A New Video About Guns On Campus That You Must See!

1 Comment

Even though campus-carry just died in Florida, it’s alive in other states and happens to be allowed in nine states, although in several of those states a campus can still opt out. But the bottom line is that Gun-nut Nation’s dream of getting rid of gun-free zones on college campuses is full steam ahead. And the reason for this gross stupidity is not because college campuses are so dangerous; actually they are very safe spots. In fact, the problem isn’t usually on-campus crime but crime committed in neighborhoods adjacent to college campuses because many colleges were founded in urban centers that used to be secure locations but have become less safe as the quality of life in older neighborhoods has declined.

armor2             On the other hand, college-age men and women happen to be susceptible to behavior which if it occurred within easy access to a gun might have very serious results.  Depression is a problem for people of college age; ditto binge drinking, particularly on residential campuses, particularly on weekends when little supervision is around. Even though suicide rates for men and women ages 18 – 24 are higher for people in that age cohort who are not in school, the college experience can be stressful, particularly for students who are far from home. So why add a gun to the mix?

Because the truth is that the college experience is often the experience that forms the basic social values that people then follow for the rest of their lives. And if you drive around college campuses you’ll notice that there’s almost always an outdoor sports store in the neighborhood, but those stores don’t usually sell guns. They stock kayaks, running shoes, hiking and trekking gear, all the stuff which young, active people like to use in the years before they start to develop that wider waistline and end up sitting on their duffs.

Letting guns on campus is an invitation to promote the sale and ownership of guns to people who otherwise may never even think about arming themselves or using a gun for self-defense. There’s a reason why the percentage of American households containing guns continues to go down, and it happens to be going down at the same time that the percentage of Americans enrolled in college is going up. Get it?

A number of groups have sprung up to resist campus carry over the last few years, and one of the most provocative is a Texas-based bunch who call themselves Cocks Not Glocks and showed up on the UT campus last year to hand out dildos to express their anger over the campus-carry law signed by that idiot Greg Abbott in 2016.  In case you are wondering, UT happens to be the same campus where Chuckie Whitman went to the top of the Texas Tower on August 1, 1966, killed 14 and wounded another 31 before he was shot by the cops, not by some undergraduate wandering around with his gun.

The Cocks Not Glocks group has now returned with a video, #StudentBodyArmor, which is something everybody has to see. And I mean everybody. View it on Twitter or Facebook, but make sure you see it and make sure you share it with everyone else. And when you watch the video, make sure to catch the scene where someone models a hoodie with body-armor lining to protect against head shots! It’s the best political satire I have ever seen.

I want this video to go as far as it can go. So I’m going to suggest to the CocksNotGlocks folks that they set up a page on GoFundMe or some other internet money raising site.  My Franklin is ready to go and the money could be used to get your video onto commercial venues, maybe even some movie theaters here and there.  It really deserves to be seen.

Does Steve Ballmer Really Understand The Facts About Guns? I’m Not Sure.

Leave a comment

Like many people with an IT background, I have been wondering what Steve Ballmer has been up to since he left Microsoft back in 2014.  And thanks to an article published earlier this week in The New York Times, now I know.  Along with a group of researchers and academics (none of whom are identified, by the way) Steve has constructed a website that allows viewers to gain a “data-driven portrait of the American population, our government’s finances, and government’s impact on society.”

usafacts             Steve claims that the website has ‘no political agenda,’ but he gives himself away when he says that “We hope to spur serious, reasoned, and informed debate on the purpose and functions of government.” And if you don’t believe that ‘reasoned and informed debate’ doesn’t constitute a political agenda, I invite you to take a look at Trump’s daily tweets. Okay?

Anyway, what initially caught my eye was a statement by Steve justifying only using government-sourced data so as to avoid accusations of bias. But this strategy creates its own challenges, and the challenge cited by Steve in this respect involves the issue of guns. “You know,” he is quoted as saying, “it’s not legal to know how many firearms that are in this country? The government is not allowed to collect the number.  I’m shocked! But the N.R.A. has apparently lobbied in such a way government can’t report the data.”

With all due respect to Steve’s effort to report on what the government does with every dime it collects, I just hope his knowledge of laws and regulations about how the government operates is more accurate than his understanding of how the government regulates guns.  Because the fact that we can’t find information doesn’t mean that there is a law preventing the collection of such information or that it is illegal to go looking for it. Which is what Steve is saying about data on the number of guns owned by Americans, and what he says happens not to be true.

The issue about how many privately-owned guns are sitting in American households is never far away from any debate about gun violence or gun anything else. Both sides accept the rough estimate of 300 million firearms, number used either to promote the idea that guns are as common (and useful) as apple pie, or that so many guns results in an unacceptable level of gun violence – take your pick.  But the problem of coming up with an accurate count on what we call the American ‘gun stock’ is due to the fact that the government didn’t start regulating gun manufacturing until 1968, when gun makers first started reporting annual manufacturing numbers to the ATF, and we had absolutely no idea how many guns were floating around prior to the 1968 date.

It might come as something of a surprise, but for that matter we really don’t know how many privately-owned automobiles are sitting in driveways, garages or up on cinderblocks in the front yard. Because the fact that someone doesn’t register an automobile and pay for a set of plates doesn’t mean that the car doesn’t exist and can’t be driven down to the mini-mart or anywhere else. Ditto with guns.

The real problem in estimating gun ownership rates is breaking it down to individual states or localities within states. For example, the Brennan Center has just published an authoritative report on crime which shows that half the homicide increase in the 30 largest cities occurred in only three: Baltimore, Chicago and DC. Do we have any idea how many guns might be found in those locations? No idea at all.

We can always follow Steve’s lead and blame the data gap on the nefarious activities of the NRA. But the NRA has never opposed national registration of all firearms for the simple reason that such a procedure has never been proposed. I’m a data junkie so I’ll have lots of fun playing around on Steve’s new site. But when it comes to guns, perhaps he should let the data or lack of data speak for itself.

 

 

 

Are Guns Weapons Of Mass Destruction? Yep – They Sure Are.

Leave a comment

The good news out of Florida is that the 2017 NRA legislative agenda for the Gunshine State appears to be dead.  The bills, which would have legalized open carry in most public locations, along with concealed-carry in airports and college campuses, didn’t make the calendar of the State Senate Judiciary Committee, which means they will not be reviewed by the committee during the 2017 session, which means their sponsor, Greg Steube, will have to re-introduce the bills again next year.

florida logo1             Incidentally, if the gun violence prevention (GVP) community would ever give an award to the dumbest, piece of pro-gun legislation introduced in any state legislature each year, Senator Steube would win the contest hands down. Because in addition to the bills mentioned above, he also tried to put in a bill that would allow someone who was shot in a public premise which had a gun-free policy to sue the owner of that location for making the shooting victim vulnerable because he couldn’t protect himself with a gun.

The GVP community and its Congressional allies have been attempting, without success, to pass legislation at the federal level that would take away the PLCAA immunity which gun makers use to avoid being sued when someone is shot with a particular gun maker’s gun. Steube’s dumbness whopper was something of a response to the attacks on PLCAA and had it passed muster in Florida, it would no doubt have begun to spring up in other states. Know how crazy things like Ronald Reagan and Half-and-Half started in California and moved East? When it comes to crazy, pro-gun laws, they start in Florida and then spread everywhere else.

Maybe the rational-minded members of the Florida legislature decided this year, particularly after the massacre at the Pulse and the airport shooting in Orlando that enough is enough. Or maybe the NRA lobbyist, Granny Hammer, has just been a busybody for too long. But whatever the reason(s), this year Florida decided that it was no-go for any extension of gun ‘rights.’ Which brings me to the point of this column, namely, the idea that being able to do whatever in hell you want to do with a gun is considered by Gun-nut Nation to be some kind of ‘right.’

According to the Heller and McDonald decisions, the only ‘right’ contained in the Constitution’s 2nd Amendment is the ‘right’ to keep a loaded, unlocked gun in your home for self-defense.  That’s it. Period. End of story. Pro-gun advocates can twist this one around all they want, and in fact many states and localities have approved laws which go far beyond the 2nd Amendment in terms what gun owners can do with their guns – carry them outside the home, carry them openly, sell them, trade them, whatever they want. But none of those activities represent any kind of Constitutional ‘right.’  And I really wish that the GVP community would react with a louder and more aggressive response whenever the issue of ‘rights’ rears its ugly and completely false head.

Know what I think guns represent? I think they should be considered and explicitly referred to as ‘weapons of mass destruction,’ or would you rather continue to believe that a particular product which causes more than 120,000 serious deaths and injuries each year isn’t a WMD?  Last week credible news reports put the human toll from the gas attack in Syria at 70, with another 100 people treated in hospitals near where the attack took place.  Know how many Americans are killed and wounded by guns every weekend each year?  Try 450 and I’m probably off by a hundred or more.

I really don’t think this kind of violence and loss of human life has anything to do with ‘rights,’ There’s nothing in the Constitution which allows it, and it appears that at least some members of the Florida legislature understand what the Constitution says and doesn’t say.

Another State Wants At-Risk Gun Owners To Protect Themselves From Their Guns.

1 Comment

Last week I wrote about a bill in the Oregon legislature that would allow family members to petition a court for removal of guns in cases where a gun owner was an immediate risk to himself or someone else.  The bill, known as a measure to be used only in instances of ‘extreme risk,’ would require the gun owner to surrender his firearms for up to one year, but the gun owner could also appear in court and present evidence that his access to guns no longer represented a risk to himself or anyone else.

gun-suicide             The Oregon initiative follows the adoption of a similar law in California, which allows family members to ask for a restraining order on access to guns. But this week the virus seems to be spreading to the other coast, because a similar measure has just been introduced in the Massachusetts House, and it appears to have enough sponsors to be taken seriously when and if the Massachusetts legislature stops arguing over the annual budget.

I learned about the Massachusetts law because of an email I received from my friends at the NRA, which linked to a statement about the law by the NRA-ILA.  According to America’s oldest civil rights organization, the Massachusetts law, if enacted, would “result in the immediate suspension and surrender of any license to carry firearms and firearms identification card which the respondent may hold.  The respondent would also be required to surrender all firearms and ammunition.” The NRA then goes on to repeat the usual canard about how such an order would be issued based on ‘little, if any real evidence,’ but that’s simply not true.

But the best part of the NRA’s attempt to explain Constitutional law to its membership is the sentence which reads: “Constitutional rights are generally restricted only upon conviction of a felony.”  Did the legal geniuses at Fairfax ever hear of something called ‘prior restraint?’ The rights enumerated in the Constitution are all subject to ‘reasonable’ restrictions imposed by governmental authority, as long as those restrictions meet basic tests regarding the intent and result of what government intends to do. Such restrictions are even explicitly stated in the landmark Heller decision, which states that “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited, and “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill.”

Which is exactly what these ‘extreme risk’ laws are designed to do, namely, keep guns out of the hands of individuals who have shown a disregard for the traditional rules of behavior under which we all live. Sorry, but telling someone that you are depressed to the point of wanting to commit suicide isn’t just an idle threat. Ditto stalking or threatening someone who told you to leave them alone. The Constitution doesn’t enshrine such behavior and such behavior becomes a much greater threat when it might involve a gun.

But remember who we are dealing with here, namely, an organization which increasingly promotes the idea that there should be no restrictions of any kind on the ownership or use of guns. Believe it or not, I would have no problem with the NRA or any other pro-gun advocacy group if they would just drop the nonsense about how guns aren’t really dangerous because we can use them to protect us from crime.  If the NRA would admit the truth, namely, that guns are extremely lethal and that access to a gun increases risk, I would fold up this website immediately, stick my guns, my wife and my cats in the Subaru and take off to a trailer park in the Florida Keys.

The fact that something is dangerous doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be owned. I know a guy who keeps rattlesnakes but treats them with extreme caution and care.  Are we asking too much of my gun-owning friends to behave the same way with their guns?

If The ATF Believes That Gun Violence Is Caused By Thefts From Gun Shops, The Martians Have Landed At Area 51.

3 Comments

The ATF, which is the responsible government agency for regulating firearms, has just released another report about its activities which actually obscures more than it explains. But that’s the usual state of affairs with the ATF, a group of bumblers who still haven’t explained how they managed to lose two thousand guns in a sting operation called Fast and Furious that was supposed to uncover a vast manufacturing enterprise to convert AK-47 semi-auto rifles into full-auto machine gun and didn’t turn up even one.

atf              This new ATF report, which covers guns stolen or missing each year, comes out of the same division within the ATF which claims to be “leading in the fight against violent crime and terrorism,” a.k.a. the vaunted National Tracing Center. Let me tell you right now that if the National Tracing Center is what’s protecting us against terrorism, I would strongly urge all the readers of this column to drop whatever else they are doing, immediately start building their underground bunkers and stock their bunkers with a generous assortment of Glenn Beck’s freeze-dried food. And don’t forget to load up the bunker with an AK-47 and a couple of thousand rounds.

The last thing the ATF is going to do with its tracing activities is protect us or themselves from anything, unless the ‘anything’ happens to be a cut to their operational budget. They can talk all they want about how hard it is to conduct those hundreds of thousands of traces they conduct on ‘crime guns’ each year, but in fact, less than 20% of the traces they conduct each year have anything to do with serious crimes. For that matter, all the ATF’s whining about how their hands are tied because they can’t go beyond the first transfer of a gun is simply not true at all, because most gun shops sell as many used as they sell new guns, which means that all the transfers of previously-sold guns can be traced as well.

But let’s go back to the stolen/missing report which the ATF has just issued for 2016. The data represents what is reported to the ATF by federally-licensed dealers, but the information comes from the ATF in two very different ways. The reports on guns that have been stolen are usually supplied by dealers themselves who are victims of some kind of criminal activity, usually a burglary, which results in a loss of guns. Occasionally there’s a really spectacular burglary event, like the idiot in Janesville, WI, who allegedly stole more than 30 guns out of a gun shop and then sent mailed a threat to President Trump. But most of these thefts are a gun here or a gun there, and are frequently the work of a gun shop employee who just can’t resist the temptation to make an extra bit of cash.

The guns that are reported ‘missing’ by dealers, on the other hand, are guns for which paperwork can’t be found when the ATF conducts the inspection of a shop.  This doesn’t mean that the guns were stolen or fell into the wrong hands, it just means that the paperwork examined by the ATF can’t be found for a particular transaction, even though the transfer of that particular gun was legal in every respect. My last ATF inspection covered more than 11,000 transfers which occurred in my shop between 2002 and 2013. Know how many transactions ended up being reported as missing? Exactly five.

If the ATF wants to do something about curbing the theft of guns, why don’t they figure out a strategy or at least some messaging to highlight the fact that every year two hundred thousand or more handguns get stolen from private homes? The ATF will immediately tell you that regulating private gun ownership isn’t their legal mandate or their organizational concern. Which is why the agency’s value as regards reducing gun violence is both overstated and misplaced – gun violence is caused by the existence of so many privately-owned guns.

Start Making Plans To Go To Peace Week Delaware, September 17-24, 2017.

1 Comment

I first got involved in gun violence prevention (GVP) back in 1965, because the gun violence which concerned me was the gun violence that was going on in Viet Nam. Now you might think there’s no connection between shootings in a neighborhood somewhere in the United States and the killing of soldiers (and civilians) on the battlefield, but that’s not really true. Rifles and handguns were first developed for use in warfare, so it’s entirely consistent if you’re against gun violence, to be against gun violence no matter where it occurs.

peace2              One of my real heroes in the anti-War movement was Daniel Berrigan, a Jesuit priest who was a major voice in radical and pacifist politics before, during and after the Viet Nam War. So I was struck the other day by the news that another pacifist activist, John Dear, who also started out as a Jesuit, appeared last year at an event called Peace Week Delaware, which will be repeated this year on September 17 – 24.

The point of Peace Week Delaware is to promote the idea of creating sanctuary cities and other locations that will be zones of non-violence and will develop and support ongoing programs to make people and neighborhoods more peaceful and safe. And what could be more important in creating such non-violent spaces than to develop awareness about gun violence and support activities that might help bring gun violence to an end?

And believe me when I tell you that Delaware, particularly the city of Wilmington which is the home base of Peace Week, could certainly use from help when it comes to reducing violence caused by guns. There is no state in America which had as high an increase in homicide rates between 1999 and 2012 as Delaware with the rate per 100,000 jumping from 3 to 7, a time when the national homicide rate declined by half. And most of the shooting (fatal and non-fatal) occurred in Wilmington, which had a per-100K gun incident rate of 181, which is 6 times higher than the national per-100K rate for intentional injuries caused by guns.

When it comes to recent gun violence, don’t think things have gotten terribly better in Delaware, particularly Wilmington.  There were 154 shooting victims in 2013, of whom 18 died.  The following year the number of shooting victims ‘dropped’ to 124 but homicides went up to 23 – the shooters became better shots. In 2015 the carnage went back up to 151 with 26 ending up in the morgue, the 2016 numbers were roughly the same.  This year shootings are 40% higher than in any previous year to this date. In other words, if this continues, sooner or later the gun violence rate will start to drop in Wilmington, because there won’t be anyone around to get shot.

I wish I had room to list all the community-based organizations which supported the first Peace Week Delaware last year. Suffice it to say that the displays, activities, marches and events drew on the energies and interest of a wide cross-section of government, civic, faith-based and community groups, obviously embracing the GVP organizations as well. There were more than 40 events in 2016 and this year there are already more than 30 events being planned.

But let’s forget numbers for a minute and get back to the central issue, which is the connection between GVP and peace.  During the Viet Nam, something known as ‘peace studies’ emerged on college campuses, and students studied peace as a subject matter the same way they studied sociology or chem.  Is it that difficult to imagine that a college or university wouldn’t enhance its curricular offerings with a course on violence and guns?

The good news about Wilmington is that it’s less than a two-hour drive from New York and Washington, D.C.  I’m going to do my darndest to get there for Peace Week 2017 and I strongly urge you to do the same.  And if you want to donate something to help support a worthy cause, just click right here.

Here’s An Easy Way For The NRA To Prevent Gun Accidents.

1 Comment

According to the CDC, in 2014 slightly less than 16,000 Americans accidentally shot themselves or someone else and survived their wound.  Back in 2009, the number was 18,610.  Which means, according to the gun industry, that guns are getting safer all the time.  And of course when it comes to accidental shootings which result in death, the number has not only been declining year after year, it’s so paltry now that the whole gun safety issue is not even worthy of concern.

nra4              After all, how can anyone get worked up over a few hundred deaths when we all know that folks walking around with guns prevent millions of serious crimes from being committed every year?  And if you doubt that figure, just take a look at the NRA’s Armed Citizen website, which shows that 38 armed Americans used their guns to protect themselves and others from criminals in the month of March alone! Now if you read the fine print you’ll discover that 8 of those armed citizens turned out to be off-duty cops who are supposed to have their guns handy even when they aren’t on the job, which gets us down to around 30 times when someone exercised their 2nd-Amendment ‘right’ to defend themselves with a gun. And a little bit of math that even I can do gets us up to a whopping 360 armed-citizen protective incidents a year. Wow! How could you even begin to doubt the value of civilian gun ownership when all we lose to gun accidents is less than five hundred folks each year?

Of course leave it to those troublemakers at Harvard’s School of Public Health to point out that official counts on fatal gun accidents may, in fact, be undercounted by at least half.  And this is because coroners are often reluctant to rule a gun death as an accident since many such events end up being reviewed in court. As one coroner told the researchers, “If one person kills another person, we usually call it homicide and let the courts decide whether there was any wrongdoing” So that’s the end of that.

In any case, there may be a chance, although I doubt it, that Gun-nut Nation will take a somewhat less benign view of gun accidents given what happened at the gun range in NRA headquarters this past week. Evidently an employee of the NRA was in the process of holstering his gun after banging a few; the gun went off, the bullet hit the guy in the ‘lower part of his body,’ he was taken to a nearby hospital at Fairfax, treated and released – no harm done.

What I found interesting in this report was that the accident evidently occurred during a training session at NRA headquarters; it wasn’t just a case of someone going down to the range on their own time to fiddle around with their gun. And the NRA training manuals repeat ad nauseum the idea that you must keep your finger off the trigger at all times unless the gun is pointed at the target that you intend to shoot.

Which brings up the whole issue of gun safety that Gun-nut Nation tries mightily to avoid, namely, that when it comes to making a mistake with a gun, there’s no oops. And the problem is that we are human, and as humans we are all careless and we will sooner or later forget. That’s the reason we mandate seat belts but we can’t put a harness around a gun.

But I have an idea for how my friends at the NRA can prevent such accidents from happening again. Why don’t they just declare NRA headquarters to be a gun-free zone? I’m not talking about the old guns in the museum – those guns are all sitting behind glass. I’m talking about the guns that folks wear in the building because, of course, there’s always a chance that a criminal might try to assault or rob you at 11250 Waples Mill Road.

 

Older Entries Newer Entries

%d bloggers like this: