Khalil Spencer – What We Should Be Saying About Gun Violence.

Someone tell me how this (figure 1) would stop a mass shooter bursting into a church in a surprise attack using an AR, or taking aim at a crowd with a bump stock equipped rifle at 300 yards from the twenty something floor? The best one could hope for would be an armed person who took self defense seriously and trained for a close encounter of the wrong kind, available to exchange fire at relatively close range. And who had some warning rather than being caught flat footed.


Surprise attacks, such as those in Dallas, Sutherland, or Las Vegas, work. Recall that armed to the teeth as it was, we lost most of the Pacific Fleet and air force on 12-7-1941, as it was caught unawares. By the time what little was left of our military got its guns in the air, the Japanese lost 29 airplanes and a minisub in return. Like the recent Sutherland slaughter, this was not exactly a fair exchange.

So any semblance of rational discourse seems to be missing in action as Congress debates H.R. 38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017. I seriously doubt this bill, if passed, will significantly impact crime rates. Sure, if you convince more people to pack, some fraction will be idiots who will mishandle guns. Some guns will be stolen and diverted to crime, or once in a while used in error. But CHL holders per se are not the problem as they are not going to commit crimes; statistically, they are good bets to not do so. Crime is driven by motive and opportunity.

The major problem with firearms availability is that 300-plus million guns in the nation means some are available to disgruntled spouses, fired employees, meth heads, career criminals, and those left MIA by the American Dream who decide on do-it-yourself brain surgery. Last if not least, ARs that are freely available and owned by that occasional law abiding citizen inexplicably turned lunatic. So by convincing more of us that we need guns for self-defense, we ensure that more guns are available to fall into the wrong hands, either because the right hands become the wrong hands or because the right hands leave the little bangers laying around for wrong hands to pick up. As the police are saying in Albuquerque, criminal access to guns means that crime becomes more dangerous. Meanwhile, if that bill becomes law as written, anyone with the price of a pocket cannon and who can pass muster on their 4473 will be encouraged to slip the little banger into their coat pocket and take on God knows what with no training or idea what they are doing. As Charles Clymer says, this is not a good scenerio.

What the Gun Violence Prevention Community needs to do is convince people that society doesn’t need to be armed to the teeth; there has to be a better, more effective way to ensure domestic tranquility. By attacking all gun owners as statistical loose cannons, the GVP rhetoric pisses off gun people and digs that damn rhetorical moat deeper. Conversely, the NRA’s suggesting that strapping one on will make the world safer and more polite is equally devoid of facts. An armed society is…simply…an armed society. And with Dana Loesch acting as spokesperson, the NRA is certainly not creating a polite one. But as long as the thesis that being armed as a rational and effective response to the world is not challenged, some people will want to be armed. Especially after reading that cities like Albuquerque are breaking records in homicides and the police force is understaffed.

One has to convince people that an Edsel is an Edsel and not a Toyota. Or you have lost the argument. Everyone wants a Toyota. Only collectors want an Edsel.


‘Good Guys With Guns’ Is A Must-Read Book.

I maintain a short-list of ‘must-read’ books on gun violence, and right now a book written by a sociologist way up at Northland College in Wisconsin sits at the very top.  Angela Stroud’s book, Good Guys With Guns, should be read by everyone in the Gun Violence Prevention community because what she says is what everyone needs to know and understand about Gun-nut Nation’s obsession with guns.

ccwnew           And it has become an obsession, at least with small percentage of gun owners who together, according to the recent Harvard-Northeastern study, own upwards of one hundred million guns, which works out to roughly fifteen guns apiece.  And this obsession takes its most evident form in the growth of concealed-carry permits, which is what Professor Stroud’s book is all about.

What she did was to go down to Texas (she happens to be a Texas native now transplanted to the shores of Lake Superior) and conduct interviews with 36 gunnies – 20 men, 16 women – who have concealed handgun licenses (CHL), along with going through a CHL course herself.  And while she made no attempt to conceal either her academic background or her research agenda, she had no trouble getting her interview subjects to blab about themselves at length.  And by the way, without realizing it, Professor Stroud quickly learned one thing about the residents of Gun-nut Nation, which is that they love to talk about their gun. So you have your work cut out for you if you want to weave a coherent and readable narrative out of interviews with 36 of these folks, but in this case the result is a very coherent, very readable and a very important book.

How representative are these 36 interview subjects for understanding the motives and views of the 14 million or so Americans who have been issued CHL-licenses over the past twenty or so years? In several respects – gender, income – they probably are somewhat outside the everyday demographic that we associate with gun nuts (mostly male, usually high school but no more) because this group was almost equally split between men and women and nearly half finished college and many hold advanced degrees.  But note that I am comparing the demographics of the author’s interview group with what we know about gun owners in general, not what we know (because we don’t know) about the backgrounds of people who hold a license which permits them to walk around with a gun.

And as far as this latter group is concerned, Professor Stroud hits the proverbial nail right on the proverbial head when she notes that CHL-licenses are usually given out to “white men and women in suburban areas” who are simply not going to be victims of crime.  In fact, with the exception of one woman who claimed to have been raped many years before, not a single person interviewed by the author had ever been menaced or victimized in any kind of criminal affair.

So why do these people fervently embrace the idea that guns are must-have “tools” to protect them from crime?  Because, and here is the most compelling aspect of this book, getting involved in what the author calls the CHL “culture” changes the way people think about threats, violence and self-defense.  And this comes out of perceptions about race and crime in which many Americans ‘privatize’ their response to social inequality by substituting an ‘I can fend for myself’ approach, thereby negating the value of structural (read: government) responses to the inequalities and inequities of inner-city life.

Remember how Reagan called government the ‘enemy’ during his 1980 campaign?  For some folks the government ‘enemy’ and the street ‘thug’ enemy is one and the same.  But you can protect yourself from both by carrying a gun. And the manner through which Angela Stroud explains all these connections is why she has written a brilliant book.

Do More Guns Equal Less Crime? The Lone Star State Says ‘No.’

An article has just appeared which may prove to be one of the most significant contributions by public health research to the ongoing debate about gun violence.  Not that there is much of a debate about the fact that guns kill 30,000+ yearly, injure at least 60,000 others, the total costs of which amount to more than $200 billion each year.  But the response of the pro-gun gang to this state of affairs is to deny the negative effects of gun violence when compared to the positive role that guns play in keeping us safe from crime.  And to bolster this rather disingenuous way of getting as far away from the evidence as possible, the gun gang invariably rolls out Kleck’s phony telephone survey which found that gun owners prevented millions of crimes each year, or they listen to John  Lott on some red-meat radio station promoting his discredited thesis that ‘more guns equals less crime.’

Unfortunately, most of the research on whether gun ownership does or doesn’t prevent crime suffers from the admitted failure by public health researchers to construct a research model that can really explain to what degree a coincidence (i.e., concealed-carry licenses going up, crime rates going down) is actually a causality or not. What the research team which published this study did to sharpen the focus of this question was to look at county-level issuances of CCW in 4 states (Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas) and compare this date against county-level arrest data in the same 4 states for, and here’s the important point, ten years following the issuance of CCW, or what is also referred to as CHL.

        Gov. Rick Perry

Gov. Rick Perry

Before getting to the results of this study, I should mention one very important distinction between the research team that was responsible for this work, as opposed to public health researchers who have been active in this particular field.  For the most part, the work that has debunked the ‘more guns = less crime’ argument has come out of either elite, Ivy League institutions like Harvard or Yale, or has been the product of the Center for Gun Policy and Research at the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health.  And since everybody knows that the anti-gun monster Bloomberg funded the Hopkins School of Public Health, everyone knows that their work is only published when it supports something that is anti-gun.  And if you think I’m overstating the degree to which the pro-gun gang dismisses public health gun violence research through the shabbiest form of academic character assassination, take a look at what Gary Kleck recently said about criticisms of his work.

The group that researched and wrote the referenced article aren’t faculty from Hopkins, Stanford, Harvard or Yale.  They are from the Department of Health Policy and Management at Texas A&M. Whoa!  Texas A&M?  A school located in the state where the previous Governor claims he carries a gun for self-protection against prairie dogs when he’s out for his morning jog? But Texas, on the other hand, is not only the state for guns, but next January the Lone Star State will roll back a 140-year old law and let its good citizens carry guns openly just about anywhere they choose.

That all being said, exactly what did this team of Texans discover about the relationship between concealed-carry and crime?   They discovered that there’s no relationship at all.  Between 1998 and 2010, the personal crime rate in Florida dropped by 9%, it was flat even in Michigan, and went up slightly in Texas and Pennsylvania.  The property crime rate declined in Florida and Texas, murders increased slightly in Pennsylvania and the Sunshine State.  The burglary rate in all 4 states decreased, even though a major portion of Lott’s book was devoted to ‘proving’ that non-personal crimes would increase after CCWs were issued because criminals were afraid that more citizens would have guns.

I’ll end this comment by quoting the researchers themselves: “Is CHL licensing in any way related to crime rates? The results of this research indicate that no such relationships exist.” As my grandmother would say, “and that’s that.”