The 2nd Amendment Haa Nothing To Do With What Happened in Vegas.

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Thanks to our friend Shaun Dakin, all of a sudden I’m beginning to see pro-gun folks coming out of the woodwork to express their concerns about what happened in Vegas and isn’t staying in Vegas. And this is taking the form of some comments appearing here and there about how there really are some good, compassionate gun owners out there who shouldn’t be blamed just because some nut decided to set a new record for the number of people killed and wounded by one shooter using (we think but don’t actually know) one gun.

2A             The first story appeared on Medium, where a self-described libertarian who says he knows enough about guns “to do serious damage to a fundamental human right I hold dear.” We’ll get to how the writer defines this ‘fundamental human right’ in a minute, but he goes on to lament the fact that most people who advocate reducing gun violence damage their own arguments because they don’t know anything about guns.  He then goes on to list various examples of egregious errors made by the gun violence prevention (GVP) crowd, including the usual canard about how the GVP always wrongly defines an assault-style gun.  The writer ends up by saying that he would love to have a frank discussion about gun policy with the ‘other side,’ but first we need to learn the proper way to talk about guns.

Incidentally, this guy never gets around to explaining the fundamental ‘human right’ which he feels duty-bound to protect, but you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that he’s talking about something having to do with the 2nd Amendment, even though I always thought that the Bill of Rights enumerated certain Constitutional rights, which may or may not have anything to do with so-called human rights at all.

The second compassionate, pro-gun contribution by someone desperately trying to bridge the gap between Left and Right on the issues of guns was published in The Federalist, which has been promoting 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ since before most of you were born. Like the blogger on Medium, this writer also hopes that we can have a “better conversation about guns and the Second Amendment in America,” which is shorthand for letting the GVP community know that it’s the other side which really understands why we all need to protect ourselves with guns.

The author of this piece wants us all to understand and appreciate the fact that someone can feel nothing but horror and despair about what happened in Vegas and yet still fervently believe that all law-abiding citizens should have access to guns. Forgetting for a moment that Stephen Paddock was as law-abiding as you can get, the writer wants us all to know that “a person can watch this, ache, hurt, and be profoundly affected by these events and not change his or her position on the Second Amendment.”

These banal attempts to ‘normalize’ support of the 2nd Amendment while at the same time attempting to join to co-op what appears to be a growing national concern about the destructiveness of firearms is nothing but pure, unadulterated crap. No matter how horrific the assault, no matter how many lives are lost or damaged beyond repair, you can count on even the most compassionate pro-gun advocates to remind us of their sacrosanct Constitutional ‘rights.’ Except there’s only one little problem. What they say and have been saying about the 2nd Amendment isn’t true.

When the Supreme Court reversed a long legal precedent by ruling in 2008 that private gun ownership was a Constitutional ‘right,’ there were already more than 300 million privately-owned guns floating around, none of which enjoyed any kind of Constitutional protection. And despite this failure to guarantee our God-given right to protecte ourselves, there has never been any law in any jurisdiction which stripped Americans of their ability to own a gun. So let’s cut out the nonsense and return the post-Vegas discussion to where it belongs, namely, what needs to be done to end gun violence once and for all.

 

Are Silencers Used For Hunting? Yea, Right.

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Now that a bill which removes gun silencers from the list of weapons that are strictly regulated by the National Firearms Act of 1934 has cleared a House Committee by a party-line vote, both sides in the gun debate are gearing up for what will no doubt be a contentious and loud debate when the bill gets to the House floor.    It should come as no surprise that most of the truth-stretching about silencers is coming from the pro-gun side, because they have a lot more to gain if silencers are dropped from the NFA list.  Anyone can go to Amazon, for example, and purchase a light or a laser which fits on a gun; this would be the case with silencers as well.

silencer             Our friends at The Trace tell us that since 2010, the number of NFA-registered silencers has increased from 285,087 to 902,805, a serious problem if you believe that silencers can somehow be linked to the rate of gun violence which during the same five-year period has not gone down but is actually trending somewhat up. But like everything else in the gun business, using national data to understand how, why and where people own and use anything having to do with guns hides important local and regional differences which need to be explained and understood.

Back in 2010, there were an average of 5,700 silencers registered in each of the 50 states, but seven states (AZ, FL, GA, IN, PA, TX, VA) were the location of 47% of all registered silencers at that time. At the beginning of 2016, the per-state average had increased to 18,056, but these 7 states alone still accounted for nearly 44% of all registered silencers owned. Last year these same seven states issued 3,677,143 hunting licenses, which was 23% of hunting licenses issued by the 50 states. The state which issued the most licenses, Texas, sold 1,132,099, or 7% of the national total. But Texans own 18% of all the registered silencers in the U.S., and the number of silencers in the 7 silencer-rich states represent twice the percentage of all silencers than the percentage of hunting licenses issued by these same states.

Wait a minute. I thought the whole point of owning a silencer was to use it when you go out into the woods to take a crack at Bambi, right?  If that’s the case, how come silencers outpace hunting licenses by a margin of two to one?

What seems to be lost in the silencer debate, and the anti-silencer contingent seems to ignore this issue as well, is that in order to put a silencer on a gun you have to replace the standard barrel with a threaded barrel or the silencer simply won’t work. And while some of the silencer companies have started selling threaded gun barrels in addition to the silencers themselves, unless the gun you want to silence is of modular design, which happens to be only about 10% of all current handgun models along with variations of the AR-15, buying a silencer means buying another gun. This is particularly true when it comes to standard bolt-action or semi-auto hunting rifles because the barrel in most cases is welded to the receiver, so you can’t just pop out one barrel and pop in another the way you might do it with a Glock. When was the last time that someone went hunting deer or high-flyers with a Glock?

The bottom line is that the argument for silencers based on the idea that they are nothing more than a new accessory for hunters is simply not true. And the folks who are trying to prevent the gun industry from turning silencers into a product that is no different from a flashlight should be pointing this out. You can certainly find a story here and there about how a gun with a silencer was involved in this crime or that, but the threat represented by silencers is a tiny drop in the bucket compared to the crimes and injuries caused by guns.

What Happened To Hillary? Here’s What Happened.

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In April 1994, I drove across better than half the country and spent several hours each day listening to Rush. This was the first time I heard him and was also the first time I heard the beginnings of what we now refer to as the alt-right. The internet only sent brief messages without pictures or sound, Fox News as a cable network didn’t exist, Glenn Beck was enrolled in a sobriety program, Sean Hannity was working at a small, AM talk-show radio station in Georgia and Alex Jones was sitting in a classroom in Austin Community College twiddling his thumbs.

poster2              So here I am driving through Kansas, Nebraska and Illinois, and listening to Rush who talked endlessly about Whitewater without telling his audience that his entire story-line was picked up each day from the Whitewater coverage in the most mainstream of all mainstream publications, a.k.a., The New York Times.  The Times was obsessed with Whitewater, probably because they blew the Watergate scoop, and it was their reportage, particularly error-riddled stories written by Jeff Gerth, which provoked more than six years of government investigations that ultimately came up with nothing at all.

What was most interesting listening to Rush’s daily excoriation of possible Clinton malfeasance was what happened every time that Rush opened the phone lines and took a listener’s call. Just about every caller told Rush he was doing a ‘great’ job by exposing the Clinton’s dark side, but the real anger was directed at Hillary, not Bill. A story had just broken that Hillary cleared nearly $100,000 in commodity trading with an initial investment of $1,000 in 1978-79. Where was the story? In The New York Times. Rush never mentioned Whitewater without also talking about the commodity profits, reminding his audience that it was Hillary, not Bill, who profited from those trades. And the people who called in to voice their reactions to Rush’s daily riff always emphasized that Hillary was the villain, the evil force behind all the shady deals.

I was recalled this when I read Hillary’s new book, What Happened, which puts her back into the center of things thanks to a fifteen-city publicity tour. The book is actually about Hillary and what she likes and doesn’t like, eats and doesn’t eat, wears and doesn’t wear, along with an exhaustive list of the wonderful, talented and extraordinarily expert people who worked on her campaign. A little mistake here and there? What the hell, we’re human and we all make mistakes.

On the other hand, the chapter on the gun issue is very well done, perhaps the clearest and least self-aggrandizing section of the book. But here again, it wasn’t her, it was that damned NRA which has become “one of the most dangerous organizations in America” because Wayne-o saw Hillary as such a mortal threat.  Hillary admits that her gun-control rhetoric was particularly aimed at female voters in swing states. So how was it that in those critical swing states most of the Republican women stuck by the man?

I’ll tell you why. Because those female voters, along with many voters who switched from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016, didn’t vote against the message, they voted against the messenger who has been a toxic presence in the political arena since I started listening to Rush. I’m not sure how and why Hillary has been such an easy target for the alt-right/white, but the bottom line is when it came to going after her, the NRA couldn’t wait.

Hillary did the GVP community an important service by bringing the gun issue back out of the closet where it had been snoozing since the alleged impact of the pro-gun vote in 1994. But if we learned anything from the unthinkable success of You Know Who last year, voters are as much or more influenced by who says it than what they say.

Want to use the next election as a mechanism for promoting sensible gun regs?  Find a candidate whom the voters really like, not someone with a shopworn name.

 

 

Here Comes Concert Across America!

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             CAA

 

It’s not too early to start talking about the 2017 edition of Concert Across America because this year the organizers have come up with a pretty neat way to get everyone involved in this musical effort to help end gun violence.  In addition to concerts and events all over the United States the weekend of September 23-24, there’s also going to be a really fun opportunity for everyone not to just be attending a performance, but also being part of the performance, and the idea goes like this.

  • Listen to Alternate Routes sing their great song, ‘Nothing More,’ and then download the lyrics from the concert website.
  • Take a video of you and your friends singing the song with our without musical accompaniment (you can also download sheet music.)
  • Then post your video on YouTube or Facebook between September 21 and September with the hashtag #ConcertAcrossAmerica and make sure to set the privacy settings to Public so that the concert organizers can count your video.
  • And don’t forget to blast these instructions out to everyone else!

This concert is going to be a big, beautiful deal and I will publish many more columns about this event as we get closer to the concert date itself. But in the meantime, I just want to get all of you started on your video as soon as you can.

And of course please, please go to the website, buy a shirt, sign up, do whatever you can.

 

CONCERT ACROSS AMERICA TO END GUN VIOLENCE – YEA, YEA, YEA!

Is The Narrative on Gun Violence All It Should Be?

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Our friends at Media Matters have just posted a new report on gun violence prepared and published by a California gun violence prevention (GVP) group, the Hope and Heal Fund, which looks at how the media has and hasn’t covered gun violence issues. The report, which can be downloaded here, looked at 218 newspaper articles and thousands of tweets in 2016-2017 in an attempt to develop a baseline understanding of the gun violence narrative in California, as well as making some suggestions about how the narrative might be changed.

hope-and-heal_LOGO              The researchers found that gun policies were the dominant conversation in print and social media, accounting for 40% of the total narrative, with mass shootings provoking another 15%, crime and policing covering 15% more. In other words, nearly three-quarters of the entire public discussion about gun violence in California focused on issues other than the issue which accounts for just about all gun violence, namely, the individual gun shootings – suicide, street gangs, domestic disputes – which account for nearly all intentional gun injuries both in California and everywhere else.

As to what the report calls the ‘messengers’ who were quoted on gun violence, again the data was skewed in favor of public policies because 40% of the people who had something to say about the issue were identified as politicians, whereas researchers, advocacy groups and victims each constituted 9 percent. Taken together, these three groups would constitute in broad terms the California GVP community, and what’s interesting is that as one group, the number of times they delivered a message about gun violence was more than twice as frequent as what the researchers identified as the ‘gun lobby,’ whose total participation in the public media discussion was 12 percent.

Maybe because it’s California and not Texas or some other gun-hugging state, I am nevertheless surprised that the gun-control contributions to the media coverage of gun violence is so much greater than what Gun-nut Nation was able to produce. You would think that given the fact that there have been major changes in California gun laws over the last several years, as well as highly-publicized gun ‘rights’ legal cases such as Peruta v. California, that the NRA and other pro-gun organizations would have been all over the social media world blasting about this gun issue or that. But this report tells a much different story about the relative strength of the two sides, at least in the Golden State.

Now we come to the part of the report which gives me some concern.  “Based on our findings,” says the Report’s conclusion, “we have developed the following recommendations for Hope and Heal Fund’s efforts to change the narrative on gun violence in California.” The recommendations involve: more attention to suicide, domestic violence and gangs; reminding people that much policy work remains to be done; highlight the words and deeds of community leaders; look to the public health area for more research; highlight personal stories about victims; and, “depoliticize gun violence by appealing to common values. Sidestep political opposition by crafting messages that emphasize universal values like safety, opportunity and freedom from fear.”

Sidestep political opposition? Who’s kidding whom?  The California gun-rights gang just got the Los Angeles City Council to end a ban on sale of ultra-concealable handguns (guns less than 6.75 inches long) although it’s not clear how many of the really little guns would meet compliance standards of the state law. But if anyone believes that people who are buying guns because they are afraid of crime or terrorists or whatever are going to be persuaded that there are other ways they can legally protect themselves, perhaps you could enlighten me as to what these non-gun options might be.

I’m not against any of the proposals for strengthening the gun-control narrative but I think there’s one proposal which the writers of this report appeared to have missed, namely, just get rid of the guns. Shouldn’t someone be doing some social media messaging on that?

 

The Whiner-in-Chief Gets Taught By The NRA.

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I don’t necessarily agree with what Charles Blow has to say, but yesterday he made some comments about Trump that are spot on. And what he said is that Trump’s incessant whining and his portrayal of himself as a ‘victim’ is what appeals to his base. Blow puts it this way: “It is in this near perfect state of perpetual aggrievement that Trump gives voice to a faction of America that also feels aggrieved.” But since Trump himself is hardly the embodiment of the undereducated, small-town Whites who have been left behind in the shift to a post-industrial, technological age, where did he learn to play the role of Whiner in Chief?

trump5              He learned it from his friends at Fairfax – the NRA. America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ whines endlessly about how gun owners are victims, and isn’t the Trump message just a warmed-over version of Wayne LaPierre? Here’s how Trump defines his audience, according to Blow: “They are victims of coastal and urban liberals and the elite institutions – economic, education and entertainment – clustered there.” Here’s Wayne-o at the NRA annual meeting back in May: “It’s up to us to speak out against the three most dangerous voices in America: academic elites, political elites and media elites.” See any difference? I sure don’t.

America’s oldest civil rights organization is really just America’s oldest gun training organization. And one of their most popular training courses these days is something called Refuse To Be A Victim, which was developed by the ‘women of the NRA.’ The course is aimed at women and covers such topics as security in the home or on a trip, keeping your digital devices secure and using self-protective products like alarms and mace. There’s no mention of guns in this course and there’s also no mention of something else, namely, what women should do if they find themselves in an abusive relationship, which happens to be the Number One reason why women become victims, especially victims of violence caused by guns.

But the last thing the NRA is going to do is talk about women (or anyone) as victims of gun violence because what really victimizes women is when they can’t get their hands on a gun. And if you don’t believe me, just check out some of the recent videos from Dana Mussolini, a.k.a. Dana Loesch, who insists that she can stand up to anyone, any threat, any perpetrator because instead of backing away, she’s ready to pull out her banger and – bam!.

I love her recent attempt to out-Trump Trump: “They use their schools to teach our children that their President is another Hitler. They use their movie stars to repeat their narrative over and over again.” And guess who’s the ‘they?’ The same liberal, urban elite who get up every morning and try to figure out yet another way to victimize all those honest, decent, God-fearing Americans who also happen to be gun owners, because nothing represents the basic traditions and values of this country like a gun. Remember Charlton Heston and his cold, dead hands?

I don’t know about anyone else, but I never had a problem considering myself to be a member of the liberal elite. I also never had a problem being a member of the NRA. How do I reconcile these seeming opposites? It’s simple – I wanted to be a college professor and I also like guns. At some point I got interested in cameras so I sold some guns and bought two Leicas, then realized I wasn’t all that interested in taking pictures, so I sold the cameras and bought some more guns.

I don’t think gun owners are victims at all but I do think that making them believe they are victims is nothing more than a marketing scam. But since we now have to put up with someone in the Oval Office who got there by exploiting the same scam, why should anyone be surprised?

Want An Effective Message About Guns? Learn From Trump.

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My friends in the gun violence prevention (GVP) community should take special notice of the dust-up that occurred between a New York Times reporter and the guy who is responsible for the current anti-immigration stance at the White House, Stephen Miller, regarding whether new immigrants who get hired for low-paying jobs are taking work away from red-blooded Americans who otherwise would be able to grab those same jobs for higher pay.
bibleThis immigration bill, which will go nowhere, is a classic bait-and-switch attempt to make it appear as though the Republicans are siding with the ‘working man’ while getting rid of government regulations which actually protect lower-income Americans from the social disparities caused by the widening gap between rich and poor. And when Glenn Thrush, the NYT reporter, asked Miller to produce hard data to back up his claims, Miller cited several studies which have either been refuted or don’t really speak to the issue at all.

The reason this verbal exchange should be studied closely by GVP advocates is that this is exactly what happens whenever Gun-nut Nation tries to promote some scheme or another to relax regulations on guns. First they remind everyone that gun ownership is a Constitutional ‘right,’ as if the 2008 Heller decision didn’t explicitly give government a ‘right’ to regulate guns. Then they cite surveys which show that a majority of Americans believe that guns make them safe, even though these same surveys show that the percentage of Americans who own guns keeps going down. And they never forget to throw in a couple of anecdotal examples of how this old grandma or that small shopkeeper saved their own lives or the lives of others by whipping out a gun.
Data? They don’t have any data. Studies? The ‘study’ by John Lott is twenty years old and has been debunked more times than I have tried to cut down on carbs. And I’m so successful at cutting down on carbs that the last time I saw my internist he told me that he believes I will never lose any weight.

On the other hand, should Gun-nut Nation spend one second worrying about what the data on gun violence shows? If the President of the United States can lie like hell about phone calls he claims to have received from the Boy Scouts of America and retain the support of his base, why should Gun-nut Nation feel the slightest degree of concern just because some pointy-headed academic in some elitist, Ivy League tower finds for the umpteenth time that having guns around the house increases risk?

I used to buy the argument that by relying on facts and evidence-based information I could more or less hold my own in any public debate. So whenever I post anything on my website or on Huffington, I try to provide a credible source for statements which are based not on my opinions but on facts. And know what happens when I state something as simple and obvious as the idea that access to guns increases risk? I’ll always get a few responses that accuse me of just being a ‘shill for Bloomberg,’ which means that nothing I say could be remotely true. The other day someone referred to my website as “Just another propaganda and manipulation tool.” I liked that one.

I’m certainly not concerned that the GVP community relies on evidence and hard data in order to craft arguments and strategies to reduce violence from guns. But I am concerned when GVP advocates imagine that by producing verifiable and evidence-based data that this will somehow tilt the argument in their favor. If the mountain of public health evidence hasn’t yet persuaded someone that guns are more of a risk than a benefit to community safety, they won’t be persuaded with another study. What needs to be addressed by GVP is how to craft an effective argument which captures emotions, not just facts.

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