Pete Buttigieg Needs To Deal With A Gun Violence Problem Right Now.

              Until Pete Buttigieg announced that he was a Presidential candidate, he only thing I knew about South Bend, IN was Notre Dame.  I went to graduate school in Chicago and every time I drove back home to New York, I could see the Golden Dome as we zipped past the campus on the interstate, but  that was as close as I ever got to South Bend.

              The city is an old manufacturing center, having been the location of several major manufacturing companies that supplied parts for the auto industry, and even before Buttigieg captured national attention with his announcement, he was known for having pushed some economic redevelopment plans that prevented South Bend from ending up in the downward spiral which trapped other rust-belt towns.

              In addition to the Golden Dome, the city also has an annual music festival, several interesting museums, some pretty park space, all the usual amenities of medium-sized population centers (roughly 100,000 people live in the city itself, roughly another 200,000 folks live nearby) which are larger than small towns but not yet major, urban sites.

              Unfortunately, it now appears that South Bend may be experiencing a life-style change which resembles many major, urban centers, and I’m not talking about a life-style represented by the appearance of Starbucks or a new shopping mall or a farmer’s market with ‘organic’ goat cheese selling at $30 a pound.  I’m talking about the urban life-style known as gun violence which has seen 11 South Bend shootings so far in June alone.

              The good news about violent crime in South Bend is that overall the number of homicides have gone down. There were 18 in 2012, Buttigieg’s first year in office, last year there were 9. The bad news about South Bend violence is the number of aggravated assaults went from 235 in 2012 to 782(!) last year. Guess what happens when two guys get into an argument and one of them pulls out  gun? An assault turns into a shooting and using a gun is a very efficient method for turning a bloody nose into a bullet lodged in the head.

              Right now, Indiana ranks 16th of all 50 states in the statewide murder rate, with an overall score of 6 per 100,000 residents for the Hoosier State. I always thought that Indiana’s murder rate was basically a function of street violence in Indianapolis which, Indy 500 notwithstanding, has always been known as a tough town. The nine murders which occurred in South Bend last year may not sound like a lot of people, but it means that the city’s murder rate is 50 percent higher than the state’s rate as a whole. That ain’t good. 

              And it particularly ain’t good for Mayor Pete’s Presidential campaign, because he has been proposing the one gun-control law that Gun-nut Nation hates most of all, i.e., a national gun-licensing system. Now it happens to be true that without a national gun registration of some kind, all the other ‘reasonable’ gun-control schemes may help reduce gun violence a little bit here and there, but the real big kahuna for gun control is national registration, no ifs, ands, or buts.

              You might want to believe that if South Bend continues to be a murder-rich place, that this news could be used by Pete to underscore the need for better controls over guns. Except that’s not how the world works, at least the world as defined by the pro-gun noisemakers (Trump, Fox, NRA, et. al.) who will lead the charge for the other side.

              Because what they will say, I guarantee it, is that the murder rate in South Bend points up the need for letting civilians walk around with guns. And since gun registration will result in gun confiscation, nobody will be protected and the crime rate in South Bend and everywhere else will zoom straight up.

              I hope that last week’s gun mayhem in South bend was a blip and not the beginning of a trend. Because if it’s the latter, Pete Buttigieg’s campaign could be derailed.

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How Can You Advocate For Gun Control Unless You Know The Facts? You Can’t.

              The first time I got involved in advocacy was 1958. I was a 14-year old big shot. I got on a bus with a bunch of other kids and some adults, Blacks and Whites, and we ‘sat in’ at a lunch counter in a diner on Route 1 in Towson, MD. That’s right – in those days you could take a ‘freedom ride’ to Maryland.

              Then civil rights morphed into the anti-war movement. And because I went to graduate school in Chicago, I was at the meeting in Lincoln Park with Abby, Jerry, Dave Dellinger, John Froines and Tom Hayden, along with a bunch of undercover cops posing as anti-war protestors, when we planned the demonstrations outside the Democratic Convention in 1968.

              In the 70’s, I was back in New York and stayed active by going to various meetings where speakers like Bella Abzug and Gloria Steinem gave stirring speeches about why women had the right to choose, as well as the right to get paid as much as men for doing the same work.

              The advocacy for gender equality then took a slight turn in the 1980’s when folks, including me, began marching for the right to follow one’s own sexual orientation. My greatest Harley experience wasn’t going out to Sturges, it was driving my Low Ryder from Greenwich Village to Times Square alongside the New York City Lesbian Harley Club during the Halloween Night parade.

              All of these advocacy movements shared one thing in common: you didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that dropping napalm on a peasant village, or depriving people of the right to vote, or telling a woman that someone other than her would decide whether she should give birth, or making a gay man or woman hide their most precious and personal feelings was – wrong! It was as simple as that. It was wrong. Period. No questions asked. Wrong. Okay? Wrong.

              But this is where the gun-control advocacy movement, of all the advocacy that I have experienced over the last sixty years is different. What makes it different is that the moral issue of ‘right’ versus ‘wrong’ is simply not so clear. What creates a muddle in this respect is the fact that gun violence occurs because people own guns. And most folks who have access to a gun aren’t breaking any laws. In fact, au contraire, they believe that not only do they have a legal ‘right’ to own a gun, but this right is both enshrined in the Constitution and acknowledged to be correct by the same liberal legal scholars who have supported civil, gender and gay rights.

              So how does someone advocate against guns (and please, spare me the nonsense about how you ‘support’ the 2nd Amendment) that can stand up against such a potent argument from the other side?  What you have to do, it seems to me, is take the trouble to learn about guns – how they are sold, why they are sold, what laws exist which regulate guns, which laws need to be improved, you get the drill. The point is that if you get into a discussion with a pro-gun person and you don’t know these facts, you end up in an emotional exchange which goes nowhere very fast.

              Every person concerned about gun violence should sign up for the online study exercise created by our friends at the Hopkins-Bloomberg school. In fact, Giffords, Everytown, Brady and all the other gun-control groups should insist that their members spend a few hours drilling through the curriculum, taking the self-help tests and sending feedback to the faculty who worked overtime to create this course. Oh, you don’t ‘have time’ to do this self-paced exercise and God forbid replace some of your own feelings with the facts? Give me a break.

              And while you’re at it, let’s not forget to watch this video and send the group in Florida a few bucks. If you have time to read my column, you can’t be that pressed for time or cash.

It’s Not Just The Supply Of Guns That Creates Gun Violence – It’s Also The Demand.

              All of a sudden, after wandering in the wilderness for lo, these many years, it appears that the lost gun-control tribes may finally reach the Promised Land and get a gun bill passed through Congress and signed by a Democratic President in 2021. Of course, this chain of events assumes that Sleazy Don will continue to lag behind in crucial swing states (OH, PA) and that the blue team doesn’t screw everything up by nominating another version of the person who ran the single, worst national campaign of all time in 2016.

              Nevertheless, I’m willing to take the short odds on the possibility that what I am predicting might come true, which leads to the most important question, namely, what kind of gun bill should be passed? And if nothing else, what seems to be the consensus among all the men and women who want to quarterback the blue team, is that the bill should expand background checks to secondary transfers and sales.

              The reasons behind this consensus have to do with two things: 1) everybody, even gun owners, seem to support some kind of expansion of FBI-NICS; and 2) if all gun transfers must be qualified before they take place, it stands to reason that less guns will end up in the ‘wrong hands.’ After all, even the NRA has always made common cause with ‘law-abiding’ gun owners, right?

              Unfortunately, the research standing behind any and all attempts to regulate gun ownership through legal means fails to come to grips with one, very important thing. And this is the fact that none of the studies which examine the degree to which gun laws work or don’t work to reduce gun violence ever take into account one, fundamental issue, namely, the issue of demand.

Whether we like it or not, the events which constitute at least three-quarters or more of every instance of gun violence every year; i.e., fatal and non-fatal gun assaults, reflect an ongoing retail market for this particular product, even if it’s a retail environment quite unlike the local gun store. And while our friend Phil Cook and others have studied this market in terms of product pricing and product supply, the possibility that this market could be somehow controlled by more stringent laws governing legal gun access and ownership, flies in the face of every such governmental effort when confronted with unabated product demand.

The War on Terror has only been going on since 2001, but the War on Drugs was announced by Nixon in 1971. How much money, time, effort and legislative activity has been expended to reduce illegal drug trafficking over the past fifty(!) years? And whatever the answer, what we have gotten is another drug epidemic called ‘opioids.’ And is it just coincidence that as opioids appear to be increasingly common, that the rate of gun violence appears to be going back up?

Last week, with the usual 48-hour brouhaha which always accompanies another aimless rant by John Donahue against John Lott, the Stanford economist once again tried to tell us why we have a crisis called ‘gun violence’ without so much as mentioning or even acknowledging the issue of demand. And as an economist, not a public health researcher, Donahue should know better than that. But why bother to bring the most obvious and necessary issue to bear when discussing how and why guns get into the ‘wrong’ hands?

I can’t read a single issue of a gun-control news aggregator like The Trace without seeing at least one article bemoaning the failure of gun regulations to cover the myriad ways in which guns move from the ‘legal’ to the ‘illegal’ milieu. Which is why everyone in Gun-control Nation is touting the idea of comprehensive background checks (CBC) as the first and most obvious method for reducing the violence caused by guns.

So let me break it to you gently. Unless a way is found to reduce the demand for illegal guns, I guarantee you that the market will find a way to negate the impact of CBC. Guaranteed.

Want To Teach About Gun Violence? Try Doing What Gun Nuts Do.

              If you haven’t yet taken a look at the online course on gun violence being offered by our friends at the Hopkins-Bloomberg School, you haven’t been reading my columns. I have posted several columns about the importance and value of this online educational effort, and I am pleased to find that more than 2,100 folks have registered to watch the well-done video lectures which are offered along with a quiz on each section of the curriculum, a very comprehensive reading list and, of course, a feedback form.

              Those of us who form what I refer to as Gun-control Nation like to believe that one of the major differences between what we say about gun violence and what Gun-nut Nation says is the degree to which our beliefs and narratives about this problem are grounded in evidence-based research, whereas the other side, the gun-nut side, doesn’t believe in evidence or scientific research at all. Want an example of how 2nd-Amendment advocates get the information they use to support their ideas? Try any of the loony and stupid videos by Grant Stinchfield, Dana Loesch or Colion Noir that are posted on NRA-TV. These efforts aren’t educational at all – they are nothing more than plain hucksterism disguised as some kind of rational opinion about the positive reasons for owning guns.

              But if you believe that Gun-control Nation has a copyright on internet video messaging which has a rational, educational focus while Gun-nut Nation’s messaging is nothing more than hot air, think again. In fact, if anything, when it comes to imparting real, hard-core information about guns, the folks who produce and distribute educational videos which promote gun ownership and the gun-owning lifestyle are way out ahead.

              Want an example?  Try this YouTube video, which has been viewed more than one million times:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNKKC4ew1Xk.  The company which produced this video has more than 100,000 subscribers to its website and the average video posted on the site has been viewed at least 50,000 times. Now you may not want to believe that a ten-minute video which shows a guy blasting away for 30 seconds with a variety of 9mm pistols should qualify as an ‘educational’ tool. But the reason this video has been viewed so many times is that lots of folks out there are considering buying, owning and carrying a pistol for self-defense, and this video is a very effective and professional effort to provide potential armed citizens with exactly the kind of information they need.

              Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Gun-nut Nation’s online educational effort are aimed (pardon the pun) only at providing information which can be used to promote the sale of self-defense guns.  Take a look at this video which has registered almost 250,000 views: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ODhQmE2OqY&feature=youtu.be

Frankly, if the Department of History at an Ivy League school wants to expand its curriculum to include a course on the history of technology as exemplified by early gun design, they should hire the guy who did this video and runs a website, https://www.forgottenweapons.com/, which contains a remarkable collection of evidence-based articles, book reviews and technical videos that puts many so-called educational websites to shame.

              You would think that with the kind of financial support that gun-control advocates can tap from the likes of Mike Bloomberg, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, that creating some kind of video effort to promote discussions about the risk of guns is something that should have happened years ago. The really silly videos posted on NRA-TV get more than 300,000 views every month. You mean that a solid and informed video presence produced by a gun-control production company couldn’t do just as well?

              Here’s the bottom line. No advocacy effort can afford to cut itself off from actual or potential supporters when the opponents of that effort communicate to their supporters on a regular and ongoing basis every day.  Believe me, the pro-gun video machine is a much more effective way to generate support for gun ‘rights’ than some loony speech coming from Wayne-o at the NRA.

              THANK YOU BRENT GURTEK!

It’s Time To Learn Something About Guns.

              Last week our friends at the Hopkins-Bloomberg school put up a website with an twelve-hour, online course about gun violence which can be accessed right here. The course covers all the essential issues swirling around the gun-violence debate today, including reviews of relevant laws and comprehensive discussions of what we know and what we still don’t know about the behavior that kills and injures more than 125,000 Americans every year.

              This is, as far as I can tell, the first attempt to create a serious and comprehensive effort not only to explain gun violence, but to give both specialists and advocates a clear roadmap that can be used to understand what gun violence is all about. And it couldn’t have been done at a more germane time, given the degree to which gun violence has become something of a litmus test for every wannabe 2020 Presidential candidate, at least on the Democratic side. Whether there will be more than one GOP candidate remains to be seen, ha ha ha.

              In addition to classroom presentations by members of the Hopkins faculty’ along with some invited academic guests, each subject also contains a very detailed bibliography of relevant published research. This is the first time any group has mounted a serious effort to create a collection of documentation on gun violence which can be used to further inform the gun-control community about the research that lies behind our understanding about violence caused by guns. The bibliography contains more than 125(!) separate references, and can be printed out or saved for further use. Frankly, this resource alone is a reason why every gun-control advocate or activist should enroll and take this course.

              As of this morning, the course registration stands at slightly more than 2,000 hardy souls. That number is an embarrassment, it’s a joke. It tells me that what I have said (and gotten criticized for saying) about the gun-control movement, or how they refer to themselves as the gun violence prevention movement or GVP, namely, that most of the folks who claim to be so concerned about gun violence are no more interested to understanding the issue than the bunch promoting 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ on the other side.

              When Art Kellerman and Fred Rivara published their formative articles on gun violence back in the early 1990’s, the pro-gun movement responded by launching attacks on this effort which, from a scientific point of view, were nothing more than errant nonsense or worse. Public health research on gun violence was derided as fake, un-American and designed to be used by government to take away everyone’s guns. If anything, this campaign set the tone for the more recent iteration of the alt-right’s response to science and scientific research known as ‘fake’ news.

              I would be much less concerned about the gun lobby’s strategy to eliminate or downplay the need for gun research were it not for the fact that most of the folks on my side of the fence do not seem all that concerned about absorbing the lessons that can be derived from such research themselves. Last year I mounted a survey which asked gun-control activists to answer 12 questions about gun laws, all the questions covering basic information being used by advocacy groups to define their strategies about violence caused by guns. The little quiz has been taken by several hundred folks and the average score has been six correct; in other words, a big, fat flunk. Given the fact that most GVP activists (like 90 percent) hold post-graduate degrees, the lack of basic knowledge in the GVP community is a deplorable state of affairs.

              I think that gun-control organizations like Brady and Everytown should not only be actively promoting the Hopkins gun-violence course, but should be telling, indeed insisting that their members and supporters register and sign up for the course – now! To quote Terry Goodkind, “Knowledge is a weapon and I intend to be formidably armed.”

              Armed with a gun or armed with the facts. Which do you choose?

Will Funding ATF Reduce Gun Violence?

              I normally don’t write a Friday column but the news out of Washington yesterday is so distressing that I can’t let it go through the weekend without a response. What I am referring to is the decision by the House Appropriations Committee to increase the ATF budget by $122 million, money evidently earmarked “to improve the agency’s oversight of Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) and operations.” The quote is from a press release issued by our friends at the Brady Campaign.

              The Brady release quotes a committee member, Grace Meng, who states: “Gun dealers who are knowingly breaking the law need to be held accountable, and I am firmly committed to ensuring ATF has every resource necessary to do their jobs.” Congresswoman Meng represents a large swatch of the New York City borough of Queens, which includes what used to be a high gun-violence neighborhood known as Jamaica. The committee chair, Jose Serranno, represents The Bronx as well as upper Manhattan, neighborhoods which also used to experience epidemic-like rates of gun violence year after year.

              Note the fact that both Meng and Serrano represent districts which “used to’ suffer from gun violence.  Know why I put it in the past tense? Because all of New York City has, of late, seen an unbelievable decline in gun violence, at a time when many urban centers throughout the United States continue to see gun violence rates going up. In 2018, the NYPD recorded 753 shootings and 289 homicides.  The gun-violence numbers for 2018 in Chicago, respectively, were 2,948 and 561. New York City has three times more residents than Chicago and suffers 1/4th the number of shootings that occur in the Windy City and half as many violent deaths.  Get it?

              Does this comparison in any way, shape or form have anything to do with how many gun dealers the ATF inspects every year?  Not one bit. And the idea that the bumbling idiots who work for the Industry Operations division of the ATF make any difference in gun-violence rates as they bumble around various gun shops is a complete and total joke.

              I went through an ATF inspection in 2013 which took somewhere around three months. After examining close to 5,000 transactions, I could not produce the requisite paperwork to account for a whole, big, three guns. I was also cited for several thousand infractions, each infraction defined as a possible ‘threat’ to public safety. Know what these public-safety threats consisted of? I had forgotten to list the FFL number of the wholesaler from whom I purchased most of my new guns. The wholesaler happens to be located thirty miles from my shop and sends a daily feed to the ATF of all guns it ships to retailers like me. 

              My gun shop represented such a source of crime guns that, on average, I received two trace requests every – year! Not every week, not every month, every year. The ATF says it doesn’t employ enough inspectors to conduct sufficient audits to insure public safety?  The public needed an audit of my shop like the public needed a hole in its head.

              I’m not opposed to the regulation of gun dealers by the ATF or anyone else. What I am opposed to is the idea that politicians like Grace Meng and Jose Serrano can make it appear (to an unsuspecting public) that their response to gun violence is the proper way to go. What they should be asking themselves is how to use their legislative and fiscal authority to really make an impact on gun violence throughout the United States. And the answer is very simple.

              Why doesn’t Congress fund a program which will help other police departments in high-crime cities develop and maintain the kind of policing that has basically made New York City a crime-free town? With more resources and better training, NYPD’s ‘precision policing’ and more effective community relations could easily be replicated anywhere and everywhere.

              Reducing gun violence isn’t rocket science, okay?

An Important New Book on Gun Violence.

              Our friend Tom Gabor has just published a book, Enough – Solving America’s Gun Violence Crisis, which is both a review of what we know and don’t know about gun violence, as well as a personal manifesto about what needs to be done. In that respect, this book reflects a new, much more confident mood in Gun-control Nation, given how the political landscape has recently changed. After all, it’s less than two decades since the Democratic Party turned its back on gun violence after Al Gore’s loss at the polls, and now you can’t announce for President without making it clear you’ll do something about gun violence if you win the big kahuna next year.

              Gabor’s book is a quick and easy read – he writes clearly and doesn’t overburden the reader with mounds of extraneous text. He also keeps his focus directly on policies and programs which, taken together, represent the agenda of Gun-control Nation, and is honest and objective in terms of evaluating what has worked and what hasn’t worked to reduce gun violence over the past years.

              Finally, although Gabor has a long and distinguished career as an academic, this book is not a dry, academic text. He refers to gun-control activists as ‘peace warriors,’ a particularly arresting phrase, insofar as it links the notion of non-violence together with a militaristic campaign to protect America from its nearly 400-million arsenal of civilian-owned guns.

              In what directions should this campaign now move? The author covers all of the major gun-control initiatives and policies, including licensing gun owners, concealed-carry and stand your ground, safe storage, abolishing PLCCA and other industry protections, banning assault weapons and ‘smart’ guns and red flag laws. For each category he covers experiences and results to date, the intention being to create a ‘roadmap’ of policies and initiatives which can then be followed by gun-control advocates seeking guidance in developing strategies and plans.

              The book concludes with an interesting and unique twist, namely, what Gabor calls a ‘Declaration of Rights’ which could serve as a clarion-call for groups and individuals who want to reduce violence from guns. Basically, the document lists a series of ‘rights’ that everyone should be able to enjoy, flowing from the implementation of effective policies to restrict the use and ownership of guns. These ‘rights’ would include feeling safe, movement in gun-free zones, reliance only on law enforcement for public safety; in other words, a nice counterpoint to the policies which promote gun ‘rights.’ I’m not sure where Gabor is going, organizationally, with this Bill of Rights, but if he puts up a website asking everyone to subscribe to this document, I’ll sign up.

              Of course I never review any book without finding something critical to say, so here goes.  The challenge which this book does not confront is that you can talk all you want about how and why we need more effective gun-control policies, but the problem is how to get from here to there. The devil’s always in the details, so to speak.

The fact that a certain gun law or regulation has been effective within a specific jurisdiction or state, doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be effective if extended to all fifty states. The strength of our Federalist system is that it reflects the enormous physical and cultural diversity of this country, and it is simply impossible to assume that out of the experience of one state or locality, we could craft gun-control laws where one size fits all. This is precisely why Gabor’s comparison of America’s gun laws to gun regulations in other countries (e.g., his native Canada) doesn’t work.

That being said, this book delivers enough information (with footnoted references) that it deserves to be purchased and read.  If the 2020 election pushes new gun-control legislation to the fore, Tom Gabor’s book will hopefully help shape the debate. 

Well done.

Here’s Your Opportunity To Study Gun Violence. Don’t Miss It.

              Our friends at the Hopkins-Bloomberg school have produced and published what I believe is the first attempt to create a comprehensive curriculum on gun violence. This is a very impressive online effort and should be viewed, used and studied by everyone who would like to see gun violence come to an end. In fact, if I were running a group which advocates gun control, I would insist that every member of the group register and go through the course. For that matter, I would post the course on my Facebook page and suggest that other FB admins do it too.  In fact, I’m posting and pinning the course on my FB page right now.

              The good news is that the entire curriculum is video-delivered by members of the Hopkins faculty, all of whom know how to stand up in front of a classroom and deliver lectures in a clear and organized way. The better news is that the website is user-friendly and the lessons can be easily accessed even by users with only a slight degree of digital skills. Finally, the lessons are all on video, but you can also refer to text, and there are reading lists attached for further study, as well as a review quiz at the end of each lesson.

              If you take the program seriously, watch every lecture, read the relevant assignments, do all quiz exercises and give feedback, you are looking at more than 11 hours of study time.  In other words, this is serious stuff and the entire effort is obviously meant to be taken seriously. Incidentally, along with four members of the Hopkins faculty, there are lessons provided by outside experts, including our friends Jeff Swanson and Adam Winkler, and of course the website includes forums so that every student also gets a chance to shoot his or her mouth off. God forbid there would actually be a website out there which doesn’t afford everyone the opportunity to make some noise, right?

              If my last sentence reads in a somewhat sarcastic vein, it’s not by accident. One of the reasons I like this effort is because it is advertised up front as being based on ‘evidence;’ i.e., the content is tied to relevant research in the field. Now that doesn’t mean that all the research is totally correct or that more research needs to be done. But the whole point here, it seems to me, is to inject fact-based knowledge into the gun debate, rather than just creating another digital forum for opinions, a.k.a. hot air. The gun-control movement has come into its own since Sandy Hook; if anything, when it comes to the argument about the role of guns in American society, for the first time gun control appears to have trumped gun ‘rights.’ All the more reason why the discussion needs to proceed on evidence drawn from serious research, not opinions out of thin air. 

              Talking about evidence, I have only one suggestion to make to the faculty that created this course, and it’s a suggestion which obviously flows from my own background when it comes to the issue of guns. If it were possible to revise the curriculum at some point, I would ask the faculty to consider adding a section which explains the meaning of the word ‘gun.’ After all, if we want to learn about a certain kind of violence which is defined by the use of a certain object which we call a ‘gun,’ shouldn’t we make sure that all our learners know how to define that object in terms of how it’s designed, how it’s manufactured, how it works and doesn’t work?. I see too many instances on various gun-control forums, FB pages, and questions directly asked of me which indicate a knowledge deficit on both sides of the gun debate about the product which causes the violence itself.

              That’s a minor quibble.  I hope the Hopkins faculty will take seriously the work they have done and promote its access every chance they get. And when you finish reading this text, go to the website and sign up for the course.

Think The NRA Will Change Direction? Think Again.

              Poor Wayne-o.  Here’s a guy who has spent his entire lifetime working tirelessly and endlessly for America’s gun owners and what does he get for all his efforts? He gets a drop-dead piece in Rolling Stone which has to signal the beginning of the end. My advice, incidentally, to my friends in Gun-control Nation who want to kiss LaPierre bye-bye, is that they quiet down. The last thing the boys in Fairfax would consider doing is making a management change which appears to be in response to demands from what I’ll politely call the ‘other side.’ 

              But let’s assume that Wayne-o’s tenure comes to an end. Let’s assume that the NRA Board cleans house, gets its financial affairs in order (not that any government agency has yet to charge the NRA with any illegal activity at all) comes up with a new leadership team, issues the usual ‘we can and will do better’ encomiums and goes about its way. Would any or all of those measures really change the nature or the outcome of the gun debate?  In other words, would Wayne-o’s disappearance result in a kindler and gentler NRA?

              By the way, as far as I’m concerned, the dirt being shoveled in Wayne-o’s face is nothing more than payback, given how the NRA has insulted, demonized and threatened folks who have been leading the campaign for reducing violence caused by guns. When Colorado voted to repeal comprehensive background checks in 2015, you would have thought the issue was whether Mike Bloomberg was coming to live in the Centennial State, with PSA‘s making it clear that this Jewboy needed to stay away. Shannon Watts continues to attract her share of insulting and threatening comments from NRA noisemakers like those jerk-offs Grant Stinchfield and Dana Loesch.

              On the other hand, the fact that the NRA has been trying to posture itself as a self-appointed public voice for the alt-right doesn’t mean that anything would change for the better if Wayne-o took his $5-million retirement package and disappeared. If anything, the defense of 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ could become even more belligerent and more extreme.

              The NRA likes to describe itself as America’s first line of 2nd-Amendment defense, but in reality the organization is primarily focused on the South because that’s where the guns happen to be. The current Board leadership (Meadows, Childress) are both Southerners, of the 76 total Board members, 32 are from Confederate states. Visit the next annual NRA meeting and you’ll quickly realize that you may walking theough a large convention center, but you’re actually inside a big revival tent.

              The NRA counts on support from three groups. One group are gun owners who aren’t actually members, but consider gun ownership to be some kind of necessary ‘right.’ Then there are NRA members whose membership is force of habit but nothing much more. Finally and most important are the hard-core members, the folks who go to local gun events, talk up the 2nd Amendment until someone tells them to shut up, send an email to a public official or a nasty comment to me. That’s the organization’s base – that’s the core..

              Whatever happens in Fairfax, the NRA can’t afford to alienate its hard core. If anything, they need to bind their most rabid supporters as close as they can. Because what the NRA may start to lose in numbers can perhaps be made up with more noise. Which is why I don’t see the NRA becoming more ‘reasonable’ if they jettison Wayne-o, tear up their agreement with the PR firm that produces those lunatic messages for NRA-TV, and goes back to being primarily concerned with hunting and outdoor sports.

              If anything, I see the NRA becoming even more extreme, more intolerant, more unwilling to admit that maybe, just maybe, the notion that we should become a nation of gun-carrying patriots is a relic of the past. It’s a lot easier to change direction when you have enough support that it doesn’t matter if a few folks drop off here or there. But if, all of a sudden, every dime counts, you’re not about to do anything that would jeopardize the mother lode.

Safe Storage Isn’t Safe At All.

              It is now more than a quarter-century since Art Kellerman, Fred Rivara and other scholars published a seminal work on suicide risk and access to guns. This article not only brought public attention to gun risk, but was probably the single, most important event leading to the 1996 elimination of gun research funding by the CDC.

              Just this week, another research effort linking guns to suicide has appeared, giving us an opportunity to compare research findings on the same issue over the last 25 years. And I’m going to give you my conclusion up front, which is that public health research on gun risk has created a medical consensus on how to deal with gun violence that moves us further away from where we should be.

              The whole purpose of public health research is to identify a risk to community health, figure out the proper response to that risk, then give physicians the proper tools to (note the next word in caps) eliminate the risk. Sorry, but the Hippocratic Oath doesn’t mention reducing disease; it says: “I will prevent disease whenever I can.”

              The authors of this new paper, obviously cognizant of the role of medicine in the prevention of disease, inject that issue into their work with the following conclusion: “In the overall model, 6% to 32% of deaths were estimated to be preventable depending on the probability of motivating safer storage.”

Reducing a threat to health by 6 percent isn’t prevention. And worse, even this minimal outcome, which is at best an ‘estimate,’ is dependent on whether the at-risk population responds positively to the ‘probability’ of ‘motivating’ a certain public-health strategy known as ‘safe storage.’

The ‘safe storage’ strategy has become the deus ex machina for gun control embraced by virtually every gun-control initiative both within and without the medical field. The strategy has never (read: never) been tested in anything other than a variety of statistical manipulations of relevant (but not definitive) data. Not one researcher has ever created a control group versus a comparison group and then analyzed outcomes between the two groups. The definition of ‘safe storage’ doesn’t even cover how the term is utilized in relevant legal statutes and texts.

I happen to live in the state – Massachusetts – which has the strictest safe-storage law of all 50 states. In my state, a gun owner can be charged with a felony even if a gun is simply left unlocked or not locked away in the home. But MA also recognizes that a gun is safely stored if the qualified owner can reach out and touch the gun. So if I am sitting in my living room watching TV and cleaning one of my guns at the same time, the gun is safely stored.

I have yet to see a single public health study advocating safe storage which asks respondents to define safe storage as locked, locked away or sitting next to the gun’s owner when he’s awake or asleep. Which means that these studies, like the one just published, are based on a primary variable (type of storage behavior) which has no connection to reality at all.

This is why I said above that public health gun research has moved us further, rather than closer to figuring out what to do about a threat to public health that results in at least 125,000 deaths and injuries every year. Because if you go back to the Kellerman-Rivara research which found gun owners to be at higher risk for suicide, their finding wasn’t based on whether or not guns were safely stored.

Why has the public health field decided that only guns that aren’t safely stored represent a risk to health? Because they actually believe that medical counseling on gun violence must respect our Constitutional ‘right’ to own a gun.

Since when did the Hippocratic Oath require physicians to determine health risk based on  whether some law gives individuals free license to harm themselves or others? Which is what the 2nd Amendment is really all about, whether the medical community and their public health research friends want to acknowledge it or not.