What’s Wrong With Armed, Self-Defense?

              When I got into the gun business back in the 1960’s, if you wanted to buy a handgun, you bought a Smith & Wesson, a Ruger or a Colt. If you wanted a shotgun, you chose from Remington, Winchester, Mossberg or maybe Ithaca Arms. And if you needed a rifle to go out after a white tail, it was a Remington 700, a Winchester Model 70, a Savage, a Marlin or maybe you went high end with a Browning or a Weatherby just for kicks.

              That was then, this is now. And thanks to the invasion of polymer into gun manufacturing, which completely obliterated the distinctive finish and design of each brand, the only thing which determines what gun goes across the counter in the dealer’s shop is price. If you walked around a gun factory in the olden days, you saw a whole bunch of craft shops operating under one roof. Now what you see is one guy sitting in front of a computer, locking a trigger, hammer and barrel assembly into a frame, then carrying the gun from the finishing room into the range where someone shoots it two or three times and it’s good to go.

              Yesterday I received the monthly sales sheet from one of the national gun wholesalers, and I didn’t recognize the name of one company producing a gun being sold to retailers by this distributor at a ‘bargain’ price.  Ever hear of a gun company called TriStar? How about an outfit called Canik? Maybe instead of a name-brand assault rifle like Bushmaster you’d rather buy an AR receiver from Aero Precision, Anderson Manufacturing or a company called Spike’s.

              In all the hue and cry coming from Gun-control Nation, I have never understood why guns are the only consumer products which somehow escape being regulated both in terms of safety and use. Oh no, you say – we can’t regulate the gun industry thanks to the PLCAA law the gun industry received as a gift from George W. Bush in 2005. But as David Kopel has pointed out (and Kopel is no friend of the gun grabbers), PLCCA does not shield the gun industry from any liability if someone uses a gun in a ‘lawful’ way and injures someone else. In other words, after I pull out my Glock and shoot you in the head, I still have done nothing wrong if I can just convince the cops that I was protecting myself from a threat.

              This idea that we should all be carrying guns to protect ourselves has a long and storied history in the United States, going back to when we were still a bunch of colonies operating under British Common Law. But Common Law doesn’t recognize the use of violence to prevent violence unless you happen to be wearing a Crown on your head. And the idea that ‘stand your ground’ laws reflect how White men stole land away from indigenous tribes is total nonsense because White men stole millions of square miles from indigenous peoples in Australia and South Africa and neither country has ever promulgated a ‘stand your ground’ law.

              I am still waiting for the very first attempt by all my public-health researcher friends to explain how and why a majority of Americans believe that keeping a gun around is the best way to defend themselves from crime. As of last year, Gallup says that 37% of American homes contain a gun.  Meanwhile, a majority of Americans also told Gallup they believed the country would be a safer place if more people were walking around with guns. Think the NRA is the reason why even many non-gun owners believe in armed, self-defense? It’s the other way around.

              This country has a unique love affair with small arms, and I’m in the process of writing a book that will attempt to explain it but don’t hold your breath. I don’t even really understand why I’m a gun nut, so how could I possibly figure out anyone else?

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Do Safe-Storage Laws Protect Our Kids?

A group of medical researchers have just published a JAMA article about the effectiveness of child-access prevention (CAP) laws, which are also referred to as safe-storage laws. You can download the article right here. Or you can go to JAMA and read it there.  Either way, this is an important article for two reasons:

  1. CAP laws have become a priority with all gun-control organizations and now exist in 27 states.
  2. For the first time, we have a major piece of gun-violence research which clarifies the definition of ‘child.’

Most gun studies define children as being 0 to 20 years old.  The articles cited in the above link to Giffords use 17 and 20 as the maximum age for their studies. But virtually all 50 states grant hunting licenses to anyone above the age of 15, so to refer to them as ‘children’ is nothing more than an attempt to make the problem of gun injury worse than it is, since most gun injuries, intentional or unintentional, occur after the age of 14. To the credit of the researchers who wrote this JAMA piece, they use the age of 14 as their cut-off point.

Here’s the headline: “more-stringent CAP laws were associated with statistically significant relative reductions in pediatric firearm fatalities. Negligence laws, but not recklessness laws, were associated with reductions in firearm fatalities.” Fine – all well and good. But as usual, the devil’s in the details and I noticed one detail which remains unexplained.

This study looked at changes in gun injuries to children beginning in 1991 and ending in 2016, with the before-and-after comparison being set at 1997 when injury rates began to decline in both CAP and non-CAP states. Over the next eleven years – from 1998 through 2008, the decline was greater in the non-CAP states. Only after 2008 do injury rates in CAP states continue to level off (although they do not continue any downward trend) whereas injury rates in non-CAP states show an increase over the last few years.

The research team carefully explains a number of factors that might influence the results, such as an awareness of CAP laws, misclassification of data, etc. But what they don’t discuss is possible explanations for the decline of child gun injuries in non-CAP jurisdictions. A decline which, until 2008, was almost the same in both CAP and non-CAP states.

If you want to understand the effects of any law designed to require a certain type of behavior, at the very least you need to compare the effects of that law to whether or not the same behavior changed in places where the law didn’t exist. But there is also a bigger issue involved with this research.

The researchers make a distinction between laws which deal with access of children to guns in terms of ‘negligence’ (not locking the gun up or away) to ‘recklessness,’ which basically means that someone took a gun out of safe storage and used it in a stupid or careless way.

I happen to live in the state – Massachusetts – which has the most stringent CAP law of all states with such laws. The law states that unless the gun is under ‘direct control’ by a qualified (licensed) individual, it must either be fitted with a ‘tamper-proof device’ or be locked away at all times. No exceptions of any kind.

Guess what happens? The guy is fooling around with his gun in the living room; his son is playing a board game with a friend on the floor. Phone rings in the kitchen, guy jumps up to answer the phone but leaves the gun behind. Kid picks up the gun, points it at his friend – boom!  This act of utter recklessness, which cost an 8-year old his leg (but at least he’s still alive) was committed by a long-time veteran cop who had served his town with distinction for more than 20 years.

I want to commend the authors of this piece for bringing some important clarity to the CAP debate. I also want to remind them and everyone else that we don’t require seat belts for guns.

Here Comes Bernie With Or Without His Guns.

              Now that Crazy Bern seems to be moving into a commanding lead in the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination, a lead that may well get him near to the brass ring on Super Tuesday, which happens to be just one week away, his record on guns and gun-control laws comes up because he has always been pictured as being too ‘soft’ on guns.

              The image of a pro-gun Bernie was used by Hillary in 2016, even though when she campaigned against Obama in 2008, he was the gun-control candidate while she waxed lyrical of going out hunting with her father in the woods. How much reality was there behind her attempts to appear comfortable with 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ God only knows. But she had no trouble jumping to the other side of the fence once she discovered that her 2016 primary opponent was himself something of a pro-gun guy.

              What vote was used in 2016 and again this year to paint Crazy Bernie as a stooge of the NRA?  The first pro-gun vote he cast was against the Brady bill, the second time he voted in favor of the PLCCA which immunizes the gun industry from class-action suits. In both instances, Bernie justified his vote on the fact that he represented a rural, gun-owning state. In fairness to him, it should be noted that Vermont’s Democratic Senator, Pat Leahy, also voted against the Brady bill.

              I happen to think that this attempt to paint Sanders into a corner over his record and views on gun control is a dead duck before it ever gets off the ground. To begin, if Bernie has flip-flopped on certain gun-control measures, how do you compare what he has done this year to what Hillary did in 2016? When she ran against Obama in 2008 she sent mailers around before the Indiana primary accusing her opponent of being ‘soft’ on ‘gun rights.’ In 2016 she not only went after Crazy Bern for being pro-gun, she made gun control one of the building-blocks of her entire campaign. If anyone in Gun-control Nation found her shift from pro-gun to anti-gun a little difficult to believe, all I can say is they voiced their concerns in a very quiet way.

              Where does Bernie stand right now on guns? He’s in favor of universal background checks, red flag laws, and co-sponsored the current assault rifle ban which will go nowhere at all. He is also a co-sponsor of Dick Blumenthal’s bill (S. 1939) to repeal PLCCA. At various campaign stops, Joe has gone after Bernie for voting against the Brady bill in 1994.  Criticizing someone for a vote cast twenty-five years ago is like using the Paleozoic era to define political time.

              What I find most interesting about the gun issue in 2020 is the degree to which it has become much less of an issue than it was in 2016. There was a little dust-up from Gun-nut Nation when Beto O’Rourke proposed an assault weapons buy-back plan, but when his campaign ran out of gas and money in November, the issue was politely shelved.

              There have been two federal gun laws passed in my lifetime: GCA68 and Brady in 1993. Both laws came about because a liberal President from a Southern state was able to count on blue majorities in both the Senate and the House. It should also be remembered that the genesis of both laws was the successful assassination of one President and the unsuccessful assassination of another. I’m not a Trump fan by any means, but I certainly wouldn’t want to see him shot. For that matter, the odds that both houses of Congress will return blue in 2021 is far from assured.

              No Democratic Presidential candidate will say anything about gun control other than supporting the standard legislative proposals that have been flopping around now for more than twenty years. So, if anyone in Gun-control Nation thinks they should decide how to vote because of how the candidates differ on guns control, they might want to think again.

Don’t Ban Guns. Just Ban The Ammunition.

              Ever since my late friend Tony Scalia decided that the 2nd Amendment protected the personal ownership of guns, Gun-nut Nation has been falling over themselves reminding everyone that any attempt to regulate gun ownership is an infringement of their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ Now the fact that a Constitutional Amendment isn’t a ‘right’ of any kind, so what?  It still sounds good.

              Meanwhile, the Scalia opinion does create some problems for Gun-control Nation because the last thing that any liberal wants to be accused of, is being against the Constitution. After all,  wasn’t it a very liberal Constitutional scholar, Sandy Levinson, who reminded us liberals that if we want to use the Constitution to protect free speech, we also have to use it to protect private ownership of guns?

              But it occurs to me that in all this talk about what the 2nd Amendment means or doesn’t mean, there’s one thing for sure that it doesn’t cover. Nowhere in the Constitution can we find the slightest mention of ammunition, and since it’s the ammunition which is what really causes all those gun injuries every year, who cares about whether or not everyone can walk around with a gun?  Just ban the ammunition for those guns; there’s absolutely no Constitutional protection for ammunition at all.

              Hey, wait a minute! How can you have a gun without ammo?  How can you use a gun without ammo?  I play around and shoot unloaded guns all the time. Last night I was watching one of my favorite movies, The Usual Suspects, and every time that Kevin Pollak (Hockney) or Stephen Baldwin (McManus) stuck his gun in someone’s face, I raised my Sig 226 and shot the guy dead.  I have probably pulled the trigger of my Sig or my Colt Python thousands of times sitting on my couch and nobody’s ever gotten hurt. You show me a gun-nut who doesn’t dry fire his guns all the time and I’ll show you a gun-nut whose wife made him sell all the guns.

              If you take the trouble to read Scalia’s Heller opinion, you’ll note that he makes a distinction between guns that have always been found in the home, as opposed to ‘unusual’ weapons; i.e., weapons of war. The former are protected by the 2nd Amendment, the latter not. So, in making a somewhat arbitrary definition of civilian versus military arms, his opinion rests on what he and other conservative judges call the ‘originalist’ interpretation of legal texts. But when it comes to the ammunition used by these so-called personally-owned guns, the argument falls flat on its face.

              The most popular ammunition caliber currently sold to civilians who own all those self-defense guns is the 9mm caliber, sometimes called 9×19, sometimes called 9mm Luger, but whatever it’s called, it was designed specifically for military use. The inventor of this caliber was Georg Luger, who also happened to be the inventor of the Luger pistol, a.k.a., the P-08. The gun and the ammunition were standard issue to the German Army from 1900 until 1943.

              Want the second most popular ammunition caliber? It is probably the 45acp round that was developed by John Browning for his Colt 1911 pistol, the military sidearm for the U.S. Army until 1976.  Both the 9mm and 45acp calibers were developed for one reason and one reason only – to give soldiers and other armed forces a highly-lethal round that could be carried in a handgun.  Now if anyone out there wants to claim that ammunition developed for the sole purpose of killing human beings is a ‘sporting’ round, go right ahead.

              It seems to me that if my friends in Gun-control Nation really want to get serious about reducing gun violence, they might consider coming up with a plan that will strictly regulate the ownership of ammunition because those products don’t have any Constitutional protection at all.

              Of course, I can just see my Gun-nut Nation friends starting to yell and scream about ‘threats’ to their ammunition ‘rights.’ Good. Let ‘em yell and scream.

Join Americans Against Gun Violence.

              Before I begin this column, I need to make it clear that I am not an advocate for either side in the gun debate. The fact that I agree and promote many gun-control strategies doesn’t make me a hostage of Mike Bloomberg, nor am I a stooge for the NRA jut because I have been a member of the organization since I was eleven years old. On the other hand, when I discover an organizational development that fits my perspective for what to do about gun violence, I’m not going to hold back.

              And what I recently discovered was an organization, Americans Against Gun Violence, started by a retired ER doctor in California, Bill Durston, who just happens to be a former Marine decorated for ‘courage under fire’ during the Viet Nam war. Bill started his group because he would like to see ‘definitive action’ taken against gun violence, and while he and his members support the ‘reasonable’ public measures being advocated by other organizations – background checks, red-flag laws, blah, blah, blah and blah, this group also has a much different agenda.

              To put it bluntly: what Bill and his folks say is that we will reduce gun violence by doing the same thing that every other advanced country has done; namely, create a national database of gun ownership and initiate ‘definitive’ (i.e., severely restrictive) policies, such as banning assault rifles, creating a national gun database – exactly the kinds of policies which everyone knows will reduce gun violence but are policies usually considered too unyielding to be bought by the gun-owning crowd.

              Where Dunston’s group departs from the accepted, gun-control narrative can be found in their response to the very first question under the FAQ tab: “Should law-abiding people own guns for self-protection?” Answer: “In general, no.” They don’t say that people should be walking around with guns after they have been ‘trained.’ They don’t say that everyone has a ‘right’ to keep a gun for self-protection because of what my late friend Tony Scalia said in 2008. They say – no. Which makes this group the only gun-control group that is willing to take an entirely uncompromising position with Gun-nut Nation over the issue of using a gun for personal defense.

              I started writing about gun violence when I got sick and tired of the gun industry trying to maintain full employment in their factories by promoting the nonsense about how everyone would be more safe and secure if they walked around with a gun. And to make sure that the gun industry wouldn’t be accused of promoting unsafe behavior, they got the NRA to ramp up their training program which now focuses on what the boys in Fairfax call ‘Basic Shooting Pistol,’ a course that prepares someone to use a pistol in self-defense with the same degree of proficiency they would get if they took a lesson from Leonard Mermelstein, who happens to be my cat.

              If the NRA would promote what I consider to be the proper use of guns; i.e., hunting and sport shooting, they’d get no argument from me. But pretending that the only difference between a video shooting game and a live gun is that you have to pass a background check to spend money on the latter, is to foist a marketing scheme on current and would-be gun owners that is completely and totally wrong. Not just wrong, but unsafe to the extreme.

              Unfortunately, most of the gun-control organizations, along with their friends in medicine and public health, find one way or another to somehow avoid taking this direct and no-nonsense approach. Which is why I find the intentions and efforts of Americans Against Gun Violence to be commendable in every respect and I urge you to do what I have just done.

              Which is to join up, send them a donation and help keep them in the game.

How Do We Make Schools Safe?

              Our friend Shannon Watts is back in the news again because her parent organization, Everytown, has joined with the two major teachers’ unions – AFT and NEA – to raise concerns about the value of active shooter drills which are now performed in 95% of all public schools. This follows a report on school safety issued by Everytown last year, which outlined some basic strategies endorsed by the unions who represent most of the teachers working in the 132,000 public schools every day.

              School security has become a major issue because some of the worst mass shootings – Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland – have occurred in both elementary and high schools. And while a school building is still a very safe place, our friends in Fairfax and other loony-tunes gun nuts have been pushing the idea of arming teachers and conducting exercises to protect teachers and students from shooters, usually referred to as lockdown drills.

              When I was in the 5th grade, we had to squat down under our desks because the Russians were going to drop an atomic bomb on our city and lying down underneath our desks would protect us from harm.  I enjoyed these drills because it gave me an opportunity to fool around with my seat-mate Brenda, who had been left behind twice and was therefore already somewhat physically endowed.  I had absolutely no idea who the Russians were or what the term ‘atomic bomb’ really meant. I didn’t know and I didn’t care. All I really cared about was trying to cop a quick feel from Brenda without Mrs. Morse interfering in our fun.

              The lockdown drills now being conducted by a security industry are very unlike what I did to keep myself from being immolated by an atomic bomb. The drills require students to simulate a situation in which a shooter is roaming through their school, complete with warnings from teachers, maybe viewing a life-size replica of someone who has been shot, lining up and running out of the building in a minute or less. The companies which provide this service are now raking in more than $3 billion every year. Meanwhile, the kids often suffer from all kinds of psychologically-damaging reactions, and there’s no evidence that these drills make  schools safer or more secure.

              Shannon gave a solid interview on behalf of the new Everytown report. She was speaking on behalf of Everytown, but when it comes to school safety, she knows what she’s talking about because she also runs MOMS. And the MOMS organization must count at least several million mothers whose children attend school. So, when Shannon says that she hears again and again about kids who were terrified because they had to take part in lockdown drills, she isn’t just pushing out some alarmist messaging designed to raise more funds.

              Right after Sandy Hook, the boys from Fairfax rolled out a school safety program called School Shield, which went nowhere fast. The program involved doing safety audits of school sites, training teachers to watch for threats, hardening school premises with better locks, more alarms and stronger doors. Nobody who is seriously concerned about school safety paid attention to this PR stunt because, after all, the NRA has been promoting the elimination of gun-free zones such as schools for years.

              I have no issue with the security measures being promoted by Everytown which are endorsed by the AFT and the NEA. But perhaps as they move forward in this program, they might want to think of one more safety initiative as well.

              Most school systems now have curricular attention being paid to violence, but the violence is usually defined as bullying or other forms of personal, physical abuse. Why not widen the definition of violence to include teaching the kids about the risk of guns? After all, there isn’t a school system anywhere that doesn’t expose its students to the risks of smoking, drugs, obesity and unprotected sex. So why should gun violence remain, as they say, the odd man out?

The Dumbest Pro-Gun Legislator This Year – So Far.

              I used to think that Matt Goetz (R-FL) was the dumbest pro-gun politician in America because when he was a State Senator, he introduced a bill that would have made a business owner financially liable if his premises were a gun-free zone and a customer got shot because some jerk walked in, yanked out a banger and went bang. But I am beginning to think that maybe Goetz has been upended by a State legislator from Michigan, Beau LaFave, who had two guns, a handgun and an assault rifle, stolen from his residence last week.

Just because someone has guns stolen out of their home doesn’t necessarily mean that they deserve the Dumbest Pro-Gun Legislator Award (and yes, we also give out an award to the dumbest gun-control public figure each year.) But in LaFave’s case, his being situated at the lowest point on the left side of the bell curve is much more a function of what he did before the theft took place, and what he said after he lost his guns.

              Back on January 29, just before Michigan’s Governor, Gretchen Whitmer, delivered her State of the State address, this jerk walked into the State Capitol with an AR-15 slung over his shoulder to protest what he claims are her “proposed unconstitutional gun laws.” Whitmer has proposed a red-flag law which is bottled up in some committee; she is also on record favoring some kind of assault rifle ban, although she claims to have no issue with state residents who own guns for self-protection or sport.

              What does LaFave really want when it comes to gun laws?  He probably doesn’t want any new laws. After all, Michigan already requires background checks for private handgun sales. Isn’t that enough? The fact that the state does not require persons convicted of domestic abuse to surrender their firearms even if they are prohibited from owning guns should be reason enough to consider the passage of a red-flag law. But according to LaFave, all a red-flag law would do would be to disarm all those law-abiding state residents who have the ‘right’ to own a gun.

              So, over the weekend, while LaFave was out wandering around, someone broke into his home and stole the AR-15 that he carried into the State Capitol building, along with a .40-caliber handgun. The two guns were nestled side by side in the clothing chest drawer where LaFave keeps his underwear and socks.

              Punto Stupido Numero Uno: The guns weren’t locked up. The guns weren’t locked away. Want to break into someone’s house and find something valuable in 30 seconds or less? Start by looking through the clothing drawers – that’s the first lesson in Burglary 101. Why weren’t his guns locked or locked away? Because according to LaFave, he needed to be able to get his hands on his guns just in case he needed to “access them quickly.”

              Punto Stupido Numero Dos: Right after LaFave pranced around the Capitol building he tweeted a picture of himself with his trusty gun. That’s what he did. You don’t go to all the trouble of making a complete fool out of yourself and then forget to make sure that everyone is reminded as to exactly what a dope you happen to be.

              Did it ever occur to this idiot that maybe, just maybe he was telling everyone that if they took the trouble to break into his house, they might find a stash of guns? In talking to reporters, LaFave denied there was any connection between his self-promoting armed march through the State Capitol and the theft of his guns. Yea, right. No connection at all.

              My friends in Gun-nut Nation still seem unable to accept the fact that somehow, don’t ask me how, every single gun used to commit a fatal or non-fatal gun assault was first bought by someone who could legally own a gun. So how do these guns wind up in the hands of people who commit an act of gun violence against someone other than themselves? 

              I can guarantee you that the guy who swiped the guns from Beau LaFave isn’t some gun hobbyist who just wanted to add two bangers to his private collection. And Beau did everything he could, including advertising the guns on his Twitter account, to make sure that his guns ended up in the wrong hands.

The Bloomberg Super Bowl Ad Got It Right.

Since everyone else seems to be shooting off about Mike Bloomberg’s Super Bowl ad, I might as well inject my two cents into the discussion as well. I not only liked the ad, the fact that he used some questionable data about how many children are killed each year with guns didn’t bother me at all. Given how far from reality most narratives stray that are promoted by Gun-nut Nation about their so-called gun ‘rights,’ so what if Mike’s advertisement claimed that 19-year olds were just kids?

The internet is filled with all kinds of messaging saying that Mike’s ad was ‘hypercritical,’ ‘wrong-headed,’ ‘arrogant,’ ‘elitist,’ all the usual anti-Bloomberg crap. But the best video of all was put together by the boys at Fairfax based on some ‘interviews’ at the big Pennsylvania gun show that took place at the same time the Super Bowl was being played. These interviews were so candid, so original, so individual, that it took me about 30 seconds to realize that all the folks spieling about Bloomberg were working off the exact, same script.

Of course the line-up of people defending their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ was as inclusive as all gun-owning populations tend to be; there was the cop, the mother wearing her Trump hat and the Black dude who was particularly upset because Bloomberg spends millions on armed security guarding his house so how ‘I can’t use a gun to defend where I live?’ 

Hey schmuck, did it ever occur to you that the reason Mike has to spend money for armed security is because he wants to make sure that the security guards he hires to protect himself actually know how to use a gun? Did it ever occur to you that maybe, just maybe you don’t have any ability to engage in armed, self-defense just because you sat in a room while some old guy droned on and on for a couple of hours about how to hold, clean and fool around with a gun?

At some point, I don’t recall exactly the year, but it had to be after 2001 (because that’s when I went back into retail guns for the third time and this incident took place) my friends at 1200 Roosevelt Avenue, which happens to be the address of Smith & Wesson, decided to try and buy some ad space in that year’s Super Bowl magazine. The ad agency producing the magazine turned them down. They also tried to do a promotion at a NASCAR race except NASCAR also turned them down. I tried to do a promotion with the local Harley dealer but the Harley corporate office wouldn’t let the dealer get involved with anyone selling guns.

These incidents took place long before Sandy Hook, long before Mike Bloomberg started bankrolling Shannon and her Moms, long before all those shooting rampages that have focused significant public attention on gun violence. In other words, for all the talk by Gun-nut Nation about how guns are becoming a mainstream consumer product, the truth is that there isn’t a single, mass-market venue allegedly favored by gun owners which is willing to step up and do any kind of promotional activity on behalf of guns.

It’s not very difficult to go to a gun show and find some folks who will tell you all the reasons why they like guns. But what kind of reaction would be found if Nielsen or one of the other TV survey companies called up Super Bowl viewers and asked them what they thought about Mike’s message on guns?

To me, what was different about Mike’s ad was that it wasn’t really a political message; it was more like a PSA that focused on guns rather than on Corona virus or some other public health threat. And if Mike continues to run ads that focus on issues rather than on insults, invectives and lies, he will be making an important and necessary contribution to the current political debate.

GO MIKE!

Look Out Wayne-o. Here Comes Rob Pincus and Dan Gross.

Watch out everybody!  There’s a new gun-control organization in town.  It’s called the Center for Gun Rights and Responsibility, and it allegedly made its first appearance at last week’s SHOT show, which I didn’t attend. But for those who did show up, they had an opportunity to meet the guy who’s going to be running this operation, who just happens to be a long-time gun-control advocate named Dan Gross. 

Is that the same Dan Gross who used to run the Brady Campaign?  Sure is. And if you want to get a little taste of what his group is going to be doing, you can watch a brief YouTube video of Dan giving a spiel about his new organization right here.  He appeared at a 2nd-Amendment rally in DC back in November, which was one of a number of events leading up to the big rally held in Richmond, VA last month. 

Now here’s the really funny part. Gross was introduced to the crowd by Rob Pincus, a self-promoting gun trainer who used his social media presence last year to publicly attack the NRA’s continued support of Wayne LaPierre. Once it looked like the boys from Fairfax might be going into free-fall, Pincus went out and started a new organization, Save the Second Amendment, whose raison d’etre is to reform the NRA and bring the gun-rights discussion back to where it belongs.

Except the real agenda of Pincus and his friends is to pick up financial support from enough pissed-off NRA members to get things moving their way. And their way is to replace the NRA with an organization that will promote gun ‘rights’ while keeping the discussion fair and balanced at the same time.

Sooner or later, someone would try to take advantage of the mess at Fairfax and try to attract disaffected NRA members to a version of NRA-lite. The terrain to the Right of the NRA has been owned for a few years by Larry Pratt and his money machine, a.k.a., the Gun Owners of America scam. So, the only direction that a ‘new’ NRA can move is slightly to the Left, which is where all these allegedly ‘reasonable’ gun owners can be found.

Pincus already has his own organization called Save the Second Amendment, which is basically a blog that promotes the idea of a smaller, more focused and more open NRA. If anyone believes that by joining forces with Dan Gross, these two airheads can even remotely begin to make their presence known in the gun-control debate, you should also be willing to defend the proposition that Martians have landed at Area 51.

Here’s what we know for sure about Gun-nut Nation: When it comes to anything having to do with protecting gun ‘rights,’ or the God-given ‘right’ to self-defense, or any other marketing slogan which connects ‘guns’ to ‘rights,’ the members of this brigade are ready, willing and able to piss away fifty bucks just about every time they are asked. Know why Rand Paul is such an ardent promoter of gun ‘rights?’ Because he’s up to his ears in promoting and directing conservative, direct mail campaigns.

The first person to truly understand and take advantage of the desire of gun owners to part with cash was Tim Schmidt, who used an internet marketing strategy known as ‘tribal marketing’ to build a very successful product called the United States Concealed Carry Association, which basically pushed the NRA out of the concealed-carry training game. The idea is you sell products to people who will buy your crap because they want to belong to a special family or group who share certain common ideas and beliefs. And what stronger belief is out there than the idea of protecting yourself with a gun?

The problem with what Pincus and Gross are trying to do is they don’t have anything to sell. And if you think the NRA has in any way lost the ability to attract gun-owning bucks, I suggest you download their recent store catalog from which I just ordered a beautiful polo shirt for only $49.95.

Hopkins Has A New Online Course About Gun Laws.

Several years ago I ran a national survey asking gun-control advocates and activists some basic questions about gun laws. The questions covered the laws that have been part and parcel of the strategies of all gun-control groups: enhancing background checks, better regulation of dealers, purchasing and moving guns across state lines – the usual stuff. I ended up getting more than 250 responses from residents of 46 states, which was certainly representative enough for me.

The survey contained 12 questions; the average correct number was 6.  In other words, at least half the respondents who took the quiz on basic gun laws failed. And I specifically solicited responses from individuals who considered themselves to be involved in some kind of gun-control activity. Incidentally, I ran another gun-law quiz soliciting responses from individuals who considered themselves to be pro-gun.  The average score for that bunch was also around 6 correct answers – they also failed.

But the last thing you’ll find gun nuts supporting are more or stronger gun laws. On the other hand, the gun-control organizations that send me endless emails asking for more money (Everytown, Giffords, Brady – I support them all) consider laws and regulations to be the cornerstone of every strategy designed to reduce violence from guns. So, you would think that folks who donate time, money and energy to gun-control activities would want to understand how current gun laws work and what needs to be done to make such laws more effective.

In any case, our gun-research friends at the Hopkins Bloomberg School are trying to remedy this knowledge deficit by posting an online, interactive course covering the basic law which requires a background check before someone purchases a gun. The effort is part of a new distance-teaching approach being developed for internet users known as a ‘teach out,’ which is a digital version, if you will, of the old teach-ins that occurred on college campuses during the Viet Nam War. 

The Hopkins teach-out can be found here, it will be running for several more weeks, and I strongly urge everyone to register (for free) and support this effort before the course closes down. In particular, I think my gun-nut friends should sign up because the course also includes a nifty give-and-take between the instructors and the people who view the videos, an interactive Q and A that should be of value for both sides.

Now let me make it clear that this effort, like everything that comes out of the Bloomberg School, is a no-nonsense attempt to educate and inform. Which means that anyone who just wants to drop some nasty or snarky comment about all those tree-hugging, anti-gun liberals should stay away. The teach-in hosted by Dr. Cassandra Crifasi creates a forum for a serious, respectful and informed exchange about an important issue that should engage both sides. Want to rant and rave about your beloved 2nd-Amendment ‘rights?’ Do it somewhere else.

At the same time, I’m not about to simply let the other side off the hook. I learned about this effort because one of my gun-nut friends sent me an email about the online course. Did I get anything from Everytown, Brady, Giffords or one of the state-level gun-control groups who were all vociferously complaining last week when Gun-nut Nation showed up at Richmond for a jamboree? Not one, friggin’ word. And the lack of interest and support for this effort by Gun-control Nation is, to put it bluntly, a disgrace.

You would think that an open-source program that advocates extending the background-check system to private sales and permit-to-purchase licensing would be exactly the kind of effort that would be front and center on the agenda of every gun-control group. But if I have learned one thing from writing more than 1,500 columns on my website over the last eight years, it is the degree to which most gun-control organizations are more concerned about protecting their own, little turfs than getting together to promote a serious and sustained response to the violence caused by guns.

Anyway, enough complaints from me.  Sign up for the course – now!