Here Come The Plastic Guns.

The first gun I ever owned was a silver six-shooter made out of hard plastic which I carried around wherever I went.  I was six years old so I could more or less carry my gun just about anywhere except the first grade. A couple of years later I graduated to another plastic gun which shot ammunition we used to call ‘caps,’ but I abandoned this toy when I was 12 years old and bought my first real gun.

plastic gun1             From then until now, if you wanted to own a gun which shot real ammunition, some of the parts, particularly the barrel, had to be made out of steel. Until the 1980’s all the other parts of a gun were also made out of steel or some metal alloy except for the gun stock which, if the gun was a rifle or shotgun, might be made out of wood.

Thanks to a guy in Austria named Gaston Glock, we began substituting polymer for metal in the non-moving parts of the gun, particularly the frame. Polymer is actually a plastic material reinforced with metallic compounds which makes the finished product more resistant to wear and tear, and in the case of a gun also reduces the overall weight. Most handguns sold in the United States today are put together with a polymer frame; when Glock first started shipping his gun to the US, it was referred to as a ‘plastic’ gun.

Now for the first time we have the appearance of a gun which is almost totally made out of plastic, engineered and developed by a young entrepreneur out of Texas, Cody Wilson,  who has become something of an iconic personality in the community which believes that personal freedom and self-made guns are one and the same thing. Wilson owns a company, Defense Distributed, which made a plastic pistol and got into a spat with the U.S. Government by releasing instructions on the internet for how to take a 3D printer and use it to make a plastic gun.

Wilson promotes himself as an innovator but he’s much more than that. What he’s really doing is finding a clever marketing niche for a segment of the gun-owning population that really believes in the idea that an individual’s freedom can only be secured at the point of a gun.  Here’s the mission statement on Cody’s site: “The specific purposes for which this corporation is organized are: To defend the human and civil right to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the United States Constitution and affirmed by the United States Supreme Court; to collaboratively produce, publish, and distribute to the public information and knowledge related to the digital manufacture of arms.” Notice which statement comes first.

Wilson announced the development of a plastic AR-15 right around the time that Adam Lanza took a real AR-15 into Sandy Hook Elementary School and began blasting away.  In a recent interview on NPR’s Planet Money he admitted that the Newtown massacre gave his company a significant boost, and while he mumbled something about the mass shooting in terms of the loss of life, he was much more positive about the need to develop self-manufacturing gun technologies in order to forestall the ability of the government to infringe on personal freedom by banning civilian-owned guns.

As the Planet Money interviewer discovered, give Wilson five minutes to shoot his mouth off and what you’ll get is the standard, neo-libertarian, neo-anarchist mishmash comprised of equal parts of Ayn Rand, Friedrich Hayek and maybe now Steve Bannon, all of which adds up to nothing more than childish, nonsensical crap. The same people who want to believe that a gun will protect you from government tyranny (particularly when the government is run by a Black liberal) are the same people who buy gold bars from the Glenn Beck show to protect themselves from the oncoming financial collapse.

Frankly, Cody Wilson and his crypto-anarchist friends are the least of our problems when it comes to dealing with the violence caused by guns.

 

Thanks To Shaun Dakin.

Advertisements

Will The World End If We Lose Our 2nd-Amendment Rights?

A week after the Presidential election in 2008, I walked into a gun shop in Houston. The place was packed.  In particular, customers were lining up to buy assault rifles along with as much ammunition as they could carry out of the store. I walked up to one guy who was waiting in line to fill out the 4473 form and asked him what was going on. And he turned to me with a very serious look on his face and whispered, “Armageddon’s coming.”

 

gun-sales

Ever notice how many products Glenn Beck peddles like freeze-dried food or gold bars which portend doom?  And we have long noticed that the gun industry has been selling fear as well as selling guns since old timers like me began to fade away and hunting became something of legend instead of a real-time activity.  Owning a gun is now a statement about the importance of self-defense in an age of terrorism, along with, of course, the standard bromide about 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

But there’s one other message which resonates among Gun-nut Nation, and it’s the idea that if you own a gun then you have something in common with every other gun owner, and if you don’t own a gun, then you’re not only sh*t out of luck, but you’re also on the outside looking in.  I’m a member of AAA but they never try to make me feel special just because I own a car. Ditto AARP, whose almost daily hearing-aid advertisements just remind me that I’m one of more than 46 million people age 65 or more. In fact, I didn’t even know that May was Senior Citizens Month.

But I do know that I am a member of a very special oppressed minority known as law-abiding gun owners who have to make sure that what makes us so special and so oppressed is the possibility that at any moment, my ‘right’ to own a gun could be taken away. And if you think that the purchase of more than 150 million guns under the Obama ‘regime,’ compared to 75 million during the previous eight years of the ‘decider’ was due to anything other than the fear that I might wake up one day and the gun wouldn’t be there, think again.  Because if sales levels continue for the second half of 2017 like they were in the first half, things will be back to where they were in 2007-2008.

Back last October, I was finishing up my weekly gun-safety class which is required in my state (MA) before you can apply for a license to own or carry a gun. And a well-dressed, professional woman came up to get her safety certificate and said, “Boy, I’m glad I could get into this class.” And when I asked her why she was so excited, she replied, and I am quoting her word for word, “Because Hillary’s probably going to win the election and then I won’t be able to buy a gun.”

How did such a crazy idea get into this woman’s head? I must admit that I simply don’t know because even though the NRA spent $30 million or more during the campaign to tell its members that Hillary would take away their guns, I simply do not believe that any normal adult could think such nonsense was true.

But you know what? That guy standing on the line in the Houston gun shop wasn’t grinning or laughing when he told me that he was willing to wait half an hour for the background check to be completed because he didn’t want to face the end of the world unarmed. He meant it, and if we want to do something reasonable to reduce gun violence, we’d better figure out how to get inside that guy’s brain. Because what’s in his brain is in the brains of lots of folks who own guns.

Know What Happens When Gun Companies Cozy Up To The NRA? They Get A Big Bang For Small Bucks.

I used to be an IT executive for a Fortune 100 company that was a leader in life insurance sales.  Every year I received a personal letter from the company CEO thanking me for my $5,000 donation to the insurance PAC that represented the life insurance industry on Capitol Hill.  Donation?  That’s a good one. I wasn’t asked if I wanted to donate the five big ones.  The money was deducted from my paycheck before I got the letter from the CEO.  It was understood that 5% of my net pay went to support the lobbyists in Washington, DC.

I find it almost amusing that anyone feels surprised or bothered by the fact that the gun industry donates heavily to the NRA.  I mean, what’s a girl supposed to do?  Sit home by herself on prom night while everyone else is out on the town?  Let’s get real, folks.  There would be no reason for gun companies to support the NRA if the industry wasn’t regulated by the feds and in the cross-hairs of some folks who would like to regulate it even more.

wayne            Know why gun sales always go up when regulation is in the air?  Because the gun industry knows full well that the end result of more regulation is less guns.  The GVP community can declare from today to next year that they believe in the 2nd Amendment, but the amendment most of them support happens to be the one that, until 2008, conferred gun ownership on members of military units, not folks who just wanted to keep a gun around the house.  And while I doubt very much that a SCOTUS with a liberal majority would overturn Heller, the fact is that just about every post-Heller effort to water down gun regulations even further has failed.  No matter what those crazy militia groups believe, the government isn’t getting out of the gun-control business any time soon, and even Glenn Beck, a guy who’s against gun regulations if I ever saw one, told the ‘open carry’ gang to cease and desist.

If Hillary gets elected and manages to push through a law extending background checks to private transfers, gun ownership will go down. If more states enact laws limiting magazine capacity or waiting periods for handgun purchases, gun ownership will go down.  If the California bill that requires background checks for ammo sales is passed and spreads to other states, gun ownership will go down.  In my state, Massachusetts, there was a brief spike in CCW applications after Sandy Hook but as soon as word got around that the state would not impose new restrictions on gun owners, the demand for licenses dropped off.

In 2014, for the first time in at least 20 years, the yearly dues revenue collected by the NRA went down, and I don’t mean by just a little bit.  The decline was in the neighborhood of 27%, and if this trend continues for another couple of years, Wayne-o can kiss his bottom line goodbye. So the fact that the gun industry chipped in with roughly $100 million in cash gifts and grants doesn’t really fill the gaping hole that now exists because of the drop in dues.

Back in 2013 the Violence Policy Center released a report on money given by the gun industry to the NRA. Glock donated somewhere between $250,000 and half a mil; Smith & Wesson ponied up somewhere between a million and four, Ruger did the same.  For the sake of argument let’s say these three outfits gave the NRA six million bucks. Know what their net income was that year?  Try $300 million.  And that was after they gave the dough to the NRA.

Talk about getting it on the cheap. Hell, I gave a larger percentage of my net income to the insurance lobbyists than Ruger, Smith and Glock give to the NRA. Anti-Hillary rhetoric to the contrary, the NRA better hope her address is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue come next year.

Want To Take A Public Health Approach To Gun Violence? Ask The NRA For Help.

Here we go again.  Another state, Texas, is going to try and keep physicians from talking to patients about gun ownership thanks to a bill newly-filed by a state representative named Stuart Spitzer, who happens to be a general surgeon with a medical degree from UT-Southwestern Medical School.  The proposed bill goes further than the celebrated Docs vs. Glocks Florida statute which prohibits inquiry into gun ownership but makes an exception in cases where the physician believes that a serious medical problem might arise if the patient has access to a gun.  The Texas law contains no such provision, and simply says that any physician, other than a psychiatrist, cannot ask a patient to disclose firearm ownership, period. The end.

The bill’s sponsor peddles the standard nonsense about how this law will protect gun ownership because, according to him, the moment that such information is entered into a patient’s file, the Federal Government will be able to find out who has guns and who doesn’t.  This outright lie has been floating around the paranoid internet since Obama took office, even though the NRA has refuted it on their website.   But if Glenn Beck can find customers to stock up on freeze-dried food for the coming apocalypse, how hard is it for a Texas legislator to make others believe that Big Brother is waiting to grab their guns after a visit to their local doctor?

docs versus glocks                Even though studies show that most patients really don’t care if their doctor asks them about guns, people are sometimes susceptible to this blatant attempt at fear-mongering because they simply don’t understand the methods used by the public health community to define and treat medical risk.  It’s easy to get all worked up about Ebola because the danger is obvious; you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that with mortality rates above 50%, doing whatever is necessary to avoid this disease is a priority for government and citizens alike.  But is there a consensus on the medical risks posed by guns?  In a funny way there is such a consensus, but it’s based on the idea that guns don’t pose any medical risk at ball.

At the same time that public health researchers argue that the risks of guns outweighs the benefits, the NRA pushes the opposite point of view.  And while research clearly supports the public health position on gun risk, the NRA continues to use a bogus telephone survey by Gary Kleck and some thoroughly-discredited statistical nonsense from John Lott to sell the idea that guns are essential tools  in protecting us from crime. Using the fear of crime as a justification for guns is a master stroke of marketing because a majority of Americans now agree with the pro-gun point of view.

Know why the NRA and its allies have been so successful selling the positive utility of guns?  Because they have adopted a public health strategy for convincing the public and the lawmakers that what they are saying is true. First, identify the disease, which in this case is harm caused by crime.  Then identify how the disease is spread, in this case contact with a criminal.  Now develop a vaccine, i.e., the gun, and immunize as many as people as possible with concealed carry, now legal in all 50 states.

The problem in trying to sell the public health solution to any medical problem, as David Hemenway reminds us, is that unlike medicine, “the focus of public health is not on cure, but on prevention.” This usually requires a long, comprehensive strategy combining research, education and laws. Recognizing that most people aren’t usually responsive to solutions which don’t immediately work, the NRA has fast-tracked the process. The real problem in the gun debate is that the side which is totally resistant to an honest, public health approach to guns has shown itself remarkably adept at turning that same approach on its head and getting exactly what it wants.

 

Obama’s Putting Together an Arsenal Thanks To The TSA

There’s been a rumor floating around (thank you Glenn Beck) that Obama has been putting together a secret army that will surround the White House and protect him when the real Americans – the 3 percenters and all the other patriots – finally rise up, take our country back and preserve our God-given, constitutional rights. So I’m here to announce that I have found Obama’s arsenal, and if you don’t believe me, just ask the TSA.

English: A TSA officer screens a piece of luggage.

English: A TSA officer screens a piece of luggage. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You see, the TSA is responsible for security at all the airports, and even though there are warnings and signs all over the place telling passengers to stow their weapons in checked luggage, the folks who screen carry-on bags before passengers go to their gates just keep finding more and more guns.  In 2011 the TSA found more than 1,200 guns, in 2012 the number was over 1,500.  If the 2013 rate continues, by the end of the year the number will exceed 2,000.  That’s nearly 4,000 guns in three years.  Not a bad haul.

Of course some of the guns don’t look like they would be carried by any kind of army, unless it’s an army that has a special need for really small-caliber weapons.  In the three weeks from September 27 through October 17, for example, TSA confiscated 99 guns, of which 6 were 22 or 25 caliber, but there were also 27 pistols that were 9mm, 40 or 45-caliber, and that’s plenty of firepower for any army, whether in the pay of the President or not.  And the good news is that most of the guns were loaded, 84 of the 99 found over those three weeks, which means that the Presidential militia doesn’t even need to stop off at Dick’s Sporting Goods or Cabela’s to get ready to rumble because gun-toting Americans have made sure that the guns they’re taking on airplanes are ready to go.

Unfortunately for the President, his arsenal seems to be mainly handguns; after all, it’s not all that easy to stash an assault rifle (oops – a modern sporting rifle) into your carry-on before getting on a plane.  But Americans have always been an ingenious lot, so while the Presidential militia may be short on long guns, they’ll have enough explosives to help them carry the day.  In the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport someone walked through the line with a live, 40mm grenade; in Grand Junction there was 6 lbs. of black powder, detonation cords and a timing fuse; and a live blasting cap was found on a passenger in Richmond, Virginia.  I know, I know, they all just ‘forgot’ that they were carrying explosives onto a plane.  When was the last time you forgot that you were carrying explosives? When was the last time you carried explosives anywhere?

Getting back to the would-be passengers whose guns were taken away – know what?  It was clearly a violation of their 2nd Amendment rights.  And worse, they just wanted to bring their Glock into a ‘gun-free zone’ so that the rest of us would be protected from the nuts who figure they can shoot the place up because nobody’s got a gun.  In the light of District of Columbia versus Heller we really need to re-think our policy about allowing guns on planes.  And Obama needs to stop using the TSA to build his secret weapons cache.

Four thousand guns in three years? By the time Obama leaves office the TSA will probably be sitting on 10,000 guns.  Any chance that the TSA will let me buy the whole pile to increase the used gun inventory in my store?

Glenn Beck’s Book: CONTROL

beck

Glenn Beck just published a book about Guns called Control: Exposing the Truth About Guns.  Beck has built an audience for two reasons.  First, he pretends to be loony.  The Bloomberg-Hitler stunt during his NRA speech was right in character.  It’s like going to a NASCAR race and waiting for the crash.  Sooner or later if you can sit there long enough, Beck will say something that’s really nuts.  Second, he always makes you think that you’re going to get the “inside” scoop.  He has this rather charming way of making you believe that he’s discovered something that no one else knows and he wants to share it just with you.

Which is what made me buy this book.  After all, there’s precious little I don’t know about guns.  So if he’s going to expose the truth about guns, maybe there’s something out there that I still need to know.  I should have known better.  The book doesn’t ‘expose’ anything at all.   Beck grabs information from the usual conservative-leaning gun researchers like John Lott and Dave Grossman and he has no trouble shooting down various straw horses like Alan Dershowitz, Chuck Schumer and Stephen King.  Actually, the book is pretty boring; nothing sensational, nothing new.

But there is one recurrent theme that flits in and out of virtually every chapter. And it’s a rather remarkable stance for someone like Beck to take. One of the issues that comes up again and again in the gun debate is whether the United States has more crime and violence than other countries that have more restrictive gun laws.  Some say yes, some say no.  Liberals in favor of gun control point to data that shows that we have many more guns than other countries and much higher homicide levels; conservatives who are against gun control produce evidence that shows our crime rate to be much lower than other countries because we have so many guns.

Beck spends a lot of time comparing criminal data in the US to data from other countries and of course as a conservative he’s at pains to show that, if there’s any correlation between guns and crime, it’s that guns keep us safer and result in less crime.  He’s so committed to this comparative approach that I counted at least 14 times in the first 35 pages where he produced evidence that compared something about guns and crime in the US to something about guns and crime somewhere else.

I’m not really sure if his evidence stacks up.  But what I find interesting is that he would attempt to make any comparisons at all.  I find it interesting because it contradicts a fundamental axiom of current conservative orthodoxy, namely, the notion of American exceptionalism.  Conservatives trot out American exceptionalism at every opportunity, particularly when they can link it to the un-Americanism of liberals starting with Obama and going right down the line.  According to Beck and his cohorts, America is the only country that has ever been endowed by The Creator, Americans (i.e., real Americans) are the only people who enjoy liberty because it was given to them by God, and so on and so forth.

Given this belief in American exceptionalism, why would conservatives like Glenn Beck even care about whether we have more crime or less crime than England, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Sarawak or anyplace else?  And since America is so exceptional, which means it’s really so different, how could any comparison between America and anywhere else tell us anything of value anyway?  Not only are we different from everywhere else, we also can’t learn anything from studying anyone else.  After all, the US is the cradle of liberty and free enterprise.  The rest of the world suffers from various forms of Socialism, Communism, Fascism, Tribalism, Islamicism, God knows what else.

If I were a conservative, to be consistent I wouldn’t care whether we had more or less crime than other countries.  I wouldn’t link any of my thoughts on gun control to experiences around the globe.  I wouldn’t care whether Hitler, Stalin or Mao enslaved the masses, and I certainly wouldn’t assume that just because dictators disarmed their populations in other countries that something like that could happen here.  But if Beck and other conservatives really believe that the American government might take away our guns, the only real example he should point to are the post-Reconstruction laws that were passed in Southern states to take guns away from freed Blacks.

Control: Exposing the Truth About Guns is boring and dull.  And the only reason that Beck’s NRA audience didn’t fall asleep was they hoped and prayed that at some point he’d pull a real Beck.  They weren’t disappointed.