The Worst Gun Salesman Of All Time Coming To The NRA.

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When Obama was President, the pro-gun gang used to jokingly refer to him as the best ‘salesman’ they ever had. But there was lots of truth to that statement, particularly after the massacre at Sandy Hook, when Barack tried to get Congress to expand background checks to secondary gun transfers, a remarkably mild response to gun violence which nevertheless still failed. Meanwhile, in the final four years of his ‘regime,’ the gun industry may have pushed as many as 90 million additional guns into the civilian arsenal, two to three times as many guns as were made and sold during the eight years of George W. Bush.

trump5               Since the NRA’s pet President took over, however, things have changed, and not for the better. Since the beginning of this year, gun sales are back down to their pre-Obama levels, and nobody expects things to turn around all that quick. Let’s face it: for all the talk and hogwash about everyone walking around with a gun, what always drives gun sales is the possibility that the last gun you bought might be the last one you could ever buy.

Back last October at the end of one of my classes on handgun safety, a woman who took the class told me that she was very happy to have come to the class because she was afraid that Hillary would win the election and then she wouldn’t even be able to apply for a gun license, never mind actually buy a gun. How did such a crazy idea get into her head? Don’t ask me, ask my friends in Fairfax, because they spent $30 million last year trying to convince voters of exactly the same thing.

I think that Everytown, Brady and the Violence Policy Center should create an award for the person who has done the most to reduce gun violence, announce a big, public event, and give the award to Donald Trump. Because no matter how you slice it and dice it, there’s a direct and clear connection between the amount of gun violence that we endure and the ease with which Americans can get their hands on guns. Now I’m not saying that legal gun owners go around shooting up their neighborhoods each and every day. What I am saying is that with all due respect to the 2nd Amendment, which is a nonsense excuse for the 120,000+ gun deaths and injuries which occurs every year, the bottom line is that gun violence would come to an end if we got rid of the guns.

And by the way, not only is Trump the reason for a drop in the number of guns floating around, he also may be responsible for a disappearance of the most horrific form of gun violence, namely, those gun-violence events like Sandy Hook which result in ten, twenty, thirty or more people getting murdered with guns at the same time and at the same place.

These events aren’t just ‘mass’ shootings, which the FBI defines as three or more people killed at one place all at the same time, they are rampage shootings, where someone just keeps pulling the trigger again and again until everyone around him is either wounded or dead.

I was looking at a list of what NPR calls the ‘deadliest’ shootings in U.S. history, and I noticed there have been 15 such events since Chuckie Whitman climbed to the top of the Texas Tower in 1966 and started blasting away. Of those 15 events, which together netted almost 300 dead and another 350 injured, nine of them occurred in just eight years of that fifty-year span – the eight years between 2009 and 2017. 

Can it just be coincidence that two-thirds of the most horrific shootings in American history took place when we had a President who was venomously and hatefully accused of being anti-gun? Let’s give Trump-o a year or so in office and maybe we’ll find out.

Another Crackpot Almost Joins The Trump Team.

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Take a look at the change.org website and you’ll find a petition which asks Senator Chuck Schumer to have #45 declared mentally ill and removed from behind the Oval Office desk. The petition was started by a psychiatrist, John Gartner, who specializes in treating personality disorders and is convinced that Trump-o’s mental state puts the country at risk.

manson             I thought that the endless lying, braggadocio and confused thoughts of the Trump campaign persona were just a good act. I never thought it would carry over to his behavior as President, in particular the degree to which he continues to say things which any ‘normal’ person would know are simply untrue. He got up before a group of sheriffs last week and said that the murder rate had reached a 45-year high; in fact it has hit a 45-year low. So is Trump unable to tell the difference between fantasy and fact, or is he relying on a staff which is hopelessly unable to figure anything out?

It may be a combination of both, but the bottom line is that Dr. Gartner’s petition now has 50,784 signatures, even though it’s not clear to what degree a physician should publicly identify an at-risk individual if the physician has not actually examined the person himself. But the issue of Trump’s mental stability will no doubt be a priority for the doctor who was a finalist but didn’t get the #2 job at HHS. He’s a New York psychiatrist named Michael Welner, who wanted to head up mental health initiatives for the government, and would have played a leading role in the debate about mental health and guns.

After Sandy Hook, Democrats called for tighter gun regulations, Republicans wanted more attention paid to keeping guns away from the mentally ill. Now in fact mental illness, particularly mental illness which requires hospitalization or some other form of intensive treatment, is not usually a factor in explaining gun violence, even though people who kill other people aren’t ‘normal’ like you and me. But promoting the alleged connection between mental illness and gun violence is an easy way to avoid or ignore the degree to which Americans have basically free access to guns. And it is the ability for just about anyone to get their hands on a gun which drives our homicide rates far above other OECD violence rates.

If you’re looking for a physician to help drive the Republican agenda on mental illness and crime, then Dr. Welner’s ‘da man.’ He has developed a ‘depravity standard’ which measures whether a crime is just a crime, or whether it was depraved, heinous, atrocious; what prosecutors call ‘aggravating circumstances’ which may influence the sentence up to a death penalty, or considerations about early release from jail. The standard is based on a survey which anyone over the age of 18 can take.  It asks participants to rate the level of depravity for various behavioral, criminal acts, such as inflicting severe pain, choosing certain types of victims, influencing others to commit criminal acts; you rate the level of depravity from 1 to 100 and your answers build a database that will help judges, prosecutors and juries determine proper punishment levels in serious crimes.

What’s behind Welner’s research is an attempt to define evil, which is exactly what gets him into trouble, because there is no clear or concise definition of evil, just as there really is no clear definition of the word ‘depraved.’ But Welner is no stranger to tacking labels onto behavior, whether they fit or not.  Last year he went on CNN and not only said that Trump’s narcissism was positive and healthy, but also claimed that Hillary’s statements about Benghazi showed that she was the ‘pathological liar’ in the campaign.

Michael Welner’s crackpot theories are perfect for Trump. I can see him on CNN saying that we all need guns to protect us from ‘depraved’ criminals because that’s another crackpot theory which Trump will no doubt proclaim when he talks in front of the NRA. One good crackpot deserves another.

Trump Comes To NRA And Tells Them What They Want To Hear.

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None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free. — Goethe.

              This coming Friday, April 28th, Donald Trump is scheduled to speak at the NRA meeting in Atlanta, the first time a sitting President has appeared before the faithful since Saint Ronald showed up in 1983. And what did Reagan tell the group he was doing in Washington to advance their 2nd-Amendment rights? He went on and on about how his administration was being ‘tough on crime.’  And he also singled out a group in Arizona called the Sun City Posse, which was ‘just individuals who patrol their neighborhoods in their cars,’ the way that George Zimmerman was patrolling his neighborhood when Trayvon Martin happened to walk by.

Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C Groundbreaking Ceremony             I’ll bet you Trump will basically roll out the same tough guy nonsense when he appears before the NRA later this week. And why not? Getting tough on crime has always sold well for the Republican brand, and come to think of it, fighting crime didn’t hurt the political fortunes of a Democrat named Bill Clinton as well. But Clinton didn’t tie his crime-fighting strategy to the promotion of guns; in fact, the passage of the Brady bill and the assault weapons ban marked him as the most successful anti-gun President we ever had.

Which is why the NRA had such an easy time of it during the Obama ‘regime,’ because sitting in the Oval Office, right in front of America’s gun owners, was a black guy who was determined to expand the so-called ‘assault’ on 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ And what better way to keep your followers energized and excited (and opening their wallets) than to remind them again and again that the ‘enemy’ is not only at the gates but is actually inside the hen-house looking out?

Which is exactly the problem now facing the NRA because the enemy has been replaced by their seemingly best friend, which means they have to shift from attack dog to tame dog without missing a beat. And this isn’t so easy when the person you pledged to help and support not only changes his political stance every day, but has backtracked on many of the issues which led you to help him in the first place. Remember how Trump-o was going to ‘get tough’ on China trade? Remember how he used to be against the ‘dream act?’  Remember all that nonsense about how America could only become great again if we didn’t stick our nose into other country’s affairs?

Take a look at this article in Politico which really nails how the ditherings of the Trump administration has fractured what was the unquestioned alliance of the Conservative media and the organizations they represent when this mutual relationship of Obama-haters were on the outside of political power looking in. Know what happened the day that Trump announced the (brief) elevation of Steve Bannon to be his right-hand man? Everyone else who had been slavishly promoting the Trumpian agenda said ‘how come him and not me?’

So Wayne-o was invited to journey out of his lair in Fairfax on Easter to the White House to help roll some eggs on the lawn; notice how Trump’s dinner with alt-right icons Palin, Nugent and Kid Rock didn’t even make his Twitter account? You can accuse Trump of this or that, but one thing you can’t accuse him of being is loyal to his friends. The fact that the NRA spent more than $30 million of its membership dues to get #45 into the Oval Office, to quote my beloved grandmother, they can go ‘chub en drerd.’ Which means go lay brick.

But in the meantime, claiming you’re tough on crime is always a safe bet. Which is why the NRA for years has been promoting the utterly false idea about the role of armed citizens in fighting crime. There’s only one little problem – there just ain’t much crime in places where most people live who own legal guns. But Goethe’s quote about false beliefs has never been more true than now.

 

An Election In Montana And The Democrat Is Pro-Gun. Huh?

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After a strong showing in the Kansas special election and an almost-win in Georgia, the spotlight’s on Montana where another contest to fill the seat vacated by now-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. And believe it or not, when the campaign first started, both candidates had previously expressed views that were not at all pro-gun, and this in a state where just about everyone owns a gun.  But now that the election is coming down to the wire, of course out come the negative ads, and what better way to siphon off a few votes from the other side than to attack your opponent’s position on gun ownership which will surely rile a few residents in the Big Sky state?

montana            Back in January, a country singer and composer named Rob Quist threw his hat in the ring to run for the state’s lone congressional seat, and made the mistake of telling a reporter that he didn’t think it was a big deal to register guns because, after all, we register our cars. Nobody made a big deal out of it at the time, but when the Republican candidate, Greg Gianforte, realized he was running behind in pre-election polls, he unleashed an attack ad which accused Quist of advocating a national gun registry that would include all kinds of personal information about anyone who owned a gun.

Now Quist has responded with an attack ad of his own in which he says that Gianforte is a millionaire businessman from New Jersey attacking his ‘Montana values,’ and of course the values which Quist is promising to defend are the cherished 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ The ad shows Quist standing behind a pickup truck, holding a 30-30 rifle and saying that, “for generations, this old rifle has protected my family’s ranch.” He then loads the rifle and continues, “In Congress, I’ll protect your right to bear arms because it’s my right too.”

Actually, if you look closely at the rifle’s sideplate and you know something about guns, you’ll realize that the rifle being loaded and then fired by Quist couldn’t have been in his family for ‘generations’ because it had to have been manufactured sometime in the last 14 or 15 years. Okay, we’ll forgive this banjo-player for a little bit of stagecraft in filming this ad, but what we won’t forgive for is an interview by his opponent, who defended his support of the 2nd Amendment by stating that he did not believe in extending background checks to secondary sales because attempts to regulate guns only ‘penalized’ law-abiding gun owners.

I wouldn’t mind if guns and gun violence were a central issue in any political campaign. And if that were to happen, I would expect the Republican candidate to push out the usual party line about how gun regulations only hurt the ‘good guys’ and don’t stop the ‘bad guys’ from getting their hands on guns. But when the Democratic candidate tries to out-gun his opponent and tells the voters to vote for him because he’ll go to Washington and protect their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ then we have a real problem because I’m sorry, but that’s not what Democrats are supposed to say.

And the issue of guns getting into the ‘wrong hands’ is a particular problem in Montana, believe it or not, because even though the Big Sky state experiences few gun homicides or assaults each year, it happens to rank 4th highest in the rate of suicides, and is the number one state in the entire United States when it comes to suicides committed with guns.

Rob Quist should be ashamed of himself for pandering to the gun vote even if there’s no other vote in Big Sky. And if Democrats want to get elected by putting themselves to the right of the party of Trump, then they deserve to lose because that’s not a way to win.  I’m happy to send some dough to Jon Ossoff in Georgia but Rob Quist just lost any chance of getting a donation from me. [Thanks to Ladd Everitt.]

Does Steve Ballmer Really Understand The Facts About Guns? I’m Not Sure.

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Like many people with an IT background, I have been wondering what Steve Ballmer has been up to since he left Microsoft back in 2014.  And thanks to an article published earlier this week in The New York Times, now I know.  Along with a group of researchers and academics (none of whom are identified, by the way) Steve has constructed a website that allows viewers to gain a “data-driven portrait of the American population, our government’s finances, and government’s impact on society.”

usafacts             Steve claims that the website has ‘no political agenda,’ but he gives himself away when he says that “We hope to spur serious, reasoned, and informed debate on the purpose and functions of government.” And if you don’t believe that ‘reasoned and informed debate’ doesn’t constitute a political agenda, I invite you to take a look at Trump’s daily tweets. Okay?

Anyway, what initially caught my eye was a statement by Steve justifying only using government-sourced data so as to avoid accusations of bias. But this strategy creates its own challenges, and the challenge cited by Steve in this respect involves the issue of guns. “You know,” he is quoted as saying, “it’s not legal to know how many firearms that are in this country? The government is not allowed to collect the number.  I’m shocked! But the N.R.A. has apparently lobbied in such a way government can’t report the data.”

With all due respect to Steve’s effort to report on what the government does with every dime it collects, I just hope his knowledge of laws and regulations about how the government operates is more accurate than his understanding of how the government regulates guns.  Because the fact that we can’t find information doesn’t mean that there is a law preventing the collection of such information or that it is illegal to go looking for it. Which is what Steve is saying about data on the number of guns owned by Americans, and what he says happens not to be true.

The issue about how many privately-owned guns are sitting in American households is never far away from any debate about gun violence or gun anything else. Both sides accept the rough estimate of 300 million firearms, number used either to promote the idea that guns are as common (and useful) as apple pie, or that so many guns results in an unacceptable level of gun violence – take your pick.  But the problem of coming up with an accurate count on what we call the American ‘gun stock’ is due to the fact that the government didn’t start regulating gun manufacturing until 1968, when gun makers first started reporting annual manufacturing numbers to the ATF, and we had absolutely no idea how many guns were floating around prior to the 1968 date.

It might come as something of a surprise, but for that matter we really don’t know how many privately-owned automobiles are sitting in driveways, garages or up on cinderblocks in the front yard. Because the fact that someone doesn’t register an automobile and pay for a set of plates doesn’t mean that the car doesn’t exist and can’t be driven down to the mini-mart or anywhere else. Ditto with guns.

The real problem in estimating gun ownership rates is breaking it down to individual states or localities within states. For example, the Brennan Center has just published an authoritative report on crime which shows that half the homicide increase in the 30 largest cities occurred in only three: Baltimore, Chicago and DC. Do we have any idea how many guns might be found in those locations? No idea at all.

We can always follow Steve’s lead and blame the data gap on the nefarious activities of the NRA. But the NRA has never opposed national registration of all firearms for the simple reason that such a procedure has never been proposed. I’m a data junkie so I’ll have lots of fun playing around on Steve’s new site. But when it comes to guns, perhaps he should let the data or lack of data speak for itself.

 

 

 

Are Guns Weapons Of Mass Destruction? Yep – They Sure Are.

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The good news out of Florida is that the 2017 NRA legislative agenda for the Gunshine State appears to be dead.  The bills, which would have legalized open carry in most public locations, along with concealed-carry in airports and college campuses, didn’t make the calendar of the State Senate Judiciary Committee, which means they will not be reviewed by the committee during the 2017 session, which means their sponsor, Greg Steube, will have to re-introduce the bills again next year.

florida logo1             Incidentally, if the gun violence prevention (GVP) community would ever give an award to the dumbest, piece of pro-gun legislation introduced in any state legislature each year, Senator Steube would win the contest hands down. Because in addition to the bills mentioned above, he also tried to put in a bill that would allow someone who was shot in a public premise which had a gun-free policy to sue the owner of that location for making the shooting victim vulnerable because he couldn’t protect himself with a gun.

The GVP community and its Congressional allies have been attempting, without success, to pass legislation at the federal level that would take away the PLCAA immunity which gun makers use to avoid being sued when someone is shot with a particular gun maker’s gun. Steube’s dumbness whopper was something of a response to the attacks on PLCAA and had it passed muster in Florida, it would no doubt have begun to spring up in other states. Know how crazy things like Ronald Reagan and Half-and-Half started in California and moved East? When it comes to crazy, pro-gun laws, they start in Florida and then spread everywhere else.

Maybe the rational-minded members of the Florida legislature decided this year, particularly after the massacre at the Pulse and the airport shooting in Orlando that enough is enough. Or maybe the NRA lobbyist, Granny Hammer, has just been a busybody for too long. But whatever the reason(s), this year Florida decided that it was no-go for any extension of gun ‘rights.’ Which brings me to the point of this column, namely, the idea that being able to do whatever in hell you want to do with a gun is considered by Gun-nut Nation to be some kind of ‘right.’

According to the Heller and McDonald decisions, the only ‘right’ contained in the Constitution’s 2nd Amendment is the ‘right’ to keep a loaded, unlocked gun in your home for self-defense.  That’s it. Period. End of story. Pro-gun advocates can twist this one around all they want, and in fact many states and localities have approved laws which go far beyond the 2nd Amendment in terms what gun owners can do with their guns – carry them outside the home, carry them openly, sell them, trade them, whatever they want. But none of those activities represent any kind of Constitutional ‘right.’  And I really wish that the GVP community would react with a louder and more aggressive response whenever the issue of ‘rights’ rears its ugly and completely false head.

Know what I think guns represent? I think they should be considered and explicitly referred to as ‘weapons of mass destruction,’ or would you rather continue to believe that a particular product which causes more than 120,000 serious deaths and injuries each year isn’t a WMD?  Last week credible news reports put the human toll from the gas attack in Syria at 70, with another 100 people treated in hospitals near where the attack took place.  Know how many Americans are killed and wounded by guns every weekend each year?  Try 450 and I’m probably off by a hundred or more.

I really don’t think this kind of violence and loss of human life has anything to do with ‘rights,’ There’s nothing in the Constitution which allows it, and it appears that at least some members of the Florida legislature understand what the Constitution says and doesn’t say.

If The ATF Believes That Gun Violence Is Caused By Thefts From Gun Shops, The Martians Have Landed At Area 51.

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The ATF, which is the responsible government agency for regulating firearms, has just released another report about its activities which actually obscures more than it explains. But that’s the usual state of affairs with the ATF, a group of bumblers who still haven’t explained how they managed to lose two thousand guns in a sting operation called Fast and Furious that was supposed to uncover a vast manufacturing enterprise to convert AK-47 semi-auto rifles into full-auto machine gun and didn’t turn up even one.

atf              This new ATF report, which covers guns stolen or missing each year, comes out of the same division within the ATF which claims to be “leading in the fight against violent crime and terrorism,” a.k.a. the vaunted National Tracing Center. Let me tell you right now that if the National Tracing Center is what’s protecting us against terrorism, I would strongly urge all the readers of this column to drop whatever else they are doing, immediately start building their underground bunkers and stock their bunkers with a generous assortment of Glenn Beck’s freeze-dried food. And don’t forget to load up the bunker with an AK-47 and a couple of thousand rounds.

The last thing the ATF is going to do with its tracing activities is protect us or themselves from anything, unless the ‘anything’ happens to be a cut to their operational budget. They can talk all they want about how hard it is to conduct those hundreds of thousands of traces they conduct on ‘crime guns’ each year, but in fact, less than 20% of the traces they conduct each year have anything to do with serious crimes. For that matter, all the ATF’s whining about how their hands are tied because they can’t go beyond the first transfer of a gun is simply not true at all, because most gun shops sell as many used as they sell new guns, which means that all the transfers of previously-sold guns can be traced as well.

But let’s go back to the stolen/missing report which the ATF has just issued for 2016. The data represents what is reported to the ATF by federally-licensed dealers, but the information comes from the ATF in two very different ways. The reports on guns that have been stolen are usually supplied by dealers themselves who are victims of some kind of criminal activity, usually a burglary, which results in a loss of guns. Occasionally there’s a really spectacular burglary event, like the idiot in Janesville, WI, who allegedly stole more than 30 guns out of a gun shop and then sent mailed a threat to President Trump. But most of these thefts are a gun here or a gun there, and are frequently the work of a gun shop employee who just can’t resist the temptation to make an extra bit of cash.

The guns that are reported ‘missing’ by dealers, on the other hand, are guns for which paperwork can’t be found when the ATF conducts the inspection of a shop.  This doesn’t mean that the guns were stolen or fell into the wrong hands, it just means that the paperwork examined by the ATF can’t be found for a particular transaction, even though the transfer of that particular gun was legal in every respect. My last ATF inspection covered more than 11,000 transfers which occurred in my shop between 2002 and 2013. Know how many transactions ended up being reported as missing? Exactly five.

If the ATF wants to do something about curbing the theft of guns, why don’t they figure out a strategy or at least some messaging to highlight the fact that every year two hundred thousand or more handguns get stolen from private homes? The ATF will immediately tell you that regulating private gun ownership isn’t their legal mandate or their organizational concern. Which is why the agency’s value as regards reducing gun violence is both overstated and misplaced – gun violence is caused by the existence of so many privately-owned guns.

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