Why Do People Believe In Armed, Self-Defense?

              There’s a guy out in Gun-nut Nation named Chris Bird, who is regarded as one of the patron saints of the concealed-carry movement, and I have just finished reading his book, The Concealed Handgun Manual, which is considered a must-read book by all the noisemakers who believe that we are a safer country because we have access to guns. And since Chris may think that some of the things I’m going to say about his book aren’t all that positive or nice, I’ll give the book a plug because you can buy it right here.

              As a matter of fact, I strongly urge my friends in Gun-control Nation to read this book, because if there’s one thing that strikes me about activists who want to see us reduce the violence and injuries caused by guns, it’s the degree to which they seem to have little, if any awareness of what is said or believed by the other side. Ask the average gun-control true-believer to explain the difference between an ‘internet’ sale and a ‘personal, sale of a gun and you’ll get the deer-in-the-headlights look. Then ask the same person to explain the difference between an assault rifle and a semi-auto long gun and you’ll probably get much the same look.

              I wouldn’t recommend Bird’s book were it not for the fact that the issue of concealed-carry basically defines the entire gun debate. Why? Because everyone (except me) seems to believe that the 2nd Amendment gives Americans the ‘right’ to own a gun. But where the break occurs between the two sides is explaining why someone should or shouldn’t own a gun. And the gun industry has been selling its products for the last thirty or so years by telling customers that a gun is an essential ‘tool’ for self-defense, even though there is absolutely no valid research which shows this argument to be true.

              So what we get down to here is a mind-set in the heads of many Americans who as a group form the market for continued gun sales. And Chris Bird happens to write books which appeal directly to that mind-set, whether there’s any reality behind it or not. If my friends in Gun-control are really serious about coming up with ‘reasonable’ gun restrictions which will appeal to ‘reasonable’ people on the other side, reading Bird’s book might give them some insights into why those gun owners believe they should own guns. 

              Bird begins the book with a lecture on ‘situational awareness,’ a self-defense concept first developed by Jeff Cooper (whose widow passed away yesterday at the age of 99) back in the 1970’s, which is when, thanks to Glock, the idea of owning and carrying a small, concealable, hi-powered and hi-capacity handgun first took hold. The argument made by Bird is both simple-stupid, namely, that all of us are at all times possible targets of predators who can only be repulsed with personal armed force because the cops never arrive on time.

              The book then goes through a whole series of episodes where armed citizens saved themselves from a criminal attack; it then covers how to choose a handgun, how to practice with your gun, and how to ‘win a gunfight’ with references all the way back to the OK Corral. If you’re a bone-fide member of Gun-control Nation and read this book, you’ll quickly decide that it represents nothing more than a marketing scam designed to mislead delusional people into believing they really need to own a gun.

I disagree. I know many of the folks who take seriously what Bird has to say, and their views might run counter to the prevailing liberal orthodoxy on gun violence, but there’s no reason to believe that what they think about armed, self-defense should simply be considered the product of deranged minds. These folks choose to be gun owners with the same degree of diligence that many of my friends believe that gluten-free foods will prevent chronic fatigue syndrome or worse.

Want to reduce gun violence? At least try to understand what the other side thinks.

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Want To Argue About Nothing? Try Concealed-Carry Or Gun-Free Zones.

One of the issues which can always get everyone hot and bothered on both sides of the gun debate is the issue of gun-free zones. On the one hand, proponents of armed, self-defense (John Lott, et. al.) argue that denying folks the right to carry their self-defense gun into a public space makes that space a likely target for any nut who wants to commit mass mayhem using a gun. On the other hand, maintaining and/or expanding gun-free zones is seen by Gun-control Nation as a fundamental strategy for reducing the 125,000+ injuries that we suffer each year from the use/abuse of guns.

I happen to believe that both arguments are bunk and do not, in any way, shape or form, align with the relevant facts. This is because we don’t know the relevant facts, nor has anyone even attempted to figure them out. But making arguments without any factual underpinnings is hardly a new approach when it comes to advocating for or against anything, particularly when it comes to advocating an issue as emotionally-laden as the issue of guns.

It just happens to be the case that most public spaces are gun-free zones, and that’s not about to change. The reason that John Lott says that most large-scale shootings occur in gun-free spaces is because prohibitions on carrying personal firearms are typical of shopping centers, auditoriums and stadiums, which happen to be the places where many people congregate at the same time. Federal law also designates all public K-12 schools as gun-free zones. 

The other problem in the gun-free zone universe is that the issue is confused because it’s often attached to a second gun argument which is equally mis-stated on both sides, namely, the issue of mass shootings which, by definition, occur in places where lots of people congregate at the same time. The commonly-accepted definition of a ‘mass shooting’ is an event in which four or more persons are killed, but this usually excludes shootings in private residences or shootings in the street between rival gangs. So, for example, the gunfire which erupted on May 17, 2015, between two motorcycle gangs in a Waco, TX restaurant parking lot wouldn’t necessarily make the mass-shooting hit list, even though 18 bikers and bystanders were injured and another 9 ended up dead.  And by the way, how come we don’t hear about this event as being the ‘proof’ that armed citizens can prevent crimes when just about everyone standing outside the Twin Peaks Restaurant that day was carrying a gun?

On the other hand, what makes my friends in Gun-control Nation crazy about expanding gun-free zones is that invariably this proposal is tied to the increase in concealed-carry licensing, which is on its way to covering more than 20 million gun owners at last count. But if you want to argue that an increase in armed citizens leads to an increase in gun injuries you’ll find yourself facing two facts which don’t bear this out.

First, although the latest numbers of CCW puts the national figure at 17.5 million, this figure may represent more than five times the number of people actually walking around on a regular basis with a loaded gun. Do these 3 million gun-toters represent a serious threat to community safety and health? To answer that question we turn to our friends at the Violence Policy Center whose report, Concealed Carry Killers, found that between 2007 and 2017, roughly 1,000 people shot themselves or others with legally-carried guns, the division between homicide and suicide about 50 percent. Over that same eleven-year period, more than 350,000 Americans overall died from gun homicides and suicides. Ok? Get it?

Nobody has yet to come up with a definitive explanation for whether or not shooters, particularly mass shooters, are attracted to gun-free zones. But as far as I’m concerned, the whole issue of concealed-carry and gun-free zones is a side-show when compared to figuring out what to do about the daily, run-of-the-mill shooting events that each year now claim more than 40,000 lives.

Do Gun Owners Carrying Around A Gun Represent A Threat?

              One of Gun-control Nation’s most respected researchers, John Donahue,  has just published a new and very detailed study which allegedly proves that the more people who walk around with legally-accessed guns, i.e., folks with the legal right to carry (RTC) a gun on their person, the result is more violent crime. Donahue has made his reputation in the gun-control debate by being a no-nonsense opponent of John Lott and the Lott ‘more guns equals less crime’ thesis, as well as by analyzing public-access data from the CDC within a new regression methodology known as synthetic controls.

              Before we get to the substance of Donahue’s argument, a brief comment about whether regression analysis of open-source data is a sufficient method to explain how and why gun violence occurs at different rates in different places and at different times. In defense of this methodology, Donahue and his co-authors state that “synthetic control approach uniformly supports the conclusion that RTC laws lead to substantial increases in violent crime.” But when the authors attempt to make a cause-and-effect connection between crime rates and RTC, they always fall back on a vague reference of one trend being ‘associated’ with the other, which basically is a polite way of admitting that there’s no substantive cause-and-effect connection at all.

              I wouldn’t even consider this article to merit any attention on my part if it were simply an argument based on an analysis of data, whether the data is used or abused. But the larger part of the article doesn’t focus on data analysis. Instead, it’s a discussion of how and why  RTC-holders constitute a threat to public safety based on numerous examples of guys with RTC who committed violent crimes, usually gun assaults, by using their legally-owned guns. 

              The fact that out of 125,000+ gun injuries each year that less than one-tenth of one percent involve RTC-holders says nothing about the risks of RTC. Worse, the assumption made by Donahue about RTC behavior on which this entire article is based, is so far away from reality that I simply don’t understand how such shabby research gets published at all. The assumption proceeds from an article published by two psychologists in 2016 which found that gun owners tended to overestimate their ability to use a gun safely, thus leading to criminal misconduct, accidents, and lost or stolen guns. Donahue and his co-authors then go on to place the onus for more gun violence in RTC states on the assumption that the more people who have an RTC license, the more guns are being carried around. Do they have one, single bit of evidence to determine whether RTC actually results in more legally-owned guns are being carried by owners who don’t know how to use their guns?  No. Not any evidence at all.

              But these researchers don’t need data to say whatever they want to say. They can just take one trend, tie it to another trend and A must certainly explain B.  So, for example, they note a study which found that guns were stolen from roughly 1 percent of gun owners, and if there are now 16 million RTC holders, this amounts to more than 100,000 guns entering the illegal market each year. But the cited study did not differentiate between people who owned guns and gun-owners who also had RTC. Did it ever occur to Donahue and his colleagues that maybe RTC-holders might be a little more careful with how they stored and protected their guns?  Why bother to question their own totally-flawed assumption? After all, they got the answer they wanted to get.

              This research simply cannot stand against an even cursory analysis of its content, argument or scope. So how does it get published in a major academic journal and then ballyhooed all over the place? Because sad to say, some gun-violence researchers do not understand the difference between research and advocacy; they pretend to be engaged in the former but they really just practice the latter. And they want the CDC to pony up $50 million for their ‘research?’  Give me a break.

Where Are All Those Concealed-Carry Killers?

              Last week our friend Ladd Everitt published an op-ed in The New York Post where he called on Bill DeBlasio to change a New York City gun-control law, the Sullivan law, that has been in effect since 1912. Basically, what this law does is to make it very difficult for a New York City resident to walk around with a gun. Additionally, it also prohibits transporting a handgun for which a city resident has a license outside of the city itself. For that matter, a resident of any other county in New York State outside of the five counties within the Big Apple, can’t bring a licensed handgun into the city.

              The law is being challenged by some pro-gun group which believes that if someone happens to own a home both within the city as well as another home somewhere else in the state, that it’s a violation of 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ to require said individual to have gun licenses issued by both jurisdictions in order to move from one location to another with said gun. After all, the same driver’s license can be used both in Da City and the rest of the state. How come we can’t enjoy the same ‘equal protection under laws’ when it comes to transporting our guns?

              For reasons that we will only learn if and when the SCOTUS publishes an opinion on this case next year, the great fear being bandied about in Gun-control Nation is that the High Court will use this case to strike down various state and local concealed-carry laws (CCW) and pave the way for one, national CCW that will let every armed American wander around anywhere he wants to go toting his gun.

              I happen to believe that the gun violence prevention (GVP) movement’s opposition to national CCW is correct. I also happen to believe, however, that the GVP opposition to CCW is based on arguments which have little or no validity at all. So before you get all hot and bothered that Mike the Gun Guy™ is once again showing his true colors as an NRA flack, read on.

              The opposition to CCW is based on the wholly-unsupported claim that CCW increases the possibility that gun violence rates will go up. Now you can always find an example of someone shooting someone else with a legal concealed weapon – the murder of  Trayvon Martin being perhaps the most notorious case in point. But one example is simply one example, okay?

              Our friends at the Violence Policy Center (VPC) issue an annual report on the number of times that folks with CCW kill someone by using a gun. In fact, of the 722 documented cases analyzed by the VPC between 2007 and 2017, it turns out that 45% were either non-criminal suicides or unintentional shootings.  In other words, over this eleven-year span, fatal injuries committed by CCW-holders averaged less than 40 per year. This country finds itself awash in intentional gun assaults which rack up more than 14,000 homicides a year, and the 40 or so people killed by CCW-holders constitutes a threat to public health?

              The reason I am opposed to national concealed-carry is the same reason I am opposed to all local or state-level CCW, namely, that I have yet to see a single jurisdiction granting CCW that actually imposes any kind of test to determine whether the CCW-recipient actually knows how to use a gun. Sorry, but sitting in a stuffy room, listening to some old guy drone on for a couple of hours about the ‘three rules of handgun safety’ and then firing a few shots at a fixed target doesn’t constitute any kind of ‘training’ at all. And for all the difficulty imposed by New York City to get a CCW license, there’s no training requirement whatsoever. Read: none.

              My problem with CCW is that it’s just another marketing scam to make guns as normal and useful as a droid. But guns aren’t just some household or business convenience. Guns are designed to kill. Get it?

Does The 2nd Amendment Protect Carrying A Gun Outside The Home?

While my friends in the gun-control community continue to go ga-ga over something as silly and unimportant as plastic guns, a decision just came down from the 9th Circuit Federal Court which could have a much greater impact on the whole issue of gun violence and how America will and will not regulate guns.  I am referring to an appeal brought before the Court by a resident of Hawaii, George Young, who was denied an application both to openly a gun as well as to carry the same gun concealed.

glock1             Basically, what the Court said in a 2 – 1 opinion, was that the State of Hawaii couldn’t have it both ways. Either they had to let Young carry a weapon outside the home openly, or they had to let him carry his weapon concealed. But to deny him any ability to leave his home armed was to deny his 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ The Court found that Hawaii’s statute denying carrying of weapons except in cases of engaging in ‘protection of life and property’ was too vague and could not sustained under current 2nd-Amendment interpretations, up to and including the Heller decision rendered in 2008.

In fact, Scalia’s 2008 Heller opinion specifically avoided the issue of carrying a gun outside the home, because the D.C. law which Heller appealed only dealt with whether or not a resident of the District could keep a loaded, self-defense gun in the home. The relevant section in the 2nd Amendment is the phrase, ‘keep and bear arms,’ with decisions since 2008 coming down on both sides of this issue when deciding whether ‘keep’ and ‘bear’ refer to only inside the home or outside the home as well.

If you go back and read Scalia’s Heller opinion, what I find interesting is that virtually the entire 20,000-word text is devoted to historical and legal discussions about the words ‘keep’ and ‘bear.’  On the other hand, the word ‘arms’ is given very short shrift, Scalia dispensing with it altogether by noting that modern military weapons, like an M-16 rifle, could lie outside of 2nd-Amendment protection because such a gun isn’t commonly found in the home (page 54 et. seq.) In other words, for purposes of defining the types of weapons which fall under 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ Scalia is basically saying that a gun used by the military may, in fact, be what he calls a ‘dangerous and unusual’ weapon, which should not be owned by civilians at all.

If my friends in the gun-control community decide to appeal the 9th Circuit’s ruling, which I’m sure they will, and/or if the issue of 2nd Amendment protection for carrying a gun outside the home finally arrives at the doorstep of the Supreme Court, perhaps some consideration might be given to looking at the whole issue not from the point of view of prohibiting or regulating the behavior of people who own guns, but rather, in terms o the lethality of the guns themselves.

Because it just so happens that if we define a gun not in terms of whether it can be found in a gun-owner’s home, but rather in terms of whether the gun was designed for military use and is used by the military today, then all of a sudden, the whole question of what constitutes a gun whose existence in civilian hands is covered by the 2nd Amendment begins to change.

The fact is that the most popular handgun in America – Glock – was designed specifically as an army gun and is carried by troops in the field, including U.S. troops, all over the globe. Ditto the guns manufactured by Sig, whose M17 model just became the official sidearm of the Regular Army of the USA.  Ditto the Beretta M9, the list goes on and on.

The reason that other advanced countries don’t suffer our level of gun violence is because they recognize that arms designed for the military are too lethal to be in civilian hands. How come this issue never seems to be arise when my friends in the gun-control community decry the violence caused by guns?

 

Why Does Everyone Hate John Lott?

I have just posted a detailed paper on SSRN with the above title and it is available for download right here.  This paper is an attempt not to exonerate Lott for any of his shortcomings, nor to play devil’s advocate for what he says or writes, and certainly not to push some backdoor kind of support for his work. I have previously written about him and by just mentioning his name without adding the usual gun violence prevention (GVP) sobriquet like the ‘discredited’ or ‘dangerous’ John Lott I have been accused not only of being his partner, but also of being a secret mole for the NRA.

People who make comment like that without bothering to read what I actually have said about Lott’s work are doing their best to make sure that no common ground between gun owners and non-gun owners will ever exist. What? Am I saying that the GVP isn’t interested in finding ways to communicate with ‘responsible’ gun owners who will support ‘reasonable’ policies to regulate guns? No. What I’m saying is that the gun-control community never refers to themselves as being ‘responsible;’ it’s always the other side which needs to meet some kind of responsibility test. And funny, when pro-GVP scholars ask gun owners what kinds of ‘reasonable’ public policies they would support, the list always seems to start and end with policies which reflect what GVP advocates feel should be supported, and never policies advocated by the other side.

This may come as a great shock to my GVP friends, but while there is clearly strong support among gun owners for background checks and the like, I’m willing to bet that if you asked the average gun owner what he’s doing to reduce gun violence, there’s a good chance he’ll tell you that he keeps a loaded handgun by his side. It may be kept at home, it may be dangling from his belt, but since more than 60% of Americans believe that a gun makes you safer than not having a gun, then the gun owner who tells you that the best way to protect yourself from violence is by owning a gun isn’t just whistling in the dark. And since guns are apparently found in only 40% of all American homes, this means that a lot of non-gun owners buy the ‘gun makes you safer’ line as well.

Lott’s an easy target because anyone who makes an occasional appearance on Fox or is interviewed by an AM talk-show jock is, by definition, an enemy of the folks who care about reducing the carnage America suffers from guns. But Lott has never (read: never) said anything about the extraordinary cultural shift which has moved us from 60% supporting a total handgun ban in 1960 to the current number which is below 25%. By the time Lott wrote his first paper, only one in three Americans supported a handgun ban, so Lott was able to capitalize on this shift in public opinion, but he didn’t make it up.

What we are looking at is an extraordinary case of cognitive dissonance in which the people who decide they need a gun to protect them, particularly if they want to walk around toting the damn thing, happen to be the people least likely to ever be victims of violent crime. Several years ago I was at a gun show in Lancaster, PA, which is a nice farming town about 60 miles due west of the Liberty Bell. Pennsylvania had just changed their right to carry (RTC) law from ‘may issue’ to ‘shall issue,’ and the sheriff’s office in Lancaster was overwhelmed with folks wanting to apply for their license to carry a gun. I happened to overhear several guys talking who had just spent four hours waiting on line, and when one of them laughed and said, “Well, there’s never any crime out here anyway,” the other responded in a very serious tone, “Yea, but they could come out from  Philly. You never know.”

What my paper really talks about is what we need to understand about this cultural shift in attitudes towards guns and how we need to incorporate this shift into the public narrative promoted by the GVP. Because we can sit around all day and shoot verbal arrows at John Lott but so what? The bottom line is that too many Americans have decided that the only thing between them and mayhem is owning and carrying a gun. The fact that their decision results in more mayhem somehow escapes from being said.

And despite what you may think, you simply can’t blame that attitude on John Lott.

 

John Lott Meets The New York Times. A Win-Win For Both Sides.

What? The New York Times is carrying an op-ed by John Lott? The John Lott? The John Lott who is the bete noir of the entire gun violence prevention community because he has singlehandedly convinced a majority of Americans that keeping a gun around the house will make them safe? No, not The New York Times. Not the newspaper whose recent op-ed by Gail Collins begged the GVP community to ‘energize’ and not give up.

lott             John has been making arguments about the positive social utility of guns since 1998 when the first edition of More Guns, Less Crime, was published by the University of Chicago Press. I also happen to be a Chicago Press author, so I’m not about to say anything nasty about his book. But I don’t have to worry, because nasty and unkind comments about this book abound.

When John first published More Guns, roughly 35% of all Americans said that guns made their home a safer environment, while 50% said a gun at home made it a more dangerous place. The GVP will tell you that this shift in opinion is due to the power and financial clout of the NRA. And while the boys from Fairfax have certainly done their best to tilt the legislative field their way, the fact is that what the poll numbers indicate is that a lot of Americans have changed their minds about gun risk who don’t happen to own guns. Our friends at Harvard estimate that somewhere under 25% of American adults (most of them men) own guns, and that’s a much smaller percentage than the percentage of people who now say that a gun makes them safe.

There are two reasons why I am pleased to see Lott’s work show up in The New York Times. First, the shift towards guns for self-defense is not just a function of the decline in hunting, nor it can’t just be blamed on the NRA. Something else is going on in the United States which has caused a growth in what scholars like Alan Fiske, Tage Rai and Steven Pinker  call ‘virtuous violence;’ i.e., the use of violence to achieve positive ends. Lott’s research is an attempt to explain why this shift has occurred and needs to be acknowledged from that point of view.

Second, I am not terribly comfortable with using regression analysis to explain human affairs. Finding an ‘association’ between two trend lines is more a kind of statistical alchemy rather than a scientific method to establish causal facts. I agree with Richard Berk who refers to most regression analysis as a good way to describe patterns of data, but description and causal explanations are two, very different things. In that regard, Lott’s reliance on regression analysis doesn’t necessarily persuade me that his argument is true. But none of his critics seem willing to do anything beyond running his data through different statistical models which will always yield different results.

The problem with relying on public health research to explain gun violence is that most of this research usually follows the traditional, epidemiological approach to figuring out risk by defining the victims, figuring out how the risk enters and move through a particular population, and then coming up with protective strategies to protect everyone else. The result is that we know an awful lot about the victims of gun violence, but we know very little about why less than 5% of Americans who commit a serious injury each year, against themselves or someone else, do it by using a gun.

Until and unless the GVP figures out why people commit gun violence, condemning John Lott for offering an answer to that question which they don’t like is a strategy leading nowhere fast. If my GVP friends would examine their own arguments with the same degree of critical vigor that they use with Lott’s work, his appearance in The New York Times will be a positive event for helping to end the violence caused by guns.

 

 

Why Do So Many ‘Trafficked’ Guns Wind Up In New York?

Now that everyone has seemed to forget about what happened in Vegas on October 1st, the noise machine is gearing up on both sides about what appears to be the possibility that the national concealed-carry bill will get to the Senate floor for a debate. The law easily floated through the House in December, but any piece of NRA-backed legislation is guaranteed to get out of the lower chamber. The question for Republicans is whether they can not only secure every red Senate vote, but grab a bunch of Democrats from gun-rich states who might be feeling a little vulnerable going into the midterm vote.

trafficking             An interesting media piece about this issue surfaced last week in, of all places, The New York Post.  If there is one newspaper in the United States which has slavishly pumped up Trump, it’s the Fox-owned Post, whose fawning coverage of Trump has been going on for years. But instead of using the gossip space on what is called Page Six, the tabloid usually gives Trump the front-page headline, and goes out of its way to make the headline read as positive as it can.

So here’s a big story about concealed-carry but the headline is a quote from the NYPD Commissioner, Jim O’Neill, describing the national CCW as ‘insanity’ and “a disaster for major cities around the country.” The Manhattan DA, Cy Vance, also chimed in, saying that he wouldn’t presume to tell the residents of West Virginia what their gun laws should say, but neither should anyone take a law written for West Virginia and apply it to New York. Vance was referring to the narrative started by Mike Bloomberg who blamed high levels of gun violence on the movement of illegal guns up the I-95 “iron pipeline” from states with lax gun laws to more restrictive states like New York.

Thank you, Cy Vance, for that quick lesson in federalism.  But with all due respect to the idea that everything would be hunky-dory in gun land if we could just figure out a way to keep those guns from the South down in the South. Back laat May, the Brooklyn DA, Eric Gonzalez, announced the biggest gun “bust’” in the borough’s history, with indictments of 24 Virginia residents who had brought more than 200 guns into the Big Apple, including a Thompson sub-machine gun, you know, one of those rat-tat-tat bangers used by the Al Capone gang. Actually the so-called machine gun is actually a semi-automatic rifle but it looks like a machine gun.

The Brooklyn press conference was quite entertaining, because in addition to all the guns lying around, DA Gonzalez also played a taped conversation between two of the crooks, one of whom was bragging to the other about how he could walk around to 10 different gun shops, buy a legal gun in each one, bring the stash up to New York and unload the guns in the street.

If someone can buy a gun legally in Virginia, they were able to pass the FBI-NICS check. A legal gun purchase is a legal gun purchase no matter where it’s made. So how come all these ‘legal’ guns only seem to come to New York from Southern states? I’ll tell you why.

If you look at the number of federal dealer licenses in Southern states  and compare to the FFL numbers in states like New York and New Jersey, there are three times as many gun licenses per capita in the South as opposed to the North. Gee, what a surprise, given the fact that per-capita gun ownership is also three times higher in the South than in the North. The movement of legally-purchased guns from one section of the country to another is a perfect example of the way the market responds to an imbalance between supply and demand. It’s not the ‘lax’ gun laws which bring Southern guns up to New York; it’s unmet demand, and laws don’t prevent the market from responding to demand.

Thomas Gabor—Establishing a National Licensing System for Gun Owners

America has a grave gun violence problem.  Gun deaths are approaching 40,000 per year, mass shootings are occurring daily and they are becoming more lethal.  Three of the five deadliest mass shootings in modern American history (Las Vegas, Orlando, and Sutherland Springs (TX) have occurred over the last 18 months.  The Concealed Carry Reciprocity bill, currently making its way through Congress at the behest of the National Rifle Association, represents a complete disregard for public safety and the desire of the public for tighter gun laws.   This bill would make it lawful to carry guns across state lines, even if the state issuing a permit has very weak requirements for permit holders relative to the state the permit holder is visiting.

licenseThe US needs stronger not weaker national laws.  Studies show that states with more permissive laws tend to have higher, not lower, gun death rates than states with more stringent requirements.  Rather than concealed carry reciprocity we need another national law, but one that raises screening and training requirements for gun owners, rather than one that undermines public safety in states that have made more serious attempts to regulate in this area.

Many groups are proposing that we expand background checks so that all gun purchasers, including those buying at gun shows and online, are subject to a background check to ensure they do not fall in some prohibited category (e.g., convicted felons, the mentally ill, domestic abusers).   Such a reform is important as is the desire to close the “Charleston loophole”, which allowed the sale of a Glock pistol to the mass shooter Dylann Roof to proceed after 72 hours when the FBI could not find the drug conviction on his record even though there was a flag in the NICS system.  Other improvements to the background check system are also necessary, such as the need for the military to share the misconduct of one of its members with the FBI—something that might have prevented the recent church massacre in Sutherland Springs (TX).

Expanding and tinkering with our current system of background checks is the low-hanging fruit with regard to reform as 95% of Americans support such actions.  Unfortunately, the obsession of gun safety advocates with this system has led us to lose sight of fundamental flaws in the way we screen prospective gun buyers.

Virtually every other advanced country has a national licensing system that is substantially stronger in vetting gun owners than the standard checks undertaken in a matter of minutes in the US at the point of sale.  Just over a dozen states have some form of licensing requirement.  In addition to the current federal prohibitions on gun ownership for minors, felons, the mentally ill, domestic abusers, and those dishonorably discharged from the military, an effective national licensing system would involve the following:

  • A comprehensive screening process undertaken by a designated law enforcement agency, including an in-person interview. Currently, there is no licensing requirement at the federal level and the typical background check at the time of sale, appropriately referred to as an “Instant Background Check”, involves a search of three FBI databases and takes just minutes to complete.
  • Sign off by the applicant’s current or former domestic partner (where applicable) attesting to his stability and lack of violence.
  • Successful completion of gun safety training (through written and performance-based tests), including training in the operation, safe use, handling, and storage of firearms (including child access prevention) and in laws relating to the appropriate use of force;
  • Reference checks in which the applicant’s mental fitness and use of alcohol and drugs would be probed;
  • Certificate of mental aptitude from a psychologist or other accredited professional if he or she is under 26 years of age.
  • A waiting period of 10 business days for receipt of the license would allow those bent on harming others or themselves to let their anger or self-destructive feelings dissipate.
  • The license would be valid for 5 years.

Some readers will look at this proposal and think it represents government overreach or violates the Second Amendment.  It is neither.  Many other advanced countries have requirements that are at least as exacting, if not more so.  Aside from carefully screening the population, such a licensing system sends the message that handling lethal weapons is a serious matter.  Some will object using the tired argument that criminals will circumvent the licensing system and obtain weapons illegally.  Such an argument can be used to object to all laws and, is incorrect, as many license applicants and those undergoing background checks are denied each year in the US and other countries.

Such a licensing system would be consistent with the most recent judicial interpretations of the Second Amendment.  In the context of a Supreme Court ruling that for the first time recognized an individual’s right to possess a firearm unrelated to militia service, Justice Scalia wrote in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) that the Second Amendment right was not unlimited and that the Court’s opinion did not cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by individuals at risk of firearm misuse or on laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the sale of guns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dave Buchannon – Make A New Year’s Training Resolution.

I hope you had a wonderful, peaceful and joyous holiday.  Now that you’ve digested all of those wonderful holiday treats, you’re probably ready to make some resolutions for the new year and I, for one, would like to see every gun owner make a resolution to train more frequently.

training2Now I’ve heard the complaint that it is expensive to practice your shooting skills frequently, but before you pick out your first class seat on the complaint train, let’s put “expensive” into perspective.

Back a few years I used to golf every Saturday morning with the same three guys.  We’d travel to different courses in our region because we’d always heard that some course “over there” was better then where we played “over here,” actually we just enjoyed playing different courses.  We didn’t play highbrow courses, we sought mostly nice municipal and private courses that were open to the public.  The point is, we usually paid around $35 each for a round of golf, which didn’t include the lost balls or the round of beers at the 19th hole.  We all considered thirty-five bucks a reasonable price to pay for a half-day of fun in the sun.  More importantly, our wives were all willing to pay that much just to get our butts out of the house for a while.

Today I can run down to my local sporting goods store or gun shop and pick up a box of 50 rounds of pistol ammo for about $12, and I do not live in an inexpensive region.  So for right around what I used to pay for a single round of golf I can buy 150 rounds of pistol ammunition… without any coupons or discounts.  Of course that doesn’t include the cost of my rod & gun club membership but that’s a sunk cost, meaning if I joined the club I’m paying for it whether I train once a year or three times a week.

So for about the same cost as a weekly round of golf I can get in at least two hours of training, even more if I’m pacing myself correctly.  The reality is that most of us get bored after an hour on the range, so in the future I’ll share some drills to help keep your range time interesting while building important skills.

But what if your limiting factor is time instead of money?  Or what if it’s difficult for you to get to the range, or what if you belong to one of those clubs with a range that’s so busy the only slot available is next week are at 2:30 am on Wednesday?  Find another club. Really.  Not all training though, has to involve throwing real lead downrange, there are some serious training alternatives you can use right at home.

If you want to improve your skills, laser pistols are great for training when you can’t get to the range.  There are a number of options you could cash those holiday gift cards on at one of your favorite online retailers for a reasonable price.  Avoid the temptation to go cheap.  As with all things in the gun world, you get what you pay for.  A well built laser trainer will give you years of service and you can even set up your own laser range with targets that respond to ‘hits’ and ‘misses.’  There are laser trainers that replicate the size and weight of most carry weapons fairly well.

You can get the same effect with a ‘laser bullet’ inserted into the barrel of your carry weapon.  These are like tiny laser pointers that fit into the barrel of your pistol like a cartridge would.  When you pull the trigger, the firing pin presses on a little switch and ‘fires’ the laser so you can see it ‘hit’ your target.

Want to practice your holster work?  Most ranges won’t allow it.  So spend a few dollars on a blue gun replica of your carry weapon and you can practice your draw and re-holster to your heart’s content without even the remote possibility of an accidental discharge.

So for 2018 resolve to train more, you really can afford it.