Should We Be Policing The Internet For Content About Guns?

Now that Google and Facebook are finally admitting what we always knew, namely, that they sell personal user information to any quick-buck scam artist selling on the web, just about every organization which uses those sites for communicating with their membership is jumping on the bandwagon to make sure that nothing offensive, illegal or immoral is allowed to move through the cloud.

armed citizen            The latest effort in this respect by Gun-control Nation was a decision last week by a Federal judge to suspend the go-ahead received from the State Department by Cody Wilson to upload the plans of his 3D gun (which doesn’t work, btw) and issue an injunction preventing any website from hosting the plans.

The internet has always been a sore spot for Gun-control Nation ever since Bloomberg’s gun-control group first began talking about how easy it was for criminals, nut jobs and other bad guys to buy guns over the web. The fact that the same ads for private gun transfers on the internet can be found in the classifieds of just about every weekly shopper published throughout the United States is never mentioned by Bloomberg because those weekly shopping publications don’t circulate in New York. But because of pressure by Bloomberg and others, websites like Amazon, Craigslist, eBay and other online shopping sites began to police and remove advertisements for guns.  Okay, fair enough.

The problem with going beyond gun advertisements per se and trying to eliminate gun-related content, as opposed to selling an actual gun, is that the ox could be gored both ways. Let me give you an example which I happen to know very well.

I currently sell a book on Amazon entitled The Myth of the Armed Citizen. The book discusses in detail the argument about whether guns are a risk as opposed to protecting us from violence and crime. I come down very clearly on the former; i.e., gun ownership is definitely less of a benefit and more of a risk.  How much of a risk remains to be understood, but this book in no way promotes concealed or open carry of guns. And believe me when I say that I have received God knows how many nasty emails from members of Gun-nut Nation who accuse me of actually promoting violence because I believe that people shouldn’t be able to defend themselves with guns.

Now what would happen if a whole bunch of pro-gun folks would send a message to Facebook telling them that my book promotes violence and should be removed? How would this be any different from Gun-control Nation spamming Google or Facebook and telling them that they have found various pro-gun content that should be taken down? Here’s the official statement from YouTube on what they allow and don’t allow in search terms: “we want to help you get to the information you are looking for as quickly as possible, but we also want to be careful not to show potentially upsetting content when you haven’t asked for it. For these features, we have developed policies to exclude things like porn, hate speech or violence from appearing.”

And who is to say whose definition of ‘violence’ we are going to accept? I happen to share many of the goals and objectives of Gun-control Nation and have promoted those goals and objectives in  the daily columns that I write. I also happen to be the co-founder of a national, gun buyback organization which connects buybacks to medical centers so that medical residents can get first-hand exposure to discussions with community residents about their guns. So I don’t need to justify my views about guns or gun violence to anyone at all.

Be that as it may, I’m still not persuaded that anyone should have veto power over any content that I or anyone else puts out online. I’m sorry, but I’m somewhat of an old-fashioned guy, and I want to decide for myself whether something I am reading is hurtful, or wrong, or even worse.

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No Matter Why You Use A Gun, It’s Still Gun Violence.

skidspring

Yesterday I wrote a column pointing out that for the very first time in my lifetime (and I was born in 1944,) the gun-control movement finds itself on a level playing field with the other side. If anything, the field may even be tilted a bit in the favor of gun control.  Why do I say that? Because it’s pretty hard to convince the mainstream that these high school kids from Parkland are just a bunch of dupes being fed this lie and that lie by the Bloomberg-Soros cabal.

Just about everyone who is a parent knows the one thing you can’t tell a teenager is to follow the advice of his or her elders unless it’s advice they really want to hear. And let’s remember one other thing about these Parkland kids – they are veterans of a rampage assault, it really happened to them. And for all her blather and nonsense about how she’s always armed to protect herself and her loved ones from any kind of a threat, Dana Loesch has never, never found herself in a real-life situation where she actually used that gun.

We are now at the point when the gun-control community needs to come up with an argument that will convince mainstream Americans that the ‘good gal with a gun’ narrative isn’t a legitimate response to armed threats.  And with all due respect to my public health researcher friends, most people really don’t make up their minds because of evidence-based research.  As Daniel Kahneman has explained it, decisions about what to do both for the important and the unimportant things in life flow as much or more from emotions as from facts.

The scenes pictured above are where gun killings have occurred. The picture on the left is Skidmore, MO, in front of the saloon where the town bully, Ken McElroy, was shot down by several gun-wielding local residents while the rest of the townsfolk stood and watched. The picture on the right is Union Street in Springfield, MA, where someone is gunned down at least once a month.

Law enforcement spent six years trying to get someone in Skidmore to identify the killers of Ken McElroy, but nobody ever did. The cops in Springfield will tell you that what happens on Union Street is just a gang killing, and when they walk around looking for witnesses, nobody saw nuttin’, even when the shooting takes place at mid-day.

The murder of Ken McElroy is something we call ‘virtuous violence;’ i.e., using violence for positive ends.  After all, McElroy got what was coming to him, and what better way to even the score than to use a gun? On the other hand, the gang member who shot another gang member on Union Street is also committing an act of virtuous violence – the guy he shot may have welched on a drug deal, or may have tried to shake down a friend, or break into a neighbor’s house.

Murder is overwhelmingly an event that occurs between individuals who have some degree of connection to each other before the killing occurs.  Whether the connection is between people who live in the same small town or who hang out on the same corner makes no difference at all. To quote the brilliant Lester Adelson: “With its peculiar lethality, a gun converts a spat into a slaying and a quarrel into a killing.”

When the NRA talks about how ‘good guys with guns’ will protect us from ‘bad guys with guns,’ what the boys from Fairfax are really saying is that violence is the most effective way to respond to violence, and nothing could be further from the truth. If the gun-control movement wants to convince mainstream America that gun violence should not be an everyday affair, they need to address the issue of virtuous violence and argue that violence in any form, used for redressing any real or imagined threat, is a type of behavior which does not work.

It’s Time For Some Real Push-Back About Violence Caused By Guns.

I’m going to make a prediction that my friends in the gun violence prevention (GVP) community won’t like but it needs to be said nonetheless. And my prediction goes like this: Unless and until the advocates for reducing gun violence get it together and start slugging it out toe-to-toe with the pro-gun gang, the possibility that we will see a significant decline in gun violence will remain somewhere between nothing and nil. Let me give you an example.

kim             Last week the boys in Fairfax posted a story about Kim Kardashian’s latest attempt to inject a little reality into the debate about guns. Basically she called for more restrictions on people who are convicted of a misdemeanor, or have been served a temporary restraining order; in other words, closing some of the loopholes which allow an awful lot of dangerous people to legally get their hands on guns.

The NRA referred to Kardashian’s comments as ‘barely-intelligible’ and ‘ignorant’ despite the fact that what she said about legal loopholes wasn’t all that different from what we know to be true. Would her comments pass muster in an amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court? Of course not. But when was the last time that any mouthpiece for Gun-nut nation said anything that remotely aligned with the truth?

On the same NRA webpage which carried the attack on Kim, the NRA also linked to a Breitbart posting that calls out Shannon Watts for promoting female political candidates who, once in office, will push more gun-control laws. Of course there’s nothing about Shannon’s views which should surprise because she’s simply a creation of Bloomberg’s big bucks.

In these two stories alone I count at least five errors along with slanted, misleading opinions and a generally nasty attitude towards two women who don’t deserve to be attacked by media organizations which claim to be publishing the latest ‘news.’ But if we have learned anything from the last six months and our sleep-deprived President, it’s that what used to be the line between facts and opinions has disappeared. And nowhere is this more the case than in the so-called ‘debate’ about guns.

But in fact there isn’t any debate about whether the existence of 300 million personally-owned guns gives the United States a level of gun violence that is seven to twenty times higher than gun-violence rates in the rest of the OECD. In a recent column I mentioned that a new study by pediatricians at Mt. Sinai Hospital found that 80% of all gun injuries suffered by children occurred in the 16-19 age group, whereupon a pro-gun advocate told me that these gun-violence victims were all gang members or criminals, hence, they weren’t ‘kids.’ This is the kind of nonsensical thinking that Gun-nut Nation employs every time that any credible research on gun violence appears. Is it different from stating that anything Kim Kardashian or Shannon Watts says is stupid and wrong because they are being promoted by Bloomberg’s big bucks?

Enough is really enough. If James Comey can sit down in front of a Senate Committee and call that schmuck in the Oval Office a ‘liar,’ then it’s high time that GVP took off the gloves and started talking like they mean it as well. With all due respect to my public health friends at Harvard and Hopkins, evidence-based research just won’t do it alone; you also need to push back with the same degree of anger and volume that appears in every comment made by the other side.

When a right-wing ‘think’ tank says that banning assault weapons won’t do anything to curb gun violence, they are lying and they need to be called ‘liars’ in direct and no-nonsense terms. When an organization that is supported by a publicly-granted tax deduction says that guns don’t kill people, only people kill people, they need to be told that what they are saying is a BIG LIE. The problem with GVP is that it’s too polite. And politeness only provokes the other side to behave even worse.

 

 

What? The Trace Actually Tries To Use Facts To Figure Out If More Women Own Guns?

I want to congratulate Alex Yablon and The Trace for getting to the virtual apex of gun journalism which can be defined as any commentary or article that receives a full-length response from the NSSF.  As you know, the NSSF represents the gun industry the same way the NRA represents gun owners; i.e., what’s good for guns is good for America, and in this particular instance, the NSSF felt it necessary to correct all kinds of errors and misstatements about the number of women who are buying guns.

traceThe NSSF’s editorial opens with their half-baked crap about how The Trace is owned by Bloomberg, so of course nothing can be true.  Right away this tells us that we’re dealing not with journalism that has the slightest pretense towards objectivity, but just indulges in whatever smear campaign happens to fill the bill.  The commentary then goes on to score Yablon for relying on data from the General Social Survey (GSS) which has to be wrong because, after all, it is based on “methodological limitations” that seriously undercount gun ownership throughout the United States.

What are these ‘methodological limitations’ that render the GSS a useless source for understanding anything about guns?  It’s the same ‘limitation’ that pro-gun noisemakers like Gary Kleck and John Lott have been using for more than twenty years to discount serious gun research, namely, the canard that Americans won’t disclose ownership of guns to anyone who might then leak such information back to the Feds.  Of course neither of these phony intellectuals has ever actually asked anyone whether they are reluctant to disclose information to a government agency or to anyone else. But when you earn a living appealing to an audience that’s pre-disposed to be suspicious of government anyway, it’s not hard to convince such folks that a government or quasi-government survey isn’t worth salt.

The problem with this argument, of course, is that it flies in the face of reality. If anything, gun ownership in the current climate has become a badge of good citizenship, patriotism, and any other cultural symbol that, if embraced by everyone, would make America great again.  It’s pretty hard on the one hand to celebrate the spread of unquestioned CCW to almost every state while, on the other hand, continuing to claim that Americans are afraid to disclose legal ownership of guns.

But has the pro-gun noise machine ever been concerned with aligning its arguments with facts?  And this is the ‘problem,’ if you will, with Alex Yablon’s attempt to figure out whether or not women really represent a new market for guns, because as a serious journalist writing for a serious journalistic enterprise, he is required to look at the facts.  Which means that since the FBI doesn’t publish data on the gender breakdown of NICS-background checks, everyone who wants to research whether there are more women into shooting has to rely, to a certain extent, on data that simply cannot be exact.

Want a quick lesson in how to take hot air and turn it into ‘facts?’  Take a look at the 2014 NSSF survey on women and shooting which the organization claims contains “well-explained” findings about all those gals who now own guns. In fact, its so-called findings are based primarily on interviews with women who attended the SHOT show, which happens to be an industry-only exhibition, which means that most of the women interviewed for this report were either gun shop owners, employees, or spouses-partners of men who work in the gun trade.  Now that’s a real objective survey, right?

This past Saturday I stopped in at four gun shops because I was in the mood to buy a gun.  Together these four shops had 10-11 customers other than me.  How many were women?  As many as the number of guns I ended buying – none.  But that’s because nobody had a German-made PPK in the counter or a 20-guage Ruger Red Label on the wall.  I’ll match my ‘scientific’ survey against the NSSF any time.

Kim Gets Into The Gun Debate Big-Time And Runs Up Against The NRA Noise Machine.

Last week I wrote about a new report that examined multiple shootings and noted that the most frequent multiple shootings grew out of domestic disputes.  We were treated to just such an example of such behavior this week when police arrested a man in Houston and charged him with 8 counts of murder, the victims being his ex-girlfriend and her husband, his son, and five other children living in the house.  The shooter and his girlfriend had a long history of domestic conflict, and the shooter himself, David Conley, had a rap sheet dating back more than twenty years.

kim                It goes without saying there’s no way this nut could have legally owned or acquired the gun he used to methodically shoot eight people in the head.  But there’s no requirement to register or do background checks on private sales in Texas, and folks routinely advertise guns for sale on private internet websites or want ads in the local press.  Weekend gun shows in Texas are both popular and big (what isn’t big in Texas?) and while federally-licensed dealers must conduct background checks at shows, any individual can pay fifty or sixty bucks, rent a table and put out for sale as many personally-owned guns as he wants.  In other words, if you want a gun in Texas, you’ll get a gun.

Right after the news about this massacre hit the wires, Kim Kardashian of all people, sent out a tweet that was re-tweeted on some of the standard gun-control pages like #GunlawsHAVETOchange and #Backgroundchecksnecessary.  Whoa!  Kim Kardashian?  I mean we’re not talking about the Bloomberg gang or Hillary or some other usual, finger-wagging liberal who doesn’t understand why some boys just love their guns.  We’re talking here about the keys to the kingdom, the kingdom being the millennial generation whose decisions about gun ownership will spell the life or death of the gun industry in the years to come.

So who did the NRA noise machine quickly choose to nip this threat in the bud?  Well, first there was a snarky little comment from the NRA’s hip and cool dudester, Colion Noir, but he’s starting to look and sound a little frayed around the edges.  And what could be better than another woman going up against Kim?  After all, the NRA’s been bragging about how women are getting into shooting big-time.  It happens to be a lie, but tell that one to Dana Loesch, who set off a flurry of tweets when she returned fire against Kardashian on her own Twitter page.  Loesch is a brunette Ann Coulter wannabee whose book, Hands Off My Gun, is a mixture of half-truths, misrepresentations and conservative bromides that could only be taken seriously in circles that are still debating whether Obama’s birth certificate is fake or real.  She used her anti-Kardashian tweets to shamefully promote her book but that didn’t stop her devoted Twitter audience from responding in kind.

I don’t mind using the internet to promote your book.  I do it myself.  But I do mind someone presenting themselves as an expert who then says something stupid, wrong or dumb.  In response to Kardashian’s comment that Conley was able to get a gun because he bought one without going through a background check, Loesch tweeted: “I’m having a gun shipped to me as I type.  And it has to go through an FFL. They don’t just send it to your house.”  That’s only true if you purchase a gun from someone in another state.  Conley could have gotten his gun from another Texas resident, in which case what gun-expert Loesch said is simply not true.

Last night a friend called me and asked, with reference to Loesch, whether she was willingly wrong or just wrong.  It doesn’t make any difference and here’s the reason why: The NRA has been telling us that it’s not guns that kill people – people kill people.  If you believe that lie, you’ll believe anything and everything else that folks like Dana Loesch say to deny the lethality of guns.

Gun Nuts Discover The Trace And Guess Who Wins?

It took about three weeks for The Trace to earn its first rave review from the gun-nut community in the form of a rant delivered by Larry Keane, a Senior Vice President at the NSSF.  And it only took Larry less than two sentences to deliver what is always the first and foremost reason why something, anything is a threat to all those nice folks who own guns, namely, the word Bloomberg which works every time.  Come to think of it, I can’t recall any statement by the NSSF over the last several years about alleged threats to gun ownership that hasn’t mentioned the word Bloomberg, unless the statement substituted the word Obama for Bloomberg, although many NSSF rants about threats to gun ownership usually mention both.

Since this online newspaper got some start-up dough from Bloomberg, there’s no question that you can’t trust anything it says.  And gun owners, according to Keane, are wise to the nefarious ways of Bloomberg because they know just how biased and anti-gun he is.  The proof that the pro-gun community is savvy to the Bloomberg anti-gun strategy is the fact that The Trace “has readers outraged over one-sided reporting on issues and reckless disregard for facts.” Which is an interesting statement coming from Keane since nowhere on the Trace website do we find any statement from readers at all.

trace                I guess what Keane is referring to is The Trace Facebook page which, like all Facebook pages, does allow visitors to make statements about content that is posted on the site.  So in the interests of fairness, I thought I would test the NSSF’s claim about the degree to which readers are “outraged” by all this one-sided, anti-gun reportage spewed forth by the Bloomberg cabal on this new site.  I chose as my test of Keane’s assertion a link back to a story about the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s plan to melt down 3,400 guns seized over the past year, a Facebook posting which in the following 15 hours received almost 80 comments from viewers of the page.

Before I share the results of my little survey, I should say that there aren’t many things that piss off gun-nuts more than the destruction of guns.  After all, we know that guns don’t kill people, people kill people.  So why get rid of the guns?  I’ll tell you why: because the Los Angeles County Sheriff is caving into pressure from gun-grabbers like Bloomberg who want to get rid of all the guns.  And what better way to get rid of guns than to melt them down? That being the case, if readers are truly “outraged” by the anti-gun bias of The Trace, we should certainly find this outrage expressed in the comments posted on their Facebook page.

So I read all the comments about the gun meltdown and if this story provoked reader “outrage,” all I can say is that I’d love to see my weekly Huffington column generate such an outrageous response.  Here’s an example of the kind of outraged reader comments posted on the site, beginning with the initial comment to which five other readers then made a response:

Comment:  The Los Angeles police department should sell those guns and distribute the proceeds to various crime diversion programs. …

Response #1: You honestly believe that is the solution

Response #2:  NO ! Read the article , the whole idea is to destroy the guns SO THAT they cannot be used against innocent people ever again !!

Response #3: The point is to get guns off the street DA

Response #4: My point exactly.

Response #5: So, selling guns to people who can pass background checks automatically means these guns will be used against innocent people? Basically, gun owners that can pass background checks are “guilty until proven innocent”.

 

Some outrage, right?  And what I have reproduced above is fairly typical of the comments attached to every story posted by The Trace.  The NSSF won’t ever admit that a gun story can be published which would generate thoughtful, intelligent and respectful comments from both sides, because they don’t want the gun debate to be based on informed opinion or facts.  Which is exactly what makes The Trace such a threat to gun-nut promoters like Larry Keane.

 

 

 

 

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.

All Of A Sudden The NRA Doesn’t Want To Mention Guns

Two weeks ago, coincidentally on the same day that the unfortunate nine-year old girl accidentally shot and killed a firearms instructor in Arizona, the NRA kicked off a series of Netflix-style video ads that are perhaps the organization’s most disingenuous effort to present itself as something other than what it really is; namely, an organization devoted to ownership and use of guns.  In fact, having watched all 12 one-minute productions, I can tell you that the only way you would know that this is an effort of the NRA is that each commentator ends his or her spiel by telling the viewer that their wholesome and didactic script was produced by the “National Rifle Association of America” with a slight pause and then heavy emphasis on the word ‘America’ even though officially the NRA is still just the NRA, not the NRAA.

panera                This new media blitz by the people who used to bring us messages like “only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”  is significant insofar as the word ‘gun’ is never mentioned in any of these videos, not even once.  You would think the NRA had become some kind of touchy-feely civics organization devoted to uplifting our moral virtues rather than a trade association committed to getting everyone in America to own a gun.  And not only are the minute-long lectures all about honesty, and decency, and respect for everyone’s point of view, but only four of the homilies are delivered by White males, who just happen to own most of the guns in America – seven of the commentators are women, one is Asian-American and, of course, there’s always room for Colion Noir, aka NRA’s house Black man.

When I first started watching these videos I thought I was looking at a remake of the Reagan “its morning again in America” campaign ads from 1984.  Those were slickly-produced messages which never showed Reagan, who was beginning to look his age, but instead had a variety of American families proudly standing in front of a farmhouse, a factory gate, a well-manicured suburban lawn, all smiling, all happy, all gently reminding us that if we just remembered to vote Republican that all those things we cherished and loved would never be taken away.

The NRA scripts flow back and forth between a kind of Tea Party lite condemnation about the problems we face – government spying, unlawfulness in high places, fear of crime – and an immediate sense of setting things right with the help of the ‘good guys,’ the real Americans who can be counted on every time to keep us safe, honest, decent and sound.  And who are these good guys?  They are your neighbor with a decal on the back of his truck which reads: N-R-A.

I can’t imagine anyone actually watching one of these messages and coming away having learned anything at all.  But I don’t think that’s the point.  What the NRA is trying to do is cast itself in a softer, more reasonable and, if you’ll pardon the expression, less combative way, because for the first time they are up against an opponent whose money, smarts and media access can sway lots of people to go the opposite way.  And not only does Bloomberg have that kind of dough, for the first time he might be able to energize non-gun owners to stay active and committed to the gun control fray.

This week we have another retail chain, Panera’s, who is walking down the path blazed by Starbucks and Target and asking gun owners to leave their weapons at home.  Like the other chains, Panera’s isn’t posting a gun-free sign on their front doors, but if any of the 2nd-Amendment vigilantes believes that this isn’t a victory for the folks who want more gun control, they better think again.  The fact that Panera’s announcement coupled their concern about guns with their desire to build social “communities” in their stores should tell you why, all of a sudden, the NRA has stopped talking about guns.

 

Surprise! A Study Reveals That Unlocked Guns Are A Health Risk.

Earlier this month The New York Times ran an editorial about a recent study on gun violence and children published by Everytown, aka Moms, aka Bloomberg, et.al.  Like a similar study published this year on mass shootings, the major sources were media reports about unintentional gun deaths of children which, according to this report, is substantially higher than the numbers furnished by the CDC.

The issuance of the report, according to a letter to the Times, coincided with the annual ASK day, which is a collaboration between Brady and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to encourage safe gun storage in homes with young children.  The ASK campaign has been around for more than ten years and, according to its website has “inspired more than 19 million households” to keep guns away from where children play. Unfortunately, if the numbers of unintentional child deaths from shootings can be believed, the ASK campaign has a long way to go.

everytown logo                I don’t doubt Brady’s claim about reaching 19 million households, although I’m not sure how many of these households either contain guns or keep them around unlocked.  My impression is that very few gun owners are willing to listen to what Brady or Bloomberg has to say, just as there can’t be more than a handful of non-gun owners who are members of the NRA. When all is said and done, this is the real problem in the debate about guns, namely, that the flagship advocacy organizations speak only to their like-minded constituencies, there’s no real communication between adherents on the two sides.

According to the Newtown report, there are 21 states that have no child access prevention (CAP) laws at all.  What this means is that if a kid (or an adult, for that matter) picks up a gun and bangs away, the gun’s owner doesn’t face charges even if someone is injured or killed.  Many of these states are out West, where gun controls have been traditionally lax, but while these states don’t suffer much in the way of unintentional shootings, they do experience higher-than-average gun suicide rates, which might also be mitigated if guns had to be locked up.  On the other hand, Eastern states like Michigan, Ohio and South Carolina all had multiple juvenile deaths from gun accidents, and none of these three states have any CAP laws that might have helped prevent access to guns.

I’ll leave it to Brady to figure out how to mobilize even a portion of those 19 million ASK households to help drive their agenda forward; my primary concern is to look at the role that pediatricians should play in diminishing the health risks of unlocked guns.  Jim Perrin, a co-signer of the New York Times letter and President of the AAP, believes that unlocked guns present the same kind of health risk to children as lead or unattended backyard pools. And he makes the point that just telling children about the risk of guns isn’t enough; kids are naturally curious and in this case curiosity could do a lot more than kill the cat.  After all, many pediatricians ask parents whether they lock children into a car seat before going for a ride.  How much longer does it take to add the word ‘gun’ to a question about locks?

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not trying to add a minute’s extra work or responsibility to everything that medical professionals are now required to do in the brief time they spend with patients each day.  But the physician’s task is to lessen risk, and no matter what nonsense Rand Paul and the NRA promote about how doctors are a threat to the 2nd Amendment, anyone who believes that an unlocked gun in a home with children isn’t a health risk is presenting a degree of stupidity that no amount of medical care will ever cure.

Want To Get Gunned Down? Go To Target.

Last week the mega-chain Target joined Chipotle and Starbucks in making their stores places where customers have a good chance of getting gunned down.  At least this is what the NRA believes will happen now that the company’s CEO announced that Target shoppers should leave their guns at home.  Everyone remembers the NRA’s reaction after Sandy Hook, namely, that schools that were gun-free zones invited kooks like Adam Lanza to walk in and start blasting away.  But the notion that public space is safer if people don’t walk around with guns seems to be spreading and it’s interesting that the NRA’s response so far to Target’s new policy has been no response at all.

The gun industry is not only encountering some push-back to its notion of guns as being the best way for citizens to protect themselves against crime; they can’t even get their facts straight about whether there’s any connection between gun ownership and criminal activity at all.  The NSSF just posted a video which announces that “gun crimes have fallen dramatically over the past 20 years,” except the graphic that accompanies this statement shows that the entire decline took place between 1993 and 2000, which was before Obama went into the White House and gun sales soared.

open carry               Despite what John Lott says, there’s no proof that higher levels of gun violence occur in gun-free zones.  And the evidence that protecting yourself with a gun may actually be less safe than using other protective methods to thwart a criminal attack – yelling, punching, running away – comes from, of all people, a scholar named Gary Kleck who first “discovered” that arming ourselves made us better able to stop crime.  Kleck published a study in 1995 which, based on answers collected from interviews with 213 respondents, claimed that people used guns to prevent more than 2 million crimes from being committed each year.  But in 1994 he submitted a report to the Department of Justice in which he found that defensive methods other than guns actually resulted in fewer injuries from criminal attacks.  He didn’t mention these findings when he began touting the benefits of armed resistance the following year.

And neither did the NRA.  Ever since the mid-1990’s the gun lobby has been tirelessly beating the drums for expanding concealed carry, as well as for diminishing the list of locations where guns cannot be found.  Their latest victory was Georgia, where a new law took effect July 1 which expands the right to carry a gun in locations that serve alcohol, houses of worship and government facilities, as long as the owners of the affected properties don’t object.

The campaign to promote carrying guns in public places took a big step backwards, however, with the decision by Target to ask gun-toting shoppers to stay out of their stores.  The announcement was worded in a way that did not absolutely ban concealed-carry in states which, unlike Georgia, don’t give property-owners the right to restrict the presence of guns.  But when Target said that guns are at odds with the “family-friendly” atmosphere they try to maintain, they weren’t just sending a message to gun owners, they were sending a clear message to the gun lobby as well.

Despite twenty years of unending appeals to fears of crime and the utility of owning guns, the NRA and its allies have failed to convince a majority of Americans that walking into a public place with a gun in your pocket is the smart thing to do.  What they have done is to provoke a grass-roots backlash organized and funded by a guy with lots of bucks whose efforts to get Americans behind the notion of less guns equals more safety may just begin to pay off.