Want To Play A Shooting Game? Buy A Redfield Scope

When I was a kid, which was before most of the readers of this blog were born, the gun industry made two very different types of guns. They made rifles and shotguns for hunting, and they made handguns and military-style rifles for the armed forces and the police.  There was some cross-over in products of course, largely because most adult males did military service thanks to the draft, so if they wanted to own a handgun as a civilian they would naturally gravitate to a Colt .45 pistol or a Smith & Wesson revolver.  But if you walked into a gun shop in the 1950s, 1960s or 1970s you were in a place that sold arms, ammunition and accessories for outdoor sports, which meant hunting, with an occasional self-defense handgun thrown into the mix.

Even though hunting remains popular in certain parts of the country, nobody can deny that the consumer taste in guns hasn’t changed.  In 2010 for the first time, American gun companies manufactured more handguns than long guns, and more than 200,000 of the 1.8 million rifles manufactured that year were military-style AR-15s.  This blending of military and civilian styles isn’t just a function of the design of guns.  It’s taking over the nomenclature of the industry to the point that you can hardly tell the difference between what a soldier carries into the field and a hunter carries into the woods.  Take, for example, the Redfield Optics Company.

The company was founded in 1909 by John Redfield, an avid sportsman and hunter, whose product line was aimed at the “middle market” consumer who could afford to pay a bit more for his equipment but expected some quality in return.  Like many smaller companies in consumer optics and electronics, Redfield fell prey to overseas brands in the 1980s, limped along for another few years and eventually shuttered the doors in 1998.  One thing led to another and in 2008 the brand name was purchased by the most iconic American optics company – Leupold – who now sells Redfield products through their multiple channels both here and overseas.

To see where I’m going with this post, take a look at the Redfield website.  The scopes haven’t changed, they are the same mid-level, mid-priced optics that the company has been selling for more than one hundred years.  But the old scopes had names like Partner, Widefield and Accu-Range, the last being a 3x-9x scope that was originally mounted on a variation of the Remington 700 rifle  used as a sniper gun by the Marines. What does Redfield call its scopes now?  Names like Battlezone, RevolutionCounterstrike and Revenge, the last being their standard hunting scopes that can also be mounted for archery hunts. Naming a hunting scope Revenge?  What are the hunters avenging themselves about? Because the deer ate some apples off a tree?

A new study says that violence in PG-13 movies is more common than in popular, R-rated films.  Which means that children are being exposed to shootings and violent gun use at a younger and younger age. Why wouldn’t companies like Leupold take advantage of this trend towards more violence?  After all, there’s really no difference between a movie, a video game and a real AR-15, right?

 

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Do Concealed Guns Protect Us From Crime?

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I started my previous blog with a promise to debunk some of the myths created by the NRA and its cronies to ward off the evils of gun control. So let’s continue by looking at one of the biggest myths of all, namely, the idea that we can all be better protected against crime if we all own and carry guns.  The idea of the “armed citizen” as being our first and most important defense against crime and criminals has been promoted endlessly and tirelessly by the NRA and is repeated verbatim by all of their allies and cronies.

One of the major cronies is a sometime academic named John R. Mott who floats around the right-wing talk circus promoting a book called More Guns Less Crime.  Although his data has been criticized for either not supporting what he says or not existing at all, I’m going to ignore the slings and arrows being thrown back and forth between him and his critics and just look at the underlying assumptions about the argument itself.

Lott begins by making the argument that there’s a trade-off between the safety of a locked gun versus the usefulness of a gun that is loaded and ready to fire.  He states: “gun locks require that guns be unloaded, and a locked, unloaded gun does not offer ready protection from intruders.” (Page 10.) Did he really say that?  Has he ever even held a gun?  If John Lott would like, he can walk into my gun shop, we will go downstairs to the range, I’ll put a Masterlock on a loaded gun and then I’ll take the lock off the gun and John can pull the trigger. There will be a very loud noise and he better have the gun pointed in a safe direction.

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But let’s continue and here’s the bottom line.  There has yet to be a single study by any pro-gun NRA crony like Lott who has been able to establish a definitive link between ownership of guns and crime rates.  Notice I didn’t say between more guns and less crime, or less guns and more crime.  I said a ‘definitive’ link as in cause-and-effect link.  Coincidence?  Plenty.  Causality?  None.

Let’s go back to the recent DOJ report that showed a “continued” decline in gun homicides over the last twenty years.  This is the report that was lauded by the NRA and its mouthpieces like Lott as “proving” that more guns meant less crime.  And what was their proof?  The fact that in 1990 there were only a handful of states that issued concealed-carry permits and now more than 30 states were granting concealed-carry on a “shall-issue” basis.

Except there are some small problems.  First, as I pointed out in a post published  on May 13 (“Can’t Anyone in the Gun Industry Read?”) the decline in gun homicides occurred between 1994 and 2000, well before most states liberalized their concealed-carry rules.   And more to the point, while some states like California and New York saw a significant decline in gun violence during this six-year period, other states, like Texas and Arizona, experienced increased gun homicides.  Why?  Nobody knows why.  And nobody has yet to ask why.

Then there’s another sticky little problem for people who John Lott who take a coincidence and turn it into an explanation.  The fact that someone walks around with a concealed-carry permit doesn’t mean they walk around with a concealed gun.  Know what?  I haven’t seen anyone who has said that statement anywhere.  In my state, Massachusetts, for example, you cannot buy or own a gun unless you have a permit issued by the state.  The permit is called the LTC which, if you haven’t guessed it yet, means License To Carry. That’s right.  The same license that is required to buy or own a gun is the same license that allows you to carry a concealed handgun on your person.  Does that mean that everyone in Massachusetts who has a gun license is packing?  Nobody knows.

But I’ll let you in on a little secret.  I’m willing to bet you that the same guy who thinks you can’t put a lock on a loaded gun also believes that residents of Massachusetts are better protected from criminals because they have a License To Carry, whether they even own a gun or not. That’s what happens when you do research not to discover the truth, but to promote a pre-ordained idea. Oh well…

Will More Gun Laws Make Us Safer?

We may be headed for Round 2 of the Washington gun debate, but if the current battle lines are not redrawn, little will emerge.  The two sides are so polarized that any sensible reforms will disappear in the vast middle space between the two extremes.  The NRA and its allies believe that gun violence can be solved by controlling people – enforcing laws and increasing punishments for those who use guns to commit crimes.  The other side believes that gun violence can be solved by controlling guns – regulating access to make it more difficult for guns to fall into the wrong hands.

My organization – Evolve – was established to find a way for the two sides to meet in the middle.  Making us safe from gun violence requires aggressive enforcement of existing laws as well as more effective methods for keeping guns out of the wrong hands.  But binding those strategies together requires a commitment for self-prevention, a commitment that should be led by gun owners ourselves.

Aggressive enforcement means there has to be better coordination between federal agencies that track the movement of guns and local police departments that respond to felonies committed with guns.  But why would a homicide detective in Trenton, NJ, care whether a gun was originally sold in a gun shop in Texas, when all he wants to do is solve the crime?  He’s paid to close the case, not to worry about how the gun ended up in his town.  In fact no police department in the country is actually required to trace guns that are picked up in their jurisdiction.  Some do, some don’t.  Even federal law enforcement agencies were not required to trace weapons until President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum on January 16.

As for controlling access to guns, extending background checks to private transactions is a no-brainer, even though the NRA leadership is working overtime to sell its opposition to a membership that wants this done.   The fact that the movie shooter in Aurora passed a background check is beside the point.  Any procedure that keeps guns in the hands of qualified users isn’t an attack on the 2nd Amendment, it’s just common sense.  Most people who sell guns privately do it not to avoid background checks, but because it’s convenient.  They don’t see any tangible connection between selling their gun in one place and a homicide or armed robbery that occurs somewhere else.

But there is a connection.  Every single gun that enters the consumer market goes through multiple transactions (manufacturer – wholesaler – retailer – customer) that are recorded and diligently checked by the ATF.  At some point the guns that are used in the carnage of gun violence leave those legal owners and end up in the wrong hands.  Whether the gun moved from the right hands to the wrong hands because it was sold, or lost, or stolen, or kept loaded in the living room, the truth is that a legal gun owner wasn’t diligent about protecting the gun.

At EVOLVE we believe the key to ending gun violence is to create a self-prevention movement against gun violence led by gun owners like myself.  Why gun owners?  Because more than anyone else, we understand the value and pride of gun ownership, as well as the risks of irresponsible use, storage and sale of guns.   We have no quarrel with the NRA.  The 2nd Amendment is tried and true. But let’s not pretend that gun rights should trump human rights.  They can co-exist in harmony and peace.

One of my best customers came into my shop recently and told me that he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and probably had less than six months to live.  Before he died he wanted to make sure that his precious guns would go to the right hands.  So we made an appointment for his children to come to the shop together so that he could register all the gun transfers to them at the same time.  This man is not only passing on his legacy, he’s also passing on his commitment to responsible ownership of guns.