A New PSA From Sandy Hook Promise Which You Should Watch.

This week a PSA was released by Sandy Hook Promise which is a graphic and disturbing effort to draw attention to behavior which might indicate that someone is at-risk for engaging in violence with a gun.  The purpose is to build awareness about gun violence prevention through collaboration, training and group discussions in schools and other public venues.  The group claims to have trained more than 1 million educators, parents, community leaders and students in their “Know The Signs” program, and they must be doing something right because Gun-nut Nation has lost no time in warning their folks that the project is nothing more than another attempt to take away everyone’s guns.

sandy-logo           One part of their website which drew my attention is a downloadable factsheet on gun violence with data divided into daily and annual numbers based on an average for the years 2003 to 2013.  Thanks to our friends at the Gun Violence Archive, some of the gun violence numbers, which come from the CDC, have been shown to be pretty far off, particularly true for accidental shooting deaths and even moreso for the number of individuals shot by cops. But the number I found most interesting was the topmost category of the Gun Facts sheet, something called “Acts of Gun Violence” which is a category of gun violence that I have never seen before.  And the number, which is an average of 549,380 each year between 2003 and 2013, is so astonishingly large that I decided to look further and try to figure it out.

The number comes from a DOJ – Bureau of Justice Statistics publication, “Firearm Violence, 1993-2011,” used by the Sandy Hook people to come up with their half-million average gun violence figure by averaging yearly numbers from 2003 to 2011.  What pushes the overall average up to just slightly under 550,000 is a big jump in one year- 627,200 shootings in 2006 – moving the annual average to what otherwise would have been around 475,000 gun assaults each year. I’m not saying that 550,000 criminal gun assaults is something to sneeze at; I’m saying that the ‘annual average’ of just under 550,000 does not accurately represent these stats.

The number that DOJ calls ‘criminal firearm violence’ and Sandy Hook calls ‘acts of gun violence’ comes from the annual survey of criminal victimization known as the National Crime Victimization Survey or NCVS. This annual survey is mandated by Congress because the only other national crime data is generated by the FBI, and their numbers are based on how many people are arrested or crimes are reported, both of which, as we know, are far below the actual number of crimes.  The NCVS numbers are collected from interviews with more than 160,000 people each year and I can tell you from personal experience that the NCVS analysts know how to crunch numbers and crunch them very well.

There’s only one little problem with the NCVS numbers on gun violence. They are based on nothing more than a good guess. Because if you take the trouble to drill down to the actual survey questions from which this data is derived, you discover that respondents are asked whether they were attacked with a knife or a gun but they are not asked to specify which was which.  And since the FBI tells us that for every ten reported assaults, six involve a gun and four involve a knife, I guess this is how the NCVS come up with their number on gun crimes which then are used by BJS which then end up in the factsheet published by Sandy Hook.

Now you would think that for something as serious and costly as gun injuries that we would try to establish some numbers that are even reasonably accurate, never mind simply meeting the test of good, common sense.  But neither accuracy nor common sense will define how government will collect or use data over the next four years. If they bother with data at all.

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Want Some Facts About Gun Violence? You Won’t Get Them From David Kopel Or The Cato Institute.

Greg Ridgeway is a statistician turned criminologist who was Associate Director of the National Institute of Justice from 2013 to 2014.  During his tenure he authored what has become something of a cult piece for the pro-gun community, namely, a memo called Summary of Select Firearm Violence Prevention Strategies, which keeps turning up in various pro-gun commentaries as a basic ‘proof’ that gun-control programs don’t work.  The latest broadside to cite Ridgeway’s document in approving fashion is a report by David Kopel published by the Cato Institute, a right-wing think tank that has been promoting the pro-gun agenda for years.

gv              I was going to respond to Kopel’s propaganda until I realized that Ridgeway’s little missive deserves some attention all its own. Because, when all is said and done, we know that Kopel is going to dismiss any and all GVP programs because as a researcher for Cato, that’s what he is paid to do. On the other hand, Ridgeway’s memo was written while he was employed by the National Institute of Justice, which happens to be the research arm of the U.S. Department of Justice, which happens to be responsible for enforcing all those gun regulations that people like Kopel tell us shouldn’t exist, never mind enforced.  So if the DOJ is sending out a memo on gun control strategies that is acceptable to pro-gun schmucks like Kopel, this is something that needs to be investigated and better understood.

In his section on why extending background checks is a bad idea, Kopel says that, according to Ridgeway, “a system requiring background checks for gun sales by non-FFLs is utterly unenforceable without a system of universal gun registration.” To begin, there is no such statement anywhere in Ridgeway’s memo.  Kopel’s entire argument about the efficacy of background checks is predicated on an alleged statement by Ridgeway that does not exist.  What Ridgeway does say is that recovering guns from individuals who purchased them legally but then commit behaviors that disqualify them from gun ownership (e.g., involuntary commitment, domestic abuse), is more difficult without knowing whether such individuals own guns.  That doesn’t support Kopel’s anti-registration argument at all.

I opened up Ridgeway’s memo expecting to find a document that would support most, if not all the pro-gun arguments made by gun fantasists like Kopel.  I refer to Kopel as a ‘fanstasist’ because his basic argument for gun ownership is based on a fantasy that has nothing to do with reality at all.  And the fantasy is that guns are a positive social factor in our lives because they protect us from crime.  In fact, the conclusion of Kopel’s entire essay says that “the most effective paths to preventing mass shootings are improving access to mental care and removing impediments to lawful self-defense and defense of others.” Here we go again – Donald Trump telling us that shooters are crazy and we should all follow his example and walk around with a gun.

But you won’t find any of that crap in Ridgeway’s memo; indeed, it’s a very balanced piece of work.  For example, the memo claims that gun buybacks don’t work.  But the buybacks discussed in the memo only involved national, country-wide efforts, whereas buybacks conducted in targeted venues have, as might be expected, varying degrees of success. Another sacred cow of the pro-gun community, hi-capacity magazines, is also treated honestly and in balanced fashion by Ridgeway who says that a hi-cap ban could only be effective when or if extant hi-caps disappeared, but he also notes that “there is reason to believe that reducing the availability of large capacity magazines could have an effect on the total number of homicides.”

When the DOJ or any government agency issues a statement about guns, the GVP community needs to evaluate it not on the basis of whether it says what we want it to say, but whether it is based on reason and facts.  We certainly won’t get either from Cato or David Kopel.

Another Terrible Shooting – Another ‘Proof’ That We Should All Carry Guns.

You can count on it.  By tomorrow at the latest, whether or not all the facts are known, Mad Dig Lott or one of the other NRA sycophantic jack-offs will be saying that Alison Ward and Adam Parker of WDBJ are both dead because neither carried  a gun.  Said it after Sandy Hook, said it after Charleston, I guarantee you someone from the NRA stable will say it again.  The NRA has been pitching this BIG LIE for more than twenty years, and the more that gun violence shocks, scares and angers the country, the more opportunities they get to roll it out.

open carry                Why is the notion that armed citizens can protect us against crime a lie?  Because it is.  And it’s a lie for two reasons because neither reason corresponds to the facts.  By facts I don’t mean the private poll conducted by Gary Kleck in 1994 which found that millions of crimes were prevented because of what 221 people claimed may or may not have occurred.  Nor am I referring to the alleged poll by John Lott in 1997 for which all polling data then disappeared.  I’m talking about facts as found in such ‘biased’ sources as the U.S. Census, the Department of Justice and the FBI.  Of course they are biased if any information generated by them supports the notion that guns increase risk.  But the same people who believe the government can never be trusted to tell the truth are the same people who get their real news from Infowars and other conspiracy-minded websites.

Lie #1: Even though violent crime has been dropping, we are all at risk for being attacked at any time the way that Ward and Parker were attacked while doing a fluff piece for the evening news. In fact, unless you are an African-American between the ages of 12 and 39, the odds of you being the victim of a gun homicide are about the same as the odds that you’ll be run over while crossing a street.  Know anyone who was killed that way?  Damn right you don’t, because the odds are about 50,000 to 1.

Lie #2: Millions of crimes are prevented each year because criminals are afraid to attack anyone who might be carrying a gun and the number of armed citizens keeps increasing every year.  A study of more than 14,000 violent criminal incidents from 2007 to 2011 found that in less than 1% of these criminal events did the victim attempt to defend him/herself with a gun.  And when a gun was used in self-defense during the commission of a crime, the odds the victim would suffer an injury were the same (4%) whether the victim had a gun or not.  This study was not based on 221 private telephone survey conversations; it wasn’t based on a survey whose data then disappeared.  It was based on the bi-annual crime victim survey conducted by the Department of Justice whose findings, of course, would never be accepted by President Trump.

The real problem with lying about the benefits of concealed-carry is that its proponents want you to believe that walking around with a self-defense weapon ipso facto means that you are trained and prepared to use it safely and effectively when, in fact, there’s no reason to believe such an assumption at all.  A report just issued by the Police Executive Research Forum on the use of deadly force found that “the training currently provided to new recruits and experienced officers in most departments is inadequate,” and the “United States faces much more severe problems than most other countries, stemming from the widespread availability of inexpensive, high-quality firearms to almost anyone.”

If deadly force training for police is inadequate, what would you call the training provided to civilians who want to walk around with guns?  I’d call it non-existent.  And if you buy the NRA lie that armed, untrained civilians represent any kind of response to the violence that cut down Alison Ward and Adam Parker, you’ll probably believe that Donald Trump will really build a fence.

 

Don’t Look Now, But Obama Ain’t The Only One Trying To Take Away Our Guns.

There’s a gun nut in Alabama named Mike Rogers who represents the 3rd Congressional District, an area which includes the town of Anniston.  And every gun nut like me knows Anniston because it’s the headquarters of the Civilian Marksmanship Program, aka the CMP.  One of the easiest ways to get certified as a gun nut is to buy a rifle from the CMP.  I bought two of the surplus M-1 Garands , one an original made at Springfield, the second a 1950’s makeover turned out by Harrington & Richardson located right up the road in Spencer, MA.

Congressman Rogers, like most Republicans, has no trouble pushing government spending if the money is somehow connected to the military and the result is to create civilian jobs.  So he’s attached an amendment to the 2016 military spending bill which changes the law covering the CMP. If the amendment stays in the bill, from now on civilians will not only be able to purchase rifles, but all “firearms” that the Army considers to be surplus and thus available for anyone to buy.  And it further turns out that the Army happens to be sitting on 100,000 old Colt 45 pistols that were first brought into service in 1911 and then replaced by the Beretta 9mm beginning in 1981.

colt1911a1                There are probably more pistols built on the Colt 1911 frame than any other handgun ever made.  Commercial models newly manufactured by various companies sell quite well; hundreds of thousands manufactured overseas have been imported back into the States.  I have probably owned at least a dozen Colt 1911s since I bought my first commercial model in 1976, but the ones that were made for the military and are stamped “United States Property” are few and far between.  As opposed to the M-1 Garand and Carbine, of which the Army has probably sold off several million guns, the pistol has never been made available to the civilian market, although on occasion one pops up here or there.

The problem that gun nut Rogers has encountered, however, is that the Army doesn’t appear willing to go along with his scheme.  Last week the military sent a memorandum to Congress citing concerns about public safety, accountability and possible violations of federal gun laws that needed “additional study” before the CMP’s charter could be revised.  In brief, the Army feels that these handguns, as opposed to CMP rifles, would be released to the public through unverified, online sales, therefore could not be traced by the ATF, and would therefore be a violation of the Gun Control Act of 1968. And don’t think that the Army made this up on its own because the document cites as its source for this information none other than the DOJ.

This document is a quintessential example of the blind leading the dumb, or maybe the other way around.  The CMP ships all its guns from and to federally-licensed dealers; purchasers must fill out a NICS background check form and agree that NICS must approve the transaction before the gun is released.  Judging by my experience when I bought my Garands, the CMP creates a larger paper trail for each transaction than anything done in the local shop. Incidentally, although the Army cites DOJ as the source for this misinformation, the DOJ no doubt was given this nonsense by those regulatory geniuses at the ATF.

Given the stink that was made over the ATF’s attempt to ban some 223 ammo, you would think that the gun lobby would be yelling and screaming about what is a bone fide violation of 2nd-Amendment rights.  But while some of the pro-gun blogs are blazing away, so far the NRA has uttered nary a peep.  And I’ll bet they continue to keep their mouths shut, because for all their talk about being the first line of ‘defense’ for gun owners’ rights, these stalwart defenders of the Constitution aren’t about to say jack when it’s the  Army and not Obama who wants to keep us from owning guns.

 

 

 

Here They Go Again

NRA Headquarters, Fairfax Virginia USA

NRA Headquarters, Fairfax Virginia USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the main objectives of this blog is to be something of a one-man “truth squad” for the gun world.  There is probably no other subject in which the ability to throw around opinions that have absolutely no relationship to the facts is so widespread.  And this is primarily because of the division in the gun world between the haves and the have-nots; i.e., people who have guns and people who don’t.  And  not only don’t these two groups know what the other is talking about, but while the haves are extremely passionate about their guns, the have-nots really couldn’t care less.  So the passion of the haves often drive them to say things that, shall we say, aren’t completely true (I’m being polite) and the unconcern on the part of the have-nots often results in a lack of interest about the facts as well.  I’m going to expand on this issue – the cultural gap between the haves and the have-nots in a lengthy and detailed blog, but for the moment, here’s a brief example.

Last week the Department of Justice released its annual report on gun crime and noted that gun homicides had dropped from 18,000+ in 1993 to 11,000+ in 2011 – a decline of nearly 40%. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2013/05/07/doj-gun-violence-down-semi-automatics-a-minor-issue/.)  The report was immediately seized on by the NRA and its right-wing minions (for example, Breitbart:http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Journalism/2013/05/07/Justice-Dept-Report-Destroys-Medias-Gun-Control-Narrative) to show that the liberal “assault” on the 2nd Amendment was misplaced because gun violence was steadily decreasing without additional gun control measures.  Even the AP repeated the “gun violence is down” mantra and let one of the NRA’s staunchest supporters, Senator John Thune (R-SD) use the report to take a shot at gun control advocates: “That’s what many of us have argued all along, is that focusing just exclusively on the guns is not the correct approach to this,” he said. http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_GUN_VIOLENCE?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT.

One little problem.  What the report actually shows is that gun homicides dropped from 18,000+ in 1993 to 10,500+ in 200 and have since then been steady and actually come back up slightly.  So there hasn’t been a steady, two-decade drop in gun homicides, which is how the NRA trumpeted the report on their website; there was a seven-year decline which, by the way, paralleled the first six years of the ban on hi-cap magazines that was part of the 1994 Clinton crime bill.  I should add, by the way, that we have never been able to figure out whether there was any connection between homicide rates and gun controls since the NRA was able to get all gun research conducted by the CDC ended in 1996.  I’m not saying there is a connection, I’m just saying we can’t find out.

My point is simply this:  It’s a real misuse of data to say that there has been a 20-year trend if, in fact, the actual trend stopped thirteen years ago but numbers have not significantly reversed since that time.  But it doesn’t matter whether it’s the NRA or one of their friendly bloggers or even the “reliable” Associated Press.  When it comes to guns, everyone gets it wrong most of the time.