Want To End Gun Violence? Join The NRA.

From time immemorial I have been listening to my friends in Gun-control Nation complain about the power and influence of the NRA.  They have so much money, so many political connections and now they even have an unabashed booster in the Oval Office, even though his boosterism seems, of late, to have begun to fade.

              There’s no question that America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ has hit a rough patch. Revenues are have gone South, corporate partnerships are in disarray, their vaunted, new training program CarryGuard is a flop, and viewership of the NRA-TV media channel is down and staff has been laid off.

The biggest problem the NRA faces is that the gun industry has not shown any recovery from the doldrums into which it sank immediately after out first Kenyan-born President moved from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue into a private home.  Try as they might, gun makers have simply never found a marketing message which makes people want to buy guns unless these same people are afraid that they won’t be able to buy or own guns.

Putting all these factors together means that an organization that was able to count on the unquestioned support and loyalty of four or five million gun owners, all of a sudden finds itself on the wrong side of the curve. But there is an answer to their problem which Gun-control Nation should address. The NRA doesn’t  have any membership requirement that forces a member to own a gun. For that matter, the boys in Fairfax also cannot demand that any member necessarily agree with what the organization says or does. The last thing the NRA is about to do is impose some kind of membership qualification based on speech. After all, how can America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ be seen as being against free speech?

What does it cost to become a member of the NRA? A whole, big $45 bucks a year.  You can join right here, and very quickly you will start receiving a monthly magazine of your choice, along with at least one daily email from Wayne-o or Chris Cox. And don’t tell me you can’t afford the 45 bucks, okay?  I paid that much for a party pizza and a couple of six-packs last weekend which lasted until half-time of the Patriots and Jets (boy do my beloved Jets suck this year.)

I know a number of Gun-control Nation fanatics who tell me they would never join the NRA because such an act would be tantamount to giving care and comfort to the enemy. But that’s a very short-sighted and self-defeating view. What if MOMS, Brady, Everytown and Gabby told all their supporters and Facebook followers to sign up?  Could the NRA find itself with a million new email addresses?  Sure. Could these new members form their own social media groups and respond to every email from Wayne-o and Chris by publicly announcing their objections to what the NRA leaders have to say?  Of course.  What would happen if Ollie North received 500,000 emails from NRA members which told him to dry up and get lost? Think that wouldn’t make media headlines?  Think again.

I would understand Gun-control Nation’s anger over NRA messaging were those messages coming from a closed, private group.  But joining the NRA takes about 5 minutes, and all of a sudden, you are now part of an organization which never forgets to tell its members that they are special and unique.

What makes NRA members so special?  Allegedly it’s because they own at least one gun. If anything, I think that NRA members who didn’t own guns would constitute an even more unique and special group. So why not take advantage of the opportunity to pay the paltry sum of $45 a year and use your membership to promote Gun-control Nation’s views on guns from inside the tent, rather than always standing outside and trying to piss in? Remember, it’s only going to cost you what you’ll pay for another party pizza delivered before the 3rd quarter begins.

 

Advertisements

Are Americans Finally Getting Fed Up With Guns?

Sleazy Don can talk all he wants about how the mid-term election was a big win, but yesterday announcement that a bump-stock ban is coming out of the White House is just more proof that he and his Beer Hall gang took the November 6th results right on the chinny, chin-chin. Had the House remained under GOP control, particularly with a gun nut like Keven McCarthy in the Speaker’s seat, I can guarantee you that the last thing which would have come out of the White House was anything that smacked in any way of being anti-gun.

              For that matter, another story started floating around the ‘drive-by’ media yesterday that the GOP has also given up on trying to finish work on Gun-nut Nation’s most cherished dream, a.k.a., a national concealed-carry law that would let anyone and everyone wander all across and through the ‘fruited plane’ with a gun. I enjoy using various Rush Limbaugh catch-phrases like ‘drive-by’ and ‘fruited plane’ because as we move towards the convening of the 116th Congress on January 2, 2019, the alt-right noise machine led by hot-air balloons like Limbaugh, Hannity, Coulter, et. al., is going to have to find something more important to talk about than whether the Mexican caravan represents a global terrorist threat.

Meanwhile, in what might or might not be a more important development in Gun-nut Nation was the news, reported by our friend Alex Yablon at The Trace that the media folks who produce some of the shows for NRATV have been let go. Is this because the NRA has hit a rough revenue patch, or is it because viewing numbers are down, or a combination of both? There is also the possibility that the boys in Fairfax are perhaps re-thinking a video messaging strategy that has promoted some of the worst, dumbest and lowlife pandering that I have ever seen.

Between home-school queen Dana Loesch talking about the ‘violent Left,’ or that dopey, speech-mangled lawyer with the made-up name – Colion Noir – prancing around a shooting range extolling the virtues of self-defense with an AR-15, the NRA video channel has been nothing more than a platform for keeping the NRA image beyond even the Breitbart fringe. But maybe the fact that the House of Representatives went blue because a number of gun-loving GOP members lost seats in gun-rich states has caught the NRA by the seat of its political pants.

One of the more outstanding myth that floats around Gun-control Nation is the idea that the NRA sets the tone for the gun ‘rights’ debate and the organization’s members then line up and repeat whatever the NRA tells them to say.  I happen to believe this narrative is simply not true.  If anything, the NRA tends to reflect the views of its members rather than the other way around. For example, the group’s endorsement of  Sleazy Don in May, 2016, a departure from their usual endorsement near the end of a Presidential campaign, simply reflected the fact that the Republican National Committee had already declared Sleazy Don to be the presumptive GOP nominee.

What may really be happening is that the financial and media problems within the NRA are just another reflection of the overall slowing down of the gun business and perhaps a turning-point in America’s love affair with guns. The FBI reported that NICS-background checks for Black Friday was the lowest number for the great sale day since 2014. And even though the gun industry’s feel-good mouthpiece, the NSSF, tried to balance this bad news by claiming that gun sales on days prior to Black Friday were up, anyone who thinks that the gun business is in recovery mode should check today’s Smith & Wesson stock price.

Next week I’ll do my monthly report on the exact state of the gun industry when official FBI-NICS background check numbers are released. In the meantime, if you want to make a million in the gun business, maybe you have to start not with two million but with three.

Should Social Media Play A Role In Letting People Own Guns?

A friend who labors for New Yorkers Against Gun Violence (send them a few bucks) sent us the text of a new bill just introduced in the New York State Senate that would amend the process of issuing handgun licenses in a rather interesting and unique way. The bill, NYS09191, would require that anyone applying for or renewing a handgun license give the cops approval to review the following social media accounts – Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram – and search engines – Google, Yahoo and Bing. The purpose of this review, according to the text of the bill, would be to “ascertain whether any social media account or search engine history of a licensee presents any good cause for the revocation of a license….”

              The bill was introduced by Kevin Parker, who represents the 21st Senate District, which happens to cover Flatbush but borders on two other neighborhoods, Brownsville and East New York, which remain serious contenders for suffering from high rates of gun violence every year. Since Parker is the Democratic Whip, and since both chambers of the Legislature are now controlled by the blue team and the author of the state SAFE law is still the executive in charge, what do you think are the odds that this new bill will become law?  I’d say the odds are good to better than good. Which means that using social media as a criteria to determining the issuance of gun licenses in ‘may issue’ states will probably spread beyond the borders of the Empire State.

When and if this law gets to a public hearing, you can bet that Gun-nut Nation base their opposition to this law on their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ because they oppose every gun law based on their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ But I’m willing to bet that America’s ‘oldest civil-rights organization,’ the NRA, will also oppose this law based on their fervent belief in the 1st-Amendment’s protection of free speech. After all, isn’t that what social media’s all about?

Putting aside the rantings and ravings of the gun-nut lunatic fringe, the fact is that this amendment to New York State’s gun-licensing process really does move the issue of gun control into uncharted waters that will certainly need to be explicated by an appellate court.  The courts have held again and again and again that government has a ‘compelling interest’ in public safety, which means that the cops can always be asked to decide whether any particular individual might be a threat to public safety, and then take steps to reduce or eliminate the threat.  But until now, the authorities have based such decisions on overt acts of potentially threatening behavior, as in ‘I’d like to shoot that m-f,’ or other such declarations of intent.  That being said, does the fact that some guy goes on Google to search for ‘mass shootings’ mean that the guy has any intention to precipitate such an event?

The kid who walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012 and shot the place apart had access to an AR-15 that his mother kept in their home.  The kid also spent much of the previous year compiling a large, digital library on mass shooting events.  But there is no evidence that he ever said anything about committing such an act himself. The Norwegian extremist who killed 77 people in 2011 used the internet to share and spread hatred-filled remarks about the Muslim threat, but again, never made any specific mention of wanting to gun people down.

I have no problem with cops using social media to determine my fitness to own a gun; more than 150 jurisdictions have spent nearly $6 million to equip themselves with social media tools which are used to deal with crime. But giving law enforcement carte blanche to create a profile of me based on how I meander around the World Wide Web raises all kinds of issues which need o be sorted out.

That being said, I think Senator Parker is onto a good thing.

Want To End Gun Violence? Get Rid Of The Stinkin’ Guns.

Now that the 116th Congress is going to convene in January with a solid blue House majority, and to the extent that this majority owes something to the hard work of my Gun-control Nation friends, perhaps it’s time to have a serious and deliberate discussion about the gun-control legislation that might begun to be put into place.

             After all, for the last eight years the gun-control gang could talk themselves blue in the face about assault rifle bans, comprehensive background checks and all that other good stuff. But the odds that any gun-control law might rear its head and emerge from Congress ranged from zero to zilch. Guess what? For the same reason that the blue Senate team slipped backward in 2018,  the GOP in 2020 will have a difficult time holding its majority in the Upper House. And anyone who wants to make book that Sleazy Don will be sitting in the Oval Office in 2021  better be willing to take very, very long odds.

Since it normally requires multiple Congressional sessions for a serious gun-control measure to get up to speed (the 1968 GCA68 law was initially introduced in 1953; the Brady bill that was passed in 1993 was first filed in 1991,) the folks who will be creating, pushing and sustaining the narrative for a new gun law better start working on it now.

The two legislative remedies for gun violence which appear to have the best chance of ending up in serious and positive floor votes are comprehensive background checks and a renewal of the assault weapons ban.  The former initiative appears to have support across the board, the latter could easily happen if a couple more nuts wander into a school, a shopping center, a house of worship or some other public venue and start blasting away.

The problem with both of these gun-control strategies, however, is that they don’t really get to the core of why we have a problem with gun violence and therefore, even if enacted, wouldn’t make that much of a difference in the rates of gun violence that we currently absorb.

The core problem is that the system that regulates the ownership and use of guns is fundamentally flawed because it is based on regulating the behavior of gun owners, rather than on the design and function of the guns themselves. If I walk into a gun shop today and but a rusted, old shotgun that probably doesn’t even work, I have to jump through the exact, same legal hoops that I would jump through if I bought a 16-shot Glock 19, along with 4 extra hi-capacity mags.  That old shotgun will only injure someone if I load it with modern ammunition, pull the trigger and the gun blows up. How many of the 125,000 gun injuries suffered last year resulted from someone using a Glock or another concealable, hi-powered handgun?  Most of those injuries, that’s for sure.

Again and again the discussion among gun-control advocates turns on the ‘fact’ that we own so many guns – somewhere between 300 and 400 million. But a majority of those guns are sporting rifles and shotguns which rarely show up in gun crimes at all. We are the only country which gives its residents relatively free access to handguns; we are the only country which suffers from an unacceptable level of gun violence. Want to end gun violence? Get rid of the guns that cause the violence.

Notice I didn’t state my approval for a handgun ban. But personally speaking, I have never supported an advocacy narrative simply because it might succeed.  I support advocacy that is rooted in truth. And the truth is that handguns cause gun violence. Period. End of story. End of debate.

Why Do Gun Nuts Like Me Buy Guns?

I like to do my Black Friday shopping the day before Thanksgiving, so when I finish this column, I’m going to drive to the ol’ gun shop and buy myself a gun.  I haven’t bought a gun in a few months, so it’s time to maintain my membership in what the researchers at Harvard refer to as the ‘super’ gun owners, or what The Guardian calls the ‘hardcore super gun owners,’ i.e., gun nuts like me who have at least 17 guns lying around.

              When this study was released back inn 2016, it provoked the usual hue and cry from the usual organizations laboring mightily to reduce violence caused by guns.  How could it be otherwise?  After all, everyone knows that the more guns lying around, the more injuries caused by guns.

This narrative has no reality behind it at all.  The ‘average’ size of the arsenal owned by the hard-core gun nuts is 17 guns?  Are they serious?  I currently own maybe 60 guns (actually I’m not really sure of the exact number) and in the world of hard-core gun nuts, this makes me kind of light.  The two brothers who ran my gun shop probably had 200 guns stashed in the family home, and one of my customers had at least twice that number of guns lying around here and there.

Know why I opened a retail gun shop?  Because back in 2000 my wife informed me that our house didn’t have enough room for her shoes and my guns.  And the shoes weren’t about to go. You think there’s any intrinsic difference between my dear wife buying shoes and me buying guns?  If you do, then you have absolutely no understanding about why people like me (hard-core gun nuts) buy guns.  If pressed, we’ll come out with the usual nonsense about protecting ourselves from an ISIS invasion or strengthening our 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’  But when gun nuts get together, you’ll never hear them say anything about any legal issue except to bitch about the fact that every time they want to buy a gun from a dealer, they have to fill out one of those friggin’ forms.

Today I’m going to buy the new Sig P320 pistol, the civilian version of the new military gun, the Sig M17.  What makes the P320 a ‘civilian’ gun as opposed to the weapon that will be carried by our troops in the field? The model name, that’s it.  Otherwise, it’s the exact, same gun.

I’m buying the Sig because I want to buy a gun.  Six-hundred and change – no big deal.  If I take the family out to dinner tomorrow night I’ll pay just as much for a slice of dry turkey, some mashed-up vegetables and a piece of ‘homemade’ pie.  Maybe I should cancel the dinner and buy another gun.  Get my point?ow

Here’s the real point. Recall that back in 2008 my dear, departed friend, Tony Scalia, decided that handguns deserved Constitutional protection as long as they were the types of weapons that were ‘commonly’ found in the home.  His opinion exempted weapons manufactured for military use, such guns being designed for battlefield exigencies, not for self-defense.

The fact is that just about every handgun Americans use for self-defense, as well as for shooting someone who gets in their way, happens to have been designed and manufactured for military use, viz., Glock, Beretta, Colt and a few more. The decision to allow civilians to own such guns has nothing to do with the 2nd Amendment, and it’s the reason we suffer from gun violence and other OECD countries don’t.

So here’s my Thanksgiving thought for all my gun-control friends: Stop the nonsense about how much you respect the ‘right’ of other people to own guns as long as they follow some ‘sensible’ rules. Take the bull by the horns and say what we all know to be true.

If you want to end gun violence, cut the bullshit and get rid of the guns.

Have a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving!

A New Approach To Gun Violence By Gun-Owning Physicians

Today’s Newsletter from our friends at The Trace contains a story about a new report issued by the American College of Surgeons (ACS) based on the work of an ACS Task Force comprised of 18 gun-owning surgeons who have been caring for trauma patients, on average, for roughly 28 years.  You can examine the gun-owning creds of this group in a downloadable spreadsheet, but I’ll quickly tell you that ten of the Task Force members own both handguns and long guns, they all own a total of 60 shotguns, 52 rifles, 13 assault weapons and 91 pistols or revolvers. Nine are either current or former members of the NRA.

Just about every medical society has gone on record about gun violence and supporting the standard litany of regulatory enhancements – comprehensive background checks, better NICS data sourcing, red-flag laws, blah, blah, blah and blah. This is the first time, however, that any of the medical societies have queried gun-owning members whose views, it is assumed, would be somewhat different from the usual rank-and-file doctors, most of whom don’t tend to own guns.

In fact, the views of these gun-owning surgeons is different in one very important respect, a difference which our friends at The Trace, unfortunately didn’t pick up.  If you take the trouble to read the entire report carefully, an astonishing recommendation at the bottom of Page 7 jumps out and I’ll quote it verbatim right here:

Principle: A firearm should be transferred with registration in accordance to federal law 18 U.S.C. § 922[g][1-9] just as are other properties, such as vehicles or a home. This would include the private sale and the transfer of property that is bequeathed from an estate or among family members.

Recommendation: We support firearm registration and the development and implementation of an electronic database for all registered firearms.”

Did I actually see that? Is there a professional group representing any profession which is actually calling for comprehensive registration of guns? This issue happens to be the absolute bête noir of the gun-rights movement, it is always presented by the NRA as the one thing above all that will lead to the government taking away everyone’s guns. There is simply nothing which is as toxic both for Gun-nut Nation as well as to the groups who advocate ‘sensible’ restrictions on the ownership of guns. Gun registration, by the way, has nothing to do with 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ Anyone who says otherwise knows as much about Constitutional law as Leonard the Cat.

I trust going forward that the endorsement of gun registration by gun-owning members of the ACS will be discussed and considered by other medical societies and result ultimately in a united front that will promote the idea beyond the healthcare industry itself. But while they are at it, the ACS gun-nut group might consider dealing with another issue within their professional organization that needs to be addressed.

Last year Congressman Don Young (R-AK) told an audience that it wouldn’t have been Standing-Room-Only at Auschwitz and  Bergen-Belsen of Jews hadn’t lost access to their guns. He obviously got the idea from an even bigger idiot named Ben Carson, who no doubt thought this message would garner him the Jewish vote. Young received $5,000 to finance his 2016 campaign; the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) gave him $2,500 in each of the last two campaigns. Young happens to be one of 15 House members who go out of their way to promote NRA gun ‘rights’ priorities; as a whole, this sorry bunch received over $80,000 in campaign donations from the ACS. For the same two election cycles, ACEP donated almost $150,000 to the same crew of pro-NRA stooges.

If the ACS, the ACEP and other medical groups want to reduce gun violence, they don’t need to tell other stakeholders what to do. They can put their money back into their own pockets instead of giving it to the NRA.

The Election’s Over And Now The Real Work Begins.

From the perspective of Gun-control Nation, yesterday’s election results were good but could have been better. Which is another way of saying that the House is now blue, but the Senate is still red. And one of those red seats still belongs to Ted Cruz, who has been a staunch defender of every stupid and pandering gun ‘rights’ law that gets introduced. On the other hand, a Democratic majority in the House means that no matter how many nutty, pro-gun bills come out of the upper chamber, none of them will get to Sleazy Don’s desk.

voted             A really bright spot appeared for the blue team in Colorado, where a veteran of the 82nd Airborne, Jason Crow, got rid of GOP-incumbent and long-time NRA favorite Mike Coffman by making a clear pitch for gun control during the campaign. On the other hand, even with the help of Fred Guttenberg (he is the father of a Parkland victim who confronted Brian Kavanaugh as the latter’s Senate confirmation hearing began) a strong, gun-control Democrat in Pennsylvania – Scott Wallace – was unable to unseat the Republican incumbent – Brian Fitpatrick – in a hotly contested race.

Since I live in Massachusetts, which not only sends an entirely blue Congressional delegation to D.C. but of nine House members, three run unopposed, it’s not like I have to sit up all night to learn the results of every local race.  But if I were living in Virginia, on the other hand, I would have been very pleased with the results in CD 10, where a real NRA favorite, Barbara Comstock, was dumped by Jennifer Wexton, as well as what happened in CD 7, where a former cop named Abigail Spanberger said the right things about gun control and got rid of David Brat. You may recall that Brat was the Tea Party guy who knocked off Eric Cantor in a primary campaign; he got an ‘A’ rating from Gun Owners of America, a bunch of gun-nut loonies that make the NRA sound almost like a Democratic Party front.

For me, the single most important House race, however, was in the Michigan 11th, where a GOP seat flipped blue by seven points.  The determining factor in this race wasn’t guns at all; it was IQ which the Republican candidate, Lena Epstein, doesn’t register a discernible number at all. This idiot let Mike Pence come in for a rally alongside a self-styled phony rabbi named Loren Jacobs, the latter invoked Christ’s blessings for the victims of the mass shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Congregation several days previous to the Pence event.

It just so happens that Ms. Epstein is also Jewish but couldn’t figure out that maybe, just maybe, an appearance by a Christian minister who pretends to speak for Jews was something her campaign really didn’t need. She’s not just a dope, she’s what my grandmother would have called, a shonda fin dem goyim, which basically means that you’re too dumb to call yourself a Jew. My grandmother was from a shtetl in the Old Country, okay?

Getting back to the big picture, early exit polls appear to support the idea that House Democrats grabbed the brass ring basically over health care and immigrant rights, but the real issue which moved the needle was antipathy towards Trump. Obviously, advocates for ‘sensible’ gun laws are not about to find common cause with Sleazy Don, but these polls (subject to change as more exit polls emerge) point up the fact that even with horrific events like Pittsburgh, Parkland and Sandy Hook, the gun issue just doesn’t resonate as a top-tier problem that will necessarily sway election outcomes this way or that.

That’s fine as far as I’m concerned, because I don’t think a liberal political agenda should ever rest on a single issue campaign. What did Mao say? Let a hundred flowers bloom? That’s okay with me as long as what to do about gun violence is part of the bouquet.

 

 

When It Comes To Guns, Things May Be Different This Time Around.

Back in February after the Parkland shooting, I figured there would be some upsurge in gun-control advocacy and activity, if only because there’s always some increase in concern about gun violence after a lot of people get shot in the same place on the same day. I also assumed that the public outcry for more gun control would last a few months and then go away. Because that’s what always happened after a lot of people get shot in the same place on the same day.

time             I was wrong.  The Parkland ‘kids,’ as they came to be known, started showing up here and there; the media began following them around, some of the real idiots in Gun-nut Nation ratcheted up the noise by accusing Hamm and Gonzalez of being dupes for the International Socialist Conspiracy to take away our guns and the beat went on.

By the summer, the debate about guns and gun violence began to morph into the political campaigns of both the red and blue teams, and I started receiving the daily emails from both sides asking for money because either I would vote blue and keep us from going around killing ourselves, or I would vote red and keep the 2nd Amendment alive.

I have been following politics since the Kennedy-Nixon race in 1960, and I have also been involved in the gun business since roughly the same time. This was the first election in which the narrative about guns not only was used to define the political stance of both parties, but was being used as an effective wedge issue in political contests that might decide whether the Congress stays red or goes blue.

Obviously, nobody knows how things will end up when the dust settles and the smoke clears, but I never imagined that I would ever see the headline that I saw today in The [‘failing’] New York Times: “Bearing F’s From the N.R.A., Some Democrats Are Openly Campaigning on Guns.” Now the Times isn’t talking about political contests in liberal states like California or New York. The story concerns three campaigns in Colorado, Pennsylvania and Iowa, where gun control may be the issue that swings the vote in all three CD’s. I am sure that none of the red candidates in those districts ever believed that getting a good rating from the NRA might be the last thing they would need.  But somehow, this year may turn out to be different.

And what makes me suspect that there’s a new culture emerging about guns is represented by the contents of two magazines I received this week.  I have been subscribing to Time Magazine out of force of habit for at least 30 years. When I first started getting it, this flagship Luce publication was considered the sine qua non of politics for the respectable Right. The content has gradually moved more to the middle, but nobody would accuse Time of slavishly following the Bloomberg-Soros line. From the remarkable cover through the interviews and brief memoirs, this week’s issue is all about guns. The content is balanced and fair, but it’s no ringing endorsement for Gun-nut Nation’s cherished beliefs.

More remarkably was the latest issue of People Magazine that floated in the other day.  The issue contains a section entitled: “25 Women Changing the World,’ and the headliner is none other than our friend Shannon Watts, who graces a two-page photo of herself and some members of her organization, along with a commentary about the importance of getting politically involved.

When the editors of People Magazine decide that Shannon Watts is their exemplar for change, then something very definite and different is going on. I’m not saying that the content of Time or People will necessarily tilt the election in favor of the blue team; I’m saying that gun violence is no longer a marginal issue that public figures would rather avoid. And I believe that once the discussion gets into the mainstream, the American people will do the right thing.

Tom Gabor: Preventing Gun Violence Through Voluntary and Non-Governmental Initiatives.

Independent of efforts to change laws, it is worth considering non-governmental and voluntary measures and programs that can protect the public from gun violence.   Voluntary programs are those run by volunteers and/or those in which participation on the part of the public is voluntary rather than mandated by law.

rallyWith a group of committed volunteers, the support of local agencies, and perhaps some limited fund raising, these programs can be launched without delay and impose little or no burden on public agencies.  As they are voluntary and require no change in the law, they cannot be derailed by those who fight any proposed legislation designed to prevent gun injuries and deaths.  Voluntary, grassroots initiatives can also raise awareness of the benefits of safe practices and empower those who want to take action, no matter how modest, to make their communities safer.  Some measures require paid staff but still fall outside the public sector.

Here are some examples:

Securing Guns in the Home

Close to five million American children live in homes with loaded, unlocked firearms.  Inadequately stored guns contribute to teenage suicides and violence, deadly accidents among children, and gun thefts.  School shooters often obtain their guns from their home or that of a relative.  There are no federal laws in the US requiring the safe storage of firearms and just one state, Massachusetts, requires all firearms to be stored with a lock in place.

In Broward County, Florida, attorney Barbara Markley and fellow members of the Gun Safety Committee of the League of Women Voters (LWV) have initiated Lock It Up, a program that is spreading rapidly.   League members learned that the Veterans Administration maintains a large inventory of trigger locks due to the elevated suicide risk of veterans.  The VA has donated thousands of locks to the LWV which is distributing them to a wide variety of agencies and professionals: law enforcement, municipalities, libraries, churches, pediatricians, family therapy and university clinics, and daycare centers.  They have also produced a brochure to raise awareness of the dangers of unlocked guns around children and teens.

 

Gun Buybacks

Gun buybacks allow people to turn in guns, usually to the police, for cash or gift cards with no questions asked.  They provide the public an opportunity to turn in weapons that are not being used, are possessed illegally, or that may be a danger to the household.  In some cases, hundreds of guns have been bought back.  Most initiatives involve law enforcement agencies, which receive the guns being turned in, and some partner with physicians and medical centers that can counsel gun owners about safety.  Evaluations of voluntary gun buybacks tend to show that they do not reduce gun violence as the number of guns turned in is just a small proportion of all guns in the community.  However, proponents argue that some violence or suicide may be prevented and that buybacks encourage people to consider the risks posed by guns in the home and enable people to adopt safer practices with firearms.  At a recent event in Hillsborough County, Florida, the Sheriff’s Office received 1,173 guns in five hours, including some stolen guns.  At a previous event in that county, 2,541 guns had been turned in.

 

Consumer and Investor Activism

Consumers can pressure stores to refrain from selling military-style and other highly lethal weapons through letter-writing campaigns, personal appeals to store managers and executives, social media campaigns on Facebook and Twitter, and boycotts.  Individuals and pension funds can also refuse to buy and divest from gun stocks or mutual funds containing gun stocks until those companies stop selling military-style weapons and start producing weapons with certain safety features (e.g., magazine safeties, loaded chamber indicators) and personalized (smart) weapons. Also, through their elected representatives, citizens can pressure the military and police to stop buying guns from companies that do not incorporate safety devices into guns.  Forty percent of all gun industry revenues come from governments.

Given the targeting of several campuses by mass shooters, some academics are demanding that their retirement funds be “gun free.”  In one initiative, over 4,000 faculty members threatened a firm managing their funds with the transfer of their money to gun-free funds if they continued to invest in companies that manufacture assault-style weapons.

Driven by outrage over the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and backed by some of America’s largest institutional investors, Sister Judy Byron of Seattle and a small group of shareholders have forced two gun makers, Sturm Ruger and American Outdoor Brands, to produce reports detailing the use of their guns in violent crimes and what steps the companies are taking to develop safer weapons.  Although, the companies urged their shareholders to reject the proposals, a majority sided with the activists in both cases.

Byron persuaded the Adrian Dominicans, a Catholic religious institute, to buy gun stocks and organized other members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility to join her, pooling their holdings in three companies: the retailer Dick’s Sporting Goods and the two above-mentioned manufacturers.  Following the Parkland shooting, large investors in the companies joined Byron’s effort which gave them the votes to pass the measures at Sturm Ruger and American Outdoor Brands.   While the companies are not required to follow the resolutions to change their operations,   it is expected they will comply rather than risk shareholders’ anger.  Byron appealed to the companies to not only seek profitable returns for investors but also to mitigate the adverse impacts of their products.

 

Protest Actions

In the era of Donald Trump, protest actions have become common, ranging from countless  rallies to the occupation of government buildings and offices, with the largest nationwide protest occurring on March 24, 2018, when high school students led millions of Americans in the March for our Lives.  Evidence indicates that since the Parkland mass shooting enthusiasm has been growing for meaningful gun policy reforms.  Protests, media coverage, and activism following the Parkland shooting led to gun reforms in Florida and other states.     At Stanford University, 2500 doctors and nurses marched for action on gun violence, demanding more research and training to deal with the national crisis.

Supporting Victims of Abuse

Much gun violence and the majority of mass shootings have a domestic violence connection.  Many women killed with a gun are shot by a domestic partner.  Programs that empower women to take action if they are in an abusive relationship may keep the relationship from escalating to serious violence.  Especially dangerous is the post-separation period and the fear of violence often keeps women from exiting dangerous relationships.  Programs that offer victims shelter or support while they remain in their own homes can be empowering and help keep them safe.  For example, the REACH program in Massachusetts has an Emergency Shelter Program providing crisis intervention and support services for victims of domestic violence who are not safe in their own home.  Services include assistance with finding longer-term housing, support with legal issues, and access to other resources to help families heal physically and emotionally.  REACH’s Community-Based Advocacy Program offers a similar range of services to domestic violence survivors who do not want to leave an abusive relationship or who are not seeking shelter.  REACH can help with safety planning, finding a job or housing, or accessing benefits.  REACH is a charitable organization.

Public Education Initiatives

Educating the public about gun safety prevention can offer them tips on making their homes safer (e.g., securing guns with trigger locks or other locking devices) and the steps they need to take to protect their children when visiting the homes of gun owners.  Safety presentations, videos, written materials on gun violence and safety, and PSAs can shift public opinion, especially when done on a large scale.  One example is the League of Women Voters, an advocacy group run by volunteers that presents educational forums on gun safety, lobbies legislators, makes appearances on television and radio, and reaches out to the public in a variety of other ways.

Over the last three decades, the gun lobby has been successful in selling the idea that guns make us safer from violence.  Pew Research Center reports that, in 1993, just 34% of Americans said it was more important to protect gun rights than to control gun ownership but, by 2014, some of its polling showed that the number had climbed to 52%.  Recently, in the aftermath of large-scale mass shootings, opinion is shifting once again in favor of gun control.  Increasing grassroots activity, including educational efforts, on the part of groups favoring tighter regulation of guns may be a factor.

Mobilizing the Community

In many targeted school attacks, information was available regarding the shooter’s preparations.  The most notable case was that of Nikolas Cruz, the young man who committed the atrocity at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.  Cruz was the subject of dozens of 9-1-1 calls to law enforcement and two separate tips to the FBI.  He came to the attention of the Florida Department of Children and Families.  He was well known in the community and in school for violent behavior, including threats made with guns and his desire to be a school shooter.

Many school shooters have a history of depression, suicide attempts or of suicidal thoughts.  In more than three-quarters of the school attacks studied by the Secret Service, at least one person—usually a friend, schoolmate, or sibling—had information that the attacker was contemplating or planning the attack, and, in the majority of cases, more than one person was aware of the impending attack. In addition, before nearly all the school attacks, the perpetrators exhibited behavior that caused others—school officials, parents, teachers, police, fellow students—to be concerned.  All of the above reinforces the need for schools and communities to set up mechanisms to encourage those with information of a possible attack to come forward.

 

It is a serious mistake to simply expel troubling kids.  Cruz and Adam Lanza, the shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, were loners who fell through the cracks of the mental health and educational systems.  Cruz was expelled for his troublesome behavior and was left to his own resources following the death of his mother.  Social isolation is a factor in many mass shootings and, whether it is a cause or effect of the disturbing behavior, it is in our collective interest to intervene and monitor the behavior of highly alienated individuals who exhibit threatening behavior.  Sandy Hook Promise, an organization founded by family members of victims of the mass shooting in Newtown, funds a program that helps students develop the social-emotional skills to reach out to other students and include those who may be chronically isolated in order to create a culture of inclusion and connectedness in school and the community.  The program is funded through charitable donations and products sold with the Sandy Hook Promise label on them.

Research on Gun Violence

Research is needed to gain a better understanding of guns in America, gun violence, and solutions that would prevent violence.  Basic questions remain unanswered due to Congress’ suppression of research at the behest of the gun lobby.  There are gaps in regulation as well as in the recordkeeping required when firearms are transferred.  Information is needed to determine the number of guns in America, the number of assault-style weapons, and how many guns are sold each year? What types of guns are most likely to be used in crime? Are there more gun deaths in areas with higher gun ownership levels? How many Americans own guns and are stricter gun laws and lower levels of gun ownership associated with fewer gun deaths?  What prevention and intervention strategies are most effective in reducing gun violence rates?  In addition, the National Violent Death Reporting System should be expanded to all states to provide comprehensive national data on gun violence.  Research is also needed to guide the assessment and identification of those at risk of violence and suicide.

 

Aside from the need for funding of government entities, such as The CDC, National

Institutes of Health, and National Institute of Justice, research can proceed through private sources (e.g., foundations) and independent researchers can conduct studies through self-funded initiatives.  Many resources are available free of charge through the internet.  Interviews, too, can be conducted with little cost via email or through the internet.

 

Voting for Change in Gun Policies

One of the easiest steps citizens can take to effect change is to vote.  Informed voters can support candidates who are committed to serious reforms in our laws.  There are indications that the electorate is quite enthusiastic regarding the gun issue, a departure from the past when it was largely gun owners who were focused on gun policy.  One useful tool to determine where candidates stand on guns is gunsensevoter.org.  At that site, the large grassroots group, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, endorses candidates who support laws shown to be effective in combating gun violence.

Tom Gabor, Ph.D. is a criminologist and author of Confronting Gun Violence in America.  He is grateful for the feedback of Barbara Markley, Gun Safety Chair of the League of Women Voters of Broward County, Florida.

 

 

 

Is Kavanaugh A Threat?A Little Debate.

Ladd Everitt: The Kavanaugh Court is an Existential Threat to Gun Violence Reduction Efforts

“Justice Kavanaugh your life and family are not ruined. Try having a child murdered by a weapon that you refer to as ‘common use.’ You will get through this and hug both of your children tonight.” — Parkland survivor Fred Guttenberg

The national nightmare of Brett Kavanaugh’s ascension to the Supreme Court has dire consequences for the health and welfare of millions of Americans on a range of different issues. One area of particular concern is the ongoing, high rate of gun violence in the United States (to include daily mass shooting horrors). Kavanaugh — the serial perjurer and subject of multiple allegations of sexual assault — has made it clear he would allow no innovation in firearm regulation and roll back what few gun laws America still has on the books. If he remains on the Court, it seems certain he will join conservative majorities in rulings that cost lives by further bastardizing the meaning of the Second Amendment.

Before Justice Anthony Kennedy retired to make way for Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court rejected a series of cases from lower courts dealing with gun regulations including state assault weapons bans and permitting systems for individual who carry concealed guns in public. After Justice Antonin Scalia’s expansive rewriting of the Second Amendment in the landmark 5–4 ruling in D.C. v. Heller (2008) — which ignored our Founders’ writings and debates about the Second Amendment, choosing instead to exalt gun laws in the antebellum South — Kennedy was apparently unwilling to provide a fifth vote for further efforts to erode public safety. Brett Kavanaugh has no such compunctions.

The scorn with which Kavanaugh treated Parkland survivor Fred Guttenberg at his first confirmation hearing is reflective of his total lack of concern about the human impacts of gun violence.

In a 2011 dissent in a second Heller case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit [Heller v. D.C., commonly known as Heller II], then-judge Kavanaugh articulated a radical and dangerous view of the Second Amendment. While echoing propaganda from gun lobby groups like the National Rifle Association and National Shooting Sport Foundation (NSSF), Kavanaugh opined that the District of Columbia’s popular assault weapons ban and firearms registration law are unconstitutional.

His analysis of D.C.’s assault weapons ban ignored entirely the damage that semiautomatic battlefield rifles like the AR-15 are capable of doing in civilian settings. Because AR-15s and similar weapons are now in “common use” among Americans, Kavanaugh insisted (using an arbitrary test Justice Scalia created in the first Heller case), they must be constitutionally-protected. “Common use” was not defined, but assault weapons wouldn’t seem to be in common use in the United States under any reasonable definition. The NRA and gun industry have been mass-marketing and selling assault weapons since the late 1980s, but in 2014 only 22% of Americans reported owning a gun of any kind, much less an assault weapon. Assault weapons constitute a small percentage of the 393 million privately held firearms in the United States.

Kavanaugh also declared the District’s firearm registration system unconstitutional in Heller II because he believes it is inconsistent with the “history and tradition” of firearms regulation in America.¹ Again, it’s difficult to see how this conclusion was reached. Gun registration requirements are as old as the Militia cited in the text of the Second Amendment. As historian Saul Cornell has pointed out, state governments kept lists of privately-owned weapons required for service in our Founders’ militia. Kavanaugh also ignored the 1934 National Firearms Act (NFA), a federal law that requires registration of fully-automatic machine guns held by civilians. The law has been an overwhelming success — machine guns have rarely been recovered from crime scenes in the 80+ years since it was enacted.

While Kavanaugh has never publicly commented on concealed carry, during his time on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit he did embrace a lower-court ruling that would have struck down the District’s permitting system as unconstitutional (pending appellate review). In a dissent in the case of Grace v. District of Columbia, Kavanaugh was sympathetic to the plaintiff’s view that the city could not require “good reason” from residents before issuing them permits to carry concealed firearms in public.²

financially-struggling NRA plunked down $1 million to pay for TV ads to get Kavanaugh confirmed to the Supreme Court. They knew exactly what they were paying for — a Justice who will reliably vote against gun regulation at each and every turn. Any faith in Chief Justice John Roberts to moderate the Court, or Justice Neil Gorsuch to tarnish his pro-gun bonafides (e.g., Gorsuch has already indicated he believes the Second Amendment confers an individual right to carry a pistol in public) seems to me to be tragically misplaced.

Reform efforts aimed at addressing gun violence (more than 38,000 gun deaths and somewhere between 25,000 and 115,000 injuries per year in the United States³) face an existential threat in the Kavanaugh Court. The practical effect of the Heller I ruling in 2008 was not great (Scalia’s ruling did not affect a single policy being worked on by an American gun control organization), but the gun rulings of the Kavanaugh Court will be devastating. The new conservative majority will cast off important, democratically-enacted laws aimed at disarming violent individuals and demilitarizing our society. They will accomplish this by writing further fiction about the Second Amendment that ignores the original intent of our Founders (who never would have used the amendment as a cudgel to beat off attempts to save American lives being lost to an epidemic of violence). The interests of the gun industry will be prioritized over the safety of citizens. George Zimmermans and Adam Lanzas across America will be emboldened, their violence facilitated. Americans’ most fundamental freedoms (our inalienable rights to life and liberty, the First Amendment right to assemble peacefully in the public space, etc.) will be forfeit in favor of a legally sanctioned gun culture in which the last (white) man standing is king.

Many Americans are questioning the legitimacy of government in the era of Donald Trump, voter suppression, and (unrestrained) foreign interference in our elections/politics. Brett Kavanaugh, with his perjury and partisan threats, further weakened Americans’ faith that our current government represents them. When government repeatedly fails its most basic duty, to protect its citizens,⁴ the people must answer to a higher power and act in order to preserve life and prevent suffering. Gun rulings by the Kavanaugh Court that present a threat to our communities and families should be met with bold and widespread acts of nonviolent, civil disobedience. This should include elected/appointed officials refusing to enforce Court rulings they know will lead to further gun violence, and accepting the legal consequences for their actions.

As other observers have pointed out, this is not an ideal way for democratic government to function, but creative, outside-the-box solutions are needed to prevent the further destruction of American families and communities. The GVP movement should begin planning for the Kavanaugh Court’s rulings now, as pro-choice advocates have. That means communicating about our government’s gross dereliction of duty concerning public safety, preparing advocates to engage in direct nonviolent action (like we saw on Capitol Hill during the Kavanaugh hearings), and offering a clear and inspiring vision of a future America with fewer guns and safer communities.

###

ENDNOTES

1. The conservative majority in Heller I took no issue with the District of Columbia’s firearm registration requirement. The majority opinion authored by Justice Scalia ordered the city to allow plaintiff Dick Heller to register his handguns so he could keep them at home.

2. In D.C., permit applicants weren’t allowed to simply say “I want to defend myself.” They were required to cite an actual threat (i.e., from a stalker, because their job requires them to deliver millions in cash, etc.).

3. The figure for gun deaths is from CDC’s WISQARS fatal injury data for the most recent year available (38,658 gun deaths in 2016). Estimates of annual gun injuries range from 25,000 (National Impatient Sample) to over 115,000 (CDC WISQARS).

4. The very first line of the Constitution indicates that one of the chief purposes of the document is to “insure domestic Tranquility.”

You can read Ladd Everitt’s original piece on Medium.

And My Response:

My response to Ladd’s piece should in no way be taken as any kind of personal criticism for what he does or what he says. Ladd has been an extremely effective advocate for gun control and I trust he will continue in that vein. Nevertheless, I believe that those who agree with Ladd (including myself) that gun violence is an irreparable stain on American society, as well as a tragedy of uncalled-for proportions for those whose families, friends and neighborhoods have been impacted by shootings or the threats of shootings, still need to hear different opinions and different points of view. Unless, of course, if Ladd believes that only he should be defining the argument for everyone else, which I am sure is not the case.

Ladd says he is writing about the ‘Kavanaugh court.’ But actually, it happens to be the Roberts court, and Ladd is somewhat selective in explaining how and why the Roberts court has dealt with the issue of guns. In fact, it is not accurate to assume that Kennedy represented a ‘swing’ or ‘soft’ vote on gun issues, and that his replacement by Kavanaugh represents a hard swing to the Right. Yes, Scalia only needed to convince 4 other justices that he could use selective historical information to rewrite legal precedent on Amendment Number Two. But in fact, not five, not four, but only two justices (Scalia and Thomas) agreed with Ladd when he says that the Court “ignored entirely the damage that semiautomatic battlefield rifles like the AR-15 are capable of doing in civilian settings.”

In 2013, a suburb of Chicago, Highland Park, banned assault rifles in their town. They didn’t ‘grandfather’ in existing guns, their law said that if you owned an AR-15 and didn’t want to get rid of it, you had to move out of town. This was the first and only time that a government jurisdiction not only banned the ownership of this gun, but also did not compensate assault rifle owners who had purchased their guns legally in prior years. In other words, Highland Park didn’t copy the Australia assault weapons ban, it also didn’t copy the Clinton assault weapons ban passed in 1994.

The law was upheld by the 7th Circuit and was then denied certiorari by the Supreme Court, with only two justices dissenting. What was the reason why the law was upheld on appeal? Because both the circuit court and then the SCOTUS agreed that the law effectively demonstrated that assault rifles were a threat to public safety, and government has a ‘compelling interest’ in protecting its citizens with properly-written laws. Incidentally, the exact, same opinion was written by the Chief Judge of the 2nd Circuit, William Skretny, who upheld Andy Cuomo’s SAFE ACT because it also was based on the idea that government had the unquestioned authority to deem certain behaviors (such as owning an AR) contrary to public safety and health. You should know, by the way, that Skretny was appointed to the Circuit Court by G. H. W. Bush.

Ladd believes that the gun violence prevention (GVP) movement should begin preparing to deal with a ‘Kavanaugh court’ by “communicating about our government’s gross dereliction of duty concerning public safety,” but to date, every time a governmental authority can show that a new gun-control law is a response to threats against pubic safety, the law has been upheld. In May, a federal trial judge upheld California’s ban on open carry, citing the testimony of none other than John Donohue:

“California relies on the expert report and testimony of Professor John J. Donohue III of the Stanford Law School. . . . Based on the evidence California has submitted, it has shown that the State reasonably could have inferred that there was a relationship between prohibiting individuals from carrying firearms openly in public and promoting and achieving the important governmental objective of public safety. That these objectives would be advanced could be inferred from Donohue’s findings that the enactment of right-to-carry laws lead to increased violent crime rates. . . .”

Could the SCOTUS, with the addition of Kavanaugh, rule on gun laws and ignore what is now a substantial group of recent decisions which supports the government’s right to determine public policy based on government’s ‘compelling interest’ to keep us safe? They might, except that even Kavanaugh’s own opinions and statements about gun control don’t actually support that point of view. Everitt claims that Kavanaugh’s minority dissent in the DC registration case (Heller II) is based on a wrongful claim about whether assault rifles are in ‘common use,’ echoing Scalia’s rationale for Constitutional protection of personally-owned weapons in 2008. He says, “ ‘Common use’ was not defined [in the Heller decision] but assault weapons wouldn’t seem to be in common use in the United States under any reasonable definition.” After all, according to Ladd, only 22% of Americans actually own guns.

For the percentage of American gun owners, Everitt cites a study from the Violence Policy Center which is based on a study by our friend Michael Siegel who published an article that correlated gun violence with gun ownership in all 50 states. But Siegel’s study used a ‘proxy’ for determining state-level gun ownership, namely, the number of gun suicides which occur in each state. Which is all fine and well if you want to believe that regression models should be considered definitive when it comes to explaining cause and effect. The bottom line is that numerous public surveys by the most credible research organizations (e.g., Pew Research) estimate national gun ownership rates at between thirty and forty percent. Not only does Ladd cherry-pick his sources to promote an argument about the Kavanaugh ‘threat’ which may or may not be true, but he certainly knows that in many states, particularly the South, the Midwest and the mountain states, gun ownership runs much higher than fifty percent.

I happen to believe, and I have said this again and again in print, that walking around with a gun in or outside of your pocket does not, as Ladd says, ‘promote domestic tranquility.’ I also agree with Ladd that the GVP should be “offering a clear and inspiring vision of a future America with fewer guns and safer communities.” But it just so happens that many Americans think that the benefit of gun ownership far outweighs the risk, despite clear evidence which points the other way.

Ladd is an effective and ardent communicator for his cause. But he might think of channeling a bit of his strength and talent to crafting a gun-control message that would appeal to gun owners rather than just preaching to his own side.