Do Armed Citizens Protect Us From Crime? The Cops Don’t Think So.

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If you want to check out one of the truly great internet marketing scams, take a look at the website of the Concealed Carry Association of America, an outfit started by a guy named Tim Schmidt who developed something called ‘tribal marketing’ which entices people to join (and spend money) on websites promoting the idea that membership is a very special kind of thing.  And what’s more special than believing you’re fulfilling God’s work by walking around armed? Tim’s CCAA website gets a membership ‘retention’ rate three times’ longer than the average membership website, and the longer the members hang around, the more they’ll spend.

tombstone              And believe me, there’s plenty to buy, including books, videos, clothing, gifts and novelty items, and all sorts of other stuff. Next month you can go down to Fort Worth and enjoy a fun-filled three days at the annual CCAA trade show, which includes a live-fire range where you can bang away with real guns and a guest appearance by none other than the prancing master, Colion Noir.

When I say that CCAA is a ‘scam,’ it’s not because you don’t get anything for your membership fee.  To the contrary, you get a slick magazine, a pretty decent personal liability insurance policy, a newsletter and, of course, a nice decal to stick on the window of your car. But no matter what CCAA gives you for joining, the real reason it’s a scam is because there’s simply no truth (as in none) that walking around with a gun makes you safe.  I didn’t say that you might be a little safer; I didn’t say there was a chance that carrying a gun made you safe, I said there is absolutely no proof whatsoever that you will be safe or safer if you carry a gun.

I know, I know, examples abound about all these armed citizens who pulled out a gun and chased the bad guy away. There’s only one little problem; all these armed citizens who engaged in what we call defense gun use (DGU) don’t really exist. Gun-nut Nation still cites Gary Kleck’s 1993 survey conducted which pegged yearly DGU’s at maybe 2 million and maybe more.  Funny, but the same folks who promote this survey never seem to mention the study Kleck published in 2004 where he couldn’t find any difference in outcomes for resisting crime by crime victims who didn’t use guns.

If you want to attempt a serious and honest look at whether guns keep us all that safe, I suggest you take a look at the article just published by Julie Mack, who interviewed law enforcement officials in Michigan’s 15 most populated counties asking them whether they knew of any DGUs in their jurisdictions, and “most officials could not cite a single incident in their jurisdiction within the past 12 months.” Now this doesn’t mean that the cops are necessarily opposed to concealed carry (CCW); in fact Detroit’s chief, James Craig, is an outspoken and ardent supporter both of CCW and of Donald Trump. But being in favor of CCW  and knowing that an armed citizen prevented a crime just aren’t the same.

Undaunted by their inability to actually validate the ‘widespread’ occurrence of DGUs, Gun-nut Nation has fallen back on the notion that the increase in CCW licenses, estimated at roughly 14 million nationwide, has been a significant factor in the continued decline of violent crime. Once again, the research shows that this rationale for spreading the gospel of concealed-carry simply isn’t true.

Want to play cowboy, walk around with a gun and pretend you’re in Dodge City, you go right ahead. But Dodge City experienced, at best, two murders each year and Dodge City banned guns in the 1870s, a law that was strictly enforced by lawmen like Wyatt Earp. I don’t know a single man, including myself, who didn’t have a Roy Rogers revolver when he was a kid. But I grew up and some of my Gun-nut friends might think of growing up too.

Does Stand Your Ground Work? Sure Does If You Want To Shoot Someone.

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Caroline Light’s provocative and original book, Stand Your Ground: A History of America’s Love Affair With Lethal Self Defense, is making its official debut next week and you can pick up a copy at (where else?) Amazon but I’m sure it will be at your independent bookseller as well.  Its appearance, incidentally, will no doubt coincide with the beginning of another attempt by Gun-nut Nation to push a bill through Congress that will let anyone with a concealed-carry license carry his gun through all 50 states.

light_standyourground_2             The idea that a gun license should be no different than a driver’s license has been a cherished gun-nut dream since then-Senator Larry Craig came out of his men’s room stall to speak in favor of a national, concealed-carry bill on the Senate floor. The bill is routinely filed every two years, it has always been just as routinely ignored, but guess who’s sitting in his office at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue just waiting to sign such a bill into law?  And what better way to rev up his sturm und drang base and take their minds off the fact that he can’t really get anything done than to announce that they can now run around anywhere in the United States carrying their guns?

And this is what concealed-carry is really all about, namely, playing out a fantasy that I can protect myself from all those street thugs and bandidos because I’m carrying a gun. The fact that most of the folks who have concealed-carry licenses happen to live in places with little or no violent crime is entirely beside the point.  I really loved it when Trump-o said he could stand on the 5th Avenue sidewalk, shoot someone down and his supporters would still give him their votes. If he did, it would be the first time that a violent crime was committed on 5th Avenue since I don’t know when. But that didn’t stop Trump from bragging about how he allegedly walks around carrying a gun.

Caroline Light’s book isn’t about concealed-carry per se, it’s really a study of a peculiarly American legal phenomenon known as Stand Your Ground (SYG.) Because other Western countries may make it more difficult to get a concealed-carry license, but they are issued if you can show cause.  On the other hand, SYG laws are a peculiarly American phenomenon, and Professor Light does a first-rate job of explaining how and why our ‘love affair’ with lethal, self-defense departs so dramatically from Common Law traditions which, in England and other British colonial zones, don’t support the SYG legal position at all.

When the Supreme Court gave Americans a Constitutional protection in 2008 to keep handguns in the home for self-defense, the majority based its reasoning on a rather arbitrary analysis of the phrase ‘keep and bear arms.’ But according to Scalia, who wrote the majority opinion, it also reflected an American ‘tradition’ of using guns, particularly handguns, for personal defense. What Light shows is that from the very beginnings of the country, the earliest legal cases which codified SYG involved physical disputes that were settled with a gun. I’m not sure that we yet fully understand exactly how and why guns proliferated in the United States, but the connection between gun ownership and the legal sanction of SYG is made very clear in this book.

The problem we have today, however, is that with so many guns floating around, what to the shooter may be a defensive act could be an offensive act to the person who gets shot.  Recently a 60-year old St. Louis man was found not guilty of assault after he shot and killed a 13-year old kid at a distance of 70 feet.  The teenager was running away after breaking into the man’s car, but under Missouri law, since the man felt ‘threatened,’ he had the right to yank out his gun. What kind of country do we live in where something like this can occur?  Some answers to that question are provided in Caroline Light’s new and important book.

 

 

Want The Craziest Florida Gun Law Of All? Here It Comes.

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Now that Florida legislators are once again debating how and where state residents can and cannot go carrying a gun, a new wrinkle has been added to the discussion by a bill just filed by a longtime, pro-gun State Senator named Greg Steube.  He’s been in the legislature for six years and this year chairs the Judiciary Committee where pro-gun bills died in 2015 and 2016, but he’s going to really lead the fight for SB 140, which would allow guns on college campuses, as well as in airports and public meetings.

pulse             The bill has attracted the usual attention from both sides of the gun debate, particularly in the wake of the Fort Lauderdale shooting in January which killed five and injured a dozen more. But lost in the controversy over this piece of legislation is another bill filed by Steube himself, SB 610, which if enacted, would allow someone who voluntarily left his gun behind when he entered a ‘gun-free’ establishment to sue the owner if they were injured by someone who entered the same location with a gun and proceeded to blast away.

Now the way this crazy law would work is that if an owner decided that his establishment should be free of guns, he could always avoid litigation after a shooting if he elected some kind of reasonable strategy to keep his disarmed patrons out of harm’s way, such as hiring an armed guard or maybe installing a metal-detector at the front door.  You may recall, incidentally, that there was an armed guard at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, who traded gunfire with the shooter before the latter then barricaded himself at the rear of the club.  Fat lot of good the armed security guard (an off-duty cop) did for the 102 club patrons who were killed or wounded in that attack.

Know how all the really crazy stuff like half-and-half and Ronald Reagan first appears in California and then spreads nationwide?  When it comes to the worst laws for encouraging gun violence, they start in Florida; i.e., laws that promote CCW and Stand Your Ground (SYG.)  But this law is the craziest and worst sop to Gun-nut Nation of any gun law that has ever been introduced, because you can make the argument that under certain circumstances and with proper training, a responsible individual might be allowed to walk around with a gun.  As for SYG, while those laws have exacerbated gun violence when the alleged assailant happens to be black, the law itself doesn’t speak to the issue of what kind of weapon might be used to make it easier for someone to remain in place against an attack, it just makes it easier to claim self-defense.

This crazy law, on the other hand, is built entirely around the idea that a person who voluntarily gives up access to a gun should therefore expect the individual whose establishment has a no-gun policy to protect him if he suffers an injury due to an “unlawful or reckless act.”  Now let’s say I’m standing in a bar and someone next to me jiggles the drink I have in my hand and the contents of the glass spill out and soil my new shirt. The whole point of gun-free zones is that if I’m armed and slightly drunk, there’s a good chance that I might pull out my gun.  In the brilliant words of Lester Adelson: “With its peculiar lethality, a gun converts a spat into a slaying and a quarrel into a killing.”  This is what a gun-free zone is designed to prevent – the all-too-often escalation of an argument into a horrific injury or a death because someone had a gun.

Gun-nut Nation’s obsession with ridding the country of gun-free zones is based on no credible research showing that armed citizens make a difference in protecting us from crime.  But tell that to Senator Steube and the other gun-nut supporters from the Gunshine State.

The Federal Courts Review Concealed-Carry And The NRA Ain’t Pleased.

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In a surprising event, the NRA actually lost a major legal argument in a Federal court, and America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ predictably responded by calling the decision by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals (U.S. v. Robinson) “the most anti-gun ruling from any court of the modern era.” Which only goes to show how rarely the NRA loses a big one in court. But forgetting for a moment the NRA’s attempt to engage in a bit of Trump-like hyperbole about this new threat to all law-abiding gun owners, the decision does put something of a crimp in Gun-nut Nation’s plan to realize their most cherished ambition, namely, the extension of unquestioned concealed-carry to all 50 states.

ccw            The NRA has been pushing the idea of letting everyone wander around the entire country with a gun in their pockets ever since then-Senator Larry Craig took some time away from his public toilet stall and sponsored a national, reciprocal concealed-carry law back in the Clinton years. Since then, Gun-nut Nation has built up a small but solid phalanx of academics and commercial hucksters who will tell you that walking around with a gun in your pocket is a good thing.

Here’s how it works today and here’s how Gun-nut Nation wants it to work. Licensing for gun ownership is and has always been a state-by-state affair.  Ditto carrying a gun.  Some states make it easier, some make it a little more difficult, but the bottom line is that a gun license isn’t like a driver’s license because no matter where you drive, basically the rules of the road are the same.  In the case of guns, however, the rules covering concealed-carry (CCW) are different in every state.  Which means that if you want to cross a state line with a concealed weapon, you have to make sure that you are meeting the different CCW laws for each state through which you travel, which means you might as well leave the gun home.

Every time a new Congress gets to work, one of the Congressional toadies for Gun-nut Nation introduces a bill to establish national CCW, and every time such a bill is introduced it gets ignored.  But this time may be different because now we have a champion of CCW in the White House and he owes the NRA big-time.  So Gun-nut Nation thought that maybe this time their ship was finally coming home.

The case began when a resident of West Virginia was frisked and an illegal gun was discovered on his person after the cops got a tip that the individual in question (Robinson) was armed.  In this instance the cops were operating under long-established rules which allow for a limited search if the officers believe that the suspect might be ‘armed and dangerous’ even if an arrest has not yet occurred.  Robinson challenged the search, claiming that West Virginia law allowed him to carry a gun.  Possessing a gun may have made him ‘armed,’ but it didn’t necessarily make him ‘dangerous.’  A local judge agreed, but the 4th Circuit tossed Robinson’s argument out.

What the 4th Circuit basically said was that it was reasonable for the cops to assume that someone walking around with a gun, even someone walking around with a legal gun on his person should not only be considered armed, but might be dangerous as well.  And he would be dangerous, as far as the cops would be concerned, simply because he was carrying a gun.

Do you realize what this argument does to Gun-nut Nation’s most cherished dream?  It stands that dream on its head.  Because what the NRA and all their syncophantic CCW-advocates have been saying is that walking around with a gun makes everyone safe and constitutes no threat or danger to law-abiding citizens at all. But the 4th Circuit came down on the side of cops who need to be protected against ‘unnecessary risk.’  And believe it or not, walking around with a gun increases risk.

Want To Reduce Gun Violence? The Real Battle Is In The States, Not The Feds.

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Now that The New York Times has once again become the newspaper ‘of record’ even for Donald Trump, we can sit back and wait for the Gray Lady to begin pronouncing on everything and anything having to do with the election results on November 8th.  And the newsroom started right off with an ‘analysis’ of whether Trump’s victory was fueled by the ‘gun vote,’ and to nobody’s surprise, at least not mine, they discovered that it was.  Or at least Gun-nut Nation thinks it was.  And since the NYT will now begin to feature story after story about all those ‘forgotten’ folks who came out for Trump – in the interests of fair and balanced journalism –  you can bet that the gun-nut gang will be a central feature of more articles to come.

Of course the Times made sure to give a bit of space to the other side, quoting Everytown’s Erika Soto Lamb and also Jenn Crowe who worked on the Nevada background-check vote, but basically the piece was fluff and nonsense for various pro-gun advocates, including none other than C. J. Grisham from Open Carry Texas who proudly stated that he went out last week and bought two more AR-15 rifles just in case Hillary actually won.

Let me break the news gently to the gun violence prevention (GVP) community:  the real problem going forward will not be to figure out what to do; nor will it be to craft some kind of ‘new’ message about the politics of guns.  The real problem will be to find some way to push back against what will surely become an attempt by liberal influencers, pundits and newsmakers at the national level to cloak the wolf in sheep’s clothing, so to speak, and shift the spectrum towards a more ‘balanced’ view on guns.  And like it or not, this attempt by liberal media to find some way of making ‘gun rights’ a more reasonable proposition will last for as long as the liberal media feels that its relevance is dependent on how much access it can maintain with President Shlump.

But since pictures usually are worth lots of words, especially my words, I’d like to draw your attention to a couple of pics that highlight what I believe is the challenge faced by GVP.  Here is a map which shows how many states granted CCW (blue or green) in 1986:

rtc1986

            And here’s how the map has changed from then until now:

rtc2016

Want to know what’s also changed over those same thirty years?  Republican control of state governments has gone from one-third to two-thirds. Now many of those Democratic-controlled state governments were in the hands of southern Democrats whose views, at the time, not really all that different from the Republicans who would replace them and many of these states were gun-rich states anyway, so it wasn’t like either party was going to run around proclaiming the virtues of regulating guns.  But if you think for one second that state legislatures are awash in NRA lobbying money, you’re wrong.  In the Nevada fight over extending background checks, the NRA was outspent by more than two to one.

After the 1994 election when the GOP grabbed control of the House for the first time since 1952, much of the post-election narrative was based on the idea that the vote was payback time by the NRA for how representatives voted on the assault weapons ban bill.  And even though subsequent research indicated that this narrative wasn’t necessarily true, the notion that guns represent a toxic element for politicians at the national level continues to take hold.  And the proof of what I just said can be found in the NYT article quoted above.

I got a good idea for my friends in the GVP.  Do what you gotta do on K Street in DC but let’s not take our eyes off the ball because where the ball really bounces is in those increasingly-red state legislatures from sea to shining sea.

Know Who You Are Protecting If You Walk Around With A Gun? Nobody.

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If there’s one favorite Gun-nut Nation idea that I can’t stand, it’s the notion that we should all be out there protecting ourselves and everyone else by walking around with a gun. And a certain mystique has now developed about what is sometimes referred to as ‘citizen protectors,’ and while the concept has a certain cultish element involved in its spread, the truth is that it’s just a scam marketing strategy developed by the gun industry and promoted by scam media influencers to sell more guns.  And the reason I call all this self-protection with guns a scam is very simple; not a single one of the outfits which promote the idea of everyone becoming a ‘citizen-protector’ has ever backed the idea that carrying a concealed weapon should first require a proficiency test of any kind.

torso-target           Of course all these newly-anointed defensive gun-use instructors will tell you that it’s important to train, train and train. And they all back up this message about the importance of training with live training courses, online courses, CD-ROM courses, you name it and there’s a training product out there for you to buy.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying that people who walk around with a legal gun in their pocket represent a threat to themselves or to someone else. Gun owners in general tend to be very law-abiding; gun owners who apply for a carry-concealed license (CCW) even more so. What I am saying is that letting gun owners walk around thinking that they can protect anyone without first proving a high level of proficiency and then renewing that proof on a regular basis is nothing more than a fraudulent appeal to the most ignorant emotions that humans possess.  And when I say ‘proving’ proficiency, I’m not talking about letting someone stand in front of stationery, paper target and drill a few holes.  I was doing that at a Coney Island shooting gallery when I was twelve years old.

I currently teach the handgun safety course in my state that is required in order to apply for a license to own a gun.  The license without any additional coursework of any kind also allows concealed-carry of a gun.  So you can get a license, buy a Glock and stick it in your pocket without actually having fired your pistol, not even once.  And a most states grant CCW without a proficiency test of any kind.

I have a small range in my gun shop and even though the course does not mandate live fire, I make all the students shoot a pistol so that at least they will better understand the safety issues involved in handling a gun.  First every student fires a magazine of 22-caliber ammo with a Ruger SR-22.  Then they move to the other lane and shoot two rounds with a 9mm Glock.  They shoot the Glock on command and have two seconds to put at least one of the two shots within a 9-inch circle on a torso target fifteen feet away. If they get one of two rounds into the circle within two seconds they pass; otherwise they fail.  They still get their course certificates even if they fail this drill because, remember, my state grants CCW without proficiency certification of any kind.

Of the 131 students who have done this drill so far, 4 have passed.  That’s right, three percent of the folks who will be able to carry a gun around to protect themselves and others have demonstrated the most minimal ability to use a gun in self-defense. And the target that most of them missed completely was standing still.

So the next time that someone tells you that concealed-carry is a good thing, ask them how come the NRA and everyone else in Gun-nut Nation is opposed to these citizen-protectors having to prove their competency with a gun.  Oh, I forgot. Allowing the government to decide anything about how I use my guns is a violation of my 2nd-Amendment rights.

Do Guns Make College Campuses Safer? Not At All.

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The Center for Gun Policy and Research at Johns Hopkins University has just issued an important report on guns and college campuses which is summarized in a Washington Post op-ed or you can download the entire report here. Basically, the report argues that, Gun-nut Nation’s claims to the contrary, allowing guns on college campuses does not enhance security or safety, but will result in more, not less gun violence in academic environments.

 

      The Texas Tower

The Texas Tower

The Hopkins report follows shortly after the University of Texas ended its ban on campus-carry, which makes it the eighth state to allow people with concealed-carry permits to bring their guns with them to school.  But there are also 24 states which grant colleges and universities a local option to allow guns within their campus domains, which leaves only 18 states whose college campuses are still gun-verein.  Some of the states where guns aren’t allowed in academic environments are heavily regulated states like New York, Massachusetts and Illinois.  But there are also some surprises on the no-campus list, including gun-rich states like Missouri, Georgia and the Gun-shine State most of all.  Gun-nut Nation tries year in and year out to open college campuses to guns in Florida, but so far common sense prevails.

In trying to assess whether guns are a risk or benefit to college life, the authors note that they are forced to rely on data which measures this question for society as a whole. But this approach still yields sufficient evidence to make a judgement about one of the cardinal tenets of Gun-nut Nation’s infatuation with campus carry, namely, the notion that educational settings attract the real gun nuts – the mass shooters – because colleges and universities tend to be gun-free zones.

The evidence that gun-free zones attract mass shooters comes from one place and one place only, namely, the alt-right media postings of my good buddy John Lott.  I enjoy following his rants if only because you can always count on John to invent a definition that will justify what he is trying to argue regardless of whether the definition bears any relationship to reality at all.  His latest attempt to promote the idea that gun-free zones attract mass shooters is to define a gun-free zone as any place where residents don’t have easy access to owning guns.  So even though mass shootings have never been a feature of New York City life, as far as John is concerned, the Big Apple is a completely gun-free zone.  Get it?

The real problem with any analysis of mass shootings is that we are forced to infer the motives of mass shooters because most don’t survive the shooting incident itself.  These events are usually, but not always, homicides followed by a suicide, thus our understanding of the how and why of such events is a function of looking for similarities in the circumstances surrounding those shootings, such as where they took place, who were the victims, and so forth. The one mass shooter who has supplied an overwhelming amount of in-person, forensic evidence is Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in Norway in 2011, but if you want to download, read and try to figure out his motives from the 1,500-page Manifesto he posted online prior to the event, good luck and Godspeed. Even the court-appointed psychiatrists who examined him prior to trial couldn’t figure him out.

While nobody can say for sure why gun violence, particularly mass gun violence, occurs in certain places and not others, the Hopkins report aggregates and summarizes enough research to state (beyond any doubt) that gun assaults and gun suicides occur much more frequently wherever guns are present, regardless of whether concealed-carry is sanctioned or not.  If John Lott didn’t exist, Gun-nut Nation would invent him, because there is simply no research which shows that our society, and particularly our college campuses are safer because civilians are walking around with guns.  But since when did the pro-gun argument have anything to do with facts anyway?

 

 

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