrill’s ammo because my gun, a Remington Model 700, was chambered for .270 Winchester, and don’t think we didn’t have endless arguments over which was a better caliber for taking deer – the flat-shooting 270 or the more powerful 30-06. What else should we have argued about? The federal debt?

              Like myself, Sherrill was also a lifetime member of the NRA. And like me, he had joined the NRA when he was a kid, probably enrolled by his daddy, old ‘Red’ Smith. Sherrill’s father had been a policeman and carried a gun. Not that he particularly liked guns, but a gun was always around. On the other hand, my father never wanted a gun in his house after he saw what guns could do when he went ashore after the amphibious landing at Kwajalein Atoll. Who knows why kids grow up liking guns?

              Part of my frustration with my gun-control friends is that every time they tell me about the importance of safe-storage, or comprehensive background checks, or any of the other schemes to reduce the violence, sometimes I recall going out to the woods with my friend Sherrill Smith and high-sounding moralisms about ‘responsible’ gun ownership and ‘reasonable’ gun laws mean nothing. Other times, those words don’t bother me at all.

              I want to wish everyone a Happy and Safe July 4th.   

Have You Taken The Hopkins Gun-Violence Course? If Not, Why Not?

Several months ago, when the stench from Fairfax was just beginning to roll out and the 2020 Presidential wannabees hadn’t yet begun to try and top one another in terms of their plans for gun control, our friends at the Bloomberg School rolled out an online course, “Reducing Gun Violence in America,” which offers a definitive syllabus on the research which has been done on gun violence.  The course modules do a good job of covering what we know and what we don’t know, and each module is accompanied by a bibliography that is the best and most complete compilation of relevant printed sources compiled to date.

So far, 2,750 intrepid students have registered for the course, a number which, in and of itself, has an awful lot to say about the intentions and motivations of folks who want to do something about the violence caused by guns. Because for all the talk about how gun-rights groups like the NRA do nothing except peddle half-baked truths about the joys and blessings of gun ownership, you would think that our side, the gun-control side, would contain a sufficient number of people who want to make sure that what we say about gun violence aligns with the truth. 

Of course who am I to question the honesty and sagacity (I’ve never used that word before) of the folks who create and promote the narratives on gun violence that have become a de rigeur component of the political messaging for entry into the 2020 Presidential campaign? After all, we know that universal background checks keep guns from getting into the ‘wrong’ hands. We know that red-flag laws keep guns away from people who are at risk. We know that leaving a loaded and unlocked gun around the house means that more teen-agers will use the gun to hurt themselves. We know all these things, so why bother to sign up for the Johns Hopkins course?

I’ll tell you why. Because if there’s one thing that emerges from the careful and candid presentations by the Hopkins faculty members, along with some guest appearances by others as well, it’s that when all is said and done, we don’t really know squat.  And the reason we don’t know squat is because gun-control laws are such a jumble from one state to another, and because we are a country of very diverse regions with diverse cultures and diverse histories, the idea that what has worked to reduce gun violence in one place will work just as well when applied somewhere else is, at best, a shot in the dark (pardon my pun.) 

I live in a state – Massachusetts – where it is estimated that only one out of five or six households contains a legal gun. Now these gun owners probably think about their guns the same way that gun owners in a gun-rich state like South Carolina think about their guns. But I used to live in South Carolina, and I can tell you that none of my neighbors even noticed when I walked out of my house carrying a gun. If I lived in Boston and a neighbor spotted me carrying my trusty Mini-14 out to my car, there’s a pretty good chance that the Boston PD would shortly be following me down the street.

And this is precisely what makes the Hopkins course important for folks on our side, because there aren’t any simple answers to deal with the problem of gun violence, no matter what you hear on NPR or MS-NBC.

Oops, I forgot. There is one simple answer. Get rid of the guns. But that’s not going to happen even if, in the best of all possible worlds, Wayne LaPierre gets appointed Ambassador to Moscow and the NRA joins the dodo bird as something which used to exist.

Want To End Gun Violence? Figure Out Why People Own Guns.

              In  1960, the Gallup organization ran a national survey in which they asked respondents whether they would support a ban on handguns. Not stricter licensing, not PTP, an absolute ban. By a margin of 60 percent, the respondents said ‘yes.’ Had we passed a gun-control law which had reflected this national survey, we would not be dealing with a public health issue known as gun violence today. And the reason that we are the only advanced country which suffers from this public health problem is that we are the only advanced country which gives law-abiding citizens the right to own handguns.

              In 1975, two years before the ‘revolution’ at the NRA meeting in Cincinnati, when a more aggressive leadership began to shift away from supporting sports shooting to pushing armed, self-defense, this same survey found that the percentage of respondents who favored a ban on private handgun ownership had dropped to 41 percent. In 2002, the number was down to 32 percent and in 2016 it hit its lowest point – 23 percent.

              Since I signed a non-disclosure agreement I am enjoined from identifying the gun company involved in this episode; let’s just say it was one of the biggest and certainly best-known gun companies in the United States – then and now.  In 1985, I was part of a team which began putting together an incentive program for gun dealers who carried this company’s products, a strategy that was a response to the ‘invasion’ of European handguns; i.e., Beretta, Glock and Sig.

              Before we designed the program, the company engaged a consulting firm to conduct a survey of potential customers, the first such survey the company had ever done. It turned out that roughly two-thirds of everyone who participated in the survey believed that law-abiding Americans should have the right to own a handgun.  This response cut across every demographic (gender, race, income,) category, every geographic area, every other way in which the respondent population was sliced and diced. And non-gun owners were just as willing to support the idea of law-abiding gun ownership as were the respondents who said they owned guns.

              Anyone who thinks that John Lott created a national ‘movement’ for armed, self-defense with the publication in 1998 of More Guns, Less Crime, needs to spend a little time thinking about the Gallup surveys mentioned above as the results of a national, marketing survey conducted in 1985.  The purpose of this column is not to validate John Lot’s work; in fact, I have published a very clear critique of his argument which can be downloaded here.

              The issue isn’t whether John Lott is a stalking horse for the gun industry’s desire to sell more guns. The issue is whether my friends in the gun-control community really understand or even want to discuss how to deal with the fact that, like it or not, America is truly a gun culture. Our belief in using a gun to commit ‘virtuous violence’ wasn’t invented by the NRA or by John Lott, and sad to say, the idea that guns are more of a benefit than a risk isn’t just a fantasy confined to the lunatic fringe.

              I keep seeing survey after survey which shows that most people now own guns is for self-defense. Are they afraid of being victims of a violent crime when the crime rate has dropped by more than half over the last twenty years? Are they afraid they might be sitting in a hi-rise office building when a 727 controlled by a terrorist slams into the 50th floor? Are they afraid they won’t be able to own a gun?

              I have yet to see a single, gun-control group try to create a narrative that acknowledges these fears. After all, it’s much easier to demonize John Lott and the NRA than to sit down and figure out feelings that are not necessarily based on reality, but are nevertheless strongly resistant to change. This task remains to be done.