Khalil Spencer: A Modest Proposal.

As we continue to accomplish very little with regards to solving the problem of gun violence, I have a modest proposal. Well, maybe not so modest. But what the hell.

NRA showFirst. Stop trying to ban categories of guns such as ARs that have long been in circulation, since that creates a battle royal and since most of these guns are owned with little real risk to society in proportion to the political battle that would ensure if we try to ban them.  The lion’s share of shootings, including multiple shootings, are done with handguns. ARs are a convenient political target for the left as a symbol of what they see as America’s Gun Problem.

But as a hedge, and as I suggested in 2015 we can, if necessary to keep Junior from mowing down his school or place of work, modify the 1934 National Firearms Act to regulate ARs and some handguns, i.e., arms more lethal than garden variety hunting rifles, shotguns, and some large unconcealable handguns, in some manner between machine guns and Dad’s Remington 1100. That doesn’t mean people can’t have exotic guns or, “modern sporting rifles”, or whatever you want to call stuff. It just means it will be a little harder to own more lethal guns, there will be a little more screening, and not every bozo who walks into a gun shop can come out armed to the teeth with his Man Card intact. How we decide what would fall into this category should be decided carefully so we don’t run afoul of Heller or intractable political issues. As a point of discussion, how about if owning “modern sporting rifles” and/or being able to carry concealed require a common, higher level of screening than traditional low capacity firearms and hefty handguns more at home in the woods. A “basic” firearms owners identification card (FOID) could be had by anyone who scores 100% on a Form 4473 and one could upgrade if the spirit moved one.

Secondly, stop trying to keep people from owning guns if they have not proven that they should be disqualified. Once we decide on categories of firearms, how about national reciprocity with ownership? Or at minimum, a state-issued FOID card with national reciprocity? Make it shall-issue after jumping through reasonable hoops.  Each gun owner would have an ID card, similar to a driver’s license, that would allow some or all categories of guns to be owned, openly or concealed, analogous to a license that allows individuals to drive just cars vs allowing the person to drive cars, motorcycles, eighteen wheelers, etc. Of course this means red and blue states have to compromise on M.Q.’s but in return, we could stop talking about gun running from so called weak law to strong law states and I could plink at tin cans with my old man’s hand cannons in NYS without fear of being chased down by Andrew Cuomo. State level sensitivities such as not carrying in government buildings could be preserved. What a concept.

Background checks? Easy.  Private sales/transfers between owners would be done by entering a computerized NICS-like system with a pair of FOID numbers, PINs, a gun serial number and description and presto, a private exchange is done between previously cleared people based on their level of screening. You want to be screened to own an M-60 for shits and grins or sell one to your buddy who is equally screened? Sure, why not? Right now there are hundreds of thousands of legally owned machine guns. They are never in the news because you have to be pretty squeaky clean to own one.  Just show you are responsible for the damn thing and God bless ya.  Just make sure you can afford the ammo.

Finally, stop moving the goalposts and messing with people who have never crossed paths with the law. The biggest, and often enough legitimate fear that gun owners have is that the rules are too fluid and often the changes are bewilderingly stupid. Want examples? Start with California. These situations make Molon Labe an understandable, if not a legally defensible response. Plus, these situations result in single issue politics at the polls, which doesn’t help the bigger issue of running the country.  The recent editorial by Santa Fe Mayor Webber, i.e., that he would attempt to circumvent the state constitution’s preemption clause, is yet another example of why gun owners are wary of trusting government. Sure did bug me that this showed up in the Santa Fe New Mexican three months after I moved here. No, I didn’t get a call from Mr. Mayor as a “responsible gun owner”, either.

I think we need to do more to keep guns under control, i.e, from being diverted from the legal to the illegal side of the house and to ensure the irresponsible dofus and clearly identified legal loose cannon is not sending rounds whizzing past my hair do. That means some controls on ownership (i.e., theft prevention and periodic cross-referencing with court records) and transfer (to ensure you don’t sell that semiauto to someone about to blow away his wife after she got a restraining order against her slap-happy hubby). But if the laws are designed to control transfer  and reward lawful ownership rather than prevent ownership by good people (i.e., California et al), maybe we can get past the impasse.

The 2A was written so that a citizen militia (of whoever passed for a citizen back then) could be called on to defend the state and/or nation and to try to prevent the unwarranted amassing of power by a government that no longer represents its people. UCLA Law Professor Adam Winkler covered that pretty well in Gunfight and there have been numerous papers written about the evolution of arms and self defense in England and America. Heller’s contribution was explicitly including in the 2A the right to have a usable weapon for self defense in the home. The historical reasoning behind the 2A implies some standards need to be met among the people. For one, it would be wise if we don’t elect assholes who we might genuinely worry about as far as usurping excessive power (hence the ballot box and high school diploma with an A in rhetoric and civics are far more powerful tools than the sword) and two, that we know the limits of being armed and therefore, know muzzle from breech as well as the law of self defense. No American who has thought carefully about the often-used Jefferson quote about watering the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots and tyrants wants to live in an Anbar Province, no matter how pissed off he gets at Big Gubbmint. Any doubts? Read the history of the Civil War.

Fix the country with a saw and hammer, not with a match and gasoline.

 

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Greg Gibson: The Delusion About Gun Violence.

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 The impressive wound ballistics of the AR-15 are not accidental. The thing was designed to do what it does. A .223 round impacts with such velocity that it generates an explosive shock wave inside the target. Also, the bullet will tumble, enhancing its destructive properties. Don’t let anyone fool you. We may not be able to settle on a decisive characterization of an “assault rifle,” but an AR chambered for a .223 round will make a mess of a human body – exactly as it was designed to do. And it will do so thirty, fifty, or many more rounds in short order, depending on how fast the lunatic on the other end can pull the trigger and swap out his mags. The industry’s characterization of this type of weapon as a “modern sporting rifle” is an obscenity.

Fortunately for the college at which he went berserk, my son’s killer was financially constrained. Furthermore, he was a novice, having never fired a gun before he went on his campus shooting spree. He settled on a used SKS, a cheap carbine that fired the lower-velocity 7.62 x 39 mm round. He purchased a pistol grip and plastic folding stock to replace the original wooden one, a conversion kit to allow the SKS to accept 30-round magazines, six of those magazines, and 180 rounds of ammunition. The aforementioned financial constraints led him to purchase inexpensive full metal jacket bullets. Because they are jacketed the projectiles tend to go through a body rather than disintegrating as a hollow point bullet might, or tumbling and generating a shock wave as the .223 round does. The killer’s chest shot shattered my son’s sternum, passed into his chest cavity, severed blood vessels, passed through a lung, severed the trachea, passed through the 7th rib and exited the back. He died on his college library floor, bullets zinging past, friends and classmates freaking out watching one of their own strangle and bleed to death. After he’d killed two people and wounded four, the wannabe psycho killer’s gun jammed – the magazine wasn’t seating properly – and he didn’t know how to clear it.  This saved many lives.

When such a thing happens to your son or daughter you don’t experience it as a chapter from a wound ballistics textbook. It is the most painful, calamitous, life-changing event imaginable.

If you manage to not kill yourself or someone else, as I just barely managed not to do, and if you don’t go so crazy as to become completely dysfunctional, you might fall prey to the very reasonable delusion that, once people hear your story, once they learn how horrific and widely damaging gun murder is, they’ll be inspired to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else ever again.

This same delusion caused those Parkland teens to speak out as they have. The worst thing imaginable had just happened to them. Surely, once they let the world know about it, the world would rise as one and cry, “Enough!”

I love their ferocity and energy, but I worry about how those kids will be feeling years down the road, when the journalists have moved on to other stories, and they are left with only the horrific images of what happened, set against the backdrop of America’s vast, self-absorbed, indifference.

This is an excerpt from a longer piece entitled “Survivor Apocalypse.”

 

Take A Survey On Assault Weapons.

 

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This is a completely anonymous survey which gives gun owners an opportunity to report how they feel about the ownership of assault weapons and current plans to regulate such weapons more strictly.  The survey can be completed in 2 minutes or less and we will post results on a weekly basis.

 

If you are a gun owner, take this survey.

Remember, this survey is completely anonymous. Even Survey Monkey doesn’t know who you are.

Tom Gabor – A New Approach to Regulating the Most Dangerous Weapons.

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Much has been said of late about the need to ban “assault weapons” (AW) or “weapons of war”. Polls show unprecedented support for a nationwide ban on these weapons.[1]  When used in the context of legislation or bills, these terms have been defined in a variety of ways, needlessly offend certain gun owners, and may even serve as impediments to effective laws.  In this article, we propose a different approach and one that avoids the pitfalls of previous AW bans as well as bills filed since the mass shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

 

The Problem:  Unless one has lived in a cave over the last 20 years or so, it has become apparent that mass shootings have become an increasing concern in the US.  The largest massacres have almost always involved the use of weapons like the AR-15 and its relatives in Las Vegas (with the aid of bump stocks), at the Orlando Pulse nightclub, Virginia Tech, Aurora Century Theater, and Sandy Hook Elementary School, as well as in Parkland. One analysis has found that an average of 9 more people are shot and 3 more people are killed in mass shootings in which these weapons or high-capacity magazines (HCM) are used, illustrating the emptiness of the slogan:  “Guns don’t kill, people do.”[2]

An analysis conducted for my book, Confronting Gun Violence in America, shows that the number of public mass killings by firearm more than doubled from the 1980s to the 1990s and 2000s.[3] Between 2010 and 2015, the annual number of incidents has again increased sharply, at over four times the frequency observed in the 1980s.  More than half of the 30 deadliest mass shootings since 1949 have occurred since 2007.  The average number of deaths per year resulting from mass public shootings also has increased and, since 2010, was almost four times that of the 1980s.  It is worth noting that the acceleration in the number of large-scale mass shootings occurred following the expiration of the national AWs ban.

 

The increasing annual number of fatalities is especially noteworthy because great strides have been made in the management of bullet wounds over the last 15 years or so due to lessons learned on the battlefields of Afghanistan.  Thus, despite higher survival rates, we see an increasing toll from mass shootings, reflecting the greater lethality of weapons and an increasing proportion of victims who incur multiple bullet wounds.  This makes sense as we know that there is a growing number of military-style weapons in the civilian market.  The gun industry introduced these weapons into the civilian market in the 1980s in response to the saturation of their core market (white, rural males) with conventional firearms.

 

The Assault Weapons Ban of 1994:  The federal AWs ban, in force between 1994 and 2004, prohibited the manufacture, transfer, and possession of those semi-automatic firearms designated as AWs.  The weapons subject to the ban were characterized by features (see below) suitable to military and criminal applications rather than sport shooting or self-defense.  Over one hundred firearm models, including certain pistols and shotguns, were covered by the ban.  The ban also covered HCMs holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition.   This aspect of the ban extended beyond designated AWs as it applied to many non-banned weapons that could be equipped with these magazines.  At the time the ban took effect, it was estimated that 1.5 million AWs were privately-owned in the US along with about 25 million HCMs.[4]  Millions more of the HCM’s manufactured before the ban were imported into the country by 2000.

 

The ban yielded mixed results with regard to its effect on violent crime.  While there was no discernible reduction in gun crime or gun homicide, in six major cities—Baltimore, Boston, Miami, St. Louis, Anchorage, and Milwaukee—the share of gun crimes committed with weapons covered by the ban declined by between 17 % and 72 % during the ban.  Nationally, traces of guns used in crimes were 70% less likely to involve AWs during the ban.  Louis Klarevas, author of Rampage Nation, found that gun massacres, defined as incidents involving six or more fatalities, were nearly cut in half during the ban in comparison with the ten-year period preceding it.  In the decade following the ban’s expiration, fatalities again increased dramatically, more than tripling the deaths seen during the ban.[5]

 

The reduction in crime by assault weapons was, in part, offset by the substitution of military-style firearms that technically did not qualify as AWs. Also, during the ban, a study of four cities indicated that guns with HCMs actually rose as semi-automatics were being equipped with them.  In addition, the grandfathering provisions of the AWs ban, which allowed weapons and HCMs already manufactured to continue to be sold, undercut its effectiveness.  Approximately 25 million of these magazines remained in the country and millions more were available for import from other countries.[6]  In fact, manufacturers took advantage of the grandfathering provisions by boosting production of designated AWs in the months leading up to the ban, creating a large stockpile of these items.  By contrast, in Australia’s well-known and successful ban, pre-ban weapons were bought back rather than exempted from the ban.

 

The manner in which weapons covered by the ban were defined also undermined its effectiveness.  The federal ban and current state laws define “AWs” by their features, some of which are irrelevant to the harm the weapon can produce.  Under the 1994 ban, an assault weapon included semi-automatic rifles capable of accepting detachable magazines and possessing two or more of the following features:

  • Folding stocks for concealment and portability;
  • Pistol grip protruding conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon;
  • A bayonet mount;
  • A flash suppressor or threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor; or
  • A grenade launcher.

 

Definitions based on these features create a loophole by allowing manufacturers to circumvent the law simply by making minor modifications to a weapon.  For example, removing flash suppressors and bayonet mounts makes a weapon no less dangerous but can get around a features-based definition.

 

Overall, the 1994 ban showed some promise but the potential effectiveness was reduced by the grandfathering provisions and the features-based definition of “assault-style” weapons.  In addition, those evaluating the law made the point that the ban’s exemption of millions of AWs and HCMs manufactured before the ban meant that the impact of the law would be gradual and would not be fully realized for several years beyond its expiration, especially as HCMs made before the ban kept pouring into the market.[7]

 

A New Approach Focusing on Weapon Lethality: The first AW ban in the US, The Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989, was enacted in California following the massacre of schoolchildren by a drifter who fired 106 rounds of ammunition in three minutes with a semi-automatic military-style weapon.  The law defined an AW as one with “a high rate of fire and capacity for firepower that its function as a legitimate sports or recreational firearm is substantially outweighed by the danger that it can be used to kill and injure human beings.”  Unfortunately, the law failed to explicitly define such terms as ‘high rate of fire,’ and ‘capacity for firepower”.   Instead of defining these terms and banning weapons that met these definitions, the law listed over 50 specific banned guns, and added some cosmetic features (collapsible stock, flash hider, etc.) which have no impact on a gun’s lethality.

When the Federal Government enacted its AW ban in 1994, it borrowed the list of California-banned guns, included the various design features but dropped any reference to lethality; i.e., no mention of ‘high rate of fire’ or ‘capacity for firepower’ at all. This opened the door for gun rights advocates to claim that, functionally, there is no real difference between an AR-15 and any other kind semi-automatic rifle.

To address this void, I propose identifying the most dangerous firearms and regulating them, not on the basis of what they look like but on their ability to kill and injure as many people as possible in the shortest time frame.  National gun expert Mike Weisser proposes a method of scoring the lethality of a firearm on the basis of five factors:[8]   This system is an objective one which is not influenced by cosmetic modifications intended to circumvent regulations.

  1. Caliber – Larger and faster projectiles tend to cause more damage to human tissue, although the design of bullets and the materials used to make them are also important;
  2. Capacity – The number of cartridges that can be fired without reloading;
  3. Loading mechanism – The speed at which a rifle can be reloaded;
  4. Action – Time required to fire a single cartridge and bring the next cartridge into the breech;
  5. Design flexibility—the ability of a firearm to accommodate accessories, some of which increase lethality (e.g., lasers, electronic aiming devices, fore grips).

Once a scoring system is in place, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has the expertise and facilities in place to evaluate each firearm on the market and give it a lethality score.  This will allow for a classification of firearms on the basis of their lethality, with regulation increasing with the growing lethality of the category in which a firearm belongs.  Restrictions that might be considered can vary from complete bans to special licenses and vetting for owners of more lethal weapons, registration requirements, special taxes, longer waiting periods, increasing penalties for noncompliance, and storage requirements for more dangerous weapons.  One option for semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 is to regulate them under the National Firearms Act, as is done with fully automatic firearms.

 

Thomas Gabor, Ph.D. is a criminologist, sociologist and author of Confronting Gun Violence in America

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Quinnipiac Poll, February 20, 2018; https://poll.qu.edu/national/release-detail?ReleaseID=2521

[2] Everytown for Gun Safety, Analysis of Recent Mass Shootings; https://crimeresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/everytown-mass-shooting-analysis.pdf

[3] https://www.amazon.com/Confronting-Violence-America-Thomas-Gabor/dp/331933722X/ref=mt_hardcover?_encoding=UTF8&me=

[4] Christopher S. Koper, America’s experience with the Federal Assault Weapons Ban.  In D. Webster and J. Vernick (eds.),  Reducing Gun Violence in America.  Baltimore:  Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013, p.161.

 

[5] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2018/02/22/the-real-reason-congress-banned-assault-weapons-in-1994-and-why-it-worked/?utm_term=.7aab6b1f3ce5

 

[6] https://www.factcheck.org/2013/02/did-the-1994-assault-weapons-ban-work/

[7] Christopher S. Koper, America’s experience with the Federal Assault Weapons Ban.  In D. Webster and J. Vernick (eds.),  Reducing Gun Violence in America.  Baltimore:  Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013, p.166.

[8] Mike Weisser, Measuring Gun Lethality; https://mikethegunguy.files.wordpress.com/2016/07/measuring-gun-lethality.pdf

All Of A Sudden Everyone’s In Favor Of A New Gun Law – Kind Of.

What a surprise. A guy mows down more than 500 people with an assault rifle of some sort and all of a sudden Congressional Republicans, the NRA and their spokesperson, Donald Trump, are willing to have a ‘discussion’ about gun laws. Charles Grassley, who never met a law protecting 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ he didn’t like, wants to hold hearings; Marco Rubio, who used a visit to Sturm, Ruger for a photo-op during his brief Presidential campaign wants to insure that there are no ‘vulnerabilities’ in federal gun laws (whatever that means); and even Rep. Mark Meadows, head of the Congressional Freedom Caucus (a.k.a what’s left of the Tea Party) is open to considering a gun bill.

LV             Most everyone in Gun-nut Nation fell into line once Trump mumbled something about a discussion on gun laws as he was getting ready to fly to Puerto Rico before going on to Vegas the following day. There were some holdouts, of course, such as the nuts from Gun Owners of America who consider themselves to be the true holder of the flame for gun rights, but they can be ignored. As for Rush, he had to come up with some pathetic defense of Trump’s new ‘soft’ position on guns, so he’s spinning the bizarrely-stupid idea that the President is ‘pretending’ to be for a gun bill in order to get the left-wing media off his back.

And then we have the response of our friends in Fairfax, who rather than waiting a week and then blasting away which is what they did after Sandy Hook, have released a written statement supporting the idea that the ATF should review the accessory known as a bump-stock which can be used to make an AR or AK-style rifle fire full-auto even though the trigger is still re-set to its firing position after every shot.

So both sides are getting a little bit of what they want: the pro-gun gang aren’t discussing the banning of an actual gun and the gun-control crowd can finally say that the industry’s attempt to pass off assault weapons as something they call ‘modern sporting rifles’ has just taken a big dent. But before the political posturing on both sides goes any further, there’s something you have to understand. Here we are a week beyond when the shots rang out, and we still don’t know out whether, in fact, a gun with a bump-stock was used at all.

The cops who busted into the shooter’s room didn’t need five minutes to figure out which gun or guns he used in the assault. The floor was evidently littered with spent shell casings; look down at one and you instantly know the caliber of the gun. Then walk around the room, grab every gun in that caliber, put your hand around the barrel and the amount of heat coming off the carbon steel identifies the requisite gun. The cops were actually too busy taking pictures which were sold or given to various news websites to worry about the guns, which means this all-important crime scene was contaminated beyond belief.

And if you think I’m coming down too hard on the Las Vegs cops who reacted to the rampage in about as quick and effective a way as they could, think again. Not only do we have pictures of the guns floating around, but there’s also a picture of Paddock lying on the floor obviously very bloody and very dead. Who first posted this gem? Alex Jones – who else!

So now the entire political ruling class begins a debate about gun violence without having the faintest idea what they are talking about. What if the shooter was using a legally-purchased full-auto gun? What if it turns out that he bought what the gun industry would like you to believe is a ‘modern sporting rifle’ and converted it into an automatic rifle without using a bump-stock? Engaging in a discussion about gun violence without any evidence-based information has become as normal as gun violence itself.

 

It’s About Time: Maura Healey Takes Aim At Assault Weapons And Scores A Bullseye.

It took more than twenty years, but finally a public figure with brains, leadership and guts has demolished the NRA’s most sacred cow in one fell swoop.  I am referring to yesterday’s announcement by Maura Healey, the Massachusetts Attorney General, that assault rifle are no longer welcome in the Bay State.  If you own an assault rifle you can keep it (thank goodness because I own three,) but if you want to buy one from a dealer, or if a gun dealer wants to buy one from a wholesaler or manufacturer, that’s not going to happen any more.

AR2           The Enforcement Notice issued by Healey’s office restates the definition and description of ‘assault weapon’ incorporated into the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban law, but then prohibits guns from being sold in Massachusetts which meets either a ‘similarity test’ or an ‘interchangeability test’ which basically means an AR without a flash hider, a folding or telescoping stock, or a pistol grip; in other words, if it looks and acts like an AR, it is an AR, extra doo-dads or not. What the AG has done is fashion a legal directive based on the ‘I know it when I see it’ reasoning used by Associate Justice Potter Stewart for deciding pornography cases that came before the Supreme Court.

To understand the gist of Healey’s approach, however, you have to consider the history surrounding the original Assault Weapons Ban.  Because recall that the 1994 law expired after ten years, but states that wanted to maintain it could opt out of the expiration, of which Massachusetts was one of seven states which continued the ban. But the 1994 law didn’t ban assault rifles; it banned assault rifles that contained certain design features, such as pistol grips, bayonet lugs, flash hiders and so forth, none of which in any way reduced the lethality of these guns.

What makes the AR design so exceptionally lethal, what makes the AR a weapon of war, is that the manner in which the stock lines up against the bolt and the receiver, the manner in which high-capacity magazines can be dismounted and remounted within the gun and the manner in which the gun can then be charged after receiving a new, fully-loaded magazine allows the operator to get off as many as 60 shots of deadly military ammunition in one minute or less.

Why do I call the AR a weapon of war?  Because the AR used by battle-zone troops today can be shot in the same semi-auto mode that makes the gun legal for civilian sales.  Yes, the military gun also allows for three-shot bursts, and it is the selective-fire feature of the military rifle, the M4, which is touted again and again by Gun-nut Nation as the essential reason why the AR is nothing other than a ‘modern sporting rifle,’ which is no more lethal or dangerous than any other semi-automatic rifle lugged by a hunter or sportsman into the woods. So does this mean that if a trooper on the battlefield decides to set his rifle in semi-auto mode, that he’s now carrying a ‘sporting’ gun?

This totally fabricated crap about how the AR isn’t lethal has set the tone for Gun-nut Nation’s approach to all guns.  The issue of gun lethality, not just for the AR, but for all small arms, has been pushed aside in favor of an argument which tries to create the fiction that guns are only dangerous if they get into the ‘wrong’ hands.  When guns are carried by law-abiding, armed citizens, they represent an important, indeed indispensable tool for insuring safety and security of all.

Maura Healey’s announcement is a resounding shot across the bow because it sweeps away the rhetorical nonsense cynically foisted on the public to disguise the fact that some guns are simply too dangerous to be put in anyone’s hands. Which is why the AR is not a sporting rifle, because no sporting gun requires a magazine that holds 30 rounds.

Do Attitudes Of Gun Owners And Non-Gun Owners Differ That Much? I’m Not So Sure.

You may recall that several months after the Sandy Hook massacre, the New England Journal of Medicine published a survey on attitudes towards gun regulations that was developed by the gun violence research group at The Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.  Which means, of course, that the survey was designed to promote the gun-grabbing agenda of Mayor Mike.

hopkins            I’m being a bit sarcastic in what I just wrote because there is simply no way I can hold a conversation or direct anything I write towards a dialog with Gun-nut Nation, because thanks to Street Thug Trump, Gun-Nut Nation is rapidly becoming a haven for the lunatic fringe.  And if you want proof of that last statement, I direct you to a missive from a gentleman named Dr. Michael Brown, described on the Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership website as a “pragmatic Libertarian environmentalist,” who writes in detail about what he calls “The Ten Favorite Lies of the Gun Control Lobby,” And Lie #6 just happens to be the findings of the Johns Hopkins survey which found that a majority of gun owners want “more gun control.”

When the Hopkins survey was released back in 2013, attention was riveted on an attempt to get the scope of FBI-NICS background checks expanded to cover secondary (i.e., private) transactions and sales. The bill ultimately went nowhere fast, but the findings from the Hopkins survey were used by Manchin-Toomey supporters to help build their case. In light of the claim by Michael Brown that these findings were nothing more than a lie, I decided to take another look at what the details of that survey really show.

The survey was actually two surveys, one covering gun policies, the other devoted to guns and mental health.  I’m going to focus only on the former because this is the part of the survey which has been characterized as a “lie.”  The survey was completed by 1,865 respondents, of whom one-third reported that there was a gun in the home.  Here are some of the findings:

  • Banning purchase of assault weapons: Non-gun owners yes – 75%.  Gun owners yes – 46%.
  • Confiscation of currently-owned assault weapons: Non-gun owners yes – 63%, Gun owners yes – 37%.

The survey also asked whether a physician whose patient expressed a desire to hurt himself or others should be allowed to contact the NICS system to prevent such individuals from having a gun for a period of six months.  Actually, the survey question is slightly confused because NICS covers purchases, not ownership of guns. But the bottom line is that 75% of non-gun owners believed that physicians should be able to intervene in instances where a patient’s access to guns demonstrated a risk. Ready? 72% of gun owners felt the same way. Wow.

The results of this survey are astonishing in terms of what it says about how attitudes of gun owners and often differ from the usual narrative that we get about guns. If nearly four out of ten gun owners agree that assault weapons should be confiscated, if nearly half current gun owners believe that the purchase of assault weapons should be banned, if seven out of ten gun owners think that physicians should have the authority to help prevent at-risk patients from access to guns, then I think it’s time for Gun Violence Prevention advocate to stop worrying about being demonized for wanting to ban certain guns, and it’s time for physicians to drop their concerns about raising valid medical issues that  might make them appear to be anti-gun.

It will probably be difficult for the remainder of this campaign cycle to distinguish between the rantings of Gun-nut Nation and what might be in the minds of average folks who happen to own guns.  But if things turn out the way they should on November 8th, a serious and substantive gun debate might actually take place.  The Hopkins survey clearly indicates that there are reasonable voices on both sides.

There’s A New Gun Petition Out There And It Sure Ain’t To Promote Guns.

Funny how politics makes strange bedfellows, doesn’t it? Way back when, sometime around 2007 or so, I sent a donation to moveon.org because they were running a campaign against the Iraq War, in particular the escalation of the war known as the ‘surge.’  And to explain and justify the strategy, none other than General David Petraeus was brought back from the battlefield to explain what was going on to various Congressional committees on the Hill. And the fundraising request I received from moveon.org started off by saying, “Here comes Petraeus, don’t let him betray us.”  I thought this was very funny so I sent moveon.org a few bucks.

moveonSo now it’s a different time, a different place and I got Petraeus and Mark (Gabby’s husband) Kelly coming together to form a new gun-control organization which, like all the Gun Violence Prevention groups, is trying to attract more attention to the gun violence problem in the wake of the Orlando shooting last week. And I was about to give the Petraeus-Kelly combine my award for this week’s most significant addition to the roster of organizations and activities that are promoting gun violence prevention except that another horse coming out of the moveon.org stable caught my eye instead.

What I am referring to is a petition on the moveon.org website which calls for the banning of all AR-15 guns.  And what I like about this petition is that it’s simple and direct: “We need to ban all assault weapons now, while moving quickly to enact common sense gun reform.”  The petition doesn’t call for redesigning the guns, or removing the hi-cap mags, or any other small reform like that. It says ban ‘em, period.  End of story. Throw them all away, or melt them down and turn them into useless junk.

And not only does the petition call on the government to ban the damn things, it also refers to these weapons by their rightful name, assault weapons, because that’s exactly what they are. And if you happen to be someone who really and truly believes that the AR-15 or the Sig MCX whatever nomenclature is used to avoid the word ‘assault’ isn’t an ‘assault rifle,’ do me a favor and go lay brick. Because it really doesn’t matter whether the first assault rifle was a gun produced for the Wehrmacht near the end of World War II, whether it fires in full-auto or semi-auto mode, whether anything other than a machine gun is covered by 2nd-Amendment rights, blah, blah, blah and blah.

The gun is lethal as hell, you can kill 60 human beings with it in less than 60 seconds without even reloading the damn thing, and if anyone thinks that such guns will protect freedom-loving Americans from the dangers of ISIS or the tyranny of another Clinton regime, then this is someone with whom a reasonable conversation about guns or anything else simply cannot take place.

And frankly, this is usually a big part of the problem whenever the Gun Violence Prevention community takes a stand.  Because they are always, despite what Gun-nut Nation says about them, so damn reasonable whenever they argue any position at all.  For example, today’s online medical bulletin JAMA contains a new study on the effects of Australia’s 1999 assault weapons ban which clearly shows that once assault rifles disappeared from the civilian arsenal in Australia, mass shootings disappeared as well.  But in an accompanying editorial, Daniel Webster, one of our foremost public health gun researchers, made sure to mention that evidence showing a direct cause-and-effect between the assault weapons ban and overall gun homicides was not so clear.

And maybe the data on assault weapons and homicides isn’t so clear. But so what?  If we accept the crazy notion that a semi-automatic gun which can kill 60 people in one minute is no different from any five-shot rifle that is used to bag a deer, then there’s no reason to be upset about Orlando at all.  Sign the petition, okay?

Does The NRA Really Own The Gun Debate? Even Gun Owners Don’t Necessarily Agree.

In the immediate aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy, public opinion polls appeared to show widespread support for strengthening gun laws that would make it more difficult for ‘prohibited persons’ to gain access to guns.  In particular, support was strongest for an extension of the NICS background check system to cover most secondary transfers of firearms beyond the initial, counter-top transfer that is covered now. It was this public sentiment which led to the crafting of such legislation, known as Manchin-Toomey, which nevertheless fell short of the votes needed to move the bill through the Senate in April, 2013.

One of the post-Newtown polls showing wide, public support for expanded background checks was conducted by researchers at the Bloomberg Public Health School at Johns Hopkins University, and now that I’ve mentioned the unmentionable, those readers in the pro-gun community will please do everyone a favor and keep their comments to themselves.  The bottom line from this survey was that gun owners and non-gun owners expressed similar degrees of support for universal background checks, prohibitions on ownership for persons convicted of violating domestic restraining orders and mandatory sentences for gun traffickers.  Where significant differences appeared between the two groups, however, involved ‘bans’ on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines; the word ‘ban’ being toxic to gun owners but much less concerning to those who don’t own guns.

assault                The Bloomberg group has just released a new poll which, in terms of methodology and sampling, more or less replicates the same poll that was published in 2013.  It will shortly appear in the journal Preventive Medicine, but I was able to examine an advance copy of the text. The authors note that in the intervening two years since their last survey, public opinion appears to have shifted away from more gun regulations and is now swinging towards stronger support of ‘gun rights.’  But comparing such data to the more specific policy-oriented questions which comprise this new survey is really oranges versus apples, since such phrases as ‘gun rights’ and ‘gun control’ are simply too vague and too loaded to explain much about public opinion at all.

The new Bloomberg survey shows that there remains a basic bedrock of public opinion that expanding background checks to secondary gun transfers is a good thing to do.  In 2013, support for this measure among gun owners and non-gun owners was above 80%, both numbers shifted only slightly in the current survey and the difference between gun owners and non-gun owners was negligible at best.  On the other side of the ledger, i.e., banning assault rifles and high-capacity mags, there was again a decisive difference between gun owners who said ‘no’ and non-gun owners who said ‘yes,’ although in this case the percentage of non-gun owners who favored  weapon and ammunition bans appears to have slipped.

What I find significant is that 45% of gun owners in both surveys support bans on the sale of assault rifles and high-cap mags.  Researchers who focus on policy issues traditionally look for majority opinion as a guide to what may or may not be possibly changed in the public domain.  But the fact that slightly less than half of all gun owners support the ban on assault rifles is a finding which needs to be considered on its own terms.

I can’t think of a single issue that has generated more noise and more hype in the gun community than the issue of assault rifles over the last several years.  From the phony attempt by the NSSF to dress up these guns as ‘modern sporting rifles,’ to the prancing around by Colion Noir, the industry has done everything it can to promote these guns as akin to motherhood and apple pie.  That nearly 50% of gun owners don’t buy this nonsense should give pause to those who still regard the NRA as a behemoth when it comes to influencing public opinion about guns.  To me, it’s more like a case of the emperor without clothes.

Can Logic And Facts Sway The Gun Debate? I’m Not Sure.

Want to really piss off the gun crowd? Refer to guns as ‘toys.’  I did it in a recent column and the gun folks went bonkers – called me all kinds of names, used it as the penultimate ‘proof’ that Mike the Gun Guy is really an enemy of the 2nd Amendment, and so forth.  So I thought I would spend a few paragraphs explaining the reasons for the remarkable vitriol that ‘guns as toys’ provokes, because it says a great deal about why the two sides in the gun safety debate have such difficulty coming together on anything that even faintly smacks of a similar point of view.

I was eight years old in 1952 when I got my first Daisy Red Ryder by sending in ten dollars and an advertisement from the Boy Scout magazine, Boys’ Life.  I spent thousands of hours playing Cowboys and Indians with that gun in my back yard, and so did all the other boys.  When I was ten years old I joined the NRA so that I could shoot 22-caliber, bolt-action training rifles that the government gave my brother’s rifle team that practiced in the shooting range of his junior high school located in the middle of Washington, D.C.  I knew those guns were real and that my Red Ryder was a toy.  But I got that same, enjoyable feeling when I played with one or shot the other, and I still get that same, enjoyable feeling when I go to the gun range today.

Sometime in the 1980s the notion that guns were fun started to be replaced with the idea that guns were a serious and necessary way to protect us from crime.  These cultural chickens came home to roost during the Los Angeles riots that broke out after a jury delivered its ‘not guilty’ verdict to the cops who beat up Rodney King.  The second night of the riots a television crew filmed several Black youths pulling a guy out of his car and beating him senseless as he stumbled across the street.  If you owned a gun shop anywhere in the United States, you were able to sell every gun on your shelves the next day.

heston                The NRA ramped up its rhetoric about guns being essential for safety and security during the debates which led to the passage of the Brady Bill and Assault Weapons Ban in 1993-94. And since then, the gun industry and its promoters have wrapped themselves in an almost religious mantra combining love of family, love of freedom and love of guns.  Guns are no longer used just for hunting and sport, they are sacred instruments that sanctify the Biblical requirement to protect ourselves and our families from harm.

Meanwhile, the evidence keeps mounting that gun ownership creates risks in terms of injuries and deaths that no amount of emotion-charged rhetoric can obscure.  In terms of morbidity and mortality, guns do much more harm than good.  The bogus argument that guns prevent ‘millions’ of crimes from  being committed each year just can’t withstand the simple logic stated by Elmore Leonard, “Don’t fool with guns in here, okay? The goddamn piece’s liable to go off.”  But the fact that it’s liable to go off, the way it went off in Hayden, ID, isn’t necessarily a reason to prohibit or even control ownership of guns. After all, nobody argues about the ‘benefits’ of smoking, but people can still go into the corner drugstore and buy their cigarettes.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that gun owners are stupid or irrational when they defend their right to own guns.  But maybe it’s time to stop thinking that appealing to logic and citing ‘facts’ about gun violence will carry the day.  I’m willing to accept the risks of gun ownership for the simple reason that I like my guns.  And like most risks, I can’t believe that something bad will ever happen to me. Then again, my doctor keeps telling me to lose weight but that piece of lemon-meringue pie looks just too good to pass up.