Join Americans Against Gun Violence.

              Before I begin this column, I need to make it clear that I am not an advocate for either side in the gun debate. The fact that I agree and promote many gun-control strategies doesn’t make me a hostage of Mike Bloomberg, nor am I a stooge for the NRA jut because I have been a member of the organization since I was eleven years old. On the other hand, when I discover an organizational development that fits my perspective for what to do about gun violence, I’m not going to hold back.

              And what I recently discovered was an organization, Americans Against Gun Violence, started by a retired ER doctor in California, Bill Durston, who just happens to be a former Marine decorated for ‘courage under fire’ during the Viet Nam war. Bill started his group because he would like to see ‘definitive action’ taken against gun violence, and while he and his members support the ‘reasonable’ public measures being advocated by other organizations – background checks, red-flag laws, blah, blah, blah and blah, this group also has a much different agenda.

              To put it bluntly: what Bill and his folks say is that we will reduce gun violence by doing the same thing that every other advanced country has done; namely, create a national database of gun ownership and initiate ‘definitive’ (i.e., severely restrictive) policies, such as banning assault rifles, creating a national gun database – exactly the kinds of policies which everyone knows will reduce gun violence but are policies usually considered too unyielding to be bought by the gun-owning crowd.

              Where Dunston’s group departs from the accepted, gun-control narrative can be found in their response to the very first question under the FAQ tab: “Should law-abiding people own guns for self-protection?” Answer: “In general, no.” They don’t say that people should be walking around with guns after they have been ‘trained.’ They don’t say that everyone has a ‘right’ to keep a gun for self-protection because of what my late friend Tony Scalia said in 2008. They say – no. Which makes this group the only gun-control group that is willing to take an entirely uncompromising position with Gun-nut Nation over the issue of using a gun for personal defense.

              I started writing about gun violence when I got sick and tired of the gun industry trying to maintain full employment in their factories by promoting the nonsense about how everyone would be more safe and secure if they walked around with a gun. And to make sure that the gun industry wouldn’t be accused of promoting unsafe behavior, they got the NRA to ramp up their training program which now focuses on what the boys in Fairfax call ‘Basic Shooting Pistol,’ a course that prepares someone to use a pistol in self-defense with the same degree of proficiency they would get if they took a lesson from Leonard Mermelstein, who happens to be my cat.

              If the NRA would promote what I consider to be the proper use of guns; i.e., hunting and sport shooting, they’d get no argument from me. But pretending that the only difference between a video shooting game and a live gun is that you have to pass a background check to spend money on the latter, is to foist a marketing scheme on current and would-be gun owners that is completely and totally wrong. Not just wrong, but unsafe to the extreme.

              Unfortunately, most of the gun-control organizations, along with their friends in medicine and public health, find one way or another to somehow avoid taking this direct and no-nonsense approach. Which is why I find the intentions and efforts of Americans Against Gun Violence to be commendable in every respect and I urge you to do what I have just done.

              Which is to join up, send them a donation and help keep them in the game.

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The ‘Consensus-Based’ Approach To Gun Violence Is Wrong.

              Now that physicians no longer have to fear being prosecuted for talking to their patients about guns, a whole cottage industry appears to have sprung up within the public health and medical communities to explain to doctors how they should talk to patients about guns. Because most doctors don’t own guns, and while the medical associations have all issued statements deploring gun ‘violence,’ such statements don’t give doctors any real insights into talking about a particular consumer product found in many of their patients’ homes. It’s easy to talk about seatbelts – every doctor drives a car. It’s not so easy to talk about guns.

              Now it just so happens that guns as a medical risk has been understood for more than twenty-five years, thanks to the two New England Journal of Medicine articles published by Kellerman, Rivara and colleagues in 1993 and 1994. When these two articles appeared, Gun-nut Nation went on the offensive, a political assault which included getting CDC gun-research money thrown out. Nevertheless, from a medical point of view, what Kellerman and Rivara said back then still stands now.

If only the current-day physicians clamoring most loudly for increased concern about gun violence would follow the evidence-based findings of Kellerman and Rivara – but they don’t. Instead, the narrative being promoted within the medical community is to take a ‘consensus-based’ approach to counseling patients about guns.

              With all due respect to my many friends in the medical and public health communities who are trying to find some way to reduce the 125,000+ intentional and unintentional gun injuries which occur every year, this ‘consensus-based’ approach is not (read: not) supported by any evidence-based research. Instead, it reflects the adoption of a narrative designed to shield these physicians from what they believe would otherwise be another assault from Gun-nut Nation and the alt-right.

              If doctors actually believe that by saying they respect the ‘rights’ of their patients to own guns, they will somehow protect themselves from criticism from gun-rights groups, they have absolutely no idea how Gun-nut Nation views any attempt to question access to guns, particularly by people who, for the most part, don’t own guns. Much of the evidence-based data on gun violence comes from solid studies done at the Bloomberg School. That’s B-L-O-0-M-B-E-R-G.  You think there’s a single gun owner out there who would ever believe anything coming from a program funded by the person now being referred to in gun magazines and gun blogs as the head of the ‘nanny state?’

              And once the physician who wants to counsel his patients on gun risk makes it clear that he ‘respects’ the patient’s ‘right’ to own guns, he then can continue building his consensus-based approach by telling the patient that all he has to do is safely store his guns. To be sure, there are studies which find that when patients are counseled about safe storage, they go home and sometimes store their guns in a safer and more secure way. Is there one, single study which compares before-and-after safety counseling to changes in gun-violence rates? Not one. The assumption that safe storage leads to a significant decrease in gun violence is a nice idea, but medical treatments and counseling aren’t based nice ideas.

              Let me break it gently to all my medical friends who find it easy and convenient to believe that once they tell a patient to go home and lock up his guns, that they have done what they need to do in this area of public health.  The Kellerman/Rivara studies which indisputably found both a suicide and homicide risk from guns in the home did not – ready? – did not find any significant difference between stored and unstored guns. A slight difference perhaps in suicides; no mention of storage issues in homicides at all. Nor is there any mention about the need to be concerned about those beloved 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

              Take it from a lifetime gun-nut like me. Want to reduce gun violence? Cut the bullsh*t. Get rid of the guns that create this violence – semi-automatic pistols, assault rifles and tactical shotguns.

That would only leave about 250 million guns floating around the United States.  That’s not enough?

How Do We Make Schools Safe?

              Our friend Shannon Watts is back in the news again because her parent organization, Everytown, has joined with the two major teachers’ unions – AFT and NEA – to raise concerns about the value of active shooter drills which are now performed in 95% of all public schools. This follows a report on school safety issued by Everytown last year, which outlined some basic strategies endorsed by the unions who represent most of the teachers working in the 132,000 public schools every day.

              School security has become a major issue because some of the worst mass shootings – Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland – have occurred in both elementary and high schools. And while a school building is still a very safe place, our friends in Fairfax and other loony-tunes gun nuts have been pushing the idea of arming teachers and conducting exercises to protect teachers and students from shooters, usually referred to as lockdown drills.

              When I was in the 5th grade, we had to squat down under our desks because the Russians were going to drop an atomic bomb on our city and lying down underneath our desks would protect us from harm.  I enjoyed these drills because it gave me an opportunity to fool around with my seat-mate Brenda, who had been left behind twice and was therefore already somewhat physically endowed.  I had absolutely no idea who the Russians were or what the term ‘atomic bomb’ really meant. I didn’t know and I didn’t care. All I really cared about was trying to cop a quick feel from Brenda without Mrs. Morse interfering in our fun.

              The lockdown drills now being conducted by a security industry are very unlike what I did to keep myself from being immolated by an atomic bomb. The drills require students to simulate a situation in which a shooter is roaming through their school, complete with warnings from teachers, maybe viewing a life-size replica of someone who has been shot, lining up and running out of the building in a minute or less. The companies which provide this service are now raking in more than $3 billion every year. Meanwhile, the kids often suffer from all kinds of psychologically-damaging reactions, and there’s no evidence that these drills make  schools safer or more secure.

              Shannon gave a solid interview on behalf of the new Everytown report. She was speaking on behalf of Everytown, but when it comes to school safety, she knows what she’s talking about because she also runs MOMS. And the MOMS organization must count at least several million mothers whose children attend school. So, when Shannon says that she hears again and again about kids who were terrified because they had to take part in lockdown drills, she isn’t just pushing out some alarmist messaging designed to raise more funds.

              Right after Sandy Hook, the boys from Fairfax rolled out a school safety program called School Shield, which went nowhere fast. The program involved doing safety audits of school sites, training teachers to watch for threats, hardening school premises with better locks, more alarms and stronger doors. Nobody who is seriously concerned about school safety paid attention to this PR stunt because, after all, the NRA has been promoting the elimination of gun-free zones such as schools for years.

              I have no issue with the security measures being promoted by Everytown which are endorsed by the AFT and the NEA. But perhaps as they move forward in this program, they might want to think of one more safety initiative as well.

              Most school systems now have curricular attention being paid to violence, but the violence is usually defined as bullying or other forms of personal, physical abuse. Why not widen the definition of violence to include teaching the kids about the risk of guns? After all, there isn’t a school system anywhere that doesn’t expose its students to the risks of smoking, drugs, obesity and unprotected sex. So why should gun violence remain, as they say, the odd man out?

The Dumbest Pro-Gun Legislator This Year – So Far.

              I used to think that Matt Goetz (R-FL) was the dumbest pro-gun politician in America because when he was a State Senator, he introduced a bill that would have made a business owner financially liable if his premises were a gun-free zone and a customer got shot because some jerk walked in, yanked out a banger and went bang. But I am beginning to think that maybe Goetz has been upended by a State legislator from Michigan, Beau LaFave, who had two guns, a handgun and an assault rifle, stolen from his residence last week.

Just because someone has guns stolen out of their home doesn’t necessarily mean that they deserve the Dumbest Pro-Gun Legislator Award (and yes, we also give out an award to the dumbest gun-control public figure each year.) But in LaFave’s case, his being situated at the lowest point on the left side of the bell curve is much more a function of what he did before the theft took place, and what he said after he lost his guns.

              Back on January 29, just before Michigan’s Governor, Gretchen Whitmer, delivered her State of the State address, this jerk walked into the State Capitol with an AR-15 slung over his shoulder to protest what he claims are her “proposed unconstitutional gun laws.” Whitmer has proposed a red-flag law which is bottled up in some committee; she is also on record favoring some kind of assault rifle ban, although she claims to have no issue with state residents who own guns for self-protection or sport.

              What does LaFave really want when it comes to gun laws?  He probably doesn’t want any new laws. After all, Michigan already requires background checks for private handgun sales. Isn’t that enough? The fact that the state does not require persons convicted of domestic abuse to surrender their firearms even if they are prohibited from owning guns should be reason enough to consider the passage of a red-flag law. But according to LaFave, all a red-flag law would do would be to disarm all those law-abiding state residents who have the ‘right’ to own a gun.

              So, over the weekend, while LaFave was out wandering around, someone broke into his home and stole the AR-15 that he carried into the State Capitol building, along with a .40-caliber handgun. The two guns were nestled side by side in the clothing chest drawer where LaFave keeps his underwear and socks.

              Punto Stupido Numero Uno: The guns weren’t locked up. The guns weren’t locked away. Want to break into someone’s house and find something valuable in 30 seconds or less? Start by looking through the clothing drawers – that’s the first lesson in Burglary 101. Why weren’t his guns locked or locked away? Because according to LaFave, he needed to be able to get his hands on his guns just in case he needed to “access them quickly.”

              Punto Stupido Numero Dos: Right after LaFave pranced around the Capitol building he tweeted a picture of himself with his trusty gun. That’s what he did. You don’t go to all the trouble of making a complete fool out of yourself and then forget to make sure that everyone is reminded as to exactly what a dope you happen to be.

              Did it ever occur to this idiot that maybe, just maybe he was telling everyone that if they took the trouble to break into his house, they might find a stash of guns? In talking to reporters, LaFave denied there was any connection between his self-promoting armed march through the State Capitol and the theft of his guns. Yea, right. No connection at all.

              My friends in Gun-nut Nation still seem unable to accept the fact that somehow, don’t ask me how, every single gun used to commit a fatal or non-fatal gun assault was first bought by someone who could legally own a gun. So how do these guns wind up in the hands of people who commit an act of gun violence against someone other than themselves? 

              I can guarantee you that the guy who swiped the guns from Beau LaFave isn’t some gun hobbyist who just wanted to add two bangers to his private collection. And Beau did everything he could, including advertising the guns on his Twitter account, to make sure that his guns ended up in the wrong hands.

The Latest in Concealed-Carry And It Only Costs Five Grand.

              There is a gun company in the Czech Republic called Laugo Arms which has just announced a new pistol for the American market which is chambered for the standard 9mm round and costs – ready? – five…thousand…bucks.  No sh#t Sherlock. Five big ones and they say in Godfather II, or maybe it was in Godfather III or whatever Mafia movie I was watching last night. 

              Guns have been coming out of this part of Eastern Europe for decades, the most well-company, CZ, has been shipping their handguns and shotguns to the United States since we first allowed imports from the Soviet bloc, and CZ guns were also sneaking into the country when there was an official imports ban.  Laugo has been around for a number of years, basically operating as a design shop rather than actually manufacturing guns. Now they want to get into the American market with their own gun. But is the gun worth five thousand bucks?

              The company says the gun, called the Laugo Alien, a name which I guess has something to do with Zombies and all that other extra-terrestrial stuff. Is a wholly new, indeed revolutionary design. And what makes it revolutionary, according to the company’s hype, is the placement of the barrel fixed to the frame. Pistol barrels usually ride underneath the slide and are connected to the frame through a locking device that both holds the barrel in place but also lets it float back and forth as the gun is fired and then a new round slips into the breech.

              Because the barrel is fixed to the frame, the only part of the gun which moves during recoil is the slide, and if you make the slide both narrow and lightweight by mixing the steel with an alloy, this will reduce what is called the ‘felt recoil’ every time the slide ejects a spent shell and slams home a new round.  Get it?  Don’t worry, I’ll explain what all this gobbledygook means right now.

              What it means is that this gun can be shot more quickly and more accurately because the shooter doesn’t have to bring the gun back down to the line of sight after a round is shot off. So in theory, this will make the gun more accurate and allow the shooter to deliver more firepower in a briefer period of time.

              Does this make the Alien worth five mil? Well to begin with, this product certainly isn’t being aimed (pardon the pun) at the law enforcement market because cops don’t like to spend money on guns. Pensions, medical plans, the widow and orphans fund – these are where law enforcement dollars go – not for guns.

              So obviously, the owners of Laugo are hoping that there are some civilian gun-owners out there who are willing to pony up five thousand bucks in order to say that they are the only guy at the Rod and Gun Club who owns one of these guns. Because believe it or not, if you really think you need a gun for self-defense, you don’t carry a pistol that will shoot ten shots in five seconds or less. You need to carry a gun that will deliver just one, accurate round.

              Most, if not nearly all serious assaults begin to occur at a distance between perpetrator and victim of 15 feet or less. Most serious assaults, particularly gun assaults, occur in 2 seconds or less. How many shots is someone going to get off in 2 seconds or less?  How many shooters have enough skill, training and muscle memory to hit any target, particularly a moving target at a distance of 15 feet?

              Know what they say about the gun business? Want to make a million dollars in the gun business? Start with two million. I hope that Laugo Arms has two million sitting in the bank.

The Bloomberg Super Bowl Ad Got It Right.

Since everyone else seems to be shooting off about Mike Bloomberg’s Super Bowl ad, I might as well inject my two cents into the discussion as well. I not only liked the ad, the fact that he used some questionable data about how many children are killed each year with guns didn’t bother me at all. Given how far from reality most narratives stray that are promoted by Gun-nut Nation about their so-called gun ‘rights,’ so what if Mike’s advertisement claimed that 19-year olds were just kids?

The internet is filled with all kinds of messaging saying that Mike’s ad was ‘hypercritical,’ ‘wrong-headed,’ ‘arrogant,’ ‘elitist,’ all the usual anti-Bloomberg crap. But the best video of all was put together by the boys at Fairfax based on some ‘interviews’ at the big Pennsylvania gun show that took place at the same time the Super Bowl was being played. These interviews were so candid, so original, so individual, that it took me about 30 seconds to realize that all the folks spieling about Bloomberg were working off the exact, same script.

Of course the line-up of people defending their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ was as inclusive as all gun-owning populations tend to be; there was the cop, the mother wearing her Trump hat and the Black dude who was particularly upset because Bloomberg spends millions on armed security guarding his house so how ‘I can’t use a gun to defend where I live?’ 

Hey schmuck, did it ever occur to you that the reason Mike has to spend money for armed security is because he wants to make sure that the security guards he hires to protect himself actually know how to use a gun? Did it ever occur to you that maybe, just maybe you don’t have any ability to engage in armed, self-defense just because you sat in a room while some old guy droned on and on for a couple of hours about how to hold, clean and fool around with a gun?

At some point, I don’t recall exactly the year, but it had to be after 2001 (because that’s when I went back into retail guns for the third time and this incident took place) my friends at 1200 Roosevelt Avenue, which happens to be the address of Smith & Wesson, decided to try and buy some ad space in that year’s Super Bowl magazine. The ad agency producing the magazine turned them down. They also tried to do a promotion at a NASCAR race except NASCAR also turned them down. I tried to do a promotion with the local Harley dealer but the Harley corporate office wouldn’t let the dealer get involved with anyone selling guns.

These incidents took place long before Sandy Hook, long before Mike Bloomberg started bankrolling Shannon and her Moms, long before all those shooting rampages that have focused significant public attention on gun violence. In other words, for all the talk by Gun-nut Nation about how guns are becoming a mainstream consumer product, the truth is that there isn’t a single, mass-market venue allegedly favored by gun owners which is willing to step up and do any kind of promotional activity on behalf of guns.

It’s not very difficult to go to a gun show and find some folks who will tell you all the reasons why they like guns. But what kind of reaction would be found if Nielsen or one of the other TV survey companies called up Super Bowl viewers and asked them what they thought about Mike’s message on guns?

To me, what was different about Mike’s ad was that it wasn’t really a political message; it was more like a PSA that focused on guns rather than on Corona virus or some other public health threat. And if Mike continues to run ads that focus on issues rather than on insults, invectives and lies, he will be making an important and necessary contribution to the current political debate.

GO MIKE!

Look Out Wayne-o. Here Comes Rob Pincus and Dan Gross.

Watch out everybody!  There’s a new gun-control organization in town.  It’s called the Center for Gun Rights and Responsibility, and it allegedly made its first appearance at last week’s SHOT show, which I didn’t attend. But for those who did show up, they had an opportunity to meet the guy who’s going to be running this operation, who just happens to be a long-time gun-control advocate named Dan Gross. 

Is that the same Dan Gross who used to run the Brady Campaign?  Sure is. And if you want to get a little taste of what his group is going to be doing, you can watch a brief YouTube video of Dan giving a spiel about his new organization right here.  He appeared at a 2nd-Amendment rally in DC back in November, which was one of a number of events leading up to the big rally held in Richmond, VA last month. 

Now here’s the really funny part. Gross was introduced to the crowd by Rob Pincus, a self-promoting gun trainer who used his social media presence last year to publicly attack the NRA’s continued support of Wayne LaPierre. Once it looked like the boys from Fairfax might be going into free-fall, Pincus went out and started a new organization, Save the Second Amendment, whose raison d’etre is to reform the NRA and bring the gun-rights discussion back to where it belongs.

Except the real agenda of Pincus and his friends is to pick up financial support from enough pissed-off NRA members to get things moving their way. And their way is to replace the NRA with an organization that will promote gun ‘rights’ while keeping the discussion fair and balanced at the same time.

Sooner or later, someone would try to take advantage of the mess at Fairfax and try to attract disaffected NRA members to a version of NRA-lite. The terrain to the Right of the NRA has been owned for a few years by Larry Pratt and his money machine, a.k.a., the Gun Owners of America scam. So, the only direction that a ‘new’ NRA can move is slightly to the Left, which is where all these allegedly ‘reasonable’ gun owners can be found.

Pincus already has his own organization called Save the Second Amendment, which is basically a blog that promotes the idea of a smaller, more focused and more open NRA. If anyone believes that by joining forces with Dan Gross, these two airheads can even remotely begin to make their presence known in the gun-control debate, you should also be willing to defend the proposition that Martians have landed at Area 51.

Here’s what we know for sure about Gun-nut Nation: When it comes to anything having to do with protecting gun ‘rights,’ or the God-given ‘right’ to self-defense, or any other marketing slogan which connects ‘guns’ to ‘rights,’ the members of this brigade are ready, willing and able to piss away fifty bucks just about every time they are asked. Know why Rand Paul is such an ardent promoter of gun ‘rights?’ Because he’s up to his ears in promoting and directing conservative, direct mail campaigns.

The first person to truly understand and take advantage of the desire of gun owners to part with cash was Tim Schmidt, who used an internet marketing strategy known as ‘tribal marketing’ to build a very successful product called the United States Concealed Carry Association, which basically pushed the NRA out of the concealed-carry training game. The idea is you sell products to people who will buy your crap because they want to belong to a special family or group who share certain common ideas and beliefs. And what stronger belief is out there than the idea of protecting yourself with a gun?

The problem with what Pincus and Gross are trying to do is they don’t have anything to sell. And if you think the NRA has in any way lost the ability to attract gun-owning bucks, I suggest you download their recent store catalog from which I just ordered a beautiful polo shirt for only $49.95.