Do Safe-Storage Laws Protect Our Kids?

A group of medical researchers have just published a JAMA article about the effectiveness of child-access prevention (CAP) laws, which are also referred to as safe-storage laws. You can download the article right here. Or you can go to JAMA and read it there.  Either way, this is an important article for two reasons:

  1. CAP laws have become a priority with all gun-control organizations and now exist in 27 states.
  2. For the first time, we have a major piece of gun-violence research which clarifies the definition of ‘child.’

Most gun studies define children as being 0 to 20 years old.  The articles cited in the above link to Giffords use 17 and 20 as the maximum age for their studies. But virtually all 50 states grant hunting licenses to anyone above the age of 15, so to refer to them as ‘children’ is nothing more than an attempt to make the problem of gun injury worse than it is, since most gun injuries, intentional or unintentional, occur after the age of 14. To the credit of the researchers who wrote this JAMA piece, they use the age of 14 as their cut-off point.

Here’s the headline: “more-stringent CAP laws were associated with statistically significant relative reductions in pediatric firearm fatalities. Negligence laws, but not recklessness laws, were associated with reductions in firearm fatalities.” Fine – all well and good. But as usual, the devil’s in the details and I noticed one detail which remains unexplained.

This study looked at changes in gun injuries to children beginning in 1991 and ending in 2016, with the before-and-after comparison being set at 1997 when injury rates began to decline in both CAP and non-CAP states. Over the next eleven years – from 1998 through 2008, the decline was greater in the non-CAP states. Only after 2008 do injury rates in CAP states continue to level off (although they do not continue any downward trend) whereas injury rates in non-CAP states show an increase over the last few years.

The research team carefully explains a number of factors that might influence the results, such as an awareness of CAP laws, misclassification of data, etc. But what they don’t discuss is possible explanations for the decline of child gun injuries in non-CAP jurisdictions. A decline which, until 2008, was almost the same in both CAP and non-CAP states.

If you want to understand the effects of any law designed to require a certain type of behavior, at the very least you need to compare the effects of that law to whether or not the same behavior changed in places where the law didn’t exist. But there is also a bigger issue involved with this research.

The researchers make a distinction between laws which deal with access of children to guns in terms of ‘negligence’ (not locking the gun up or away) to ‘recklessness,’ which basically means that someone took a gun out of safe storage and used it in a stupid or careless way.

I happen to live in the state – Massachusetts – which has the most stringent CAP law of all states with such laws. The law states that unless the gun is under ‘direct control’ by a qualified (licensed) individual, it must either be fitted with a ‘tamper-proof device’ or be locked away at all times. No exceptions of any kind.

Guess what happens? The guy is fooling around with his gun in the living room; his son is playing a board game with a friend on the floor. Phone rings in the kitchen, guy jumps up to answer the phone but leaves the gun behind. Kid picks up the gun, points it at his friend – boom!  This act of utter recklessness, which cost an 8-year old his leg (but at least he’s still alive) was committed by a long-time veteran cop who had served his town with distinction for more than 20 years.

I want to commend the authors of this piece for bringing some important clarity to the CAP debate. I also want to remind them and everyone else that we don’t require seat belts for guns.

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Time To Go Tactical!

              Last week I received an email from an internet ad agency asking if I would allow one of their clients to post some ads on my website. I told the internet marketer to send me the URL and I would list it for free.

              I’m happy to help any small business out with a free listing on my website, as long as it isn’t that bunch of scam artists and so-called physicians who own an outfit called Stop the Bleed. Any physician involved with that bunch should hang their heads in shame. Otherwise, I’m just about open to advertising by anyone who wants to promote something on my site.

              This particular company, whose logo and link will shortly appear on mikethegunguy.com is an outfit called Tactical Gear Hut, which contains some pretty good reviews of various kinds of ‘tactical gear,’ which is a catch-all category for accessory items that shooters and gun-nut enthusiasts might like to buy. 

              In the olden days, when someone walked into my gun shop to buy a handgun, I might also get them to buy a holster and a box of shells. The leather and ammo would add $30 or so to the sale. If they bought rifle or a shotgun, I might also add a box of ammunition to the order and on occasion a cheap piece of cloth to wrap around the gun – another $30 added to their tab. I rarely sold scopes because my shop’s in an Eastern state where a long-range shot during hunting season might be 50 or 60 yards.

              That was the olden days. Now welcome to the new days, in particular, welcome to the ‘tactical’ days thanks to the appearance and popularity of the AR, which happens not to be an acronym for ‘assault rifle,’ but was the designation for the gun designed by Gene Stoner and first manufactured by Armalite (as in ‘Armalite Rifle), a gun company which has gone in and out of business more times than I can count.

              Of course, once the gun-grabbing contingent led by our friend Dianne Feinstein got their hands on this product and limited its use in California, a law which then morphed into the 1994 Clinton assault rifle ban, how anyone then talked about this product became the acid-test for their views on guns. If you are pro-gun, you believe that everyone should keep an assault rifle around; if not, not.

              The problem that the gun industry faced by using the term ‘assault rifle’ is that it cuts both ways. Because again and again whenever someone went into a school or a movie theater and shot up the place, he used an AR, which was then described as a ‘mass assault.’ Which is exactly what it was.

              So, the industry came up with a new way to market these products, by replacing the word ‘assault’ with the word ‘tactical.’ After all, tactical guys are the good guys. We send them out on those high-risk missions to kill Bin Laden, we expect them to protect us against all kinds of threats.

              Meanwhile, I’m sitting here in my living room and around my house there are 15 acres of trees. Maybe what I need to do today is go out and select a spot in my woods where I can put up a stand to give me and my AR the necessary cover for when I have to defend myself and my family from a terrorist attack. And maybe I also need to go to the Tactical Gear Hut website and pony up five hundred bucks to get my hands on a tactical scope. After all, what’s a tactical rifle worth if I don’t have the optics required to get the job done?

              Know why the United States is the richest country on Planet Earth? Because it’s the only country where any law-abiding citizen can go out and blow a couple of thousand bucks on some equipment that will never be needed for anything at all.

Want To Train Yourself To Use A Gun? Try This Crazy Scheme.

Several weeks ago I posted a column to give an award to the dumbest pro-gun legislator this year. The award went to a State rep in Michigan who showed up at a hearing on a gun bill with an AR slung over his back, and then had the rifle plus a handgun stolen out of his house. Now maybe someone else will top this guy for being the dumbest pro-gun legislator around, but it won’t be easy.

In the interests of fairness and honesty, however, I’m also obligated to give an award to the dumbest, anti-gun legislator each year. And while it’s only March, I’m willing to bet that the award I am about to present might also be regarded as the dumbest, anti-gun legislative idea for 2020, or maybe of all time.

I am referring to Massachusetts House Bill 2091, filed by Representative David Linsky, which can be downloaded right here. The bill is entitled, “An Act Requiring Live Fire Practice For A Firearms License,” which is a tip-off that no such licensing requirement exists in the Bay State right now.

Massachusetts is currently a B+ state according to the Brady campaign, which means it is one of the 10 most-regulated gun states within the country as a whole. In 2018, it also registered the second-lowest rate (3.63) of gun violence of all 50 states, a situation usually explained as resulting from its strict gun laws. The state’s most restrictive and comprehensive law took effect in 2000, and it not only required all gun transfers to be done with a background check, it also mandated that all new guns meet certain design and safety features before they could be brought into the state.

In the interests of what my medical friends refer to as ‘full disclosure,’ it should be pointed out that the 1999 gun-violence rate in Massachusetts, the year before this new law took effect, was 2.99. In other words, the result of the law which made Massachusetts one of the most heavily-regulated gun states, was that gun violence went up, not down. Oh well, oh well.

Representative Linsky has decided that perhaps a pathway to reducing gun violence in Massachusetts might be to require some kind of live-fire exercise prior to applying for a license to own a gun. Currently, any state resident who wants to own a gun must first take a safety course approved by the State Police, the usual nonsense where you sit in an overheated room, some old guy drones on and on from some book for a few hours, you take a quickie test which everyone passes and you’re good to go.

Several years ago our friends at The Trace discovered that 26 states did not require any live fire in order to apply for a license to walk around with a concealed gun. Massachusetts happens to be one of those states. In fact, for all the talk about how the gun restrictions make Massachusetts such a safe state, it happens to be one of a handful of states in which the license to own a gun and the license to carry a concealed weapon are one and the same. The cops do have the authority to restrict the right to carry, making Massachusetts a ‘may issue’ state, but this authority is almost never exercised outside of Boston and a couple of other large, urban sites.

So now along comes Representative David Linsky who’s going to solve the whole problem because his bill mandates a five-hour practice session at a shooting range before a gun application can be approved. Not to carry a gun, but just to own a gun. There is no other state which requires that an applicant for a gun license first engage in no less than 300 minutes of range time.

But the five-hour time requirement is not what makes Linsky the dumbest, anti-gun legislator to date. The bill says and I quote: “Said curriculum must include a minimum of at least 5 hours of live discharge of firearms, rifles, and shotguns at a license gun club, including the discharge of at least 50 rounds of ammunition.” Note that it’s not either 5 hours or 50 rounds. It’s both.

I can just see it now. Some newbie will show up at the Rod & Gun Club, pop off a box of reloads in about 10 minutes, then sit around for the rest of the afternoon until his five hours has expired and he can go home. Incidentally, according to the way the bill is written, the would-be candidate could fire all 50 rounds into the air.

If any of my Gun-nut Nation friends can come up with a better example of stupidity on the part of any legislator who wants to promote restrictions on guns, please send it along and we’ll consider it as competition against the Linsky award.

Thanks to Dave Buchannon for this tip.

There He Goes Again. Biden Makes Another ‘Mistake’ About Guns.

Last night Joe made a comment about gun violence that is buzzing all over the internet and once again being taken to prove that maybe our boy Biden just can’t keep from saying ridiculous things. Joe criticized Bern for voting in favor of the 2005 PLCCA law which protects gun makers from torts, asserting that more than 150 million Americans had died from gun injuries since 2007. Biden’s campaign quickly covered up this silly gaff with his PR folks issuing a statement which brought the gun-death number down to 150 thousand, not million.

Actually, the number of gun deaths since 2007 through 2018 is 413,403, which will probably increase by another 70,000 or so if we could count right up to today. Now in fact, while 400,000+ deaths is nothing to sneeze at, it’s not 150,000.  On the other hand, the category of gun injuries would rank it as the 11th leading cause of death in the United State, just below suicide, except that half of that suicide total also happens to have been caused by using guns. Which puts gun deaths into the Top 10 of all deaths. 

This exchange between Bernie and Joe reminds me of another gun-comment that Joe made at a 2013 White House meeting of video-game executives when he said that not only did he have no problem with people keeping guns in their home for self-defense, but in fact his wife Jill had access to a shotgun in their Delaware home which she kept handy to protect herself and the kids when Joe was on the road.

For the very first time a national politician openly supported the idea of using a gun for self-defense. And Joe made it clear that if Jill heard something which sounded like someone was trying to break into their home, here’s what he  expected her to do: “`Jill, if there’s ever a problem, just walk out on the balcony … take that double-barrel shotgun and fire two blasts outside the house,”‘ Biden said. “You don’t need an AR-15. It’s harder to aim, it’s harder to use and in fact, you don’t need 30 rounds to protect yourself.”

When I read Joe’s comment, I couldn’t believe that a national political figure could speak about guns in such a rational and reasonable way. Had I been the owner of Mossberg, Remington or one of the other companies that makes shotguns, I would have immediately packed up one of our guns, run to Joe’s office and presented the gun to him on behalf of both the gun industry and all gun-owning Americans.

Nothing of the sort occurred at all. To the contrary, Joe was lambasted by just about every hot-air balloon who speaks for Gun-nut Nation in the gun debate. Mike Huckabee got on Fox News and told his audience that two rounds from a shotgun wouldn’t be enough ammunition to protect yourself from an intruder who had a gun with more ammunition in the mag. I suspect that even Huckabee had trouble maintaining his TV composure while saying something so dumb.

You know going forward that no matter who heads the Democratic ticket, the gun ‘issue’ will be front and center during the 2020 national campaign. Which is all fine and well except I suspect that neither candidate, Trump versus whomever, will say anything as remotely logical and honest as what Joe said back in 2013.

No matter whether he’s talking about immigration, or the economy or anything else, what Trump has managed to accomplish in less than four years is to take all political rhetoric and all political debates to the extreme. Which is where the gun debate has always been, but now every other topic appears to be catching up.

If Trump said that 150 million Americans had died from gun injuries over the last twelve years, nobody on his staff would bother to correct him at all. Maybe it’s time for the Democrats to stop worrying about Joe’s gaffes and realize that the overblown rhetoric used in the gun debate has become the accepted verbal currency for every political exchange.

Here Comes Bernie With Or Without His Guns.

              Now that Crazy Bern seems to be moving into a commanding lead in the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination, a lead that may well get him near to the brass ring on Super Tuesday, which happens to be just one week away, his record on guns and gun-control laws comes up because he has always been pictured as being too ‘soft’ on guns.

              The image of a pro-gun Bernie was used by Hillary in 2016, even though when she campaigned against Obama in 2008, he was the gun-control candidate while she waxed lyrical of going out hunting with her father in the woods. How much reality was there behind her attempts to appear comfortable with 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ God only knows. But she had no trouble jumping to the other side of the fence once she discovered that her 2016 primary opponent was himself something of a pro-gun guy.

              What vote was used in 2016 and again this year to paint Crazy Bernie as a stooge of the NRA?  The first pro-gun vote he cast was against the Brady bill, the second time he voted in favor of the PLCCA which immunizes the gun industry from class-action suits. In both instances, Bernie justified his vote on the fact that he represented a rural, gun-owning state. In fairness to him, it should be noted that Vermont’s Democratic Senator, Pat Leahy, also voted against the Brady bill.

              I happen to think that this attempt to paint Sanders into a corner over his record and views on gun control is a dead duck before it ever gets off the ground. To begin, if Bernie has flip-flopped on certain gun-control measures, how do you compare what he has done this year to what Hillary did in 2016? When she ran against Obama in 2008 she sent mailers around before the Indiana primary accusing her opponent of being ‘soft’ on ‘gun rights.’ In 2016 she not only went after Crazy Bern for being pro-gun, she made gun control one of the building-blocks of her entire campaign. If anyone in Gun-control Nation found her shift from pro-gun to anti-gun a little difficult to believe, all I can say is they voiced their concerns in a very quiet way.

              Where does Bernie stand right now on guns? He’s in favor of universal background checks, red flag laws, and co-sponsored the current assault rifle ban which will go nowhere at all. He is also a co-sponsor of Dick Blumenthal’s bill (S. 1939) to repeal PLCCA. At various campaign stops, Joe has gone after Bernie for voting against the Brady bill in 1994.  Criticizing someone for a vote cast twenty-five years ago is like using the Paleozoic era to define political time.

              What I find most interesting about the gun issue in 2020 is the degree to which it has become much less of an issue than it was in 2016. There was a little dust-up from Gun-nut Nation when Beto O’Rourke proposed an assault weapons buy-back plan, but when his campaign ran out of gas and money in November, the issue was politely shelved.

              There have been two federal gun laws passed in my lifetime: GCA68 and Brady in 1993. Both laws came about because a liberal President from a Southern state was able to count on blue majorities in both the Senate and the House. It should also be remembered that the genesis of both laws was the successful assassination of one President and the unsuccessful assassination of another. I’m not a Trump fan by any means, but I certainly wouldn’t want to see him shot. For that matter, the odds that both houses of Congress will return blue in 2021 is far from assured.

              No Democratic Presidential candidate will say anything about gun control other than supporting the standard legislative proposals that have been flopping around now for more than twenty years. So, if anyone in Gun-control Nation thinks they should decide how to vote because of how the candidates differ on guns control, they might want to think again.

Don’t Ban Guns. Just Ban The Ammunition.

              Ever since my late friend Tony Scalia decided that the 2nd Amendment protected the personal ownership of guns, Gun-nut Nation has been falling over themselves reminding everyone that any attempt to regulate gun ownership is an infringement of their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ Now the fact that a Constitutional Amendment isn’t a ‘right’ of any kind, so what?  It still sounds good.

              Meanwhile, the Scalia opinion does create some problems for Gun-control Nation because the last thing that any liberal wants to be accused of, is being against the Constitution. After all,  wasn’t it a very liberal Constitutional scholar, Sandy Levinson, who reminded us liberals that if we want to use the Constitution to protect free speech, we also have to use it to protect private ownership of guns?

              But it occurs to me that in all this talk about what the 2nd Amendment means or doesn’t mean, there’s one thing for sure that it doesn’t cover. Nowhere in the Constitution can we find the slightest mention of ammunition, and since it’s the ammunition which is what really causes all those gun injuries every year, who cares about whether or not everyone can walk around with a gun?  Just ban the ammunition for those guns; there’s absolutely no Constitutional protection for ammunition at all.

              Hey, wait a minute! How can you have a gun without ammo?  How can you use a gun without ammo?  I play around and shoot unloaded guns all the time. Last night I was watching one of my favorite movies, The Usual Suspects, and every time that Kevin Pollak (Hockney) or Stephen Baldwin (McManus) stuck his gun in someone’s face, I raised my Sig 226 and shot the guy dead.  I have probably pulled the trigger of my Sig or my Colt Python thousands of times sitting on my couch and nobody’s ever gotten hurt. You show me a gun-nut who doesn’t dry fire his guns all the time and I’ll show you a gun-nut whose wife made him sell all the guns.

              If you take the trouble to read Scalia’s Heller opinion, you’ll note that he makes a distinction between guns that have always been found in the home, as opposed to ‘unusual’ weapons; i.e., weapons of war. The former are protected by the 2nd Amendment, the latter not. So, in making a somewhat arbitrary definition of civilian versus military arms, his opinion rests on what he and other conservative judges call the ‘originalist’ interpretation of legal texts. But when it comes to the ammunition used by these so-called personally-owned guns, the argument falls flat on its face.

              The most popular ammunition caliber currently sold to civilians who own all those self-defense guns is the 9mm caliber, sometimes called 9×19, sometimes called 9mm Luger, but whatever it’s called, it was designed specifically for military use. The inventor of this caliber was Georg Luger, who also happened to be the inventor of the Luger pistol, a.k.a., the P-08. The gun and the ammunition were standard issue to the German Army from 1900 until 1943.

              Want the second most popular ammunition caliber? It is probably the 45acp round that was developed by John Browning for his Colt 1911 pistol, the military sidearm for the U.S. Army until 1976.  Both the 9mm and 45acp calibers were developed for one reason and one reason only – to give soldiers and other armed forces a highly-lethal round that could be carried in a handgun.  Now if anyone out there wants to claim that ammunition developed for the sole purpose of killing human beings is a ‘sporting’ round, go right ahead.

              It seems to me that if my friends in Gun-control Nation really want to get serious about reducing gun violence, they might consider coming up with a plan that will strictly regulate the ownership of ammunition because those products don’t have any Constitutional protection at all.

              Of course, I can just see my Gun-nut Nation friends starting to yell and scream about ‘threats’ to their ammunition ‘rights.’ Good. Let ‘em yell and scream.

When Are We Really Going To Start Talking About Gun Violence?

Last week I wrote a column raising concerns about the so-called ‘consensus-based’ approach to gun violence being promoted by physicians and public health researchers, many of whom seem to be convinced that as long as they claim to ‘respect’ the 2nd Amendment, that Gun-nut Nation will be more amenable to support all those ’reasonable’ gun laws, one such law having just been blocked by the Virginia State Senate.

This idea of not being opposed to the 2nd Amendment is a riff on another idea which started to appear in the medical literature when doctors began talking about counseling patients who own guns, the riff being the importance of ‘respecting’ the ‘culture’ of people who own guns. Here’s a sample of this approach from several of our most dedicated and respected gun-violence researchers:  ”The provider’s attitude is critical. Patients are more open to firearm safety counseling when providers are not prescriptive but focus on well-being and safety—especially where children are concerned—and involve the family in respectful discussions. Conversations should acknowledge local cultural norms; be individualized; and, when possible, occur within a well-established clinician–patient relationship.”

Given the fact that most physicians aren’t gun owners themselves, exactly how should these clinicians gain the knowledge they need in order to counsel about guns while taking care not to make negative judgements about ‘local cultural norms?’ The only peer-reviewed resource which attempts to define the cultural ‘norms’ associated with gun ownership is the research published by our friend Bindu Kalesan, who asked 4,000 respondents to report on the degree to which their social activities were in some way or another connected to their ownership of guns. What she found was that roughly one-third of the gun owners reported some degree of social contact with other gun owners.

Based on this research, should physicians assume that a patient who owns guns may also feel somehow identified with the social activities that revolve around gun ownership and gun use; i.e., shooting range visits, hanging around a gun shop, joining a gun club? Sounds fair to me.

There’s only one little problem. What do all these social activities involving guns have to do with reducing gun violence? Nothing. Why do I say nothing? Because the guys who go to the shooting range to sight in their beloved shotgun before hunting season, or the guys who stop off at the gun shop to play around with the latest toys on display, or the guys wandering around the gun show munching on a donut because the wife doesn’t need the grass cut or the driveway cleared that weekend, aren’t the folks whose behavior or culture or whatever you want to call it creates 85% of the injuries that we define as ‘gun violence’ each year.

That’s right. Assuming that intentional, non-fatal gun injuries run around 75,000 – 80,000 a year, add that number to the 15,000 fatal intentional gun injuries in 2017, and divide it by that number plus the 20,000 suicides.  Sorry, it’s only 83%. Of course, we know that all this mayhem is created by legal gun owners, right? Yea, right.

The public health ‘threat’ known as gun violence happens to be the handiwork of young men, most of whom live in inner-city neighborhoods and start fooling around with guns by the time they are 14 years old. And by the way, these are also the kids who have overwhelmingly dropped out of school, even though school attendance is never (read: never) used as an indicator of gun risk by all my friends doing all that public health research designed to ‘inform’ policy-makers about the efficacy of various ‘reasonable’ gun laws.

Want to sample gun culture?  Try: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZGJcV19gRw. After you watch it, watch it again. Then talk to me about how we need to ‘respect’ the culture of gun owners, okay?

What I am saying is simply this: Either we begin to talk realistically about the causes of gun violence or we don’t. Right now, we don’t.

Join Americans Against Gun Violence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Do We Make Schools Safe?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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