Move Over Obama. There’s A New Gun-Grabber In The White House.

              Back in April, 2016 when Trump the Shlump showed up at the NRA show to be anointed as the spear-carrier for America’s gun-nut contingent, I thought (and said) that the boys at the Fairfax home office were making a big mistake.  America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ always endorsed the GOP Presidential candidate, but they waited until October to get the word out. By tying the organization to a guy who had never previously run for any political office of any kind, particularly this guy, Wayne-o and his buddies made a deal which bound them to someone over whom they would have no control.

              Whatever else you want to say about him, Trump’s a through-and-through New York guy. Which means that he’s about as connected to guns and gun culture as the man in the moon. For all his bluster and bull  about 2nd-Amendment ‘rights, he’ll say anything to consolidate his alt-right base. And if it ever suited his political fancy to throw the NRA leadership under a bus, get out the broom and start sweeping the street because that’s exactly what happened last week.

              Of course the minute bullets started flying around the Wal Mart in El Paso and then inside a Dayton bar, Trump yanked out the old ‘thoughts and prayers’ even though he thought the Dayton bar was actually located in Toledo. Not that his putative challenger, Joe Biden, did any better, because he got up and told everyone at a San Diego fundraiser how sorry he was about two mass shootings that occurred in Houston and Michigan. 

              Meanwhile, by the middle of last week it began to appear that we may have hit some kind of critical turning-point in the argument about guns. One of the Fox News anchors, Shepard Smith, delivered an impassioned commentary which could have been written for him by Everytown, and by week’s end Trump was openly promoting the idea of ‘intelligent’ background checks. He also made a point of saying that he had talked to both Pelosi and Schumer about going forward with a background-check bill, those two names being at the top of the most-hated list for Gun-nut Nation, no questions asked.

              Trump may be President but he’s also a 2020 Presidential candidate, and in that respect his support of a background-check bill makes him probably the 20th candidate to come up with some kind of gun-control scheme.  There’s Booker with his national ID card, Biden wants a national gun buy-back, Buttigieg wants an AR ban, Kamala wants dealers to be regulated more strictly, blah, blah, blah and blah. But the biggest and best plan was just unveiled by Pocahontas, except it’s not really a plan. It’s a pledge to reduce gun violence by 80 percent, although she admits she doesn’t have the faintest idea of how to make this actually work.

              All of this Democratic yapping clearly reflects the degree to which an energized and organized Gun-control Nation may have been an important factor in turning a number of red Congressional districts blue in 2018. And if anything, the public response to California, Texas and Ohio may well presage an even stronger Democratic result built around gun violence next year.

              Except there’s one little problem, a problem named Donald Trump. Because when all is said and done, his quick pivot on gun control and the reaction of Gun-nut Nation to his new-found gun concerns reminds me of what happened when Nixon went to China in 1972. If you were a Congressional Democrat after 1949 and so much as quietly hinted that we couldn’t ignore one-quarter of the world’s population, it was Nixon who stood up and called you a ‘pinko stooge’ or worse. If gun control becomes a political lightning-rod for next year, Trump’s fervent support of gun-nuttery gives him all the protection he needs.

What’s the NRA going to do if Trump signs a background-check bill? Tell their membership to vote for some Socialist who will take away all their guns?

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Gun Violence And 2020: The Candidates Speak.

              Now that some of us (not me) have sat through two debates by the folks who want to take over the Oval office in 2021, we can see two basic groupings emerging on guns. I’m going to label these groupings as the T-group for ‘tough’ and the NST-group for ‘not so tough.’ But before we get into the details of which candidate wants what, I have to say that I agree with the NRA‘s statement this morning that “not a single one of the many gun control schemes proposed by the anti-gun Democratic candidates for president would make Americans any safer.”  Well, maybe we would be one percent safer. Anyway, here’s how it breaks down.

              Everyone in the T and NST groups backs an assault weapons ban and comprehensive background checks, the idea here being that even though the kid who turned the Gilroy garlic festival into a shooting range underwent a background check, he was still able to buy an AK-47. So if we have both comprehensive background checks and an assault weapons ban, that takes care of that. No more Gilroys, right? 

              It goes without saying that both groups also support ‘red flag’ laws and other measures to protect victims or possible victims of domestic gun abuse, although I still don’t really understand how asking a judge to issue an order taking away someone’s guns is really any different than walking into the local police station and telling the chief that so-and-so is acting crazy and happens to own guns. Oh well, I must be missing something in that regard.

              Where the two groups diverge is on the issue of licensing. The NST group appears to have no issue with gun licensing conducted at the state level as long as the process includes using the feds to conduct the background check. In this respect, the T‘s include the two old men, Biden and Bern, along with Pocahantas who hasn’t yet released an official policy paper on guns, but she’ll get around to it as soon as she finishes all her other policy papers. [Does Liz actually think that anyone gives a rat’s damn about policy papers?]

              The T group, on the other hand, led by Cory and seconded by Kammie, wants the entire licensing process taken over by the feds, who will issue gun licenses after the applicant takes a gun-safety course, undergoes the background check and blah, blah blah. Cory has yet to be asked to identify which federal agency would administer the safety course or, for that matter, would actually oversee the licensing process. Let’s not forget that the ATF regulates dealers, not gun owners, and oh, by the way, Kamala want anyone who sells more than 5 guns a year to become a licensed dealer. So the ATF can now figure out how to inspect millions of new dealers.  Right now they inspect less than 5 percent of all dealers.

              I hate to keep bringing this up again and again, but there’s a very simple way to get rid of gun violence. All you have to do is get rid of the guns which cause the violence, namely, the small, hi-powered, hi-capacity handguns. And despite everyone’s reverence for the 2nd Amendment, the government can decide that certain kinds of guns are too lethal for sale to the general public. Is there any difference between an AR-15 with a 30-round magazine and a Glock 19 with a 20-round magazine?  Yea, ten rounds. The AR takes a military round known as the .223. The round in a Glock 19, the 9×19, also happens to be a military load.

              If my friends in Gun-control Nation would get behind a realistic plan to end gun violence by getting rid of the cause of the violence, the NRA would bitch and moan but so what? Gun-nut Nation will bitch and moan no matter what the other side says. For all the wrong reasons, what the NRA said about last night’s debate happens to be correct.

Maybe The NRA Isn’t So Crazy After All.

Along with fundraising appeals from Kamala, Bernie and the Wilderness Fund, yesterday’s mail also included a lovely letter from Wayne-o asking me to join a very exclusive NRA club – the Golden Eagles.  In fact, I have been pre-selected for membership by the NRA Honors Committee, and all I have to do is send back my acceptance form and I’m in. It’s really a great honor and I can’t turn them down.

Oh, I forgot. I also have to send a check or credit card payment for $250.

Now considering the fact that yesterday I walked into Dick’s and Titleist has the nerve to want almost $500 for a new driver which won’t get my tee shot any further down the fairway than the driver I have been using for the last ten years, I can hardly be upset that the boys from Fairfax want half that much to induct me into the Golden Eagles club.

But what I found most interesting about this appeal was how it seems to me that the Fairfax bunch may have actually decided to go back to being what they have always been before a combination of phony Trump flattery, candy-ass video personalities and cockamamie marketing schemes got them to briefly lose their minds.

Let’s start with Trump. No other Presidential candidate had ever made gun ‘rights’ the centerpiece of a national campaign. Schmuck-o Trump never made a speech without reminding everyone that he was infatuated with guns. Now the fact that he never even owned a gun or used a gun – so what?

As for NRA-TV, it was one thing to have bores like Grant Stinchfield droning on and on about the Socialist threat to gun ‘rights,’ but spicing up the video airwaves with Colion Noir prancing around or Dana Loesch giving us the tough, ‘f-me’ look? If that was the best idea cooked up by Ackerman-McQueen to promote gun sales, the agency should have been canned long before they got into a fight with the NRA Home Office over who was going to pay Wayne-o’s clothing bills.

The dumbest move made in Fairfax was when they tried to replace their traditional training approach (and the 100,000+ certified instructors) with an online training and insurance program which went nowhere fast. The trainers (I having been one of them) were the organization’s shock troops. Most trainers engaged in little actual training activities, but they were always the roots which held the grass together and could be counted on to show up in large and noisy numbers every time gun ‘rights’ faced any kind of threat.

Here’s where things stand now. Trump has stopped pushing the 2nd Amendment at his Nuremburg rallies; NRA-TV is temporarily shut down (although you can watch reruns which are even more boring than the original shows) and last month Wayne-o sent out a letter to all the trainers telling them that he was grateful for their continued support.  This was the very first communication I ever received from the NRA which didn’t ask me to respond by enclosing a credit card number or a check.

When the annual meeting turned into an exercise in the veritable sh*t hitting the veritable fan, I assumed the NRA would respond by ramping up the volume, becoming even more extreme and using the bad news about its management practices as proof that the anti-gun campaign had reached a new and dangerous pitch. But it’s pretty tough to accuse someone like Ollie North of being opposed to private ownership of guns.

On the other hand, North and his supporters may have done the NRA a great service because perhaps without realizing it, their attacks have forced Wayne-o and the remaining leadership to stop pretending that every anti-NRA message is somehow the handiwork of Mike Blomberg, George Soros and their Socialist pals. Nothing would make me happier than to see the NRA get back to its traditional role as a supporter of using guns the way they should be used.

How Do We Get Guns Off The Street?

              One of the strategies most favored by gun-control advocates to reduce gun violence involves personal interventions with people who are most at-risk for using guns in ways they are not supposed to be used.  These at-risk individuals tend to be men between the ages of 16 and 30, many are minorities and most of them live in poor, inner-city neighborhoods.

              The strategy usually involves identifying the at-risk kids or young adults, mentoring them on the risks and dangers of carrying guns, and in some cases involving the target population in programs and activities that will help them get jobs or learn skills because otherwise they will just continue to ‘hang out’ and sooner or later gun violence will again rear its ugly head.

              Probably the best-known of these programs is Cure Violence which approaches the issue of gun violence as a contagious disease, and seeks to limit the contagion by first figuring out where the pathogen can be found, then sending troops to those specific locations to wait, watch and then intervene at the beginnings of conflict between two small groups which starts with a few ‘fuck-you’s,’ then escalates into violence, ultimately resulting in the gun or guns coming out and – bang!

              The street-level intervention model sometimes works well and sometimes doesn’t work so well. Evaluations of the program tend to be positive except that in just about every case, the work is limited to a specific, geographic area (usually a particular neighborhood identified by the cops as being extremely ‘hot’) where the decline in violence may or may not change the violence rate for the city as a whole. It is also difficult to assess whether a successful social service type of intervention can be achieved without increased attention to that area paid by the cops. Right now, New York City runs Cure Violence programs in multiple neighborhoods and as everyone knows, gun violence in the Big Apple, has almost completely disappeared. But how much of this decline is due to Cure Violence as opposed to the stepped-up anti-gun efforts by the NYPD?

              Philadelphia has just announced the adoption of an interesting twist to the Cure Violence approach, in this case a program out of Boston known as LIPSTICK – Ladies Involved in Putting a Stop to Inner-City Killing. This programs counsels women to refuse requests from husbands or boy friends to buy a ‘straw-sale’ gun and then hand it over to the man who is legally unable to purchase a gun for himself.

              Several years ago I asked a LIPSTICK staff member whether they also counsel clients to contact the cops if or when they learned that their husband or boy friend possessed an illegal gun. She basically told me that such an idea was an invasion of the couple’s privacy and that it was something that LIPSTICK would never tell its clients to do.

              Guess what? The same refusal to alert the cops when a kid on the street has a gun but walks away from a confrontation because of the intervention of a peacemaker is SOP for Cure Violence and other, street-level programs aimed (pardon the pun) at keeping things under control. To alert authorities to the presence of a gun would probably result in the street peacemaker losing his creds or worse, might provoke a retaliatory attack.

              There is no greater risk to community health than a teenager walking around the neighborhood toting a gun. And maybe if an adult is carrying an illegal gun it’s not quite as much of a risk, but let’s not waste time trying to decide which is worse.

              I am hoping that my friends in Gun-control Nation will stop trying to convince gun owners of their fervent support of the 2nd Amendment and start telling gun owners and everyone else that certain types of guns are too lethal to be in anyone’s hands. And you don’t get that message across to a fifteen-year old by letting him walk away with a gun.  

Bleeding Out – An Important Book.

              Want to read the latest attempt by a liberal social scientist to tell us what we need to do about gun violence? Try Thomas Abt’s Bleeding Out, the sub-title proclaiming this book to be a “bold new plan for peace in the streets.” And what Abt believes we can accomplish if we follow his bold plan is an annual 10% drop in homicide every year in cities with high homicide rates. If the 20 cities with populations of 50,000 or more which register the highest rates of fatal violence all initiated Abt’s plan this year, the result would save 12,132 lives over the next eight years.

              The author’s focus isn’t on gun violence per se, but he realizes that no significant reduction in urban violence will ever occur without doing something about guns. With reference to the usual suspects (Hemenway, et. al.) he makes the argument that we suffer from such a high rate of fatal violence because we have too many guns. But there’s nothing wrong with the existence of guns per se, it’s when the guns get into the wrong hands of young men who use them in a violent way.

              Abt believes there are three categories of wrong-handed gun owners (‘owning’ as in access to a gun, not necessarily legally owned) whose behavior needs to be regulated in order for his bold plan to work. These categories are:

  1. Would-be shooters – individuals who view using a gun as a way to be accepted within their social milieu.
  2. Legacy shooters – individuals who grew up in families that are “entrenched in criminal violence.”
  3. Wounded shooters – individuals who were subject to extreme trauma (beatings, molestations) during childhood.

Abt’s grand plan for dealing with these individuals relies on a mixture of effective policing, even-handed justice, community-level outreach and behavior modification. Sounds interesting, it’s certainly a new and different approach, but I happen to disagree.

Want to know why most kids in the inner-city carry guns? They carry them for the exact, same reason that the middle-class guy in my town walks into my shop to buy a gun – for self-protection. The difference, of course, is that the guy who comes into my shop, plunks down six hundred bucks and walks out with a Glock, has about as much chance of ever needing to use that gun to protect himself as I have a chance to lose the next 20 pounds that my internist has been hocking me to lose for the last ten years.

Having created a portrait of inner-city gun users which may or may not have any connection to reality, Abt then shifts his focus back to where he believes the primary responsibility for reducing gun violence should rest, namely, reducing the demand for guns amongst the at-risk kids and young adults. The whole point of Abt’s approach to gun violence is to move the discussion away from various supply-side schemes to reduce the flow of guns, substituting instead his grand plan that will, he claims, wean people away from their desire to carry and use guns.

Like every other liberal-mined scholar who wants to reduce gun violence, Abt makes a point of explicitly stating that none of his policies would in any way prevent law-abiding citizens from safely owning guns. What we have is yet another attempt to somehow get rid of the results of guns but allow the guns themselves to remain. This country has gun violence for one reason: we allow private ownership of what Antonin Scalia calls ‘weapons of war,’ which just happen to be the handguns made by Glock, Sig, Smith & Wesson, etc., all initially designed and used as military guns.

Everybody keeps telling me it would be next to impossible to forge a national political consensus around the idea that some types of guns are simply too lethal to be owned. Think it would be easier to get hundreds of relevant organizations in 20 large cities to do something which has never been done in even one urban site?

By the way, I liked the book.

Attacking John Lott Doesn’t Explain Gun Violence.

              If there is one person more disliked than anyone by Gun-control Nation, that person has to be John Lott. His book, More Guns, Less Crime, is considered the single, most important reason behind Gun-nut Nation’s embrace of armed, self-defense, and his ongoing effort to eliminate gun-free zones provokes anger and negative reactions throughout gun-control land.is book, More Guns

              In fact, at least one noted gun-control researcher, Stanford’s John Donohue, has basically created an entire academic career based on articles critical of Lott. Not far behind Donahue is the chief of gun research at Harvard, David Hemenway, who has likewise published multiple denunciations of Lott’s work.

              I happen to believe that the attacks on Lott’s work reflect the failure of liberal social science to explain what is really the only issue in the entire gun debate which needs to be understood, namely, how is it that less than ten percent of the individuals who each year commit a serious act of violence against someone else commit this violence by using a gun? John Lott’s basic thesis, that criminals switch from face-to-face crimes (assault) to anonymous crimes (burglary) is an attempt to explain the behavior which lies behind at least three-quarters of all gun injuries. Have either Donahue or Hemenway ever attempted any explanation of this problem? They have not.

              I have two criticisms of Lott’s work. First, the idea that criminals switch from one type of crime to another type of crime assumes that one type (assault) is really no different from another type (burglary), and that criminals switch their modus operandi depending on how they perceive degrees of risk from different types of criminal behavior. This assumption flies in the face of everything we know about criminal behavior and to argue, a la Lott, that the issuance of concealed-carry licenses (CCW) creates a ‘substitution effect’ for burglary versus assault, is to misread the nature of how and why these very different types of crimes occur.

              Second, and more important is the fact that most of the perpetrators and victims of gun violence are individuals who share similar socio-economic circumstances and demographic profiles. Both groups are overwhelmingly minority males living in under-served neighborhoods who rarely, if ever qualify for concealed-carry licenses, an argument Lott has made in other works. If the average inner-city resident is more frequently armed than years ago, this simply cannot be explained with reference to the spread of CCW over the past forty years.

              For all the sturm und drang whipped up by Donohue, Hemenway and others about the pernicious impact of Lott’s research, I have yet to see one, single response to his work which even hints at the issues I have raised above. It really doesn’t take a rocket scientist to sit down, pull some numbers together and create a regression analysis model that will yield a result which aligns with your particular point of view. Want to argue, as Hemenway argues, that we have high rates of fatal gun injuries because we own so many guns? Use the number of guns as your independent variable to control against fatal gun injuries and the United States will wind up on top every, single time. Now the fact that we have absolutely no idea how many of those 300 million guns are in the hands of people who might use those guns to commit a violent crime, oh well, oh well, oh well.

              I think my friends in public health gun research need to stop confusing research with hot air. God knows we have enough of the latter on both sides of the gun debate; it’s the former where most of the necessary work remains totally undone. Gun injuries are the only injury tracked by the CDC where the person who is injured and the person who commits the injury are two different people at least seventy-five percent of the time. I’m still waiting for anyone in the public health research community to ask why this fundamental fact escapes their research.

Now That The NRA Is Dead, Who’s Going To Be The Enemy?

              Maybe it’s the weather, maybe it’s that time of year, all I know is that there seems to be a definite lack of interest and activity within the ranks of the gun-control gang. Judging from the frequency of posts on various Facebook pages and the number of emails that I usually receive from Gun-control Nation every day, I don’t recall such a period of calm in the ranks of my gun-control friends at least from before Parkland, or maybe before Trump embraced the NRA at the start of his 2016 campaign.

              According to Google Search Trends, the highest number of searches for the words ‘gun control’ since July, 2018 was the week of November 4 – 11, 2018 which was the week of the mid-term elections when guns played a significant role in how some Congressional races turned out. Last week, this same search term received almost 90 percent fewer hits. The exact same trend shows up when we change the search to the ‘gun violence’ term. When we look at the trend over the past five years, again we don’t find any weekly period where the search numbers are as low as they are right now.

              What’s interesting about these numbers is that they don’t align at all with the actual gun violence trends. According to our friends at the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), the number of total shooting incidents has risen steadily from 2014 until the mid-point of this year.  In fact, if we assume that by dividing the numbers for a previous total year in half would give us more or less a valid comparison to shootings so far in 2019, there would have been roughly 26,000 events by mid-2015; right now for 2019 we stand at more than 30,000 reports. Of course the GVA is in no position to estimate total gun violence accurately because open-source data rarely covers non-fatal shootings or fatal shootings where someone picks up a gun and points it at himself. Nevertheless, assuming that GVA tracks its data using the same sources every year, their numbers make it quite clear that the overall gun violence trend is up, not down.

              How do we explain this apparent disconnect between the continued increase in gun violence versus what appears to be a lessening of interest in the problem by the gun-control advocates who should be the folks who are most motivated and involved? And you can’t put this down to any lack of gun violence events themselves. After all, just six weeks ago a disgruntled city employee killed 13 people (including himself) and wounded 4 others in a rampage at the municipal building in Virginia Beach.

              Here’s my theory and although I could be wrong, I suspect I’m actually right. When most gun-control activists think about gun violence, the first thing that pops into their minds is not the number of people killed or wounded with gunfire but the existence and the activities of ‘America’s first civil rights organization,’ a.k.a. the NRA. Every one of the 2020 Presidential wannabees from the blue team has explicitly mentioned the NRA in one campaign speech or another; beating up on the boys from Fairfax is a constant theme in virtually every gun-control fundraising email I receive.

              Right now, the problem for Gun-control Nation is that the boys from Fairfax seem to be doing a pretty good job of bashing themselves. There have been numerous public defections from the NRA Board, resignations of key senior staff, and our friends at The Trace claim that the number of government investigations has hit ten.

              In my first gun book (Volume 10 will shortly appear) I make the point that if the NRA didn’t exist, the gun-control movement would have to invent them. For that matter, if Mike Bloomberg and Shannon Watts didn’t exist, the NRA would have to invent them, too. To all intents and purposes, right now the NRA doesn’t exist. Can my gun-control friends come up with a new bogey-man to take the place of the NRA?

Mike The Gun Guy Goes On Trial.

              On Friday, July 19, I am going to be a defendant on trial in Las Vegas; I can only hope I will be found innocent of all charges and allowed to go free. The main charge against me is that I am against the 2nd Amendment, and the prosecutor is none other than the ‘hated’ John Lott. There will be a judge, there will be a jury and I suspect that when the trial comes to an end, I’ll be found guilty as charged.

              The event is actually taking place at the Paris Hotel and Casino, and it is a featured presentation of this year’s FreedomFest, billed as a conference where “free minds meet to celebrate ‘great books, great ideas and great thinkers’ in an open-minded environment.” If you haven’t figured it out yet, FreedomFest is the libertarian equivalent of TED or Aspen, a place where folks can learn about one important issue or another while really getting together to cut a deal.

              This isn’t the first time I’ve shot my mouth off before a pro-gun group, nor is it the first time I’ve had a public debate with the ‘hated’ John Lott. Increasingly, I go out of my way and will even endure a crummy, five-hour plane ride if I get a chance to say what I have to say before a group which fervently believes in 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ After all, why would I want to fly out to Seattle to appear before a meeting of Grandmothers Against Guns?  I love how some of my friends who do public health research on gun violence will only speak in front of gun-control groups. What’s the point of that?

              There are also some folks in Gun-control Nation who are so childishly screwed up that they attack me for being a renegade, a turncoat, a troublemaker and a not-so-secret NRA partisan by appearing on the same stage as the ‘hated’ John Lott. After all, as a good friend who happens to be a leading public health scholar once lectured me, “You’re just giving him credibility which he doesn’t deserve.”

              I am not only pleased to be invited to talk at FreedomFest, I’m hoping that my appearance will lead to more speaking invitations from like-minded groups. And if those appearances involve sharing the stage with John Lott, just as well. When John appears before a meeting of the Federalist Society or some other politically-conservative group, he’s not converting a single person in the audience to his point of view. On the other hand, when I talk at a get-together sponsored by the NRA (and since I’m an Endowment Patriot Life member they can’t kick me out no matter what) someone always comes up, thanks me for coming and says, “Gee, that’s the first time I’ve heard what you had to say.”

              To my friends in Gun-control Nation, we’re not going to challenge America’s gun culture by talking to the folks on our own side. We’re not going to convince the majority of Americans who currently believe that a gun protects them from crime, by telling them about some public health study which shows the idea to be untrue. The last time that Gallup asked whether a gun made a home more or less safe, the ‘more’ outnumbered the ‘less’ by two to one, and 79% of gun owners told Pew that having a gun makes them feel safer than not.

              I happen to disagree with these views. I have watched more than 7,000 people run through a live-fire drill on my range and even with some practice now and again, hardly any of these folks would ever be able to protect themselves with a gun. When I talk to a gun-rights group and tell them to find other ways to deal with the fears which drive them to buy and own guns, I’m telling them something they won’t hear from John Lott.

              Gun-control Nation should spend a little more time thinking about why the ‘other side’ clings to their guns and a little less time promoting their self-righteous beliefs.

If anyone is terribly offended by what I just said, they can have all the space they want on my blog to reply in kind.

Are Democrats Afraid Of Gun Control? Not Any More.

              Last night’s Democratic Presidential debate had to register joyous excitement within the ranks of Gun-control Nation because the candidates spent 15 minutes trotting out their various ideas about how to reduce violence caused by guns. Remember when gun control was verboten as a campaign issue on the Democratic side?  Ain’t true no more, that’s for sure.

              Booker rolled out his plan for national gun licensing, Warren admitted to voting for an assault-rifle ban, Castro said he had no problem with some gun buybacks, on and on. Where they all come down on the same side, however, is restoring CDC gun-research funding, an item that has been stripped from the CDC budget every year since 1997, but which this year has been stuck back into the House version of the budget to the tune of $50 mil.

              Before I say what I am about to say, let me make it perfectly clear that I have no problem with research being done on any health issue, particularly an issue which results in more than 125,000 fatal and non-fatal injuries every year. But let me also make it clear that while my Ph.D. research was on economic history, not gun violence, I know a little bit about the requirements for conducting academic research, and certain requirements remain true whether the research covers gun violence or the 16th-century origins of capitalism, which happened to be my field.

              Those requirements include the following: (1). The data used for the research must be valid and must be directly relevant to the topic at hand; (2). The problem being solved must be defined by its importance to the specific field of inquiry, not by whether data exists which can be properly used.  Unfortunately, much of the research which comes out of the public health research community on gun violence doesn’t meet either of those requirements, and this is not because there hasn’t been enough research money to go around.

              Public health gun researchers love to talk about their work as a contribution to the ‘epidemiology’ of gun violence, you can find this nomenclature in the work of leading gun-violence scholars here. Now I always thought that the term ‘epidemiology’ means that one identifies a threat to health, figures out how it spreads from host to host, and then figures out how to immunize or protect the not-yet-infected population from contracting the disease. But in the case of gun violence, the disease doesn’t spread from victim to victim, the disease is caused because someone picks up a gun and shoots themselves or someone else. And we can’t study this population because either they are not about to admit what they have done, or in the case of suicide, they happen to be dead. That’s a big problem with guns. The rate of fatal injury is much higher than what happens if you fall off your bike.

              Virtually all the gun-violence research published since the CDC ban took effect is based either on CDC injury data which covers the victims of gun violence who do not play a primary role in the spread of this disease, or is based on telephone surveys which, by definition, exclude participation by the shooters themselves.  Does it really matter that most gun owners support background checks for secondary gun transfers when these same gun owners have little, if any direct responsibility for the violence caused by guns?   Our friend Philip Cook interviewed an incarcerated population about how and why they carried guns, but he wasn’t about to ask them to explain the circumstances in which they actually used a gun.

              I hope CDC gun research starts up again so that my friends in the gun research community receive the financial resources they deserve. If they do, then they need to figure out how and why less than five percent of the people who commit violent assaults each year use a gun. And that’s not going to change no matter how many laws we pass to regulate the behavior of law-abiding folks who own guns.

Does PTP Reduce Gun Violence? The Jury’s Still Out.

              All of a sudden, two of the blue-team candidates, Cory and Pete, are talking about something which has never been even so much as whispered in a national political campaign, namely, a federal gun licensing system. This is kind of like a driver’s license for gun ownership, except in this case the license will be issued by the feds. It’s still something of a halfway house, because such a procedure wouldn’t require gun owners to register their guns. On the other hand, if you combine national gun licensing with universal background checks (UCB) you’re almost there. Not quite, but at least almost.

               All of this new-found political concern about gun violence should be a sweet tune to the ears of gun-control advocates and advocacy groups, but I’m not so sure. In fact, in the process of moving from being marginal to central in the gun debate compared to the ‘other’ side, there’s a good chance that this transition may provoke splits and arguments within the gun-control movement itself. After all, when nobody’s listening, it doesn’t really matter whether this group agrees with that group. But when every gun-control group now finds itself being heard and can use its new-found voice to grow its influence and organizational strength, all of a sudden the last thing you want to do is sound like everyone else.

              Last week our friends at Everytown announced they were sending a questionnaire to all Presidential candidates asking them where they stand on 18 different gun issues: background checks, assault weapon bans, the usual gun-control things. One of the questions they did not ask was where candidates stood on pre-purchase gun licensing, which is known as permit-to-purchase, i.e., PTP. The reason this question wasn’t on the Everytown list is because, according to John Feinblatt who runs Everytown, PTP procedures, including Corey’s idea for a national licensing system, “has not been fully researched and proven to have public support.”  This statement immediately drew criticism from some self-appointed gun experts in the gun-control community, who are now lining up behind a PTP law that was recently introduced.

              Except there’s only one little problem with the gun-control activists who think they can support PTP to increase their own presence while taking Everytown down a peg or two.  When it comes to whether or not PTP‘s value has been shown true through evidence-based research, Feinblatt’s hesitation happens to be correct.  The PTP procedures haven’t been fully researched, partly because the definition of PTP happens to differ significantly from state to state.  In New Jersey, every separate purchase of a handgun requires approval from the cops. In Connecticut, you get one license from the state police whether you buy a gun or not. The fact that Connecticut’s homicide rate is lower than other comparable states without a PTP process doesn’t mean the difference is due to PTP. Possible? Yes. Definitive? Absolutely no. At least not yet.

              The PTP bill just filed by Congressman Raskin (D-MD) authorizes the Department of Justice to make grants to states that enact some kind of PTP law which will only allow handguns to be purchased if the applicant passes a background check with fingerprints and is 21 years or older. The bill, however, does not require any licensing authority to determine whether the applicant really needs to own a handgun, the whole point of PTP being that the cops should get to decide the fitness of handgun owners based on something more than whether they can pass a background check.

              Before gun-control advocates jump on the PTP bandwagon, they might take the trouble to understand how PTP laws work and don’t work. On the other hand, making your voice louder in any advocacy community doesn’t necessarily require that what you say bears any relationship to the truth. If you yell loud enough, someone will respond and join your parade. Trump proves that one true every day.