Want To Learn Armed Self-Defense? Move To Monsey, N.,Y.

              If I had to choose one news story about gun violence which ranks as the craziest, most bizarre example of the American experience with guns, it would be an article I read yesterday detailing a class held in armed, self-defense last week in Monsey, NY. The class was attended by 150 residents of Monsey and other towns, all of whom happen to be extremely religious,  ultra-orthodox Jews. The class gave attendees an opportunity to fool around with various self-defense guns like an AR-15 and some handguns, and it was conducted by a guy who runs a security and self-defense so-called training program which, of course, is staffed by ‘elite’ members of Israel’s Defense Forces, a.k.a., the vaunted IDF.

              What brought the crowd out for the evening’s entertainment was the recent machete attack at a rabbi’s home in Monsey, along with a shooting that left three dead at a kosher supermarket in New Jersey, as well as several individual attacks. Of course before anyone knew anything, Governor Cuomo called the Monsey assault a case of “domestic terrorism,” which has become the standard description of every violent event requiring a response from some politician who wants to make sure he’s staying ‘in touch.’

              I don’t mean to make light of any kind of behavior that creates fear of physical or emotional violence. Of all the threats to the human community, the only threat we still do not understand how to solve is the threat of violence. We may not have the political will or the political alignment to solve the threat of global warming, but we know what to do. Ditto other threats to the human community like famine or disease. But when it comes to the threat posed by violence, what I know is that you can’t go out, buy an assault rifle and think that now you are ready to protect yourself from a violent event, or that this purchase will do anything to reduce violence overall. What you have basically done by plunking down your thousand bucks for that black gun is to ratchet up the possibility that more violence will occur.

              Not only doesn’t violence prevent violence, but before we even get to that issue we first have to make sure that when we use a word like ‘violence,’ we all can agree on what we are talking about. So, for example, the Anti-Defamation League publishes an annual report on anti-Semitic attacks which claims there has been a disturbingly-high number of such events over the last several years. But if you read the fine print, you discover that while incidents of vandalism and harassment have increased, the number of physical attacks have gone down. So what should members of the Jewish community do? Walk around with an assault rifle handy in case someone tries to paint a swastika on the synagogue wall?

I notice, by the way, that the promoters of armed self-defense at the Monsey meeting forgot to mention that bringing a gun into a synagogue during Shabbos (Sabbath) religious services happens to be a violation of Jewish law. You can’t carry metal objects in your pockets during Shabbos; you can’t wear any kind of ornamental items like a holster on your pants.  Maybe the alleged security experts from Israel can provide the Orthodox residents of Monsey with the name of a Shabbos goy (a gentile to perform prohibited tasks during the Sabbath) who can walk around the synagogue with a gun.

Forgive me for sounding just a little bit less than enthusiastic about the spread of armed, self-defense into the Orthodox Jewish community. And if anyone wants to tell me that by being disarmed,  these Jews are just inviting another nut to show up and slaughter some more innocent folks, do me a favor and in the words of my late friend Jimmy Breslin, go lay brick.

What did Solomon say in Ecclesiastes?  “A time to kill and a time to heal.” He didn’t say that after someone is killed, you should go out and by an AR-15.

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A New Plan For Ending Gun Violence.

              Some of our friends in the surgery and public health departments of the University of Massachusetts Medical School have just published an important editorial about gun violence asking whether we can do for gun violence what has recently been done for vaping and e-cigarettes. What they basically argue is that the 4-month ban on these products enacted in Massachusetts, a move that is apparently spreading to other states, creates a template for how we should be dealing with another threat to public health, namely, the threat posed by gun violence.

              The authors of this well-reasoned piece point out that as of October 8, 2019 vaping products were responsible for the deaths of at least 26 young persons, with more than 1,200 hospitalizations as well.  On the other hand, what thy refer to as the ‘epidemic’ of gun violence claimed nearly 40,000 lives in 2017, even though we have identified the agent which causes the problem (the gun) and we have developed “proven means” to reduce this particular health threat.

              The editorial calls for a “temporary ban on the future sale of guns and assault rifles in the United States while we more systematically study gun safety,”  a rather novel idea for dealing with gun violence which copies the temporary ban on vaping products going into effect in Massachusetts and possibly other states.

              With all due respect to the co-authors of this editorial (in the interests of full disclosure, as they say, I should state that one of the authors, Dr. Michael Hirsh, co-directs with me the Wood Foundation which sponsors multi-city gun buybacks every year) I would like very much to know exactly what means have been proven to reduce gun violence, because such means certainly haven’t been put into effect.  In 1999, the national gun-violence rate was 9.89. It bounced around until 2011 and has been steadily climbing ever since. It was at 11.69 in 2017, and if the open-source reports used by the Gun Violence Archive are at all reliable, the last several years have certainly not seen any decline in gun violence rates at all.

              But the purpose of this column is not to nit-pick this word or that word with the authors of what is really a strong and commendable editorial on moving forward with some kind of serious gun-violence reduction plan. Rather, I want to address a much more fundamental issue which arises from the idea that we find ourselves in the midst of an epidemic of gun violence, a perspective which is shared by virtually all the researchers and advocacy groups dealing with this problem today.

              When we use the word ‘epidemic,’ we usually refer to a medical problem which arises without warning, often for reasons that initially we do not understand, and requires a comprehensive effort to both cure the victims of the disease as well as to protect populations which have  not yet been infected by the threat. This was exactly how the public health community responded in 2014-2016 to Ebola, which ended up infecting 28,000 and killing roughly 11,000 people in West Africa but was contained almost wholly within that  geographic zone.

              The United States isn’t suffering from an epidemic of gun violence. We are suffering from a threat to health which is endemic to certain locations and certain populations within the United States. Not only does gun violence occur virtually every day in certain, clearly-identified locales involving clearly-identified populations, but this medical threat has been going on in these same locations for what is now a century or more.  All fine and well that public health has discovered the existence of this problem since Columbine and Sandy Hook. It’s hardly new news to residents of cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore, St. Louis and Detroit.

              Sorry Thomas Abt, you don’t end gun violence by going into the ghetto, planting trees and cutting the grass. You get rid of gun violence by getting rid of the guns that are used to commit gun violence.

              This still needs to be said?

Was 2019 A Good Or Bad Year For Gun Sales?

              Every year about a week into the new year, the FBI publishes a report covering how many NICS background checks were performed the previous year.  And while this number doesn’t cover all gun transfers, what we do learn from this data is the number of guns that move from gun dealers to gun owners, which is a very accurate way of determining whether Americans are still in love with their guns.

              Gun-nut Nation has been building up expectations about the gun industry’s recovery from the Trump slump for the past several months. At the beginning of December, Fox News crowed that “gun background checks on record to break record in 2019.” And when the year-end numbers came out, the pro-gun noise machine immediately announced with unbridled joy that “2019’s count is the most since the National Instant Criminal Background Check System began in 1998.”

              Know the old line about how figures don’t lie but liars sure can figure? What Gun-nut Nation is saying about the health of their beloved industry based on the 2019 FBI-NICS numbers is true, except the truth happens to hide an important detail that completely undercuts the argument about how the gun business is alive and well.  And that detail happens to be the fact that more than half of the FBI-NICS checks conducted each month have nothing to do with guns actually being sold or transferred into consumer’s hands. These non-sale checks cover issuing and renewing licenses, taking guns out of pawn, rentals, private sales, all kinds of transactions which, if anything, reflect the extent to which gun ownership is an increasingly regulated activity which goes far beyond retail gun sales. If anything, the increase in NICS checks should be seen not as a sign of gun industry health, but of the degree to which the regulatory environment continues to grow.

              What really spurred the slight increase in December gun sales, which were 4% higher in 2019 than what was recorded for December, 2018, was that gun makers, wholesalers and retailers all cut prices in order to bring buyers into the stores. Right now I can walk into a gun shop near me and buy the Smith & Wesson Shield pistol for seventy bucks under the MSRP.  That’s a price break?  That’s a price collapse.

              If and when the Democrats begin narrowing down the field of Presidential candidates looking to grab the brass ring and the chosen candidate decides to push an aggressive anti-gun position as part of his or her campaign, we might see a real upturn in gun sales without the gun industry forcing the issue by cutting prices. But if the issue of gun violence is a function not of gun ownership per se, but guns getting into the ‘wrong’ hands, who cares how many guns are bought and sold as long as the individuals engaging in these transactions never commit any kind of violent behavior with their guns?

              If it were only that simple. If we only had a regulatory system which could keep the most lethal consumer product ever developed away from individuals who are either too stupid or too violent to behave properly with a gun. On the other hand, what do we really mean when we talk about behaving properly or responsibly with a gun? Aren’t we really saying that guns should only be used in ways that will negate the possibility of injuring yourself or someone else? If that’s the case, we have a little problem because the whole point of buying a gun like the Smith & Wesson Shield pistol is to use it, when necessary, to hurt someone else.

              One way or another, we are going to have to face the fact that many people believe in the notion of ‘virtuous violence,’ meaning that using violence for a good reason (e.g., self-defense) is why they buy a gun.  And as long as our approach to regulating guns allows gun makers to appeal to folks who see violence as sometimes being a good thing, we will find ourselves looking for some kind of silver lining in the FBI-NICS numbers each month.

Run Mike, Run.

So this morning I started off 2020 by taking a look at Mike’s website and volunteering to help his campaign. I’ll get into the reasons why I am supporting him below (actually it’s one reason) but before that, I took a look at what he has to say about guns. After all, if Trump’s the first President to fashion an entire political image around his so-called support of 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ so Mike’s the first Presidential candidate who has made a national name for himself by trying to do something about the violence caused by guns.

And in case you slept through the 2018 Congressional campaign, there may be a whole bunch of first-time members of Congress who owe their seats to the money they received from Mike, along with millions of dollars he put up to support gun-control initiatives in various states. And let’s not forget that he also has been instrumental in helping our friend Shannon build the first, truly grass-roots organization which fights the good fight against guns. But back to his 2020 campaign.

Mike has a whole section on the website devoted to his plan for controlling guns. To his credit, there isn’t a single word on his website about supporting the 2nd Amendment. He isn’t pandering to Gun-nut Nation by talking about ‘sensible’ gun laws, a la Liz Warren, or ‘respecting’ the 2nd Amendment, which is what Joe says on his site. I really wish the Democrats would stop pretending that anyone believes them when they say how much the 2nd Amendment can somehow co-exist alongside ‘reasonable’ gun laws. Give me a friggin’ break, okay?

Mike’s plan to deal with gun violence is basically to apply the same gun laws throughout the United States that have existed in New York City since 1912; i.e., the strict licensing of all guns which requires a permit prior to every purchase along with registration of all guns.

There’s only one little problem with this approach, however. And the problem happens to be the fact that while New York City now has a remarkably low level of gun violence, a trend that started under Rudy’s administration, accelerated under Mike but now have jumped up again under Bill, the city’s gun laws haven’t changed one bit no matter who is in charge, except that Mike did increase the licensing fees.

Why did gun violence decline so much in New York after it rose to epidemic proportions in 1993? Nobody really knows, except that the downward trend in the Big Apple occurred in virtually every large city throughout the United States. And endless books, articles and hot-air to the contrary, we don’t really know why that happened either, for that matter. All we know is that it did.

So I’m not going to bat for Mike because of his stance on guns. I’m going to support him because I believe, with all due respect to my friend Joe, that Mike has the best chance to beat Trump. And I further believe that in order to beat sh*t-head Trump or sleazy Don or whatever you want to call him, Mike just has to do one thing:

When the time is right Mike, just release your tax returns and that will be the end of that.

Have a great 2020 everyone!

A Christmas Story.

This picture appeared last night on a social media site visited and maintained by gun owners. I am a member of maybe a dozen such sites because I like to know what gun owners really think, not what some freelance writer who is paid to write 1,000 words on guns for some liberal news blog wants me to know what he or she thinks gun owners are thinking about.

The happy lady’s caption was: “Look at my new baby!” The first two comments were: “Love it, its for conceal carry or for home defense?” and “We use the Garand for home defense :).”

Incidentally, her new baby happens to be a Walther PPK. It is similar in design and function to the guns whose use causes nearly all the 125,000 intentional gun injuries (fatal and non-fatal) each year. This number happens to represent probably 90% of all gun injuries, by the way.

On the other hand, what would you expect this lady to say? Should she have captioned her pic by thanking someone who gave her a present that she could use to kill or injure 6 or 7 people happily sitting around their Christmas tree? On Christmas eve, 6 people were shot at one time in High Point, NC. The lady’s new ‘baby’ could have easily been used to do the trick.

I’m willing to bet you that this happy lady is the legal owner of that gun. And I suspect that if she picked up her telephone and someone said they were running a national survey about guns and then asked her if she would support a ‘reasonable’ gun law like comprehensive background checks, she’d probably say, “Sure. Why not?”

This woman happens to be clueless. She wouldn‘t understand what Art Kellerman and Fred Rivara said about the risk of handguns in the home if her life depended on it. Unfortunately, her life or the life of someone else does depend on it. Which is exactly what my friends in the public health gun-research community don’t understand. They don’t understand the issue for which the CDC has just added $25 million to its research budget because these happy academic folks never (read: never) talk to gun owners at all.

Why bother to talk to the people whose little hobby ultimately accounts for every, single gun injury that occurs every day? After all, you can always hire some hot-shot survey outfit who will do the talking on your behalf. Or you can wander around a bunch of gun shows looking for illegal sales, an activity which launched the career of one of our most celebrated gun researchers a number of years ago. If Garen Wintemute had spent some time just talking to gun owners rather than trying to get everyone hot and bothered over some illegal sales, he might have actually made a serious contribution to figuring out what to do about guns.

Am I asking too much of my gun-researcher friends in public health to devote a small fraction of that new CDC stash to try and figure out what’s in the heads of people like the woman pictured above? Because until and unless this issue is addressed and understood, too many people will submit to all those ‘reasonable’ gun laws while they stand in a gun shop buying a gun.

Trump’s Impeachment Firewall

Now that the leading Evangelical magazineChristianity Today, has gottenwith Nancy Pelosi’s program to boot Schmuck-o Trump back to Kingdom Come, it makes me wonder if Trump has a fall-back plan to keep himself in office even if the Senate votes to make him step down. Because believe it or not, the 45th President is such an unmitigated jerk and buffoon that he might actually believe his White House lease continues through January, 2021 whether he’s impeached or not.

Which brings me to the good folks who live in Tazewell County, VA, a place where roughly 40,000 God-fearing Americans live, of whom 82% of the eligible voters went to the polls in 2016 and voted for Trump. And just to make sure that the Deep State doesn’t try to overturn those results, the County Board of Supervisors just voted to: a) make Tazewell County a ‘Second-Amendment Sanctuary’ and, b) to support a ‘well-funded and well-regulated’ militia just in case anyone tries to deprive the county’s residents of their sacred, 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

The Board of Supervisors didn’t exactly state how they intend to pay the local militia but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are plans in the works to submit an application for funding to the Department of Homeland Security. In the meantime, I’m sure this bunch of super-patriots from a region which lynched more Blacks during post-Reconstruction than any other place in the South, are making plans to camp out around the White House and defend their hero from any attempt to kick his increasingly fat ass into the street. After all, it’s called the White House, okay?

And who exactly are the members of the Tazewell militia? We don’t really know because aside from the picture posted on Facebook the group has yet to actually form up. No doubt there are serious negotiations going on between the militia members and the Tazewell Supervisors to come up with a budget that will no doubt include the cost of pizza and beer for the weekend training activities. And let’s not forget to put out an RFP for the ammo which will be used up at the local shooting range. Oops! Maybe they don’t yet have a range.

Anyway, even though the Tazewell militia is still nothing more than a fantasy in a few semi-retarded heads (I know, I know, the word ‘retarded’ is now verboten in politically-correct circles) they will no doubt soon catch the attention of the national militia movement which also seems to be largely a creation of various left-liberal advocates needing something to get all exercised and steamed up about. Whether it’s the Anti-Defamation League or the Southern Poverty Law Center or some other well-meaning group which is on the lookout for every right-wing threat to the status quo, the militia ‘movement’ is basically a bunch of websites which always include a shopping cart where they can peddle their t-shirts and other crap.

Several years ago I spent time looking at the Michigan Militia after the group gained some notoriety when it turned out that Timothy McVeigh had attended some of the militia’s meetings before he went to Oklahoma City and blew up the Murrah Federal Building in 1995. The Michigan bunch got the usual treatment from the liberal media; i.e., these guys should be taken seriously because who knows? In fact, this ‘front line’ defending America’s core values was nothing more than a bunch of overweight, old men playing a 21st-Century version of Boy Scouts out in the woods. When I recently looked at the militia movement again, nothing had changed.

But in fact something has changed. What has changed is that we now have a President who will say anything to buy himself some votes next year, I suspect he has already appointed someone on his staff to be the liaison to the militia movement. After all, it’s pretty hard to keep reminding America’s gun-nut population that you’re protecting their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ when the budget you just signed contains $25 million to be given away by the CDC for so-called gun violence ‘research.’

On the other hand, who’s to say that Trump can’t cobble together a coalition to protect America against the ‘deep state?’ Let’s see, we have the anti-vaccination crowd, the anti-gay and lesbian crowd, the anti-everything else crowd and what’s left over from the anti-immigration crowd.

What all these groups have in common is exactly what aligns them with the militia movement, namely, that anyone takes them seriously. Looking again at the above picture of the Tazewell Militia, I mean, those shleps dressed up in their warpaint are going to protect the Constitution of the United States?

Give me a friggin’ break.

Is The Ar-15 A ‘Modern Sporting Rifle?’ Like I’m Voting For Donald Trump.

              Back in October the FBI released their crime report for 2018 which showed that violent crime not only fell another 4% from the previous year, but dropped 14.6% over the last decade. Immediately the hot-air balloon for the gun industry, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) issued a press release contrasting this trend with the continued strong sale of assault rifles, the obvious conclusion being that guns protect us from crime.

              So the gun industry is finally admitting to something that they have been trying to deny for years, namely, that the so-called ‘modern sporting rifle’ is nothing more than a marketing scam to pretend that a gun that was designed for military and tactical purposes is just another good, old hunting gun. And how could anyone feel that any kind of hunting gun shouldn’t be protected by the 2nd Amendment, right?

              The fact is that the AR is advertised and sold as a ‘self-defense’ gun.  Now maybe companies like Bushmaster and Smith & Wesson are thinking of AR-owners as using their ‘black’ guns to defend themselves against an invasion from Iran, Iraq or from outer space. But let’s not quibble over technicalities; anyone who thinks that a bottom-loading gun which can discharge 100 rounds of military-grade ammunition in 4 minutes or less is a ‘sporting’ weapon has about as much of a grasp on reality as someone who believes that Rudy Giuliani is in love with the American way of life.

              When I first started writing about guns back in 2012, the most vicious and angry comments I received from Gun-nut Nation was whenever I stated that the AR-15 was a military gun. ‘How can you call this a military gun when the Army uses guns that are full-auto and this gun is just another semi-automatic gun?’  That was one of the more polite comments I used to receive.

              In fact, the current battle weapon carried by our troops, the M-4 carbine, can be set to fire in semi-auto mode or 3-shot burst. And I have yet to receive an answer from any of the Gun-nut Nation hot-air balloons when I ask them to explain how, if he sets the gun to fire once time every time the trigger is pulled, a soldier can go into battle with a modern sporting rifle.

              Which brings us back to the claim made by the NSSF that the decline in violent crime has something to do with the continued popularity and sales of the AR-15. Except this drop in violent crime happens to have occurred at the same time that the homicide rate has gone up.  Meanwhile, the percentage of murders committed with guns (72%) has remained constant over the last several years.

              In fact, guns have been the weapon of choice for people who kill other people for a century, if not more. According to Brearley’s study of homicide, data from the U.S. Division of Vital Statistics, of the 63,906 murders committed between 1920 through 1926, 45,666 were committed with firearms, which just happens to be 72%. Of course in 1920 the national population stood at 106 million, which means the homicide rate was, on average, around 10 percent. In 2017 the CDC says that the U.S. homicide rate was around 6 per hundred thou.  

              On the other hand, in both 1981 and 1991 the overall homicide rate was above 10 and in both years, guns figured in roughly 70% of all homicidal events. Up, down, no matter which way the murder rate goes, each year the number of people who kill someone else without using a gun stays more or less the same. And guess what? The U.S. murder rate which doesn’t have anything to do with guns is also higher than what happens in other advanced nation-states.

              The bottom line is that talking about gun violence as uniquely American may obscure the fact that America is an exceptionally-violent country with or without guns. Anyone have an answer for that one?

Reduce Gun Violence By Regulating Gun Dealers. What Else Is New?

              Last week a lawsuit that was filed in Chicago in 2018 was given the green light to proceed in the Federal courts which could possibly provide a new and different approach to reducing gun violence beyond what has now become a rather hackneyed and useless argument about how gun violence is a ‘public health threat.’

              The suit names the Governor of Illinois and the Illinois State Police as defendants. It claims they are violating the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) because gun violence in Chicago creates emotional trauma that is responsible for ‘trauma-related disabilities’ in children, chief among them being cognitive and emotional functions which control learning and the ability to communicate properly with other kids. It’s a class-action suit brought by the mother of a 9-year old boy who saw his father gunned down in the street, and includes many other children living in what can only be described as Chicago’s war zone; i.e., the neighborhoods that have seen over 500 murders this year alone.

              The suit names the Governor and the State Police as defendants because it argues that the gun violence which violates the ADA is the result of lax enforcement of the laws that cover the behavior of gun retailers around Chicago, thus resulting in guns that are first sold legally but then trafficked illegally into the neighborhoods where so many shootings take place. The suit lists 11 remedies that should be instituted in licensed gun shops, including the installation of video systems, inventory audits and more training of store personnel.

              This lawsuit builds on a state law, ‘Combating Illegal Gun Trafficking Act,’ which took effect at the beginning of this year and requires all gun dealers in Illinois to install security systems, keep more comprehensive records of sales and submit to annual inventory audits, as well as only hiring staff who are licensed to own guns. The lawsuit basically claims that the state government and the state police have been lax in enforcing this new law, the proof cited is the extraordinary level of gun violence on the Windy City’s streets.

              The problem with this lawsuit is that it assumes a causal connection between how well the government fulfills its regulatory responsibilities as listed in the law which took effect at the beginning of this year and the level of gun violence which occurs on the West Side and South Side of Chicago every day. In other words, if gun violence continues at its current horrific pace, this must be somehow tied to lax enforcement of the new law. The lawsuit cites data which shows that 40% of the ‘crime guns’ picked up by the Chicago P.D. were first purchased in gun shops located in suburbs around the city; hence, with stronger enforcement this flow of guns into high-crime neighborhoods would go down.

              Maybe it would and maybe it wouldn’t. Like so many other laws which seek to prevent a specific commodity from reaching a specific market, the Illinois gun dealer law doesn’t take into account the issue of demand. And as governments have discovered since the sixteenth century when the Valois Monarchy tried to regulate the commerce of salt, if people want something badly enough, they’ll find a way to get around any law which tries to control supply.

              This is the reason that I refer above to the ‘hackneyed’ arguments about gun violence being bandied about by my friends in public health. Because again and again I hear the gun-control community demanding that we enact stronger laws to keep guns out of the ‘wrong hands.’ But what if the size of the wrong-handed population keeps going up?

              As long as songs like ‘Bullets Ain’t Got No Name’ are best-sellers on the hip-hop charts, the idea that guns will somehow disappear from high-violence neighborhoods because we pass another regulation is not only a joke, but demonstrates just how far away from reality the discussion about gun violence has moved.

              Want to get rid of gun violence? Get rid of the you-know-whats, okay?

What Should Doctors Say To Patients About Guns?

Today a group of well-meaning and thoroughly ignorant physicians are getting together in New York City to discuss for the umpteenth time the appropriate medical response to what is called a ‘national public health crisis;’ i.e., injuries caused by guns. They will no doubt draft yet another set of proposals to deal with the problem which will include all the usual things – more research funding, comprehensive background checks, ‘red flag’ laws, assault rifle ban, maybe even a mandatory delay in gun transfers or mandatory training before someone can walk around with a gun.

The reason I say these medical professionals are ‘thoroughly ignorant’ is because none of them know anything about guns. If they did know something about guns, they would understand that you can’t make something ‘safe’ which is designed not to be safe. How do we define the word ‘safe?’ It means that when we use something the way it’s supposed to be used that no injury occurs.

That being said, let me break the news gently to all those folks shooting their mouths off at today’s meeting in New York: The guns which are used to commit virtually every act of gun violence happen to be designed for one purpose and one purpose only – to kill or injure either the user of the gun or someone else. To use such guns in a ‘safe’ way is to invent a narrative that could only be taken seriously by people who know absolutely nothing about guns.

Want to ban assault rifles? Fine. Such a ban might result in reducing the number of people killed or injured with guns by, at best, 2 percent. What about the other 98 percent? Oh no, we can’t ban Glocks, we can’t ban tactical shotguns, the Constitution says Americans can own  those guns. And the last thing that medical professionals would ever want to be accused of doing is coming up with a response to a public health problem that didn’t align with 2nd-Amendment rights.

I have never understood how or why physicians need to be concerned about what the Constitution says or doesn’t say about guns when the evidence-based research that physicians are supposed to use to define all medical practice clearly proves that access to a gun is a significant health risk. Is the risk somehow lessened by locking the guns up or locking them away?  Sorry, but I have to gently break something else to my medical friends: There is not one, single study which has ever shown any connection whatsoever between ‘safe storage’ and the injuries caused by guns.

There are studies all over the place which find that when patients are counseled on safe behavior with guns, many of them later report that they have taken the doctor’s advice and are behaving with their guns in a safer way. But none of these studies are based on a before-and-after analysis of gun violence rates; it is simply assumed, with no evidence whatsoever, that behaving in a safe way with guns results in gun-violence rates going down.

When anyone puts their hand on a live gun (that’s a gun with ammunition ready to go) they have moved into a high-risk zone. And the only way to mitigate that risk is to make it impossible for anyone to put their hands on that gun. Now there happen to be many people (one of them me) who have decided for all sorts of reasons that they have no problem accepting that risk. There are also a lot of people who still like to ‘light up a Lucky’ or walk around with 40 extra pounds on their frame. And by the way, the Constitution gives every American the ‘right’ to do both.

Would any physician ever claim, in the interests of  ‘non-partisanship,’ that these patients should be advised to find a safer way to eat or smoke? Of course not. And that being the case, the physicians who think they can find some kind of neutral pathway to reducing gun violence are simply showing their ignorance about guns.

Want to get rid of gun violence? Get rid of the guns designed to cause gun violence. An approach which, by the way, doesn’t run counter to the 2nd Amendment at all.

Hunting And Conservation Are A Good Thing.

You may recall that last month Rudy Giuliani’s business buddy, a.k.a. Donald Trump, threatened to cut off federal aid to California because the state wasn’t doing an effective job on fighting wildfires. Now the fact that the Federal Government owns half the forest land in California whereas state forest lands represent 3% and thus the problem is one for the Feds to resolve as opposed to being the responsibility of Governor Newsom’s administration is only yet further proof (as if we need more proof) that the 45th President of the United States is the most misinformed Chief Executive of all time. Be that as it may, this exchange brought back to mind a brief chapter of American conservation history which deserves to be recalled.

In 1933, Franklin Roosevelt established the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which was an effort to combat the high rate of unemployment during the Depression while, at the same time, use government resources to expand and protect natural resources, particularly forest lands. When it comes to conservation we usually think of the other Roosevelt, Teddy, because he was an active conservationist his entire life and created five major national parks as President from 1901 to 1909.

Today the National Park System covers 85 million acres and everyone has either visited or would like to visit parks like Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, Yosemite, Zion, the list goes on and on. I have been in every national park and my own favorite is Joshua Tree outside of Palm Springs because it is mostly desert which means the solitude is immense. A close runner-up to Joshua Tree is Capitol Reef in Utah, another amazingly undisturbed place.

What is often overlooked when we talk about federal government efforts to preserve our natural space is that in fact it was Franklin Roosevelt’s CCC that enlarged the National Wildlife Refuge system which now covers more than 150 million acres, including 566 national wildlife refuges in all 50 states. In my state, Massachusetts, there are 11 refuges and I often wander in and around the Oxbow Refuge, which is 1,667 acres of totally unspoiled, natural swamp with nesting places for various migratory birds.  During the years when the CCC was engaged in wildlife conservation, one of their chief tasks was to fight fires that threatened wildlife sites.

As open space becomes an ever-increasing precious resource, the fact that virtually everyone living in the United States can gain access to these unspoiled places by driving a short distance from their homes, means that the ability to appreciate the wildness of nature remains an experience we all can share.  What group among us is dependent upon this environment to help them enjoy the outdoors? Hunters, whose purchase of hunting licenses, firearms and ammunition have contributed more than $14 billion to the upkeep and extension of these natural zones.

Much of the current debate about the place of guns in American culture ignores how the use of small arms for hunting and sport is a vital element in preserving the space needed by wild to flourish and grow. This may sound like something of a paradox, insofar as we usually consider hunting to be a threat to wild animal life. But in fact, hunters understand and support the Boone & Crockett idea of a ‘fair chase’ is really all about helping to maintain the vital balance between all living things – humans and animals sharing the Earth’s natural space.

For me, the importance of hunting for strengthening conservation is a much more fundamental argument for gun ownership than anything having to do with armed, self-defense or 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ Which is why I got involved with Conservation Centers for Species Survival (C2S2), a remarkable organization whose scientific research is moving our understanding of  how to protect wild species to an entirely new level.

I am going to be writing more columns about C2S2 but in the meantime I invite you to look at their website (https://conservationcenters.org/) and subscribe to their Facebook page. I guarantee you’ll like what you see.