Khalil Spencer – What We Should Be Saying About Gun Violence.

Someone tell me how this (figure 1) would stop a mass shooter bursting into a church in a surprise attack using an AR, or taking aim at a crowd with a bump stock equipped rifle at 300 yards from the twenty something floor? The best one could hope for would be an armed person who took self defense seriously and trained for a close encounter of the wrong kind, available to exchange fire at relatively close range. And who had some warning rather than being caught flat footed.

spencer

Surprise attacks, such as those in Dallas, Sutherland, or Las Vegas, work. Recall that armed to the teeth as it was, we lost most of the Pacific Fleet and air force on 12-7-1941, as it was caught unawares. By the time what little was left of our military got its guns in the air, the Japanese lost 29 airplanes and a minisub in return. Like the recent Sutherland slaughter, this was not exactly a fair exchange.

So any semblance of rational discourse seems to be missing in action as Congress debates H.R. 38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017. I seriously doubt this bill, if passed, will significantly impact crime rates. Sure, if you convince more people to pack, some fraction will be idiots who will mishandle guns. Some guns will be stolen and diverted to crime, or once in a while used in error. But CHL holders per se are not the problem as they are not going to commit crimes; statistically, they are good bets to not do so. Crime is driven by motive and opportunity.

The major problem with firearms availability is that 300-plus million guns in the nation means some are available to disgruntled spouses, fired employees, meth heads, career criminals, and those left MIA by the American Dream who decide on do-it-yourself brain surgery. Last if not least, ARs that are freely available and owned by that occasional law abiding citizen inexplicably turned lunatic. So by convincing more of us that we need guns for self-defense, we ensure that more guns are available to fall into the wrong hands, either because the right hands become the wrong hands or because the right hands leave the little bangers laying around for wrong hands to pick up. As the police are saying in Albuquerque, criminal access to guns means that crime becomes more dangerous. Meanwhile, if that bill becomes law as written, anyone with the price of a pocket cannon and who can pass muster on their 4473 will be encouraged to slip the little banger into their coat pocket and take on God knows what with no training or idea what they are doing. As Charles Clymer says, this is not a good scenerio.

What the Gun Violence Prevention Community needs to do is convince people that society doesn’t need to be armed to the teeth; there has to be a better, more effective way to ensure domestic tranquility. By attacking all gun owners as statistical loose cannons, the GVP rhetoric pisses off gun people and digs that damn rhetorical moat deeper. Conversely, the NRA’s suggesting that strapping one on will make the world safer and more polite is equally devoid of facts. An armed society is…simply…an armed society. And with Dana Loesch acting as spokesperson, the NRA is certainly not creating a polite one. But as long as the thesis that being armed as a rational and effective response to the world is not challenged, some people will want to be armed. Especially after reading that cities like Albuquerque are breaking records in homicides and the police force is understaffed.

One has to convince people that an Edsel is an Edsel and not a Toyota. Or you have lost the argument. Everyone wants a Toyota. Only collectors want an Edsel.

Advertisements

Dave Buchannon – Why I Teach Gun Safety.

 

Don’t hate me, I teach people about guns.  More specifically I teach a state certified firearms safety course to people from all walks of life who want to own firearms legally and lawfully.  And I hope you won’t be offended, but the battle to protect “our Second Amendment rights”, politics, or gun violence prevention are not part of the curriculum – nor do I write about them.  Safety and responsible gun ownership are the primary rubric for this course, which everyone must take before applying for a License to Carry (LTC).

trainingIronically, in a state with some of the toughest gun laws in the country, students can pass the required safety course, get their LTC, buy a gun and walk around with it without ever having fired a single round.  Not in my class, where you have to fire five rounds at a target and I’m less concerned about your score than I am that you get a sense of what it feels like to actually establish a solid grip and stance, point the gun correctly, and pull the trigger to make it go BANG!  The sights, sounds, and smells aren’t for everyone, and that’s just fine.  But if you’re thinking of getting a gun, you need to know it feels like to shoot one.  A small handful of students have fired the first shot and put the gun down because they didn’t like it.  They didn’t like it one bit, and that’s okay.  At least they know what it feels like.

I teach, because I enjoy sharing my interest in guns with other people, especially those who are interested but haven’t been exposed to them.  On the other hand, I’ve been interested in guns since childhood – the first book I ever borrowed from my elementary school library was “Guns of the American West.”  Imagine that, a GUN book in a school library being checked-out to a second grader!  My father hunted with an old lever-action rifle but that and a snub-nosed 38 special were the only guns in the house until I got my Daisy BB gun on my 11th Christmas.  Despite being so sick I could barely get out of bed on Christmas morning I spent the next three days launching a whole milk carton full BB’s at a makeshift target set up in our garage.

Ten years later I was on the range in the Police Academy, for forty hours of extremely intense training and scoring.  What might sound like a lot of fun was really five days of grueling  work – ah, who am I kidding… it was a blast!  A ton of serious information that emphasized responsibility, skill building, instantaneous decision-making, focus, control, and responsibility, but it was also a lot of fun.  Yes, I did write “responsibility” twice, on purpose, because the responsibility for every round fired was emphasized constantly.  I still carry those lessons with me to this day, and I teach in hopes that every student leaves the classroom with a tiny sense of that same responsibility I felt after range week.

I also teach gun safety because a close friend of mine in junior high school accidentally shot his older brother while playing with the revolver their mother kept hidden in her nightstand.  The older brother died, the younger was horribly affected and lived a life haunted by that event.

I do not teach gun safety for the money, I worry a little bit about those who do.  Building a teaching practice sufficient to replace day-job income requires creating a sense of need. You “need” this training because it’s a dangerous world where attackers are lurking behind every tree and hiding around every corner.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Statistic after statistic and study after study have proven that you have a better chance of winning the lottery than having to defend yourself with a gun against a violent crime.  Want to protect yourself from a home invasion?  Don’t become a drug dealer… simple as that.  I cannot name a single time in 30 years when I needed to defend myself against violent attack, but if you think you’ll be safer with a gun, learn everything you can about the gun, and more importantly, the law.

I teach because I really enjoy teaching, and I really enjoy guns.

Be of good cheer!

What Should We Do About The National Concealed-Carry Bill?

Now that H.R. 38, the national concealed-carry (CCW) bill, has come out of a House committee and appears headed for a positive vote on the floor, let’s put all the yelling and shouting aside and discuss what this law will and won’t do.  The NRA has been pushing national CCW reciprocity since Senator Larry Craig introduced the first measure in 1997 before he was found groping beneath the public toilet stall, and for the first time the bill may get the necessary votes in both chambers to be sent up to the Oval Office for a signing ceremony organized by Herr Goebbels – oops! – I mean Trump.

CCW1The bill basically says that anyone with a CCW license from their state of residence, or a legal gun owner in a state which does not require specific CCW licensing, can carry a gun with them as they move anywhere within the United States. Incidentally, if this bill is signed into law, it will immediately put to rest a whole scam industry known as ‘non-resident’ concealed-carry licensing which creates revenue for gun trainers and public treasuries in states that offer CCW to residents of other states. On the other hand, this bill doesn’t quite open the floodgates to a horde of legal concealed-carrying killers moving from state to state. And here are the reasons why.

First, the bill does not open gun-free zones in any state to non-residents carrying guns. In other words, if you own or manage a property and have decided that guns aren’t allowed, this decision cannot be challenged by anyone just because they happen to be walking around armed. More important, the law does not challenge a 4th Circuit decision handed down this past January, which affirmed the conviction of a West Virginia resident who was searched after the cops got a tip that he was carrying a gun and decided that he was therefore ‘armed and dangerous’ even though state law did not prohibit him from carrying a gun.

The conviction was upheld because the Court ruled that the police had ‘probable cause’ to conduct a search which then resulted in an arrest.  And what was the probable cause? It was, according to the Court, the fact that even if the armed individual was carrying a legal gun, there was still the possibility that being armed made this person dangerous as well.  The national CCW bill does contain language that imposes sanctions on any local or state government which arrests someone whose carrying of a gun doesn’t conform with concealed-carry laws in the non-resident state, but it also clearly suspends the right of non-resident CCW in cases of ‘probable cause.’

Right now it’s estimated that 14 million Americans possess a license which allows them to walk around their state of residence with a gun. There are also 12 states which have some form of ‘constitutional carry,’ which means no special permit is required in order to walk around armed.  These states probably have about 10 million adults, and if we assume a per-capita gun ownership in these states at or above 50%, this means that altogether maybe 20 million legal gun owners will be able to move with a concealed weapon from state to state. Perhaps one out of five gun owners actually walks around with a concealed gun; my own experience is that the ratio is closer to one out of 10.  Either way, opening up every state to CCW-carriers from other states won’t result in a tidal wave of armed travelers crossing state lines.

The problem with H.R. 38 is not that it will unleash a horde of CCW-killers going from state to state. Rather, the bill reinforces the mistaken notion that guns are an effective and necessary device to protect society from crime. This is a view now held by a majority of Americans, gun owners or not. The GVP movement needs to confront this issue head on, not by simply trying to keep people from walking around with a gun.

 

Don’t Just Fix NICS, Fix The ATF.

Every time rational and realistic folks try to expand background checks to secondary transfers or sales, the Congressional NRA Caucus jumps up and says,’before we change anything in the NICS system, we need to fix what currently exists.’ Which for a long time was convenient dodge to prevent any expansion of background checks at all. But after it came out that the Sutherland Springs shooter was able to legally buy guns because the Air Force never notified NICS that the guy served stockade-time for beating up his wife, the fix-NICS bandwagon has started rolling along, pushed in part by Senator Tom Cornyn, who happens to be one of the NRA’s best friends.

ATF logoNow it appears that the sudden concern about fixing NICS on the part of the NRA congressional delegation has morphed itself into a bill that will also let every red-blooded American walk around from here to high heaven carrying a gun. I suspect this national concealed-carry will die a natural death when it reaches the Senate, ditto any change in NICS. But if and when some NICS fix actually takes place, I’m hoping that my friends in the gun violence prevention (GVP) community will put some pressure on Congress to fix not just who has to send data to the FBI call center, but how the ATF uses the NICS system as well. Because it really doesn’t matter how much data we stick into the NICS system if the regulatory agency which allegedly uses that data to deal with gun violence doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do.

For 50 years the ATF has been saying that their hands are ‘tied’ because they can only get information from the initial transfer of a gun. Which means that once a gun leaves the shop after the purchaser passes a NICS background check, the ATF can’t figure out what happened between the time the gun was first purchased and when it was picked up in a crime. And since the average time between the initial transfer and when a gun is picked up at a crime scene is more than 10 years (what the ATF calls Time To Crime or TTC) God knows who owned the gun or how it got from a gun shop to where it was used in the commission of a crime.

There’s only one little problem with this scenario – it’s not true.  When the ATF says it can only look at the information which tells them who first bought the gun, they are simply lying, which means they know something to be true and consciously choose to say something else. Why is the ATF lying? Because if you walk into the average gun shop, you’ll discover that 30% to 40% of the inventory consists of used guns. I know a retail dealer whose shops is 10 miles from my shop. He only sells consignment guns; his entire inventory doesn’t cost him one red cent. Which means that every gun he sells has been sold over the counter at least one other time, and it’s not unusual for a gun to come in and out of a gun shop multiple times.

Here’s the point: every time a used gun comes back to a gun shop and is sold to someone else, the dealer creates two records of the gun’s in-and-out movement in documentation which is owned by the ATF.  That’s right – I have to keep an up-to-date listing of each gun in my Acquisition and Disposition list, and when the gun is sold I also have to create a maintain the background check form known as the Form 4473. The ATF can come into my shop at any time without any notice at all and inspect every, single entry in the A&D book as well as every 4473 form.

Could the ATF ask me to look up the particulars on any gun whether I sold it once or multiple times? Of course they can but they don’t because, after all, why put everyone through the hassle of looking up a gun transaction when you’re not sure of when that transaction actually took place?  The ATF knows the date when a gun was initially shipped from a wholesaler to me. But they don’t necessarily know when the first buyer of that gun brought it back or took it to another shop and sold it or traded it for a different gun.

The ATF can pat itself on the back all it wants about the great job the National Tracing Center performs in helping law enforcement agencies deal with crime. But the truth is they do a half-ass job at best and fixing NICS without fixing ATF is nothing other than closing the barn door after the animals have gotten out.

 

How Come You Have To Be Pro-Gun To Enjoy Shopping?

I would say that I get about 30 weekly emails asking me for money.  The Wilderness Society is pretty aggressive, ditto Brady and MOMS, a local charity that feeds the homeless also sends something out every week and let’s not forget the Democratic Senate Committee to whom I recently some dough because of the mess in Alabama, which unfortunately now appears to be tilting back towards harm’s way.

NRA certs crop2

But the Numero Uno when it comes to pestering me for cash is America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization,’ to which I have belonged since 1955.  And to prove that I’m not just a regular member, the pic above are several of the diplomas that I have been awarded by the NRA, the Defender of Freedom certificate containing not only the signature of Wayne-o, but also the signature of a real freedom defender, none other than Ollie North.

These little wall decorations come to me because I’m still of the belief that at some point in time the NRA will stop trying to convince Americans that guns aren’t a risk and get back to doing what it used to do, namely, helping sports-minded shooters enjoy the ownership of their guns. The truth is that I find all this blabber about ‘2nd-Amendment rights,’ ‘protecting our freedoms,’ and ‘keeping us safe’ not only total nonsense but boring and silly at best. Every time I pick up one of my guns, it’s like petting Leonard the Cat; makes me feel good to know that an old friend is still around. But it’s nothing more than that and I wish more gun nuts would stop taking themselves so damn seriously. I mean, give me a break.

On the other hand, maybe the gun violence prevention (GVP) community would also think of lowering the decibels a tiny bit.  Nobody’s saying that we should accept, justify or excuse 30,000+ gun deaths and 75,000 gun injuries each and every year, a number which lately appears to be creeping up. On the other hand, when I send money to the GVP groups, which I do on a regular basis, I get back an email acknowledging the donation and that’s it. When I donated to Obama’s campaigns, I got a nice picture of Barack and Michelle, and at the end of the year I received a pretty Christmas photo of the parents and the kids. The photos have become wall decorations stuck right next to the certificates from the NRA.

This may sound kind of corny and stupid, but I like to feel that I’m part of something, that somehow I’m in a group which, for a certain kind of issue, believes the way I believe. I’m not saying that GVP organizations should or could ever attempt to become merchandising operations like the Fairfax boys. About the only thing you can’t buy on the NRA website these days is a gun or a truck. But sportswear, gifts, accessories and gear abounds.

On the other hand, I go to the Brady Campaign store and what do I see? A bunch of coffee mugs, a tote bag, the usual t-shirts with slogans – hey, there’s got to be some more interesting consumer items out there which can make me feel more excited about supporting the GVP campaign.  I’m not saying that gun violence isn’t serious, but why can’t I enjoy giving money to a good cause?

I wouldn’t be diluting my commitment to reducing gun violence just because I can do a little online shopping on the same website which reminds me that I’m supposed to make a donation to a good cause. Consumerism and advocacy go hand-in-hand. If anything, a nice online shopping consumer experience might tempt me to donate a little more dough. It sure seems to work for the NRA.

Do We Suffer From Gun Violence Or From Violence Itself?

If there is one argument which has carried gun violence prevention (GVP) efforts forward over the last twenty years, it is the idea that the USA is not necessarily more violent than other advanced countries, but that our violence results in a much higher mortality rate because of our access to guns.  The connection between guns and mortality rates was first noticed by Frank Zimring back in the 1970’s, it was validated by our friend David Hemenway in 2004, findings which Hemenway updated in an extensive article published last year.

 

hemenway

David Hemenway

Updating the data, Hemenway and the co-author Erin Grinshteyn concluded that, “Violent death is a serious problem in the United States.” Why? Because of our “enormous firearm problem compared with other high-income countries, with higher rates of homicide and firearm-related suicide.” And these conclusions continue to find their way into the literature, the public-policy strategies and the fundraising campaigns of every GVP organizations, all of whom shape their messaging based on gun-violence research by scholars in public health.

There’s only one little problem, however, and the problem arises from something known as the ‘substitution effect.’ What this means in plain English is that comparing outcomes from different types of violent behavior forces us to assume that if the way in which the violence was committed was the same, the outcomes would be similar as well.  For example, the latest research on guns and suicide states that access to guns increases the suicide rate. Therefore, if 1 out of 10 people who used guns to commit suicides had chosen instead to end their lives by cutting themselves or taking pills, there would have been 1,900 less suicide deaths. But what if suicidal individuals chose hanging or asphyxiation (where successful suicides run above 60%) instead of slashing themselves or swallowing medicines, the latter behaviors being much more a symptom of distress than a determined suicide attempt? Since we cannot answer such a question with any degree of certainty, how can we figure out the real effect on suicide rates if there were no access to guns? In fact, the number of non-firearm suicides in both gun-rich and gun-poor states is exactly the same.

The issue of substituting gun violence for overall violence becomes even more problematic when we consider homicides with or without the use of guns.  Grinshteyn and Hemenway find that the US gun-homicide rate is 3.6 compared to Germany, Hungary and Spain at 0.1, Australia, Austria, France and Netherlands at 0.2 (comparing to the lowest nation-states in the OECD.) But the disparity between the United States and these other countries for non-gun homicides is substantial as well.  The United States rate is 1.7, the average for the former group of OECD countries being 0.8, for the latter being 0.6.  In other words, even without using guns, Americans tend to murder each other at a rate which is two to three times higher than what occurs throughout the OECD.

Would the murder differential between the United States and other Western countries disappear if Americans couldn’t get their hands on guns? To the contrary, the differential would probably be greater precisely because of the ‘substitution effect;’ namely, Americans who tried killing other Americans would find a way to accomplish this act without using guns.

I am not trying to ignore the degree to which open access to guns, particularly handguns, creates issues of public safety and public health in the United States which do not exist in any other country within the OECD. Nor am I trying to dismiss or denigrate the efforts of the GVP community to focus public attention and promote sound public policies that would reduce every category of gun injuries, fatal or not. What concerns me are scholarly attempts to understand our elevated rates of gun violence while ignoring our elevated rate of violence with or without the use of guns. To end on a rather hackneyed note: are gun-violence researchers looking at the forest or the trees?

Dave Buchannon – Guns And The Media.

I hate to be the one to break the news to you… but everything you see about guns on television, in movies, and video games is a lie.  EVERYTHING!

gun moviesTelevision and movie stories are born in the writer’s mind and are designed to spin a tale that compels you to buy a ticket or stay-tuned to see the commercials.  Actors portray the story on the screen.  Rarely do the writers or actors have any experience with guns, the military, or police work – other than getting a ticket or being arrested.  So, how DO they get it wrong?

Empty Holster Syndrome

Pick any police show on TV in the last ten years.  Every time the good cop shoots the bad guy, the cop gets back in the car and goes right back to work chasing other bad guys while someone else cleans up the mess.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

The real-life cop is met by the first responding supervisor who takes the cop’s gun away and leaving him standing there, all alone, with an empty holster.  The location of the incident is now a crime scene and the officer is the suspect in an investigation that may take several months to conclude.  Every police department, large or small, has written procedures for dealing with use of deadly force and none of them involve putting the officer involved back on the street the same day.  The State Police, District Attorney’s office, maybe even the U.S. Attorney and private consulting firms will take at least a month to review every aspect of a decision the cop made in a split second, all while the cop on administrative leave.  Oh, and the scripts conveniently leave out the part about the cop having to hire a lawyer to protect his house, savings, and retirement from the wrongful death lawsuit that is guaranteed to be brought by the deceased’s family.

I’ve never met a cop that went to work hoping to shoot someone – they are weeded out in the psych exams.  Most are men and women wanting to do a job they consider valuable, and who hope to just go home safely at the end of their shift.

Rules of Engagement

TV and movie “soldiers” fast rope from helicopters into impossibly dangerous situations where they always shoot the enemy before the bad guy gets off a shot.  Then the heroes silently enter a building to kill all the other bad guys without hurting the hostages.  Every mission is a success and the stars come home secret heroes because, of course, their missions are top secret.

Reality is quite different.  Soldiers follow ”Rules of Engagement” defining when force may be used.  They must be defending themselves or innocents before firing on the enemy and in some cases “lawyers” make the call while watching a mission unfold on a drone feed.  Many veterans who’ve engaged in close quarters battle are deeply affected and will carry those emotional scars for life.

 So, if you are thinking about carrying a gun for personal protection don’t use TV or movie examples as your model.  You also need to need to wrap your head around what happens if, God forbid, you are ever forced to use it.  I’ve known six police officers who had to use deadly force to save their own or other’s lives.  All were very deeply affected, they became Police Academy instructors so others could learn from their experience and learn how to effectively deal with the aftermath.

In a deadly force incident everyone loses, and you’ll never see THAT on TV or in a movie.