When It Comes To Gun Training, The NRA’s No Longer The Only Game In Town.

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For years the gun violence prevention (GVP) community has lamented the fact that they do not have the strength or the financial muscle to compete with the NRA. And even with Mayor Mike’s help, pardon the pun but too often people who want to see an end to gun violence find themselves organizationally outgunned. But all of a sudden the boys in Fairfax are finding themselves challenged by the growth of another pro-gun organization which looks at gun ownership from a very different point of view.

training             I’m referring to the United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA) which started out as nothing other than an internet sales gimmick known as ‘tribal marketing’ which generates revenue by attracting (and retaining) consumers to internet sites; the idea being that the longer someone remains connected to a website, the more crap they will purchase from that site. And the trick is to make your web visitors feel that they have some special identity or interest which sets them apart from everyone else. And if you can find a single group of Americans who feel more special than the people who actually believe that they need to carry a gun around, let me know.

Like every other pro-gun sales organization, the USCCA got started by attaching itself to the NRA.  They had a booth at the annual NRA show, they used slogans about concealed-carry that were right out of the Fairfax playbook, and their basic product, CCW insurance, also copied a long-time NRA tradition of offering its membership with financial services that would protect their guns.

But the one area in which the USCCA could not compete with the NRA was the area in which the NRA has always ruled supreme, namely, the training area. After all, the NRA was founded as a training organization, currently has more than 125,000 trainers certified and enrolled on its books, and has developed training courses which most states use as the required training curriculum either for getting a gun license or qualifying for LTC.

The degree to which the NRA has always held sway in gun training, however, is now being challenged by the USCCA. Not only does the USCCA hold an annual Concealed Carry Expo, whose exhibitor list contains the same lineup of gun and accessory companies which display their wares at the annual NRA show, but Tim Schmidt’s group was booted out of this year’s NRA show so that America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ could unveil their newest insurance product, a real scam deal known as Carry Guard, without having to compete with the USCCA.

Where the USCCA also appears to be placing itself directly in a competitive situation with the NRA, however, is over the issue of training, where Schmidt and his organization are developing a national training initiative which is an exact copy of the NRA’s training network, including a process for certifying trainers that the NRA has been using for years. Right now it appears that USCCA is running, at best, about 10% the number of training classes that the NRA runs each month, but they do have classes listed in more than 20 states which isn’t a bad start.

What I find most significant about the USCCA’s growth, however, is that it seems to be happening without the crazy drift into rhetorical looniness which now characterizes the public face of the NRA. No astoundingly stupid, insultingly ignorant rants from Dana Loesch, no conspiracy theories from Wayne-o which, by comparison make Alex Jones appear calm. The USCCA’s message about ‘protecting loved ones’ is nothing more than hype, but at least it’s hype which stays within the bounds of rhetorical decency and good taste.

The USCCA says its training program sets an ‘industry standard’ but the truth is there is no training ‘industry’ nor is there any accepted ‘standard’ for gun training at all. Because this would require that gun groups take the one step they are afraid to take, namely, to advocate required training for anyone who wants to walk around with a gun.

 

 

The Violence Policy Center Expands An Important Report.

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Our friends at the Violence Policy Center (VPC) have been tracking gun violence committed by gun owners with concealed-carry permits (CCW) and you can view the data on a website that breaks down the numbers on a state-by-state basis since 2007. The information is informative but not definitive, for the simple reason that there is no requirement in any state which makes cops or coroners list whether a shooter was in possession of CCW or not. So we can assume that the 1,082 people who have been killed by CCW-holders in the last 10 years represents a rough estimate, at best, of the actual number of individuals whose lives ended at the hands of someone legally allowed to walk around with a gun.

VPC logo             It should be noted that 37% of the victims (400 of 1,082) of CCW-holders happened to have shot themselves to death, i.e., these were legally-armed individuals who killed themselves with their gun. The VPC has come in for its share of criticism for bunching suicides and homicides together, but the critics might take the trouble to look at the definition of violence used by the WHO, namely, an intentional attempt to injure oneself or someone else. And of course the fact that someone keeps a legally-owned gun in their home only increases the possibility of suicide, but since when did Gun-nut Nation ever care about risk?

The VPC is now expanding their study of CCW-holders who commit gun violence by posting weekly updates on events that highlight the risks posed by walking around with a gun. The first incident occurred in a small town outside of Sheboygan, WI, when two cousins got into an argument over money, one of them pulled out a gun for which he had a concealed-carry permit, got off 13 shots and two men ended up dead. The second incident took place in Allegheny County, PA, where two co-workers got into it during their night-time shift, went out into the parking lot to continue the argument, one pulled out his 9mm banger and that was the end of that.

The NRA is so convinced that we all should be walking around armed that they even have trademarked the phrase, ‘The Armed Citizen,’ and run a website inviting people to send them reports of armed citizens who used their guns to protect themselves and everyone else. Until recently, this website never captured more than 100 such events in any given year, but I notice that the monthly number of defensive gun use (DGU) now seems to be running about 25 per month, a much more aggressive listing process which I suspect is directly tied to the new concealed-carry insurance which the NRA is trying to peddle here and there.

Let’s say for sake of argument that armed citizens protect themselves or others from serious crime 500 times a year, or even 50,000 times. Recent research pegs the annual DGU number at somewhere around 70,000, but this number includes all the times in which the gun was brandished but not actually used.

On the other hand, the 20,000+ people who kill themselves each year with a gun don’t end their lives by waving the gun around. They use the gun very effectively because more than 80% of all gun suicide attempts end with a life being lost; no other kind of suicide attempt is successful more than 60% of the time.

I don’t believe the Violence Policy Center should be at all defensive about drawing attention to the fact that any time a life ends because someone pulled the trigger of a gun, that such an episode should be considered anything other than gun violence event. The fact that we do not possess an effective screening process for determining gun access based on someone’s propensity to hurt themselves doesn’t alter in any way the basic reason for owning a gun. And if you believe that guns were designed to do anything other than cause injury, you might want to camp outside Area 51 and wait for the Martians to land.

 

How Many Americans Play The ‘Armed Citizen’ Game? Less Than You Think.

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You can tell when the NRA is cranking up the noise machine when they roll out John Lott and his Crime Prevention Research Center (which is John sitting at his kitchen table) announcing yet the latest example of what John grandiloquently refers to as his  ‘research.’ This time it’s the latest mumbo-jumbo about concealed-carry licenses and how they have been increasing by leaps and bounds as Americans finally come to their senses and realize that we should all be walking around carrying a gun. The headline from Lott is that 2016 saw the ‘largest increase ever in the number of permits,’ which the NRA is using to push the national-reciprocity concealed-carry (CCW) bill.

ccw             Now (read this paragraph carefully, please) I happen to be one of these guys who actually doesn’t believe that a national reciprocity CCW law would represent any great risk to community safety, but I also don’t believe it would make any one of us more protected if we were threatened by crime. I say this because notwithstanding the good work done by the Violence Policy Center on gun violence committed by CCW-holders, I don’t see any real connection between the 125,000 people who are killed or injured each year with guns and the fact that maybe a million or so Americans are actually walking around armed. I also haven’t heard any reports about CCW-holders going into another state which recognizes the CCW of their home state and behaving in a particularly gun-violent way.

No, my objection to CCW – locally, statewide, nationally – is based on one simple idea, namely, that you don’t give anyone the ability to walk around with a highly-lethal weapon who hasn’t demonstrated sufficient and continuous proficiency with that weapon, and the demonstration must be conducted in front of a mandated, government-appointed individual, and not just some half-baked ‘trainer’ who hangs out a digital shingle and claims to know something about guns. If the NRA would endorse mandated training, believe it or not, Mike the Gun Guy would shut up and go away. Now I know there are lots of you out there who would like me to shut up and go away anyway, so contact the NRA, tell them to stop pushing phony training programs and Mike the Gun Guy will say adios and goodbye.

Now back to my friend John Lott who claims that the latest number of Americans with CCW is 16.3 million, a 256% increase over the last ten years. The only problem with John’s number is that it’s basically created out of whole cloth, which is a polite way of saying that he’s made it up. And the reason he’s made it up is because when you take the trouble to read the fine print of his study, you discover that the numbers he uses to base his claim of an enormous upsurge in CCW don’t really say what he would like them to say.

It turns out that the 16.3 million CCW permits which Lott ‘estimates’ as being in circulation is, first of all, a number he has developed by dutifully checking the number of licenses issued each year; in fact he has absolutely no way of knowing how many CCW permits which have been issued over time have simply lapsed because the license-holder decided not to renew. Florida, for example, has issued 3,615,879 licenses since 1987, but says that 1,784,395 licenses are currently in use; John also counts nearly 2 million licenses issued by states for residents of other states, a money-making scam which inflates the actual number of CCW licenses on the books.

Lott cites the recent Pew survey which shows that roughly 10% of gun owners state they are walking around with a concealed gun. Which means that on any given day, maybe one million or so Americans are playing the ‘armed citizen’ game, a number that is far smaller than the tidal wave of gun carriers whose existence John Lott and Gun-nut Nation would like you to believe.

 

The Supreme Court Isn’t Interested in Concealed-Carry, At Least Not Yet.

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There’s dancing in the GVP streets today because the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of Peruta v. California, which is the sine qua non of all legal cases covering what Gun-nut Nation calls ‘constitutional carry,’ i.e., the ‘right’ to carry a concealed gun outside the home.  Other than getting rid of the background check system altogether, this concealed-carry crap stands at the head of the wish-list for making America fully-armed. The case attracted more than 20 briefs and everybody who’s anybody in Gun-nut Nation submitted something about this case.

2A             What made Peruta so important for the promotion of gun ‘rights’ was the fact that California law grants concealed-carry issuing authorities, a.k.a., county sheriffs, determine an applicant’s qualification based not just on a background check, which is the policy in most states, but on the applicant’s ability to show proof that he would be in harm’s way unless he could walk around with a gun.  In other words, California still retains the ‘may issue’ approach to CCW with the emphasis on a very narrow definition of ‘may.’

I lived in South Carolina in the 1970s and the only way to get concealed-carry was to become a state constable, an appointment that came out of the Governor’s Office  based on a recommendation by the Chief of the State Police.  How did you get recommended by the Chief?  You knew the Chief.  And the system for granting CCW in South Carolina back in those days was typical of most states; as late as 1987, only six states gave out CCW on a shall-issue basis and 16 states had no CCW policy of any kind.  Other than the Communist northeast and California, every other state now has a shall-issue policy and 12 states don’t require any special licensing for CCW at all.

The problem, of course, is found in the 2008 Heller decision which reversed a long tradition of considering the 2nd Amendment to be operative only in connection with military service, and instead pronounced that Americans now had a Constitutional ‘right’ to own a gun. But the ‘right’ was limited in two ways: First, the case only granted Constitutional protection to the ownership of handguns, when Heller went back to Court and tried to get the same protection extended to his assault rifle, he was told to get lost. Second, the 2008 decision specifically protected handguns kept inside the home, in fact, there was no mention of carrying a gun outside the home at all.

In his dissent to the Court’s refusal to hear Peruta, Justice Thomas claims that the phrase ‘bear arms’ means that someone should be able to carry a gun on their person outside the home. And how does he justify this definition of 2nd-Amendment wording which, if correct, could be used to give constitutional protection to unlimited CCW?  He quotes Eugene Volokh’s UCLA Law Review article which, among other things, contains a remarkable defense of carrying guns into places which serve alcohol, which if not allowed places a ‘fairly substantial’ burden on the individual who wants to go into a saloon toting his gun.

The bottom line in the Thomas dissent, and the reason he relies so heavily on the idiotic propositions of Volokh, is because the Court’s refusal to hear the appeal of the 9th Circuit’s decision still leaves open the issue of whether the 2nd Amendment protects not just private ownership of guns, but the ability of private citizens to go outside their home with a weapon based simply on their qualification for gun ownership, rather than any specific need for self-defense.

You don’t have to read between the lines of the Scalia-Gorsuch dissent to know how they would vote if this issue were to come before the Court.  And even though the NRA’s pit bull in the Oval Office seems to have more on his mind than promoting gun issues, the national, concealed-carry bill is still alive and well. The fight to get constitutional protection for the nuttiness of concealed-carry isn’t finished, not by a long shot.

The NRA Has A New Scheme To Keep You Buying Guns.

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When Trump went down to Atlanta to talk to his NRA friends, he stood there and said with a majestic tone in his voice: “The eight-year assault on the 2nd Amendment has come to an end.” Well, maybe it wasn’t so majestic but you get the point. And like just about everything he says, this dyslexic, ignorant Head of State got it wrong because what he should have said was that the eight-year gun-buying frenzy has come to an end.

seals              There was never an ‘assault’ on the 2nd Amendment even though there were and still are efforts to regulate gun ownership so that we might not suffer from 120,000+ gun deaths and injuries each year. But I didn’t hear any of the pro-GVP politicians or activists ever say that the 2nd Amendment should be abolished, or that law-abiding Americans shouldn’t be able to own guns. Yea, yea, I know – everyone who says they’re against gun violence is really against guns. So what? It’s not going to happen, it never could happen, from a legal and legislative point of view, guns are here to stay.

But what if people simply stop buying guns? What if everyone who wants to own a gun has more guns than they know what to do with, a situation which happens increasingly to be true?  If you’re in the business of making guns, you better figure out a new way to sell them or you’ll go out of business, that’s for sure. And I’ve been watching and waiting since November 8th to see what the gun industry would come up with to make up for the loss of demand once their customers realized that they didn’t have to worry about losing their guns.

And the first evidence of a change in strategy came in an email I just received from the NRA.  It’s an invitation to become a certified ‘Carry Guard’ instructor, a new training program developed by a self-promoter who claims to be a former Navy Seal with twenty years of naval special warfare experience who also says that he’s a writer and consultant to the outdoor industry, whatever that means.  He claims to have a book coming out, Terminal List, which I suspect will be an attempt to gain the attention of all the Tom Clancy fans (which includes me) now that the real Clancy is dead.

Actually, Carry Guard is an insurance program which claims to protect you from ‘certain’ losses if you engage in an act of self-defense using a legally-owned gun. The training program has been tacked on as an extra feature and is advertised as being the ‘gold standard in concealed carry training,’ although the actual details of the program remain to be worked out. If you send an email indicating your interest in becoming a student or an instructor you don’t get any reply, a note on the website says to check back in June for further information about courses, dates and costs.

The NRA started in 1871 as a training organization and currently claims to have more than 100,000 certified trainers, one of whom happens to be me. The training is basically about gun safety and safe gun use and is usually the course which is mandated by the states that require some training in gun safety prior to applying for a gun license or a concealed-carry permit, a.k.a. CCW or LTC.  The NRA offers  two courses, Defensive Pistol and Personal Protection Outside the Home, which cover aspects of concealed-carry techniques but do not focus on armed self-defense per se.

The gun industry has been venerating the ‘armed citizen’ since the 1980’s. It’s a load of crap. Now they are pushing further into fantasy pretending that military assault and tactical skills are a necessary response to the ‘dangers’ of the modern age.

Want to protect yourself from a sudden event that might change your life? Learn to read and write.

National Concealed-Carry Is Back On The Agenda Again.

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Even though Donald Trump gave an uncharacteristically non-bombast verbal performance at the NRA, both sides in the gun debate are still gearing up for the showdown over national, concealed-carry licenses which has been at the top of Gun-nut Nation’s wish list since a bill was first introduced by then-Senator Larry (‘I was looking for my wallet’) Craig back in the Clinton years. That’s the Clinton who won, not the Clinton who lost.

ccw             Our friends at The Trace are carrying a good summary of the new bill and the reasons why it might and might not get to Trump’s Oval Office desk. But what caught my eye in reading Dan Friedman’s solid piece was the comment by the sponsor of the Senate Bill, John Cornyn (R-TX) who likens such a license to a driver’s license because, as he says, “if you can drive in Texas, you can drive in New York and follow New York laws.” Which is the reason why driving laws tend to be almost the same in every state, as well as the requirements which every state imposes in order to become a licensed driver. And the basic requirement happens to be passing a road test which actually proves that you can control and drive a car.

I happen to think that if someone who does not need to have a gun for work (law enforcement, security, etc.) wants to walk around with a gun, then he/she should be allowed to do so under some very strict conditions. And these conditions would include registering the gun and being able to account for its whereabouts at all times, and most of all, being able to demonstrate that you actually know how to use the damn thing safely and properly. Which means taking and passing a mandated live-fire test supervised by a public official and not just some trainer wannabe who sat through an NRA class and answered some true-false questions, paid the training counselor a couple of hundred bucks and now considers himself an expert with a gun.

Know how many states impose such an onerous requirement on anyone who wants to walk around with a gun? None, as in zero states, okay? Many states have no live-fire requirement for concealed carry (CCW) at all. My state, Massachusetts, is always being reviled by Gun-nut Nation as a tough, anti-gun state, but the CCW license is issued without any live-fire certification at all. You can walk into any gun shop in Massachusetts, buy a gun, load it up with ammo and walk out with the gun in your pocket having never fired a real gun. And Massachusetts is typical of a majority of states in this respect.

As for states which actually require some kind of live-fire exercise before granting CCW privileges, the requirement in Connecticut is five shots, in Florida it’s one. The only state which imposes any kind of live-fire certification that even remotely compares to the process for getting and keeping a driver’s license is New Mexico (thanks to Khalil Spencer) which actually imposes a very mild performance requirement but also requires re-certification every two years.

I find the whole Gun-nut Nation CCW stance not only dumb but certifiably risky because of their refusal to accept the idea that civilians should be able to walk around armed without being required to meet the same performance criteria that we impose on police. It’s not the fact that the cops have to actually hit the target, it’s the idea that most police certifications also require that the shots be delivered within a specific period of time – usually 2-3 seconds from the holster to multiple trigger pulls. At least such a drill approximates to some degree what happens when lethal force is involved.

The reason that Gun-nut Nation will never support mandated CCW performance licensing is because such a process would severely cut handgun sales. All these people running around promoting concealed-carry aren’t doing it will make them ‘safe.’ They’re just pimping for the gun industry and don’t understand how or why.

Want To Stop National Concealed-Carry? Start With This Video.

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Remember Larry Craig? He was the Republican Senator from Idaho who was the staunchest gun advocate in the U.S. Congress and was even a member of the NRA Board. My friends in Fairfax had the good sense to dump old Larry after he spent a little too much time in an airport toilet, but before that unfortunate incident occurred, he was known chiefly for introducing the first national concealed-carry bill in 1997, which this year finally has a chance of becoming law.

carrier             The bill, (SB446 or HB38), not only allows someone with a CCW permit issued in his state to carry a concealed weapon into any other state, but even allows someone who lives in a state that does not require a specific CCW permit to go armed into states where a CCW permit is required for residents in those states. In other words, the ability to carry a concealed weapon throughout the United States becomes even easier than what is required to drive a car from one state to another, because every state requires that you can’t drive without a valid driver’s license, but at least 12 states don’t require any licensing for CCW, a number which may go to 15 or 16 states before the end of this year. And by the way, at least 24 states do not require any kind of training or performance certification before you strap on the old gun.

Folks, let me break the news to you gently. If national CCW becomes law (and Trump promoted the idea again and again during the campaign,) as far as I’m concerned, Gun-nut Nation has won. It’s not the idea that concealed-carry gunnies are necessarily more dangerous than anyone else, or that CCW would mean an increase in violence and crime. What it really means is that walking around with a gun is just as normal and mainstream as walking around with a droid. And the whole point about guns and gun violence is that don’t ask me how and don’t ask me why, but like my man Walter Mosley says, walk around with a gun and it will go off sooner or later.

So this bill represents a real threat to everyone who believes that we shouldn’t be tolerating 120,000 deaths and injuries each year because of guns. And my friends at States United to Prevent Gun Violence have just rolled out a remarkable video to drive this point home. It’s called Carrier or Killer and consists of 5 scenes after which the viewer has to guess whether the person on the camera could or should be considered a threat with a gun.  I actually got one of the five wrong because I swear that this kid standing in a convenience store was holding a gun. He wasn’t, and by the way, he’s now dead.

The most chilling video shows a young man innocently entering a building; there’s absolutely nothing in his dress, demeanor or what he is carrying that might make you believe that he would commit violence with a gun. The video, it turns out, is Dylann Roof entering the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston just before he shot nine people dead.

Folks, you have to watch this video. Then you have to watch the YouTube trailer. Then you have to get involved, put it on your Twitter, or your Facebook, or your Instagram, or however you connect with everyone else. Because national concealed-carry not only represents dreams come true for Gun-nut Nation, it’s a cynical and exploitive attempt to promote gun ownership for all the reasons that guns don’t need to be owned.

You don’t need to carry a gun because you’re afraid. You need to figure out what is causing the fear and deal with the cause, which isn’t the same thing as buying into the gun industry’s nonsense about protecting yourself with a gun. Unless you’re willing to put in hundreds of training hours which you’re not, the gun just increases the risk to you and everyone else.

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