The First Glock To Enter New York.

Sometime in 1983 or 1984 I went to the Kingston, NY gun show with two NYPD gun-nut buddies, Don and Jack. We drove up from ‘da city,’ parked outside the Kingston Armory and spent the next 3-4 hours playing with hundreds of guns, talking to other gun nuts like ourselves, and having a good time.  In those days the Kingston gun show was known as a show where buying a gun and doing any kind of paperwork was considered a contradiction in terms. As for the cops, they could also ‘buy on shield,’ which meant you flashed a badge, gave the guy the cash and you got the gun.

logo glock              At some point I came across a gun I had to have. It was a 4-inch, nickel-plated Smith & Wesson Model 58 revolver, the heavy N-frame gun which shot the 41-magnum load. The 41 mag was and is a great round – not as much kick as the 44 but a real slammer nonetheless. And this gun was really mint.  I counted out $400 bucks as quickly as I could.

Now I’m walking down the aisle, Jack comes up to me, grabs the S&W blue box out from underneath my arm, puts his hands on the Model 58 and says, “I gotta have this gun!”  So we made a deal right there. He gave me what I paid for it and promised that when we got back to New York he would sell me his NYPD black leather duty jacket for $50 bucks. The cops were in the process of shifting from leather patrol jackets to the ugly, crummy velour jackets which they wear today. I think my daughter still has the leather jacket which I got from Jack.

Anyway, so now I’m walking around the show looking for another gun. All of a sudden I’m standing in front of another dealer’s table and there’s my Model 58. What the f—? The dealer said the gun would cost me $400 bucks so I ended up buying the Model 58 twice. (About a year later I traded the 58 for a Colt AR with a full-auto sear courtesy of a guy I knew who worked in the Colt Custom shop on Huyshope Avenue in Hartford, but that’s another story for another time.)

A few minutes after I repurchased the 41 magnum, here comes Jack down the aisle with a couple of other NYPD gun-nuts in tow. They are all handing a gun from one to the other, telling Jack that they don’t believe he got the friggin’ gun, Jack’s standing there basking in the adoration of his friends.

The gun was a semi-automatic pistol, it didn’t have a hammer, the finish looked painted on and was black rather than blue. The grip was some kind of plastic and the slide had these big letters: G-L-O-C-K. I had never seen a Glock before, never held one, never knew there was a pistol that held 16 rounds. And that’s why Jack dumped the Model 58 because he bumped into ‘some guy’ who had walked into the show with this Glock.

Of course Jack’s great joy at being the first member of the NYPD to own a Glock only lasted a week, because when he took the gun down to the License Division to register it (the NYPD required that the guys register all their-personally owned guns, but didn’t have to say exactly how they acquired their guns) he was told that he couldn’t keep a Glock within the city limits because it was a ‘plastic gun’ and would be a security risk if Jack wore the gun when he went through a metal detector in order to testify in Court.

So Jack told Mrs. Skeba (who ran the License Division and nobody messed with Mrs. Skeba) that he would give the gun to ‘brother-in-law’ who lived somewhere out in Jersey near the Woodbridge Mall. And that’s how the first Glock to be registered in New York City quickly came and quickly went.

The world has changed, hasn’t it?

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Think That Gun Owners Really Know Why They Buy Guns? Think Again.

About thirty years ago the gun industry discovered that people who owned guns for hunting and sport were literally dying out. At the same time, European gun makers like Glock and Sig were bringing their guns into the American market and their hi-capacity pistols quickly began displacing the traditional, six-shot revolvers made by Smith & Wesson and Colt.

sig320              The result of this product change was that handguns, which until the 1980s constituted a sizable but nevertheless minority of all guns manufactured and sold, pulled ahead of long guns – rifles and shotguns – to the point that currently pistols outstrip all other gun categories in terms of sales. The only thing that has kept rifle sales even close has been the continued demand for ‘black’ guns (assault-style rifles.)  In fact, were it not for the sale of assault-style rifles, long guns would probably not account for even one-third of all new guns added to the civilian arsenal each year.

The gun industry messaging promoting handguns and assault rifles embraces two points of view. First is the idea that guns can and should be used to protect society from crime. This is such a pervasive attitude in the gun world that the NRA has even copyrighted the phrase ‘the armed citizen©’ so I better make sure to include it whenever I write those words (I just did.) The second argument to promote handgun ownership is that a gun symbolizes the freedoms afforded Americans by the Constitution because the 2nd Amendment gives us the ‘right’ to own a gun.

One or both of these arguments or their variations are found in virtually every pro-gun statement no matter whose mouth utters the words. Both statements popped out of Trump’s mouth at every stop during the 2016 campaign. There’s only one little problem. Neither of these statements bears any relationship to reality at all.  As in none.  Get it?  None.

The idea that guns have a positive social utility because armed citizens protect us from crime has been floating around since God knows when, but the number of people who can honestly state that they used a gun to protect themselves or others from a criminal attack is pathetically small. The NRA invites its members to submit examples of how they or other armed citizens take the law into their own hands, and the website on which they post those stories has never carried more than 400 stories in any one year. Want to calculate the number of defensive gun uses as a percentage of concealed-carry licenses?  Try .00002%.  That’s it.

Talking about concealed-carry licenses, if John Lott and some of the other pro-gun blowhards really believe that the fact that 14 million concealed-carry licenses make America a safer place, why doesn’t he do a survey and ask how many people with CCW are actually walking around with a gun?  I’ll tell you why this esteemed researcher doesn’t do any research on this issue. Because he knows that most people who could carry a handgun don’t want to bother actually carrying the gun. This is because after the thrill wears off they realize that having a lethal device on your person is more trouble than it’s worth.

As for the issue of gun ownership making us ‘free,’ I won’t even comment on the stupidity of that one, despite the fact that there are even some liberal scholars who hold and promote that point of view. But this argument remains a potent source of pro-gun rhetorical energy because who would dare argue with motherhood, apple pie or the Bill of Rights?

Gun-control advocates should stop citing all these evidence-based studies which prove beyond any doubt that access to guns represents a risk because the other side isn’t interested in evidence at all. They’ll cling to their pro-gun notions for the simple reason that when it comes to forming or holding strong beliefs, emotions override facts every, single time. Don’t believe me? Ask that laid-off factory worker whether he still believes that Trump will bring back his job.

Has The Number Of Gun Dealers Declined? Not Lately.

Our friends at the Violence Policy Center (VPC) have just released a new report which details a 77% decline in federal gun dealers since 1994, which they believe reduces the number of dealers who might be “a known source of weapons for criminal gun traffickers.”  Exactly how large a role FFL-dealers actually play in pushing guns into the ‘wrong hands’ has never been adequately analyzed or explained, but looking for any piece of silver lining when it comes to regulating guns in the Age of Trump isn’t a bad thing.

vpc             The only problem with this particular piece of silver lining, however, is that the data actually gives a somewhat different perspective on the whole issue of FFL-dealers than what the VPC would like us to believe. Because while it is true that the number of FFL licenses has declined by more than two-thirds over the past twenty years, the number has actually increased by more than ten percent in the last nine years.

And why has there been an increase in FFL dealers after the drop in license-holders after 1994?  Remember this guy named Obama and a doubling in gun sales beginning in 2008? Remember an even greater sales increase after the 2012 tragedy at Sandy Hook and an abortive attempt to widen NICS-FBI background checks to cover secondary sales?  Between 2007 and 2016 the number of gun dealers increased in 38 of the 50 states.  North Carolina dropped from 6,486 dealers in 1994 to 1,327 in 2007, but FFLs in the Tar Heel State are back up to 1,921, an increase of 45%!  In South Carolina the numbers went from 2,332 in 1994 down to 529 in 2007 and now back up to 886, not a bad jump in just nine years.

The real reason that FFLs dropped so steeply after 1994 (mentioned in the VPC report) was the cost of the license went up from $30 to $200, which meant that many of the pre-94 dealers were not really in business so a 700% increase for the license fee was just too steep. But it’s not as if the Treasury Department lost any money when all those guys buying guns for themselves at wholesale prices gave up the ghost. The license fees under the pre-94 regime would have generated around 7 million bucks.  When the fee went to $200 the revenue from the 56,000 current dealers amounted to 11 million and change.

The fact that there are roughly one-quarter the number of FFL-holders today as compared to 1994 says absolutely nothing about the relationship between the number of dealers who actually sell guns to consumers as opposed to selling guns to themselves or to a few friends.  Even with the ATF’s backslapping about their vaunted programs to keep dealers in line, probably no more than 5,000 dealers are actually bringing new inventory to the civilian market and thus might be contributing to the spread of crime guns.

Where do I get that number?  It’s simple – just go to the website of Smith & Wesson or Glock or one of the other gun manufacturers and do a search for their stocking dealers in any particular state.  Gun makers go out of their way to promote product sales by listing every dealer who stocks and sells their wares.  Glock lists 272 dealers in North Carolina and the ATF says there are 1,921 FFL-holders in the state.  Smith & Wesson has about 50 dealers in its home state of Massachusetts and there are 386 active FFLs in the Bay State.

If you want to write about regulating any industry you need to know how to figure out how to understand the industry itself.  And you’re not going to get a complete view by using information created outside the industry by regulators like the ATF. Remember, in the Age of Trump it doesn’t matter whether anything is based on facts or not. All the more reason why folks who don’t share his love of the gun industry need to know how that industry really works.

 

The Government Issues A New Report On Safe-Gun Technology Which Moves The Discussion Backwards.

It’s official.  The newspaper of record, a.k.a. The New York Times, has just announced its support of a new government statement on safe-gun technology which probably represents the last thing the Obama Administration has to say about guns.  And if The New York Times believes that this report is the non-plus-ultra statement about safe guns, then this must be a very solid and very impressive report.  In fact, it’s not.

safegunThe report is an amateurish cut-and-paste job which was obviously put together so that someone deep inside the bowels of the Department of Justice could complete some end-of-year checklist and get on with looking for a new job. But of course once The New York Times gives this report its official imprimatur you can bet this shabby effort to make something out of nothing will become the new argument for adoption of safe-gun technologies, an argument that has been floating around for more than 20 years under the guise of how digital innovation can help us be safe with guns.

Entitled “Baseline Specifications for Law Enforcement Service Pistols with Security Technology,” the report is an effort to nudge the safe-gun discussion a little further by setting out design and performance standards that would have to be met by any manufacturer hoping to sell such a product to any federal agency whose personnel carries guns.  Actually, since the document is not any kind of official RFP, it represents no legal or practical advance at all.  For the most part the text consists of nothing more than a combination of the government’s handgun performance criteria which will be used to possibly adopt a new military handgun sometime in the future, along with design specifications which were taken from an RFP issued by the FBI for a new pistol awarded to Glock.

Buried near the end of the report is a brief section which describes the safe-gun technology itself except that all it basically says is that some kind of ‘security device’ will be a permanent part of the gun, will be programmable and may include something worn by the operator, like a wristband or a ring.  By the way, if the security device ‘malfunctions’ the gun will still work.

Now I thought the whole point of safe-gun technology is to prevent a gun from being used at any time except by someone digitally authorized to use the gun. But the problem with these digital gizmos is they need some kind of power source which comes from a battery and batteries wear out.  Is the average cop going to check to make sure while he’s on the job that the gizmo is always ready to go? He won’t, which is exactly why the gun defaults to being used by anyone which is exactly why nobody’s going to adopt this gun.

The NYT Editorial Board says this report is a positive step forward in the development of safe-gun technology because it creates “industry standards for reliable battery power in a smart gun, for ensuring unhindered speed in drawing the weapon and for the distance allowed between the gun and its owner’s ID device.”  In fact, what the report does is give the gun lobby an excellent opportunity to once again claim that gun-grabbing bureaucrats will find any reason to take away our guns.  The NRA called the report another example of “empty gestures meant to placate a gun control constituency that was disappointed Congress had spurned efforts to restrict Second Amendment rights.,” and went on to list several parts of the report (beyond what I mentioned above) which demonstrated the lack of substance and understanding about the actual use of safe guns.

The gun industry opposes safe-gun technology because it fights any effort to reduce gun violence through government mandates, government regulations or anything else that interferes with the industry’s ability to control the kinds of products it decides to put out for sale.  But the gun violence prevention community shouldn’t make it any easier for the gun lobby to pursue its aims, and the decision of the NYT Editorial Board to promote this report moves the safe-gun argument in a direction it shouldn’t take.

 

What’s Gun-Sense Nation Going To Do Under The Trump Regime? Not Back Down, That’s For Sure.

Now that the dust has settled and the smoke cleared, Gun-sense Nation has to figure out how to move forward during the presidency of Donald Trump. Back when nobody realized how much Nate Silver’s predictions were nothing more than hot air on toast, there was almost a giddy-like atmosphere among gun violence prevention (GVP) advocates imagining an unthinkable political alignment of Hillary in the White House and a Chuck Schumer-led Senate on Capitol Hill.  Expanded background checks, banning assault rifles, scrapping PLCAA, anything was possible. No wonder Smith & Wesson lost nearly $300 million in market value over the last three days.  Who needs to buy another gun now that the gun-grabbers have been banished for good?

gun control          Except they haven’t been banished at all.  Just because the 2nd Amendment gives Americans the Constitutional right to own a gun, doesn’t mean there’s any Constitutional requirement to buy a gun.  So it’s back to the drawing board, this time with a sharpened understanding that social change, serious social change, profoundly serious social change is never a process that takes place overnight. The task is long, arduous and rife with unanticipated twists and turns of all kinds.  So if you came into this process because someone promised you a rose garden, you should have stayed home.

After all, what are we talking about when we use the term ‘gun violence?’  Most people define it by the number of victims killed (35,000+) or injured (75,000+) each year with guns. But it’s much more than that.  Guns, owning guns and using guns represents a national culture in this country, one of the most powerful and deep-rooted cultural traditions that this country ever had.  And I’m not just thinking about Kit Carson and Daniel Boone using their Kentucky long rifles to open the frontier, or General Patton saying that the M-1 Garand was the “greatest battle implement of all time,” or Clint sticking his 44-magum in the bad guy’s face and saying, “Go ahead, make my day.” No other country celebrates Christmas by sticking a b-b gun under the Yule tree, no other country spends upwards of $6 billion each year on video games that let someone shoot someone else with a Glock. And of course this is the only country in the entire world which gives just about all its citizens free access to real guns.

And that’s exactly the point.  Because there would be no gun violence, not a single death or injury, if there were no guns.  So we can argue amongst ourselves about which regulation or which law will reduce gun violence a bit here or there. And I’m not trying to say or imply that new regulations are no better than no regulations at all.  What I am saying is that really reducing gun violence will require a massive cultural change, and it’s not the kind of cultural change which GVP advocates blithely refer to when, for example, they throw up the ‘success’ of something like MADD.

Because nobody in their right mind would ever argue that getting into a car drunk is a good thing.  But plenty of Americans, probably a majority of Americans, now believe that owning a gun makes you safe.  So changing this culture is not just changing how we think about guns, it’s changing how we think about why we need to have guns, and you don’t change culture by citing this statistic or that.

A solid piece of new research shows that 10 million gun owners have entered the gun market over the last twenty years. These people, and the folks who may be thinking about coming into the gun market perhaps represent a population whose views on gun culture are not yet firmly fixed. Gun-sense Nation needs to reach this audience and help create an alternate culture in which guns are neither necessary or even relevant to the real issues faced by people in their daily lives. And this task lies ahead.

Know Who You Are Protecting If You Walk Around With A Gun? Nobody.

If there’s one favorite Gun-nut Nation idea that I can’t stand, it’s the notion that we should all be out there protecting ourselves and everyone else by walking around with a gun. And a certain mystique has now developed about what is sometimes referred to as ‘citizen protectors,’ and while the concept has a certain cultish element involved in its spread, the truth is that it’s just a scam marketing strategy developed by the gun industry and promoted by scam media influencers to sell more guns.  And the reason I call all this self-protection with guns a scam is very simple; not a single one of the outfits which promote the idea of everyone becoming a ‘citizen-protector’ has ever backed the idea that carrying a concealed weapon should first require a proficiency test of any kind.

torso-target           Of course all these newly-anointed defensive gun-use instructors will tell you that it’s important to train, train and train. And they all back up this message about the importance of training with live training courses, online courses, CD-ROM courses, you name it and there’s a training product out there for you to buy.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying that people who walk around with a legal gun in their pocket represent a threat to themselves or to someone else. Gun owners in general tend to be very law-abiding; gun owners who apply for a carry-concealed license (CCW) even more so. What I am saying is that letting gun owners walk around thinking that they can protect anyone without first proving a high level of proficiency and then renewing that proof on a regular basis is nothing more than a fraudulent appeal to the most ignorant emotions that humans possess.  And when I say ‘proving’ proficiency, I’m not talking about letting someone stand in front of stationery, paper target and drill a few holes.  I was doing that at a Coney Island shooting gallery when I was twelve years old.

I currently teach the handgun safety course in my state that is required in order to apply for a license to own a gun.  The license without any additional coursework of any kind also allows concealed-carry of a gun.  So you can get a license, buy a Glock and stick it in your pocket without actually having fired your pistol, not even once.  And a most states grant CCW without a proficiency test of any kind.

I have a small range in my gun shop and even though the course does not mandate live fire, I make all the students shoot a pistol so that at least they will better understand the safety issues involved in handling a gun.  First every student fires a magazine of 22-caliber ammo with a Ruger SR-22.  Then they move to the other lane and shoot two rounds with a 9mm Glock.  They shoot the Glock on command and have two seconds to put at least one of the two shots within a 9-inch circle on a torso target fifteen feet away. If they get one of two rounds into the circle within two seconds they pass; otherwise they fail.  They still get their course certificates even if they fail this drill because, remember, my state grants CCW without proficiency certification of any kind.

Of the 131 students who have done this drill so far, 4 have passed.  That’s right, three percent of the folks who will be able to carry a gun around to protect themselves and others have demonstrated the most minimal ability to use a gun in self-defense. And the target that most of them missed completely was standing still.

So the next time that someone tells you that concealed-carry is a good thing, ask them how come the NRA and everyone else in Gun-nut Nation is opposed to these citizen-protectors having to prove their competency with a gun.  Oh, I forgot. Allowing the government to decide anything about how I use my guns is a violation of my 2nd-Amendment rights.

It’s Not Just Keeping Guns Out Of The Wrong Hands, It’s Keeping The Wrong Guns Out Of Everyone’s Hands.

My first introduction to the gun business was 1965 in North Carolina working for my Uncle Ben.  Like all my immigrant relatives, Ben had been in the iron-mongering business back in the Old Country, so when he came to America he opened a junk yard where he traded scrap metal this for scrap metal that. At some point he started manufacturing a small, 22-caliber revolver which he sold to pawn shops for $15 bucks; the pawnbrokers then resold this little piece of junk for $24.95. This gun was a quintessential ‘Saturday Night Special,’ which might fire one or two shots before it broke.

 

            Glock 43

Glock 43

So here we are, fifty years later, and Uncle Ben’s cheap, little piece of junk for $24.95 has been replaced by, among other models, the Glock 43, which retails for somewhere around five hundred bucks.  But the Glock 43, which is actually smaller and more concealable than Uncle Ben’s crummy, little gun, isn’t a 22-caliber revolver with a capacity of six shots.  It’s an extremely-lethal 9mm pistol which holds seven rounds and with a magazine extension the capacity goes up to nine. If you’re not enamored with Glock, other gun companies like Ruger and Kahr make 9mm pistols which are basically the same capacity and size.

What has happened to the gun business over the last half century is the guns have gotten smaller, lighter, more concealable and much more lethal.  When Franklin Zimring did a study of the calibers found in 1,115 gun attacks in Chicago in 1970, he found that gun attacks with 38-caliber weapons were more than twice as fatal as attacks committed with 22-caliber guns.  When the California Department of Justice published a list of calibers that caused gun injuries in 2009, five times as many guns were used in high-powered calibers like 9mm, 40 S&W and 45 acp than guns chambered for the 22.  You simply can’t compare the damage to human tissue caused by a 9mm round as opposed to a 22-caliber shell. The latter can be lethal if, and only if the shooter is either extremely lucky or is a very good shot.  As for a 9mm or a 40 round, if it hits you anywhere except in your earlobe, you’re going down.

Back in 1968 and again 1994, we passed gun-control laws based on the idea that we could reduce gun violence by keeping guns out of the ‘wrong’ hands.  Which meant keeping guns away from people whose background and behavior indicated that they might represent a threat to public safety or themselves if they could get their hands on a gun.  The current effort to extend background checks to secondary sales is an effort to strengthen our ability to identify more ‘wrong’ hands, as are the strategies designed to tighten the regulatory environment in which gun dealers operate so as to keep ‘bad apple’ dealers from selling guns to people with ‘wrong hands.’

I happen to believe that this approach, while necessary, actually doesn’t respond to the primary cause of gun violence, namely, the degree to which most guns sold today are capable of being used to commit a much higher level of gun violence than ever before.  There is a bill before Congress that recognizes the lethality of assault rifles and is an effort to revive the assault-weapons ban that expired in 2004.  But while this law reflects concerns about the lethality of the AR-style gun, pro-gun advocates are not wrong when they say that, mass shootings notwithstanding, injuries caused by AR-15’s are relatively few and far between.

Know what causes most of the 115,000+ fatal and non-fatal gun injuries each year? It’s those small but powerful handguns which are increasingly the weapons of choice for most Americans who own guns. So instead of spending all our time, energy and money trying to keep guns out of the wrong hands, shouldn’t we also be trying to figure out how to keep the wrong guns out of everyone’s hands?