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.

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.

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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.

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Guns.

              Back in February, representatives of more than 40 medical groups got together in Chicago, spent a weekend gabbing and chowing down, and then put together a list of strategies to deal with gun violence: research, safe-storage, universal background checks, more licensing, blah, blah, blah and blah. Then in April,  group of well-meaning gun-control activists got together in Denver, spent a weekend chowing down and gabbing and then basically produced the same list. This week, the Democrats held their first debate for some of the 2020 hopefuls, and taken together, they also said more or less the same thing about gun violence.

              I may be missing something, or maybe I’m just an old, dumb gun nut, but I really don’t understand how one discussion about ending gun violence follows on another without any of them mentioning what really needs to be done. And what really needs to be done, which happens to be what has worked whenever we have regulated any consumer product to reduce injuries suffered from when it is used, is to regulate the industry which makes and sells the product. But somehow, when it comes to dealing with injuries caused by a particular consumer product called a gun, the gun industry always seems to escape any regulation at all.

              You say – wait a minute! We can’t regulate the gun industry; they’re protected by the infamous PLCAA law which keeps gun makers from being sued.  Wrong. The PLCAA law protects gun makers from being sued based on the behavior of people who use their products, which isn’t the same thing as how the products are made and sold. Want to get rid of gun violence? Do what Bill Clinton tried to do back in 1999, come up with a plan that gets rid of the guns.

              I am referring to the plan that was put together by then-HEW Secretary Andy Cuomo which imposed regulations on the industry to monitor and regulate itself at the initial point of sale. Had a few votes not disappeared in Palm Beach County, had Al Gore gone to live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue instead of George Bush, this plan would probably have been imposed on every gun maker (it was briefly adopted by Smith & Wesson, resulting in the company’s temporary collapse) and the gun industry would have quickly followed the dodo bird into extinction, just like that.

              This plan required every gun maker to impose and monitor specific sales practices on every retailer who sold just one gun bearing that company’s name. Such dealers would be required to conduct fitness interviews with prospective customers before selling them a gun; install better security equipment, hire more qualified sales personnel, attend classes on gun laws, on and on and on. The gun companies would have to visit every, single dealer selling their products, fill out compliance reports which would then be submitted to some government agency to be reviewed and approved.

              There is not a single gun company which could ever come up with the resources to monitor the more than 5,000 licensed dealers who sell their guns. What the industry would be forced to do is consolidate supply to a few big-box store chains like Cabela’s and Bass Pro, with the result that most of the friendly, local gun shops which sell 90 percent of all guns would disappear.

              The gun industry fought and prevailed against this plan because they knew that if it had been implemented industry-wide, the gun business would come to an end. No gun business, no guns. No guns, no gun violence.  The problem with the plans to reduce gun violence produced by all the gun-control groups, medical associations and Presidential wannabees, is they don’t understand the gun business at all. What they do understand are the emotions and feelings of the people who want an end to gun violence but that’s not the same thing.

              I keep saying it again and again but repetition is the key to good learning so I’ll say it again: Want to get rid of gun violence? Get rid of the guns.  

Are Democrats Afraid Of Gun Control? Not Any More.

              Last night’s Democratic Presidential debate had to register joyous excitement within the ranks of Gun-control Nation because the candidates spent 15 minutes trotting out their various ideas about how to reduce violence caused by guns. Remember when gun control was verboten as a campaign issue on the Democratic side?  Ain’t true no more, that’s for sure.

              Booker rolled out his plan for national gun licensing, Warren admitted to voting for an assault-rifle ban, Castro said he had no problem with some gun buybacks, on and on. Where they all come down on the same side, however, is restoring CDC gun-research funding, an item that has been stripped from the CDC budget every year since 1997, but which this year has been stuck back into the House version of the budget to the tune of $50 mil.

              Before I say what I am about to say, let me make it perfectly clear that I have no problem with research being done on any health issue, particularly an issue which results in more than 125,000 fatal and non-fatal injuries every year. But let me also make it clear that while my Ph.D. research was on economic history, not gun violence, I know a little bit about the requirements for conducting academic research, and certain requirements remain true whether the research covers gun violence or the 16th-century origins of capitalism, which happened to be my field.

              Those requirements include the following: (1). The data used for the research must be valid and must be directly relevant to the topic at hand; (2). The problem being solved must be defined by its importance to the specific field of inquiry, not by whether data exists which can be properly used.  Unfortunately, much of the research which comes out of the public health research community on gun violence doesn’t meet either of those requirements, and this is not because there hasn’t been enough research money to go around.

              Public health gun researchers love to talk about their work as a contribution to the ‘epidemiology’ of gun violence, you can find this nomenclature in the work of leading gun-violence scholars here. Now I always thought that the term ‘epidemiology’ means that one identifies a threat to health, figures out how it spreads from host to host, and then figures out how to immunize or protect the not-yet-infected population from contracting the disease. But in the case of gun violence, the disease doesn’t spread from victim to victim, the disease is caused because someone picks up a gun and shoots themselves or someone else. And we can’t study this population because either they are not about to admit what they have done, or in the case of suicide, they happen to be dead. That’s a big problem with guns. The rate of fatal injury is much higher than what happens if you fall off your bike.

              Virtually all the gun-violence research published since the CDC ban took effect is based either on CDC injury data which covers the victims of gun violence who do not play a primary role in the spread of this disease, or is based on telephone surveys which, by definition, exclude participation by the shooters themselves.  Does it really matter that most gun owners support background checks for secondary gun transfers when these same gun owners have little, if any direct responsibility for the violence caused by guns?   Our friend Philip Cook interviewed an incarcerated population about how and why they carried guns, but he wasn’t about to ask them to explain the circumstances in which they actually used a gun.

              I hope CDC gun research starts up again so that my friends in the gun research community receive the financial resources they deserve. If they do, then they need to figure out how and why less than five percent of the people who commit violent assaults each year use a gun. And that’s not going to change no matter how many laws we pass to regulate the behavior of law-abiding folks who own guns.

How Did NRA-TV Get Undone?

              Poor Dana Loesch. America’s home school queen and one of the country’s foremost practitioners of the art of armed, self-defense, all of a sudden finds herself unemployed. For that matter, she’ll be lining up for unemployment benefits with all the other media luminaries who have spent the last few years gracing the digital portals of NRA-TV, because NRA-TV is finished and dead.

              Of course you can watch some reruns any time you want and see Colion Noir prancing around some shooting range or Grant Stinchfield bemoaning the continued downward slide of America into a socialist mess. You can even find some old videos starring Oliver North pretending to kn ow something about guns. Remember him?

              Until all the sturm und drang broke out between the boys in Fairfax and their advertising agency, Ackerman-McQueen, I didn’t know that Dana wasn’t employed by the NRA.  The press release that came from Wayne LaPierre defined her role like this: “Dana Loesch, the conservative leader, online pioneer and nationally syndicated radio host, will serve as a major national spokesperson for the National Rifle Association. NRA Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre named Loesch as a Special Assistant to his office for Public Communication, with direct attributable authority on NRA matters.”

              Now this statement doesn’t actually say that her salary was being paid by the NRA. But it was obviously written to give that impression, okay?  And this impression, it turns out, was a lie. Because Dana and all the other talking heads on NRA-TV were employees of Ackerman-McQueen, which happens to be suing the NRA to recover the monies they need to compensate these employees for acting jobs which will now not get done.

              All of this raises an interesting question about the past relationship between the NRA and Ackerman-McQueen, namely, which organization was the dog and which was the tail. Did the video messaging reflect what the NRA leadership wanted its members to see and hear, or was the content of NRA-TV determined by what the folks at Ackerman-McQueen thought was the best way to sell the NRA?  The answer to this question isn’t just an issue of nuance because either the membership belongs to an organization which controls its own affairs, or the organization itself has become a subsidiary to an advertising agency who viewed America’s ‘first civil-rights organization’ as just another product to be marketed and sold.

              Either way, some of the information coming out from this imbroglio makes me begin to think that maybe, just maybe the boys in Fairfax may be hanging onto the ropes.  Last week I mentioned that monthly visits to the NRA-TV website had dropped from 370,000 in February to 210,000 in May, a decline in viewership of nearly 50 percent. But an even more ominous statistic is that the number of unique visitors to the video channel in January was only 49,000; in other words, NRA-TV hasn’t even been attracting one percent of the organization’s membership – a pretty pathetic state of affairs.

              The NRA has always presented itself as the only group out there which stands between law-abiding gun owners and the anti-gun hordes. And whenever the hordes put one of their own into the White House, the NRA ramps up its messaging to underscore the ‘threat’ to our 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ But that’s a pretty tough sell when, to everyone’s astonishment, the tenant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue turned out to be a guy who basically ran an entire national campaign on his love of guns. And when this guy turns around and invites Wayne-o to the White House for the Easter Egg hunt, it gets pretty hard to convince anyone that their guns are about to be taken away.

              It’s been more than forty years since the NRA stopped promoting sports shooting and  began pushing a more extreme messaging which became the staple content for NRA-TV. But maybe this  reflected the degree to which the NRA had become the tail wagged by a dog named Ackerman-McQueen. To quote Queen Elizabeth and Tony Montana: “Every dog has his day.”

What Doctors Don’t Know About Guns Could Kill You – Part 1.

              Back in February, representatives from 44 ‘major’ medical organizations came to Chicago to hold a ‘summit meeting’ on gun violence. Four years previously, eight of these same organizations published a ‘Call to Action’ on the same topic. Obviously, the medical community’s concern about how to deal with what they refer to as a ‘public health’ issue resulting in 125,000 or more fatal and non-fatal injuries every year has reached a fever pitch.

              FolIowing the February conference, the group published a Magna Carta to define what physicians and public health specialists need to do about guns. Having now read this entire epistle, along with most of the 80 research papers on which it is largely based, I happen to believe that this approach is taking the medical community down the wrong path. While the programmatic and research efforts recommended by the summit participants may help some of them burnish their CV’s or perhaps get them interviewed on the Ambulance Driver or one of the other medical blogs, I don’t believe that any of the recommendations contained in this document will result in a substantive decline in gun violence at all.

              The paper begins by offering a very novel revision of what its authors believe to be the basic reason why gun deaths, as opposed to deaths from traffic deaths, heart disease, cancer and HIV haven’t declined, which is because gun injuries have been treated not as a medical but as a political problem. Many of the earlier medical efforts were “mired in a debate about personal liberty and the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.” Instead of this dead-end strategy, the Summit wants “research agendas to understand and address root causes of violence,” an approach which “mirrors the public health model that has been so effective in improving outcomes in traffic-related injury.”

              Over the next several weeks, I am going to devote a number of columns to the specific research agendas and programs advocated by this Summit. I am going to make a point of sending those columns, as well as this column, to the authors of this document asking them to reply.  What is unique about gun-violence research, as opposed to research in other medical fields, is the remarkable paucity of public discussion and debate within the research community itself. This document, for example, references 80 peer-reviewed articles but I do not believe that the findings or the data of any one of those articles was ever challenged in print.  Are we all so completely correct in our work?

              Unfortunately, understanding and addressing the ‘root causes’ of violence is simply not the same thing as understanding and addressing the root causes of gun violence, a distinction which the authors of this piece don’t acknowledge or attempt to explain. On a yearly basis, somewhere around two million individuals suffer violent attacks. A significant number (i.e., most) of these victims exhibit the same socio-economic status, family backgrounds and personal histories as the less than 5 percent whose injuries are caused by guns. So the issue here isn’t violence per se; it’s a very specific type of violence that needs to be understood on its own terms.

              A bigger problem involves the belief that the public health model for understanding and responding to automobile injuries can be just as effective when the model applies to guns. This is wishful thinking to the nth degree. It simply flies in the face of reality because cars aren’t designed to do the one and only thing which guns are designed to do, namely, to kill yourself or somebody else. If your car smashes into someone and they die, you weren’t driving the way you’re supposed to drive. If you pull out your Glock and blow the guy’s head off, the gun is being used exactly the way it’s supposed to be used.

              How do you design a valid research agenda about a threat to public health when the threat is so poorly defined? I’ll continue this next week while I await any replies from the authors of this piece.

Want To Make A Million In The Gun Business? Start With Two Million.

              Everyone in Gun-control Nation is exulting over the latest news about how the NRA is in a state of free-fall collapse. But there was another piece of gun news which is far more important in terms of what it says about the future of America’s love affair with guns that gun-control advocates and noisemakers completely missed.

              I am referring to news out of South Carolina that a company named Ellett Bros., has filed for bankruptcy, an event hardly making a ripple in Gun-control Nation, but I can guarantee you was of great importance to the gun industry itself. This is because Ellett’s happens to be, or happens to have been, one of the largest gun wholesalers in the United States, and if you are or were a retail gun dealer, sooner or later you bought something from the sweet ‘thangs’ salesgirls who used to answer the Ellett phones.

              I visited Ellett’s back in 1976. As a certified gun nut, going to Ellett’s was the equivalent of a Muslim making the pilgrimage to Mecca during Holy Week. You could stand at the end of a big room and watch all the women busily taking orders and whispering sweet nothings into their customer’s ears, or you could glimpse inside the warehouse and see thousands of guns stacked up just waiting to be shipped. You might even get an opportunity to shake hands with one of the Ellett family members himself!

              What made the Ellett operation so successful back in the day was that it was the only gun wholesaler whose inventory basically contained not only every, single gun that was being made, but you might also be able to buy parts for old guns that needed to be repaired. For those of my readers who don’t know anything about the gun business, which happens to be most of my readers, always bear in mind that guns don’t wear out. So just about every guy who comes into a gun shop sooner or later needs a new part for an old gun. And who carried all those parts?  Ellett’s, that’s who.

              In addition to an enormous inventory, Ellett’s also pioneered telephone marketing at a time when most of the other gun wholesalers were still relying on catalog sales. This direct-sales approach, along with an annual dealer’s show which drew just about every retailer in the Southeast, made Ellett’s the powerhouse wholesale operation for much of the country east of the Mississippi River, particularly when they acquired another wholesale house, Jerry’s Outdoor Sports, which catered primarily to retailers in the Northeast.

              So what happened to bring about the collapse of Ellett’s at a time when, thanks to Obama, the gun business had enjoyed its best sales years of all time? To begin with, nobody in the gun business believed that Sleazy Don was going to move into the White House in 2017, which meant that Ellett’s, along with everyone else in the distribution chain, loaded up inventory anticipating that Hillary’s election would prolong and even increase the demand for guns which occurred during the Obama ‘regime.’

              The other problem in the gun business is that the distribution system is regulated end-to-end because of licensing requirements, which means you just can’t dump unsold inventory into a job-lot retailer or maybe ship the stuff overseas. The moment that gun owners stop coming into retail stores to buy more guns, and it’s always the same people who keep buying guns again and again, the retail inventory backs up, the wholesale inventory doesn’t ship out and someone gets stuck with the unsold load.

              Not only did Ellett’s bet the wrong way in 2016, but so did everyone else. Another major wholesaler, Accu-Sport, filed Chapter 11 last year, which means that the unsold inventory of two major distributors is available at rock-bottom prices. Which means that if you want to make a million in the gun business, now you have to start not with two million but with three.

Will The NRA Survive?

              I have been reluctant to join my many friends in Gun-control Nation who have been exulting in the possible demise of the NRA because as a long-time member (I joined America’s ‘first civil rights-organization’ in 1955) I see the gun group from two very different perspectives. On the one hand, it has become a major political and PR force, using its money and influence to maintain a very public presence in and out of the government-lobbying ‘swamp’ in Washington, D.C.  On the other hand, it continues to be an important social and cultural grass-roots circle for gun owners and gun enthusiasts (read: hobbyists) in hundreds of local communities throughout the fifty states.

              On the political front, I always thought the NRA‘s decision to get into bed with Sleazy Don was a mistake. By cozying up to him so early in the 2016 campaign, the NRA was hitching its wagon to someone who was going to force them not only to support a very radical messaging narrative, but also require a complete and abrupt messaging turnaround from the previous eight years. The NRA was always comfortable demonizing liberals like Obama, but how do you maintain even a shred of credibility when you try to justify the AR-15’s that the dopes were carrying at Charlottesville, particularly the dopes representing the Nazis and the KKK?

              Of course the NRA was going to endorse Trump, they always endorse the Republican candidate, but the endorsement has usually been near the end of the Presidential campaign when it doesn’t really count for all that much. This time around, it was almost as if the NRA‘s ad agency, Ackerman-McQueen, was actually working for the Trump campaign, given the extreme messaging of noisemakers like Dana Loesch who, it turns out, was an employee of the ad agency and not, as it was claimed, working for the NRA.

              Meanwhile, the attempt by NRA to become a media presence through its video channel, NRA-TV, appears to be collapsing alongside the crumbling of the organization itself. Since February, monthly visits to the website have dropped from 370,000 to 200,000, with the decline since the April meeting a startling 35 percent! There is simply no way that this trend can continue much longer without severe repercussions for both Ackerman-McQueen and the NRA.

              On the other hand, the less-noticed but more fundamental activity of the NRA continues to grow and expand. I am referring to the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any lessening of interest and activity on the weekend gun show circuit, with estimates for yearly shows running between 2,000 and 5,000 events, each of which usually attracts at least 5,000 gun nuts who will stroll past the NRA booth which is present at just about every show. Between now and mid-October, Friends of the NRA will be holding 8 social events just within 70 miles of where I live. If I lived in Baltimore, MD I could easily get to 10 weekend NRA events over the same three months. In Georgia, I can go to five events just in July and August alone. At every event there’s some good bar-b-que to eat, a gun raffle, you sit around and shoot the you-know-what with your gun nut friends.

              When it comes to this kind of activity, Gun-control Nation can’t begin to compete with the NRA. And this isn’t just a function of a long-time organizing effort, it also reflects the degree to which many gun owners define their social behavior around their ownership of guns.

              What seems to have happened over the last several years is a clear disconnect between the behavior of the NRA as defined by the leadership of the home office, as opposed to the way the organization relates to its membership in the field. Not to worry, because If the current fight between the NRA and its ad agency results in the collapse of the Fairfax operation, somebody will figure out how to capture and maintain the enthusiasm of all us nuts who really love our guns.    

A Great Gun Story From Joyce Carol Oates

If you want to read a remarkable piece of writing which really captures what guns are all about, see if you can pick up a collection of stories by Joyce Carol Oates, Faithless, and read ‘Gunlove,’ which I read again last night. If there’s another piece of fiction out there which brought home to me why guns are such a problematic issue in American life, I haven’t seen it yet. And when all is really said and done, the ability of someone with this writer’s remarkable talents to capture the most profound dimensions of what guns represent, goes far beyond what we get from even the most authoritative scholarly research.

The story is narrated in first-person by a young woman who is recalling certain events and people over the course of her life, all of which involve the use of guns. A gun is brandished, a guns is used for self-defense, a gun is played with, a gun is taken to a shooting range, a gun is carried around for protection, a gun figures in a suicide or maybe it was an accident. In other words, every vignette which together creates the story’s text, gives us a quick portrait of all the different ways that Americans think about using guns.

And then there are the guns themselves, described and even named: Bauer 25-caliber pocket pistol, 12-gauge Remington shotgun, a Saturday-night special Arcadia, a Colt 45-caliber Army gun, a Winchester 22-caliber rifle, a Sterling pistol, a 44-magnum, a Colt Detective Special, even a Glock! And the fact that the Glock is actually an AMT pistol makes the whole thing even better because the ditz-brain narrator of this story, who spent her college years at Vassar continuously stoned and/or high, really didn’t know one gun from another. Which is exactly the point. It doesn’t really matter which gun is which.

These guns float through the life of the story’s narrator in the same quick and easy way that her relatives, friends and lovers come and go. At one point, she appears to be getting serious about shooting – goes to a shooting range in Staten Island but finds it difficult to actually pull the trigger and hit the target downrange. On the other hand, she has no trouble buying at last four different oils and cleaning fluids, cleaning patches and rags, various gunsmith tools and other crap. She easily spends a hundred bucks or more on this stuff, takes it back to her apartment, but never actually cleans her gun. She’s the type of customer that the gun business loves.

At the end of the story, she meets up with a sometime lover who gives her a remembrance gift because after a final embrace (in the middle of Central Park, no less) he’s evidently going to clear out of town. She goes back to her apartment, unwraps the package and of course it’s a gun – a 9mm Glock. She thinks for a minute about possibly giving it up but she can’t. She ‘loves’ her gun.

Of course the gun which she loves isn’t a Glock at all. She describes it as having a stainless steel frame but Glock never produced any guns except with polymer frames. So she has absolutely no idea what she is talking about but she’ll never get rid of this gun. Perfect.

By the end of this story, what you come to understand is that this ditz-brain has absolutely no idea why she loves her guns. But one reason for her obsessive gun infatuation which is never mentioned is any concern for her 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ She couldn’t care less about the 2nd Amendment.

And here’s the dirty, little secret about guns: Nobody else cares about the 2nd Amendment. Gun owners will tell you in no uncertain terms that they support the 2nd Amendment because otherwise they might have to admit that their decision to own this lethal consumer product has nothing to do with any kind of reality or necessity at all. They love their guns because guns are fun. And if you don’t believe me, just read this penetrating story by Joyce Carol Oates.

Download and read the story here.

Does PTP Reduce Gun Violence? The Jury’s Still Out.

              All of a sudden, two of the blue-team candidates, Cory and Pete, are talking about something which has never been even so much as whispered in a national political campaign, namely, a federal gun licensing system. This is kind of like a driver’s license for gun ownership, except in this case the license will be issued by the feds. It’s still something of a halfway house, because such a procedure wouldn’t require gun owners to register their guns. On the other hand, if you combine national gun licensing with universal background checks (UCB) you’re almost there. Not quite, but at least almost.

               All of this new-found political concern about gun violence should be a sweet tune to the ears of gun-control advocates and advocacy groups, but I’m not so sure. In fact, in the process of moving from being marginal to central in the gun debate compared to the ‘other’ side, there’s a good chance that this transition may provoke splits and arguments within the gun-control movement itself. After all, when nobody’s listening, it doesn’t really matter whether this group agrees with that group. But when every gun-control group now finds itself being heard and can use its new-found voice to grow its influence and organizational strength, all of a sudden the last thing you want to do is sound like everyone else.

              Last week our friends at Everytown announced they were sending a questionnaire to all Presidential candidates asking them where they stand on 18 different gun issues: background checks, assault weapon bans, the usual gun-control things. One of the questions they did not ask was where candidates stood on pre-purchase gun licensing, which is known as permit-to-purchase, i.e., PTP. The reason this question wasn’t on the Everytown list is because, according to John Feinblatt who runs Everytown, PTP procedures, including Corey’s idea for a national licensing system, “has not been fully researched and proven to have public support.”  This statement immediately drew criticism from some self-appointed gun experts in the gun-control community, who are now lining up behind a PTP law that was recently introduced.

              Except there’s only one little problem with the gun-control activists who think they can support PTP to increase their own presence while taking Everytown down a peg or two.  When it comes to whether or not PTP‘s value has been shown true through evidence-based research, Feinblatt’s hesitation happens to be correct.  The PTP procedures haven’t been fully researched, partly because the definition of PTP happens to differ significantly from state to state.  In New Jersey, every separate purchase of a handgun requires approval from the cops. In Connecticut, you get one license from the state police whether you buy a gun or not. The fact that Connecticut’s homicide rate is lower than other comparable states without a PTP process doesn’t mean the difference is due to PTP. Possible? Yes. Definitive? Absolutely no. At least not yet.

              The PTP bill just filed by Congressman Raskin (D-MD) authorizes the Department of Justice to make grants to states that enact some kind of PTP law which will only allow handguns to be purchased if the applicant passes a background check with fingerprints and is 21 years or older. The bill, however, does not require any licensing authority to determine whether the applicant really needs to own a handgun, the whole point of PTP being that the cops should get to decide the fitness of handgun owners based on something more than whether they can pass a background check.

              Before gun-control advocates jump on the PTP bandwagon, they might take the trouble to understand how PTP laws work and don’t work. On the other hand, making your voice louder in any advocacy community doesn’t necessarily require that what you say bears any relationship to the truth. If you yell loud enough, someone will respond and join your parade. Trump proves that one true every day.