About mikethegunguy

Author of 7 gun books and more than 1,000 gun columns on my website and Huffington Post. Lifetime Patriot Legacy NRA member. Gun retailer, wholesaler, importer and safety trainer.

Do Gun Laws Make Us Safe?

              If I had to quickly name the two most beloved regulatory strategies being promoted by Gun-control Nation, it would be: 1) expanding FBI-NICS background checks to secondary sales; and 2) ‘red flag’ laws. Well, maybe safe-storage laws are also up there near the top of the list, as well as permit-to-purchase (PTP) laws.  Taken together, the current narrative is that if you lived in a state where all these laws were on the books, you would be living in a state which would not suffer from gun violence.

              I happen to live in a state – Massachusetts – whose gun-regulatory environment contains all those laws. And the Bay State has another gun-safety law, shared only with California, namely, that no new gun can be sold in the state unless it is certified as having a child-proof safety design. Oh yes, I forgot. You can’t even purchase ammunition in Massachusetts unless you possess a valid gun license issued by the State Police.

              Thanks to all these laws, Massachusetts is currently ranked by Giffords and Brady as the ‘safest’ state.  It also has one of the lowest rates of gun violence of all 50 states, according to the  CDC. Because of its comprehensive gun laws, Massachusetts is so protected from gun violence that even a state resident like David Hemenway, a foremost authority on gun violence, admits to feeling very safe. 

              The safe storage law deserves special mention because Massachusetts is the only state in which you can be charged with a felony if any gun in your home is not either locked away or equipped with a ‘tamper-proof’ device, whether an injury with that gun occurs or not. If the cops come into your home and Grandpa’s old shotgun is sitting over the mantlepiece without a trigger lock, you could spend some time at Concord, and I don’t mean Concord as in Paul Revere’s ride. Concord is the state pen.

              The gun laws in Massachusetts are so strict that not only can’t you own a gun without first taking a safety course, you then have to be interviewed by the police who have discretion as to whether or not to grant you a gun license even if your background check comes up clean. You can’t even walk into a gun shop and put your hands on a gun without first showing your gun license to the dealer before he hands you a gun.

              There’s only one little problem with all these laws which make Massachusetts so safe. The problem is that, in terms of gun violence, Massachusetts was just as safe before all those laws were passed and went into effect. With the exception of the ‘red flag’ law, which Governor Baker signed this year, all the other gun regulations – secondary background checks, childproof design, PTP, ammunition purchase requirements, safe storage, have been on the books since 1999.

              Of course the fact that Massachusetts is such a ‘safe’ state doesn’t necessarily mean anything to someone who lives, for example, in the city of Springfield, which is where I happen to live. Last year, Springfield recorded 14 gun homicides, giving the city a gun-violence rate of 11, almost three times the national rate and five times the overall state rate. My office is located four blocks away from the intersection of Stebbins and Union Streets. This year, two men have been shot within 50 feet of the corner. Isn’t it wonderful that all the state’s gun laws make David Hemenway, who lives in a fancy suburb of Boston, feel so ‘safe?’

              I don’t know why Massachusetts, with all its gun laws, has so little gun violence and neither does anyone else. I also don’t know why some neighborhoods in this ‘safe’ state suffer from extraordinarily-high levels of gun violence, and neither does anyone else.

              But I do know this: every one of those shootings involved the use of a gun. And there’s no law in Massachusetts or anywhere else which does anything to get rid of guns.

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Josh Montgomery: Muzzle Sweep: What You Need to Know – Top 7 Facts

Muzzle sweeps: not many people know precisely what this term means, but regardless, many have gone through it. The only differentiating factor is on what end of the muzzle sweep you were. This occurs mostly with newbie shooters – and if not handled carefully, the result can be rather dangerous.

Still, what do you need to know about muzzle sweeps – and how do you ensure that you stay safe throughout everything? By being informed, of course. Not only do you need to know precisely what muzzle sweeping is, but you must also know how to protect yourself against it – no matter if you are the one holding the gun or not.

What Is a Muzzle Sweep?

Muzzle sweeps tend to happen fairly often in groups where multiple people hold a gun – and most of them happen accidentally. A muzzle sweep happens when you aim your gun in a careless manner towards someone – but you do not intentionally mean to do so.

Gun owners who have just begun shooting tend to be at the cause of this, but it can also happen when a person upholsters their gun. Most of the time, they do so without knowing – but whatever the circumstances, this is regarded as a mistake.

When someone is muzzle sweeping, they are violating the second rule of safely using firearms – the one that says that you should not point a gun at a target unless you are actually planning to shoot at it. Guns can discharge accidentally, and you may cause injury when it wasn’t even your original intention to do so.

Obviously, a gun that has been holstered may sometimes point at your body parts or at someone else (e.g. when you are sitting at a table and someone passes by you), but in this case, there should not be any dangers. A holstered gun is unlikely to go off unless you actually put your finger on the trigger.

Top Facts to Know

Have you ever muzzle swept anyone, or were you a victim of such an occurrence? Here are a few facts that you might want to know.

  1. A gun won’t go off unless someone is handling it

Many people are sent into panic mode when they see a holstered gun pointing at them. One awkward move, or one finger sitting awkwardly on the trigger, and the gun – no matter if it is a concealed or a hunting gun – could go off.

However, a good gun will not go off just like that when holstered. For instance, if you go for a gun with the best sniper scope in the world, the only danger will appear when you are locking on a target and accidentally sweeping over something else. Still, a good quality gun delivers awesome value, and won’t simply go off just like that.

  • Bullets can go through anything

As a gun owner, you may be thinking that if you muzzle sweep and shoot through a wall, the bullet will remain stuck there and will not be hurting any innocent bystander. However, because of the speed of the bullet, not only do you risk the bullet bouncing back, but it can also go through a surface.

Therefore, let’s say that you are at the shooting range, practicing some moves. You can’t just assume everyone is safe simply because you have a bit of wall between you two. With the muzzle energy of firearms, a bullet can be very destructive even through a wall.

  • The safety isn’t always reliable

Many people end up carelessly muzzle sweeping while touching the trigger because “the safety is on anyway.” However, human error can happen – and when you think the safety is “on,” it can actually be “off.”  You should never assume anything when it comes to guns.

  • Muzzle discipline is not as easy as it seems

You might think it’s just as simple as that to keep the gun pointed in the right direction. However, it is very easy to muzzle sweep yourself accidentally – particularly if you are the owner of a handgun.

When you are just learning concealed carry techniques, you do not even notice when the gun is not facing a safe direction. You only notice it when someone is either yelling at you or you see the gun pointing at your leg. You may be careful when placing the gun in the holster – but it is not as easy as it seems.

  • Muzzle habits are built with time

Yes, they are prohibited in the laws of firearms from the very start – but this doesn’t mean that people are perfect. Every good habit is built through repetition – regardless if we are talking about firearms or anything else. By handling several firearms or replicas throughout time, you will get into the habit of pointing your gun in a safe direction.

  • Sweeping in a room will create a panic

Muzzle sweeping in a room full of people will create panic. It does not matter if the gun is unloaded or not. Every gun owner is trained to “see every gun as being loaded,” thanks to the gun rules. So, when they see the gun pointed at them, they will obviously go into distress. Bear in mind that if you muzzle sweep a shooting range continuously, you might just get yourself kicked out of the place.

  • You should also point out anyone muzzle sweeping

Yes, you should avoid muzzle sweeping people. But the fact is that most accidents occur when muzzle sweeps aren’t reported. Let’s say that you notice someone being careless with a gun. Even if they say it’s unloaded, there is always a chance that they forgot to unload a chamber. Some people might accuse you of overreacting – but you never know what might happen.

Final Thoughts

Muzzle sweeps should not be done, regardless of where you are. You may be at the shooting range, you may be on the hunting grounds – or you may be in your own house. Whatever the case, assuming that it’s alright to muzzle sweep can prove to be dangerous, and it can get you in trouble.

Pete Buttigieg Needs To Deal With A Gun Violence Problem Right Now.

              Until Pete Buttigieg announced that he was a Presidential candidate, he only thing I knew about South Bend, IN was Notre Dame.  I went to graduate school in Chicago and every time I drove back home to New York, I could see the Golden Dome as we zipped past the campus on the interstate, but  that was as close as I ever got to South Bend.

              The city is an old manufacturing center, having been the location of several major manufacturing companies that supplied parts for the auto industry, and even before Buttigieg captured national attention with his announcement, he was known for having pushed some economic redevelopment plans that prevented South Bend from ending up in the downward spiral which trapped other rust-belt towns.

              In addition to the Golden Dome, the city also has an annual music festival, several interesting museums, some pretty park space, all the usual amenities of medium-sized population centers (roughly 100,000 people live in the city itself, roughly another 200,000 folks live nearby) which are larger than small towns but not yet major, urban sites.

              Unfortunately, it now appears that South Bend may be experiencing a life-style change which resembles many major, urban centers, and I’m not talking about a life-style represented by the appearance of Starbucks or a new shopping mall or a farmer’s market with ‘organic’ goat cheese selling at $30 a pound.  I’m talking about the urban life-style known as gun violence which has seen 11 South Bend shootings so far in June alone.

              The good news about violent crime in South Bend is that overall the number of homicides have gone down. There were 18 in 2012, Buttigieg’s first year in office, last year there were 9. The bad news about South Bend violence is the number of aggravated assaults went from 235 in 2012 to 782(!) last year. Guess what happens when two guys get into an argument and one of them pulls out  gun? An assault turns into a shooting and using a gun is a very efficient method for turning a bloody nose into a bullet lodged in the head.

              Right now, Indiana ranks 16th of all 50 states in the statewide murder rate, with an overall score of 6 per 100,000 residents for the Hoosier State. I always thought that Indiana’s murder rate was basically a function of street violence in Indianapolis which, Indy 500 notwithstanding, has always been known as a tough town. The nine murders which occurred in South Bend last year may not sound like a lot of people, but it means that the city’s murder rate is 50 percent higher than the state’s rate as a whole. That ain’t good. 

              And it particularly ain’t good for Mayor Pete’s Presidential campaign, because he has been proposing the one gun-control law that Gun-nut Nation hates most of all, i.e., a national gun-licensing system. Now it happens to be true that without a national gun registration of some kind, all the other ‘reasonable’ gun-control schemes may help reduce gun violence a little bit here and there, but the real big kahuna for gun control is national registration, no ifs, ands, or buts.

              You might want to believe that if South Bend continues to be a murder-rich place, that this news could be used by Pete to underscore the need for better controls over guns. Except that’s not how the world works, at least the world as defined by the pro-gun noisemakers (Trump, Fox, NRA, et. al.) who will lead the charge for the other side.

              Because what they will say, I guarantee it, is that the murder rate in South Bend points up the need for letting civilians walk around with guns. And since gun registration will result in gun confiscation, nobody will be protected and the crime rate in South Bend and everywhere else will zoom straight up.

              I hope that last week’s gun mayhem in South bend was a blip and not the beginning of a trend. Because if it’s the latter, Pete Buttigieg’s campaign could be derailed.

How Can You Advocate For Gun Control Unless You Know The Facts? You Can’t.

              The first time I got involved in advocacy was 1958. I was a 14-year old big shot. I got on a bus with a bunch of other kids and some adults, Blacks and Whites, and we ‘sat in’ at a lunch counter in a diner on Route 1 in Towson, MD. That’s right – in those days you could take a ‘freedom ride’ to Maryland.

              Then civil rights morphed into the anti-war movement. And because I went to graduate school in Chicago, I was at the meeting in Lincoln Park with Abby, Jerry, Dave Dellinger, John Froines and Tom Hayden, along with a bunch of undercover cops posing as anti-war protestors, when we planned the demonstrations outside the Democratic Convention in 1968.

              In the 70’s, I was back in New York and stayed active by going to various meetings where speakers like Bella Abzug and Gloria Steinem gave stirring speeches about why women had the right to choose, as well as the right to get paid as much as men for doing the same work.

              The advocacy for gender equality then took a slight turn in the 1980’s when folks, including me, began marching for the right to follow one’s own sexual orientation. My greatest Harley experience wasn’t going out to Sturges, it was driving my Low Ryder from Greenwich Village to Times Square alongside the New York City Lesbian Harley Club during the Halloween Night parade.

              All of these advocacy movements shared one thing in common: you didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that dropping napalm on a peasant village, or depriving people of the right to vote, or telling a woman that someone other than her would decide whether she should give birth, or making a gay man or woman hide their most precious and personal feelings was – wrong! It was as simple as that. It was wrong. Period. No questions asked. Wrong. Okay? Wrong.

              But this is where the gun-control advocacy movement, of all the advocacy that I have experienced over the last sixty years is different. What makes it different is that the moral issue of ‘right’ versus ‘wrong’ is simply not so clear. What creates a muddle in this respect is the fact that gun violence occurs because people own guns. And most folks who have access to a gun aren’t breaking any laws. In fact, au contraire, they believe that not only do they have a legal ‘right’ to own a gun, but this right is both enshrined in the Constitution and acknowledged to be correct by the same liberal legal scholars who have supported civil, gender and gay rights.

              So how does someone advocate against guns (and please, spare me the nonsense about how you ‘support’ the 2nd Amendment) that can stand up against such a potent argument from the other side?  What you have to do, it seems to me, is take the trouble to learn about guns – how they are sold, why they are sold, what laws exist which regulate guns, which laws need to be improved, you get the drill. The point is that if you get into a discussion with a pro-gun person and you don’t know these facts, you end up in an emotional exchange which goes nowhere very fast.

              Every person concerned about gun violence should sign up for the online study exercise created by our friends at the Hopkins-Bloomberg school. In fact, Giffords, Everytown, Brady and all the other gun-control groups should insist that their members spend a few hours drilling through the curriculum, taking the self-help tests and sending feedback to the faculty who worked overtime to create this course. Oh, you don’t ‘have time’ to do this self-paced exercise and God forbid replace some of your own feelings with the facts? Give me a break.

              And while you’re at it, let’s not forget to watch this video and send the group in Florida a few bucks. If you have time to read my column, you can’t be that pressed for time or cash.

The Video You Must See. Right Now!

              Want to see how the two sides in the gun debate get out their messaging?  Start with the NRA-TV website and watch this: https://www.nratv.com/episodes/stinchfield-season-3-episode-105.  I know, you can’t even get past the third minute, it’s just so boring and dumb.  And nobody’s watching it anyway, the monthly traffic is down by almost 50 percent since February and the average visit is 3 minutes, which is about one-quarter the time that each video plays. 

              Want to see what our side is doing when it comes to messaging?  Try this: https://surveys.signforgood.com/bawn-video

              This video was developed by the group in Florida which is trying to get an initiative on the 2020 ballot to amend the state Constitution and ban assault rifles in the Gunshine State. The group came together after Parkland and its leadership includes relatives of Parkland victims along with Parklan survivors like David Hogg. 

              I have been involved with the gun-control movement since before there was a movement and I don’t recall ever seeing a message from either side which is as powerful as what you will see and hear by clicking the link above.

              What you won’t see in the video is the fact that the organizers of this effort have just collected enough signatures to go before the State Supreme Court to have the amendment’s language approved. That’s the good news.

              The bad news is that after the Court hearing, another 650,000+ signatures must be collected by February 1, and the state has just passed a law which makes the signature-gathering process more complicated, which means there are also greater costs.

              For all the talk about re-awakening the federal assault weapons ban this year, there’s no chance that such a bill could become law until and unless the blue team takes control of the Senate in 2021. But imagine the impact on that process if the state of Florida, which has led the nation in pro-gun laws, approved a state-level assault weapons ban the previous year.  Imagine that!

              So here’s the bottom line folks, and I’m telling telling it like it really is:

              First – watch the video.

              Second – send it to all your friends.

              Third – Post it on your Twitter page (I just put it on mine.)

              Fourth – Get everyone to retweet it.

              Fifth – Send in some cash.  We’re not talking about a little GoFundMe campaign to help someone through a difficult time. We’re talking about a national issue which needs your help in order to get the deal done.

              I’m told by my friends in Florida that the additional signatures can be raised by the deadline if another million bucks rolls in. I don’t see how we can’t find 100,000 gun-control advocates throughout the United States to pony up ten bucks apiece. I pay that much for coffee and a dry piece of cake at Starbucks every day.

              This campaign isn’t about changing hearts and minds. This campaign is about doing something tangible, real and effective to reduce the violence cause by guns.

              Watch it. Spread it. Support it.

              Enough said.

It’s Not Just The Supply Of Guns That Creates Gun Violence – It’s Also The Demand.

              All of a sudden, after wandering in the wilderness for lo, these many years, it appears that the lost gun-control tribes may finally reach the Promised Land and get a gun bill passed through Congress and signed by a Democratic President in 2021. Of course, this chain of events assumes that Sleazy Don will continue to lag behind in crucial swing states (OH, PA) and that the blue team doesn’t screw everything up by nominating another version of the person who ran the single, worst national campaign of all time in 2016.

              Nevertheless, I’m willing to take the short odds on the possibility that what I am predicting might come true, which leads to the most important question, namely, what kind of gun bill should be passed? And if nothing else, what seems to be the consensus among all the men and women who want to quarterback the blue team, is that the bill should expand background checks to secondary transfers and sales.

              The reasons behind this consensus have to do with two things: 1) everybody, even gun owners, seem to support some kind of expansion of FBI-NICS; and 2) if all gun transfers must be qualified before they take place, it stands to reason that less guns will end up in the ‘wrong hands.’ After all, even the NRA has always made common cause with ‘law-abiding’ gun owners, right?

              Unfortunately, the research standing behind any and all attempts to regulate gun ownership through legal means fails to come to grips with one, very important thing. And this is the fact that none of the studies which examine the degree to which gun laws work or don’t work to reduce gun violence ever take into account one, fundamental issue, namely, the issue of demand.

Whether we like it or not, the events which constitute at least three-quarters or more of every instance of gun violence every year; i.e., fatal and non-fatal gun assaults, reflect an ongoing retail market for this particular product, even if it’s a retail environment quite unlike the local gun store. And while our friend Phil Cook and others have studied this market in terms of product pricing and product supply, the possibility that this market could be somehow controlled by more stringent laws governing legal gun access and ownership, flies in the face of every such governmental effort when confronted with unabated product demand.

The War on Terror has only been going on since 2001, but the War on Drugs was announced by Nixon in 1971. How much money, time, effort and legislative activity has been expended to reduce illegal drug trafficking over the past fifty(!) years? And whatever the answer, what we have gotten is another drug epidemic called ‘opioids.’ And is it just coincidence that as opioids appear to be increasingly common, that the rate of gun violence appears to be going back up?

Last week, with the usual 48-hour brouhaha which always accompanies another aimless rant by John Donahue against John Lott, the Stanford economist once again tried to tell us why we have a crisis called ‘gun violence’ without so much as mentioning or even acknowledging the issue of demand. And as an economist, not a public health researcher, Donahue should know better than that. But why bother to bring the most obvious and necessary issue to bear when discussing how and why guns get into the ‘wrong’ hands?

I can’t read a single issue of a gun-control news aggregator like The Trace without seeing at least one article bemoaning the failure of gun regulations to cover the myriad ways in which guns move from the ‘legal’ to the ‘illegal’ milieu. Which is why everyone in Gun-control Nation is touting the idea of comprehensive background checks (CBC) as the first and most obvious method for reducing the violence caused by guns.

So let me break it to you gently. Unless a way is found to reduce the demand for illegal guns, I guarantee you that the market will find a way to negate the impact of CBC. Guaranteed.

S.B. Fuller: The Forgotten History of a Legendary Black American Entrepreneur

From Ammo.com.

In the days before President Lyndon Baines Johnson, black Republicans were a thing. And chief among them was Samuel B. Fuller. Fuller was a black American entrepreneur in the mid-Century United States. More than just an entrepreneur, he also gave back to the black community by providing both inspirational speeches as well as nuts-and-bolts training at a time when entrepreneurially minded black Americans had precious few options for either. Some entrepreneurs trained or inspired by Fuller include John H. Johnson of Johnson Publishing and George Ellis Johnson of Johnson Products.

To say that Fuller came from “humble beginnings” is a bit of an understatement. He was born into a family of Louisiana sharecroppers who were so poor that he had to drop out of school to work in the sixth grade. But he also displayed an entrepreneurial spirit from a very young age. The young Master Fuller was going door to door selling products at the age of nine.

When he was 15, his family moved to Nashville. It was here that his mother passed away two years later, leaving Fuller in charge of his six siblings. Relief organizations came by to offer assistance, but Fuller turned them down because he didn’t want his neighbors to think his family couldn’t make it without handouts. It was then that he and his siblings made the decision that they were going to make it on their own without any external help.

From Poverty to Multi-Million-Dollar Empire

The road to success was not an easy one for Fuller. He relocated to Chicago where he took a series of backbreaking, menial jobs, before rising up to become the manager of a coal yard. During the Depression, he was working as an insurance agent at the Commonwealth Burial Association, a black-owned firm. Despite having a secure position at that company, he decided to strike out on his own and build his own business.

Using a $25 loan he obtained by using his car as a security deposit (about $375 in 2019 money), he started his own business. With his future wife Lestine Thornton, he purchased a soap load with this money, selling it door to door. He was so successful in this endeavor that he invested another $1,000 in the enterprise. His customer base were largely newly arrived black families on the South Side of Chicago, who had arrived as part of the first Great Migration. This was an underserved community and in them, Fuller saw a potential gold mine. He was promoted to manager at Commonwealth while growing his own business to include a line of 30 products, as well as other salesmen.

In 1939, Fuller opened his own factory. In 1947, he saved his supplier from going under by purchasing it. He used his newly acquired capital to sell everything under the sun, from deodorant to suits. He purchased black newspapers such as the Pittsburgh Courier and the New York Age. In Chicago, his footprint loomed large, especially after he purchased the Chicago Regal Theater and the South Center Department Store.

Fuller was a staunch Republican, albeit a bit of an anachronistic one and with a firm independent streak about him. He was the head of the South Side NAACP and at the height of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, he had a novel and innovative solution: Fuller knew that the bus company was hemorrhaging money due to the boycott and other factors. He proposed winning the boycott by buying the bus line and integrating it. This was part of his entire philosophy about how to end segregation in the South and discrimination in the north: black achievement, not government intervention.

No one is quite sure, but it’s very possible that Fuller was the richest black American throughout the 1950s. His cosmetics company alone was bringing in $18 million annually in 1950 dollars (over $170 million in 2019 dollars). His sales team included over 5,000 members, a third of whom were white. He became the first black man inducted into the National Association of Manufacturers in 1963.

His comment at his induction ceremony that “a lack of understanding of the capitalist system and not racial barriers was keeping blacks from making progress” combined with an interview in U.S. News and World Report where he stated that “Negroes are not discriminated against because of the color of their skin. They are discriminated against because they have not anything to offer that people want to buy” caused some black leaders to call for a boycott of Fuller products. The boycotts were largely unsuccessful, but his reputation was quite tarnished in the black community.

A Legacy of Black Self-Reliance

Indeed, it was his zeal for unregulated capitalism that was ultimately his undoing. In 1968, he was charged with violating the Federal Securities Actafter he sold unregistered promissory notes. His company went into bankruptcy in 1971. There was some upward motion after this, but Fuller Products never attained its previous levels of success.

In 1976, Fuller retired due to health problems. In 1988, he died due to kidney failure. His widow estimated that he helped thousands of people to get their start in business.

The legacy of S.B. Fuller is an important one because it is from such a different time in American history, one where the black community was much more ascendant and optimistic. Fuller struck a path that showed that reliance upon both private charity and government fiat was not necessary for the black community to begin achieving parity with their white counterparts. It is unfortunate that the prevailing political winds of the day eschew even the very notion of black achievement.

Though perhaps political prevailing winds and majorities are not important. Fuller would certainly have been familiar with the concept of the “Talented Tenth,” first enumerated by W.E.B. DuBois in his book of the same name. This identifies a leadership class in the black community – approximately 10 percent – who can act as social, economic and political capital lifting up the entire community.Those looking to Fuller as their example for how to build a talented tenth could do no better. He stands firmly in the American tradition of black self-reliance.

More Guns = More Gun Crime, Right? I’m Not Sure.

              On December 16, 1993 a United States Senator named Joe Biden gave a speech at the Rotary Club in Wilmington, Delaware.  At the time, ‘Sleepy Joe’ chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee, which meant he was a key figure in the spate of gun-control bills (Brady, Assault Weapons Ban) that became law during Bill Clinton’s first term. In speaking about those bills, as well as the more expansive crime bill which nearly doubled the size of incarcerated population, Biden said, “the United States is the most dangerous country in the world. No country in the world has a higher per capita murder rate than the United States.”

              Sound familiar? Add to that the 350 million guns floating around, which gives the U.S. a per capita gun-ownership rate six times higher than any other OECD country, a causal argument that David Hemenway and his public health colleagues have been promoting for the past 20 years, and you now have the standard gun-control mantra trotted out every time Gun-control Nation says what it says about guns.

              There’s only one little problem. And the problem has to do with the fact that the argument which ties gun-violence rates to the number of civilian-owned guns does not correspond in any way to what we know about the number and availability of guns. From 1986 until today, the size of the civilian arsenal probably grew by 50 percent. We don’t know how many guns were in civilian hands in the early 1980’s, but if we take the 1994 estimate of 190 million, then subtract the 50 million guns manufactured between 1980 and 1994, we wind up in 1980 with roughly 140 million civilian-one guns.

              Now let’s look at additions to the civilian arsenal between 1981 and 2017, and the numbers from ATF add up to another 150 million guns, which brings us up to somewhere around the 300 million which is often cited for the total number of guns floating around today. Now here’s where things get interesting, okay?

              The national violent injury death rate (from CDC) averaged 8.83 from 1981 through 1998.  From 1999 through 2017, the rate averaged 5.80, going as low in 2014 as 4.98. From 1981 through 1998, the violent injury death rate involving guns was 5.77, the rate from 1999 through 2017 was 3.95. In other words, over the last thirty-six years, the rates of violence and rates of gun violence both fell by roughly one-third.

From 1981 through 1998, there were 397,912 homicides, of which 260,275 involved the use of guns, or 65 percent. From 1999 through 2017, there were 334,215 homicides involving 227,717 guns, or 68 percent.  So the overall violence rate declined by roughly one-third from 1981 through 2017, but the proportion of murders where a gun was used remained the same. Meanwhile, during this same thirty-six year period, as many as 1,500,000 new guns entered the civilian arsenal. If there is a causal connection between our high rate of homicide and out high ownership rate of guns, how come the use of guns to commit gun violence hasn’t changed?

I’ll tell you why it didn’t change, or better yet, I’ll tell you why we don’t know why it didn’t change. There’s one very simple reason. With a few exceptions that are probably statistically insignificant, the number of gun murders which occur each year are overwhelmingly committed by people who aren’t supposed to own guns.

Most gun murders are committed by individuals who can’t, under law, own a gun. Since these individuals aren’t about to disclose gun access to anyone, how can you make a plausible cause-and-effect argument about the overall number of guns and how they are being used? At best such an argument is just a numbers game, at worst its academic sophistry and should be ignored.

I don’t care whether we own 300 million or 300 billion guns. The numbers alone simply can’t sustain the argument that more guns equals more gun crime.           

The National Cathedral Wears Orange.

              It is now four years since the shooting death of a Chicago teenager, Hadiya Pendleton, led to the emergence of a nationwide response to this and all gun tragedies known as Wear Orange. And this year, it appears that the campaign to bear witness to the scourge of gun violence has reached a new, viral level. Many jurisdictions across the country are planning to issue resolutions designating June 7th as National Gun Violence Awareness Day, and more than 650 public events are scheduled to take place over the weekend from June 7th through June9th

              I’m going to use today’s column to talk about one of those public events which will take place at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. But before I get to a discussion about the event itself, I want to say a few words about the Cathedral, which I have always considered to be America’s most hallowed place.

              Now understand that I am not particularly religious so when I use a word like ‘hallowed’ I’m speaking more in  cultural than in religious terms. And the reason I am using that word with reference to the National Cathedral is because I believe that this institution, perhaps more than any institution in the United States, has maintained a commitment to finding solutions to the one issue which still threatens the human community, which is the issue of violence.

              Think about it. We know what to do about global warming. We know what to do about hunger. We know what to do about disease. Now if we choose not to respond to these threats, it’s a function of willpower, not of knowing what we need to do. But this isn’t the case with violence. We don’t know what to do about violence because we don’t know why human beings behave in violent ways. And it doesn’t matter whether the violence takes the form of some kid hitting another kid over the head on the playground, or a B-52 dropping a bomb and wiping an entire city off the map. There is no other living species on this planet which kills simply for the sake of killing – except us.

              Right now the Cathedral actively promotes five initiatives, all of which involve programs that heighten awareness leading to positive, effective change which is always an important response to violence or violent threats. These programs involve helping veterans readjust to civilian life, LGBTQ advocacy, racial issues, religious harmony and of course, gun violence. 

              Regarding gun violence, the Cathedral is going to observe the Wear Orange weekend in its own unique way. On Friday night, June 7th at 8 P.M., the Cathedral is going to be bathed in orange light – a remarkably impressive sight. But then, to add to the majesty and power of this moment, the Cathedral’s Bourdon bell is going to ring 109 times. The Bourdon bell weighs twelve tons, and when it rings (usually just for funerals) the somber tone will envelop you in the deep sense of loss we should all feel when thinking about the 109 lives lost to gun violence every day.

              The picture above doesn’t do the orange lighting of the cathedral justice, and obviously my website doesn’t have sound. So if you want to experience the manner in which the National Cathedral is going to mark the Wear Orange days, you have to come down to Wisconsin Avenue on Friday before 8 P.M.

              I have said again and again that, with all due respect to laws, regulations, blah, blah, blah and blah, the only way we will achieve a real and meaningful preventive response to gun violence will be when we change the culture which promotes and often glorifies guns. The National Cathedral is a religious institution but it also is a repository for our country’s history and culture, given that it is often called the ‘national house of prayer.’

              If you have a chance, go down to the Cathedral on Friday night and help them promote a national culture free from the threat posed by guns.

Do We Understand Gun Violence?

              Our friends at the Violence Policy Center (VPC) have just released a detailed report on Black homicide in 2016, which shows an overall increase from 2015 of roughly 10 percent.  The 2015 homicide rate for Blacks was 15 percent above 2014,  but the 2017 rate actually shows a slight decline from 2016.  According to the report, guns were the instrument of choice in 84 percent of all Black homicide events, whereas guns were used in 74 percent of all homicides, regardless of race.

              This report is based on a special collection of state-level data held by the FBI and referred to as the Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR.) The numbers confirm what we have always known about homicide, namely, that it occurs with much greater frequency among the African-American population than within the national population as a whole. In fact, the frequency is four times as great. 

              Unfortunately, while the SHR contains some interesting data on the some of the specific contexts in which Black homicide occurs, the FBI report may, in fact, significantly understate the number of Black homicides, both for events with and without the use of guns.  The VPC says that there were 7,756 Black homicide victims in 2016, of which 6,505 (87%) were killed with guns. The CDC, on the other hand, sets 2016 Black homicide for the entire country at 9,995, with 8,434 (84%) struck down with guns.

              How can two public agencies, both important (indeed essential) stakeholders in homicide, come up with numbers that differ by almost 25 percent?  After all, a dead body isn’t like a cut or a bruise where the patient may or may not want to tell either the doctors or the cops exactly what produced the wound. And while coroners make mistakes and sometimes data just doesn’t end up in the right place, the gap between FBI and CDC homicide reportage is simply too great to be ignored.

              Along with this fundamental discrepancy in the overall numbers themselves, the fact that the VPC report is based on homicides aggregated at the state level leaves us wondering about another major issue, namely, why some inner-city communities appear to have greater-than-average gun homicide numbers and other inner-city communities don’t. For example, the report lists Pennsylvania as the 10th highest state for homicide rates. But in 2016, Philadelphia County had a homicide rate of 18.4, Allegheny County, which is Pittsburgh, had a homicide rate of 8.7.  Meanwhile, the median household income in Philadelphia was $40,649, the median income in Pittsburgh was $56,333, and the poverty rate in Philadelphia was 25.3%, in Pittsburgh it was 11.3%. 

              Do these demographics explain the difference in homicides between the two cities, which between them counted more than half the 2016 Pennsylvania homicides as a whole?  Maybe yes, maybe no. The point is that the moment you aggregate state-level data to give us numbers on who killed who, or what kind of weapons were used, or whether the killing took place in the home or in the street, you lose the ability to really understand why certain kinds of people commit gun violence when most people with the same personal backgrounds and living in the same neighborhoods don’t settle violent arguments by picking up a gun.

              In Philadelphia, there were more than 23,000 felony assaults committed in 2016. There were 288 murders that year and 1,088 shootings where the victim didn’t die.  In other words, when someone wanted to really hurt someone else in the City of Brotherly Love, only six percent of those attacks involved the use of a gun. You can’t tell me that the other 22,000 people who committed a serious assault in Philadelphia couldn’t get their hands on a gun.

              The VPC report concludes with this sobering remark: “For the year 2016, blacks represented 13 percent of the nation’s population, yet accounted for 51 percent of all homicide victims.”  What’s even more sobering is the fact that as bad as the numbers are, we still don’t know why those shootings occur.