Don’t Forget: Owning A Gun Protects Your Freedom To Sell A Poster Like This.

poster2One of our good friends in the gun violence prevention (GVP) community put a pic of this poster on her Facebook page and said it was for sale at the Trump rally in Nashville. I have no doubt that this was true. Over the course of the campaign, Trump’s rallies, particularly in Southern states, were more like Klan rallies than anything having to do with electing the next President of the United States – the only difference being that Hillary was White, not Black. But this didn’t stop Trump or some of his mouthpieces (ex. Rudy Giuliani) from appealing to the lowest, common social denominator they could find. And what’s lower than someone who tries to make a buck out of pretending that you can craft an effective political message by putting someone’s face behind a target that will be used to sight in a gun?

The strategy of using crosshairs to ‘target’ political opponents wasn’t started by Trump.  In fact, it appeared on Sarah Palin’s Facebook page when she was raising money for her PAC which she actually believed would keep her politically alive. And along with the graphic which has targets superimposed over various states were her usual dopey comments designed to make the connection between her politics and Gun-nut Nation even more real, comments like “this is just the first salvo” or “we’ll aim for these races,” the usual, know-nothing verbal crap.

Palin’s attempt to combine fundraising with allusions to going into political campaigns ‘loaded’ for action turned out to be one, sick attempt at political communication when, several months after she posted this screed, Jared Loughner took her seriously and gunned down Rep. Gabby Giffords who had been identified as a ‘target’ on Palin’s map. Of course leave it to the liberals to defend Palin on the basis of free speech; after all, Loughner was just typical of the basic problem which creates 120,000 gun deaths and injuries each year, namely, that every once in a while a gun gets into the hands of some nut.

Now the fact that a gun gets into the hands of some nut because maybe, just maybe we have too many guns lying around – oh well, that’s the price we have to pay to be ‘free.’  And what’s more important when it comes to defending our freedoms than my ability to walk into a gun shop, tell the guy behind the counter that I’m a law-abiding citizen and walk out with a gun? Please don’t give me all that nonsense about how we need to ‘balance’ out our God-given freedoms with concerns for the rising rates of gun violence in cities like Dallas, Memphis and San Jose.  The answer’s very simple, lock ‘em up and throw away the key.

I wasn’t at that Trump rally in Nashville earlier this week but I guarantee you that at some point during his rambling remarks no doubt #45 got a big cheer out of the crowd by telling them that despite an attempt by a couple of federal judges to make the country unsafe, his administration would ‘crack down’ on the criminal element and put them, along with Hillary, behind bars.

But why waste previous federal dollars on locking up ol’ Hills? Why not just gun her down and, if necessary, take out a few of those ‘illegals’ as well? Our new, tough President won’t let anyone prevent me from carrying around my AR with a magazine that holds 30, 40 or 50 rounds. Then I’ll be armed and ready when the Commander in Chief tells me to go out and help keep America free.

I really believe that the dopes who buy into such nonsense are the same dopes who also believe that the government still delivers food to the Martians who landed at Area 51. And no doubt one or two will read this column and tell me that I better watch out. Maybe Betsy DeVos can figure out how to better educate their kids.

 

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Jeff Sessions May Believe That Longer Sentences Curb Gun Violence But He’s Wrong.

The moment that the 45th President nominated Jeff Sessions to be the People’s Lawyer, everyone on both sides of the gun debate began to shout out. The NRA posted television ads saying that “our nation’s chief law enforcement officer will work tirelessly to defend our rights while protecting us from violent criminals.”  As to the former, Sessions was an outspoken champion of the 2005 PLCAA federal law immunizing gun makers from tort suits; regarding the latter, he is known to be ‘tough on crime,’ in particular violent crimes caused by a gun.

sessions             Sessions is one of a number of public officials who has been fervently impressed by a gun-control initiative in Richmond, VA known as Project Exile, which mandated lengthy federal prison time for anyone convicted of a gun crime in a city whose gun violence rates in the early 1990s ranked it as one of the most violent urban centers in the entire United States. In 1997, when the program first began, Richmond experienced 140 homicides, or an annual rate of 73!  In 1998 homicides dropped by 36%, and continued to dwindle down over the next few years.

The good news is that by 2005, homicides in Richmond dropped to 84, then to 76 in 2006 and to 31 in 2008.  From 1997 until 2010, more than 1,300 people were convicted of gun crimes and received prison sentences which totaled more than 8,000 years, for an average prison stay of more than 6 years per crime.  No wonder Tough Guy Trump has praised Project Exile, but in all fairness the program was strongly supported by a Richmond City Councillor named Tim Kaine.  The program was also supported by folks in the GVP community, including the Brady Campaign, then known as Handgun Control, Inc.

There were also some dissenting voices, most notably from various Gun-nut groups like saveourguns.com, Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership and, of course, Larry Pratt.  And lost in the rhetoric were complaints from federal judges who heard these cases and claimed they were an ‘overreach’ of federal authority, along with the charge that the program was inherently racist and led to over-incarceration of black defendants who always end up as the chief victims of any over-zealous response to crime.

Like most special law-enforcement initiatives that cost extra dough, Project Exile petered out in the mid-2000s after funding was cut by Congressional Republicans in 2003.  But meanwhile, homicides in Richmond remained well below levels recorded before Project Exile went into effect in 1997-98.  That is to say, until this past year.  In 2016, the final murder number may end up at 60, the highest since 2007, and this would bring the annual murder rate back up to 30, which puts the former capital of the Confederacy back in the high end of gun-violence cities big time.

Nobody really knows for sure how come gun killings in Richmond have suddenly spiked last year, just as nobody really knows how come they dropped so significantly twenty years ago.

Back in 2002 several noted public policy and gun researchers, Steve Raphael and Jens Ludwig, published an assessment of Project Exile for Brookings, and decided that the “reduction in Richmond’s gun homicide rates surrounding the implementation of Project Exile was not unusual and that almost all of the observed decrease probably would have occurred even in the absence of the program.”  Why did Raphael and Ludwig come to this conclusion? Because the same drop in violent crime occurred at roughly the same time in many cities which didn’t have any special anti-violence programs running at all.

Trying to figure out why America experienced a 50% decline in violent crime from the mid-90s until the mid-years of the following decade has become an academic cottage industry, without any real consensus as to the cause. Senator Sessions may believe that getting ‘tough’ is an effective to what has now become a new upwards spike in gun violence, but it won’t work until and unless we figure out why sometimes violent crime goes up and other times goes down.  The solution hasn’t yet been found.

When It Comes To Guns, The ‘Truth’ Will Really Set You Free.

Now that the 45th President has started dismantling the Affordable Care Act, I feel it incumbent upon myself to remind all my gun-nut friends that they might now be facing a serious, indeed highly-threatening assault on their 2nd Amendment ‘rights.’  What?  The 45th President taking away all the guns?  Wasn’t that what the 44th President tried to do?  Isn’t the 45th President the best friend that gun nuts ever had?  Oh…my…God.

wayne              The reason that Gun-nut Nation better figure out how to deal with this problem is because the ACA actually contains a provision which, believe it or not, protects gun owners who refuse to tell a physician whether or not there’s a gun lying around the house. But this section of the ACA is always conveniently overlooked when the Gun-nut noise machine pushed out its usual quotient of fake news about doctors and guns.  Here’s a comment from the NRA Blog: “The reality is, I should be able to receive medical care without being subject to a politically motivated inquisition regarding a right guaranteed by the United States Constitution.” The comment is found in a post entitled, “Should a doctor be allowed to ask if you own a gun?”

But what happens if the ACA is scrapped and isn’t immediately replaced with some other health-insurance law?  It means that the poor, defenseless gun owner won’t have the 45th President around to protect him, and this means that the doctor can not only ask whether the poor guy owns guns, but can immediately report gun ownership to the cops.  Think I’m being a little bit over the top?  Think again.

Recall that after Sandy Hook, the 44th President issued a series of Executive Orders covering guns.  Basically Obama’s action had one result, namely gun sales shot up and remained at historically-high levels until a few weeks before the 45th President was sworn in. But if you had listened to the noisemakers who pander to the Obama-burnished craziness of the NRA, you would have thought that Obama was planning to call out those ‘jack-booted government thugs’ (as Wayne LaPierre once characterized the ATF) to invade every gun-loving American home, grab all the hardware and cart it away. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth, but since the 45th President is now blatantly lying to the Congressional leadership about how many votes he did or didn’t receive, who cares about the truth?

Actually, there is a professional group out there which does try to base its behavior on information that is evidence-based, and that group happens to be physicians, who know a lethal product when they see one.  And the reason they know that guns are lethal is because physicians have to repair 85,000-thousand or so bullet wounds each year, and also have to pronounce some 30,000+ whose bullet wounds can’t be repaired.

There is simply no other consumer product lying around an American home which is as lethal as a gun. Which is why physicians have been advocating that guns shouldn’t be in the home.  By the way, they also advocate that other lethal things, like cigarettes and pills that aren’t in bottles with child-proof caps, also shouldn’t be in the home. But somehow guns are different because many Americans have come to believe that it’s a gun’s lethality which makes it such a valuable item to own.  After all, what if Mister Bad Guy comes crashing through the back door?  What better way to protect yourself and your loved ones than with a gun?

There’s only one little problem. All the talk about how armed citizens constitute a necessary line of defense against violence and crime is just talk.  Even the NRA can’t seem to produce more than 8 or 9 instances each month in which an armed citizen made the difference protecting anyone from crime.  But let’s not forget that we’re no longer in a time when the truth counts for anything at all.  And that’s the reason that the NRA worked so hard to help elect Donald Trump.

Here’s An Honor Guard For The Trump Inaugural Parade.

The Trump Inauguration Committee has just released a list of the groups that are going to march in the inauguration parade, and it’s the usual mélange of high school marching bands, various first-responders, veterans, police motorcycles and a rodeo team or two.  But what surprises me is that the NRA doesn’t have a presence in the parade, because you would think that given how much money America’s First Civil Rights Organization ponied up to promote the ‘build the wall’ campaign, they would have been asked to lead things off.  But in case someone gets the bright idea to include NRA in the parade, I’d like to propose a special honor guard whose members would represent the values, traditions and glorious history of Gun-nut Nation for parade onlookers to celebrate and see.

trump5             Honor Guard Member #1 – George Zimmerman.  Who better exemplifies the virtues of the armed citizen, a value and ideal so important that the NRA has copyrighted the phrase?  George might have ended up as the poster-boy for the upcoming  campaign for a national concealed-carry law except he has a funny habit of using bars and other public venues to brag about the night he ended Trayvon Martin’s life.

Honor Guard Member #2 – Emily Miller.  This crusading journalist used to speak at pro-gun rallies until she was reminded that her job was to report on events, not appear at them. She wrote a book about the difficulties she encountered when she tried to purchase a gun in Washington, D.C.  The only problem is that the violent ‘home invasion’ which she claims to have suffered and prompted her to get a gun in fact never took place.

Honor Guard Member #3 – David Valle.  This poor sap is a Florida resident who was cleaning his pistol when it accidentally discharged and a round hit his 4-year old daughter in the arm.  She survived the injury but neighbors said that David purchased the pistol for self-protection after his home was invaded and one of the attackers shot off a gun. Now what’s all this talk by the NRA about always being safe with your guns?

Honor Guard Member #4 – Ammon Bundy. One of the sons of Cliven ‘let me tell you about your Negro’ Bundy, who led an armed ‘occupation’ of the Malheur Forest Range in Utah by a group of patriots protesting the Federal Government’s land management policies and generally making a nuisance of themselves. The affair finally ended when the FBI wouldn’t allow the hardy band of freedom fighters to receive their nightly delivery of pizza pies.

Honor Guard Member #5 – Jerry DeLemus. A proud veteran, Tea Party activist and co-chair for the New Hampshire State Trump Campaign, this ardent freedom fighter drove all the way from New Hampshire to help negotiate a ‘peaceful solution’ to the problem at the Malheur Range. He was later arrested for his role in the original Bundy insurrection; i.e., the 2014 brouhaha outside Cliven’s Nevada ranch.  Ol’ Jerry ended up copping two felony pleas meaning he won’t be able to drive around the country any more with a bunch of guns in his truck in order to help defend 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.

So there you have it – five of the most determined and dedicated pro-gun activists whose presence at the front of the inaugural parade would send an inspiring message about how the 45th President will unite the country and, at the same time, help spread the message of the NRA. Because what better way to show how much each and every one of us loves America than by going out and buying a gun?

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police have let it be known that they are willing and able to respond if anyone shows up toting a gun.  You can’t bring a gun into DC and loony groups like Bikers for Trump, some of whose members carried guns at campaign rallies, will celebrate Trump’s inauguration in jail.  But why not let one of those bikers at least kick off the parade?

What Policies Will Reduce Gun Violence? Maybe The New York Times Should Ask People Who Own Guns?

The New York Times has just released a very detailed survey of academic experts regarding the effectiveness of various policies to help reduce gun violence.  In addition to the academic experts, the surveys also captured views both of the general public and law enforcement personnel.  The survey queried respondents on 29 specific policies, and compared their responses to views of the general public as well as the gun-control views of the incoming President-elect.

nyt logo             If the purpose of this survey was to contrast the gun-control views of the academic community versus the policies advocated by Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign, The Times didn’t need to waste anybody’s time.  The NRA ponied up $30 million in television advertising for Trump after the organization endorsed him at their annual meet, and the one time he briefly deviated from the approved script by calling for guns in nightclubs and bars, he quickly fell back into line. Academics, on the other hand, usually tend to be anti-gun, although in this case The Times made sure that the pro-gun academic community (Kleck, Lott, Kopel, Volokh) was represented as well.

Many of these policies mentioned in the surveys are found in some states, such as expanded background checks, child access prevention (CAP) laws , banning or regulating hi-cap mags. But most state gun laws exist in places with smaller numbers of gun owners and/or states whose electorate is still largely colored blue.  Go into a gun-owning, red-vote state like Missouri or Alabama and see how much support you find for a bill to expand background checks. Meanwhile, states with fewer gun laws tend, by and large, to suffer more violence from guns.

So why is it that none of the ten policies rated to most effective for curbing gun violence, all of which had public support ranging from 63% to 88%, have actually become federal law?  The usual explanation is what you would expect, namely, the power and the money of the NRA.  But when I look at The New York Times survey it actually reflects something much more concerning about why sensible ideas for gun regulations at the federal level never get beyond first base.  And my concern is based not on who participated in the poll, but who did not.

Virtually every single policy which the experts were asked to rate in terms of effectiveness for increasing safety from gun violence would require some behavioral or attitudinal response on the part of gun owners themselves. And while the survey may have caught a few gun owners in the ‘representative sample’ of voters who were queried for this poll, the Times made no effort to reach out to the gun-owning community at all. They did what liberals concerned about gun violence always do – they came up with a ‘balanced’ roster of participants representing both sides and they ended up with results that tell us nothing about how people will react who ultimately be affected by any change in gun laws.

The inability of the gun violence prevention community to communicate with gun owners about the risks of firearm ownership is a much more potent weapon in the NRA’s arsenal than any amount of money dumped into a legislator’s lap.  Public health researchers publish their work in peer-reviewed, academic journals with minimal notice beyond academe;  leading gun-control advocates aren’t invited on the shock-jock media circuit, none of the major gun-control organizations (in comparison to the NRA) has a digital video presence which has become the real information superhighway over the last several years.

For gun owners to understand that sensible gun regulations don’t represent Armageddon, they need to be engaged with language and arguments they understand.  You don’t do this by publishing scholarly articles in JAMA or Saturday Review. Instead, you find a hunter or sportsman to send an article to Field and Stream.  And then you figure out a message that tells gun owners they can be pleased and safe with their guns at the same time.

Want To Make A Million In The Gun Business? Start With Two Million.

Although it’s less than a month before the replacement of that notorious gun-grabbing President with a guy who really understands the need to carry a gun for self-defense, the real question is whether the next four years will be a milestone or a millstone for the gun industry, since gun sales have traditionally been a function of whether or not you can buy a gun. And if there’s a chance you won’t be able to buy a gun, you run out and grab as many as you can. But if there’s no gun ban on the horizon, oh well, need a new set of tires for the car.

trump5            The problem in trying to figure out whether the gun industry will continue strong under (ugh) Trump or begin to slow down is difficult to figure out because it’s next to impossible to get a real fix on exactly how many guns are actually sold.  Or to put it more exactly, how many new guns are sold.  Because remember, a NICS background check is conducted every time a gun goes across a dealer’s counter, and since most gun shops carry a healthy assortment of used guns, many NICS phone calls just mean that a gun already in the civilian arsenal is changing hands. Ditto for many of the guns which go from an auction website to a dealer’s shop, particularly for interstate sales.  Obviously, the civilian gun arsenal increased enormously under Obama – Smith & Wesson stock didn’t jump from $5 to $30 between 2009 and 2016 just because the company makes some nice-looking guns. On the other hand, that same stock has lost 30% in value since November 8th, which says something about the industry’s future prospects under a President named (ugh) Trump.

But if I had a nickel for every time a stock went up or down because market predictions turned out to be incorrect, I also could buy a new set of tires for my Subaru without selling one of my guns.  Remember when gasoline prices went over $2 a gallon back in 2005 and the experts were all predicting a $10 price by the end of the decade?  We’ll have some rough idea about the health of the gun market when Smith & Wesson releases its 10-Q for the quarter ending September, 2017.  But the number of new guns produced and sold each year is not necessarily an accurate measure of whether a pro-gun President like (ugh) Trump will help or hurt gun sales.

The real problem is trying to figure out the size of the potential market; i.e., how many people out there might be interested in buying a gun. Because when all is said and done, the success of any consumer product is based not so much on its replacement rate (consumers who already own the product buying a new one) but on the number of new consumers who decide that a particular product is something they just must have.

What apparently has happened under Obama is that the replacement rate for guns has soared – the same people who started out as gun owners in 2008 just kept buying more and more guns. These folks didn’t need to be educated on why Obama was a threat; as long-time gun owners they always knew that a gun ban might be in the works. And most gun owners had lived through the terrible Clinton gun and magazine bans enacted in 1994.

As for new consumers entering the gun market, I’m not so sure that the slow but steady decline in the percentage of American households with a legal gun will continue under (ugh) Trump, and I’m going to tell you why. Because what this election showed, if nothing else, is that a lot of people bought Trump’s message that government doesn’t work.  Which is exactly the long-time message used by the gun industry to sell self-defense guns. On the other hand, if Trump (ugh) makes government more efficient, do you really need to protect yourself with a gun?

              Wishing Everyone a Healthy and Happy 2017.

 

Want To Message About Gun Violence? Do’t Forget The Gun.

Following the October, 2015 mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, MoveOn.org announced a petition drive asking gun-owning members of the organization to ‘push for common-sense gun control measures;’ an activity which netted support from more  than 32,000 gun-owning MoveOn members within one month.  Practically speaking, the petition went nowhere, but at least it demonstrated that not every politically-minded gun guy supports the NRA.

ruger             And this is good news for the gun violence prevention (GVP) movement, because it runs counter to the usual assumption that the basic fault line dividing Gun-nut Nation from Gun-sense Nation is the ownership of guns.  Not that 32,000 gun-owning MoveOn members compares to the alleged 4 million gun-toters who line up for NRA.  But it’s enough of a base to convince other MoveOn members to get involved, which can’t but help grow the strength of the mainline gun-sense organizations like Shannon’s Moms, Everytown, Violence Policy Center, and the Brady Campaign.

I’m not optimistic about the chances of national gun regulations moving forward in the Age of Trump, but if The Donald gets on his high horse and starts ranting about the 2nd Amendment (a subject that has yielded a curious silence from the 26th Floor of since he ended his campaign,) there’s nothing that gets the opposition more worked up than being able to identify a threat from the other side.  But if Gun-sense Nation wants to mobilize a wider swath of active supporters, particularly folks who largely sit on the sidelines today, they are going to have to come up with a message that reaches beyond simply reminding people about the number of people killed with guns.

And this is where the activities of public service organizations like MADD and the anti-smoking groups aren’t such a good fit. Because everyone drives a car and everyone knows someone else who smokes.  But as an important article published today in The Trace points out, even in cities with high (and increasing) gun-violence rates, like Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Lou, there are many neighborhoods where gun violence remains at historically low levels, and it’s in these more affluent areas, both within the cities and the suburbs, where folks who need to be motivated about gun violence tend to live.

So coming up with a message to which people not directly affected by gun violence will understand is not such a simple or obvious thing. And if the GVP community thinks they can adopt or own a phrase that promotes ‘responsible’ gun ownership, the gun industry itself has been using that exact messaging for over thirty years, and I know they have no interest in sharing idea with the other side. Now I’m not talking about the NRA’s phony Eddie Eagle safety campaign whose effectiveness has never (read: never) been evaluated at all.  I’m talking about the gun industry itself and the basic message that has been promoted by the world’s largest manufacturer of small arms – Sturm, Ruger & Co. – for the last thirty years.

Back in the 1980s, America’s most iconic gun designer, Bill Ruger, adopted the slogan ‘Gun Makers For Responsible Citizens’ to go with the unique heraldic eagle logo that had originally been designed by his partner, Alexander Sturm.  Ruger considered himself a designer and manufacturer of sporting arms, his first hunting rifle to incorporate military-style engineering, the Mini-14, shipped from the factory with a 5-shot mag. In the run-up to the 1994 assault weapons ban, Ruger endorsed not a gun ban but a ban on hi-cap mags, a stance he then quietly abandoned when talk about a company boycott started to spread around.

In recent years, Sturm, Ruger has moved into promoting small, concealable hi-caliber pistols, a product shift which gives GVP an opportunity to push its own definition of responsible gun ownership focusing not on the behavior of gun owners but on the guns themselves.  A 9mm pistol no bigger than a droid simply isn’t a sporting arm. And that’s what causes gun violence – it’s the gun, stupid, it’s the gun.