A Progressive Response To The Nonsense About 2nd-Amendment ‘Rights.’

              I always wondered how Ruch Limbaugh could claim that his audience was comprised of good, honest, working Americans when his weekday program can only be heard between 12 noon and 3 p.m. when most working Americans happen to be at work. But I guess a lot of those people I saw driving their cars yesterday when I drove down to New York City around noon were working in some way or another. And if they weren’t listening to Rush, maybe they were listening to Thom Hartmann, whose nationally-syndicated talk show goes out on Sirius, cable, Primerica and various other online and radio networks which carry the progressive alternative to the alt-right.

              In addition to his daily spieling, Hartmann is also a prolific author, with more than 16 titles to his credit, with another book, The Hidden History of Guns and the Second Amendment, coming out on June 6th. The book’s appearance then kicks off the requisite national book tour, and you can meet Thom at bookstores in many different cities – the schedule can be accessed here.

              What Hartmann calls the ‘hidden’ history of guns reflects his belief that many of the events which shaped the history of the United States occurred the way they did because Americans had access to guns.  In particular, the author looks at how we ‘pacified’ the native American population and then grabbed their land, then how we maintained human bondage by organizing slave patrols which became those citizen militias referred to in the 2nd Amendment as the rationale for private ownership of guns.

              Basically, Hartmann’s argument is that the history and development of America was based not on the conquest of land, but on the conquest of people.  These conquests required the use of violence, and the violent methods of both types of conquest were best carried out with the use of guns – a tradition which continues up to the present day! The daily carnage which occurs in neighborhoods is a function of the social inequality of American society, an inequality reflected in such events as the ‘war’ on drugs, the mental illness of mass shooters and the gunning down of unarmed civilians by the police.

              Hartmann’s argument basically takes the pro-gun narrative and stands it on its head. The folks who promote the 2nd Amendment also believe that guns have a ‘hidden’ history which is consciously kept out of circulation by the liberal, gun-grabbing elite. And this history says that we wouldn’t even be a nation, and we certainly wouldn’t enjoy the freedoms we enjoy if it weren’t for access to guns, not the other way around. Want to believe that nonsense?  You go right ahead.

              The author’s style is snappy, clear and a good, quick read. I’m also a sucker for non-fiction works based on facts. There’s a school near where I live which is advertising a graduate degree in ‘creative non-fiction.’  Obviously, this is a degree program that Thom Hartmann has yet to take.

              On the other hand, since I reserve the right to raise at least one issue in any book review that I write, here’s the issue I wish to raise with the author of this book. He claims that by bringing guns with them, it was much easier for Europeans to engage in a genocidal assault on America’s native populations. This argument sounds logical and reasonable, but it doesn’t really align with the facts.

              What reduced native populations to a fraction of their pre-conquest size was something else that Europeans brought with them, i.e.,  the practice and whole legal paraphernalia surrounding the concept of private property on which European society, particularly British society, was based. Even though many native tribes practiced cultivation, all native populations were structured around a transient style of life. Erecting fences, marking off property which could only be accessed by one as opposed to the many, is what demolished native American society and culture. Guns were an afterthought in that respect.

              This book is a direct and unvarnished response to the idea that guns make us ‘great.’ I recommend it highly and without reservations of any kind.

              I always wondered how Ruch Limbaugh could claim that his audience was comprised of good, honest, working Americans when his weekday program can only be heard between 12 noon and 3 p.m. when most working Americans happen to be at work. But I guess a lot of those people I saw driving their cars yesterday when I drove down to New York City around noon were working in some way or another. And if they weren’t listening to Rush, maybe they were listening to Thom Hartmann, whose nationally-syndicated talk show goes out on Sirius, cable, Primerica and various other online and radio networks which carry the progressive alternative to the alt-right.

              In addition to his daily spieling, Hartmann is also a prolific author, with more than 16 titles to his credit, with another book, The Hidden History of Guns and the Second Amendment, coming out on June 6th. The book’s appearance then kicks off the requisite national book tour, and you can meet Thom at bookstores in many different cities – the schedule can be accessed here.

              What Hartmann calls the ‘hidden’ history of guns reflects his belief that many of the events which shaped the history of the United States occurred the way they did because Americans had access to guns.  In particular, the author looks at how we ‘pacified’ the native American population and then grabbed their land, then how we maintained human bondage by organizing slave patrols which became those citizen militias referred to in the 2nd Amendment as the rationale for private ownership of guns.

              Basically, Hartmann’s argument is that the history and development of America was based not on the conquest of land, but on the conquest of people.  These conquests required the use of violence, and the violent methods of both types of conquest were best carried out with the use of guns – a tradition which continues up to the present day! The daily carnage which occurs in neighborhoods is a function of the social inequality of American society, an inequality reflected in such events as the ‘war’ on drugs, the mental illness of mass shooters and the gunning down of unarmed civilians by the police.

              Hartmann’s argument basically takes the pro-gun narrative and stands it on its head. The folks who promote the 2nd Amendment also believe that guns have a ‘hidden’ history which is consciously kept out of circulation by the liberal, gun-grabbing elite. And this history says that we wouldn’t even be a nation, and we certainly wouldn’t enjoy the freedoms we enjoy if it weren’t for access to guns, not the other way around. Want to believe that nonsense?  You go right ahead.

              The author’s style is snappy, clear and a good, quick read. I’m also a sucker for non-fiction works based on facts. There’s a school near where I live which is advertising a graduate degree in ‘creative non-fiction.’  Obviously, this is a degree program that Thom Hartmann has yet to take.

              On the other hand, since I reserve the right to raise at least one issue in any book review that I write, here’s the issue I wish to raise with the author of this book. He claims that by bringing guns with them, it was much easier for Europeans to engage in a genocidal assault on America’s native populations. This argument sounds logical and reasonable, but it doesn’t really align with the facts.

              What reduced native populations to a fraction of their pre-conquest size was something else that Europeans brought with them, i.e.,  the practice and whole legal paraphernalia surrounding the concept of private property on which European society, particularly British society, was based. Even though many native tribes practiced cultivation, all native populations were structured around a transient style of life. Erecting fences, marking off property which could only be accessed by one as opposed to the many, is what demolished native American society and culture. Guns were an afterthought in that respect.

              This book is a direct and unvarnished response to the idea that guns make us ‘great.’ I recommend it highly and without reservations of any kind.

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Memorial Day: The Forgotten History of America’s Memorial Day and What It Commemorates

From Ammo.Com

Memorial Day is more than just the “unofficial start of summer.” It was originally a celebration of the lives sacrificed on both sides during the War Between the States. Not an official federal holiday until 1971, the history of Memorial Day is one of controversy. This guide traces the origins of this American day dedicated to remembering and honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Early Celebrations: Annual Decoration Days

While the day was eventually codified as a Civil War-centric holiday, people had laid flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers for decades before there was such a thing as Memorial Day, or “Decoration Day” as it is sometimes called. Annual decoration days were most common in the American South. Because the American South was more rural and agrarian based, it was not uncommon to have a family cemetery. It was here that families would gather for picnics and grave decorations.

The early celebrations were not about remembering the fallen from the war. They were effectively extended family reunions, a sort of folk ancestor worship specifically developed out of the folkways of the American South. A religious service typically accompanied the meal.

Richmond Times-Dispatch article from 1906 documents a June 3, 1861, Warrenton, Virginia, celebration as the first time a Civil War veteran’s grave was decorated. In 1862, there is another recorded example of an early Civil War grave decoration which occurred in Savannah, Georgia. In 1863, there was a decoration of soldiers’ graves in Gettysburg.

Decoration of graves became widespread after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. There were, at this point, over 600,000 American soldiers in the ground. This gave what was a previously existing informal ritual a new significance. It was this year that the federal government began making a national cemetery for the Union war dead. Despite this, the celebrations were primarily a Southern thing.

How Memorial Day Became “Official”

In 1966, President Lyndon Baines Johnson declared there to be an “official” first celebration of Memorial Day. The resolution stated that the first Memorial Day was in 1866, in Waterloo, New York, celebrated at the behest of druggist Henry C. Welles and county clerk John B. Murray. This “official” foundation story of Memorial Day has largely been discredited as a myth. 25 towns currently claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day.

More attested to as the first Memorial Day celebration in the North is the May 5, 1868, proclamation by General John A. Logan calling for a nationwide “Decoration Day.” He simply adopted the previously existing ceremonies of the American South and transplanted them to the Northern States. The first Memorial Day celebrated in the North took place on May 30, 1868. It is said that the date was chosen because it did not align with any particular battle, thus neither side could be seen as engaging in triumphalism.

The new holiday spread like wildfire throughout the Northern states. In the first year of the official Memorial Day, 27 states observed ceremonies in 127 cemeteries. This ballooned to 336 cemeteries by the next year. In 1871, Michigan became the first state after the original 27 to make it an official holiday. By 1890, it was an official holiday in every Northern state. The popularity of the holiday led to the reinterment of almost 300,000 Northern war dead in national cemeteries.

A new American mythology arose because of the celebration of this new holiday. For example, German and Irish Americans who had participated in the war were considered to be “Americans by blood” due to their sacrifice. There were honest and open discussions of wartime atrocities. The purpose of these discussions was to provide context for the war and what was gained as well as what was lost, not merely sulking around in unpleasant memories.

Ceremonies and Celebrations of Memorial Day

In the 1880s, the ceremonies became much more standardized. This is largely due to the efforts of the Grand Army of the Republic, a veterans organization for Union soldiers. Pamphlets with rituals, Bible verses and poems were distributed to local post commanders. Many of these were the “go to” ceremonies for Memorial Day, at least in the Northern states.

The Southern states, of course, had a slightly different take on the dead of the Civil War and how best to honor them. Their ceremonies tended to be simpler, more somber, less celebratory and honored both the Union and Confederate dead.

In the South, it was women who took the lead with Memorial Day celebration. The Ladies Memorial Association made it their charge to ensure that Confederate memorials were kept up and decorated on Memorial Day. Out of this grew the Daughters of the Confederacy, an organization whose numbers quickly grew from 17,000 in 1900 to almost 100,000 by the start of the First World War. 1868 was the first documented case of Southrons attempting to add “Confederate” to the beginning of the name of the day. By 1890, the American nationalist elements were firmly in the saddle, even in former Confederate states.

While many will complain that Memorial Day is not a day for barbecuing and drinking beer, this observation goes back to at least 1913. The Grand Army of the Republic opposed a Memorial Day race in the year 1911. However, they were increasingly elderly and had less power than they had even 20 years prior. Ironically, the race the GAR opposed is one of the biggest Memorial Day traditions still going — the Indianapolis 500.

In 1950, Congress passed a resolution calling on the nation to observe Memorial Day as a day of prayer for perpetual peace. In 1971, it finally became an official federal holiday. In 2000, President Bill Clinton codified the 3 p.m. observance time that had already been a popular time for remembering our war dead. The President requests that flags on government property be flown at half mast until noon, however this is not legally mandated. Some Southern states still celebrate a day specifically dedicated to remembering the Confederate war dead, but this does not fall on the same day as Memorial Day – in the case of Texas’ “Heroes Day,” it falls several months away from Memorial Day in January.

Shannon Watts and MOMS. How It Worked and Why It Works.

              Yesterday I walked around the golf course all afternoon knowing there was something I was supposed to do in the evening but not remembering the alleged task. What I was supposed to do and didn’t do was drive down to da city (a.k.a. New York City) and go to the Barnes & Noble store on Manhattan’s trendy Upper West Side. Why was I supposed to be in the Big Apple when I ended up watching a movie on Amazon’s Prime?  Because Shannon Watts was at the B&N signing copies of her new book!

              When was the last time Wayne LaPierre did a national book tour? Frankly, the only national trip Wayne-o’s probably going to take is the one where they’ll shackle him into a seat and drive around the country from one prison to the next until they get to the joint where he’s going to spend a few years.

              Shannon, on the other hand, is going to be appearing in cities all over the country during the next several weeks (schedule below) and if you happen to be within driving distance of any of those locations, you should really make an effort to show up. Because if you haven’t met Shannon, you’re in for a real treat. And more important, if a big group shows up at every stop, it’s a way of announcing that what she has done is what was needed to be done, namely, to level the playing field in the argument about guns, a playing field which right now even seems to be tilting towards the side on which she stands.

              Let me make one point clearly here and now. I am not (read: not) an advocate for either side in the gun debate.  I happen to be a bone-fide gun nut, I’m also just as nutty about the need to engage in informed and honest debate. If this country decides that guns really are more of a benefit than a risk, that’s fine. On the other hand, if this country decides to get rid of all the damn things, that’s fine with me too. I just want that decision to be based on a clean bill of particulars and not based on emotion and hot air.

              What is so valuable about Shannon’s book is that she opens it with a description of her emotional reaction to the Newtown massacre, a reaction based not just on the event itself with the attendant loss of life, but the fact that she also had children who attended a school not much different from the elementary school at Sandy Hook.

              What makes this book so valuable, however, is that Shannon then explains how her emotions morphed into an action plan, how she then morphed this plan into a national, organizational effort, and most important, how this transition becomes a template for moving from feelings, to thoughts, to plans, to action, regardless of the issue itself. What makes the text so compelling is that it is not just a series of anecdotes about the achievements (and frustrations) of building MOMS, it’s also a ‘how to’ manual for creating an advocacy movement with a particular focus on assets which women can bring to whatever cause they choose.

              Finally, and here is where the book really worked for me, Shannon operates under no illusions about the positives and negatives of using social media to build an organization and run an advocacy campaign. Of course it’s easy to reach lots of people by using the web, it also can get you bogged down in all sorts of issues that simply make it more difficult to get done what needs to get done.

              Buy it. Read it. Dig it.  And here’s where you can meet Shannon and she’ll autograph your copy of her book: June 4 – Boulder Bookstore, Boulder, CO.  June 5 – Tattered Cover, Denver, CO. June 6 – Politics and Prose at the Wharf, Washington, DC. June 11 – Sonoma Speakers Series, Sonoma, CA. June 12 – The Commonwealth Club, San Francisco, CA.  June 13 – Kepler’s Books, Menlo Park, CA. June 14 – Rakestraw Books, Danville, CA.

Want To Teach About Gun Violence? Try Doing What Gun Nuts Do.

              If you haven’t yet taken a look at the online course on gun violence being offered by our friends at the Hopkins-Bloomberg School, you haven’t been reading my columns. I have posted several columns about the importance and value of this online educational effort, and I am pleased to find that more than 2,100 folks have registered to watch the well-done video lectures which are offered along with a quiz on each section of the curriculum, a very comprehensive reading list and, of course, a feedback form.

              Those of us who form what I refer to as Gun-control Nation like to believe that one of the major differences between what we say about gun violence and what Gun-nut Nation says is the degree to which our beliefs and narratives about this problem are grounded in evidence-based research, whereas the other side, the gun-nut side, doesn’t believe in evidence or scientific research at all. Want an example of how 2nd-Amendment advocates get the information they use to support their ideas? Try any of the loony and stupid videos by Grant Stinchfield, Dana Loesch or Colion Noir that are posted on NRA-TV. These efforts aren’t educational at all – they are nothing more than plain hucksterism disguised as some kind of rational opinion about the positive reasons for owning guns.

              But if you believe that Gun-control Nation has a copyright on internet video messaging which has a rational, educational focus while Gun-nut Nation’s messaging is nothing more than hot air, think again. In fact, if anything, when it comes to imparting real, hard-core information about guns, the folks who produce and distribute educational videos which promote gun ownership and the gun-owning lifestyle are way out ahead.

              Want an example?  Try this YouTube video, which has been viewed more than one million times:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNKKC4ew1Xk.  The company which produced this video has more than 100,000 subscribers to its website and the average video posted on the site has been viewed at least 50,000 times. Now you may not want to believe that a ten-minute video which shows a guy blasting away for 30 seconds with a variety of 9mm pistols should qualify as an ‘educational’ tool. But the reason this video has been viewed so many times is that lots of folks out there are considering buying, owning and carrying a pistol for self-defense, and this video is a very effective and professional effort to provide potential armed citizens with exactly the kind of information they need.

              Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Gun-nut Nation’s online educational effort are aimed (pardon the pun) only at providing information which can be used to promote the sale of self-defense guns.  Take a look at this video which has registered almost 250,000 views: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ODhQmE2OqY&feature=youtu.be

Frankly, if the Department of History at an Ivy League school wants to expand its curriculum to include a course on the history of technology as exemplified by early gun design, they should hire the guy who did this video and runs a website, https://www.forgottenweapons.com/, which contains a remarkable collection of evidence-based articles, book reviews and technical videos that puts many so-called educational websites to shame.

              You would think that with the kind of financial support that gun-control advocates can tap from the likes of Mike Bloomberg, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, that creating some kind of video effort to promote discussions about the risk of guns is something that should have happened years ago. The really silly videos posted on NRA-TV get more than 300,000 views every month. You mean that a solid and informed video presence produced by a gun-control production company couldn’t do just as well?

              Here’s the bottom line. No advocacy effort can afford to cut itself off from actual or potential supporters when the opponents of that effort communicate to their supporters on a regular and ongoing basis every day.  Believe me, the pro-gun video machine is a much more effective way to generate support for gun ‘rights’ than some loony speech coming from Wayne-o at the NRA.

              THANK YOU BRENT GURTEK!

It’s Time To Learn Something About Guns.

              Last week our friends at the Hopkins-Bloomberg school put up a website with an twelve-hour, online course about gun violence which can be accessed right here. The course covers all the essential issues swirling around the gun-violence debate today, including reviews of relevant laws and comprehensive discussions of what we know and what we still don’t know about the behavior that kills and injures more than 125,000 Americans every year.

              This is, as far as I can tell, the first attempt to create a serious and comprehensive effort not only to explain gun violence, but to give both specialists and advocates a clear roadmap that can be used to understand what gun violence is all about. And it couldn’t have been done at a more germane time, given the degree to which gun violence has become something of a litmus test for every wannabe 2020 Presidential candidate, at least on the Democratic side. Whether there will be more than one GOP candidate remains to be seen, ha ha ha.

              In addition to classroom presentations by members of the Hopkins faculty’ along with some invited academic guests, each subject also contains a very detailed bibliography of relevant published research. This is the first time any group has mounted a serious effort to create a collection of documentation on gun violence which can be used to further inform the gun-control community about the research that lies behind our understanding about violence caused by guns. The bibliography contains more than 125(!) separate references, and can be printed out or saved for further use. Frankly, this resource alone is a reason why every gun-control advocate or activist should enroll and take this course.

              As of this morning, the course registration stands at slightly more than 2,000 hardy souls. That number is an embarrassment, it’s a joke. It tells me that what I have said (and gotten criticized for saying) about the gun-control movement, or how they refer to themselves as the gun violence prevention movement or GVP, namely, that most of the folks who claim to be so concerned about gun violence are no more interested to understanding the issue than the bunch promoting 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ on the other side.

              When Art Kellerman and Fred Rivara published their formative articles on gun violence back in the early 1990’s, the pro-gun movement responded by launching attacks on this effort which, from a scientific point of view, were nothing more than errant nonsense or worse. Public health research on gun violence was derided as fake, un-American and designed to be used by government to take away everyone’s guns. If anything, this campaign set the tone for the more recent iteration of the alt-right’s response to science and scientific research known as ‘fake’ news.

              I would be much less concerned about the gun lobby’s strategy to eliminate or downplay the need for gun research were it not for the fact that most of the folks on my side of the fence do not seem all that concerned about absorbing the lessons that can be derived from such research themselves. Last year I mounted a survey which asked gun-control activists to answer 12 questions about gun laws, all the questions covering basic information being used by advocacy groups to define their strategies about violence caused by guns. The little quiz has been taken by several hundred folks and the average score has been six correct; in other words, a big, fat flunk. Given the fact that most GVP activists (like 90 percent) hold post-graduate degrees, the lack of basic knowledge in the GVP community is a deplorable state of affairs.

              I think that gun-control organizations like Brady and Everytown should not only be actively promoting the Hopkins gun-violence course, but should be telling, indeed insisting that their members and supporters register and sign up for the course – now! To quote Terry Goodkind, “Knowledge is a weapon and I intend to be formidably armed.”

              Armed with a gun or armed with the facts. Which do you choose?

Will Funding ATF Reduce Gun Violence?

              I normally don’t write a Friday column but the news out of Washington yesterday is so distressing that I can’t let it go through the weekend without a response. What I am referring to is the decision by the House Appropriations Committee to increase the ATF budget by $122 million, money evidently earmarked “to improve the agency’s oversight of Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) and operations.” The quote is from a press release issued by our friends at the Brady Campaign.

              The Brady release quotes a committee member, Grace Meng, who states: “Gun dealers who are knowingly breaking the law need to be held accountable, and I am firmly committed to ensuring ATF has every resource necessary to do their jobs.” Congresswoman Meng represents a large swatch of the New York City borough of Queens, which includes what used to be a high gun-violence neighborhood known as Jamaica. The committee chair, Jose Serranno, represents The Bronx as well as upper Manhattan, neighborhoods which also used to experience epidemic-like rates of gun violence year after year.

              Note the fact that both Meng and Serrano represent districts which “used to’ suffer from gun violence.  Know why I put it in the past tense? Because all of New York City has, of late, seen an unbelievable decline in gun violence, at a time when many urban centers throughout the United States continue to see gun violence rates going up. In 2018, the NYPD recorded 753 shootings and 289 homicides.  The gun-violence numbers for 2018 in Chicago, respectively, were 2,948 and 561. New York City has three times more residents than Chicago and suffers 1/4th the number of shootings that occur in the Windy City and half as many violent deaths.  Get it?

              Does this comparison in any way, shape or form have anything to do with how many gun dealers the ATF inspects every year?  Not one bit. And the idea that the bumbling idiots who work for the Industry Operations division of the ATF make any difference in gun-violence rates as they bumble around various gun shops is a complete and total joke.

              I went through an ATF inspection in 2013 which took somewhere around three months. After examining close to 5,000 transactions, I could not produce the requisite paperwork to account for a whole, big, three guns. I was also cited for several thousand infractions, each infraction defined as a possible ‘threat’ to public safety. Know what these public-safety threats consisted of? I had forgotten to list the FFL number of the wholesaler from whom I purchased most of my new guns. The wholesaler happens to be located thirty miles from my shop and sends a daily feed to the ATF of all guns it ships to retailers like me. 

              My gun shop represented such a source of crime guns that, on average, I received two trace requests every – year! Not every week, not every month, every year. The ATF says it doesn’t employ enough inspectors to conduct sufficient audits to insure public safety?  The public needed an audit of my shop like the public needed a hole in its head.

              I’m not opposed to the regulation of gun dealers by the ATF or anyone else. What I am opposed to is the idea that politicians like Grace Meng and Jose Serrano can make it appear (to an unsuspecting public) that their response to gun violence is the proper way to go. What they should be asking themselves is how to use their legislative and fiscal authority to really make an impact on gun violence throughout the United States. And the answer is very simple.

              Why doesn’t Congress fund a program which will help other police departments in high-crime cities develop and maintain the kind of policing that has basically made New York City a crime-free town? With more resources and better training, NYPD’s ‘precision policing’ and more effective community relations could easily be replicated anywhere and everywhere.

              Reducing gun violence isn’t rocket science, okay?

An Important New Book on Gun Violence.

              Our friend Tom Gabor has just published a book, Enough – Solving America’s Gun Violence Crisis, which is both a review of what we know and don’t know about gun violence, as well as a personal manifesto about what needs to be done. In that respect, this book reflects a new, much more confident mood in Gun-control Nation, given how the political landscape has recently changed. After all, it’s less than two decades since the Democratic Party turned its back on gun violence after Al Gore’s loss at the polls, and now you can’t announce for President without making it clear you’ll do something about gun violence if you win the big kahuna next year.

              Gabor’s book is a quick and easy read – he writes clearly and doesn’t overburden the reader with mounds of extraneous text. He also keeps his focus directly on policies and programs which, taken together, represent the agenda of Gun-control Nation, and is honest and objective in terms of evaluating what has worked and what hasn’t worked to reduce gun violence over the past years.

              Finally, although Gabor has a long and distinguished career as an academic, this book is not a dry, academic text. He refers to gun-control activists as ‘peace warriors,’ a particularly arresting phrase, insofar as it links the notion of non-violence together with a militaristic campaign to protect America from its nearly 400-million arsenal of civilian-owned guns.

              In what directions should this campaign now move? The author covers all of the major gun-control initiatives and policies, including licensing gun owners, concealed-carry and stand your ground, safe storage, abolishing PLCCA and other industry protections, banning assault weapons and ‘smart’ guns and red flag laws. For each category he covers experiences and results to date, the intention being to create a ‘roadmap’ of policies and initiatives which can then be followed by gun-control advocates seeking guidance in developing strategies and plans.

              The book concludes with an interesting and unique twist, namely, what Gabor calls a ‘Declaration of Rights’ which could serve as a clarion-call for groups and individuals who want to reduce violence from guns. Basically, the document lists a series of ‘rights’ that everyone should be able to enjoy, flowing from the implementation of effective policies to restrict the use and ownership of guns. These ‘rights’ would include feeling safe, movement in gun-free zones, reliance only on law enforcement for public safety; in other words, a nice counterpoint to the policies which promote gun ‘rights.’ I’m not sure where Gabor is going, organizationally, with this Bill of Rights, but if he puts up a website asking everyone to subscribe to this document, I’ll sign up.

              Of course I never review any book without finding something critical to say, so here goes.  The challenge which this book does not confront is that you can talk all you want about how and why we need more effective gun-control policies, but the problem is how to get from here to there. The devil’s always in the details, so to speak.

The fact that a certain gun law or regulation has been effective within a specific jurisdiction or state, doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be effective if extended to all fifty states. The strength of our Federalist system is that it reflects the enormous physical and cultural diversity of this country, and it is simply impossible to assume that out of the experience of one state or locality, we could craft gun-control laws where one size fits all. This is precisely why Gabor’s comparison of America’s gun laws to gun regulations in other countries (e.g., his native Canada) doesn’t work.

That being said, this book delivers enough information (with footnoted references) that it deserves to be purchased and read.  If the 2020 election pushes new gun-control legislation to the fore, Tom Gabor’s book will hopefully help shape the debate. 

Well done.

Here’s Your Opportunity To Study Gun Violence. Don’t Miss It.

              Our friends at the Hopkins-Bloomberg school have produced and published what I believe is the first attempt to create a comprehensive curriculum on gun violence. This is a very impressive online effort and should be viewed, used and studied by everyone who would like to see gun violence come to an end. In fact, if I were running a group which advocates gun control, I would insist that every member of the group register and go through the course. For that matter, I would post the course on my Facebook page and suggest that other FB admins do it too.  In fact, I’m posting and pinning the course on my FB page right now.

              The good news is that the entire curriculum is video-delivered by members of the Hopkins faculty, all of whom know how to stand up in front of a classroom and deliver lectures in a clear and organized way. The better news is that the website is user-friendly and the lessons can be easily accessed even by users with only a slight degree of digital skills. Finally, the lessons are all on video, but you can also refer to text, and there are reading lists attached for further study, as well as a review quiz at the end of each lesson.

              If you take the program seriously, watch every lecture, read the relevant assignments, do all quiz exercises and give feedback, you are looking at more than 11 hours of study time.  In other words, this is serious stuff and the entire effort is obviously meant to be taken seriously. Incidentally, along with four members of the Hopkins faculty, there are lessons provided by outside experts, including our friends Jeff Swanson and Adam Winkler, and of course the website includes forums so that every student also gets a chance to shoot his or her mouth off. God forbid there would actually be a website out there which doesn’t afford everyone the opportunity to make some noise, right?

              If my last sentence reads in a somewhat sarcastic vein, it’s not by accident. One of the reasons I like this effort is because it is advertised up front as being based on ‘evidence;’ i.e., the content is tied to relevant research in the field. Now that doesn’t mean that all the research is totally correct or that more research needs to be done. But the whole point here, it seems to me, is to inject fact-based knowledge into the gun debate, rather than just creating another digital forum for opinions, a.k.a. hot air. The gun-control movement has come into its own since Sandy Hook; if anything, when it comes to the argument about the role of guns in American society, for the first time gun control appears to have trumped gun ‘rights.’ All the more reason why the discussion needs to proceed on evidence drawn from serious research, not opinions out of thin air. 

              Talking about evidence, I have only one suggestion to make to the faculty that created this course, and it’s a suggestion which obviously flows from my own background when it comes to the issue of guns. If it were possible to revise the curriculum at some point, I would ask the faculty to consider adding a section which explains the meaning of the word ‘gun.’ After all, if we want to learn about a certain kind of violence which is defined by the use of a certain object which we call a ‘gun,’ shouldn’t we make sure that all our learners know how to define that object in terms of how it’s designed, how it’s manufactured, how it works and doesn’t work?. I see too many instances on various gun-control forums, FB pages, and questions directly asked of me which indicate a knowledge deficit on both sides of the gun debate about the product which causes the violence itself.

              That’s a minor quibble.  I hope the Hopkins faculty will take seriously the work they have done and promote its access every chance they get. And when you finish reading this text, go to the website and sign up for the course.

Is It Time To Start A New Gun-Rights Organization?

Our friends at Media Matters have posted a pretty good summary of the financial/management problems at the NRA, even though the situation could change tomorrow and what we thought yesterday no longer holds. But the bottom line is that some of the recent disclosures on Wayne-o’s spending habits in Beverly Hills could not only cost him his job, but result in the loss of the organizations’ tax-exempt status as well.  And if it turns out that there was a conscious effort to disguise personal expenditures as business expenses, and if this effort resulted in a conscious mis-statement of IRA filings by either the NRA or its PR firm, Ackerman-McQueen, someone could be going to jail.

So let’s pretend that Wayne-o copied Paul Manafort and spent thousands of dollars on various baubles at the Zegna boutique on Rodeo Drive. And let’s further pretend that the NRA covered these purchases, and others, by billing the receipts to Ackerman-McQueen. And then let’s take the next step and pretend that Ackerman-McQueen billed these costs to the NRA as a business expense and the NRA paid the bills out of tax-exempt funds. And let’s not forget that NRA President, Carolyn Meadows, has gone on record as denying that anything untoward has happened at all. If all of this flim-flam turns out to be true, and you can read a good summary in a column on Rolling Stone, America’s gun owners may be forced to look for a new organizational home to call their own.

Well you say, that’s no problem. After all, according to our friends at the Hopkins-Bloomberg school, overwhelming majorities of gun owners support some gun restrictions, including universal background checks, higher standards for concealed-carry licensing, red flag laws and stricter controls over dealer operations. So why not form a new organization that will continue to support 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ while at the same time, advancing ‘reasonable’ restrictions on guns?

And just to keep Gun-nut Nation happy, the new NRA will continue to hold its annual jamboree as well as sponsor even more grass-roots events.  Right now there are 31 NRA events scheduled in Florida between now and October 1st. South Carolina has 10 events coming up, California has 38!

Just imagine if all these events were sponsored by a new gun-owners organization which would give you a full rack of ribs, two corn-on-the-cob and cherry pie for free, because Mike Bloomberg is happy to pay for the dinner of any gun owner who signs a pledge that he’s in favor of comprehensive background checks?

There’s only one little problem with this fantasy. It’s not going to happen. It’s not going to happen because advocacy movements that make a real difference have to be led by the people who will be affected most by the laws that are going to be changed.  The civil rights movement was successful because it was led by African-Americans beginning with Martin Luther King. The gay rights movement became a potent force for gender equality when gay men and gay women felt strong enough to stand up and declare their true sexual orientation for all to see.

The problem with the movement which seeks to reduce gun violence is that new gun regulations, no matter how ‘reasonable,’ won’t really make a dime’s worth of difference to the lives of most gun-control advocates, for the simple fact that they don’t own guns. So why would they care if I want to give one of my guns to my son but he and I have to drive 30 miles to a gun shop to do a background check?

But wait a minute. I thought most gun owners also favor comprehensive background checks. That’s true. But you know what other ‘reasonable’ law gets the approval of most gun owners? A law that would let them carry a handgun in all 50 states. And I guarantee you that no gun owner will join any gun ‘rights’ organization whose agenda is determined only by folks who don’t own guns.

Think The NRA Will Change Direction? Think Again.

              Poor Wayne-o.  Here’s a guy who has spent his entire lifetime working tirelessly and endlessly for America’s gun owners and what does he get for all his efforts? He gets a drop-dead piece in Rolling Stone which has to signal the beginning of the end. My advice, incidentally, to my friends in Gun-control Nation who want to kiss LaPierre bye-bye, is that they quiet down. The last thing the boys in Fairfax would consider doing is making a management change which appears to be in response to demands from what I’ll politely call the ‘other side.’ 

              But let’s assume that Wayne-o’s tenure comes to an end. Let’s assume that the NRA Board cleans house, gets its financial affairs in order (not that any government agency has yet to charge the NRA with any illegal activity at all) comes up with a new leadership team, issues the usual ‘we can and will do better’ encomiums and goes about its way. Would any or all of those measures really change the nature or the outcome of the gun debate?  In other words, would Wayne-o’s disappearance result in a kindler and gentler NRA?

              By the way, as far as I’m concerned, the dirt being shoveled in Wayne-o’s face is nothing more than payback, given how the NRA has insulted, demonized and threatened folks who have been leading the campaign for reducing violence caused by guns. When Colorado voted to repeal comprehensive background checks in 2015, you would have thought the issue was whether Mike Bloomberg was coming to live in the Centennial State, with PSA‘s making it clear that this Jewboy needed to stay away. Shannon Watts continues to attract her share of insulting and threatening comments from NRA noisemakers like those jerk-offs Grant Stinchfield and Dana Loesch.

              On the other hand, the fact that the NRA has been trying to posture itself as a self-appointed public voice for the alt-right doesn’t mean that anything would change for the better if Wayne-o took his $5-million retirement package and disappeared. If anything, the defense of 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ could become even more belligerent and more extreme.

              The NRA likes to describe itself as America’s first line of 2nd-Amendment defense, but in reality the organization is primarily focused on the South because that’s where the guns happen to be. The current Board leadership (Meadows, Childress) are both Southerners, of the 76 total Board members, 32 are from Confederate states. Visit the next annual NRA meeting and you’ll quickly realize that you may walking theough a large convention center, but you’re actually inside a big revival tent.

              The NRA counts on support from three groups. One group are gun owners who aren’t actually members, but consider gun ownership to be some kind of necessary ‘right.’ Then there are NRA members whose membership is force of habit but nothing much more. Finally and most important are the hard-core members, the folks who go to local gun events, talk up the 2nd Amendment until someone tells them to shut up, send an email to a public official or a nasty comment to me. That’s the organization’s base – that’s the core..

              Whatever happens in Fairfax, the NRA can’t afford to alienate its hard core. If anything, they need to bind their most rabid supporters as close as they can. Because what the NRA may start to lose in numbers can perhaps be made up with more noise. Which is why I don’t see the NRA becoming more ‘reasonable’ if they jettison Wayne-o, tear up their agreement with the PR firm that produces those lunatic messages for NRA-TV, and goes back to being primarily concerned with hunting and outdoor sports.

              If anything, I see the NRA becoming even more extreme, more intolerant, more unwilling to admit that maybe, just maybe, the notion that we should become a nation of gun-carrying patriots is a relic of the past. It’s a lot easier to change direction when you have enough support that it doesn’t matter if a few folks drop off here or there. But if, all of a sudden, every dime counts, you’re not about to do anything that would jeopardize the mother lode.