Gun Violence And 2020: The Candidates Speak.

              Now that some of us (not me) have sat through two debates by the folks who want to take over the Oval office in 2021, we can see two basic groupings emerging on guns. I’m going to label these groupings as the T-group for ‘tough’ and the NST-group for ‘not so tough.’ But before we get into the details of which candidate wants what, I have to say that I agree with the NRA‘s statement this morning that “not a single one of the many gun control schemes proposed by the anti-gun Democratic candidates for president would make Americans any safer.”  Well, maybe we would be one percent safer. Anyway, here’s how it breaks down.

              Everyone in the T and NST groups backs an assault weapons ban and comprehensive background checks, the idea here being that even though the kid who turned the Gilroy garlic festival into a shooting range underwent a background check, he was still able to buy an AK-47. So if we have both comprehensive background checks and an assault weapons ban, that takes care of that. No more Gilroys, right? 

              It goes without saying that both groups also support ‘red flag’ laws and other measures to protect victims or possible victims of domestic gun abuse, although I still don’t really understand how asking a judge to issue an order taking away someone’s guns is really any different than walking into the local police station and telling the chief that so-and-so is acting crazy and happens to own guns. Oh well, I must be missing something in that regard.

              Where the two groups diverge is on the issue of licensing. The NST group appears to have no issue with gun licensing conducted at the state level as long as the process includes using the feds to conduct the background check. In this respect, the T‘s include the two old men, Biden and Bern, along with Pocahantas who hasn’t yet released an official policy paper on guns, but she’ll get around to it as soon as she finishes all her other policy papers. [Does Liz actually think that anyone gives a rat’s damn about policy papers?]

              The T group, on the other hand, led by Cory and seconded by Kammie, wants the entire licensing process taken over by the feds, who will issue gun licenses after the applicant takes a gun-safety course, undergoes the background check and blah, blah blah. Cory has yet to be asked to identify which federal agency would administer the safety course or, for that matter, would actually oversee the licensing process. Let’s not forget that the ATF regulates dealers, not gun owners, and oh, by the way, Kamala want anyone who sells more than 5 guns a year to become a licensed dealer. So the ATF can now figure out how to inspect millions of new dealers.  Right now they inspect less than 5 percent of all dealers.

              I hate to keep bringing this up again and again, but there’s a very simple way to get rid of gun violence. All you have to do is get rid of the guns which cause the violence, namely, the small, hi-powered, hi-capacity handguns. And despite everyone’s reverence for the 2nd Amendment, the government can decide that certain kinds of guns are too lethal for sale to the general public. Is there any difference between an AR-15 with a 30-round magazine and a Glock 19 with a 20-round magazine?  Yea, ten rounds. The AR takes a military round known as the .223. The round in a Glock 19, the 9×19, also happens to be a military load.

              If my friends in Gun-control Nation would get behind a realistic plan to end gun violence by getting rid of the cause of the violence, the NRA would bitch and moan but so what? Gun-nut Nation will bitch and moan no matter what the other side says. For all the wrong reasons, what the NRA said about last night’s debate happens to be correct.

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Are Democrats Afraid Of Gun Control? Not Any More.

              Last night’s Democratic Presidential debate had to register joyous excitement within the ranks of Gun-control Nation because the candidates spent 15 minutes trotting out their various ideas about how to reduce violence caused by guns. Remember when gun control was verboten as a campaign issue on the Democratic side?  Ain’t true no more, that’s for sure.

              Booker rolled out his plan for national gun licensing, Warren admitted to voting for an assault-rifle ban, Castro said he had no problem with some gun buybacks, on and on. Where they all come down on the same side, however, is restoring CDC gun-research funding, an item that has been stripped from the CDC budget every year since 1997, but which this year has been stuck back into the House version of the budget to the tune of $50 mil.

              Before I say what I am about to say, let me make it perfectly clear that I have no problem with research being done on any health issue, particularly an issue which results in more than 125,000 fatal and non-fatal injuries every year. But let me also make it clear that while my Ph.D. research was on economic history, not gun violence, I know a little bit about the requirements for conducting academic research, and certain requirements remain true whether the research covers gun violence or the 16th-century origins of capitalism, which happened to be my field.

              Those requirements include the following: (1). The data used for the research must be valid and must be directly relevant to the topic at hand; (2). The problem being solved must be defined by its importance to the specific field of inquiry, not by whether data exists which can be properly used.  Unfortunately, much of the research which comes out of the public health research community on gun violence doesn’t meet either of those requirements, and this is not because there hasn’t been enough research money to go around.

              Public health gun researchers love to talk about their work as a contribution to the ‘epidemiology’ of gun violence, you can find this nomenclature in the work of leading gun-violence scholars here. Now I always thought that the term ‘epidemiology’ means that one identifies a threat to health, figures out how it spreads from host to host, and then figures out how to immunize or protect the not-yet-infected population from contracting the disease. But in the case of gun violence, the disease doesn’t spread from victim to victim, the disease is caused because someone picks up a gun and shoots themselves or someone else. And we can’t study this population because either they are not about to admit what they have done, or in the case of suicide, they happen to be dead. That’s a big problem with guns. The rate of fatal injury is much higher than what happens if you fall off your bike.

              Virtually all the gun-violence research published since the CDC ban took effect is based either on CDC injury data which covers the victims of gun violence who do not play a primary role in the spread of this disease, or is based on telephone surveys which, by definition, exclude participation by the shooters themselves.  Does it really matter that most gun owners support background checks for secondary gun transfers when these same gun owners have little, if any direct responsibility for the violence caused by guns?   Our friend Philip Cook interviewed an incarcerated population about how and why they carried guns, but he wasn’t about to ask them to explain the circumstances in which they actually used a gun.

              I hope CDC gun research starts up again so that my friends in the gun research community receive the financial resources they deserve. If they do, then they need to figure out how and why less than five percent of the people who commit violent assaults each year use a gun. And that’s not going to change no matter how many laws we pass to regulate the behavior of law-abiding folks who own guns.

The GVP Wins A Big One In Milwaukee And There’s More To Come.

Remember the NRA’s favorite slogan?  The one that goes, “Gun don’t kill people, people kill people?”  Well a jury in Milwaukee decided that it was the gun, in this case a gun sold to one jerk who actually bought it for another jerk who then pulled it out and shot two Milwaukee cops back in 2009.  Luckily the cops lived, even though they sustained serious injuries; the shooter’s sitting in a cage for the next eighty years or so. As for the guy who bought the gun, he got two years for participating in a ‘straw sale.’  The Brady Campaign helped the cops bring the suit.

trump2                Coincidentally, the very same day of the verdict, the Democratic Presidential candidates spent nine minutes of their first debate sparring about gun control, and I noticed that Shlump Trump didn’t mention this segment of the debate at all in the snarky comments he tweeting to his infantile fan club. The nation’s Number One Clown may “love” the 2nd Amendment, but the Milwaukee verdict tells a much different tale when it comes to how the average American thinks about guns.

I wasn’t in the courtroom so what I know about the trial is second-hand, but the charge against the gun shop, Badger Guns, was that the store was ‘negligent’ in selling the gun to someone who was buying it for someone else, and this negligence then led to the shooting of the cops.  Prosecutors charged that the shop employee should have known that he was engaging in a ‘straw’ sale because the buyer kept making mistakes as he filled out the 4473, even at first stating that he was not the ‘actual’ buyer of the gun, and that no attempt was made to verify the straw buyer’s real address.

The defense claimed, on the other hand, that the gun shop was ‘set up’ because the straw buyer and the real buyer had conspired to deceive the store regarding the true identity of the person who would ultimately receive the gun.  In effect, the store was duped; hence, no negligence on its part in the later shooting of the cops.  This gun shop, incidentally, has been on the radar screen for a long time, having been the source of more than 500 crime guns in one year alone.

The bottom line in the Milwaukee case is that the average American jury is no longer enamored of the NRA and no more forgiving when it comes to violence caused by guns.  There have just been too many shootings and too much pro-gun belligerence from the NRA and other gun-nut groups like the bunch in Texas who go marching around in public showing off their guns.  Alex Yablon summed it up nicely in today’s article in The Trace:  “The NRA has a group of reliable single-issue voters who can be counted on to show up to the ballot box. The thing is, they’re always there.”  And it’s not as if the next mass shooting will motivate more people to join the NRA.

Gun rights voters have become this year’s favorite morality play for the Republicans who can’t win national elections unless they find a niche, social issue to motivate their base.  They used to have gay marriage but that’s disappeared.  They can still gin up anger over illegal immigration but new immigrants now represent too many votes.  And as for abortion, Republicans have been sitting in the White House for 23 of the 42 years since Rio v. Wade in 1973 and a woman’s right to choose is still law of the land.

When it comes to social issues, the Republicans talk big and act small.  And I think this is exactly what will happen going forward in the debate over guns.  Because once Democratic politicians realize that the NRA can’t stop background checks at the state level or lawsuits against guys who sell guns, you’ll see gun control inexorably moving forward in state after state.  Remember that 37 states already declared gay marriage lawful before the SCOTUS agreed.