Just Because I Don’t Think That Guns Make Us Safe Doesn’t Mean I’m Right.

My friend Shannon Watts received an interesting email the other day on her Facebook page, and since she shared it with all of us, I feel comfortable responding to what the writer of that message had to say.  I’ll quote the relevant words: “Until you can guarantee me my safety, and that of my loved one, I will continue to take care of myself and my loved ones, as i have done these many years.”

 

watts

Shannon Watts

The writer then went on to add the usual semi-literate comments about ‘asshole liberalism,’ and other turns of a phrase. Shannon receives comments like this all the time so what else is new? But I want to look at what Gun-nut Nation means when they talk about ‘guaranteeing’ safety, because I think this notion gets to the heart of what the gun debate is really all about.

Do you notice how #45 (if he’s still #45) never lets an opportunity go by without saying that he wants to make the country ‘safe?’ He’s building a wall to keep us ‘safe.’ He’s restricting immigration to make us ‘safe.’ I’m sure that if the GOP had managed to jettison the ACA that this colossal act of political stupidity would have somehow been seen as making us ‘safe.’

I’m not saying that most or even many gun owners walk around thinking that the only thing they can depend on in this terrible unsafe world is that 20-ounce piece of steel and polymer which has the unfortunate tendency to flop onto the floor when they pull their pants down and squat on the can. Most gun owners are like me (and I own lots, really lots of guns) – the guns have always been around, I like having them around, it’s something fun and that’s the end of that.

But then you get those jerks like the jerk who wrote that dopey Facebook note to Shannon who really believe they need to have a gun because it makes them feel ‘safe.’ And you could tell someone like that again and again that there are countless studies which show that guns won’t make you any safer and what you’ll get is a blink, a nod, and a restatement of the ‘fact’ that he ‘knows’ that his gun will make him ‘safe.’

We’re not talking reality here, folks. We’re talking emotions, pure and simple, and emotions, particularly fearful emotions, always trump facts.  It’s like my friend Al who takes 5 days to drive to back and forth to Florida each Winter because he’s afraid to fly. I can tell him from today to next year that he’s much safer in an airplane than trundling down I-95 and he’s still going to drive.

When you stop and think about it, the decision of the gun industry to market their products by appealing to fear is a brilliant master stroke. Because I can’t think of another consumer product whose basic use has been transformed so radically even though the way the product functions hasn’t changed at all.  Pull the trigger and it goes – bang! That’s the way a gun works and has always worked. But using a gun to bring down Bambi, a high-flyer or clay bird is one thing, using it to ‘guarantee’ your ‘safety’ is something else.

If we’ve learned one thing from the power of advertising media, it’s that people can be made to believe all kinds of things which may bear no relationship to reality at all. But who made me the ultimate authority on what’s believable or what’s true when it comes to guns? The fact that I write about guns and I own lots of guns doesn’t mean that anyone else should necessarily to adopt my point of view.  And if I can’t persuade Al that he’s safer flying to Florida than driving down there in his truck, why should someone who really believes that his gun ‘guarantees’ his safety want to rethink his own point of view?

 

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Move Over Bannon – The NRA Is Now Leading The Alt-Right.

Sooner or later the NRA was going to forget its traditional role as an organization devoted to gun training, gun safety and sportsmanship and turn itself into an organization that represents the lunatic fringe.  Not only does the NRA want to be part and parcel of the loonies, according to our friends in The Trace, America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ wants to play a leadership role. And their campaign is being kicked off tomorrow with a speech that will be delivered by Wayne-o at the real inauguration of the 45th President, which is the annual CPAC meeting being held just across the Potomac from Washington, D.C.

bannon            How the wheels of fame and fortune doth turn.  I remember it was just a few years ago that the CPAC headliner was Sarah Palin – what happened to her?  And while Dana Loesch is on the program, how come there’s no space for Ann Coulter, perhaps because she tweeted  a defense of Milo Yiannopolous whose former Breitbart boss will, of course, spend his appearance burnishing his national security credentials before his boss takes the stage?

I’m not sure if this year’s CPAC meeting is the first time that Wayne-o has appeared at the event, but it certainly marks a decision by the NRA leadership to throw all their energies into a full-fledged effort to move to the forefront of the conservative tide.  Because it’s one thing to dump some cash into the willing laps of pro-gun legislators or lobby for less gun regulations at the federal level or within individual states.  The NRA’s been doing those things for nearly fifty years, but the organization never before presented itself as a self-appointed leader of the lunatic fringe.

And let’s be honest folks about who Trump really represents.  Because the fact is that he won the election because he pulled one-half of one percent more votes in MI, WI and PA than she did and, by the way, Jill Stein outpolled Ms. Clinton by almost two to one in those three states. So Trump can lie from here to high heaven about those ‘millions’ of illegal votes that she got, but the bottom line is that a combination of the worst-managed Presidential campaign of all time (thank you Bill Clinton for waiting until after the votes were counted to say that Mook should have been fired) and the statistical vagaries of the Electoral College allows Trump-o to pander to the lunatic fringe to his heart’s content.

But how come he’s being joined in the decision to institutionalize his hateful and wacko rhetoric by the NRA?  Okay, the gun guys want a national, concealed-carry law, they want to prevent extended background checks, they want more guns and less gun laws as the order of the day. But what does that have to do with the issue of immigration? What does that have to do whether a transgender kid goes into this bathroom or that? Wayne-o claims that his CPAC speech will be an effort to lead the forces that are conspiring to sabotage Donald Trump.

Let me tell you what’s really going to sabotage Trump and it ain’t all these evil forces against which we can protect ourselves by carrying guns.  What’s going to sabotage Trump are the 30 million people who may find themselves without health coverage or the 150 million middle-class Americans who will discover that Trump’s ‘fantastic’ tax plan won’t help them one bit.

There’s a Republican Congressman in Texas, Louis Gohmert, who just cancelled his Town Hall meeting because he was afraid that someone might show up and start banging the way that Jared Loughner shot Gabby Giffords and 17 other folks with, of course, a legally-purchased gun. Gohmert’s rated an ‘A’ legislator by the NRA which means that he supports their nonsense about how everyone should walk around armed. But the real reason Gohmert cancelled is because he knows that representing the loonies won’t replace the ACA. And by the way, Wayne-o, appealing to the loonies won’t sell any more guns -they have as many as they need.

When It Comes To Guns, The ‘Truth’ Will Really Set You Free.

Now that the 45th President has started dismantling the Affordable Care Act, I feel it incumbent upon myself to remind all my gun-nut friends that they might now be facing a serious, indeed highly-threatening assault on their 2nd Amendment ‘rights.’  What?  The 45th President taking away all the guns?  Wasn’t that what the 44th President tried to do?  Isn’t the 45th President the best friend that gun nuts ever had?  Oh…my…God.

wayne              The reason that Gun-nut Nation better figure out how to deal with this problem is because the ACA actually contains a provision which, believe it or not, protects gun owners who refuse to tell a physician whether or not there’s a gun lying around the house. But this section of the ACA is always conveniently overlooked when the Gun-nut noise machine pushed out its usual quotient of fake news about doctors and guns.  Here’s a comment from the NRA Blog: “The reality is, I should be able to receive medical care without being subject to a politically motivated inquisition regarding a right guaranteed by the United States Constitution.” The comment is found in a post entitled, “Should a doctor be allowed to ask if you own a gun?”

But what happens if the ACA is scrapped and isn’t immediately replaced with some other health-insurance law?  It means that the poor, defenseless gun owner won’t have the 45th President around to protect him, and this means that the doctor can not only ask whether the poor guy owns guns, but can immediately report gun ownership to the cops.  Think I’m being a little bit over the top?  Think again.

Recall that after Sandy Hook, the 44th President issued a series of Executive Orders covering guns.  Basically Obama’s action had one result, namely gun sales shot up and remained at historically-high levels until a few weeks before the 45th President was sworn in. But if you had listened to the noisemakers who pander to the Obama-burnished craziness of the NRA, you would have thought that Obama was planning to call out those ‘jack-booted government thugs’ (as Wayne LaPierre once characterized the ATF) to invade every gun-loving American home, grab all the hardware and cart it away. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth, but since the 45th President is now blatantly lying to the Congressional leadership about how many votes he did or didn’t receive, who cares about the truth?

Actually, there is a professional group out there which does try to base its behavior on information that is evidence-based, and that group happens to be physicians, who know a lethal product when they see one.  And the reason they know that guns are lethal is because physicians have to repair 85,000-thousand or so bullet wounds each year, and also have to pronounce some 30,000+ whose bullet wounds can’t be repaired.

There is simply no other consumer product lying around an American home which is as lethal as a gun. Which is why physicians have been advocating that guns shouldn’t be in the home.  By the way, they also advocate that other lethal things, like cigarettes and pills that aren’t in bottles with child-proof caps, also shouldn’t be in the home. But somehow guns are different because many Americans have come to believe that it’s a gun’s lethality which makes it such a valuable item to own.  After all, what if Mister Bad Guy comes crashing through the back door?  What better way to protect yourself and your loved ones than with a gun?

There’s only one little problem. All the talk about how armed citizens constitute a necessary line of defense against violence and crime is just talk.  Even the NRA can’t seem to produce more than 8 or 9 instances each month in which an armed citizen made the difference protecting anyone from crime.  But let’s not forget that we’re no longer in a time when the truth counts for anything at all.  And that’s the reason that the NRA worked so hard to help elect Donald Trump.

A Gun Control Activist Reflects On His Battles With The NRA

The Wall Street Journal carried an interesting interview this morning with Mark Glaze who, until Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts combined to form Everytown, was the Executive Director of Bloomberg’s first gun-control group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns.  I’m not sure whether this group ever had a clear objective for what it wanted to do; some of its research efforts were outstanding, some were duds, there didn’t seem to be any attempt to forge a unified and active voice among the city mayors who comprised the membership, and their lobbying efforts in Washington certainly never paid off.  But that’s all history now as Everytown seems to be ramping up for the next round, meanwhile Mr. Glaze sat down with a WSJ reporter to reflect on what he had and hadn’t done.

What I found most interesting in his comments was an attempt to tie the failure of gun control in Washington to other issues that have nothing to do with guns.  In particular, Glaze focused on the controversy about NSA spying that emerged in the flight and prosecution of Anthony Snowden, as well as the botched roll-out of the website that prevented people from signing on to the ACA.  To quote Glaze: “There’s an almost perfect overlap, I think, between the people who are the most active and radicalized gun voters and people who just don’t like and trust the government very much.”

acaThe fact that both the website mess and Snowden’s revelations occurred long after the post-Sandy Hook gun control bill was dead and buried doesn’t really negate his general point of view.  The NRA has been attacking the Federal government’s alleged whittling away of gun rights for the last twenty years, in particular whenever a Democratic administration tries to enact even the most mild gun reforms.  In fact, the gun bill that was ultimately voted down in 2013 was a much less draconian measure – in terms of the scope of government regulation – than what Clinton got through the Congress in the form of the Brady Bill in 1993 and the assault weapons ban in 1994.

Glaze shouldn’t be faulted for seeing only the tip of the iceberg because his vantage-point for understanding the behavior of the NRA is, by definition, the very narrow perspective that surrounds anyone who’s work ties them to hanging around DC. The truth is that what makes the NRA so formidable is not the care and attention they lavish on elected officials in Washington (what they hand out for political campaigns is a tiny fraction of what other industries like banking and lawyers shell out every two years) but their efforts at the state level to promote issues like LTC.

In 1994, following passage of Brady, less than half the states operated under laws that made it relatively easy to qualify for concealed-carry permits, a number which has swelled to include just about every state, even though the Supreme Court explicitly stated that the 2nd Amendment did not cover carrying a gun outside the home for self defense when they ruled for Heller in 2008.  And while there are still a few jurisdictions, particularly large cities like Washington, New York and Chicago where LTC is basically not issued, probably 90% of all Americans, particularly in areas where everyone owns a gun, can qualify to carry a gun on their person with about as much difficulty as they would encounter in acquiring a license to operate a small boat.

If the NRA has been the main voice preventing more gun control in Washington, it’s because out in the hinterlands most of us can walk around with a gun in our pocket and pretend that we are the “good guys” who are on the lookout to protect everyone else from the “bad guys” with guns.  The fact that gun violence rates have stabilized or increased slightly in the years since LTC became the law of the land is one of those inconvenient facts that the NRA simply chooses to ignore.  But nobody ever said that a successful advocacy campaign requires having the facts on your side.  What the NRA knows how to do is reach gun owners in ways that really count, a strategy that the gun control folks still need to figure out.