Want To Buy Another Gun? There Are Plenty Lying Around.

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Now that America’s greatest all-time gun salesman has departed from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, leave it to the NRA to try and pretend that #45 is filling his shoes.  Because after ponying up $30 million for Trump television campaign ads, the last thing the boys in Fairfax will admit is that the result of spending all that dough given by their loyal members (like me) will result in the gun industry going down the tubes. And I guarantee you that as the purchase of new guns continues to slide, the NRA will push out this phony argument and those phony numbers again and again to pretend that Americans still want more guns.

bomber             The fact is that the gun industry has always been a boom-and-bust industry, sales trends driven by fears that guns might be taken away. There simply is no truth to the argument I hear from various Gun-nut Nation mouthpieces that all kinds of new demographics – women, minorities, millennials – are into guns. The percentage of American households that report legal gun ownership has declined by nearly half over the last twenty years, and the explosion of gun sales during the Obama ‘regime’ (at least we won’t hear Limbaugh ratcheting up that disgusting remark for the next four years) basically represented people who owned guns buying more guns.

But leave it to the NRA to come up with a post-election narrative on gun sales which twists the facts in a way to prove that the gun industry will remain alive and well even when nobody needs to be worried about whether they can buy another gun.  Here’s the headline from the NRA-ILA blog: “‘Trump Slump’ Proved False By Strong Background Check Numbers,” a response to articles in the financial press predicting that gun sales in 2017 will decline by 20 percent.

Actually it should only be that background checks on over-the-counter sales in January and February dropped by 20 percent.  In fact, the 2017 drop so far is more like 50% from the monthly totals in November-December, 2016, with the NRA trying to claim that the February, 2017 sales were the ‘third-best’ February sales of all time. And the NRA also skimmed over the fact that since the FBI-NICS background check system went online in 1999, that checks for license applications and renewals last month exceeded background checks for gun transfers for the very first time.

There’s a reason why Smith & Wesson recently changed its corporate name and stock listing to something called American Outdoor Brands.  Never mind the fact that the company has never successfully sold anything except guns; back in 2005 they even tried to hondle bath towels, blankets, bed sheets, pots and pans. But as the Motley Fool politely noted, “The rugged outdoors business can help smooth out the peaks and valleys of the gun business.”

Peaks and valleys – I love it. How about peaks and ravines? Remember when you couldn’t find a Smith & Wesson AR-15 ‘modern sporting rifle’ for less than a grand?  You can buy them online now for $600 and change. Or how about the Model 637, the lightweight version of the little, snub-nose revolver which first rolled out when the factory was still located in downtown Springfield on Stockbridge Street? The company lists the MSRP at $469 but I can buy the gun right now for $359. When was the last time you could buy a new Honda for more than 20% under MSRP?  I’ll tell you when: never, as in not ever, okay?

The good news about the gun business is that, all the nonsense about the ‘armed citizen’ to the contrary, most of the customers are hobbyists and if a gun maker comes out with a new product there will always be some sales.  But designing and manufacturing a new product means investing profits from the sale of current products and right now those profits aren’t there. Sorry folks, but the NRA make-believe isn’t a substitute for hard cash.

 

 

What’s The Connection Between ‘Weak’ Gun Laws And Gun Violence? I’m Not Sure.

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Now that the Trump Administration has made it clear that creating new gun regulations is hardly a national priority, I’d like to recommend to my friends in the gun violence prevention (GVP) community that perhaps they would step back and rethink the issue of the alleged connection between federal gun laws and gun violence; i.e., the belief that fewer federal gun laws leads to more criminal and accidental misuse of guns.

traffic             I’m not saying that we should do away with laws which regulate the purchase, ownership and use of guns.  I’m saying that GVP needs to be a little more sensitive to the assumption that more federal guns laws equals less gun violence because at the federal level we aren’t about to see any more laws. And what the GVP community needs to do most of all is stop assuming that just because a bunch of guns from one state end up getting sold to bad guys in another state, that this means the way to fix the problem is to pass new federal laws.

Here’s a fer-instance:  The Brooklyn DA announces that he is charging 24 putzes, most of whom are Blood members, with trafficking 217 guns into Kings County, including 41 assault weapons, and selling them on the street.  The weapons, according to the DA, were ‘purchased’ in Virginia and his indictment ‘highlighted the need for federal gun control to help stem the flow of thousands of illegal guns from the South.’  And what was the evidence produced to show that these jerkoff gun sellers were exploiting (as one media report called it) the ‘weak’ gun laws in Virginia?  It was a wiretap comment made by one of the jerkoffs named Antwan Walker (a.k.a. Twan) that he could go into any gun store in Virginia and buy as many guns as he could put into a car and take up to New York.

Now let’s assume for the sake of argument that my man Twan was actually telling the truth, even though the chances that he has ever told the truth about anything is probably about as great as the chances that we will ever hear a truthful statement from #45. But the point is that if Twan could go into a licensed gun dealer and buy even one gun, he had to be able to pass a NICS background check, which means he had to have a clean record or else he would not have been able to walk out of the store with the gun.

Guess what?  The gun law which allowed our the gun-trafficking expert Twan to go into a shop and buy 50 guns and take them up to New York was the exact, same federal law which would have regulated the sale of those guns to Twan in whatever state he happened to live. So the idea that all those Southern guns are coming up to New York because Southern states have ‘weak’ gun laws isn’t necessarily true.

Now someone might say but Mike, isn’t it easier to buy guns in Virginia because that state doesn’t require background checks for secondary (i.e., non-dealer) sales? Which happens to be the case in 39 other states besides Virginia, but our young gun trafficker (a.k.a. Twan) didn’t say anything over the phone about getting guns through private sales.  Know why? Because Twan and everybody else who wants to move guns from gun-rich states like Virginia to gun-poor cities like Big Apple doesn’t have to pay for the merchandise at all. They just have to walk down any residential street, break into a private home and I guarantee you they’ll find plenty of guns to steal.

With reliable estimates of between 200,000 and 400,000 handguns stolen each year, why does the GVP community sit around bemoaning the fact that there are so many ‘straw’ sales? I’m totally in favor of extending background checks to secondary sales BTW; I just don’t think it has much to do with how those guns end up on Brooklyn streets, no matter what Twan was heard to say.

 

Here We Go Again: Another Bogus Attempt To Get Guns Into The ‘Wrong Hands.’

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When it comes to reducing gun violence, Gun-nut Nation and its new fuhrer have the perfect solution: lock up every criminal who ever carried a gun and oh, by the way, ‘fix’ the mental health system to make sure that the nutty guy who uses a gun to settle some delusional score or another isn’t allowed to get his hands on a gun.

mental             I’ve been listening to this nonsense for the past twenty years, and while there certainly is something to the idea of removing violent criminals from the streets, the only people who believe that the phrase ‘fix the mental health system’ means anything at all are the same folks who stand around the fence outside Area 51 hoping to see a Martian space ship come down. But the problem is that every once in a while someone from that bunch gets elected to Congress (or the White House) and when they try to rewrite a law which makes it easier for mentally-ill people to get their hands on guns, then the nonsense takes a more serious turn.

And the latest piece of legislative nonsense is a bill just filed by Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) called the “Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act,” which basically undercuts the process by which the VA declares someone to be considered ‘mentally incompetent’ and thus unable to own or buy a gun.  This is a replay of the action taken last month by Congress to annul Obama’s regulation requiring the Social Security Administration to report to FBI-NICS the names of persons who were no longer handling their own financial affairs. In this case, the new regulation goes even further because not only is a judicial exercise required before a final determination of mental incompetency can be made, but the court has to find that the mental impairment is such that the individual would be a “danger to himself or herself or others.”

Incidentally, Congressman Roe is not only a physician (OB-GYN) but is co-chair of something called the ‘GOP Doctors Caucus,’ which claims to be leading the fight for patient-centered health care which, if they inserted the word ‘rich’ before the word ‘patient’ might aptly describe the GOP’s effort to ‘replace’ the ACA.  But either way, if this group of physicians-turned pro-gun legislators believes they are bringing needed clarity to the determination by the VA as to which veterans should have guns and which shouldn’t, it’s about as much clarity as what Trump has brought to the discussion about his connections to Putin and the Russian money-mob.

The proposed law not only calls for a court procedure to determine gun-owning fitness by veterans who collect VA benefits, but requires this procedure to be conducted by a court which doesn’t actually exist. And worse, the law also stipulates that the only criteria which this non-existent court can use to determine gun-owning fitness is that it would have to be shown that the particular veteran was a ‘danger’ to himself or others.

Now I agree that the fact that I designate someone else to handle my financial affairs doesn’t, in and of itself, necessarily create the suspicion that I am prone to engage in dangerous behavior. But that’s not the point. The argument for keeping guns out of the ‘wrong hands’ has never been based on any foolproof test that can be used to predict violent behavior before it occurs. The argument is based on the idea that certain people who behave in certain ways (violent criminals, mentally ill, etc.) are more prone to behave violently and the easiest way to commit a violent act is to use a gun.

If the Republicans decide to undo the ‘wrong hands’ argument for determining fitness for gun ownership, they will be erasing public policies that go back to the first federal gun law passed in 1934.  But since every gun-control law has been the handiwork of Democratic administrations, isn’t it time we gave the other side a chance?

Trump Won But The NRA’s Biggest Battle May Still Be Ahead.

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Will ‘Smart’ Guns Ever Be Sold? I’m Not Sure.

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Ever since the Clinton Administration ponied up some R&D money, the idea of creating a smart’ gun, or what is also called a ‘personalized’ gun has been flopping around the edges of the gun-control debate without much to show for it except a couple of government reports, an overpriced 22-caliber pistol that may or may not work very well and an occasional news story which just takes us back to Square One.

safegun             And Square One in the discussion about ‘smart’ guns is whether the average gun owner would be interested in owning a smart gun at all.  Because no matter how you slice it or dice it, putting an electronic gatekeeping device on a gun just isn’t as simple, easy or cheap as putting a fingerprint reader on a droid. The whole point of droid electronics is that everything that makes the device work is wired through a screen. But guns don’t have screens; they have metals and hard plastics and movable parts. Believe me, if someone could have come up with a droid-like fingerprint scanner that worked on a gun the way it works on a phone, it would have already been done.

Back in 2015 our friends at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School conducted a survey which found that 60% of respondents said they would consider buying a ‘smart’ gun, but a major gap in this survey was that the people who answered weren’t asked how much they would be willing to spend beyond the cost of the gun to personalize the weapon with an electronic device. And a comment by a member of the Hopkins research group that such a gun could use technology that ‘already exists’ simply isn’t true.

Sooner or later, someone has to explain how electronic devices that would be used to create a ‘safe’ gun actually work. Because if you read descriptions of smart-gun technologies, they will tell you how the gizmo works that identifies someone who has been programmed to use a particular gun, but what they don’t tell you is what has to happen inside the gun after the scanner reads the database and finds a print which is a match. And what most of the descriptions tell you is that once a match is made, then the gizmo ‘unlocks’ the trigger and away we go.

But unlocking the trigger of a gun isn’t the same thing as just taking a key and unlocking the front door.  In order to ‘unlock’ a trigger so that it can be pulled to fire a gun, at least three separate parts in the gun have to change their positions, these parts connecting the trigger to the hammer to the firing pin or striker, or otherwise the gun doesn’t work. And if one of these parts doesn’t shift its position with enough force, energy or pressure, when you pull the trigger all you will hear is a – click!  This is the reason you can’t just attach a fingerprint scanner to a gun without entirely redesigning the inner workings of the gun. So to make a ‘smart’ gun you are basically designing and manufacturing a new gun, which means you’re not just adding a new part to the gun the way you might change the grips.

The smart gun folks could get around the cost problem if the government would mandate ownership of smart guns. But the odds of that happening are about the same as the odds that Donald Trump would actually say something that’s true. The only smart gun that has ever hit the market (for a day) was the 22-caliber Armatix pistol which had a retail price of over $1,700 bucks, and even though the company has announced a 9mm prototype, I don’t notice that they have announced a price. And the idea that in low-bid America the cops would ever carry a pricey gun of any kind is like Humphrey Bogart’s final words at the end of Maltese Falcon: This is what dreams are made of.”

What A Surprise! Gun Sales Hit The Skids Under Trump.

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Want to make a million in the gun business? Start with two million.  It’s an old joke but it has a ring of truth to it because even though guns have been selling like hot cakes since you-know-who moved into the White House in 2009, now that he’s moved out, everyone’s predicting that the gun business will slow down.  And the problem with the gun business is that it’s always been boom-or-bust, driven primarily by the possibility that we won’t be able to get our hands on any more guns.

gun-sales        So when Trump pulled off the unthinkable on November 8th, given the fact that he had made gun-control (or I should say, less gun control) a central feature of his campaign, it was clear that the mad rush to stockpile guns during the Obama regime would come to an end. How much of an end?  The numbers so far are much worse than what people thought might occur.

Before I get into the bad news (or the good news, depending on your point of view,) I have to explain how to figure out how many guns are actually sold. Since more than 90% of the guns sold in the U.S. come from companies that are privately owned, we can’t get any kind of valid numbers from the gun makers themselves, but the FBI-NICS background check is extremely reliable for telling us how many new guns have been sold.

In that regard, a funny thing happened to new gun sales in January – they didn’t go down, they collapsed.  The drop in sales from December wasn’t in the nature of 20%, which is what the experts are saying will be the story for 2017; it was more like a drop of 50%, and I don’t ever recall something like that ever happening before. In that regard, Breitbart’s gun ‘expert,’ AWR Hawkins, got it all wrong when he said that background checks needed to be viewed with caution because since every purchase could represent multiple guns, 3 million checks could mean that 6 million new guns were purchased. Except that the monthly NICS report contains a separate category for multiple guns covered by the same call.

In December, 2016 the NICS call center logged 2,763,115 calls.  In January, 2017 total calls were 2,032,108.  Hold on you say, that’s only a decline of 26%, which happens to be, by the way, the biggest month-to-month drop since December-January, 2015-2016. But there’s only one little problem: of the slightly more than 2 million calls in January, more than one million were calls for license checks, pawn redemptions and private sales.  In fact, January 2017 marked the first time that calls for background checks on over-the-counter purchases were less than half the total calls handled by NICS. Gun sale checks were 976,341, which meant the month-to-month calls for background checks on gun sales dropped by nearly 55%.

Neither the NRA nor the NSSF has let out a peep about the January NICS numbers, as opposed to previous months when they couldn‘t wait to let everyone know that background checks for gun sales kept going up. If this trend continues, gun sales are to go back to where they were at the beginning of 2012, before Sandy Hook and before Obama got on his high horse about regulating guns.

No wonder Wayne-o went to CPAC and pledged that the NRA would become the first line of defense against violent, left-wing thugs. After all, if Trump gets his way with immigration, we won’t have all those undocumented, criminally-disposed ‘illegals’ top kick around any more. And unless Gun-nut Nation can come up with a new threat to hearth and home, it may not be long until the shrunken January gun numbers will be a pleasant memory compared to what gun sales might really become.

Wouldn’t it be funny if the NRA is secretly funding Obama’s ‘secret coup?’

The Gun Industry Comes Up With A New Product For Your Health.

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Since I registered for Medicare, a week doesn’t go by when I don’t receive something in the mail offering a hearing aid at a reduced ‘special for seniors’ price. So when I found out about a new federal bill called the Hearing Protection Act, I got really excited because I figured that the Congress was going to make it easier and cheaper for me to start hearing again.

silencer             But in fact this proposed law has nothing to do with helping me hear at all; the purpose of the bill is to make it easier to buy a silencer and thus make it harder for me to hear the sound of a gun being shot off, a noise which, by the way, is a good thing to hear because it tells me that someone may be using a gun in a dangerous and unsafe way.

It figures that the moment Gun-nut Nation comes up with a way to bolster sagging gun sales, they would want everyone to think that what they are doing will actually protect people rather than create harm. The same bunch has been peddling the same nonsense about the virtues and benefits of concealed-carry and the value of walking around with a gun.  But the problem is that gun sales have now slumped and industry analysts predict a rocky year ahead.  Shares of Smith & Wesson (now calling themselves American Outdoor Brands I guess because they own a company that manufactures saws for cutting down trees) have dropped from $30 to $20 a share – the Obama bloom is clearly off the rose and nobody sees it coming back any time soon.

But why would anyone imagine that just because people can now put a silencer on their gun that this will help the gun industry sell more guns?  Because putting a silencer on a gun isn’t the same thing as just changing the grip or adding a laser sight.  In order to mount a silencer on the front of a gun barrel you need to machine the outside of the barrel’s end so that the silencer will screw on and hold tight. If the silencer isn’t mounted exactly flush on these rails, you’ll probably destroy the silencer with the first shot and also probably break the gun. Now here’s where things get tricky, or sticky.

Most hunting guns have barrels that will take a scope or use the iron (open) sights that are part of the barrel itself. Which means for a silencer you have to change barrels which in many cases requires changing the gun.  This is also true with pistols, some of which have barrels that are easily swapped out, others are attached to the bolt. And every pistol that might take a silencer will need a longer barrel so that the part that is machined to accept the silencer will stick out from the front of the slide.  In other words, you’re buying another gun.

Funny, but this doesn’t seem to be explained in the advertising for silencers that I have seen online.  You would think from the promotion for silencers is that all you have to do is buy one, then go through the paperwork, fork over your $200, wait six months or more for the purchase to be approved and then away you go.  That’s not true. What this new law aims to do is get rid of the current licensing process (mandated since the National Firearms Act of 1934) and thus make the purchase of a silencer just as easy and simple as buying any other consumer product that you can put on a gun.

Know what? This law has nothing to do with protecting hearing. The purpose of this law is to give the gun industry a new product line that can be sold to current gun owners because nobody’s buying new guns.  The only protection being offered by this law is protection for the gun industry’s bottom line.

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