The Trump Campaign Really Wants The Minority Vote As Long As The Minorities Are Evangelicals And Folks Who Own Guns.

As much as we don’t want to admit it, more than 60 years after the Supreme Court said that separate wasn’t equal, a Presidential election appears to be turning on the issues of religion and race.  More than any previous Republican candidate, Trump-o injects religion and racism into just about everything he says, from leading the birther movement, to calling for the deportation of all ‘illegals,’ (read: non-whites) to ‘joking’ about ejecting non-Evangelicals, this guy’s campaign rallies sound and look like an advertisement for the Klan.

trump2            While his supporters as well as media kibitzers continue to imbibe the Kool-Aid that Shlump’s success is based on something known as ‘anger about the present course of government,’ the truth is that the anger is all about religion and race, specifically, the feeling held by many Evangelical whites that their days of being in a majority of the population are coming to an end; i.e., today’s New York Times article profiling an Evangelical couple in Iowa who got some media attention three years ago when they refused to rent out a chapel on their property for a marriage ceremony involving two gay men.  They ended up being used as stage props by Ted Cruz before the Iowa primary and now feel betrayed and abandoned as the age of ‘Christian values’ appears to be coming to an end.

And why this loss of enthusiasm for a presidential candidate who is going out of his way to pander to the Evangelical vote?  “It all flipped so fast,” says Dick Odgaard. “Suddenly we were in the minority.”  The article goes on to say: “One day they felt comfortably situated in the American majority, as Christians with shared beliefs in God, family and the Bible. Overnight, it seemed, they discovered that even in small-town Iowa they were outnumbered, isolated and unpopular.”

As the grandchild of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, I find it a little difficult to sympathize with the Odgaards and their Evangelical compatriots because I knew from the gitgo that I wasn’t in the majority; I also knew from the gitgo that it made no difference at all. Which is why my grandparents came to the United States from a pogrom-torn zone in Russia rather than going somewhere else.  So I really have no idea how it feels to lose one’s ‘majority’ status, but perhaps my experience as a member of Gun-nut Nation might provide a lesson for how people who feel racially and culturally dispossessed should respond.

Want to know what it’s like to be a member of a minority group?  Buy a gun.  After all, according to the latest survey, only one out of five American adults owns a gun.  This happens to be about the same percentage who describe themselves as Evangelical Christians, according to a recent Pew poll. And even though gun ownership is protected by the 2nd Amendment, there’s also something in the Constitution known as the 1st Amendment which guarantees all those ‘minority’ Evangelicals the right to practice their religious beliefs as they see fit.

Meanwhile, talk to most members of Gun-nut Nation and they’ll tell you, 2nd Amendment notwithstanding, they are not only members of a minority, but a ‘persecuted’ minority at that.  And what’s the proof of this persecution?  Well, for beginners, we know that Hillary is hell-bent on taking away all the guns.  Now in fact she’s never said that, but decoding what she really means no matter what she says is a special technique used by members of persecuted minorities to identify and protect themselves from enemies both without and within.

When Fox News decided to produce a new show called Trump for President it was no accident that they asked the NRA to develop (and pay for) an advertising campaign.  After all, America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ has developed messaging for the persecuted minority of gun owners that is second to none.  Persecuted or not, Hillary better hope that Shlump-o’s Evangelicals and gun owners are still in a minority on November 8th.

 

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How Much Will Trump Owe The NRA? If He Wins – Plenty.

If anyone thought for one second that the NRA wouldn’t have Street Thug Trump in their pocket if he’s elected President, today’s announcement should make you think again.  Because the NRA is going to drop $2 million on an ad campaign that will remind voters about how Hillary was in some way responsible for the Benghazi attack.  And while the ads are starting to run at the same time that Trey Gowdy’s House Committee was unable to pin any Benghazi blame on HRC, never mind details or even basic facts, if you want to believe that Trump is the man who can protect us from terrorism, this advertisement is where you can start.

trump2            But what the advertisement really does is get Street Thug’s name on some television screens and computer panels without costing him one dime.  Which is actually more important than what the advertisement actually says because Street Thug doesn’t have a dime to spend on any advertising these days, nor does he have two nickels to rub together or even two cents here or there.  Now he claims to have raised $3 million was his first, big email campaign, but that figure is disputed not just by liberal pundits, but by the conservative National Review as well. The headline of their online article referred to Trump’s fundraising claims as ‘lies.’  I thought that only Street Thug could use a word like ‘lie’ when talking about the Hillary campaign.  Now a conservative source is pasting that epithet on him? Hmmmm.

I’m not really all that worried about the impact of this ad because increasingly Street Thug appears to be talking only to his solid but diminishing band of supporters who just aren’t going to make a majority dent when we all go to vote on November 8th.  Leaving alone the slippage at the national level, what caught my eye was the first, serious poll to come out of Texas, which shows Street Thug ahead, but not by enough to say that he can even win in that reddest of all red states.

The Texas poll shows Trump ahead by 41 – 33 in a head-to-head matchup (slight declines for both when Libertarian Gary Johnston is added to the mix.)  This leave a large, undecided vote but when everything was counted back in 2012, Romney beat Obama 58 to 32!  In other words, if the undecided vote breaks even from here on out, Trump barely ekes out a majority in a state that handed the 2012 Republican candidate an overwhelming win.

We won’t know until late next month whether Trump’s alleged fundraising is more fantasy than real.  But right now it can honestly be said that without the ads being produced by the NRA, the Street Thug’s media campaign is still the handiwork of Fox News.  But what’s interesting about the NRA ad is that it doesn’t mention guns or the 2nd Amendment at all.  The ad pans what is described as a veteran’s cemetery (which may be illegal to show) and the speaker who says he was posted at Benghazi then intones the usual anti-Hillary complaint that she didn’t protect us when and where it counted the most. And it took Street Thug 46 minutes to mention the 2nd Amendment at his rally rant last night in St. Clairsville, OH, means that the subject that used to be his stock-in-trade for ramping up the crowd has now almost disappeared.

And my theory for the disappearance of gun ‘rights’ as a motif for Street Thug’s campaign is very simple, namely, that the energy and activity of the Gun Violence Prevention community, in particular since Orlando, has tipped the scales the other way.  But if, God forbid, Street Thug somehow pulls it off, he’s going to owe the NRA big-time because they stuck by him while others faded away.

So let’s not forget that there are 132 days left until either we win or we lose.  And we better not lose.  No way.

 

Want To Argue About Gun Violence? Let’s All Follow The Same Rules.

Yesterday I called for my friends in the gun-sense community to declare a moratorium on debating about guns with pro-gun advocates who really on everything except fact-based evidence in order to support their point of view.  Let me make it clear that I have no issue with anyone who wants to promote or argue in favor of gun ownership, I just want the gun debate to be conducted on a level playing-field.  The pro-gun community has gone out of its way to encourage and support pro-gun arguments that tilt the playing-field in their direction precisely because their arguments are devoid of facts.

The most insidious and intellectually-bankrupt pro-gun argument is based on the notion that guns protect us from crime.  The NRA began peddling this nonsense in the 1990s when they discovered that fear about crime, particularly crime committed by a certain easily-definable population which happened to live in inner cities, was a smart strategy to rebuild the organization’s membership which had declined by more than 12% after it came out that a particularly active NRA member happened to be named Timothy McVeigh.  The anti-crime issue then morphed into a growing anti-government, New Right sentiment whose niche issues – abortion, busing, school prayer – would drive conservative politics from Newt Gingrich to Sarah Palin and beyond. What this meant was that supporting the 2nd Amendment means that you will protect your family, your neighborhood and everything else that we hold near and dear.  In Marketing 101 that gets an A+.

2A                Meanwhile, on the other side, clinical research published in peer-reviewed journals was busily establishing that gun ownership was more of a risk than a benefit in social terms; i.e., owning a gun increased the possibility that someone in the family would use the weapon to shoot themselves or shoot someone else.  And the incidence of deliberate or accidental shootings by gun owners was far greater than the number of times that these same gun owners used a gun to defend themselves or their families against crime.

Don’t get me wrong.  The early research showing guns to be more a risk than a benefit was incomplete; there were numerous research gaps that remained to be filled in, and much of what would have eventually been published and discussed was stymied by the prohibition on CDC-funded gun research rammed through Congress in 1997 and continuing to this day.  Meanwhile, what was the research produced by the pro-gun community to support the notion that guns represented a positive social good?  It took the form of one major effort by the criminologist Gary Kleck who ran some questions past 213 randomly-chosen individuals and, based on their entirely-unsubstantiated responses, announced that guns were used more than 2 million times each year to prevent crimes.

Kleck’s paper appeared in 1994 and was published in a student-run law journal which made absolutely no pretense to being peer-reviewed at all. And from that time until the present, the debate over guns has been based on one side by a continued reliance on scientific, peer-reviewed publications and on the other side by a reliance on political hyperbole, character assassination and access to right-wing web media and Fox News.  Kleck had an opportunity recently to refute two new critics, the editors of the blog Armed With Reason, and his response was in keeping with virtually every pro-gun response to peer-reviewed research, which is that the research isn’t valid because the researchers are anti-2nd Amendment, or what Kleck referred to as the “prohibitionist position” on guns.

Yesterday my column advocated that the gun-sense community declare a moratorium on arguments about whether or not we suffer from gun violence.  I’m going to amend that position somewhat and instead ask my friends who believe gun violence is a threat to sit down and draft some ‘rules of the road’ for debating the other side.  What’s important is holding the debate on a level playing-field, and once that field is established either the other side shows up or they don’t.

 

 

 

When It Comes To Gun Safety, Everyone Seems To Agree – Kind Of.

Since I truly believe in the Mafia adage, “keep your friends close but your enemies closer,” I tend to watch Fox chat shows from time to time.  And I have to admit that in all my wildest dreams I never believed I would see Sean Hannity being as polite and well-spoken to someone like Dan Gross who, as head of the Brady Center, must rank pretty high on the Fox Top Ten Enemies List.  After all, in addition to being an outspoken gun-rights advocate, Hannity promotes gun products on his radio show and by putting his face and name on various gun websites.  But there he was last night introducing his “personal friend” Dan Gross for a five-minute chat on where they agree and where they disagree about guns.

Well it turns out that Sean and Dan don’t seem to disagree, or at least I didn’t hear much last night that struck me as any real difference of opinion about the ownership and use of guns.  Both stated that they supported the legal ownership of guns, both stated that they wanted everyone to lock their guns up or lock them away, and both stated that they wanted to keep guns out of the ‘wrong hands.’  Of course the devil’s always in the details, and if you got Wayne-o to calm down for a minute and stop worrying about Obama’s secret plan to disarm America before January 20, 2017, he’d be happy to come on the Hannity show and basically say the same thing.

brady2                But nice-sounding platitudes aside, I find it interesting that someone as pro-gun as Hannity would give Dan Gross an opportunity to appear before a large Fox audience to prove, if nothing else, that he’s not Lucifer in disguise.  Because although Hannity threw in a couple of red-meat comments that are de rigueur on Fox when anyone mentions guns, such as his fear of the ‘slippery slope’ of gun control, he basically let Dan tell the audience how much gun owners had in common with supporters of the Brady Campaign, which is entirely contrary to what usually erupts from the NRA.

Ever since the Brady law was voted in 1994, the NRA and other pro-gun groups have kept up a steady drumbeat of anti-Brady commentary designed to convince gun owners that any expansion of background checks is nothing short of a conspiracy to take away all guns.  Here’s a typical comment from the NRA in 2013 after Brady mounted a video to mark the 20th anniversary of the original background-check law:  “The Brady Campaign’s proposed expansion of federal background checks would force even many family and friends to get government permission for firearm transfers amongst each other and subject all lawful gun transfers to federal paperwork and recordkeeping requirements, the prerequisites for a national registry.”  Of course this statement is simply untrue, but it plays directly into the old slippery-slope gun control nonsense that Hannity found necessary to mention on the show.

I have been saying recently that the smartest thing Brady and Everytown have done is to move into the safety space which until now was owned lock, stock and barrel (pardon the pun) by the NRA. But while everyone’s in favor of safety, there’s one safety issue which puts the two sides as far apart as the Brand Canyon’s rims, and Hannity gave it away when he said that no matter how many laws were passed to prevent guns from getting into the ‘wrong hands,’ criminals wouldn’t obey laws anyway, so what was the point of passing more laws?

The pro-gun community falls back on this argument every time that any new measure is proposed that would increase regulation of guns.  The problem is that if we only passed laws that criminals would obey, there wouldn’t be any laws at all. Which is actually what the pro-gun community would prefer as regards gun ownership, particularly when a Democrat happens to be renting living space at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.

 

 

Mayor Bloomberg Wants To Indoctrinate The Media But He Can’t Fool The NRA.

In mid-January the NRA warned its members about an insidious effort by Enemy Numero Uno (Mike Bloomberg) to make yet another attempt to rob Americans of their Constitutional right to gun ownership by sponsoring what they call an “anti-gun indoctrination camp” to teach gullible reporters and other media folks how to research and write about guns.  What Bloomberg’s really trying to do is foist his own ‘discredited’ research on attendees at this conference in yet another effort to distort and cover up the real (i.e., positive) truth about guns.

bloom                What’s really interesting about this two-day workshop to be held in Phoenix this coming May is the degree to which attendees will actually hear from both sides in the gun debate, a significant and I believe first-time coming together of scholars and influencers whose views run the spectrum of how advocates on both sides defend their views on guns.  On the one hand, speaking for what is now known as the gun-sense crowd, we have Garen Wintemute, an ER physician out of California, who has been a thorn in the side of the gun industry since he published studies on the manufacture of small, cheap handguns whose only real use was to arm people who wanted to commit crimes.  At the other end of the spectrum, showing up to push the “guns are good” message, will be Sarah Cupp, whose attacks on Bloomberg and other gun-control ‘threats’ gets her airtime on the usual pro-gun outlets like Fox and the Blaze, as well as crossing over to the other side with appearances on MSNBC.

Standing in the middle will be an economist by training but a gun researcher by vocation named Philip Cook, who has been conducting important and valid research on the social utility of guns for more than forty years.  In general, Cook’s work has focused on the economic costs of gun violence and his conclusions in these studies, as well as other work on gun violence, leaves no doubt as to where he stands; i.e., he’s no friend of the folks who claim that Americans need to own more guns.  But this past year Cook and his colleague, Kristin Goss, published a balanced and reasoned summary of the gun debate, and while they didn’t attempt to hide their own concerns about the proliferation of guns in American society, they also found good reasons why many Americans don’t want to give up their guns.

The fact that the NRA should attempt to malign a public conference whose speaker’s list contains one of their most ardent supporters shows you how unwilling or unable they have become when it comes to listening to any voice other than their own.  But a quick look at some of the information that has lately appeared on their own website makes me think that perhaps the NRA  research and editorial staff might benefit from attending a conference where they might learn how to understand and explain facts.

I am referring to a story that just appeared on the NRA-ILA website attacking Americans for Responsible Solutions, the group founded by Gabby Giffords, for what the NRA says is a ‘bogus’ claim that the number of people who die from gunshots each year equals the number of people killed in accidents involving cars. The story is bogus, according to the NRA, because the number of people who die from shootings that are ruled as accidents are a tiny fraction of the number of dead people pulled from vehicular wrecks.  But of course that’s not the point of the ARS story at all, unless perhaps we should figure out and compare gun deaths to the number of car accidents in which a driver actually tried to kill someone else using his car.

That Bloomberg is asking professional media folks to come together and listen to both sides of the gun debate is a refreshing and important event.  Refreshing because it hasn’t happened previously, important because public policy is only successful when it reflects every valid point of view.  I hope the conference is a great success.

 

Want To Talk To A Physician About Guns? Go To York, PA.

Back in 2011 I went to a gun show somewhere in York County, PA and had a wonderful time.  It wasn’t just the fact that I could play with lots of guns.  It was because everyone at the show seemed to be in a good mood, the atmosphere was festive, the people friendly, the home-cooked chow was great and even my wife bought some jewelry from a local craftsman who had a table across the aisle from the show sponsor’s exhibit, which of course was an exhibit for the NRA.

Gun licenses and concealed-carry permits spiked in York County after Sandy Hook, but even before that unspeakable event, York was always known as a gun-rich zone.  York often ranked even or higher in gun licenses with much more populous counties, and in the clamor following Sandy Hook, the County Sheriff had to open a special office to process CCW applications because his regular staff was overwhelmed with concealed-carry requests.

fox43               So I found it interesting that the local Fox television affiliate that covers York County, Channel 43, ran a story yesterday about doctors asking their patients about guns, and to my pleasant surprise, it was a well-researched, well-balanced and fair piece which isn’t something that usually shows up when guns are the topic on Fox.  Notwithstanding their claim to be “fair and balanced,” Fox gives virtually unlimited media time to NRA apologists like John Lott, who continues to promote the dangerous nonsense of expanding gun-free zones in the face of overwhelming evidence that shows such jurisdictions to be no more safe than places where guns are banned.

Yesterday’s article begins by quoting a York resident who was “shocked” when his pediatrician asked whether he owned guns. But it turned out that when the Fox43 reporter posted this issue on the channel’s Facebook page, a surprising number of comments came from people who didn’t register the same degree of alarm. Here’s an example from a woman who identified herself as the recent purchaser of a 9mm pistol: “ I’ve been asked by my children’s pediatrician. They simply wanted to make sure it was kept out of their reach in a safe spot so my kids are safe. I don’t see the big deal unless someone has something to hide. All gun registrations are accessible by the public. Its not like its top secret!

Of course a majority of the Facebook comments were the usual “none of their GD business” that you would expect from a gun-owning population in an area like York, PA.  But there were enough replies similar to the one above that no doubt played a role in the balanced approach of the piece.  The story noted that Obama’s Affordable Care Act prohibited physicians from sharing information about guns, despite the oft-heard comment by gun-owning diehards that the ACA is a back-door scheme to help Obama take all the guns away.  The story also quoted a family physician, Joseph Cincotta, who correctly stated that the question was motivated by concerns about safety, not about the ownership of guns.

In the interests of being fair and balanced, the reporter also contacted the NRA whose spokesperson, Catherine Mortensen, trotted out the usual bromide about how doctors have no right “prying into your personal life.”  Following from this flight from reality I guess that when a teenager shows up at the health clinic complaining about a rash that turns out to be a sexually-transmitted disease, the examining physician shouldn’t ask the patient whether they engage in unprotected sex, or even whether they engage in sexual activity at all.

The article contained two quotes that took the position that doctors shouldn’t ask patients about firearm ownership, and five quotes from physicians and everyday individuals justifying the physician’s right to ask patients about guns.  I would expect that kind of coverage from a media outlet in places like Boston and New York, but an article favorably inclined towards doctors talking to patients about guns in York, PA?

Want To Protect America? Join The Militia Or The Boy Scouts.

Back in 2002 Michael Moore made a documentary, Bowling for Columbine, which vaulted him to the forefront of American filmmakers and reignited the argument about guns that followed the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School, which was what the film was all about.  At one point Moore is talking to members of the Michigan Militia, several of whom respond to his tongue-in-cheek questions by explaining that the Militia had been formed to provide the first line of defense against terrorism, crime, tyranny and other threats.  As one of the members put it, “there’s no greater responsibility for every citizen than to protect his family and his home.”

I was thinking about Moore’s movie as I read a recent report issued in July by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) about the April stand-off between Cliven Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management and how this event has sparked a ”boiling” of far-Right, anti-government sentiment that has been growing over the course of the Obama Administration and came to a head in the dispute at the Bundy Ranch.  As far as I can tell, there’s still a bunch of flag-waving, AR-toting dudes “protecting” Bundy from the Feds, even though his ill-timed racist remarks resulted in a quick evaporation of support on the part of various conservative politicians and, in particular, Sean Hannity and Fox news.

yellow-militia-logo-sm                But according to the SPLC, even without mainstream media and political support, the Bundy incident has given militia groups a new cause around which they can build a greater anti-government movement and enlist new members in their long-term battle against the New World Order, gun-grabbing liberals, Socialists and Presidents who weren’t born in the United States.  The movement had its roots in the late 60’s and early 70’s with something called the Posse Comitatus, whose racist and anti-Semitic message bore a likeness to the rhetoric and program of the Ku Klux Klan.

Many of these militia groups operate in covert fashion, if only because when the Feds do get serious and bring in the heavy artillery, the militants, like Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge, end up on the short end of the stick. But after Michael Moore put his camera on the Michigan Militia, these hardy men and women decided they might as well use their new-found Hollywood status to promote their cause.  So I checked out their website which was set up in 2004 after “much discussion and field experimentation” because to join you have to prove that you meet the “readiness requirements.” And what are these requirements?  You have to show up with a rifle, at least 100 rounds of ammunition, a water bottle, suitable clothing (preferably camo depending on the “tactical situation”), then walk two miles in no longer than 48 minutes with all this gear in tow.

If strolling two miles in slightly more than three-quarters of an hour constitutes a test of physical fitness to defend America against its enemies, we better not count on this bunch to do much more than talk about protecting us from dangers real or anything else.  But in reading the Militia’s Readiness Manual it struck me that as a kid I belonged to something akin to this Militia group; namely the Boy Scouts, whose original Federal Charter, drawn up and signed by President Wilson in 1916, defined the Scouts as an organization that practiced, “patriotism, courage and self-reliance,” words literally echoed by the militiamen interviewed by Michael Moore.

Don’t get me wrong.  Of course there are people who are seriously deranged, prone to believe in all kinds of crazy conspiracies, and in this country they don’t have much trouble getting their hands on a gun.  But with all due respect to the SPLC and other groups who see an insurrectionist under every bed, boys will be boys, toys will be toys and yes, my Boy Scout troop practiced shooting our government-surplus 22s and shooting those guns was just a lot of fun.