When It Comes To The Armed Citizen, One Good Scam Deserves Another.

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Once upon a time there was an organization called the National Rifle Association, started out by two Civil War veteran officers who were concerned because most of the troops they commanded in the war didn’t know how to shoot. In those days the Federal Government built a national army by calling up militias from the states and these militias were comprised of volunteers who showed up with their own guns. So the idea behind the NRA was to prepare civilians for military duty before they were called up because we didn’t yet have a military draft and we didn’t stick new draftees in boot camps in order to teach them how to march, fire their weapons and other military things.

CG             Once we began maintaining a ‘standing’ army either with draftees or volunteers, the whole idea that we needed to train civilians in the proper use of firearms disappeared.  But just around the same time (post-1900) that hunters like Theodore Roosevelt and naturalists like George Grinnell realized that hunting was inextricably connected to conservation, America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ began combining safety training and marksmanship with sport and preservation of the outdoors as its primary goals.

These themes predominated in NRA messaging until the 1980s when open range started to disappear along with the hunters who took guns out to the country to engage in sport. In fact, the whole definition of ‘outdoor sports’ veered away from hunting and fishing to embrace hiking, camping, trekking and kayaking down a whitewater stream rather than sitting in a rowboat and casting a line into the pond.

If the gun industry and groups like the NRA hadn’t discovered a new reason to buy and own guns, there would be no gun industry.  And the new reason, as we know, is the idea of using guns for self-defense which previously had been nothing other than a marginal issue basically to justify the manufacture of the little teenie-weenie pocket guns like the Baby Browning or the 1908 Colt.

This is not the time or the place to discuss why some Americans have recently decided that the only thing which stands between their survival and complete annihilation is access to a gun.  Suffice it to say, however, that the armed-citizen subculture is invariably promoted by Gun-nut Nation and certain pro-gun sycophants as being much larger and more vibrant than it actually is (the lack of attendance at the recent concealed-carry expo in Milwaukee being a case in point.) Nevertheless, since concealed-carry appears to be the only issue that is keeping the industry alive, there’s no end to the new products being rolled out to meet market demand.

And one of those new product lines is the concealed-carry insurance program, Carry Guard, being sold by the NRA.  Today I just received an email from Carry Guard which gives me the opportunity to download a ‘free guide to lawful self-defense’ basically a come-on for selling me the insurance package that will ‘protect’ me in case I have to pull out the old banger and bang away.

The guide, written by ‘experts in the field,’ offers advice on such issues as: What to do with my gun after I shoot someone; how much should I talk to the police; what should I say to bystanders, etc.  In other words, the information in this guide is designed to protect me after I used my gun to protect me.

This guide is so stupid that either the NRA believes its members would score below the idiot level on an IQ test, or they really believe that people will always respond to any ‘free’ offer, or maybe both. If anyone spends one second considering any legal advice from anyone other than their personal attorney, then they deserve to get scammed. Which is exactly what this Carry Guard product is – a complete scam. But since the idea that walking around with a gun will protect you is simply not true, one good scam deserves another, right?

Want To Play A Live Video Game? Try NRA’s Carry Guard.

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Fast on the heels of their floparoo NRA Carry Guard expo in Milwaukee, the boys from Fairfax are now ramping up their promotion and huckstering of the insurance and training products that are aimed (pardon the pun) at what they believe to be the ‘armed citizen’ market whose potential will somehow make up for the fact that gun sales continue to go down.

training             The latest FBI-NICS numbers confirm that it ain’t that rosy in Gun-nut Land, with handgun and long gun background checks for August down 10% from August, 2016 and dealer sales of handguns for the first eight months of this year down more than 10% from the year before.  Meanwhile, the stock price for Smith & Wesson (oops, sorry, it’s now something called American Outdoor Brands) has now dropped to $13 bucks a share, having been up to more than $28 the day that You Know Who shocked the world by finishing in first place.

On an earnings call last week, S&W President Jim Debney announced some more bad news, saying that shipments of both long guns and handguns were way down in the last quarter and that quarterly revenue was off by 40% from the same quarter last year. Our friend John Feinblatt told The Guardian that the Springfield gun maker acquired Gemtech, an outfit which produces silencers, in order to bolster overall revenues. Let me break it to both John and Jim gently: When consumers stop buying guns, they also stop buying all the accessory crap and paraphernalia which goes along with guns.

So what do you do to boost revenues when your product market is saturated? You sell services which enhance the value or the utility of the products that are already owned. And here is where the NRA seems to be leading the pack by rolling out their new brand, Carry Guard, which so far consists of insurance protection and training for folks who want to walk around carrying a gun.

The Carry Guard insurance is advertised as ‘America’s Most Complete Self-Defense Insurance Program,’ but if you believe that hype, you probably also believe that Martians keep landing at Area 51.  Recently a writer for a concealed-carry blog posted a comparison between the Carry Guard insurance and the insurance offered by the United States Concealed Carry Association, and if the comparison is accurate, I can only say that the NRA product basically offers a lot less and costs more. The Carry Guard program also gives you ‘access’ to the training program but anyone can sign up for the ‘gold standard’ training courses whether you buy the insurance or not.

And what exactly are these new training courses? Here’s what they say: “The mission of the NRA Carry Guard instructors is to provide the skills, education and training necessary for today’s changing conflict space.” Would someone please explain the phrase ‘today’s changing conflict space?’  Are they talking about all those antifa people who are going to assault you while you’re strolling down the street?

You can sign up for a three-day, live-fire course which costs $850 but you must bring 1,500 rounds of ammo which will run another $300 or more. First you learn the ‘fundamentals,’ such as stance, grip, holster draw, sight alignment, blah, blah, blah. Then after shooting your 1,500 rounds (that’s 100 hi-cap magazines over 3 days) you get to play some ‘real world’ training scenarios with Airsoft guns (those are toys, by the way.) In other words, over a long weekend you’ll progress from a complete novice to an expert at protecting yourself with a gun, right?  See how well your hands hold up.

The NRA started as a training organization and as a trainer certified in six, different NRA specialties I can tell you that when it comes to defining how to shoot a gun safely, America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ has it down pat. But Carry Guard isn’t training, it’s video gaming with live guns. What do you expect, now that the video-game generation has come of age?

 

 

 

Concealed-Carry: The Latest Marketing Gimmick.

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On August 25 – 27 you can go to Milwaukee and spend the better part of 3 days immersing yourself in the NRA’s new playland for gun owners, a.k.a. the first Carry Guard Expo which is being hyped as “an educational and interactive experience dedicated to Individuals interested in increasing their knowledge and skills within personal protection, concealed carry and defense tactics.”

clothing            This event has got to be the most infantile expression of arrested mental development ever put together by the gun industry and if this moronic and laughable shindig  portends the future direction of gun ownership in this country, nobody has to worry that the surge in guns during the Obama ‘regime’ will eventually result in every American walking around with a gun.

The NRA claims that this event features an exhibit hall with “hundreds of top companies” but the truth is that there are slightly less than 150 exhibitors, basically the usual suspects (Glock, Ruger, S&W) along with a quarter of the total exhibitor booth space occupied by various NRA programs, including the video-television group, the firearms museum and let’s never forget the ‘t-shirts and bumper stickers from the ‘official’ NRA store.

The NRA used to take itself seriously as a training organization, its revenues derived from membership dues, magazine advertising and some program dough from the annual show. Now the organization is becoming an aggressive vendor of goods and services, the goods being in the form of insurance and related products, the services being a new training initiative which like all training these days, relies heavily on digital instruction and internet demand.

In the process of transitioning from a training to a marketing organization, the boys from Fairfax have come to believe that the concealed-carry population represents a golden opportunity just waiting to be tapped. And if you go to the Carry Guard Expo, you’ll have an opportunity to see first-hand how American entrepreneurship is moving quickly and decisively into this new and exciting product realm.

Don’t miss the Femme Fatale booth at the western end of the hall. This company sells Elegant Concealed Carry Holsters for Women Created by a Woman. A few steps away we have another booth, Lady Conceal, which calls itself an In the Bag Boutique, and further down the hall stop in at Dene Adams, which carries Concealed Carry Solutions for Women – for $69.95 you can buy a ‘body shaping thigh holster’ which not only gives your thigh that svelte, 20-something look, but is the perfect spot to store your Glock.

Hey – I like that! ‘The perfect spot to store your Glock.’ Now all I need is a product to go with my slogan and I’m all set. In fact, there’s still plenty of exhibitor space available because according to the show management, “Tens of thousands of freedom-loving Americans will be walking the aisles, looking at the latest and greatest concealed carry guns and gear.” Know what? Even the ad copy being used to attract exhibitors is infantile, to say the least.

When I was 11 years old, my father bought me a Daisy Red Ryder so I could pretend to be John Wayne. Better than that, I took my Red Ryder into the back yard of our house in the middle of Washington, D.C. and now I was riding alongside George Armstrong Custer going through the Black Hills. I once was about the be scalped at The Little Big Horn when my mother stuck her head out the window and yelled that dinner was on the table.

If you think there’s any difference between my backyard fantasies and the fantasies promoted at the Carry Guard Expo, think again. Concealed-carry, armed citizen, self-protection and all that other messaging crap is just a new kind of marketing hype designed to create a consumer market which otherwise wouldn’t exist.

Next time you flick on your television watch how that Dodge Ram truck goes flying over those ruts and muddy curves and then think about the same, twenty- mile drive you do every day back and forth to work.

 

Sorry, but walking around with a gun isn’t ‘free speech.’

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In the wake of Charlottesville our friend John Feinblatt wrote an op-ed piece last week calling for restrictions on the open carry of guns. He was obviously reacting to the dopes who showed up in their camo clothing lugging their AR-15 assault rifles which, according to Governor McAuliffe, made the local cops feel outgunned. On the other hand, insofar as Virginia is an ‘open carry’ state; i.e., the law allows folks to publicly tote guns, the cops just can’t tell someone to put their gun away.

charles             Let’s get one thing clear right now: Anyone who wants to walk around with a visible gun in an open-carry jurisdiction can say that he wants everyone to know he’s carrying a gun, he may also say that he’s carrying the gun because he likes to carry a gun. Fine. But if he says he’s carrying the gun because he wants to protect himself against crime or help keep the peace, then he better make sure that he only uses that gun if he’s attacked by someone else. And this is where the situation in Charlottesville gets a little confused, because the only people who suffered any serious physical damage, up to the point of loss of life, were people protesting the fact that some of the neo-Nazi and white supremacist supporters of their President were walking around with guns.

And I really think that in the interests of honesty, full disclosure and an attempt to sort out right from wrong, it’s time to quit indulging the alt-white in their bullshit about how they showed up recently in Charlottesville, Boston, Austin and a few other spots demonstrating in favor of free speech.  There’s no question that the 1st Amendment gives these jerks the right to march down the street with Nazi banners in hand. But the idea that a political movement which venerates Adolf Hitler would ever become a beacon of free expression is about as likely as the possibility that Fox News would ever be fair and balanced.

I agree with John Feinblatt that open carry is an invitation to violence or worse. But I think there might be a quick and easy solution whenever a so-called citizen’s ‘militia’ announces their intention to show up at a public meeting schlepping their guns. They can be told that their presence in or near the event will be illegal if they show up armed. And despite what you may think, such a temporary ban doesn’t violate their 2nd-Amendment rights at all.

Why? Because until and unless another gun case comes before the Supreme Court, right now the Constitution protects the right of Americans to keep a handgun in the home. That’s all it does. And the fact that this state or that state gives out permits allowing residents to take the guns out of their homes doesn’t mean that such licensing has any kind of Constitutional authority behind it.  In fact, it does not.

Eugene Volokh is a noted Constitutional scholar at UCLA who has championed many of the legal cases removing or reducing gun restrictions over the last number of years.  In a very detailed paper which was cited by Justice Thomas’s dissent when the Court refused to hear a challenge to California’s restrictive CCW permitting process (Peruta v. California), Volokh argues that gun bans in “places where people have a right to be” is a “substantial burden on the right to bear arms for self-defense.”

There’s only one little problem. The Heller decision limited where and how a gun can be used for self-defense, and it didn’t grant any Constitutional protection to someone who shows up armed at a public meeting, no matter why the idiot feels like showing off his AR-15. And even if we grant Volokh’s unproven assumption that having a gun on your person no matter where you are is the best way to defend yourself from a criminal assault, that’s not what happened in Charlottesville – that’s not what happened at all.

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.

 

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